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JH ENGSTROM EXHIBITS: "FROM BACK HOME"

Iconic Swedish photographer JH Engström is currently exhibiting 'From Back Home' in Berlin, a collection of images tracing his childhood memories back to the province of Värmland READ MORE...
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REVIEW: 'TREAT PETITE' BY FIONA PEARCE

There's something so irresistible about miniature food, the treats we love made into tiny packages you can just pop into your mouth - virtually guilt-free! READ MORE...
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GEMMA, LILY & LINDSAY'S PHOTO BOOTH FUN FOR DIOR

"Three friends taking pictures of themselves in a photo-booth as they go off to Glastonbury festival''. This was the brief John Galliano (remember him?!) gave to Nick Knight READ MORE...
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12 STUNNING PHOTOS THAT CAPTURE THE WORLD

As an amateur photographer, I'm fascinated by the universe of possibilities we can explore in creating images with our digital camera - why limit ourselves? I read a debate a while ago READ MORE...
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'FROM ARCHITECTURE TO FASHION IN 8 SECONDS'

Since 2007, Montreal photographer Nicolas Ruel has been refining an in-camera double exposure technique, where with a quick swivelling motion of his device, a second plan is overlaid on a main READ MORE...
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LULA GOES TO JAPAN

Lula is about to pretty up Japan even further this October with its unique mix of memoir, philosophy and fantasy, as interpreted by editor Kazuo Sazuki READ MORE...
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April 16, 2014

My Bathroom Reno: Ideas for Glass Showers

Bathroom-with-sliding-glass-shower-doorsI love the idea of a feature wall in the bathroom, providing a striking backdrop to your glass shower. The dark grey adds depth, though I'm trying to figure out if going dark will have the opposite effect in a shallow space like our L-shaped bathroom. 

I've just completed a bathroom makeover to make it a bit nicer to live with until we do a complete renovation later this year (posts coming soon with photos). But it's never too early to start doing your research on the fixtures, especially when it's your one and only bathroom, as is the case with ours. I'm focussing on showers first. At the moment we have a tub/shower and as I've previously alluded to, it's awful! The glass partition doesn't seal too well and the case of the tub has a groove that's open and traps water which turns rusty. Albeit done on the cheap, the bathroom was brand new when we moved in, so we thought we'd get some use out of it first. I think we've done our time with all of it. 

We've decided to get rid of the tub altogether in favour of a shower only and I'm pretty sure there will be no regrets. I've found there is a whole world of shower options available after starting my research at bathroomdeal.co.uk, right down to types of hinges or whether you want a flipper panel (it's always the little details I labour over). However, our space is small - though luckily not super tiny or awkward - and the size and layout of the bathroom tends to dictate the options that are realistic. Ours is an L-shape and so a rectangular walk-in (above) would suit the space best, though I do love the streamlined look of a wet room (below) which is essentially a shower without a tray; I'm just not sure our space is big enough to keep some errant kick-splashes from making it feel like a public swimming pool changeroom (ew). However, one great benefit of the wet room is that you can build your own, choosing the panel configuration you want, and then where you install them is up to you. 

I like the flow of this wet room shower where an end panel creates an entrance that is separate from the main shower area:

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So, the type of shower is the first decision. Then there's the showerhead, tiles, storage, shower valves...it's a good thing I've started early, there's still the rest of the bathroom to consider!

Clothes Under the Hammer: Great Fashion for a Good Cause

RONNIE POSTER NEW NEW NEWWW

If you're in the north east and fancy a night out of great fashion you can take home, come along to World Headquarters in Newcastle for Clothes Under the Hammer on May 7. A large collection of top quality men’s and women’s vintage clothing as well as wedding attire, coats and jackets and one off-items donated by independent boutiques will be up for auction to benefit the West End Refugee Service. (I happened to have donated a few pieces myself, including unworn - yes really! - pieces by Marc by Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang and Derek Lam. ) 

For a £3.00 donation you can gain access to these wonderful fashion finds and support asylum seekers and refugees living in Newcastle. Tickets are available online here

The event also includes a fashion show, street dance performance and a short film screening from the West End Refugee Service. 

It’ll be a fun night - the bar will be open! - so come on down and indulge your sartorial and charitable spirits. 

 

Care for your Artwork with LED Lights

Rijksmuseum

Whether you are a serious collector - don't we wish! - or just a fan of pretty paintings, your beloved works of art could benefit from being lit by LED lighting. You'd be following the lead of many of the world’s most famous museums who have chosen to replace their lighting with LED technology for the benefit of their precious canvases.

Hanging a work of art on the wall of your home tends to mark the beginning of a long-term plan. Your art may appreciate in value over time and more personally, makes it feel like a home. So it would be something of a loss if a painting suffered damage over the years.

Energy inefficient lighting options such as halogen bulbs can have significant negative effects upon paint and canvases due to the heat they emit. Because only a small percentage of the energy used by halogen bulbs is actually turned into light, excessive energy is turned into heat and carbon emission. This heat over time can cause significant damage to the fibres, particularly when the light is shone directly on the painting. 

Swapping halogen bulbs for LED alternatives can help alleviate these problems. LED bulbs are designed to be energy efficient so they do not cost as much to light and do not cause as much damage to the environment. This also brings with it a number of useful beneftis such as a reduction of heat emitted from the surface of the bulb. This cooler light means that you can light your masterpiece without the fear that the heat may be eating away at the details.

Astute Lighting Ltd Director, Mr Adam, explains: “The LED bulb is intelligently designed to ensure that all of the energy used is turned to high-quality, clear light.”

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, home to more than 1 million art and historical items including works by masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Steen, recently converted to LED lighting. This was partially due to the reduced risk of damage but also for the aesthetic benefits. Head of Exhibitions, Tim Zeedijk, explains: "We chose LED lighting as it allows the art to be viewed in the best light possible, bringing out all the colours and details that the artist intended us to see."

The project allowed the museum to use new technologies to pay perfect tribute to the old masters, and you can do the same with your own pieces of art.

April 13, 2014

Me.By Me.: Celebrating Our Unique, Individual Style

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Last month I was treated to a preview of the new Me. By Me. campaign for TK Maxx in their Covent Garden store in London. It was a really colourful, upbeat party with smiling faces everywhere, the vibe reflecting the positive, sunny energy of the campaign. Have you seen the TV adverts? They feature real people, actual TK Maxx customers who are not professional models. An endearing self-consciousness is detectable and the message promoting unique personal style rings true. It's a refreshing concept as it's just so rare. Models act like models, they're never meant to come off as real people, and the Me.by.Me. campaign shows that some genuine character over the copycat, aspirational approach to selling fashion can be very motivating. Rather than seeing a model who has impossible legs, and impossible skin, and impossible hair and buying the clothes or bag she's wearing as a means of trying to get closer to that image, Me. By Me. gives us people of all ages whose personalities shine through the outfits and make us feel that we can look great as we are, that we've already got the whole package and hey, a few new bits will help us express ourselves and make us feel really good. 

This is the full advert for the TK Maxx Me. By Me. campaign: 

It holds your attention all the way through, doesn't it? I love it. 

So who are these real people? TK Maxx chose eight UK shoppers to help represent the brand and inspire others to celebrate the wonderful things that make them unique. They joined a diverse group of 12 TK Maxx real-life customers plucked from obscurity whilst browsing in stores spanning the UK, Ireland, Poland and Germany. They were taken on a trip of a lifetime to Cape Town, South Africa, where for 10 days they were encouraged to experiment with style and take part in a series of fun and experimental activities to help unlock their Me. By Me. mind-set. With no scripts or storyboards, the cast were given free rein to shape the direction of the campaign and experiment with a wide choice of clothing and accessories from stores to create their defining looks. 

Below are some of the TK Maxx customers from the advert, all from the UK. From top left is 82-year-old photographer Martin Gordon from London who doesn’t plan to ever retire; Pia Sarkar, a 25-year-old student and lover of 50s music and bright lipstick from Brixton; 62-year-old Olga spotted in London, who fabulously models TK Maxx’s swimwear; and Justina Bailey, a 28-year-old a graphic designer and self-confessed creative nerd with a quirky dress sense from London: 

TK-Maxx-Me-by-Me

In the spirit of uniqueness, some of the great food and drink we were treated to at the Me. By Me. party at the Covent Garden TK Maxx:

TheSwelleLife_TK-Maxx-Me-by-Me

You might be wondering why I have such a rabid enthusiasm for the project. Yes, the advert is a joy to watch and puts a feeling of summer in my head. But I'm so excited about it all because it's not empty marketing smoke and mirrors; the concept of celebrating individual style follows through into real life in my own city of Newcastle. At the event for the opening of the campaign, we were given gift cards so we could pick out some clothes and put together outfits we like for ourselves. I had to run off for my train so I didn't have time to look through the Covent Garden store and would have to do my shopping locally when I got back. I'll be honest, I was a bit deflated not being able to do it in London, assuming that the selection at home would pale in comparison. Little did I know that the TK Maxx in Newcastle had moved amidst renovations to the mall where it was originally located, to a massive new space on Northumberland Street which now had a whole new look and a serious commitment to fashion. I found the new store and when I came off the escalator I noticed on my right a section marked 'Gold Label', and I was hoping this was what I thought it was. And yes, it was a high-end designer section and I couldn't believe what was there. I'm not going to name names because each store varies in what they receive - and therefore worth checking regularly - but I'm talking 'fashion week' brands. Big ones. You know them and you want them, and here were those otherwise unattainable items - at massive discounts!  The pile on my arm started to grow higher and higher, and then on my way to the fitting rooms I found a ton of really cool plaid flannels - I love how they were grouped together and required no rummaging - and I barely made it on in without my arms collapsing.

Most importantly, the shopping experience at TK Maxx is one that really does leave your choices up to you. As you walk into the store you may notice, or not, that there are no styled mannequins in the window or on the floor. No signage showing willowy young models in dreamy fashionland to unwittingly emulate. No dictating how you should look this season, no obvious trends packaged up to lead you into buy something that's not really you. The racks are quite electic yet cohesive as they are grouped by type of garment while representing a vast array of brands and - current - styles, and what stands out and comes into the fitting room with you will be something you already know you like. I looked through the racks for all the 'me' clothes and found tons. See - Me. By Me. It works!

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At the Me. By Me. launch we were treated to a chat with Carolyn Mair (right), a renowned cognitive psychologist in the UK. With a keen interest in fashion psychology, she is developing the first MA Psychology in the Fashion Industries and MSc Psychology in the Fashion Industries programmes which will run at The London College of Fashion from September 2014. Carolyn will focus on the importance of psychology in fashion and help students to gain an understanding of human behaviour in a fashion context. We had a fascinating discussion about the impact our clothes have on how we feel about ourselves and I would have loved to talk to her all night, she's so lovely and insightful. 

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I found success with most of the clothes I took into the fitting room (we had to separate my bounty into two groupings) but decided to take home a pair of jeans from one of today's most popular jean brands, they're skinny and a turquoisy teal (I cannot have enough blue skinny jeans); I'm wearing them as I write this, they're so comfortable and fit perfectly. I also got two 'going out' tops because although I'm not out constantly I do find I'm lacking in clothes that are suitable for a night on the 'toon' (that's Geordie speak). But as I'm Canadian and not a Geordie I'm much more casual (ok that's not fair, there are casual Geordies, my friends don't even own sparkly tops and dresses); however, you don't want to be so casual that you look like you're not out for fun. These two tops are perfect for my subtle going out style. I was just under the amout of the gift card when I made my way to the cash with my three items, and then I saw some high-end designer activewear and my eyes fixated on a really great jacket in shades of grey and a mix of fabrics, it was right in line with the activewear I've been oggling from New York Fashion Week. I scooped one up and tried it on in the queue and added it to the pile. (I'm also wearing that right now, it's so comfy and will come in handy for a lot more than going to the gym.)

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In the end, my four items totalled £128. The RRP was several times that so I was totally thrilled, a big bonus on top of having new clothes that I really loved and work for me. 

I'm so glad I was asked to be a part of this with TK Maxx. I do almost 100% of my clothes shopping online because of convenience and selection, but after this experience I knew I'd be checking back in regularly to see what gems have arrived before I do any clicking - a typical store has over 50,000 in stock and receives 10,000 new pieces every week. That's another thing - TK Maxx has brought in brands we wouldn't otherwise have in Newcastle. We only have a few high end shops, I think you could actually count them all on one hand (and maybe even have a thumb left over), and they only carry certain brands. But it's not just about finding high-end gems; the entire floor is stocked with desirable clothes from all price points. I love the surprise of finding which designers will appear next, and discovering new labels in other areas of the store. And not forgetting the cherry on top - saving money! And I have to mention that the racks were very neat (no mess like you tend to find on the high street) and the fitting rooms were very clean as well, not strewn with discarded clothes and hangers. And the selection was simply fantastic. Newcastle needed this. Did I mention I'm impressed and I can't wait to get back? (Well since originally writing this draft I have been back. Last weekend I took a friend who was visiting and needed jeans, and she found the perfect pair plus some tops. And I found the perfect replacement to a raincoat I no longer like because my style has changed - my old one has a bow in the back and I don't do those anymore. My new find is more utilitarian and just so cool that I actually don't mind if it rains now. Almost.) 

You know what? I've yet to make my way to the second level to browse the housewares. This adventure is just beginning....

Review: Pro Naturals Argan Oil Hair Repair System

Pronaturals

If anyone was in need of hair repairing, it was me. When I could no longer bear the shoe polish look of my virgin hair (or as close to virgin it could be after leaving it alone for about 18 months), I decided I needed a change and the only way to go was a lot lighter. It seemed cruel that my natural colour not only did absolutely nothing for me, but it actually made my facial features look harsh and it aged me. And cruel because virgin hair has two major things going for it that I couldn't continue to benefit from without great compromise: it's free, and it's healthy. But I was willing to sacrifice some money every eight weeks or so as well as some shine and elasticity to not have the grim reaper staring back at me in the mirror. (I do sound critical of myself I know, but if you saw my UK resident card, passport and drivers licence and random snapshots on friends' mobiles, you would nod enthusiastically for my plan. Not good, not good.)  

I started cautiously, going for the ombre or dip-dye approach to lightening because it leaves the roots natural, and so the look is pretty much maintenance-free. But despite having it done professionally, it fried my long hair so badly that I had to get inches cut off my layers, and that barely helped. Soon I'd had enough of this half-and-half look (I highly don't recommend it), so I had the top of my hair highlighted. But he didn't blend it in with the rest. I saw someone else a couple of months later and she brought all of the colours together. What a process! In the end I loved the colour, but my ends were tough and straw-like, despite having regular and generous cuts. I didn't know what to do - who wants hard hair? Not wanting to return to the unflattering natural colour or cut all my hair off, I stuck with it but was self-conscious of my weird 'do. Now what I'm about to say is going to sound like an informercial, but I assure you everything is true. And thank goodness it is or I'd be sporting rasta hats right now. 

With what could not have been better timing, I was sent the Pro Naturals Argan Oil Hair Repair System, which as the name suggests, is meant to fix damaged hair and contains natural ingredients with no sulfates. It includes a shampoo, conditioner, hair mask, and argan oil that can be applied as a leave-in treatment, and each product contains 100% pure Moroccan argan oil. I've been hearing great things about this oil for years and have been using it on my face, but this is the first time I've tried it in hair products. In all of my years of taking care of my hair I have never actually found anything that repaired hair, which would work by protecting and smoothing the cuticle so hair does not appear frayed and broken. I was hopeful, but not expecting any miracles; in my experience, only a brutal cut is the solution to damaged hair. The Pro Naturals website says to use the products for one week every six weeks, alongside your usual routine to repair your hair and maintain its health. Well, the first time I used the shampoo and conditioner - which smell fantastic by the way, as does the oil - I actually saw a difference in my hard ends, after blowdrying. I couldn't believe it. When I touched them my fingers felt something I didn't think was possible - soft hair! I hadn't even used the mask yet and was yet to apply the oil. I've since used the mask which is a dream, just like the conditioner which leaves your hair completely soft with very little product used yet neither weigh your hair down as they don't contain silicone, and no double application is necessary which is what I used to have to do with conditioner  just to get my hair tangle-free and soft in the shower. But my hair would still feel and look frazzled after blowdrying (if I didn't blowdry it just looked terrible so I couldn't win). The oil is great for keeping your hair soft from one shampoo to the next and seems to protect it from whatever makes it dull and damaged, such as heated appliances and environmental stresses such as pollution. It absorbs completely and your hair never looks oily. (High quality oils will never appear as oily.) And the smell is absolutely heavenly.

After a week of using the system and a week of my old shampoo and conditioner I still have soft hair; it does seem to have actually been repaired. The cost of the Pro Naturals Argan Oil Hair Repair System is £99, so it's an investment. But as you're only using it for a week every six weeks and each application is minimal, it will last a long time. It's also much cheaper to buy the whole set than purchase the products individually. 

Do I think the Pro Naturals Argan Oil Hair Repair System is worth it? Yes! It saved my hair, and now I can be blonde without looking like my hair is in pain - I can actually look good which is the point! I'm running my fingers through the ends right now and it feels great. Oh! One more thing. The last two times I had the colour done we did only partial highlights with peroxide, then the last time I had a whole head done and we used mostly bleach. With the peroxide, which is meant to be less damaging than bleach, I found my brush would get caught in my hair when it was wet and I had trouble blowdrying it, no matter how much conditioner I used. This time we did bleach all over and it should have been even worse, but thankfully I had just received the system and we used it to wash out out the bleach and condition it after (I have a mobile colourist come do it in my house) and not once since having it done have I had the brush drag through my wet hair. I want to horde these products so I never have to be without them. (I really should have done a before and after, but I had no idea the results would be so dramatic.) Highly, highly recommended. 

If you would like more information about Pro Naturals and keep up with their news you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+

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