©Photograph Reclaimed Woman
©Photograph Reclaimed Woman
I met a fashion journalist from Spain the other day and we joked that even if it means crossing the road, stopping to soak up every moment of sunshine is essential to make it through the grey months in London.
Fashion week might be all about autumn winter collections, but at this moment my mind was on summer hols to Seville.
I probably wouldn’t have worn a scarf in my hair if I hadn’t been doing the Six Items Challenge, which is definitely demanding I think outside of the box with accessories, and this morning sent me deeper into my shoe box of silk scarves.
©Photograph Reclaimed Woman
My days are all messed up. It’s the second day of fashion week, but it is in fact the weekend, so Saturday feels like Tuesday, but it’s also masquerading as Thursday – on this, the forth day of my challenge.
Despite setting my alarm for 7am on a Saturday, I knew exactly what I was wearing so I felt good this morning; the kind of good where your street feels like a catwalk. Casually strutting off to the showrooms, little did I know a day of wardrobe malfunctions would follow. First my tights laddered less than 30 minutes in, then I bent over and a designer politely informed me that this raincoat I’m wearing as a dress has a rather high vent. So I’m down to five (appropriate) items to get me through the next six weeks…at least I’m prepared with a rainproof option if March brings spring showers.
©Photograph Reclaimed Woman
It may be day three of my challenge for Labour Behind the Label, but it really only got challenging today on the first day of London Fashion Week.
For some reason it felt like my first day at school. Perhaps it’s because when you’re a kid you get away with wearing your favourite green dress again and again, but as adults, and particularly women, we are encouraged to reinvent ourselves on the regular. Perhaps it felt like school because this task is teaching me about my approach to fashion and encouraging me to question: “What do I want my wardrobe to be when I graduate in six weeks time?”
I chose both the ’50s dress from Gabriele Vintage (pictured above) and the Gap raincoat that doubles as a dress as my 5th and 6th items – editing out another dress instead. The rules state that you are allowed one coat on top of your six items, so mine is this pre-loved Celine jacket from Vestiaire Collective. Boots are from my local Trinity Hospice.
©Photograph Reclaimed Woman
Straight talking feminist, and star in the #MeToo incarnation of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, model, actress and author, Paulina Porizkova will return to London for the first time in 35 years to walk at London Fashion Week for emerging ethical designer Jiri Kalfar.
Czech-born Swedish supermodel, Porizkova found status in the 1980s from swimsuit front covers of Sports Illustrated to fronting campaigns for Estée Lauder. Wearing designs by fellow Czech Jiri Kalfar in The National Arts Club in New York City – one of Porizkova’s favourite haunts, she says it wasn’t until moving to America that she found the need to assert her status as a feminist. A status she strongly defends to any who say you can’t be both super feminist and supermodel.
“I would give them a very polite middle finger. Those people are the ones who apparently believe that a woman has no right to make choices with her body (but of course, men do and always have), and that if she uses her looks, she incites desire in men, and thus she is responsible for whatever happens to her.”
Porizkova started modelling at fifteen. At the time she felt protected by what she calls “Swedish Woman Armor.” In Sweden, she learnt her body belonged to her and her choices were her own.
“With this attitude, I came into a business of rampant sexual abuse and just figured all those people were assholes. I never felt like a victim, because I was certain my choices were my own. And I was very lucky never to have met Harvey Weinstein.”
Porizkova described her transition through cultural notions and attitudes to women as she moved from Czechoslovakia in the sixties and seventies to Sweden, France and finally America in her opinion piece “America Made Me a Feminist” published by The New York Times last year. In it, she also described her former gynaecologist in the US, examining her as though she were a Victorian maiden “who’d rather not know” where all her bits were. Little did she know that her reply to Jiri Kalfar’s direct message on Instagram would fashion her a Victorian again, although this time more Victorian queen than maiden in the designer’s upcoming Autumn Winter 2018 collection inspired by Queen Victoria.
It was during the reign of George V, Queen Victoria’s grandson when (some) British women won the right to vote. This February marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, where women over the age of 30, who either owned property themselves or through marriage were given the right to vote. This was a big step forward for the suffragette movement, despite only benefiting land-owning women considered middle-aged for the time, and that the same act dropped the voting age for men from 30 to 21. One could argue that suffragettes do not sit comfortably in an interview with a supermodel that just posed nude for Sports Illustrated, but the fact that a magazine designed for the male gaze is attempting to question attitudes to women is telling of the #TimesUp trending times. Porizkova voices her part in the 2018 Swimsuit Issue released this week, which features In Her Own Words – a black and white shoot of models wearing nothing but words.
“I’d like to mention that in our society nudity is like a great big stop sign. It’s shocking to see a naked woman. If it’s not a flat-out coy, sexy, Penthouse or Playboy type thing then nudity is considered shocking. I wanted to use that shock to speak: to say the words I thought were important. My nudity forces you to stop for a moment, and that moment is long enough to read what I consider important.”
A fan of Great Britain’s ruling queens, Porizkova believes that in some ways the UK is ahead of the US when it comes to women’s empowerment.
“In the US, the hypocrisy of “you can do anything” that turns into “except this” is still rampant, and needs all the help anyone with a voice can give.”
Porizkova recently caught the headlines for saying sexual harassment was such an ingrained part of the business when she started, it was viewed as a “compliment.” Hindsight is a wonderful thing, although Queen Victoria was the Head of State, she held traditional views and opposed giving women the right to vote, but no doubt she would be pleased with what women have accomplished. One could say that like Queen Victoria, the stage was already set for Porizkova.
“It never dawned on me then that I was somehow complicit. It was obvious the stage had been set long ago to make little men feel big. In modelling, as in entertainment and athletics, careers start young and end young. When you are taught the rules as a child, you rarely question them. And the rules have always been: Pretty women are more valuable women.”
100 years from now, how would Porizkova like to be remembered?
“I would love to be a part of this movement that I believe has already started, the one that empowers women to believe in their powers, their choices, their value being equal to those of a man.”
Like 100 years ago, middle-aged women are winning and in this case walking on the catwalk. At 52, Porizkova asks and why not people in “their Sixties? Seventies? Eighties? Ageism is something that still needs a lot of attention. Our society tells us we women are no longer all that valuable once our looks change from fresh to mature, although I believe we really come into our powers in our forties.”
I am old
and I am new
I am first
and I am last
reads the collection notes for Jiri Kalfar’s Autumn Winter 2018 collection. It wasn’t the designer’s ethical approach that caught Paulina’s attention first.
“His designs are such that I would have overlooked his ethics (to a point, of course), but that he is as dedicated to the ethics of his manufacturing and making the world a better place makes me not just want to wear his clothing, it makes me want to be his friend.”
Paulina Porizkova will close the Jiri Kalfar show at London Fashion Week.
©Photographs of Paulina Porizkova in The National Arts Club courtesy of Jiri Kalfar
©IWM (D 14826)
Lent hasn’t fallen on Valentine’s Day since 1945. Today shiny heart shaped gifts and ash crosses collide, as I start my Six Items Challenge.
I pledged to only wear six items of clothing for the next six weeks in support of Labour Behind the Label, a not-for-profit workers’ cooperative that supports garment workers around the world. Somewhat ironic me thinks, as in 1945 Britain was facing clothes rationing to reduce consumption and save raw materials for the war effort.
Although dubbed a fashion fast to fight fast fashion, this is no war. I am not about boycotting brands, but I do want to buy less and buy better.
Here’s some tips I’m taking from the Imperial War Museum archive to see me through the fashion ration.
© IWM (Art.IWM PST 8564)
Plan Ahead. Sadly I’m past the age of growth spurts (which just shy of 5 ft 7 kills me) but I do need to plan ahead, and allow for spilling something down the front of my white Frederica dress from Reformation – one of my six items.
©IWM (Art.IWM PST 8293)
Which can you do without? The challenge may have started, but I’m not 100% certain about all of my six pieces. I have a few days yet to choose my 6th item, so will it be the emerald green 50s dress I just got in Brussels from Gabriele Vintage or my Gap check waterproof raincoat that doubles as a dress?
I’ll keep you posted.
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of Imperial War Museum
At the risk of sharing TMI, I just got back from a romantic trip to Bruges which perfectly coincided with my period. I don’t normally write in acronyms, but having found a new solution to life’s unmentionables, I feel like my pre-teen self experiencing a period for the first time, so 4YEO FYEO (for your eyes only) here are my new period pants.
On the blob in Bruges, it was a good time to get brave and try something different, whilst doing my bit to minimise the flow of the sanitary pad footprint. My weekend wash bag for Belgium was leaner and greener with no disposable pads or tampons, as I packed panties from Modibodi instead. These Modibodi bamboo undies are reusable and sustainable – designed not only for women and girls, but for the benefit of all of the bodies on this planet.
Read my review and interview with Modibodi founder and CEO Kristy Chong, who (along with Belgium chocolate) helped me unlock the magic combination of comfort and confidence during that not-so-hot time of the month…
Kristy, the creator of Modibodi and I talk the same language. She accumulated over 13 years experience in senior PR roles before making Modibodi, and the kind of products a PR professional dreams of. The collections not only look cool, they also support causes worth shouting about, such as Days for Girls. This charity particularly struck a chord with me, as I was introduced to Days for Girls by a friend I lost to cancer last year. You know the friend that makes you laugh so much you wet yourself? Well, she was mine, so Modibodi’s leak-proof technology springs to mind as I start my questions for Kristy.
What ignited the motivation for you to own your own business?
From a young age I always knew I wanted to own my own business. The concept of Modibodi came when I was in Seattle, after the birth of my second child, I was doing a lot of running and traveling and came to the realisation that my underwear was failing to protect me from sweat and the occasional bladder weakness. I started to think about all the times as a woman underwear fails us.
For the 1 in 3 women with light incontinence and for every menstruating women, most can recall stories of that embarrassing situation in which her underwear failed to protect her from a leak, or they have endured years of using inconvenient, uncomfortable and eco-damaging disposable hygiene to stay protected. I wanted create a whole new product category for women that helps them better manage menstrual flow or incontinence, and to reduce the number of single-use products ending up in landfill and damaging our environment. Modibodi is fashionable, sustainable, hi-tech, super comfortable underwear that totally replaces the need for disposable hygiene!
Can you tell me more about your support for Days for Girls?
As the issues of women’s health and rights are so close to my heart, I have made it a core pillar from the outset that Modibodi support women in need.
Days for Girls was one of the first organisations Modibodi supported which lead to us evolving our CSR globally. We have worked in partnership with initiatives such as Share the Dignity, the McGrath Foundation and School for Life and felt it was time to establish the ‘Give a Pair’ initiative to directly deliver product into the hands of women in need, and raise funds through direct sales of product.
Customers across the globe can ‘make a virtual donation’ on modibodi.com and Modibodi will donate a pair of Modibodi underwear to young girls & women in need. We also pledge to match all donations our customers make. Therefore, each time you purchase a GIVE A PAIR donation, you are essentially providing 2 women life changing underwear!
When you were setting up Modibodi, what was your most challenging moment?
Thankfully all of our failures have been relatively small, and not too costly. But when Modibodi has failed, I let myself feel the disappointment and then I use that energy to put processes in place to prevent that from happening again or to pivot and look at other ways to do it. It’s important to take responsibility for those failures because it makes you stronger in the end.
Do you miss anything about your PR days?
The PR profession is made up of a majority of women, and I loved working with creative, super driven, high energy women. But I love the journey I am on now.
What advice would you give a woman with an idea looking to start her own business?
That you are like a rubber band, you will definitely feel stretched, but you won’t break, you will bounce back. And get comfortable with being uncomfortable because in business you will feel a lot of uncomfortable.
When women discover your designs do they share their embarrassing period stories?
We are very fortunate to have amazing women who have joined the Modibodi Movement that share their stories and experiences with us and with our wider community. We are proud that through our blog, emails and social media we are able to converse and engage with our followers and customers. One of my personal favorites is this story from Helen:
I’m a little angry. I’m 26 years old. That’s a lot of period. Why weren’t you around when I was 12? I’m sure you know this but female sanitary products have a GST tax placed on them and condoms don’t?!? That is the first reason I was looking for an alternative to the nasty products which I have been using regardless of the slight allergic reaction I had to them, making that time of the month all the much worse. Since the age of 12 I have had to skip days of school (and since, work) because it was just that heavy, I was continuously worried about leakage and I couldn’t think through that and the pain. This month, I thought I would try Modibodi and my goodness IM IN LOVE. The bamboo undies are so soft and pretty too! I was thinking about posting a photo of my undies previously reserved only for those particularly heavy days, but I was too embarrassed. While your pretty undies can’t take away the pain they definitely make my bloated belly feel a lot sexier! I slept in them for the first-time last night and I didn’t have to worry about the undies being messed up in my sleep as I would a pad, there was absolutely no leakage and I woke up feeling like I didn’t have my period at all. In the past, the first thing I would do would be to go straight to the toilet and change my product but I didn’t feel gross one bit in Modibodi. I just really wanted to say thank you so much for creating these beautiful, useful, delightful undies. I really feel like they might change my period forever. Thank you!
As for my review…this is me, nappy free, galavanting about Bruges in my Modibodis with the kind of liquid love my husband and I could still enjoy on our weekend away – Belgium’s chocolatey stouts.
Another nice thing about the pants is that you don’t have to worry about nasties from plastic materials touching your skin. I recently switched to organic pads, but with a glass door separating our hotel bedroom from our bathroom, it was wonderful not worrying about the less sexy stripping noise of separating a pad from your panties.
Modibodi also unlocked the option of a sexy beige.
I started with the Classic Bikini, but I also like the look of the high waisted Sensual Full Brief. They’ve also got your backstroke ready for summer with leak-proof swimwear. The first release is almost sold out, so keep an eye out for stock drops in the spring.
More on Modibodi.com
Learn about how you can help Days for Girls here
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman. Inspirational graphics from @modibodiaustralia Instagram
If it takes a collective to make a fashion, it takes collective action to end fashion abuse.
Labour Behind the Label do not advocate boycotting brands as this can have a negative impact on workers, but they do want fashion consumption to slow down to ease the constant pressure to produce more. The Six Items Challenge is designed to highlight the speed of fashion, where it is common for brands to change their stock every four to six weeks. The event takes place from 14th February till 29th March 2018 – covering Valentines Day, London Fashion Week, and Lent. Ethics are an increasingly fashionable issue, but no matter what fashion means to you, these dates resonate for many of us and encourage reflection on a consumer society.
It is easier than you think, as the Six Items Challenge allows for an unlimited number of shoes and accessories, socks, underwear and pyjamas. Good news for shoe people, aka me, but bad news for those looking for an excuse to let the new year gym membership lapse, aka me, as the challenge even allows performance clothes to maintain a fitness regime. The rules also permit me to pick one coat as an extra item because it is winter. Those that are good with a sewing machine, aka not me, can make the most of even more choices through customisation. I personally welcome the freedom from too many choices and that common feeling of a wardrobe full of clothes, yet nothing to wear.
Okay, enough about my trivial dilemma, when this challenge supports the belief that no-one should live in poverty for the price of a cheap t-shirt.
Founded in 2001, Labour Behind the Label is the only UK campaign group that focuses exclusively on labour rights in the global garment industry. Researching and lobbying in support of workers, it campaigns for people across the world that face the daily grind without basic human rights – ranging from the lack of a living wage to working in fear for their life. Labour Behind the Label is instrumental in pushing UK retailers to sign agreements such as the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which ensures Rana Plaza victims receive long-term compensation. Beyond the fatalities that make headlines, it campaigns against the systemic exploitation in fashion.
It is not too late to join the fashion fast, and whether you are taking part or supporting, Labour Behind the Label encourages all of us to think about the story we want our clothes to tell. How we consume shapes our connection with clothes and with faster, cheaper fashion it is unsurprising that garments have lost their value. Disposable fashion not only puts pressure on manufacturing and the planet, but also on the consumer to constantly change their look.
Before the emergence of trendy teen shops in the sixties and seventies, people often made their own clothes. My mum still describes the genuine pleasure she got from, one – her going out top, two – her jeans, three – her maxi dress, four – the cheesecloth shirt she found at Kensington market, five – her brown velvet jacket, and six – the silk blouse hand-me-down from her mother.
This is of course a new time, and six items is very different in the age of Instagram, but if garment workers had as many eyes on their stories, it would surely bring about a lasting change in fashion.
Sign up for your own Six Items Challenge before 14th February 2018
© Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Labour Behind the Labour