Thursday, 4 August 2011

A Year in the Life...

I am sat in my flat in London trying to pack a year into boxes and bags. The window is open and I can hear the sounds of the street I have come to think of as home. Upending bags and rifling my way through drawers, I am trying to catch my memories from this year before they run away. The smell of Columbia Road flower market, that Vietnamese restaurant in Shoreditch, the sound of pigeons jostling each other on the bridge on the way to London Fields, the American diner where I drank milkshake cocktails and found a friend, the flavours of those cupcakes in a bakery near Covent Garden, the play I watched at the Barbican, the Saturday market in a school playground.

Looking around me at piles of bags, shelves of books and a pinboard heavy with pictures and postcards, I can see traces of what has been a huge year.

I'm going to need more boxes.
My pinboard is like a map of the journeys I have been on this year. Here are some of the most memorable destinations:

The Day I had Lunch at Vogue

Before I describe my day at Vogue, I will say what you have probably already guessed: I didn't win. You would have heard by now if I had. A few weeks ago I received a letter from Alexandra Shulman that said: 'Thank you for coming to lunch at Vogue House, we all enjoyed meeting you. Although you haven't won this year's competition, as I said at lunch we had a record number of entries this year so to be a finalist is a huge achievement. Congratulations.' signed, Alexandra, Editor, Vogue.

It was as I had expected, and although I was initially disappointed I have now come to feel extremely proud to have got to the final eight, and I look back on the experience with nothing but happy memories of an incredible day.

On Friday the 8th of July at around 1:30pm, I was sat in Vogue House with a glass of champagne to my right, and the editor of Vogue to my left. We were chatting about the royal wedding and the future of the magazine industry, whilst eating pea and mint mash and smoked salmon in a room decorated with decades of Vogue covers.

It had been a long morning. I woke up at 8, excited but tired after a restless night (the thought of lunch at Vogue the next day is enough to turn you into an insomniac). Then for getting dressed.

What do you wear to Vogue House? In my case: a brand new outfit. I had been shopping with my mum the week before (a lovely if somewhat embarrassing experience. As I tried things on I could hear her the other side of the changing room door telling bemused sales assistants what my outfit was for), and found something that I loved. Above anything, I wanted to look like me. So I went for lunch at Vogue wearing a smart, nude coloured A-line dress and a bright orange jacket, worn with a bright orange and pink bag and matching shoes. I was hardly going to turn up in black, was I?

After several hours of waiting and then a busy tube journey, I arrived outside the doors of Vogue House at 12:30. An hour later I was upstairs with the judges and seven other finalists, sitting and chatting with Alexandra Shulman.

"How do you feel about the future of printed magazines?" she asked me.

I then found myself talking with Alexandra Shulman about many things I have long since felt: that printed magazines can no longer compete with the internet on providing up-to-date news or interactive material, but that shouldn't render them obselete. With the beautiful faces of generations of Vogue cover stars smiling down at me I felt even more strongly my belief that a magazine like Vogue is much more than a monthly style guide. It is a statement. When you pick Vogue off the shelf or let the glossy cover peak out from your handbag, you are saying something to the world about who you are, or, perhaps, who you want to be. For me the magic of Vogue is down to its stellar content that is on the pulse and provided by world-class contributors, but it is also the most glamorous of accessories. How do you wear your Vogue? Do you tuck it under your arm as you walk down the street, cover facing out so everyone knows which magazine you just bought? Do you roll it casually to say that you are someone who is effortless and cool when it comes to style? And when you have finished 'wearing' your copy, do you leave it on a coffee table for the benefit of your guests or use the covers to decorate your room?

Digital is brilliant. Moving image in particular gives an exciting new platform to magazines that looks set to become much more mainstream. But other than the obvious flaws of digital (do you really want to read a 1,000 word article on your iPhone? And what about having something you can hold and touch and stroke?) there is one big problem. You can't wear an app.

As we spoke, and I tried to manage talking and eating (the strategy, in the end, was to do very little of the latter), I kept wanting to pinch myself. I couldn't believe I was talking about all of this with the person who makes it happen.

Between courses the judges moved around to give them the chance to speak to as many people as possible. As well as Alexandra Shulman the judges also included many Vogue staffers, a previous finalist and Lisa Armstrong. It was surprising how relaxed the atmosphere was throughout the whole dinner. Of course I was nervous, but I found myself really enjoying myself. The food was exquisite and I was surrounded by people I admire and felt incredibly fortunate to meet.

When it was time to go I didn't want to leave Vogue behind. Luckily, for another hour at least, I didn't have to, as we were all given a guided tour of the building. I contemplated hiding in a fashion cupboard, or downstairs in the archive room where we were shown a library of fashion books and shelves and shelves of old Vogues, but in the end (and after one of the best afternoons of my life) a revolving door pushed me back out onto the street.

I stood in Hanover Square with the seven other contestants, shell-shocked. We all needed a drink, I decided, so I marched the eight of us to a nearby pub.

The other finalists were lovely, and in place of competitiveness was a real sense of comradery. When I eventually headed home I realised that although I probably hadn't won, I would be incredibly happy for whoever did. They would have thoroughly deserved it.

And besides, there's always next year... :)

Cake Day, 2011
When things are stressful and getting you down, what do you do? I make cake. And not just that, I organise my friends around the country to get baking too. Because sometimes there is just nothing quite like the smell of icing sugar and baking cupcakes.
Two Weeks in Colour

Two weeks, two colours. My two weeks spent in head to toe red and pink gave me a whole new confidence. When you no longer fear walking down Oxford Street dressed like a walking raspberry, not much seems that scary. And that is so much fun. The two weeks also taught me a lot about colour and inspired me to inject more of it into my wardrobe. Whether you like it or not, our clothes talk about us behind our backs. I just want my clothes to say nice things.
Cosmo Girl
Hard Work Pays Off
'Work Hard and Be Nice to People'. This is what I read every morning when I wake up, and the motto I try to live my life by. I am a strong believer that you get out of life what you put in, and most of the time I find that this is true. This year has been hard work, but it has been well worth it.

I recently finished my first year with a First and then spent a brilliant three weeks doing work experience on the features department at Woman and Home. As well as assisting at photo shoots and employing my masterful skills of 'coffee management' I also spent much of the time writing. And it made me so happy. Yes I do love fashion, but I have finally realised that I love writing more. So that is what I should be doing.

An interesting year, now packed up into boxes. Now onto the next...