Friday, 29 December 2017

All about image: Lily Cole and the Bronte Society

The Parsonage Museum. Photo: TripAdvisor

Just before Christmas it was announced that Lily Cole has been given a prominent role as creative partner of the Bronte Society in the bicentenary celebrations for Emily Bronte planned by the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth. She will be working on a curatorial project focussed on Wuthering Heights.  As a fan of the Brontes, especially of Emily, I was delighted to read about the arrangements for such celebrations.
However, Lily Cole's appointment seems to have angered quite a few people. It has been described, in the press, as "putting celebrity over the Bronte sisters themselves".  Lily Cole, who has just turned 30, was a fashion model, a supermodel in fact, during her teens and early twenties and has unquestionable celebrity status. This in itself is not reprehensible, why so? We  live after all in a celebrity culture and celebrities are always involved in this or that project, sometimes doing no more than lending their name. But not in this case. Lily Cole will not just be invited to the inauguration or do some fundraising, she will take an active role in the research and preparations, and it is this active participation which seems to have prompted all the criticism. Some people are convinced she is simply not up to the job.
Never mind that Cole, also a fine actress, director and writer, has a first class degree in the history of art from Cambridge.  Never mind that she is an able entrepreneur, a committed environmental campaigner and a very gifted, most articulate, speaker. All this does not seem to matter at all.  According to her bitter critics the appointment should have gone to a Bronte scholar or a writer.  Some have gone  as far as speculating that if Emily Bronte were alive, she would be horrified. Would she really?

Lily Cole in 2013. Photo by @Kmeron for LeWeb13 Conference @ Central Hall Westminster - London
There is something quite perverse in the logic displayed by all these critics. It is worth reiterating  that in order to be a creative partner and work on a curatorial project one does not have to be a widely published professional writer, and, in any case, there will be a writer-in-residence at the museum, the poet Patience Agbabi.
Clearly, some Bronte expert must have coveted the appointment of creative partner and, disappointed by the decision made by the selection committee, decided to vent their anger in public, rather than moving on. Academic scholarship does not automatically bestow the entrepreneurial skills underpinning the creative partnership envisaged by the Parsonage. Moreover, Cole's training as an art historian will definitely come in handy, whereas the fact she is young will attract a different audience, and inject new vigour in the programme, something the museum desperately needs if it wants to boost its ratings. The Parsonage cannot be locked in the past.

Emily Bronte in a disputed portrait painted by Branwell Bronte - it could be Anne

What bothers me in all this is that people are flippantly focussing on Cole's modelling and celebrity status disregarding her obvious talent and intelligence.  The subtext is that of a 'brainless pretty girl', the way models are often, and sadly, stereotyped. And a hackneyed stereotype it is.  In reality, models are often some of the most accomplished people one  ever comes across, many taking up modelling to fund their studies - I know a model who is doing a degree in physics and another who is pursuing training as a classical musician - and many more others coming to it after skilfully holding down jobs of great responsibility - think here of someone such as Maye Musk, with multiple degrees. Rosalind Jana, writer and poet still in her twenties, is another example of a highly accomplished and talented young woman who counts modelling as one of her pursuits but is not solely defined by it. And, not to blow my own trumpet, I too before taking up modelling was, for a while, in charge of a university art history department, albeit a small one. Being a model has not stripped me of any of my skills.
Crucial, in this controversy over Cole's appointment, is the belief, mostly affecting women, that having been involved in a role that equates with being an embodiment of beauty, as modelling is  constructed to be  - however variedly that beauty is defined in our contemporary society -  cancels out any other talent or achievement one may possess and permanently disqualifies one from being a purveyor of culture, which is what a curatorial role entails.
I find it dismaying, it's yet another take on the 'dumb blonde' myth perpetuated by Hollywood.
Personally, I am happy to side with those enlightened enough to make this appointment, regarding it as a way to usher in a time of exciting developments.  I wish Ms Cole all the very best in her new role as creative partner of the Parsonage Museum and truly look forward to the outcome of this partnership.


***Read here the piece written by Lily Cole for Medium about Emily Brontë, aptly entitle 'What would Emily Brontë think" ***




Saturday, 16 December 2017

Monochrome and Velázquez



An instagram post by Greyfox with a photo of the Royal Court of Justice which, he says, used to be his haunt before he became a blogger, having worked as a lawyer for many years, kind of resonated with me.
I used to be an art historian before I  became a model, my doctoral thesis, back in the days, was in art history and archaeology and for many years I taught about visual culture and performance. I am an art lover and living in London is a blessing because there is always some exhibition going on and, most importantly, permanent collections in major museums are totally free to access, which means one can go and see masterpieces again and again. This is such an amazing opportunity, totally inexistent in other countries, where museums always charge an entry fee. I am always puzzled that people do not really take full advantage of it.
The National Gallery is one of my favourites among the London museums. Armed with an National Art Fund pass I gained discounted entry to the Monochrome exhibition yesterday afternoon (permanent collections are free but exhibitions are not) and really enjoyed it though I wondered why the curators had been so haphazard in putting art works together. The thematic arrangement was weak and chronology was not a major concern. But I loved many of the chosen items and enjoyed the last exhibit, a room flooded with orange by Olafur Eliasson. Visitors were invited to take selfies - of course I took advantage!


Then I decided to go to the main gallery to view yet again some of my favourite paintings.
I love walking around the Gallery playing a little game with myself, trying to guess at once who painted this or that work and then checking by reading the labels. Most of the time I get it right, when I do not, I really try to learn about the brushstrokes and get a feel for the painting. Great artists  have a powerfully expressive  brushstroke no matter what the period or style. It is what really makes you respond, emotionally,  to the work.
My favourite painter is Diego Velázquez.  Las Meninas is his masterpiece and is housed at the Prado in Madrid but the National Gallery has two works by the great Velázquez, the Rokeby Venus and a royal boar hunt scene (La Tela Real), which is so multilayered, just like Las Meninas, going beyond a mere depiction of a hunt - that is the genius of Velázquez, the way he can take you from the mundane to the sublime. Incidentally, the Monochrome exhibition has a black and white Picasso's rendition of Las Meninas , a painting that has intrigued  for centuries and has stimulated responses by a number of great artists, such as Picasso.



What I also love doing at the National Gallery  (or any other museum of renown) is sit and watch the world go by and hear the different responses by other visitors. As I was contemplating the Rokeby Venus, a Spanish family came along and the mother began to jump up and down saying to the kids 'Look, look, this is a famous painting, this is aVelázquez'.' 'Why is it famous, mummy?' asked one of the little girls. 'It's famous because it's art' the mother said.
I thought the answer was daft. Then it struck me that well, it is art, so it was not so off the mark. How else would you describe the Rokeby Venus? Otherwise known as the 'Toilet of Venus', it is a nude, painted some time between 1647-1651,  showing a beautiful woman, the goddess Venus,  looking at her reflection, with her son Cupid holding up the mirror.  It is known as Rokeby because it used to be in the Morritt collection at Rokeby Park, in county Durham.


The very trajectory of provenance of art works is intriguing to say the least. It warrants a completely different post.
For now it will suffice to say that the Monochrome exhibition is definitely worth checking out. And  also do check out the permanent collection at the National Gallery, you will not be disappointed. A good way to while away a cold wintery afternoon.




Thursday, 7 December 2017

Forgery and fashion knockoffs



A replica  of the Venus of Milo at Central St Martin's, UAL,  reception

I recently read a very interesting book, an account of the life of Van Meegeren, the Dutch artist known for his forgery of Vermeer and for conning the Nazis into buying his own work passing it off as original Vermeer.  He did not copy any existing work, he created new pieces in perfect Vermeer style, as if they were genuine 17th century pieces, responding to the hopes of art critics that more Vermeer work should be discovered, especially the canvases depicting religious subjects, something Vermeer did only for a relatively brief spell at the start of his career. Until Van Meegeren put Vermeer's signature on the works he would have not been guilty of any forgery as such. Anyone can paint anything 'in the style of' and not break any law, but signing off with another artist's name, for lucrative gains, is against the law, no more than signing off a contract using someone else's identity.
Forgery is the bane of the art world because it involves obscene quantities of money. There is a fine line to be drawn between forgery and restoration, as the methods of the restorers are often used by the skilled forger, to perfection. Forgery takes restoration to a completely different level.
The crime of the forger is  linked to the quest for authenticity,  the driving force of the art market, the reason why old masters can fetch such high fees. It also follows that an art historian's reputation as validator of authenticity can be rendered quite fragile by the well made forgery. Despite all the scientific advances which can reveal the age of a canvas and the way it has been treated, the final authentication still rests on the knowledge of the art historian.
A recent case involving Leonardo's Salvator Mundi, which resurfaced in 2005 and was sold to the Abu Dhabi Louvre in October 2017 for a staggering $450 million has seen world experts on Leonardo vouching for its authenticity.  But not quite unanimously. Walter Isaacson, for example, is not convinced the work is by Leonardo, nor are a few other dissenting voices. Only time will unravel the mystery surrounding this painting, which could after all be an excellent forgery, like the Emmaus Supper painted by Van Meegeren, which for years took pride of place at the Boijmans  in Rotterdam.

Salvator Mundi. Source: Wikipedia

Author Thierry Lenain wrote in his 2011 book Art Forgery that "the fake is a mirror image of an expectation or, more exactly, a device made to trigger a recognition process by appealing to this expectation" (Art Forgery, page 314). It is a very apt definition and one that resonates in areas other than art.
I am particularly intrigued by the meaning of 'forgery' in the context of fashion. Within the fashion industry a forgery is better known as a knockoff or a replica. It would seem that the law is somewhat ambiguous over this matter. A counterfeit replica is technically illegal - but counterfeit fashion is a  very lucrative industry in itself -  whereas a knockoff is fine. Only recently, various papers reported that PrimarkUK sells copycat Valentino's shoes  at £14 - whereas the original Valentino is £650.  Clearly the quality of the material is quite different but the shoes look like Valentino's, minus a couple of details, thus getting away with a  'Valentino inspired' label. The  'Valentino inspired' is in itself a way to entice consumers, though the Primark site does not mention Valentino at all.
It has long been the business of fashion magazines to show original designer items side by side their mass produced, more affordable (but of lower standard) versions, which in order to be perfectly legal must present some minor variants on the original design and obviously not bear a fake signature.
Primark Valentino's copycat
Julie Zerbo, editor in chief of The Fashion Law has discussed various cases of fashion designers and copyright law and the lack of protection afforded to them. The point of contention is the selling of counterfeit copies, which, as mentioned, is extremely profitable as a business.
Gone are the days when fashion houses would sell licensed patterns to enable women to make their clothes at home, drawing on their sewing skills. This is hardly an option these days unless you search for such patterns and recreate 1950s fashion yourself. I am not sure this would count as copyright infringement as such, unless done on an industrial scale.
When you have online sites advertising their wares as 'buy without the $$$tag' , one realises the legal ambiguity of the knockoff. If I am sold a Louis Vuitton bag bearing a Louis Vuitton label on eBay or elsewhere and I know it is not the genuine item, then we are clearly talking about  a 'fashion forgery'. If I go to Primark and buy the Valentino replicas no one is ostensibly committing any crime. But...
The problem is to do with greed and fashion consumerism and that 'expectation' discussed by  Lenain.

An example of sustainable, ethically sourced, made to measure high fashion designed by the talented Central St Martin's students for the Swarovski/20th Century Fox/ GraziaUK competition. Model: me

If we really were to embrace a fashion that we make ourselves, for ourselves, devising every time a unique, individual  look through a combination of vintage, recycling, ethically sourced material  and using our own creativity we would stop keeping this mammoth copycat industry alive.
We do not need to push consumerism to the limit in order to be happy.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Diversity: we need to change mind sets

The December Vogue with Adwoa Aboah on its cover


Fashion has begun to  pay attention  to the issue of diversity. Fashion students at major colleges seem to be routinely  engaged in projects which deal with diversity; some of these projects are good, some are a little trite, but they all point to a significant effort being made by trainers  to educate a new generation of fashion professionals to think differently. The appointment of a new Chief Editor at Vogue UK, Edward Enninful,  who has been quite vocal about diversity,  signals that changes are afoot, though so far, as pointed out by Jacynth Basset in her brilliant podcast we have seen 'established' diversity, meaning that the faces featured in December Vogue, the first edited by Ghanaian born Enninful and focused on a celebration of Britishness,  were very much part of the  establishment - Naomi Campbell, Victoria Beckham, the Mayor of London, Salman Rushdie. And Adwoa Aboah, British model of the moment, with a Ghanaian connection.
We need be aware that diversity is not about ticking boxes and having a superficial make over. Diversity can truly come about by changing people's mind sets and by acknowledging that fashion is truly global, an industry and a  creative expression of  different cultures and societies perceived to be  on an equal footing. In the light of what global capitalist expansion is about this equality is often no more than wishful thinking. 
But there is another aspect that needs to be considered, that of perceptions of beauty and beauty standards, something that is very relevant to modelling. 
A recent article in the Business of Fashion discussed the rise of Indian models on the international scene. This is clearly tied, says the author, to the growth  of the fashion industry in a country such as India, where there is an economically powerful middle class and a strong demand for luxury goods. Yet at some point, in the original version of the article, the author wrote, infelicitously,  that Indian models though  not  the tallest or prettiest of girls  are nevertheless achieving international success.  The article was later amended changing that  ambiguous  word choice to "the tallest or prettiest by Western -centric standards of beauty", which had apparently been edited out.

Article in the business of fashion
It was an omission  that clearly changed the import of the article, which was meant to be celebratory, but which ended up sounding dismissive of Indian models.
In my view this incident  points to an important misconception about models and about beauty. The ideal model type has been set as reflecting an undifferentiated Northern European blueprint. Models should be tall, slender and fair skinned. Even when they are not Caucasian, an approximation of this ideal is required. That is,  black and Asian models, according to this standard, should conform as far as possible to the given ideal: tall and slender and with a complexion that is not too dark.  It is a bit like having a Barbie doll with a lighter or darker complexion but still fundamentally a Barbie doll, when in fact we really do not want any Barbie doll at all.
I keep on meeting on sets gorgeous models who are not regarded as 'models' but as general 'talent' because they may be a little shorter than what is considered the average model height. I even recently did a shoot which I thought was extremely progressive, from the brief given,  until I saw what  the client had specified  on the mood board.   The mood board referred to me as 'real woman' (being older than average) and my body would not be seen at all. One of the young women modelling for this brand,  a very  beautiful girl, was also referred to as 'real woman' as she was slightly shorter than the standard model  height, though she was very slender. All  the other models were acknowledged as 'models' as they conformed to the standard.  It was a very subtle way of differentiating and reinforcing a stereotype. I said nothing about it, I was just glad to be involved in some way, but to me it was very revealing of how entrenched certain ways of thinking are. The client believed  they were very forward thinking for having two 'real' women appearing in the commercial. This  allowed them to tick a box (by the way there were no curvy models at this shoot, I wonder how they would have been referred to.  Also all the models including the 'real' women, were Caucasian).

with beautiful model Davinya  Cooper
It is this box ticking attitude that makes me cringe. I did not participate in the still photography, only in the filming; the other 'real woman' was involved in the stills, so in what way was she less of a model than the others? The answer is: because she was atypical, just like, in my own way, I am.  It's not the height or the size or the ethnicity that makes a model. It is the attitude which some do some do not possess.
I look forward to a day when diversity becomes so normal that it is no longer necessary to focus on details of skin colour and body size .


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A talk on personal style blogging


'What is style?' Photography: L.March Styling: Fran Tyler MUA: Mia Hughes Model : myself 

I have been  suffering from a rather  painful swelling  due to some dental problem and also had to deal with a stolen wallet (which meant getting a police report, blocked cards etc) but I really could not miss the talk given this evening by Rosalind Jana and Dr Rosie Findlay at London College of Fashion (LCF) on style blogs, entitled "Strangers in Style: Digital Intimacy and the Self Becoming on the Style Blogosphere". It  was a conversation, rather than a talk, led by Dr Agnès Rocamora, who asked probing questions, later opening it up to those in attendance.
Oxford graduate writer, poet, style blogger and model Rosalind Jana,  currently digital editor of the magazine Violet began blogging in 2009 at just fourteen, whereas Rosie Findlay, lecturer in the Cultural and Historical Studies department and Dissertation Coordinator at LCF,  blogged while doing research on style blogs for her doctoral thesis at the University of Sydney, which has now been published as a book - Personal Style Blogs: Appearances that Fascinate. 
The event was well attended, indeed I was very lucky to be able to get a ticket. I really relished the discussion which addressed a number of topics, from creative blogging to communities, hidden labour, commodification and, naturally, the concept of 'influencer', a word that has entered our vocabulary, globally,  but whose meaning is not fixed.  Different sets of people understand being an  'influencer' in ways that can be poles apart.  What does being an 'influencer' really mean? Is it about consumers and brands, is it about being aspirational, is it about the number of one's followers?
The conversation around such issues was stimulating and I felt really inspired to do some soul searching and engage in some reflection on what blogging has become and what it means to me, as I too am a blogger, though not exactly a fashion style blogger.

Agnès Rocamora, Rosalind Jana and Rosie Findlay

Findlay no longer blogs, Jana still does from time to time. Both speakers noted that style blogging now is very different from what it was a decade  ago, when blogging was a creative endeavour rather that a commercial one. Blogging has become professionalised and the relationship of bloggers with brands is all important, there is also a convergence between fashion journalism and style blogging in that brands sponsor magazines and expect content that promotes their products, so that fashion journalists are placed in a position similar to that of professional bloggers.
I personally believe that the efflorescence of creative style  blogging that we have witnessed is definitely on the wane. Blogging as such is undergoing a major transformation, Instagram seems to have taken over and the stories bloggers told through their disciplined writing, giving vent to their creativity though the written word is now being translated by the very same individuals into the visual narratives of Instagram. Instagram  has greater immediacy, it cannot be denied. Through their Instagram accounts, style bloggers and former style bloggers can pay greater attention to  images,  curate content by adding short write ups under  photos to complement their visuality,  ensuring  that the right hashtags are used. This is, effectively, the death of blogging as such, as we have known it.
I have often toyed with the idea of wrapping up my blog - I started in May 2010.  The Real Does Not Efface Itself has been a personal exploration of modelling, of the visual image, and the written word, leaving behind my academic persona. I have never accepted to collaborate with any brand, to me blogging has to be first and foremost a way to express myself.
But I have felt the lure of Instagram and I can see its potential, the opportunity it affords to use the written word in a different way. I am of course aware of the commercial uses of Instagram, but  I am not particularly interested in that.

1960's inspired. Styling: Suzie Coulon. Photographer: Scott Salt

I know of bloggers  who  are really making the most of Instagram, through short videos and photos - not just of themselves -  in a creative way, using their images sometimes as social and cultural commentary, sometimes in a humorous way, sometimes to promote themselves. They may occasionally write a blog post - some have ceased to do so altogether: overall their creativity has been channelled into   a different medium .
So why should/would I carry on blogging?
 I shall continue, integrating it more with Instagram perhaps, but I shall definitely continue. It is to do with the discipline of writing, something that came up in this evening's discussion. I do not know how many people read what I write - I used to get comments, not so much now. But blogging is still deeply satisfying and as I have now  done it for a period of eight years, going nine, it gives me an overview of significant incidents and/or issues with which I have engaged  over a considerable time span, including research notes. A sort of public journal/notebook, if you like.
This alone makes it worthwhile to carry on.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Opera, fashion and Maria Callas


I went to the V&A last weekend to see the current exhibition about opera entitled 'Opera, power, passion and politics" . I am a great opera lover so I could not miss it. It's a charming exhibition, really aimed at those who are quite unacquainted with opera and its history, but there is also something for those who already know much, which is a great curatorial achievement.  I enjoyed its immersive quality and appreciated the concept of taking the visitor through a number of operas, focussing on their context and political significance in the major European capitals, from its beginnings in Venice, with a grand finale of short films about opera today.
 A highlight of the exhibition is the audioguide which gives an opportunity to hear wonderful arias. I also appreciated the attempt to bring fashion into the equation,  though it was not the exhibition's main focus. I absolutely loved the Gianni Versace's gown designed for Salome's mother Herodias in the 1987 Robert Wilson's production of Salome. What a dress! Pure, unadulterated elegance, devoid of any flamboyance.
Versace's dress for Herodias

As a fashion and opera lover I would have loved to see more of the opera and fashion  connection explored.
La Divina Maria Callas could be heard singing Abigaille's love song for Ismaele in Verdi's Nabucco. I ADORE Maria Callas. Her inimitable, instantly recognizable, unique  voice has been discussed and analysed at length , I don't have much to add to that conversation.  But La Divina was also a fashion enthusiast and I am totally bowled over by her elegance, on and off stage.
There have been a few exhibitions of her costumes and a recent one is being  held at the Scala until January featuring the Scala years and seeing the great singer through her physical changes, from tall and heavy set to a svelte silhouette, following a dramatic weight loss  that changed her forever from ugly duckling into beautiful swan and, according to some, negatively affected her voice.
Even more interesting was the exhibition 'Private Callas' also in Milan earlier this year curated by Maria Luisa Frisa and Gabriele Monti.  Here one could really get a sense of her style. Callas was dressed by Dior and other famous couturiers but she also bought, occasionally, from department stores. Most of all, she established a long and warm relationship with Elvira Leonardi Bouyere, known as Biki, who was her personal dressmaker and personal stylist.
Harper's and Bazaar have put Callas on the cover of their limited edition issue  to mark the V&A Opera exhibition.
I believe Maria Callas, through sheer hardwork, really managed to find her own personal style, exuding sophistication and turning herself into a fashion icon. She was not a follower, but one who would be followed: "Don't talk to me about rules, dear. Wherever I stay I make the goddam rules." she said.
My inner Diva

Photo:Scott Salt Styling: Suzie Coulon Hair:Lisa Higgott MUA: Maryam Wain

Something to be remembered as an encouragement to embrace one's individuality.


Saturday, 28 October 2017

Books, more books and index cards


 British Library. Photo by Matthijs.

I love books, I have said it many a time. I regard them as lifelong friends and cannot bear to be parted from them.  My home is full of books, mostly mine though there are also several lying around that are regularly borrowed from the many libraries I am a member of.  But I am nowhere near the 50,000 volumes that semiotician and author Umberto Eco owned (see this excellent article on what  Nassim Taleb names antilibrary). That is an impressive personal research library, even larger than my local community library! My collection is limited to less than a thousand volumes, including some journals and I care about each one most passionately.  I used to have more books but somehow they went astray.

This is my current problem: I do not really know for sure how many books I have in total.  So I have decided to catalogue them. It's not something I particularly relish but I am doing it through an app called Libib, which you download on your phone. You also need to sign up for  an online account, totally free, and then through your phone app you can begin to scan the barcode of your books.  It's all fine when books have barcodes but I also own some, quite a number in fact, which are not barcoded at all. Those will need to be entered manually and yes, it is going to be a bit of a pain to do it.

I have already catalogued the books that used to be in my bedroom, which has now been turned into a guest room, since members of my extended family and various European friends (yes, I know that geographically Britain is in Europe and the British are technically European, but it definitely does not feel that way) have decided this is the time to visit Britain before Brexit turns the country into a forbidden land - travel to Britain is going to be full of red tape, post-Brexit. This article tells you about travelling from Britain to Europe, it is reasonable to assume travelling to Britain is not going to be easy either.

El Escorial Library, Spain. Source: The 20 coolest libraries in the world
Anyway, I could not bear to leave my books in that room, not that my very occasional guest would touch them or anything, but my books have to be with me all the time, I want to be able to look at the shelves and see the titles and feel reassured by their presence. I also read them (or reread them, or consult them)  whenever I feel like it, which could well be in the middle of the night, as I tend to have an irregular sleep pattern. The thought of having a guest in that room and not being able to sneak in at all hours to pick up a book  (and family member or not a guest is a guest, with their own need for privacy) prompted me to move the bookcases out of the room and rearrange all the furniture.

So I have been carrying boxes and bookcases from one room to another throughout the week, which meant books were suddenly all over since you cannot move a bookcase without first emptying it of its contents. The books  are now back on the shelves in just two rooms, the living room and my current bedroom and OK, I admit it, also the bathroom - but not in the kitchen, not anymore, though I have some cookbooks, a waste, I have been told, since I do not do much cooking. But having cookbooks gives me something to read while I am boiling an egg, vowing I will try the recipe soon enough. And those pictures are wonderful to look at!

I plan to scan all the barcodes doing each room systematically, then will tackle the non-barcoded books. Libib allows you to catalogue up to a 100,000 books for free, after which you need to go Pro. I don't think I shall ever need to switch to Pro, much as I would love to emulate Umberto Eco. Though I am pretty sure that within two or three years I shall have acquired at least a hundred more books, but adding them to my catalogue will be easy.

A home library. Photo: Paul Massey for House&Garden

I have now gone back to buying real books, after doing the Kindle, iBooks and GooglePlay thing.  I am fully aware of the great advantages of accessing books online and carrying them around on your  phone or tablet, but listen, I have an emotional attachment to the printed page, electronic books don't feel like books. Maybe it's an ageing thing? Generational? My best childhood memories are of well thumbed volumes, millennials might reminisce about their first iPad.

 I have also gone back to using index cards for my projects. I have Zotero and the Corkboard app, but again there is a feeling of great satisfaction in going to a reference library such as the British Library carrying my own index card box and filling each card with notes, using a pencil, since the British Library does not allow pens.

I recently bought myself a new copy of that wonderful little book written by Eco - you can tell I am a great admirer of his - entitled "How to write a thesis", which is not just for theses, but for any project you are doing which involves reading books and cross-referencing. The above mentioned article about Eco and the antilibrary discusses this very same book.  It used to be my bible, I had it way back and then the book vanished, most likely borrowed by some friend and never returned.

What a pain that is, when friends do not return borrowed books, I regard it as insulting - incidentally Libib allows you to keep track of who borrows what, which is handy.  There is another app which apparently automatically sends polite reminders to friends who have borrowed your precious tomes, but I cannot remember which app it is.

A view of the London Library. Source: London Library

Anyway I reread Eco's book with great gusto. Written in pre-digital times, it teaches you how to use index cards most effectively. I still have those I compiled when I was doing my PhD, they are in a large box, I had several sets.  They have moved house with me a few times. And no, I am not getting rid of them, are you kidding me? There is some solid work that went into writing them, hours of pouring over library shelves, hours of reflection, trying to connect ideas most succinctly. They are part of my life, even though my PhD thesis is now obsolete. Just seeing the box that houses them gives me pleasure. Marie Kondo, the priestess of decluttering, does say that if it gives you pleasure, you keep it. I definitely adhere to that principle.
After rereading Eco's very sound advice, I decided that Zotero's convenience notwithstanding, I would start working again with index cards. I was delighted to find that  they can still be bought,  I am clearly not the only lunatic who shuns the delights of electronic cross-referencing for laborious scribbling with pen and paper.
The other thing I like doing is writing notes all over my books - they are mine, after all. But I think I shall have to take this up in a different post.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Declutter before you die




A friend sent me a link to an article  recently published in The New Yorker entitled Five Ways To Declutter By Reckoning With Your Mortality Plus One Bonus Tip. I badly need doing it said my friend - meaning the decluttering of course, not the dying.
It's a good article, quite humorous.  I definitely love the container store tip.
But seriously this decluttering thing is much more complicated than it sounds.
I have written about decluttering  in this blog a few times, the last time  coinciding with when I decided to rent out my flat while I was in  Indonesia for a a few months.  I kind of had to: my guest was going to need space for her own possessions and I definitely had  much stuff that needed sorting (please note, carefully storing, not throwing away, unless absolutely necessary), not to mention a good clean.
 Overall I am not fully convinced that getting rid of one's possessions is conducive to happiness, goodbye rituals notwithstanding. Yes, I realise we can't take anything with us when we die, but surely it is the least of our worries? OK, other people will have to sort out our clutter - but let them. That's the way it works. It's also called inheriting - I inherited a lovely carpet from my mother, for example.
I am not advocating a life in which we are swamped by litter and chaos, definitely not, cleanliness is very important. What I am saying though is that we often end up getting rid of things that we actually need or which might turn out to be useful years after we acquire them.
There is also immense  pleasure in rummaging in boxes we have stored away, reopening them after a long time. Only the other day I found a jumper which was in mint condition and really pretty, which I had hidden away with the intention of getting rid of as it was in a bag full of discarded fabric, only forgot all about it - and am glad I did not dispose of it. Maybe I wanted to add something to it - a couple of years ago I got a sewing machine I soon fell out of love with, but never got round to it. Anyway, it is now back with the other jumpers.

Books are the other thing I simply cannot give away. I find the rule of not keeping any book you have not read rather silly. I might buy a couple of books and not read them until much later, that's the whole point of having one's own library, as well as the opportunity one has to read again those books  already read - rereading is an art in itself. Umberto Eco had a personal library of 50,000 volumes. When asked whether he had read them all he famously replied that he had not but loved the idea he could always find something new to read.
Very full bookshelves cheer me up. I am so very glad that my son, now living on his own, has inherited this passion for books. When I last visited he showed me some gorgeous volumes he had picked at Oxfam Books and began telling me about his plans for floor to ceiling bookshelves.
I once felt tempted to prune my library lured by the promise of  one of those services that seem to have mushroomed all over the internet which  buy unwanted books . I spent a whole day sorting my books into bundles then pricing them and packing them, only to realise I just could not get rid of them like that. I carefully removed them from the boxes and muttering an 'I am so sorry' aimed at my precious tomes  I lovingly lifted them and put them back on the shelves, where they belonged.  Books are friends, for life. How can we part with them so flippantly, just to 'eliminate clutter'?

Minimalist living from Yoga Journal

Minimalism is appealing,I definitely love looking at those beautiful pictures in blogs devoted to minimalist style, such as the one above, from an article on decluttering in Yoga Journal .  But it is not suited to everyone.
Decluttering is a bit of  fad, at the moment. Sure, we don't need  to keep all bits of papers we handle - but let's not get carried away with throwing things.  We might actually need those papers as soon as we get rid of them. Ever found yourself having to spend the good part of  a day on the phone to HMRC or the HR  department of a former employer  trying to locate records relating to your employment which you no longer have because you have chucked away payslips and bank statements and you desperately need the information, no longer accessible to you?
So yes, let's declutter, but sensibly.  And honestly, the last thing on my mind is to make a good impression on those who inherit my mess.  It is at it were, the privilege of dying - there has to be something good about it, after all. Who cares what happens or what people think of me when I am gone?  Everything truly becomes immaterial.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Fashionable diversity





At LFW YahooStyleUK discussion about diversity on 15th September

Fashion has woken up to diversity and the industry is desperately trying to prove that the concept of a fashion for all has been taken on board.  Thus designers at NewYork Fashion Week, as also London Fashion Week 2018, which ended on 19th September, have been trying to include disabled, curvy and older models, in an attempt to tick boxes. There have been talks and TV programmes in which people have asked the question 'Is fashion embracing diversity?'
Well, is it?
Not quite. As LFW unfolded a model as famous as Leonie Anderson took to Twitter to say that she had been dropped of a LFW show for being black - she was later interviewed for BBC4 Woman's Hour, where she repeated her accusations of racism within the industry.  We have heard this before, Naomi Campbell has also famously spoken about it.
One cannot help thinking that the current endorsement of diversity  is all about making token gestures. Diversity is an uncomfortable notion, one which cannot be taken on without a complete overhaul of entrenched beliefs.
It would seem that  the idea of diversity is not aspirational enough. Designers claim that clothes fall better on long, slim frames (and should those frames belong to Caucasian women?). It's the only way to showcase clothes, we are told. Curvier bodies detract attention to the workmanship of clothes making. Older body frames are simply not attractive enough. And so on. But in fact those who wear the clothes come in all shapes and sizes. Brands are not generally known for selling clothes to just one type of customers, to an extent - some self selection does occur in terms of prices and range of sizes available but by and large if you can pay for the item you can have it, no matter what you look like.

Modelling for Johanne Hynes at LFW on 15th September

Actually, if you want to showcase the fabric and the design you really do not need a living, breathing model. You need a mannikin and you have to allow people to get up close to your creation. Models are living beings and  they are meant to show how clothes can be worn.  Bodies are different, so you need a range of body shapes and types to showcase the way clothes fall on bodies, as well as  models of different ethnic backgrounds, because it is absurd that fashion should privilege a particular ethnicity.  Everyone wears clothes. It is also wrong to expect models to be all the same, attempting to obliterate or tone down  ethnic differences, rather than celebrating them.
It is most unfortunate that diversity is understood to be a way of pigeon holing people. Ticking boxes is not about promoting diversity, it's about making sure that minimum requirements are met so that one is not seen as being on the wrong side of the law - for it is unlawful to discriminate, even though subtle discrimination goes on all the time, as Anderson avows.
Fashion weeks are changing, now the format is see it now, buy it now. The shows are spectacles. So I do not buy this idea that changes are not possible because they are occurring all the time. Diversity can become the norm and it should. The future is truly in the hands of the next generation.
As Edward Enninful, the new Chief Editor of British Vogue has often said it is all about education. People need to be brought up appreciating and embracing diversity. There is far too much discrimination going on in society, we do not need fashion to be discriminatory.

At the Models of Diversity show in Old Spitalfields Market, during LFW.


Let's hope that when the next fashion week comes we shall not be frantically be discussing  diversity and take part in TV programmes and round tables - as I did - asking the same questions all over again.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

More thoughts on being petite and modelling


At the Fashionista Night Out fashion presentation  by London Ethnic

I have written about height in a previous post. I am now reprising the topic, focussing more specifically on models and modelling, as we know that the latter is affected by the politics of representation.
Being petite - or small or just plain short -  is still regarded, in our society, more or less as a physical defect, especially in fashion, where the arbitrary notion that clothes look better on tall women and men has become normative.  
There are of course lines of clothing made specifically for petite women, who exist in multitudes and all need to wear clothes.  Petite fit models are used  for such clothes - those models one never sees,  the ones that go for measuring and fittings - but they are hardly ever modelled in catalogues or on TV shopping channels by petite models, so much so that several petite women have complained that not seeing a garment on a real petite body does not  give an idea of how the garment will look on them, as I mentioned in my earlier post. 
It is also the case that petite women tend to be infantilised.  The fact they do sometimes have to shop in the children’s clothes section due to lack of choices has contributed to the perception of their being doll like, no more than children themselves.
The fashion world will tacitly endorse  the fiction that small models could never be seen on the runway but  it is a blatant lie. Quite a handful of well known models are well below that golden standard of 5’9-5'10 (sometimes lowered to 5’8) which is given as the minimum height for modelling fashion on the runway. In addition, in our celebrity driven era,  many celebrities are asked to model in high profile fashion events and their being  petite is inconsequential. 
Because of this misconception  it is common practice to bump up models' heights sometimes of several inches, and the same is done for celebrities. Victoria Beckham was always said to be 5’6 when in fact she is 5’3. In 2000, when she was still known as Posh Spice,  she modelled on the runway for Maria Grachvogel, to the delight of paparazzi and bringing instant worldwide publicity to Grachvogel. And truly, she acquitted herself rather well.


 Models' height at castings is  rarely measured and there are several methods for making oneself taller. I was recently at a fitting where the girl next to me maintained she was 5'9 and she was only slightly taller than myself, who am a good two inches shorter than 5'9.  A former male model launched an elevator shoes line after catching a fellow model duct taping five insoles in his shoes. (Similarly, there are several ways of bumping up BMI measurements to bypass the rule of not being below a certain BMI). Designers are more obsessed with female models' hip measurements than height and some designers have been known to recheck hip measurements  themselves prior to a show, just to make sure, as reported by sociologist and model Ashley Mears in her book Pricing Beauty (2011).
The anecdotic evidence I have provided is symptomatic of the fact that basically not being tall is regarded as something to be ashamed of and in need of disguising. As regards to women, it flies in the face of  research findings about the average height of the world female population, which is set at  below 5’4 with many variants, depending on ethnic groups. When I was in Indonesia doing research for my book on fashion in Asia  I came across countless women, I would say the majority, who were no taller than the 5 to 5’2 range. Does that mean they are to be regarded as ugly or lacking a fundamental beauty trait?  It shocked me to hear a designer at Jakarta Fashion Week say that in his view European women carried his clothes better because they are taller and with longer limbs than Indonesian women. 


At the Houses of Parliament fashion show in November 2016 with models of different heights,  former model and now designer Ruth of Urban Roots Eco Couture right next to me. Photo: P.Moran

With all the talk of diversity, the issue of the height bias in our fashion culture has not really been properly addressed. It needs to be debunked. The countless articles in magazines about how to look taller are flawed just as those that dole out advice on how to make oneself look slimmer or paler (the latter a very common beauty topic in Asia and Africa).
The link between height, power and self esteem (or lack thereof) is a serious issue and it is problematic that fashion should actively participate in forging this false ideal of a tall beauty for both women and men, an idea that  is fundamentally flawed and ultimately based on racist stereotypes.
An area of modelling which does not seem to be affected by such prejudices and in which petite models are often welcomed with open arms is art modelling. It really is to do with ability to pose and create beautiful shapes with one's body, regardless of size, height included. 
I am neither tall (as a model),  nor petite, currently measuring 5'7 in height, though 5'7 is already regarded as petite in fashion modelling, just think of Nicola Fox, the winner of America's Top Model cycle 13.  I used to be slightly taller than I am now  but age has caught up with me. Last year, at a show, in which only tall girls were modelling I was asked to wear higher heels than all the others so that we would look of a similar height when sashaying down the runway - this is an example of strategies for making one look taller. As an older woman,  I am painfully aware of osteoporosis, no pun intended, and also very conscious of the fact that older bodies shrink. I do my best to slow down the shrinking, to contain it through stretching and exercising, though perhaps it cannot fully be stopped, despite claims to the contrary. Still, it is worth a try.

5'7 tall model Aaron Frew in Attitude magazine

When I was younger, in my late teens and early twenties I would have been regarded as far too small to model fashion - it was the era of the Amazon beauties and I was not one. Later, when I started modelling because I had a 'look', not being of Amazonic proportions did not matter much, as people in fashion tend to look for character when casting older models.  
But not being personally affected by this prejudice does not mean that I am not aware of its existence.  It truly is a misconception and one which should be quickly abandoned, because the idea  that clothes look better on tall women and men could not be further from the truth. Clothes look good on people who know how to carry themselves and can  fully express their height, no matter what this is , holding themselves with confidence and cultivating good posture, which also results in good health and a sleek look for tall and short people alike. 



Saturday, 26 August 2017

What does timeless beauty mean?

The Sleeping Lady of Malta (or Maltese Venus): neolithic beauty

I was recently interviewed for a forthcoming documentary which will be released next year. It explores beauty, looking specifically at how the world of fashion envisions it.  I can't say much more about the film, I am not allowed to.  Several other atypical models, some of whom quite well known, are also giving their views on this matter  and a number of experts  have also been interviewed.
I am really intrigued by this idea of beauty standards, which I began to engage with  when I was in Indonesia researching my  book on global fashion ( to be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2019). I tried to put my ideas  across throughout the interview but when working with pre-set questions it is not always easy to do so. Since the interview, I have been thinking about the whole issue  in some depth, so much so that I felt I should write a blog post about it.
I am a model but also a fashion activist because I want to change perceptions of age and beauty within the industry and among people, among consumers. I would not model otherwise, it would not interest me.

It matters to me, for example,  that my clothes should be ethically sourced. I do not believe in buying garments and throwing them away, perennially caught up in the consumeristic spiral so well highlighted in the film The True Cost. I have been known to rummage in second hand shops before it became a trend, in fact it used to be looked down upon as something for very hard up people and you would not broadcast that your clothes came from Oxfam! Now there are bloggers who discuss pre-loved clothing in a most engaging manner.
 It is also true that I eschew certain brands because I am not sure about the way their clothes are made and by whom, there is exploitation of women and children when brands outsource to Asian countries and I am dead against wearing something made under conditions of modern slavery.
As a fashion activist I do wonder about perceptions of beauty, because fashion has had a major role in defining beauty standards for women and men.  Perception of beauty is changing but there is a tendency to slot people into clearcut categories. For example, older women are also diverse, different from each other,  of different ethnicities, different body shapes, yet they are defined by their age alone, which I think does not quite reflect  reality. Thus older models tend to be Caucasian ladies with grey hair (stereotyped as French chic) and brands believe that by having one of such models in their advertisements they have done their bit towards addressing the diversity issue.  One young white model, one young curvy model either Caucasian or mixed-race, one older looking Caucasian model, possibly with grey hair (unless she is a celebrity), one young Naomi Campbell look alike et le voilà,  diversity of representation is achieved by following this easy formula. Somehow this trivialises the issue.


Beautiful curvy model Mahalia Handley in the Selfridges campaign that shot her to fame

 I also don’t like the fact that whenever someone is featured in a magazine and they are, say, older, or of a non –standard size they are declared to be ‘body –confident’. It’s a subtle way to further normalise the golden standard, through highlighting deviations from it. Would a slim young girl ever be described as 'body-confident'?
So when it comes to defining  beauty as timeless, the timelessness rings true to me in that beauty should not be predicated on age. However, timeless must not be conflated with universal by invoking the notion  of the 'classical' - I shall write about this conflation in another post. 
Beauty is diverse by definition. It is culturally inflected and what may be beautiful here and now may not be beautiful tomorrow and in a different location. It is also true that beauty standards  change, though perhaps not fast enough. Also, beauty is not just a physical attribute, it is combined with other personal qualities, which contribute to make one person beautiful.
Beauty is a subjective, individual notion - we say that it is in the eye of the beholder -  as well as  an objective standard  constantly negotiated. 

The beautiful Erin O'Connor. Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes.  Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

It has taken many years for people to acknowledge that not having a white skin did not spell out ugliness though there was a time when this was very much the case (and there are still racist people around who will regard non-whiteness as a sign of ugliness). In an earlier post I discussed the obsession we have with height and how this is ultimately a racist notion which has been widely promoted by fashion.   It is therefore most heartening to see some model agencies opening their doors to petite models not just for commercial work but also for fashion and runway.
Hopefully in the years to come the idea of diverse, ageless, beauty, will really take root. I am an optimist and believe it will happen.



-->

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Does height matter?


The height bar from my inversion table - I like hanging upside down like a bat, it is good for the back. 

I was intrigued to read about  a young woman who had been dating a guy for a while, had fallen in love with him and then discovered that he had been wearing shoe lifts to make himself taller,  he was in fact slightly shorter than she was, so she ended the relationship,  in disgust at the treachery.
Now think of this : you are a young woman who feels a little self-conscious because your breasts are smallish, so you wear a push up bra to go on a date but then your date finds out you are not really a D cup and never wants to see you again. What's the difference between the two scenarios?
We change everything about our appearance from weight to hair colour, even eye colour (through contact lenses). But height is more difficult to modify.  There are extreme remedies like leg lengthening surgery, which is very expensive and not always successful and which involves having your shin bones being broken and then a long period of recovery follows during which you are most vulnerable. Personally, I would love to be a little taller but would not be willing to have my bones broken, sorry, not even if someone offered me a substantial sum of money to do it.
There are people,  bodybuilders among them, who try to ingest as much Human Growth Hormone as they can get hold of, in the hope to grow taller and build muscles, yet it is not proven that HGH stimulates growth in height after a certain age, usually set at around 25, when all bone growth naturally ends, and  if not taken with medical supervision,  its damaging side effects are considerable.
The desire to be taller, especially among some men, can be quite obsessive and it's all because it seems that taller men are more attractive to women and they are more successful.  There are a few myths here that need exploding, no doubt. Napoleon comes to mind, for one thing, he was short, it seems, but was not out of luck with women nor did he do so badly, he did crown himself emperor after all. Ok he was eventually defeated by Lord Wellington. And, incidentally, Lord Wellington was not all that much taller than Napoleon.
Internet scams about growing taller abound, just do a quick Google search and you will find people asking you to part with considerable money promising you a growth of six inches within two weeks, with dubious methods such as meditation on the pituitary gland and self-hypnosis. Honestly, how gullible can one be!


But I am not writing this post in disapproval of those men who have recourse to lifts to boost their height, no more then I would tut tut a woman using a push up bra. Whatever gives you confidence is OK and wearing shoe lifts (such as the ones in the picture above) is harmless! I guess it might be unusual, but it does not have to be looked down upon and certainly it is not a reason to break up with someone. How shallow is that?
 Height increase is generational, by and large older people tend to be shorter, also because a certain amount of shrinking kicks in after the age of 40, becoming very obvious by age 70. Height is a very relative thing. It seems that at 5'6 Grace Kelly was regarded as tall in the 1950s, so there is some fluidity in this concept of height.
In some occupations there is a minimum height requirement but this is constantly being revised, to make room for  ethnicities whose heights might be different.
Modelling used to be the preserve of the very tall but nowadays petite models are (finally!)  in demand, especially for ecommerce (online), though apparently they are not used enough, as often clothes for petite women are modelled by regular size models (on the tallish side) , see the entries in this forum about QVC regular size  models and how ill fitting their  clothes are for petite women who cannot gauge what they really look like on a petite frame as the models are not petite.
 In any case many top models are, shall we say, vertically challenged yet they have achieved renown, from Kate Moss to Laetitia Casta to Devon Aoki and now Lottie Moss and Lily Rose Depp, as well as a host of other girls. Beauty ideals do change and there is also a realisation that  non-Caucasians are not always very tall, though this does not mean they are unattractive.
Women have always managed to get away with heels to make themselves taller, so why should men not do so if they so wish?  Heels for men are no longer in fashion, hence the shoe lifts.

Me modelling for online boutique Whatalicefound

If we were all the same height, the same weight, the same skin colour, the same hair colour, the same eye colour  it would be an extremely dull world. We would be machines rather than human beings.
What really matters is posture and bearing. Many people make themselves look shorter than they are because they have a bad posture. That can certainly be avoided.  Height is just a physical trait which ought to be regarded neutrally. For now it is not possible to change it drastically without using external aids. This may change at some point but till then lets embrace our individuality, height included and let it not stop us from achieving whatever we wish to achieve. And if we want to wear heels and/or shoe lifts to make ourselves a little taller why should this be an issue?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Grey hair : what few people will tell you

My hair. Jumper from The Bias Cut  Photo: Katie Frost

I recently came across a couple of magazines with beauty features on how to care for grey/white  hair. I welcome that, (naturally) grey hair is still not quite accepted as a colour, though the 'embrace your grey' movement has come a long way.  So it is heartening to see that discussing grey hair is no longer about how to hide it nor is it confined to publications for seniors, such as Saga magazine.
Grey haired models are more visible - only last week I modelled for a known sports/dance wear company, based in the US but selling globally. For that job having grey hair was not the only requirement; the ability to move was equally important. But the presence of an older model such as myself amongst the much younger fitness models, some of whom former athletes, showed the good will of the company and their effort to be inclusive.  Older women, after all, can be seen in gyms and yoga studios; fitness is encouraged among the not-so-young.  These older women do want to wear nice leggings and flattering tops.
There are now lots of products on the market  for people who want to look after their grey hair. There are also books such as the one  by Jan Rogers, full of good advice and interviews with women that have chosen not to colour their natural grey.

Photo: Sarah Tucker. Model: me
I have had visible grey hair since the age of 40, just about twenty years now. I had it before then but I carefully camouflaged it by colouring it.  Some silver haired ladies  will tell you about  how they went grey when they were barely out of their childhood and how someone told them  their silver made them akin to magical beings. How lovely! I can assure you, however,  that it never happened to me, no one was ever so full of praise for my grey hair, back then. I spotted my first grey when I was about 24  and no one had anything nice to say about it apart from the very obvious thing that it was all down to my genes. Well, I knew that, and there is neither shame nor pride in that.  It did not cheer me up a bit.  When I decided not to colour my hair  it was for a very practical reason. My hair grows really fast and I was spending huge amounts of money at the hairdresser's to touch up roots on a weekly basis. My hair also did not look very healthy, with all that colouring. My stylist at the time - he later gave up hairdressing and went to live in Brazil with his boyfriend - thought I could try cutting my hair  very short and go 'au naturel' - it's very French,  elegant and chic, he told me. I was persuaded and agreed to try. Within weeks from that  first haircut -  a gorgeous asymmetric one that really framed my face -I sported a nice shade of salt and pepper. The stylist was very gifted at cutting hair, so naturally I continued to visit the salon for my 'regular trim', changing style quite a few times. I ended up spending almost as much as I did before so going grey  never worked as the money saving device it was meant to be, but I liked my new natural colour and the stylish haircut(s).
Anyway, it's been years since I took that life-changing decision. Now, my hair is almost entirely white and it reaches my hips - I gave up cutting it quite a while ago, with the occasional self administered trim, preferring a neo-Rapunzel look.
If you think that grey hair  does not need TLC you are definitely wrong. The major problem is the yellowing due to chemicals, hot irons, pollution, chlorine (if you like swimming) etc. It makes grey/white hair look dirty and truly old. There is nothing that really counters it, no matter how much purple shampoo you use (and you must go easy with that one or your hair will turn purple, as grey hair absorbs colour completely, so rinses and temporary fun colours such as pink are also a big no no, unless you really want your hair to be of a funky colour).

Taking a selfie in Florence. Photo: Emma Innocenti
I have tried everything, my long tresses are very important to me as much of my modelling work is  predicated on this feature. The only thing that removes that unsightly yellow is a paste obtained by mixing  3% 10 volume hydrogen peroxide and bicarbonate of soda. I do this treatment  every three to four weeks and leave the paste on for a good twenty minutes. I do it on clean, wet hair, gently towel dried, after shampooing with Head and Shoulder Classic Clean - it still is the best clarifying shampoo around, it's cheap but as good as the most expensive brands. I then rinse out the hair and might even shampoo it again but this time with a very mild shampoo, like Johnson's Baby shampoo.  Of course after this the hair is incredibly dry.  I used to tackle the dryness by applying tons of conditioner and leaving it on for ages before rinsing and air drying.  Then I discovered Olaplex, so after using the hydrogen and bicarbonate of soda paste and rinsing it thoroughly I use Olaplex 3 for at least an hour, then rinse, shampoo and condition.  The result is soft, manageable hair with all the brassiness removed.  Olaplex is not a nourishing mask, so from time to time you may want to use a hair mask separately.  The great thing about Olaplex is that it eliminates the dryness caused by the peroxide. It is a bit pricey, but worth it.
When I go swimming - which is often -  I never wear a cap because my hair is too long and does not fit into any. I put a little coconut oil or even almond oil on my hair  before going to the pool and after I swim I shampoo and condition.
Not everyone tells you about the best way to eliminate brassiness (the yellowing I have declared war on). In truth I am not so keen on purple shampoo because it does colour the hair. Yet most advice about how to care for grey hair will be about using purple shampoo. Not for me and if at all, very sparingly.
If you have any tip please do share!
(I have not been sponsored by any of the brands I have mentioned)