Designer Musings

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Fashion and the Older Woman

Age and Fashion – Who Makes Up the Crazy Rules

I’d like to meet the people who police our wardrobes telling us what we can and cannot wear, especially when women reach a ‘certain age’.

As for the certain age, I’ve noticed its changes like the weather; one minute 40 is the new 30, then 50 is the new 40 and so it goes on.  The other interesting discussion I was having recently, is the terminology used to describe older women, take for example the word mature, it’s also used to describe ‘cheese’, then there is ‘seasoned’, what’s with the food and cooking connotations?!

I know lots of women of varying ages, I find it amusing that an 18 year old wants to look and dress older, yet nothing is said; but heaven forbid an older women dresses to suit herself in a style that is considered for a youthful teen only, and she is considered to be ‘mutton dressed as lamb’.  Have you noticed how the phrases used to describe older women have some negative undertone attached to it?

So just to set the record straight, a woman in her 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s plus, these women, they know stuff, and some of us are still figuring things out; newsflash, that’s called Life, we are constantly figuring things out.  However, back to our wardrobes and what we can and cannot wear, lets start with the obvious, I know you’ll catch on:

  • If its too tight and you can’t get into it, guess what you can’t wear it, but hey that applies to all ages.
  • If its bright yellow and you don’t like bright yellow at all, what’s it doing in your wardrobe?
  • If its tired, bobbled, and faded in colour then do the garment a favour and lay it to rest.
  • If you are uncomfortable, wearing a dress or skirt that is too short for your taste then don’t wear it.  Trying to lengthen the hemline by constantly pulling it down is not going to change anything, except draw attention to the fact that you are constantly trying to pull down your dress or skirt, you will feel miserable in the process, as guess what you are uncomfortable!

Simple facts not rules.

I’m now going to hand you over to one of my favourite women in fashion, Iris Apfel who at 96 and has no intention of retiring her wardrobe anytime soon.

Declutter Your Wardrobe – Declutter Your Mind

There is a lot to be said for giving your wardrobe some ‘tough love’ and having a complete declutter, throwing out that which is well past its worn by date, but is ‘oh so comfortable’.  There were a few pieces in my wardrobe that had me thinking, ‘what was I thinking’ (clearly not a lot at the time), and I am glad to report those pieces were not made by me!

As some of your may already know, 99% of the clothing that I wear are garments that I have made, not quite the mad scientist, but I do experiment on myself first, before I put a garment into production.  After all, if I wouldn’t wear a particular item of clothing why would I expect someone else to?

So, back to the mission, a complete wardrobe review; I have to say I was amazed to learn that I had a great deal of dark coloured t-shirts, which is strange as I love the palette of bright colours.  This got me thinking, perhaps I had become a little bit lazy in my sense of dress, it was easy to pull on a t-shirt and my black jeans, but how had I managed to slip into this routine?

When I attend events, I always ‘dress up’ and pay extra attention to my appearance, if you are in an industry where what you do is on display, you are a walking billboard; if you don’t believe me, ask a hairdresser.  Someone asks “what do you do for a living”, you reply “hairdresser”, meanwhile your hair resembles that of a birds nest, they are not flocking to you my darling, no they are scrutinising your hairstyle or lack thereof!

The same applies to fashion designers, but then you often see designers at the end of their catwalk shows wearing all black attire and taking a bow; I vowed that would never be me, and somehow I managed to slip into that net.  I had been so busy, with my bespoke clients, social media, and the day to day running of the business, I had unknowingly forgotten, that I am also part of the business.

I originally started sewing for myself, because I didn’t want to be seen wearing the same clothes as everyone else, I love being creative, and it gave me more choices in clothing than I would ever find in clothing stores or boutiques.  I then found the one word, that so many of us get consumed in, the word that allows us to forget about ourselves, that word is ‘busy’.  There was nothing else for it, I decided to take a hiatus, pulling out fabric from my stash that was purely for pleasure, reinvent my wardrobe, and whilst doing so reinvent myself.

There is a metaphysical term ‘nature abhors a vaccum’ which means that when you get rid of stuff, ‘declutter’, it makes room for better and brighter to come into being.  When I first heard that expression I never really understood it, then as I filled up a couple of black bin liners and looked at my wardrobe with new eyes, in the realisation that I would be making new garments to replace that which was gone, I embraced the meaning; I truly understood its depth.

I titled this sharing of a story,’declutter your wardrobe, declutter your mind’, my dear friends, it works…

Bespoke Striped Shirt and Flared Trousers by Coral Turner

 

If you would like to learn more about transforming your wardrobe have a look at my website www.coralturner.com or call me on 020 7732 7528 to make an appointment to visit me at Thames-Side Studios, East Greenwich, London.

A Brief Insight Into Healthy Skin

“The Beauty Doctor can see you now – step into her office”

Fashion and beauty walk hand in hand, our focus on what we wear, how we wear it, how we look; from the way we cut or colour our hair, to the way our skin feels; the face we show to the world is our first impression as to how we will be perceived.  Trying to replicate Queen Cleopatra’s beauty regime can be quite time consuming, not to mention sticky with all that milk and honey!

I met with a new bespoke client recently, an Aesthetics Doctor, Dr Qian Xu, a woman whose speciality is to make both men and women feel and look good in their skin.  I’m not talking vanity here, more the nuances as to the importance of good skin care the benefits of, all quite fascinating.

I don’t know how many of you when hitting puberty, suddenly woke up to find that your once smooth skin was starting to change, pimples suddenly appeared, added to that your body started to take on a different shape.  You’re placated with phrases such as ‘don’t worry you will grow out of it’, ‘it’s just a phase’.  None of which alleviates the sigh when you look in the mirror, saying to yourself ‘how long’, ‘why did this happen’, ‘what can I do’ and no more chocolate, what cruel blow has fate delivered to me?!

Then one day, the voices of the wise sages start to come true, and your skin reverts pimples gone, hooray, but then at the back of you mind, a little voice says, ‘now how do you keep it that way’?

Fashion and beauty make for good bedfellows, the beauty industry is forever trying to keep us staying younger (whatever that means).  So going back to speaking with Dr Xu, it was so refreshing to hear her side of the story, as to why she does what she does, to assist our skin with its forever changing facets.  I learned as in her words “from the moment a client walks through my door to when they leave, I want for them to have experienced an holistic approach to their skin care with science combined”.

Dr Qian Xu – Skin Aesthetics

Results orientated Qian is acutely aware of how empowering it is to know that you and your skin are looking good, doing great, and will continue for many years to come, provided as with all things you look after it.  It was interesting  to learn how many people ‘think’ they know their skin type, and that breakouts are not necessarily the result of a product that does not agree with you.

As our conversation was drawing to a close (I could only keep her at my studio for so long guys, under the guise of measurements and fitting)!  I donned my ‘Master Mind’ hat and quizzed her as to skin care:

A Few Facts and Myths of Skin Care

Is there such a thing as good or bad skin?

NO.  Everyone’s skin is different, some more sensitive, some more oily, some more prone to pigmentation, and others more prone to wrinkles.  It is important to get to know your skin and use the right products for your skin.  It amazes me how many people are wrong about their own skin type, and using the wrong skincare products.  No wonder they are not getting the result they want!

 

Is it only teenagers who are prone to acne?

NO.  Acne is more common in teenagers because of the hormonal changes during puberty.  However, acne is becoming common in adults.  The most common causes are hormonal, stress, air pollution and using the wrong skincare products on your skin.  The treatment of acne should aim to address the issues, not with antibiotics.

 

What role does diet play in our skin care?

Having a healthy balanced diet is vital not only for skin health, but also for general health of the body.  Vitamin A, C and E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids are just some of the nutrients which help to maintain healthy skin.

 

Do I have to give up chocolate?

There is evidence to suggest that having a diet high in sugar speeds up the ageing process.  However, this does not mean you need to cut out all the sugar.  If you love chocolate, you can still have it now and again, just don’t over-indulge.

 

Phew that giving up chocolate question was sailing a bit close to the wind, I could hear some of you holding your breath!  There you have it, a brief insight into healthy skin with some myths debunked; if you would like to talk further with Dr Qian Xu her website is https://www.saclinic.co.uk/ email: info@saclinic.co.uk or telephone 020 3494 4363 for a personal consultation.

Now its time for me to get back to my sewing!

The Colour of Fashion – Can the Fashion Industry Change Mindsets?

Coral Turner for Coral Turner Couture

Not too long ago I went out to dinner with a girlfriend, we got chatting over starters, catching up on what we had both been doing.  The conversation then turned to business, in particular how was my work in the arena of fashion?

I replied “getting there, one stitch at a time” to which we both laughed,  I then said “I am still learning that when you are running a business, especially in fashion, it bears no semblance to the theories I’ve read of running a business”

My friend then asked ‘do I think its a good idea to have black models on my website, along with pictures of myself, don’t I think I am alienating some of my audience’?

OK, so I know for some of you reading this, who knows me, you may be thinking, this is incredulous right?  Did I leap across the table and force her to eat a piece of garlic bread, or try and put the garnish in her ears, aren’t I offended?!

“No” – why not?  Because my friend is one of the loveliest people I know, I also knew there was no malice or ill intent from the conversation.  What was disturbing is that my friend, whilst we are from different cultures, we are both daughters of immigrants whose parents came from their respective countries in the late 50’s to England.

I had to dig deeper to learn the thinking behind this, as well as being mindful what I ate, I didn’t want to choke on what she would say next, as I played the detective for fashion’s social consciousness (yes, I just made that title up, it has a nice ring to it), anyway…

I then asked “what you said, is that something you actually believe; that my background and colour is a hindrance to my career as a fashion designer”?

To which she replied “but isn’t that what the fashion industry says, I mean how many black female designers of your calibre are there in the UK, they don’t represent you”?

OK, so to some extent she had a point; I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have read from renown fashion magazines ‘as soon as we put the face of a black woman on the cover of our magazines, our sales plummet’ wow!  I thought that the people who were buying the magazines were doing so for the fashion (hence the industry title), alongside the thought provoking articles for female empowerment.  The sisterhood of women, which they claim we are all a part of; that being said what does it say about their target audience, aren’t you now insulting those whose loyalty is based on the article content for which they buy the magazines and not the cover?

How therefore can we talk about equality, women supporting women, and yet pay only lip service to diversity?

I know my fashion is not for everybody, it’s not meant to be, I design and make small collections of ready to wear one-of-a-kind pieces and bespoke, no world fashion domination going on here.  That’s why the saying ‘variety is the spice of life’ makes so much sense.  There is a huge array of male and female designers of colour who are vastly under-represented here in the UK; I know of a few renowned male fashion designers, however for women I can’t say the same thing, why is that?!

So why did I choose to write this article?

  • Firstly, to deny who I am, is to deny two of the greatest people I have the privilege and blessing to know, and share this planet with, my mum and dad.  They were both born in Jamaica and proud of the fact; as with all of the West Indian islands, these countries have landscapes that celebrates the colour of nature, sunsets and sunrises, that even with the best camera you still can’t capture the word ‘breathtaking’.
  • Secondly, March 8th 2017 is International Women’s Day, a celebration for women throughout the world, hence the word ‘international’.  If we are not going to support each other, especially in an industry that is female dominated, we can’t complain when others do the same!
  • Thirdly, and you may think this one a bit strange, there’s the amazing people I have come into conversation with on Instagram.  Through this social media platform, which I tentatively dipped my toe into, a small following of individuals from all walks of life celebrate Coral Turner Couture; they give thumbs up and likes for the content, the fashion images, and photos of models and clients who also come from varying backgrounds.
  • Finally, last but not least, my dear friend who started the conversation; I thank her for having the boldness of heart to share with me her mindset, based on her understanding of the fashion industry.

We have a duty to make the most of our talents and choices, yes there will be those that fall by the wayside, I totally understand that.  For my last photo-shoot there were 4 models booked but only 2 showed up, it was their ability to model the garments, injecting some fun and life into the clothes which was the criteria, and not the colour of their skin.

Ralph Waldo Emerson says “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” as I see it we are either part of the solution, or part of the problem, it’s up to us to decide which.

That said, it’s time I get back to my sewing machine, I’ve got dresses to make http://www.coralturner.com.

 

 

 

 

Fashion Icons – Jamaican’s with Style

Why Vintage Fashion is Never Out of Fashion

My fashion icons are my parents, their sense of ‘style and fashion’ is atypical to their generation and others from the varying islands in the Caribbean.  What’s interesting is their fashion, the elegance of their attire is called ‘Vintage Fashion’ today, the blue Duchess Satin off the shoulder dress worn by my mum 50 years ago would not be out of place at a cocktail party today; pearl earrings, elegant court shoes, simplicity and sophistication, that’s my gorgeous mum for you.  A bespoke dress that was designed and made specifically for her, finishing accessories a clutch purse, compact mirror, lipstick and powder, a silk scarf stole.  My parents and their generation were and still are ‘one-of-a-kind.

The Zoot suit, worn by my dad,  single breasted jacket;  the jacket is not as long as some traditional Zoot Suits, neither are the trousers excessively baggy as with ‘Cab Calloway’ and if that is going too far back think ‘Kid Creole and the Coconuts’ , OK, if you are still scratching your head, think ‘Jim Carrey in The Mask’.  The term used to describe these suits today is ‘retro’.  Theirs was a time when a gentleman would always have a handkerchief in his top pocket, usually monogrammed, buttoned up shirt, sleek patterned silk tie, tie pin and cuff links, leather brogues, aftershave that scented a room.  Again ‘bespoke’ only this time a gentleman’s suit, a dapper gentleman my dad.

If you were to attend Sunday church in any of the West Indian islands today, from babes in arms, to elders who stand tall with their silver hair, and those in-between, you would witness a catwalk fashion show of individuals whose sense of style doesn’t carry a fleeting trend, instead timeless fashion statements that speak of their individuality they definitely keep Milliners in business local and overseas.

I’ve been reading recently from Dana Thomas’s book ‘Deluxe – How Luxury Lost Its Lustre‘ with the advent of the swinging 60’s Leslie Caron is quoted as saying “I stopped buying couture because frankly, it was considered old-fashioned.  You couldn’t wear hats anymore, you couldn’t wear gloves or a bra, and you looked really old-fashioned if you wore couture dresses”.  As we move forward, that which for a period of time was considered ‘old-fashioned’ is very much sought after today – why?  Because the quality of workmanship, detailed designs, the fit of the garment, all those necessary components that transform metres of fabric into a magical form of dress, the time it takes to produce such garments is sadly diminishing.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, a new genre of designers-makers/sewing professionals are picking up their thimbles, sourcing unusual fabrics, they who refuse to go quietly into the night, they also bring to their pattern cutting tables fashion sustainability, through making garments that have lasting qualities, distinctive detail.

My parents fashion styles is as relevant today as it was in the 50’s, especially if you want to stand out for the individual that you are.

To talk more about one-of-a-kind have a look at the link https://coralturner.com/about-me/.

Until next time,

Coral