Friday, 12 February 2016

Genderless Kei

Gender and our relationship with its performance is increasingly a discussion entering mainstream consciousness. Of course, there has been an on-going dialogue about, and questioning of, such things for a long time now but it has often been relegated to LGBT, feminist, sociological or liberal spaces.

And fashion. Fashion has always been interested in gender and how we wear it and can play with that, challenge it, change it.

Not that long ago, separate weeks were established for men's collections in several of the fashion capitals and, already, this idea is coming back into question with many designers showcasing womenswear and menswear together. Designers such as JW Anderson began in menswear and developed so many female fans that he was encouraged to produce a women's line. Yet, even then he constantly blurs the lines between the two. He is but one of a slew of menswear designers that is keen to adopts aspects of womenswear into his clothes for men. Even Selfridges', a long-standing fashion institution in Britain, had a unisex pop-up last year.

Hems in menswear, even in highstreet brands, drop lower and lower, kilts or skirts or skirt-like garments sneak in all over the place, whether being sported by Kanye West, worn by Jayden Smith in a photoshoot or embraced once more by men with heritages where they are traditionally worn.

Of course, Tom, Dick or Harry walking down the street probably isn't rocking an off-the-shoulder top or full-on dress but it's hard not to note a shift in the air.

Which brings us to Japan and the Genderless Kei movement which has been getting more and more press attention as of late, though those outside the media hype machine are loathe to actually call it a movement or subculture what with it being relatively young and difficult to pin down.

The movement has been adopted largely by straight (this is not the case for all proponents of the style but it is important to note that there isn't necessarily an overt connection with the LGBT scene or sexuality), fashionable young Japanese men interested in incorporating elements of female dress and grooming into their own wardrobes. Many are social media stars or models and work with big fashion and beauty brands.

The interesting thing to note is that these men are not trying to dress like women but to add typically female elements to their own sense of dress and normalise the combining of the two. They may wear make-up or colours, fabrics or items of clothing normally confined to womenswear but the overall look is still "masculine".

In this regard, the movement aligns with the fashion climate being seen all over the world but in a more coherent and active way.

But what does this all mean for the future of menswear?

Fashion subcultures often emerge in Japan and they can be quite influential, become international and have a wider trickle-down effect. The Genderless Kei movement, as I've said, fits into a larger trend or shift in fashion that has been a long time coming and has many historical precursors.

Will we see people rocking it on the daily worldwide anytime soon? Probably not but I'm all kinds of excited for the future of menswear all the same.

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So, what do you guys make of the whole thing?

(PS Hat-tip to Tokyo Fashion for inspiring this piece.)


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Saturday, 6 February 2016

KollectionK Haull February 2016 - All the Korean beauty

KollectionK is my go-to for Korean skincare and make-up. They were the first company that I purchased from when I started getting into Korean beauty and, though I've had good experiences buying other sites, they remain my favourite. They put together an extensive, but more manageable, edit of products, the site itself is cute and pleasant to look at and browse, shipping costs are reasonable and things arrive relatively quickly compared to other sites I've tried.

As I've now tried everything I bought, I thought I'd do a haul with some mini-reviews, in case any of you guys were interested in trying the site or some of the items yourself.

First of all, I bought everything during a sale and a lot of it was half price so I got even more bang for my buck than usual - and that's saying something as the price-points of many Korean brands are more than competitive. As sales come around quite a bit (for Lunar New Year, Valentines etc) I'd recommend keeping your eyes peeled as it's always annoying to see something at half the price you paid for it! It's well worth signing up for their newsletter as they'll let you know whenever one of these sales are starting.

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The purchase that I was most excited for was the Tony Moly Gold 24k Mask. It looks like a gold bar which is adorable and it costs around 30 quid for a tube. Single use gold masks can set you back more than that so I was eager to get those plumping effects for less. I've used it once and while the results were fine I've seen better with gold masks. Obviously the gold content is less as it is less expensive so it was never going to be as potent. I also used a relatively thin layer of mask so I may try being more liberal in the future. It's certainly a good intro to gold masks and better value but not the best I've seen so far. However, you really can't beat that value.

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I also got another mask with gold and caviar from Apieu. Once again it's cute as - look at the bunny and the little sharks! This was really plumping and also moisturising (which my skin needs at the moment) and a great base for make-up. I looked so awake and well-rested after using it, despite that not being the case.

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The last of the skincare bits was a charcoal chin mask from Etude House. I've tried this one before and as I had a chin-specific horrific hormonal breakout, it was very much necessary. No instant results but I felt the right kind of squeaky clean afterwards. Charcoal is great for cleaning so I wanted to incorporate it into my skin's recovery process.

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The next product, the first of the make-up bits, is a revelation. Skin Food's Choco Eyebrow Powder Cake seems like lots of other eyebrow powder palettes but it's not. I almost didn't buy it because I have lots of brow products I LOVE. But this has instantly jumped to the top of the list. It comes with a little angled brush and two shades. I got the dusty browns with grey undertones and I don't know if it's the colours, formula or brush but they're magic. They fill in the brows in a single swipe but look natural and the brush grooms the hairs into place with ease. If you could only have one brow product to use, this would do all of the tricks. New holy grail item.

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I watch quite a bit of Korean television and what I've noticed is that the make-up used for actresses there is no make-up make-up at its best. Dewy skin, the tiniest hint of blush, a gradiated lip, thin, expert, slightly winged eyeliner and, if you look closely enough, a tiny bit of pink eyeshadow. "Pink?!" you might exclaim, clutching your favourite palette of neutrals, "Why?!" I'll tell you why, it looks barely there but gives your eyes depth and dimension, allowing the liner to do all the talking and leave you looking like you woke up like this. This one, Etude House's Look at My Eye-Shadow in the shade PK005f does all of the above.

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I've also come to really love my new Holika Holika Jewel-Light Waterproof eyeliners in the shades 7 (silver) and 10 (brown). They really are waterproof and but the pencil somehow takes a moment to dry so you can fix errors will applying and they're also not too painful or difficult to remove. As the name suggests, they are jewel-like with glitter flecks that make them really pretty. The formula is nice and smooth and easy to work with and, surprisingly, doesn't make my eyes go red as many do. Cute, cheap and cheerful, these are great pencil liner options.

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The eyeshadow and liners
The final bits I got were two items from Etude House's My Beauty Tool line - a ridiculously cute headband to keep my hair back when I do skincare and a facial hair removal tool. First off, I LOVE the headband. I don't even care if I look ridiculous. It pushes back all the little wisps of hair which normally escape and I think it's pretty damn cute. The facial hair remover is a little difficult to use and painful but I'm not sure I'm using it right...I'll give it a go again but it's not quite the revelation I was hoping it might be...

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Have you guys tried Korean beauty products? I'd love to hear about it if you have!


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Monday, 1 February 2016

February 2016 Music Recommendations + Playlist

I haven't put a playlist up in a while and I've been positively squeeing with joy over the music I've been listening to lately, so I thought it prudent to share the songs that made January a little more bearable and February seem a little brighter. This playlist is purely recommendations of songs I've been listening to lately/have been released lately. Most of my playlists in the past have essentially been this but I want to make a distinction between this tendency of mine and my aim to create playlists that are more thematic and atmospheric in the future.

There are, however, some thematic threads which run through this playlist - three, in fact (though a few tracks don't fit into these). These are: 1. The WINNER comeback, 2. The Cheese in The Trap Soundtrack and 3. The Korean R'n'B Scene. And, yes, this means that, once again, this music is all South Korean...What can I say, I don't like things halfway and the passion is going strong here. 

1. WINNER

Among K-pop fans, the main question that you're asked upon meeting is who your favourite group is. I don't really have a single band that I hold above others as I enjoy the music but am a little past devoted fangirling (not that there's anything wrong with that), I'm too old and tired to commit that much energy to any one thing! (I'm aware I'm not actually old) However, in saying this, there are some bands that come close to making me commit and WINNER is one of them. It's hard not to fall in love with them as they all debuted at a relatively old age for the industry after all going through a lot to get where they were.

Two members were finalists in nationwide singing contests like X-Factor or The Voice and one member even almost debuted with another band. WINNER themselves were formed in a competition that pitted two groups made up of trainees from record label YG to become the first boyband launched by the company since megastars Bigbang. When they won, it was genuinely quite emotional and, as great as the other team was (now debuted themselves as IKON), most people were delighted for them - myself included. The band also has had major success since their debut and this tale of perseverance and success paired with the personalities displayed through various television shows makes them a rather likable lot.

At midnight Korean time, they launched their new album and follow-up to their hugely successful debut. At the time I'm writing this, they've topped 8 charts domestically and 11 internationally. EXIT : E, the EP, is part of a series of releases planned for the next few months, à la Bigbang and their MADE series. The EP features five tracks, all written or co-written by the band (an unusual and delightful trait). Three tracks feature the entire band, one is a solo track from one of the main vocalists, Nam Taehyun and the final track is a duet from Nam and one of the two rappers of the group, Song Mino.

I've featured almost the entire EP in this playlist as its release has already hugely altered my current soundscape. To say it is on repeat would be an understatement. My highlights are the emotional "I'm Young" (and its dramatic music video) from Nam, the smooth "Baby, Baby" from the entire group and the fun and dancey "Sentimental" (esp the corresponding choreo which I look forward to seeing in full in their live performances). However, the duet, "Pricked" also deserves a mention as a flawless pairing of rap and vocal performances and due to the fact that it wasn't officially promoted but released quietly before the EP launched and still made it onto charts.

Bravi, WINNER, I can't wait for the rest of EXIT.








2. Cheese in The Trap

tvN is a Korean cable channel which makes some of the best (and risk-taking, boundary-pushing) dramas in the country. Cheese in The Trap is a new drama which is still currently airing and which is based on a popular webtoon. The story revolves around the story of Hong Seol, a hard-working college student who comes from a poor background and has to take on multiple jobs to stay in school, yet manages to get top grades, and Yoo Jung, a rich, popular and intelligent senior. Seol notices he isn't as nice as everyone thinks he is one day and sets a whole series of events in motion by standing up to him. The acting is superb, the story intriguing (is Jung a tortured soul or a lunatic?), the characters lovable (I'm having major second-lead syndrome for Baek In-Ho) but one of the absolute best parts of the show is its soundtrack. Through it I've discovered No Respect for Beauty, a South Korean post-rock band that make the most wonderful walls of sound, and I'm utterly in love with them now. Much of the soundtrack and score comes from Tearliner and I've included both an instrumental piece and a song with lyrics that I've been digging. In addition, there are three more tracks on the playlist that come from the soundtrack from other artists. Did I mention how good this OST is?


3. Korean R&B

The final thematic thread in this playlist is Korean R&B. 2016 saw new music released by Dean, Crush and Zico and, boy, was I excited. Admittedly, some of these figures are problematic (it's hard not to find rap, hip-hop and R&B problematic at times) but these are very talented individuals. The latter two are pretty well established with Zico becoming more and more famous as a producer, being a member of idol group Block B yet managing to maintain his underground hip-hop street cred, producing endless amounts of new solo work and being taken on as a judge on Show Me The Money, a rap competition television show. (And, as he says himself, he's "only 24" which is actually only 23 in Western age. If you ever want to feel unproductive and bad about yourself, google him). Dean, meanwhile is the least well-known of the group but a huge up-and-coming star in the Korean scene (he has even worked with both of the other two artists).

All three have produced tracks in the last few weeks that are less hard-hitting than previous works and a little more melodic and melancholic and perfect for the season and weather.






BONUS: This final mention isn't on the playlist as the track isn't on Spotify yet but I've fallen so utterly in love with The Black Skirts' "Everything" that I had to include it in some way. This dreamy, genre-bending track from the one-man indie band that is the Black Skirts is a bit of a departure sound-wise but is so perfect. Again, much repeating.



Well, that's more talking than I meant to do...Anyway, here's the playlist! Enjoy and let me know if there's anything you've been digging or if you like anything here.





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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

NATALIEBCOLEMAN SS16

It'll be no news to anyone who reads this blog regularly, or who has been here since the beginning, that I love the work of Irish designer, Natalie Coleman. Her work is consistently dreamy, girly and pretty yet cool, innovative and with a serious sense of humour. She is one of the few designers that never lets me down and is also one of the few designers that produces collections that I feel don't have a single dud piece among them.

Her SS16 collection is no different. There are lots of things that one would expect from a NATALIEBCOLEMAN collection - colour, floatiness, playful prints, sequins - but this time the silhouettes are a little looser and, while "Support Your Local Girl Gang" is emblazoned across one of the tops and almost all of the pieces are dresses, there is something a little tomboyish in spirit about SS16. Perhaps it is Aisling Farinella's styling for the lookbook with little to no make-up, simple, middle-parted locks, lack of accessories and sneakered feet. Either which way, Coleman's girl is still pretty and a little whimsical but she seems just a little tougher and, for lack of a better word, maybe a little more "urban"?

Expect boxy silhouettes, variations on shirts, sequins, sheer overlays, frills, pastel, navy and grey tones, and an array of textures - except all of these things are given new life and made cooler than you could ever imagine.

Cool girls with a love for Irish design, get on it.

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Aisling Farinella — Stylist
Sean Jackson — Photographer
Model—Jane from Distinct Agency
Shot on location, Dublin, Ireland


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Sunday, 17 January 2016

Rory Parnell-Mooney AW16

More and more, it is menswear that captures my attention. My greatest style icons have often been men and the preference for functionality and comfort suits my personal dress sense. Furthermore, the limitations upon menswear are both undeniably frustrating and interesting and lead to interesting results. It can seem like there is nothing that hasn't already been done in some shape or form with womenswear and it is increasingly difficult to truly surprise, titillate, shock or innovate. But the response of menswear to tradition, expectation, roles and the interplay of body and clothes, conceal and reveal, remains exciting and fresh. Even when referencing the past or notions that have long been around.

Take Rory-Parnell Mooney's AW16 collection: Dazed beautifully covered the show and how it was influenced by androgyny and Brian Molko of Placebo - utter poster boy for  pure, naturalistic, unlaboured and uncontrived androgynous dressing. They even quizzed him backstage on why Molko became his muse for this collection with the designer stating, “There’s just something about the confidence with which he wears clothes. I mean he was walking round with bright red lipstick and a cropped mohair jumper, and it was just so easy. He wasn’t contrived or pretentious, it was just how he wanted to dress. There’s something so nice about that.”

And there is something nice about that. About people wearing what they want without being made feel bad about it, about being authentic, about ignoring silly ideas of what is appropriate on one body versus another. This authenticity reads. It's apparent. It made Molko a sex symbol that baffled some and delighted others.

Playing on ideas of androgyny is nothing new in fashion. Musicians dressing androgynously is nothing new. Musicians inspiring designers is nothing new.

What is new here is the essence of Molko's attitude towards dressing. It inspires the look of the clothes, yes, and his re-appropriation of a gay slur in the song, "Nancy Boy" is directly quoted and emblazoned proudly across some of Parnell-Mooney's garments, worn almost as a badge of pride. However, it's that naturalistic way about how he dressed that stands out, that innovates here.

Questioning gender roles and expectations in dress is often loud, experimental. But, while you probably won't be seeing the average Joe popping out to the shops in Parnell-Mooney's clothes, the way they address gender is quieter, more organic. "Masculine" and "feminine" come together seamlessly. It's not overtly contrived.

And then there's the clothes themselves. Can I have everything for me, please? The palette remains in monochrome and navy tones, the silhouettes are elongated but skim over the body in baggy trousers like those my generation knew all too well and boxy, smart jackets and shirts. Practical, weighty knits and key separates are show alongside silky tops and spangles: the practical, the frivolous: the male, the female. And it all comes together as naturally as a woman's wardrobe, as a modern human's personality - it's a melting pot of ideas and influences, needs and desires, moods and moments. This man is sometimes having a bad day, tired and unwilling to dress up, heading to an airport in a luxe hoody and baggy pants or feeling on fire and confident the next, hitting the town in sequins to meet friends for after work drinks. Sometimes he's somewhere between the two. He's a complex human being.

This paves the path for the future of dressing and makes me anxiously await what Parnell-Mooney has for us next.

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What do you guys make of the collection?

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