OPINION: The Clothes Show Live ’15 @ NEC 04-8.12.15

The Clothes Show Live '15

Words by Sasha Holt / Pics courtesy of NEC Group

Birmingham PreviewWell hello fashionistas, its Sasha – your style guide through the fashion wilderness. Today we take another step closer to the style obsessed leviathan that is The Clothes Show Live.

Whilst daydreaming about the diaphanous dresses on my wish list for The Clothes Show Live ’15, I started to muse about the human clothes hangers that will be showing off the key pieces to a fashion hungry public on the Image Catwalk at this year’s event, and the influential effect they may have on many visitors to the event.

The Clothes Show / The Brit Pack – Erika Pattison, Sarah-Ann Macklin, Hannah Dodd, Rhiannon LaslettOne example of this is the hope that many girls may have of being spotted by Select Model Management, The Clothes Show Live’s official scouting team, because they are 5 foot 10 inches and a size 6?

After all, if spotted they could in the footsteps of The Brit Pack – with the current faces of this year’s campaign, Erika Pattison, Sarah-Ann Macklin, Hannah Dodd and Rhiannon Laslett, all plucked from the NEC crowds over the last 10 years.  Then I wonder how many girls that are 5ft 4 inches and size 14 will have the same hopes to make it into the fashion world? The answer to this question may reflect an inequality that still exists in the fashion world, but I’ll let you be the judge.

With the average Clothes Show Live customer being a girl between 15 and 18, their immediate demographic is one greatly influenced by fashion and still forming their sense of self. Many could Hilary-Alexanderbe looking for aspirational role models, and at The Clothes Show Live this year they may be confronted by images which to the young insecure mind could be dangerous.

Now I’m not suggesting that The Clothes Show Live should become some holistic moral fashion beacon, but I’d be curious to know which exhibitors featured this year foster a sense of self away from just the presumed external fashion ideal.

But one person on the 2015 programme I trust to guide this year’s wide eyed fashion Bambi’s through the ready to wear wilderness is Hilary Alexander OBE, in the Olympus Style Studio. She was once quoted as saying on a Russian fashion website:

“Every morning we all, regardless of wealth, will be faced with a choice – what to wear, and this idea should not lead anyone to horror.”

I think this year’s Clothes Show Live attendees are in safer hands with her – learning that whoever you are, everyone is entitled to love fashion.

ashley-graham---backI’m also waiting with baited breath to discover which designers will be at The Clothes Show Live ‘15 catering for sizes and shapes that might not fit in with the ‘traditional’ societal idea of beauty.

Recently there was the applauded launch into the big time of plus sized supermodel Ashley Graham. At the time I was a little erred by the hypocrisy that ultra skinny models are criticised but this overweight girl was widely celebrated; after all, neither end of the weight spectrum is a healthy place to be. But when I think of events such as The Clothes Show Live it makes me realise that every opportunity to push forward someone who is not the fashion ‘norm’, should be taken.

I hope that events such as this will one day feature models of both sexes, which accurately reflect the sizes and shapes that exist in the world outside the catwalk. Will it be this year, will it be next ttf LOGO WEBCOLOURSyear; we’ll have to just wait and see. And when the fashion revolution does happen, I hope it’s a silent one – arriving without any press or fanfare, simply introducing a cross section of models as equals in the lineup.

Perhaps the old adage that ‘clothes maketh the man’ should be replaced with something like ‘clothes keep you warm, but it’s your skin that makes you unique’.

The Clothes Show Live ’15 comes to the NEC Birmingham from 4th – 8th December. For full programme details visit http://www.clothesshow.com/

Tickets for The Clothes Show Live ’15 are on sale now, available through Ticket Factory. For online tickets sales & info, visit https://www.theticketfactory.com/cslb/online/

For more from the Ticket Factory, visit https://www.theticketfactory.com/

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OPINION: Jeremy Corbyn, new son of the media circus

Red and Buried - MoS - Sept 13thIt’s not often I agree with Jeremy Vine, but whilst listening to his Radio2 show on 14th Sept I managed to squeeze in a small nod of agreement.

The response in question, m’lud, was to his comment “…I feel, as journalists, we mustn’t (underestimate him) either. There’s this whole thing going on about they can’t win the next election. We’re not part of that; he can win the next election, so let’s start at that point and see what happens…”(32mins 44secs)

Jeremy Vine was talking about the newly, overwhelmingly, appointed Labour leader, and the media’s oddly McCarthy flavoured response to his snowball election. And I agree, wholeheartedly; although my solidarity was marred by the title of Vine’s show that day being ‘Jeremy Corbyn and Robots.’ Followed two days later with ‘PMQs and pig shootings.’

I should point out here I am not a member of the Labour party. I am not a member of any political party. I last voted in 1997. I am, by sad default, deeply suspicious of any mandate from any mouth on any hustings – taking the somewhat unhelpfully sniper position of armchair commentator. And I’m even arrogant enough to admit it, go me. But the Labour leadership has been a soap opera since the Brown Bounce, with the recent Corbyn Christmas Special an especially addictive cliff hanger. And I am, once again, to use the parlance of the day, engaged.

I work in media (dharlings) and so have an eye somewhat focused on the hidden content. My first role in a PR agency was to read three red tops and two broadsheets a day, and write a summary report for my co-workers – identifying the media opportunities for our clients, alongside the bedfellows of the publishing house and the editor’s political/personal predilections. It was an eye opening experience, one that has made me both intensely aware of the shifting public domain and an irritating person to challenge after a pint and half of cider.

Red and Buried - MoS - Sept 13thBut the volley of Red Scare, both during the Labour leadership election and its subsequent shadow cabinet reshuffle (ha, childishly undemocratic exodus) has stumped even me. I mean, I doubt Paul Dacre is on Tom Watson’s Friends & Family but there was, is, such absurdity coming from some UK column inches at the moment it’s difficult to know where to start. So let’s start with Dacre, specifically his Sunday front page on the day before the aforementioned Jeremy Vine show – pictured above; click here or on the thumbnail (right) for the full story.

My favourite line, although it was hard to choose, was ‘…teetotaller celebrated in the pub by singing socialist anthem The Red Flag…’ I bet Simon Walters actually came a little after writing that one.

But the ‘left wing’ media have been just as blindsided, many seeming to opt for the one trick pony approach as opposed to embracing what is, and what is very rare, actual politics. 59.5% of the votes were cast this man; The Guardian followed Corbyn’s first week as Labour leader with a series of often insipid op/ed pieces and tenuous attacks. 453 words went to the following story, titled ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s driver ‘pushed BBC cameramanover”

Read the copy. Watch the clip. Listen to the clip. Look at the picture. Now reread the copy, ringfencing the facts. Really?

So there I am – standing in my kitchen, shaking my head at Dennis Skinner (here’s a list of who the BBC could have asked on, told by The Independent’s own take on objective reporting) agreeing with Jeremy Vine and citing Michael Gove on the Andrew Marr show. Politics makes for strange bedfellows indeed

The Huffington PostBut 24hours is a long enough time, and with potentially half a decade between us and the next general election there will no doubt be a lot more media nonsense to navigate. The circus continues and the clowns start to cry.

I mean, I even laughed at a quote in the Daily Mail this week (thankfully, for my soul, one first published in The Huffington Post – following a blog post also worth reading) about a Birmingham MP crossing swords with the new shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

“People said to me they had always wanted to say that to her, and I don’t know why they don’t as the opportunity presents itself every other minute.”

A particularly inspired response to reactive press attention; one that (as well as making me laugh out loud) oddly also resonates with me politically. Albeit, again, from the comfort of my armchair, I’ve been shouting “fu*k off” at Diane Abbott for years.

Ed King is Editor of Birmingham Review. Follow him @EdKing2210


OPINION: Has someone stolen your tie?

20150307_114812Words by Sasha Holt

Well it’s been transitional time in the fashion world, with recent fashion week extravaganzas gracing the most glamorous of cities with the most fashion forward of people. We will just have to wait and see what filters down to the high street and boutique level.

Back down to reality with a bump, the continuing fashion trend that I’m not completely sold on just yet is ‘Geek Chic’. But first let’s extol the positives of this styling choice.

For girls, we’ve seen an androgynous look of skinny jeans, paired with slogan emblazoned sweatshirts, which encapsulate the idea. And those among the fairer sex that have wanted to put a twist on this contrived trend straitjacket have mixed vintage floral dresses with cardigans and oversized specs. But the girls appear to have had to better end of the deal when choosing to jump on the Geek Chic fashion train.

My issue comes with the male side of this sartorial coin. One of the overriding parts of creating a trend such as ‘Geek Chic’ – i.e. something, supposedly, the social awkward would wear, is that we are being brain washed into bad taste being good taste. And one manifestation of this, an element of male ‘Geek Chic’ that makes me even more apoplectic than cargo trousers and jeans pulled down to show underwear (…don’t get me started) is the shirt with the top button done up.carbon-copy-magazine

You see it everywhere now, from Jo nobody to every letter on the Celebrity A to Z list; in fact it’s transcended any one particular trend, but I can’t understand why anyone would think it looks good.

Every time I see someone sporting the top button garrote I want to ask them if they need help finding their tie. Now its offensive to me in a casual setting, but it appears to now being trialed at formal occasions too. Oh please, just look in the mirror. A sharp suit (or an ill fitting supermarket choice) paired with a shirt buttoned up to the top, but then no finishing touch. It’s like going out without shoes.

Once the choice has been made to follow the ‘Geek Chic’ line, it’s a short stroll from this top button trauma to ankle grazers and men wearing jeans so tight it should be a matter of public decency. Where will it end.

So fashion followers, as always you will led by your clothing conscience – but if you are embracing the male ‘Geek Chic’ please do me two favours:
1) Look in the mirror
2) If you see me coming, surreptitiously undo that top button.

Stay fashionable and most importantly stay you.

Follow Sasha Holt @sashahawker

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OPINION: The Shame of New Street

20150307_114812Words by Sasha Holt

As a fashion obsessive with a certifiable addiction to sartorial swagger, I want to take you on a journey through fashion around our fabulous city and beyond.

Although I feel I’m almost committing fashion treason by starting with this particular blog, but I can’t keep it in any more.

Watching the shiny leviathan of New Street station take its place in the centre of Birmingham, it should be a beacon of hope, of regeneration, crowned with the retail mammoth of John Lewis.

But just around the corner lies the sartorial shame of our city. The home of the Every Item for £5 shop, a tired looking BHS, and not forgetting the soul destroying giant like presence of Primark – where you can buy three Scarves for £5 pounds, a handbag that will last 5 minutes, and be harassed by a hundred and one poorly clad chuggers.

PrimarkAround this hive of degradation breeds a Petri dish of the fashion fallen. If you want to watch the lesser spotted see-through-legging-wearer, alongside the Ill-fitting-sportswear-clothed-creature this is the place to be. I am at a loss as to how the designer divining Bullring shoppers make it to their destination as they are not to be seen in this mire of fashion sorrow.

We live in a city so full of fashion innovation, with the stores like Disorder (just off Corporation Street) and even innovative High Streeters, such as Top Shop and the yellow fashion Mecca of Selfridges, within tottering distance.

DisorderI, for one, am standing on my soap box to extol the fashion credentials of this exciting clothing cosmos we call Birmingham. But the burning question on my lips is why are the beacons of our fashion future hidden away from the main public sight?

How such a fashion forward city allowed a black hole like New Street to appear in its fabric, is truly unforgivable.

So I call on you fashion followers to stay creative, risk innovative; don’t let the tractor beam of homogenisation suck you in. New Street might tempt you with its disposable offerings, but listen to that perfectly primped fashion angel on your shoulder – don’t go over to the dark side.

Stay fashionable suburbia and most importantly stay you.

Follow Sasha Holt @sashahawker


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OPINION: A return to the circus

Butterfly screen break - lr - smWords by Ed King

I don’t vote. I did once, in 1997, but after the subsequent guard changing I never felt compelled to again.

In fact as my political understanding grew, in both detached and immediate arenas, I became firmer in my stance that voting was not the best way to change things. Or rather, not the best way I could help change the things I wanted to see change. To me charity begins at home, and I saw more power in both a non partisan approach and the private sector – whilst shouting in the face of a four year term ‘YOU’LL NEVER GET ANYTHING DONE.’

Plus I simply couldn’t endorse any political party on the hustings, or tow the ‘best of a bad bunch’ line all the way to the ballot box; it made no sense to underwrite something I didn’t trust or believe in.

I wrote the following editorial about this in May 2008: http://birminghamreview.net/opinion-bonkers-boris-and-the-state-of-the-nation/

I left the country shortly after (not because of) that editorial, effectively sidestepping the conversation I was so often unable to have in person. All I could do was watch from afar whilst Britain brushed child abuse networks under the carpet and refused to visit countries that were ashamed to sell sanitary towels. Ah, the glass house hangover of a debauched Pax Britannica.

But now I’m back in Britain on the run up to a dangerous general election; for the first time since Oswald Mosley we have real trouble as a candidate. And as Ed Miliband continues the Labour Party car crash with garrulous promises about apprenticeships (née YTS), whilst the coalition Government tear tiny strips of each other and bigger ones from frontline services, there’s a truth I may need to face – it could be time to get back on the electoral roll. Or, at least, to start having the conversation again.

There seems to be a lot of scared and hate filled rhetoric circling today, whilst the social climate (and even the economic one, if you’re prepared to see it) are better than in times of yore. And I know there is always a counter point to a counterpoint, but look around you; the lights work, the water’s clean, and Polio is now not much more than a Dickens reference.

But the middle class burden seems to weigh heaviest on those who have no reason to run, and apathy has once again has led to anger. We are once again, as a nation, blaming the poor, vulnerable or last through the door. People I have grown up respecting are starting sentences with “the credit crunch” and “I’m not racist but…” I feel, for the second time in my adult life, perhaps it’s time to politically chip in.

I asked my mother this morning what would be her most compelling reason to vote, she answered “…the NHS, whoever would be the best for state healthcare.” I can buy that. And whilst I’m not sure what will be the catalyst for me to once again put a cross down on paper, I am going to go through the top four manifestos.

I may still not vote.

Ed King is editor of Birmingham Review. Follow him at https://twitter.com/edking2210