Thursday, 27 September 2012

Thank Goodness for... 'For Luna'

For Luna photography used with permission. Buy swimwear here.

Swimwear is a tricky beast. I can't remember when I first became self-conscious about what to wear in the pool or on the beach, but it has possibly been as long as five years since I've hit the water - a delay due in no small part to an inability to find something appropriate to wear.

In the past I've tried it all - over-sized T-shirts, tankinis, I've even contemplated boys board shorts. I've spent too much money on unworn versions of the same highstreet offerings without finding the second skin I've been looking for.

It's not that I'm uncomfortable with my body. I like its contours, I'm grateful for its functionality - it houses me well and I appreciate it. But because my body is validated by me on my own terms, I like the idea of keeping a little mystery. To my mind, modesty is one of the most attractive elements of real beauty in our hyper-sexualised society. That's why I was so excited to read the mission statement on the For Luna website when I was searching for something to wear to a special spa party:

"We take inspiration from a time 
when ladies carried themselves
 with a grace and poise which seems to have been largely lost
 in a culture where 
almost nothing is left to the imagination!"

Their designs represent liberal femininity in a new light: sophisticated, flattering silhouettes that do a great service for women looking for a little more discretion without wanting to be written off as either prudes or tomboys. 

It might not be peace-prize winning stuff, but since unwrapping the beautiful packaging my emerald green swimsuit arrived in I find I have become an absolute evangelist for this brand. Following on from feeling so secure in my skin during its first debut at the weekend, I am convinced that sixty pounds is a small price to pay for something that is well on its way to being a wardrobe cornerstone.

For Luna are doing something different. They are making women feel like it's more than okay to flatter rather than flaunt. They are making sensible sexy, and sexy subtle. They are re-writing the rules. Maybe, when set against the relentless churn of revelation-centric gossip magazines, their counter-cultural aims might seem like a drop in the ocean. But, as the saying goes, the ocean is made up of many drops. If we show our support, who knows? We might have a revolution on our hands. 

'Thank Goodness for...'
Posts that celebrate the positive impact people and organisations are having on overwhelming issues

Friday, 21 September 2012

A is for Appreciation

Peeling apples from my parents' tree, I remembered a song we used to sing in primary school. The lyrics celebrate a whole list of autumn features, and the chorus says "I mustn't forget / No I mustn't forget / To say a great big thank you / I mustn't forget". It's something I'm reminding myself as I count down to another transition - one that I'm hugely excited about. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, it will still be the small things that will make me truly happy: crumble and wine, hard work, curling up on the sofa alive and in love, box-sets, books...and knowing that no matter what it looks like, feels like or what other people think, ultimately, I'm living an amazing and privileged life.

"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it;
blame yourself,
tell yourself you are not poet enough to call forth its riches;
for to the creator 
there is no poor indifferent place."

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, 16 September 2012

"Naked Fashion" - Safia Minney (and others)

A few months ago, I stumbled across some press coverage about this book (published around July 2011) and made a mental note to get my hands on a copy. Having thought about it on and off without doing much more, it was such a nice surprise to see it staring up at me out of a birthday box lovingly put together for me this month.

Since then, the days I've spent reading through this Fair Trade fashion bible have co-incided with unfolding news about the deaths of over 280 people working in a garment factory that caught fire in Karachi, Pakistan. Although problematic issues with the implementation of health and safety rights have been cited as part of the causal chain of events, there can also be little doubt that the embedded drive for cheaper production fuelled by consumer demand is also up there on the list of contributory factors.

This recent tragedy is yet another reminder of the often shocking realities that our collective choices give rise to. Against that backdrop it's really helpful to have a guiding hand point towards alternative ways of impacting others. Compiled by People Tree founder Safia Minney, 'Naked Fashion' is a book that brings together a string of industry-insider profiles and interviews, with the aim of educating and inspiring the reader to re-think their relationship with fashion.

The spotlight is placed on people who are working to re-invent the way fashion interacts on every level: buyers, models and their agencies, producers, stylists, designers... the whole shabang. I got the impression reading through that some people seemed to arguably be making more revolutionary waves than others, but on the whole this book isn't just about good intentions - this is proof that things can be done differently right across the board.

It's one to read with laptop at the ready - the interviews act as initial reference points for you to launch from and explore what's being said and done in more detail online. The ethical directory is especially helpful for the would-be reformed consumer trying to get to grips with what's on offer in the ethical marketplace. Unfortunately, the directory is also where I struggle a little bit because quite a number of the brands listed don't come anywhere close to accommodating my personal tastes.

From the looks of the directory, we are still mostly talking about a smattering of boutiques and small businesses - some of them operating without, I'm guessing, the legions of trend analysts and advertisers that make mainstream brands so successful at speaking into the fashion zeitgeist. It's beginning to become clear to me that taking ethical shopping seriously will mean doing plenty of homework to unearth those rare items or brands that speak to me stylistically, as well as to my conscience. And then saving up to pay the premium prices fair fashion demands.

By far, the biggest encouragement I derived from the book was reading the profiles of "intrapeneurs": people pioneering incremental change in big labels. I was relieved to see the passion behind what can sometimes come across as tokenistic gestures and am optimistic (naive?) enough to hope that consumer choice within the parameters of these existing brands can help tip the balance of their practices in favour of better conditions for both workers and the environment.

I have a long way to go in getting my head around all this, and it's comforting to fall back on my two fail-safes: buying infrequently and a love of second-hand clothes. But in trying to understand the issues that make up my advance into the brave new world of ethical/sustainable/fair trade fashion, 'Naked Fashion' is a good introduction.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Lyrical Lifelines - "Clay and Water" (Margaret Becker)

Margaret Becker - Album: Falling Forward

According to her iTunes page, this artist was active in the 1980s and 1990s, but I didn't discover her until the first decade of the new millennium, rooting around in the reduced box of a Christian bookstore. My music buying strategy was fairly unsophisticated - I looked at album art, I looked at lyrics and I looked at price. Margaret Becker scored favourably on all fronts - it was only when I got the album home that I realised she was writing songs about me.

Clearly that wasn't the case, but that's definitely how it felt in the self-conscious, self-absorbed state of adolescence. Seven or eight years later, when I bought her greatest hits acoustic compilation, I found yet more songs that addressed the very crux of what living looked like for me at that stage.

I love Margaret Becker for putting brave words in my mouth, for sharing my first love and for articulating the things on my heart. And I love her for doing it with a kind of stripped back beauty - acoustic pop meets folk meets her distinctive, soaring vocals. If I ever need a hand with a little soul-searching, if I ever want to hold a moment up to the light and see what it's made of or am just craving a really, really honest encounter with Jesus, this lady is a friend indeed.

In particular, I come back to "Clay and Water" time and time again because its lyrics are a magical mixture of strength and vulnerability. The lyrics let me tell myself truths that are hard to remember and the music washes me through, making everything alright.

"I am clay and I am water
Falling forward in disorder
While the world spins round so fast
Slowly I'm becoming 
Who I am." 

'Lyrical Lifelines' - songs that save my world 
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