Monday, 26 November 2012

Photo Essay: Liberty's Christmas Windows 2012

Liberty Christmas Windows - The Dressing Room
 Liberty always has the power to make you feel glamorous, even when you're peering through the window in a decidedly unglamorous outfit and wishing yourself to jump through to the other side. 

Visual Merchandising - The Chair
 No bog-standard Ikea stool for this lady - instead there's an elegant branch/antler-inspired chair.

Liberty Christmas Mannequin
 What I love about visual merchandising is when you take a trend and exaggerate it to the hilt.
Here we have the fashionista bun, turned into an elaborate feat of hair engineering.

Liberty Christmas - Ladieswear
 Burgundy and oxblood tones look great against Christmassy silver and gold.

Liberty Visual Merchandising for Christmas
 If you hadn't guessed it by now, the theme is 'party'.

Liberty Visual Merchandising - Accessories
 One of the biggest shoe trends for this season is the flared chunky heel, worked best by Miu Miu.
It's the perfect example of seasonal excess, and it somehow works.

Liberty Christmas Window Displays 2012
 The children's window did old-fashioned festive fun with plenty of animals and books.
I loved the absence of chunky, homogenous plastic.

Liberty Christmas Visual Merchandising - Childrenswear
 There's definitely something magical about this kind of traditional Christmas.

Liberty Christmas Window Displays - Jewellery
 Obviously setting the table is slightly difficult when there's someone sitting on it.

Liberty Christmas Window Displays - Lobster
 I love this set-up - the lobster, the lightbulb, the delving under the table.
It feels eccentric and typically British (with a slight nod to Dada).

Liberty Christmas Window Displays - Seafood
 The appearance of seafood on the table shows that this isn't just about Christmas; it's the whole festive season and not just the bits with turkey in.

Liberty Christmas Visual Merchandising - Handbags
 The brilliantly subtle thing about the use of multiple sets of gloves is that it suggests buying (well, and grabbing) without seeming forceful. However, you still want to be the person clutching those bags.

I think Liberty's windows are much more understated than last year (remember the giant frogs?) but they're really effective and they combine the party excesses with the down-to-earth decor of home. Everything's warm and friendly and feels a million miles away from the 'candy cane rammed down your throat' feeling that sickly over-saturated Christmas displays can sometimes leave behind. Liberty, as always, stays classy.

Carnaby Street Christmas Decorations 2012 - It's Only Rock & Roll
[All photos my own].
P.S. After my trip to Liberty I popped along the road to see the Carnaby Street lights. They paid a fitting tribute to the Rolling Stones with the gold LPs and giant Stones tongue logo.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

How to Approach Fashion Bloggers: An Outreach Guide for PRs

 You need to stand out against the competition and be unique.
[Image my own, taken at London Fashion Week S/S13].

'Tis the season to be bombarded by PRs and marketing departments... yes, Christmas is upon us and many agencies and companies are approaching bloggers and needing their press release to be noticed. I've sat in both camps, PR/outreach and blogger, and I can safely say that it's easy to forget what it's like to be at the receiving end of your emails when you've spent ages working on a campaign and you have a never-ending list of people to contact. I totally get it. With this in mind, I've put together a few tips to make it a bit less stressful as you make your way through that blog list, and hopefully help you to achieve great results. 

1. DO make it personal


One of the laziest things you can do is to email without finding out the name of the blogger. Presumably you spent a few milliseconds/seconds/minutes looking at their posts, so it shouldn't take long to figure out their name, unless they deliberately prefer to remain anonymous. Simply writing: 'Hi, I love your great blog!' means you might as well admit that you're copying and pasting the same template email over and over again, and it doesn't matter how many kisses you put at the end to soften the impact (preferably none). Which blog do you love? Who has a bloody clue?! If you really loved their writing or photography so much then spend an extra two seconds referencing the post that caught your attention.

Most importantly, remember how annoying it is to receive post through your letterbox that's addressed to 'The Homeowner', because that's what you're effectively sending to the blogger. It's even worse if you don't even put any kind of greeting on the email at all, because that is being rude as well as being spam.

2. DON'T make us watch the party without an invite


Some PRs have an unusual strategy which is to prey on the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) culture by sending bloggers images of press launches that they were not invited to. Perhaps the target audience will be so impressed by the sheer coolness of the fashion party that they were not cool enough to attend that they will be spurred on to create a brilliant blog post about the ones who were invited? The more likely option is that they will just stare in bemusement at the sheer audacity of the PR. 

Let's put it in a scenario: the most popular girl in your school hosts a party but doesn't invite you, then asks you to help distribute her photos from the night, as you might just be lusting over what some of her chosen few guests were wearing. Madness. The difference between these events and the ones that we willingly write about without the chance of an invite (such as the Met Ball in New York) is that I know the organisers of the Met Ball are not trying to squeeze me for publicity; I can look from afar and admire, without having my face rubbed in it that I'm at home in my pyjamas. I knew I wouldn't be walking the red carpet in New York but I was happy to go along for the ride.

3. DO make sure your product is right for the blog


The scatter-gun approach of targeting contacts may get you points for enthusiasm but it doesn't get you anywhere in the long run. If you're flogging anything and everything then don't send out a press release that covers your extensive range of gifts for babies and husbands unless your bloggers write about families and marriage. Seriously, I don't care how bespoke your Christmas presents are, I cannot feasibly write about them unless I become pregnant or engaged overnight which, let's face it, would be highly unlikely on both counts (though that would be a show-stopping blog post). 

Doing that little bit of research can save you a wasted email and will allow you to stop getting distracted with the pursuit of easy targets when you should be focusing on building quality relationships with interested bloggers who you can work with again in the future. And remember, you can be more specific with your target audience, so don't aim at a die-hard vintage blogger if your client's product is brand new and smells slightly of plastic. It's okay to be picky in order to cut out all those irrelevant pitches, because you're unlikely to get a great uptake rate if you're barking up the wrong tree in the style stakes.

4. DON'T forget the geography


It's an obvious one, but you'd be surprised how many emails I receive that are geographically irrelevant to me, bearing in mind that I don't make a secret of the fact that I'm based near London. New York Fashion Week looks fantastic and I'd love to go, but inviting me with a week's notice means that there's no way I can scrape together the money for a hotel, let alone a flight, much as I'd like to accept the invitation. Closer to home, I've been invited to events on the other side of London at short notice - presumably as a last resort, I'm under no illusions here - which are basically impossible for me to get to without arriving as the last revellers are heading home. I know a lot of my peers are in the same position, wondering why they've been asked to go to a city that is hundreds of miles away without much warning, and it is much more common in the travel industry where I work, but then that comes with the territory as travel is now full of adaptable digital nomads. Fashion? We're a bit more settled.

By all means ask someone on the off-chance if they can attend your event, as you never know when people might be travelling, but be honest and admit if you know it will be out of their way ("Paris to Edinburgh? Yeah, should be a doddle. Dunno why she's making a fuss."). All it takes is a quick look at their author bio or their Twitter feed to see where they're based and then you can work out if they should be able to attend without setting out on a two-day trek to reach you.

I honestly hope these tips help to reduce some of the mad panic surrounding this time of year for those of you in PR and outreach. If you want to share your own tips or insight then get in touch, as I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Photo Essay: Selfridges' Christmas Window Displays for 2012

Kicking off Christmas at Selfridges
 Anya Hindmarch crackers and a train set kicked things off for a Selfridges-tinted Christmas.
The London windows were colourful as ever on Oxford Street.

See a time-lapse video of how they were put together by going to the official website.

Visual Merchandising with the Brand's Yellow Shade
 Their trademark yellow was used as wrapping paper for all kinds of objects (check out the sausage dog with the headphones).

2012 Window Display with a Christmassy Couple
 Even domestic set-ups have a fashionable twist.

Christmas TV 2012
 Christmas TV, Selfridges-style.

Festive Jumpers Galore
 More knitwear than you can shake a stick at.

Visual Merchandising for Children is Child's Play
 The kids are framed by a huge photobook.

Pearly King for Christmas
 It was nice to see a Pearly King getting involved.

Christmas Hampers at Selfridges
 Carrying on the patriotic vibes from their summer windows.

A Huge Shoe for Stylish Women
 A giant stiletto is big enough for Santa to be seen in.

Visual Merchandising Challenge: Working With Animals
 Everything gets a bit showgirl-esque with the horses and feather headdresses.

A Porter to Carry Your Presents
 Your presents are carried by a porter, naturally.

Kids Love the Window Displays
 A little girl is drawn to the lights.

A Giant Nutcracker for Seasonal Treats
 If you hadn't guessed yet, over-sized is the window trend of the season. Hello, giant nutcracker.

Alternative Christmas Tree with Photos
 An alternative Christmas fairy sparkles next to a photo montage tree.

Visual Merchandising for Men: Slouched, Naturally
 This man was not up for peeling sprouts.

Another Fairy for the Tree
 Another fairy hangs around the tree.

Visual Merchandising: The Giftcard
 One of the more corporate windows gave you ideas for those difficult-to-buy-for people.

The Christmas Teepee and Pizza at Selfridges
A makeshift teepee and pizza is the perfect way to greet Boxing Day, people.
[All photos my own.]

Death: A Self-Portrait, at the Wellcome Collection

This Thursday I headed to the Wellcome Collection in London for the first day of an important new exhibition which tackles one of society's biggest taboos: death. Though we all know that death is an inevitable conclusion - the 'self-portrait' of the title refers to you, too - it's something which most cultures struggle to articulate and prefer to leave as an afterthought. The Wellcome does the opposite and confronts the Grim Reaper-shaped elephant in the room, which is both brave and eye-opening.

 La Vie et Mort postcard, c.1900-1910, with unforgettably clever imagery.
All images via the Wellcome Collection.

The exhibition is based on the huge collection of deathly artwork amassed by former art dealer Richard Harris (no, not the bloke who played Dumbledore), gathered over 12 years and covering all kinds of different cultures and time periods. From a 1300s skull sculpture to 1800s Japanese paintings, right up to an incredible plastecine piece (2011) by an Argentinian art collective, the theme of mortality is ever-present. If you're one of those people who finds morbid imagery a bit too creepy then this is a brilliant place to confront your fears and end up feeling a bit more comfortable with skeletons, bodies and rituals.

When Shall We Meet Again? Gelatin silver print, c.1900.

As someone who loves skull motifs and wrote an incredibly long art theory essay on anatomy in the art world, I was certainly in my element exploring the collection, from vanitas portraits to anonymous photos featuring people posing alongside skeletons. Death is one of those things that unites us all, rich or poor, and it completely goes against the kind of things I write about on this blog for the rest of the time - all those outfits and handbags mean very little once you're gone, except for maybe helping you to look your best in the funeral home. This exhibition looks at some of the ways in which people try and keep memories alive, through portraits and ritualistic altar building, and also the ways in which they begin to accept death, such as in the use of memento mori in imagery. There was also a lot of attention paid to anatomical discoveries and the advances that helped us to understand the body, which obviously involved cadavers, and there was a really touching sepia photo from an anatomy class that was titled 'When will we meet again?' that caught my eye. The contradiction of preserving bodies by exploring an expired one is something that anatomists are constantly aware of.

If you're at all interested in skulls and conceptual imagery then you need to pay a visit to the Wellcome Collection; it's free, fascinating and you will come away with some very big questions. There is also a series of events accompanying the exhibition, so take a look at the website and find out how you can get under the skin of this important topic. It definitely puts things in perspective.

Death: A Self Portrait - 15th November 2012 - 24th February 2013.

Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE (nearest tube station is Euston Square).

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Illustrations: Maison Martin Margiela for H&M

Tonight I'm off to the Vogue and GQ preview event to celebrate the launch of Maison Martin Margiela for H&M, which will be available online and in store from tomorrow morning. This has to be one of my favourite collaborations, especially as MMM is so intelligent as a brand and creates clothing that makes people think (rather than treat it as disposable). The archives have been well and truly raided to put together this much cheaper line, and it's your chance to get your hands on a piece of designer history.

I whipped up a few quick (read: badly executed) illustrations to celebrate, and to help put together my wishlist.

Maison Martin Margiela for H&M Draped Dress
 This dress is available in black or a really bright cerulean blue.
I loved the redundant sleeve detail (on the left hand side here) which just hangs in the air.

Maison Martin Margiela for H&M Perspex Shoe
 Plexiglass heels are having a bit of a moment right now, from Celine to Office.
I'm sure these will be a big seller on the shop floor as they're really minimalist.

Maison Martin Margiela for H&M Mini-Maxi Dress
The half-maxi, half-mini dress isn't one for the faint-hearted.
If you're up for the challenge then this would look great with tons of rings and bangles.

Three Margiela trademark touches to look out for across the whole brand:
  • Unfinished edges and obvious oversize tailor stitching on jackets
  • Unexpected use of materials - think emulsion in the main line, and fake hair on necklaces and belts as jacket material in the H&M range
  • Carefully used bursts of colour - you won't look like you've been attacked by poster paints. Colour is used to accent (such as the tattoo-print top) or in blocks
If you're planning to shop the collection then I'll meet you in the queue...

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Calculating Blogger ROI: Why Travel Bloggers Are Lightyears Ahead

Last week I headed off to World Travel Market (WTM) 2012, as part of my work, and it was a brilliant opportunity to find out what one of the blogging world's most innovative sectors is getting up to. Travel bloggers are some of the best networkers and negotiators, as well as being incredibly nice people, and they know how to make an impact. When I attended a seminar on how to measure a blogger's Return on Investment (ROI), I was fairly intrigued as to how this could be done, as a fashion blogger as well as a travel industry insider. 

Fashion Meets Travel: Calculating Your Worth as a Blogger
I figured this photo had the wanderlust/style crossover covered.
[Image my own, taken at a vintage fair in Brighton].

Knowing that the seminar was being run by Melvin Bรถcher of Traveldudes and Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape, I felt that I'd be in pretty safe hands - these guys are two of the most successful bloggers in the travel sector and they certainly know what they're talking about. It was chaired by the head of TBU (Travel Bloggers Unite) and showed just how supportive and well integrated these bloggers are.

A Gap in the Market


"It seemed strange that there was no way to calculate ROI on my press trips, yet I had 80,000 unique visitors to Traveldudes," said Melvin, reflecting on his website. "In contrast, I worked on a local newspaper which had 30,000 unique visitors but also had 50 members of staff; I have assistance with Traveldudes but I am the only full-time person running it."


The idea was then planted to measure your blog's success based on a combination of factors such as your AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent), Google Analytics statistics and your impact on others, such as your scores on Klout and Peer Index as well as how much you could charge for a sponsored tweet. The overall rating, applying AVE principles to content and social media outreach, would then help organisations to work out if it would be good value to collaborate with you on press trips or other opportunities. 


Do you need to be psychic to calculate blogger ROI?
No, you don't need to be psychic to calculate ROI.
[Image my own, taken in Boston, USA].

Jo Johnson,deputy MD of 4BGB, said: "This is what has been missing in terms of evaluation. The travel industry really wasn't sure of the value of bloggers vs. print media. For example, the value of getting re-tweets hadn't ever been calculated, but it is important, such as if Melvin [with 100,000 followers] re-tweets you."

I can see why the travel industry is keen to improve evaluation and pinpoint those key bloggers - if you're working in fashion or beauty then you can easily send out samples or organise a press day and work to a smaller budget, whereas the travel industry is investing a lot more money in detailed press trips. What's also worth bearing in mind is that the majority of fashion bloggers are happy to post about product launches and deals, but their travel equivalents are a lot more wary about working with brands and often ask for payment. This means that developing a relationship with a blogger in travel is much more of a long-term investment and is not as simple as sending out a press release.


Your Search Visibility


Meanwhile Keith, from Velvet Escape, brought up an interesting point about how consumers find blogs and how they behave on them. "People might not cite bloggers as reasons for buying a holiday but if they use Google then, chances are, they will come across a blog in the results. They just don't realise that's what they've found, as more and more blogs look like online travel guides, so they think it's a website. Also, consumers don't tend to leave comments, but other bloggers do. Consumers tend to talk more on Twitter and Facebook."

In light of Keith's comments, it's worth bearing in mind that social proof is one of the best ways to target and grow your audience. That means if someone genuinely recommends a blog to their friends it is more trustworthy than a company, which people might assume had a hidden agenda.

What can we learn from the ROI calculator?


Now is the time to start finding out more about ROI. The calculator is currently free but will be available from €15 a month in the future, which is pretty reasonable for something that you can use to negotiate your future collaborations with brands. Plans for development include measuring newsletters with click-through rates, YouTube and Google Hangouts. 

The seminar definitely proved to me that travel bloggers are the savviest group when it comes to understanding their own worth and projecting their potential. If you're not in the sector but you want to follow their lead in terms of marketing yourself to brands then the ROI calculator is a great place to start.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Uniqlo Launches Heattech: As Seen in Vogue, with music by Violet

Uniqlo Heattech Party with British Vogue
 The scene was set for the Uniqlo x Vogue party on Oxford Street.

This Thursday I headed off to Oxford Street and was whisked into a winter wonderland at Uniqlo, only with a more practical (rather than Christmassy) vibe. British Vogue has teamed up with the clothing brand to shoot its Heattech range, which insulates your body using seriously clever microfibre technology, and the results were pure fashion. 

Heattech Styled by Vogue: My Verdict


I think it was a great way to break some of the myths surrounding style, i.e. 'beauty is pain', 'you have to suffer to look this good', etc., by showing that you can wrap up warm without looking like a stuffed mushroom and still look cool. So often we drag ourselves out on a cold Saturday night without a coat, because it ruins our outfit, or we brave the elements in a miniskirt and 10 denier tights because we don't want to look too 'sensible' for that hot date (in my case, the hot date is probably with the reduced cake aisle at Tesco, but hey ho...). The thing about Heattech is that it doesn't involve bulky layers but it creates wearable pieces that you wouldn't mind being seen in. 

Uniqlo Heattech Party with British Vogue - Gizzi Erskine
 Awkward angle, but that's actually Gizzi Erskine at the bar. 

Famous faces who brushed past me included Nat and Leah Weller (who both look impossibly cool in real life), the TV chef and columnist Gizzi Erskine, and the truly beautiful fashion designer Charlie Casely-Hayford, who I was too scared to take a picture of. There were also several bloggers that I recognised from LFW, including Stella from Stella's Wardrobe.

Uniqlo Heattech Party with British Vogue
 My sister (and fashion event partner in crime) enjoying an apple cocktail.

Uniqlo Heattech Party with British Vogue
 Guests were a mixture of bloggers, celebrities and people from the fashion industry.

Uniqlo London - Oxford Street
 All quiet on the rail front - the tills were silent but the stock looked good.

Pixie Geldof Performs with Violet at Uniqlo Party
 Pixie Geldof performed with her band, Violet, who I'd never heard before but they had a really tight set and were well suited to the event. 
If you get the chance to see them live then do.

Violet Perform at Uniqlo Heattech: As Seen in Vogue
 The guitarist set the tone for facial fuzz throughout the evening.
 I have never seen so many moustachioed and bearded men in close proximity.
Looking good, guys! (And I hope some of them were for Movember).

Violet Perform at Uniqlo Heattech: As Seen in Vogue
 There was a little bit of shoegazing.
I then dropped the bottom of my glass (well, it literally fell out in front of my face) and I was left holding the top of the glass and some ice cubes and a straw. Slightly awkward.
Trust me to have a Miranda moment at a fashion event...

Uniqlo and British Vogue Fashion Event
 The crowd watched (and texted, in the foreground).
Quite pleased with how this photo turned out.

Pixie Geldof Studded Clog Heels
 A closer look at Pixie's shoes - heeled clogs with tiny studs.
 [All images my own].

Uniqlo: As Seen in British Vogue
And here's a glimpse of the Vogue shoot for the collaboration.
[Image via Uniqlo].

It was a great evening and I really enjoyed being able to see the combination of magazine editorial and high street style.
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