Monday, 21 February 2011

Red Week, Sunday

Fourteen days, two colours. My social experiment has come to an end.

I should be happy really. With no limits on what I can wear my wardrobe is now full of choice. Yet somehow the old combinations of greys and blacks with a few flashes of colour don't seem quite the same. I have been a walking flash of colour for two weeks.

I set out two weeks ago with the aim of discovering how colour can influence our emotions and change people's perceptions of us. It has been a fascinating task to put fashion to the test and discover that colour can be a powerful thing. In pink I felt cheerful and girly, and was treated accordingly. In red I walked tall.

My friend went shopping recently and tells me she avoided everything black and white because of my experiment, leaving instead with armfuls of colour.

I may have done this as a social experiment, but it also ties in with a style revolution that has been bubbling in fashion. Colour blocking is big news. As I hungrily consume images from the latest catwalk shows there is one look that keeps cropping up and making me smile. Head to toe colours, and in particular, head to toe red.

I may have turned heads but it has also felt completely refreshing to detox my wardrobe, if only for two weeks.

Whether you like it or not, your clothes a talking about you. When you walk down the street they give a message to the world about the person underneath them, and as I have found over these two weeks, they can also change the way you walk down that street. Black and grey may always be the safe, chic option. But colour is vibrant, confident and interesting. And why wouldn't you want to be all of those things?


Saturday, 19 February 2011

Red Week, Saturday

It may have been a rainy day in London but I was red and smiling. Tomorrow is my last day of two weeks in colour. In a way I don't want it to end.

In the end I wasn't needed to assist for the rest of the weekend at Fashion Week, and as the rain dribbled down my window this morning I must admit the prospect of standing outside for six hours didn't seem too appealing. Instead I took the time to catch up with some work before meeting my family for supper in the evening.

My Dad arrived with a gift in tow: a bunch of red tulips to match my outfit, now standing next to the pink roses sent by my boyfriend last week.

The sky clouded ominously above us as we headed out, but I wasn't worried, wearing, as I was, a shiny red raincoat lent to me for the Red Week cause by my friend Theresa. Feeling very much the 21st Century Red Riding Hood, all I was missing was a basket slung over my arm.

This evening as I walked into a restaurant buzzing with people, I noticed how much higher my head was held than the first time I stepped out in top-to-toe colour. Two weeks ago when I ventured out in pink I did so nervously, smiling at people almost apologetically as I passed them and their puzzled expressions in the street. After two weeks, however, the fears have been painted over by bright pink and vivid red.

I am not the only one to have cottoned on to the power of colour. After the recession-induced minimalism and sombre pallete of last season, vibrant brights are set to have a comeback this summer. As I sat in my all red outfit this morning flicking through Vogue I came across a page painted with rainbow blocks of colour. It was an article by Nicola Copping entitled 'Colour Splash.' "This is not the season to be shy and retiring," it began.

Throughout the article the praises are sung for all things bright and beautiful. "Women want something that is unique," said Jonathan Saunders, "special pieces where they can create their own look and not look like a clone. Colour is the perfect way to do this - it is able to make a girl stand out."

Later on in the piece creative director of Cacharel, Cedric Charlier, agrees: "I imagined this collection with the desire to 'dynamise' a new look. Being cheerful is what is required to wear it."

And the piece ends with Copping's uplifting advice, "But most importantly, be confident with your colour: there's no room for shyness this spring."

Being a wallflower has fallen out of fashion, and more importantly it just isn't much fun. You might not take my word for it. But just listen to Vogue.


Friday, 18 February 2011

Red Week, Friday

The day starts and ends with red.

After a 6am start, fuelled by fashion week excitement and scrambled eggs, I headed to Somerset House. As I walked through Embankment Gardens in the morning mist the only other people around at that early hour were two gardeners. As they saw the scarlet me heading towards them they stopped their work and beamed at me. "Lady in Red! Good morning gorgeous." Heading on I pondered once more the power of red. I wonder how much notice I would have been given had I been dressed in a gloomy parka and a pair of crocs.

Perhaps it sounds crazy, but arriving at Somerset House felt like returning to my natural habitat. A fish that had for a while been drowning on air, I was thrown suddenly into the sea. And a sea filled with fashionistas and photographers nonetheless.

Being a 'stylehunter' for the day and having the opportunity to watch a highly reputed photographer at work reminded me of why I am here. Looming uni deadlines and mounting uni stress made me momentarily lose sight of one important thing: I love this.In essence I spent the day doing one of my favourite things, people watching. If I wasn't scouting out interesting people, fab shoes, wacky hats or wonderful bags to photograph, or approaching and chatting to the 'hunted' (ie: the people with a photoworthy extra 'something') I was watching everything else. It was this 'everything else' that I often found the most fascinating, because to me it was the story behind the story: the production of London Fashion Week.

Yes, there was glamour. Yes there were sky-high heels and fluffy coiffed hair, and chauffeur-driven cars and Mulberry bags and beautiful people and beautiful clothes. But there were also high-visibility jackets, and lots of them. Burly, bearded men that were the antithesis of the fashion pack guided huge vans through the courtyard, erected railings and barked instructions into radios. Fashion hungry photographers were everywhere. Their cameras slung like medals around their necks every now and then they would swarm around a 'look', the person under the clothes well-trained in posing for a camera. A few of the photographers greeted each other, obviously old-hands on the fashion week scene.

At one point a group of men walked through the courtyard carting huge boxes of vegetables on their shoulders. Food for the models perhaps? Who knows, they soon disappeared behind the tents and out of sight.

Dotted around the peripheries of the fashion enclosure stood the odd group of high-vis jackets and jeans, smoking and chatting. At one point as they watched a pack of photographers crowding around an off-duty model a few of the site workers took out their phones and photographed the process. I imagined them in the pub later that night flashing the photographs of what they saw at work today.

Every now and then someone would rush across the cobbles dragging an intriguing looking suitcase before slipping backstage. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, there were people at work. Inside the building bloggers were sat at rows of laptops typing away, each one trying to get their copy online as quickly as possible. Milling around them were fashion girls handing out maps and cleaners clearing away discarded coffee cups and used fashion show tickets.

It made me think about the mammoth industry that is fashion. The catwalk show is one brief moment of flashing lights and gorgeous clothes. But all of this, the hundreds of people doing their unglamorous jobs - this is the carefully guarded secret of how glamour is made.

Red turned heads at London Fashion Week. I lost count of the amount of fashion bloggers that asked to take my photograph. I just laughed, finding it amusing that here colour blocking is a trend and not a sign of madness or some rare rash-inducing disease. I think when a stylehunter asks to take your photograph you are supposed to imagine your dog has just died and cross your knees. At least that's what I saw everyone else doing. I can't be dealing with that, so they got a Libby smile instead.

Throughout the day red got some great reactions. "You've brightened up my day," said a dreamy French model, brushing his hair from his face and giving me a big smile. No no, you've brightened mine.

Other people said how refreshing it was to see a flash of colour. Dressing like this made me realise even more the prevailance of black in our wardrobes - at London Fashion Week it was everywhere. Suddenly, however, it seemed to me less chic and stylish and more unimaginative and gloomy. It seems I wasn't the only one falling for all things bright: "You have inspired me to wear more colours," said one person and "what a stunning colour" said another.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised. I was half expecting to be thrown out for my lack of black uniform or Louis Vuitton bag. I did make one woman stop mid-conversation when she spotted me, and others looked me up and down, but mostly I was met with smiles as warm as the colour I was wearing.

All in all it was a great day. Stylehunting and chatting to people I felt happy, confident and completely myself. And as I left Somerset House I thought to myself: how much of that was because of the colour I was wearing? Maybe that sounds strange, but if these past two weeks have taught me anything, it has been not to underestimate the power of colour.
After Somerset House I set out and about with two new friends of the day, both assistants like me who were up in London from Bournemouth and Birmingham. We headed to Kensington Palace to the gorgeous Enchanted Palace exhibition. I had never visited the palace before, so walking around one of the most beautiful parts of London just made a great day even better.
On the way I spotted this amazing window display, bursting with flowers and this cutie, Jasmine, with her flower collar. She was used to posing for the camera as just earlier that day she had been modelling scarves for a catalogue, her owner proudly informed me.
All in all the fifth day of my Red Week Challenge was a very good one.


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Red Week, Thursday

"You're looking, um, colourful today."

Yes I am. But that doesn't mean you have to sing the Postman Pat theme tune at me.

Just three days left of my week in red, and those three days will be a real test of this experiment, (and my nerve) as they will be spent at Somerset House. This weekend I am assisting a street style photographer at London Fashion Week.

My first fashion week experience was in October when I was interning at Cosmo. It will be exciting to be back, and interesting to focus this time on the outfits queuing to go in rather than strutting down the runway.

This is fashion week of course, so I'm sure I shall see a fair few heels tackling the treacherous cobbles of the Somerset House courtyard. I wonder how many pairs will be red. And I wonder how many of these red-heeled fashionistas will also be wearing red tights. And a red dress. And a red jacket...

I have come this far - I have been chased down the street by a drunken man, I have been laughed at and pointed at. But this fashion experiment won't be over until I have painted London Fashion Week red.


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Red Week, Wednesday

I am beginning to wonder how I will go back to normality next week. After two weeks of all-out colour, even the dull grey or black of my most trusted pair of tights seems an unattractive prospect.

"So what are you wearing today then?" has become a regular greeting, and amusing comments like today's, "you look like a cherry" are standard.

Of course I won't miss everything about looking like a walking stop sign. This morning a drunken man followed me down Sheperd's Bush road shouting "RED! RED!" after me, as though I was a rare species to be spotted or a dastardly villain to be persued. The image of an exotic animal appeals, and I have always like the sound of Miss Scarlet in the billiards room with the candlestick, but being neither I proceeded to speed-walk to college.

At lunch I pounced on the opportunity of talking to one of the few straight males on my course to get his view on the colour red. I asked him what the colour red on a woman said to a man. His answer was simple. Sex.

It's interesting to think about our clothes from different perspectives. Putting on my red lipstick this week I have seen someone strong and confident facing me off in the mirror. In my mind's eye the red me uses lipstick like warpaint and would casually slay batallions with a smile. Yet she certainly wouldn't give two hoots what any man thought about those painted lips; because Little Miss Red is no wallflower. But perhaps that is where the attraction lies.

I am finding out that different colours are heavy with different connotations, yet colour in itself can also be hugely powerful. In today's broadcast lecture we were experimenting setting up shots that used lighting and surroundings to reflect a certain mood or character. We followed our lecturer to a fragmented shard of afternoon light lingering in the courtyard, whereupon he pulled me out in front of the class to stand in the light. "Just look how this works," he said, my face turning as red as my outfit as a class full of intent eyes turned on me, "the light shines on her but just look at the grey surroundings (the 'courtyard' is a generous description for an industrial looking carpark)... dressed all in red she is a light too. This image says vibrancy, and a ray of sunshine in a dark world."

It makes me wonder how we have become so addicted to our wardrobes of grey and black anyway. For lots of people wearing black is a statement; much in the same way that wearing colour can say so much, the absence of it can be hugely important too. But for a lot of people I think the gloominess of their wardrobes is purely accidental. It goes something like this: you start with a black dress (because it's a classic). Right, it's cold so now we need tights (reach for those black opaques). Shoes next, and a pair of black pumps (because they are comfy and black goes with black after all). Finally it's time to put your coat on, and that is black too (because it was an 'investment' buy, so black seemed the fail-safe option). Before you know it you have left the house dressed like the Grim Reaper.

I have done it too. It's a vicious cycle that is difficult and, as these two weeks have proven, often socially unacceptable to break out of. But I don't care. I choose sunshine.


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Red Week, Tuesday

Men, it appears, like red. Today I have amassed a total of four tooted horns, several smiles, a few leers and a couple of comments. "Lovely colour," said one man as he passed me with a grin and a wink. As I stood outside Liverpool Street Station waiting to meet my mum for lunch, I watched as a high-vis wearing construction worker spotted me, stopped, stared and walked on, turning around a few times for another stare. (Oh the benefits of female peripheral vision: with the subtlest of glances we can catch out the most unsubtle of stares.)

After a week dressed in pink I have become used to people looking at my clothes, and to men smiling at me. But the smiles sent my way when I am dressed in red are very different to those I received last week. "Red is a statement colour" - we have heard that expression countless times. Yet what I want to know is: what am I stating? Judging by the reactions of many men over the last two days I wonder if to them it is a statement of availability and sexuality. Are my clothes playing matador, shouting 'look at me, I am woman", the red heels and lipstick the final flourish of the matador's cape? Pink may be feminine, but it is less self-assured than the firey flash of red, therefore conjures a very different image of femininity that incites very different reactions.

It is true that I have always associated red with womanliness. Meeting my mum today it was obvious why. Dressed in a red skirt, scarf and coat she was the image of my childhood memories and to me the personification of 'woman'. I never used to wear red, so strongly linked to my mum was the colour in my mind's eye. Heels and red: the two went hand in hand for me and I decided I couldn't wear either until I was a woman.

By now I have just about mastered the art of heels (even managing the odd dash for the bus in a teetering pair) so red has inevitably crept into my wardrobe too. Therefore despite feeling a bit like a postbox, wearing red these past two days has felt extremely comfortable. It has been interesting, therefore, to think about how something that seems to me a natural expression of my personality and femininity appears to the people I pass in the street. Or in other words, what my clothes are saying about me behind my back.


Monday, 14 February 2011

Red Week, Monday

What an appropriate day to start my week in red. "You look like love," said one of my coursemates as I sat down this morning. Walking down Oxford Street today the shop windows are awash with red: an explosion of red hearts here and a bunch of red balloons there that jostle and bump against a scarlet-framed window.

When I think about red I think about strength and femininity; I had almost forgotten that is also the undeniable colour of love. Valentine could be a Pantone colour in itself, so strong is the link between February the 14th and the colour red. Valentine Red is instantly evocative, conjuring to mind velvet-bellied roses and crimson kisses.

This morning I stepped out of my flat with my head held high - and not just because of the sparkly Dorothy heels I was wearing. Red is romance, but it is also confidence. It says a lot about the colour red that my boyfriend (who usually wouldn't pay particular attention to my clothes) highly approves of this week's venture.

As I left my lecture this morning my lecturer turned to me with a smile, "Red is my favourite colour too." I laughed, picturing my pink bedroom and my past week. It wasn't worth explaining...


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Pink Week, Sunday

For 7 days I have worn (pretty much) nothing but pink. I have kept myself dry with a pink umbrella, I have slipped my feet into pink shoes, I have worn pink pyjamas and I have even spritzed myself with Lacoste's 'A Touch of Pink' perfume.

At the beginning of the week I wanted to learn how the things you choose to wear can impact the way people treat you and the way you feel about yourself. Thankfully this hasn't been like the dreadfully dull school experiments that I remember (no need for bunsen burners and no counting bubbles in boiling water), in fact I have never had so much fun with my wardrobe. It has been a highly entertaining and crazily colourful, yet interesting experiment into the power of clothes.

This week I have watched the varied, and often extreme, reactions of people on the street, of my friends, my coursemates and my own changes in mood - all because of the colour of the clothes that I have put on my back.

So what have I learnt about people and pink?

Mainly, that our relationships with colour are highly personal. After this week I would say that pink is an undeniably cheerful colour and I have received countless smiles over the last 7 days. Yet those smiles haven't always come from the people you would expect. In general men have been the friendliest, which has completely gone against my previous thought that men would find pink overpoweringly feminine and sickly sweet.

Of course, many women have embraced my rosiness, but I wonder why many have not. Does it speak of lingering feminist views? With years of female oppression just over our shoulders does my overt expression of femininity in fact offend? Or do the scathing looks and exchanged snickers just speak of a female cattiness towards appearance? Maybe it just highlights the theory that for many women fashion is about fitting in - to see someone step out of the mould like I have this week is bound to cause a reaction if your reason for getting dressed in the morning is to blend in comfortably with the crowd.

Pink is a confident colour. It is sunny, it is happy, but it is also loud. It could be true that lots of people simply don't like the colour. I have already said that our relationships with colour are very personal, so of course our tastes will vary. Yet I wonder too whether some of the laughs that have been fired my way reflect the epidemic of female insecurity. This week I have accepted looking silly with open arms. I knew I would be laughed at, so it didn't really matter to me. So maybe by laughing at me it actually showed that many people don't like being laughed at themselves.

And what about me? How has one colour changed the way I have felt?

It is true that wearing pink has made me happy. Probably because it has made other people happy. "If the colour pink was the sun, it would be you," is possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Yes I have made heads turn and looked like I have been painted by a little girl's imagination, but in a world swathed in gloomy grey how can that be a bad thing? I do think being taken seriously becomes more difficult when dressed head to toe in pink; this week I have certainly felt the heat of a fair few mocking glances. But that in itself has been fascinating. All of the reactions I have received this week, the good, the bad and the uncomfortable, have shown me how poignant something as simple as a colour choice can be and how deeply ingrained our associations with colours lie.

It will be strange to wave goodbye to the land of pink, but my experiment moves on to its next stage tomorrow: a week in red. I can't wait to put on the red lipstick, step into the red heels and start my social experiment, part 2.


Saturday, 12 February 2011

Pink Week, Saturday

For my penultimate day in pink I am in Nottingham visiting my best friend. I think I was fairly easy to spot as I waited for her outside the station.

"You're so pink!" she said with a smile and a hug, "Pink Libby just makes people happy."
Because this week has confirmed what I always believed: pink is a happy colour. After a week of smiles and laughs it will be strange not to walk out looking like candifloss come Monday. Wearing such a bright colour every day has made me notice even more the sea of black clothes that flood the streets. As my mum said to me today, "It makes you realise what a grey old world it is." And despite the chuckles and bemused expressions I may have caused this week, looking so colourful has definitely made me wake up on the right side of the bed each morning. I'd call that the power of pink.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Pink Week, Friday

"I don't even like pink," said my sister across the table, "but I can't help but smile when I look at you."

Whilst I might be baking cupcakes or wandering through Selfridge's, you would be more likely to find my sister on the rugby pitch or up a tree. Studying zoology at Cambridge, you could even say we were polar opposites. And it is safe to say you would never find Alex dressed head to toe in pink. Yet when I met for lunch with my family in Cambridge today to celebrate her birthday, my pinkness was greeted with open arms.

Over this week I have been met by so many responses like my sister's. Some people look bemused, yet the puzzled expression is usually accompanied by a smile. It is an incredible thing that a colour, a simple pigmentation on fabric, can conjur emotions strong enough to cause a parting of the lips or a sudden splutter of laughter. A colour can cause heads to turn, and brows to crease into frowns.

Dressing so conspicuously has made me realise all the more how influential the clothes we wear can be. Just like light travels faster than sound before we even have a chance to open our mouths our clothes have spoken for us. You might say you are not interested in fashion, yet you are engaged with it every time you wake up and open your wardrobe in the morning. And people really do judge books by their covers, sometimes in the most obvious of ways. Watching people watching me has been a fascinating exercise. As I walk down the street I can see the passing eyes starting at my feet, scanning me all the way to my head and all the way back down again. It is amusing how obvious these flicking eye movements are when you look for them. You may think you are being discrete in your judgements, but trust me: you're not.

On the train coming back to London I was assessed by another rabble of school girls. Like the bus-stop girls of day 1 there were giggles tossed my way.

That has been another interesting and surprising part of this week - despite wearing a colour that shouts femininity it has been the men who have responded the most positively. Perhaps the colour of little girls reminds them of their grandchildren, because I have lost count of the amount of kind smiles I have received from elderly gents this week. I expected to read 'EEEK' on the faces of the men I passed this week, but instead I have seen smiles.

Instead it is the women that throw me the funny looks.
Only 2 days left until I leave the rosy world behind and step out in red instead for part 2 of my fashion experiment.


Thursday, 10 February 2011

Pink Week, Thursday

Day four of my pink week challenge took me to the Design Museum for a uni trip. Uni trips, it turns out, are much more exciting than school trips. Those sad affairs meant back-of-the-bus nausea, windy beaches and clipboards. Stopping off at Fleet services for 'refreshments' on the way home meant a brief sugary ecstasy that was always the highlight of the day.

LCF did us proud with a visit to the gorgeous 'Drawing Fashion' exhibition at the Design Museum accompanied by a fascinating talk with Colin McDowell.

Walking to the museum in the rain I struck a sharp contrast with the slick city buildings and grey-suited workers along the South Bank. Several of these suits turned and chuckled at me. At one point a group of friends stared and laughed hysterically, their heads turning to follow me as I walked past. Their reaction caught me off-guard. Forgetting for a brief moment my attire, I turned to my friends, "That was weird."

It has suprised me how quickly you can get used to a way of dressing. After just four days dressed like this, I forget who is the weird one.
Oh well, I'd rather weird than boring any day.


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Pink Week, Wednesday

I'm rather getting used to looking like a raspberry.

You would think that dressing head to toe in shocking pink and having bemused glances following you like a shadow would test your confidence. But by day 3 of my Pink Challenge I feel more relaxed and confident than ever. One colour dressing takes the pressure out of fashion. I'm not doing this because I'm trying to look cool - I'm doing it because it's fun. Studying fashion journalism it would be easy to surrender to Mulberry bag and stiletto heel induced insecurities. Even for the most grounded and self-assured being surrounded by fashionistas on a daily basis can give rise to an unhealthy habit of comparisons and sartorial self-doubt.

Wearing pink this week has made me stand out like a sore thumb, but it has also transported me away from all my previous wardrobe worries. Perhaps ironically, being stared at and making people laugh with my clothes has actually lifted a burden. That burden relieved, worries are also lifted and I am free to just be me. Once you stop fearing walking down the street in head to toe pink, not a lot seems that scary - and that's when you can really have fun.

My pinkness has become a talking point for my coursemates. Today someone suggested having a 'Libby Day' where everyone wears something pink to uni. Others suggested everyone comes in dressed head to toe in different colours. When I said that perhaps next week I will have to resort to red AND black due to lack of clothing, everyone was so adamant that I should continue my experiment properly that they are bringing in things from their own wardrobes for me to borrow. My madness seems to be rubbing off. And I love it.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Pink Week, Tuesday

"Your favourite colour isn't blue by any chance?", says the bus driver with a wink as I swipe my oyster card with one hand, the other clutching my pink union jack basket. Sitting down by the window a smile and the sun spread across my face.

Day 2 of my Pink Challenge and it felt as if spring had arrived. This was helped, of course, by the fact that I was wearing a jumper emblazoned with bunny rabbits. On the bus a little girl in a pink coat looked up at me, wide-eyed and grinning; it seems I wasn't the only one who thought that bunnies plus jumper equaled wonderful.

Today I took pink to Sheperd's Bush - my uni base from Tuesday till Thursday.

Maybe it was the mild weather and sudden burst of sunshine giving winter a beating, but people in Sheperd's Bush were loving pink today.

Walking down Sheperd's Bush Road I was met by smiles peppered with the occasional, "hellooo." Admittedly, all from men. One Italian stopped me in my tracks, "You are a flower: beautiful." Creepiness swept aside, it did make me think about the gloomy prospect of returning to normality. I want to look like a flower every day.

In Tesco the man serving me was unTescoishly cheerful: "You look lovely today. What a lovely pink colour. Have a great day darling." When people are that nice to you how could you fail to have a good day?

Maybe pink puts people at ease. In the case of my Tesco experience: dressed like that I didn't exactly look like a shifty shoplifter. With associations of fairy princesses and mums in aprons, pink can create an aura of 'nice'ness (whether this niceness matches the wearer or not is another matter) that incites kindness. And, the potent colour of feminity, it also seems to stir the best manners amongst the male population.

I love how supportive my coursemates are of my pinkness. "Stand up then Libby, we want to see what you're wearing," "Your jumper is so cute," and "Hey Pinkie," headed my way as I arrived to my lecture.

When one of my friends walked in, however he looked horrified. For one terrifying moment I thought he was going to cry, or scream, or worse - both. When I asked him what was wrong he pointed to my shorts in horror, "THEY'RE BLUE!"

It looks like I will just have to dye the entire contents of my wardrobe. This pink thing seems to be sticking.


Monday, 7 February 2011

Pink Week, Monday

Getting dressed in the morning can often prove a nightmare. Sleepy indecision and an expanse of clothes can mean a one-way ticket to late-for-lecture-ville.

This morning's decision making process was short and sweet, as most of my wardrobe was off-limits. If it wasn't pink, it wouldn't do. And so, a pair of pink knickers, a pink bra, some pink tights, a pink stripey top, a pink spotty dress, a pink jumper, some pink shoes, a pink watch, two pink bags and a pink umbrella later, I was heading off to LCF.

Day 1 of my Pink Week Challenge:

I must admit that it was with a little trepidation that I ventured out of my flat. Was Hackney ready for my pink presence? And perhaps more importantly, was I? Had this experiment been a bad idea? Stepping out of my door I felt a sudden yearning for the comfort of a crowd. But there would be no melting into the crowd for me today.

The nerves soon disappeared, however - and all it took was looking down. A pink polka dot skirt was swishing around my knees, beneath which strode a pair of raspberry legs. Surrounded by my favourite colour, how could I fail to smile?

At the bus stop a gaggle of school girls spotted me and snickered. They looked me up and down in a way only teenage girls can do, sending me back a few years and threatening to bring back an all too familiar nausea. I decided not to let it bother me or dampen my spirits. They were, after all, wearing purple school uniform.

Smile still in tact, I arrived at the London College of Fashion, dressed head to toe in eye-popping pink.

Sitting down in my lecture I was met by smiles. "You look angelic," was one comment. "You make me think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," was another. Two people asked to take my photograph. At lunch people started chatting about different colours, and suggested different things I should do after the next two weeks.

Of course, not everyone was so accepting of the walking, talking, candifloss me. "What the hell?" drifted towards me down a library aisle. Leaving my lecture I heard a loud, "Wow," and not a good kind. Not that I minded. I had caught my reflection in windows enough times to be fully aware of how crazy I looked.

Maybe I looked crazy, but I loved it.
Day 1 of being pink has felt liberating. I love LCF, but as one of the world's most famous fashion colleges it would be naive to think that sartorial choices aren't taken seriously here. Like a shadow you can't shake off there is always that niggling thought that you might be being judged. Dressing head to toe in pink I have fully accepted that I will be judged. But knowing where I stand is actually a massive relief. That worry off my shoulders I was free to just enjoy looking like a dolly mixture, and smile.
Walking down Oxford Street some people looked me up and down. But I could tell that most people were stopping themselves from staring, nonchalantly pretending that they saw someone this pink every day. One old man on the bus home wasn't so painfully, Britishly subtle. He stared. Then he looked away. Then he stared again. Out of the corner of my eye this flitting dance continued for 15 minutes until I got off the bus. I arrived home laughing. Surely that is a good way to end the first day of a very pink week?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Streets of London

I love the Tate. I could spend a day in the V&A. And all those towering canvases in the National Gallery leave me in open-mouthed awe. But for me the place to head for fresh and exciting artwork is not the famous galleries. It's the street.

Graffiti, tagging, street art... call it what you like but one thing is for sure - it's everywhere.

Today I had set out on the hunt for stylish people to photograph for my university project. Camera in hand I headed to Portobello Road. However, after an endless batallion of 'cool' clones in rolled up trousers (seriously, aren't your ankles cold?), granny jumpers, loafers and geek glasses I got bored and headed off down a side street where I had spotted some interesting looking graffiti.

I love graffiti. The way people use illicit images to change their streets, make their mark and vent their angst fascinates me. Never mind conceptual and highly acclaimed masterpieces - this to me is art in its rawest form. People breaking out of the mold and climbing walls and scaling buildings in order to create.
Not everyone sees it like that, however. This is a wall just off Portobello Road as it looked last week...
And here it is today. Perhaps it's just me, but that blank wall looks very sad.

Not all street art is graffiti, however. At Portobello Road a whole street has been decorated with vintage vinyl spines as part of Royal Borough's Portobello Wall Arts Project.
Walking around Ladbroke Grove I spied some graffiti over the top of a wall, yet to my disappointment the area was completely surrounded by a high fence and chained gates. For a split second I was seriously tempted to climb over the fence to get a better look. I would like to say that a deeply ingrained sense of the law is what stopped me. In reality I didn't like the thought of clambering up a wall in a dress and with my beloved camera slung around my neck.
Instead I peeked through the bars at the abandoned area beyond. It looked like a graffiti artist's playground.
Peering through the bars made me think about the sense of mystery created by graffiti itself. One day a wall will be blank, the next it will have been 'tagged'. How and when does the transformation take place? Who did it? Why? Because that's the thing about street art - the artists are usually anonymous, wandering around silently painting their city.
'No Tate Britain' and 'One Foot in the Grove' read this graffiti at Ladbroke Grove.
Businesses seem to be getting in on the act too; I have seen several painted vans like this popping up around London as well as graffiti decorating shop fronts. The interesting thing is its not just the hip vintage stores that you would expect - but dentists, opticians and shoe repair shops taking style inspiration from the streets.
Photographing graffiti is like setting out on a treasure hunt. I love finding signature images and spotting them as they pop up again and again, however small they may be.
We have reached an interesting place where graffiti artists are now selling their work. What initially started as illegal rebellion can now been bought in shops like this one, 'Graffik' on Portobello Road, and hung up in your home.
Shops like these celebrate the creativity of artists whose work colour our lives. Few people will ever own a Picasso or a Damien Hirst. Graffiti takes art off the wall and onto the streets, weaving it into our daily journeys. Maybe the police might disagree, but I think that is something work celebrating.