But don’t worry! It’ll all be ok! You can STILL keep in touch with news, updates, sewing classes and special offers over at Reddskin.
It’s been a blast! Don’t go changing.
But don’t worry! It’ll all be ok! You can STILL keep in touch with news, updates, sewing classes and special offers over at Reddskin.
It’s been a blast! Don’t go changing.
This post is about Fashion, Photography and Mental Health. If any or all of these topics make you a little squeamish I suggest you LOOK AWAY NOW.
Still here? Good.
I was hoping that the old adage ‘third time lucky’ would prove itself to be true when I found myself making plans for a Reddskin photoshoot last month. It had been a long time coming. I had saved up my hard-earned pennies. I had gathered my favourite, talented and (most important) fun loving models, Layia Johnson and Jordon Bolessa. I had nabbed the wonderfully warm MUA I had been busting a gut to work with since Forest Hill Fashion Week in 2014, Muna Hassan. And, finally, I was thrilled that my favourite photographer – for her work and her open spirit – Sara Atteby, was available and actually excited to work with me. Everything was in place. All we needed was some amenable weather. Cue praying to Gods and putting a LOT of positivity into The Universe.
Please note: No animals were sacrificed during the planning of this event.
Why ‘third time’? Weeellll…hmmm…ummm. Honestly?
Attempt 1: March 2015.
Thwarted by being off sick from my actual (ex) job. The threat of Gross Misconduct did not appeal to me (‘working’ whilst off ill). Plus I had lost the will to sew therefore I didn’t have any new stock to photograph.
Whilst we’re on the subject. There aren’t powerful enough words to accurately describe what it feels like to lose the will to do something you have always loved. Something that has always given you life. Uplifted you. Completed you. But Depression (yep. Big ‘D’. That’s what we’re talking about here) does that. For me it was like watching the world continue without me through a pair of Vaseline-smeared sunglasses…under water. Something like that. Frankly, it was shit.
Attempt 2: June 2015.
In theory this would have a been a better time to steam ahead. I was feeling a LOT better**. We had fairly predictable fine-ish (this IS Britain after all) weather and my willing, talented team were almost assembled. I was conveniently overlooking the fact that I had recently left behind a 28 year teaching career and suffered a bereavement in the family. I was trying to execute a Will, had organised a funeral (My first one. Not recommended) and was trying to ‘manage’ my grief. (Seriously? Who does that? Lesson learned), amongst other things that I won’t go into here (who said ‘Phew’?). Plus I *still* hadn’t produced many more creations. But, I was worrying frantically, I had postponed the first planned photoshoot and I couldn’t let anyone down (I know, I KNOW!).
It would HAVE to go ahead, wouldn’t it?
Well actually it wouldn’t. The Universe was clearly listening HARD. One of my lovely models had a car accident (!) on the morning of the shoot and ended up in hospital, unhurt mostly, but in shock. She called to say she was late but on her way (Dedicated? Yes. Bonkers? Definitely!) and I told her to go home and rest. My understanding co-collaborators were gracious and everything went ‘on hold’.
Third and final attempt. September 2015.
I was ready. WE were ready. All systems go! Transport For London tried to hold us back with their all too usual weekend engineering works but we were having NONE OF IT! The skies held up and the sun even made an appearance. George, the wonderful owner of a local cafe Kente, fed and watered us when we had finished. The team were on top form, we got some great shots and, most importantly, we had FUN!
The results are dotted throughout this website. I hope you like them as much as we do!
I considered filing this post under TMI (too much information) but I figured ‘Why not?’. I am acutely aware of the awkward shuffles and embarrassing silences that STILL surround the topic of Mental health. I’ve been on the receiving end and, to be honest, it just makes you feel worse.
I am a human being who happens to be a Fashion designer. I, like all of us, am a Work in Progress. Many things have occurred throughout these 12 months. They’ve brought me to now… as I write these words. Some factors I felt able to control and some simply happened. I am eternally thankful to some amazing friends and family who supported and continue to check in with me. Yes I feel (much) better. I am also fully aware that whatever this is isn’t over (is it ever?). How I approach my own mental health, and that of others, is VERY different now. I am kinder to myself and I am open to change.
So to anyone reading this who is having a tough time and feels that life is being an absolute bugger (understatement Klaxon), you’re going to have to trust me on this one, things can and do improve. You never stay still. All those old cliches and adages, especially the one that goes ‘This too shall pass’ (the jury’s out on who said this first) Well its true. Living proof right here y’all!
If you made it to the end of this post, thank you for staying.
Feel free to comment on any or all of the above. Don’t be shy…I would love to hear your views.
Last Wednesday I was privileged enough to attend Nottingham Trent University Fashion Knitwear Final Degree Show where my eldest diva, Kareem, has been studying.
It’s been a looooong haul and a steep learning curve for my woman-child , for many different reasons. A false start on a course that wasn’t right for her meant that graduation year arrived eons after most of her peers. A testing time that we all remember. However it was when she discovered and switched to a Fashion Knitwear BA that her clear passion and talent for design and making in this field truly emerged.
Self doubt chucked a few stumbling blocks in her way but the daughter I witnessed on Wednesday evening had grown into a focused and determined Designer. Yes of COURSE I cried. BLUBBED.
I am deeply, immensely, proud of you, Kareem.
I was lucky enough to see both Catwalk shows and, by some quirk of fashionable fate, ended up on front row seats for the second one. *high fives The Universe*.
Below is a selection of images I managed to capture. I have yet to work out what all the knobs and buttons do on my new Canon so the photos may not be amazing …but they give you a flavour of the immense talent of the Fashion Knitwear student Class of 2015*.
You saw them here first!
Kareem Short created contemporary jewellery by knitting cashmere and merino wool using a distinct and complementary colour palette with gold silk accents. These were then draped, twisted and knotted to make individual and strikingly designed pieces of art. Metal rods and fastenings enabled sections to become interchangeable. Stunning.
Well done ALL who were involved behind the scenes and in the spotlight and GOOD LUCK to all Final Year Graduates! I, for one will be looking out for you!
*Unfortunately I didn’t get a piece from every NTU Fashion Knitwear student that night. My sincere apologies to those I missed.
I can’t put it off any longer. It’s happening. It’s HERE!
Tomorrow, 1st June 2014 7am my BRAND NEW SHINY WEBSITE will be born.
I guess it has felt a little bit like giving birth to a precious bundle (metaphysical pain, less fluids). I finally get to show the world – you actually – what I do and what I CAN do. There are handbags, clothes, accessories, home type items (wares?), workshops, classes, parties and events – all in one delectably BEAUTIFUL PLACE! I’m so excited I can barely keep still! Bear with me whilst I find my feet (they must be around somewhere *chuckles at hideously awful joke*).
Thank you for indulging me thus far – I do hope you’ll stay along for this next chapter.
I’ll also be running a competition soon to celebrate all this lovely new-ness so stay tuned!
So have a look, get up early if the mood so takes you, browse, bookmark, read, peruse and SHARE! Please do feedback and let me know what you think.
Reddskinbags you have been SO good to me *sniff* We’ve had some tremendous times *gulp*. But it’s time we parted company.
It’s not you, it’s ME!
A little Forest Hill Fashion for y’all.
The second is a short featuring my designs by Media production company IndieVisual
Picture the scene. A skinny ten year old girl lying on the floor in her mothers bedroom. Underneath her slight frame a brightly patterned length of folded stretch chiffon in purple and pink. A borrowed felt pen in hand and an oversized pair of forbidden dressmaking shears nearby. She wriggles as she hastily tries to draw her rough outline from ankle to underarm on either side of her body. Stops briefly to listen to sounds of her mothers soft footsteps – just in case she is caught in the process of fabric butchery – especially as said fabric happens to belong to the unsuspecting adult. Reassured, markings complete, the excited youngster carefully cuts a hole for her head on the centre fold of the fabric and threads a needle with novice hands. Finally, rough back-stitch and half an hour later, The Most Beautiful Kaftan In The World is born.
Ok so it wasn’t perfect. I (yes the youngster was me – how did you guess?) had completely overlooked the fact that I would need to actually move around in my creation so it was a little tight on the legs. But, oh, when I raised my arms and shimmied (hobbled) down my mothers bedroom catwalk, I felt like the most celebrated fashion designer slash model alive!
Fast forward 40 years. Having rejected ‘Fashion Designer’ as a viable career (too competitive for my inherently ‘lazy’ nature ) I chose Dance instead. Go figure. I continued to design and sew clothes for myself and later, my family, whilst a pursued my teaching career.
In February 2013 the first Forest Hill Fashion Week (FHFW) took place and I was lucky enough to become involved with my business Reddskinbags. September 20th – 25th 2013 saw our second event, it’s bigger, brighter and altogether more glamorous sister.
A Live catwalk show took place at The Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill. The evening kicked off five days of talks, demonstrations and workshops related to craft and fashion. On the evening of Friday 20th September a magical Horniman conservatory was alive with vibrant stalls showcasing the creations of local talented designers, most of whom also had their unique designs in the show.
For my part, I had (finally) taken the plunge and designed a tiny collection of four pieces to accompany my bag designs. Undoubtedly, THE best decision I’ve ever made. It was a fan-TASTIC evening. The Forest Hill area exploded with Fashionistas and their friends eager to find out what the fuss was all about and support a wonderfully exciting event.
So much energy and enthusiasm converged to display a warm community spirit that was a pleasure and a privilege to witness. A huge thank you to Penelope Else, the visionary and driving force behind Forest Hill Fashion, and to the human dynamo Charlotte Cameron who organised the Catwalk Show and Cherrelle, bubbly stylist extraordinare.
These photos are a teensy snippet of my part in Forest Hill Fashion Week. There are many more pictures of the designers, characters and their work by London Photographer Sara and Belle Studio. Have a look. Take your time. Is ‘history in the making’ too grand an observation? Who knows?
How FHFW will evolve only time will tell. It wouldn’t have been so successful without the time and efforts of many brilliant volunteers – take this as a Big Fat Thank you! *holds applause card up for a very long time*
What are the next steps for Reddskinbags?
As usual … watch this space!
Why hats? I have NO idea. I think that, as usual, I wanted to set myself a challenge…push a few boundaries. I don’t know whether I had heard of Katty Janneh or whether I was browsing for courses. But either way suddenly all roads seemed to lead to Katty. I was powerless to resist!
Lets be clear here. I knew (know) nothing about hat making and, if I’m honest, I completely underestimated the time and effort it takes to make just one simple creation. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
Katty Janneh is a extremely talented milliner who makes fabulous bespoke creations and whose stockists include Selfridges in Londinium.
Katty was uber-organised and spent time and effort compiling a list of items to purchase and bring along to the first session. So, naturally, I spent 4 weeks ignoring it and only looked on the day. BIG mistake. Already at the bottom of the class and I hadn’t even started yet!
Luckily Katty is an accommodating soul with a generous spirit (I’ll have my payment in cash please) and magicked up some sinamay; a natural fibre from the Philippines, to make a fascinator from. There were some techniques, like attaching the wire to help keep its shape, that made me swear under my breath.
And there were sublime parts where Katty showed me how to make sinamay bias strip. Seriously cool! Anyway I’m pretty darn proud of my first attempt!
Katty is an amenable soul with a wonderful sense of humour. Lets face it, you’d have to have a huge one of those to teach a gaggle of women with a mixture of abilities and personalities. Katty is definitely a natural.
So for my next trick, I decided a hot pink trilby would be the way forward. Clearly, subtlety has never been my forté.
I purchased a parisal cone (check me out with my millinery jargon!) then had to treat it with a concoction that looked suspiciously like skimmed milk although I’m assured that it wasn’t. Next I had to wrap cling film around a wooden block in the shape of my hat and stretch the cone over it, pinning in place as I went.
Now, I consider myself as having decent upper body strength. Pah! Katty came along – removed most of my pins (that had taken eons to push in!), re-stretched a portion of my Trilby-to-be with the combined strength of the Williams sisters and reattached the pins with a “now do the rest like that!” flourish. She is GOOD. *completely impressed face*
I have always respected creatives. Obviously. Having a vision and making it REAL is a skill that many, sadly, find hard to appreciate. But I now have a new found REEEEE-spect for milliners. Hats off to you all!
And thank YOU, Katty, for putting up with me and allowing me to enrol on the second millinery course! This time it’s bright red wool. I can’t wait!
Have you taken up a new hobby or challenge recently?
I was lucky enough to have been involved in Forest Hills very own Fashion Week, scheduled to coincide with London Fashion Week. “Who needs LFW when you can have FHFW?” was the strap line. It took place during half term from February 15th to 19th. Gosh it seems like an age ago now!
Penny, Louise and their trusty team of SEE3 volunteers worked tirelessly to produce A Fashion Week to remember! After a Sunday afternoon of photoshoot fun the posters of volunteer models arrived in local shops and outlets. It’s me!
It all happened so quickly! The first I heard that I was on a poster was when the boys at the school I teach in started saying ‘Miss! We saw you in Sainsburys!’. Huh?
We even made in to Time Out!
The Week kicked off with an opening night at The Sylvan Post, a wonderful restaurant and bar converted from the old Forest Hill Post Office and with many of the original features. That Friday also saw the opening of a new pop-up shop in Forest Hill Love Ur Look run by stylist and businesswoman Ronke Fashola. This quirky outlet has lots of beautiful outfits and gifts to suit many budgets. Ronke will be taking her fabulousness elsewhere very soon so don’t miss out!
Forest Hill became a happy hive of activity! There were fashion upcycling workshops and craft workshops as well as events and sales in lots of lovely local shops. I ran a free Corsage making session at Forest Hills newest Art gallery The Montage. We had great fun turning scraps of fabric into fabulous accessories!
My next workshop was at the same venue teaching keen newbies how to upcycle a plastic bottle into a beautiful bangle. Maria Ramil Photos popped along to take photos some of which you can see in her funky slideshow .
Later that day I was able to squeeze myself into one of my favourite shops Stag and Bow where a knowledgeable Pascale was teaching how to make a detachable collar. I joined a group of women with a range of sewing abilities and had a grand old time chatting and creating. I’m thrilled with the result too!
Sunday evening saw Soul Train event at Art Gallery and workshop space Canvas and Cream who were also celebrating their first birthday. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun! It must have been my lucky night because not only was I handed a free glass of prosecco as the 20th person to arrive but I also won a goodie bag for being ‘Best Mover’. Oh yeah!
On Monday (I do hope you’re keeping up here) , on the way to the Catwalk Show dress rehearsal, I popped in to Stag and Bow again (I can’t keep away) to browse the Twisted Vintage sale. They make delightful pieces upcycling discarded or broken pieces in to delectable jewellery. This piece of gorgeousness is now one of my favourite bracelets in my collection. Because I’m worth it of course!
The final Catwalk show was filled with fabulous fashion creations and outfits from local designers and shops including, Best of Both Boutique, Doopodoopo, Bunka, Stag and Bow, Love Ur Look, Twisted Vintage, Katherine Harrison, The White Room SE4 and so many more! It truly was a night to remember. For me not least because it was the first time I had seen a selection of my bags ‘in situ’ on the catwalk. I’m definitely hankering for more of that fashion action.
You can see more pictures of the Catwalk Wrap Show here
The worlds first Forest Hill Fashion Week was over almost as quickly as it began. I thoroughly enjoyed filling my half term with fashion and craft and creating. Frankly I cannot wait to do it all over again!
What? Did you think that was IT?
Missed it? Want to catch the next one? Follow @SEE3PortasPilot on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to their email newsletter .
I’ve always been a sucker for a bargain and it’s no secret that I LOVE clothes. So when Penelope – genius founder of Frockcycle – invited to me join her and Paulina Palian – fabulous fashion designer – on a visit to a recycling warehouse I jumped at the chance.
“Don’t forget the gloves…” read Penny’s last message.
We arrived in the blistering heat (yay Summer!) to be greeted by a spectacular sight – hundreds of clothes items drying in the sunshine.
Our mission was to find some fashion faux pas’s for a Frockcycle event on Saturday 28th July. This exciting day is for anyone who wants help and inspiration to transform an beast of a garment into beautiful creation.
Chris Carey Collections is a family run business in South East London whose mission is to recycle unwanted clothes responsibly. Clothes are sorted in to sections according to value or condition by knowledgeable staff. Once signed in (it’s worth calling first) you can take your pick then pay by kg or item, depending on the items, on departure.
So, gloves on and sporting a fetching neon vest (no pictorial evidence…you MUST be joking!) The Frockcycle Three were ready to rummage!
Except for one thing… I had forgotten how truly rubbish I am at the rummaging part. Pun intended. You see I’m more of a ‘Clothes in neat colour-coded rows on rails’ kinda gal if I’m really honest. *Diva face*
So whilst the Dream Team Penny and Paulina filled their recyclable sacks with all sorts of fabulous finds, I leant more of a critical eye. I’m really good at that!
I DID find this over sized skirt though…
However I wear it as a vibrant top! I LOVE it!
Come along and have some fun at Frockcycle…or have a go yourself at home! Trust me – an afternoon trying your old clothes on backwards and upside down is the new shopping! (and with friends and wine – hey it’s a party!)
What about you? Do you dive in regardless and rummage?
Are you a Diver… or a Diva?
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