Friday, 6 April 2018

Izzy Lane: Giving animals a voice in the fashion industry...

Hello lovelies!

This is a fashion post with heart; I want to dedicate it to my friend Izzy, one of the most inspirational women I know.  Not only is she an amazing business woman, she is wholeheartedly dedicated to protecting animal welfare in both her business and personal life.  Let me introduce you to her label, Izzy Lane, dedicated to giving animals a voice in the fashion industry.  But before I get to that, let me give you a little bit of a background to our friendship.

I first met Izzy through Chris (my Mister), as she is Aunty to Oliver, one of his best friends.  Chris and Oli often talked about Izzy as they used to stay with her in the South of France when she would holiday there and they'd come back with amazing stories about the places they had stayed and the wonderful friends of hers they'd been fortunate to meet whilst there.  I have her to thank for my love affair with the South of France, as if she'd never introduced Chris to it, I don't think I'd ever have got to go there and love it so much.

Izzy is wonderful in every way; she is an exceptional business woman, an animal rights activist, a dedicated vegetarian, a creative, an entrepreneur, a songwriter, a fellow Francophile and quite possibly one of the nicest and most supportive people I have ever had the pleasure of being friends with.  One of the things I find most admirable and appealing about her is her dedication to animals.  I like to think of myself as an animal lover; I always try to fundraise for my local animal rescue centre (plus I have Jay-Jay, my little rescue dog who is also very fond of Izzy!) and to be kind to animals where I can-but I'm not perfect-I eat meat and I wear leather-so I suppose I could be considered a bit of a hypocrite.  I'd never hurt an animal though and I try to do what I can, when I can for them.  Izzy however, dedicates her whole life to giving animals a voice, and her fashion label ticks all of the boxes when it comes to sustainability and ethical fashion as a result of this.

So let me tell you about this wonderful label.  Izzy wanted to set up a fashion label which used British ethically sourced wool but found that much of the wool used in fashion on the high-street was imported from abroad (with the animals being poorly treated in most cases).  With her love of animals and her vegetarianism at the forefront of her mind, she decided to put together her own flock of rescue sheep, bought at market prices, to ensure that the sheep could live out their lives happily; their wool would be sheared from them but they would not be slaughtered.  Focusing on Shetlands and Wensleydale's for the quality of their wool, she soon had a flock of six-hundred.  Once she had the sheep, she then needed a chain of processors to make the garments, but with the fall of the British textile industry, sourcing the correct people and places to create items proved difficult.  Eventually sourcing the right spinners and button makers, Izzy Lane was launched in 2007 with a view to both help save the British textile industry and to give animals a voice in fashion and has since gone on to win numerous awards whilst spreading awareness and campaigning for animal rights throughout it's growth.  The sheep are absolutely gorgeous too; I've visited one of the fields in Richmond where they're kept and they are the cutest!

Izzy was kind enough to gift both Chris and I with a sweater of our choice from her Izzy Lane Collection.  I chose the sweater that is pictured (above) made from the wool of Izzy's Shetland sheep.  According to the care instructions (included) the yarn has been scoured, blended, combed and spun but not dyed (other than the orange hoop on the sleeve); the colour is the pure colour of the Shetland's wool.  The quality of it is amazing, and it's so warm; it's been perfect for the super-cold weather we've been experiencing here in the north of England.  I absolutely love it-particularly as it has such a great story behind it and I can wear it safe in the knowledge that no sheep were harmed during it's creation.  Thanks Izzy for your friendship, kindness and for loving animals so much-we absolutely adore you for it, you're a true inspiration!

If you want to learn more about Izzy Lane, you can read more about the label here or shop the latest collection online here.  My sweater can be found here.

Until next time,

Kay xxx


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Jonathan Yeo: Skin Deep @ The Bowes Museum

Hello lovelies!

I'm dealing with quite a departure in subject matter today than my usual light-hearted fashion chatter. I recently visited The Bowes Museum, and whilst there I viewed their latest exhibition by artist Jonathan Yeo, "Skin Deep".  Yeo's work deals with the subject of cosmetic surgery something which I feel is massively on trend in 2018.  Every time I sit down to watch television, I am constantly amazed by the amount of celebrities (and minor celebrities) that have had work done to their faces and bodies in their ongoing quest to achieve perfection through aesthetic beauty treatments.

*Jonathan Yeo talks about his work at the launch party of "Skin Deep"

I understand that it's a matter of choice; what people do to their bodies is up to them, but it's never something that has really appealed to me.  I've always considered myself a lover of natural beauty; I've never had any desire to change my face and I've always been raised with a 'grow old gracefully' mentality.  Also, I believe that the real beauty in a person comes from their insides; a beautiful mind and heart shines so brightly in spite of wrinkles and grey hairs.  It's a strange subject; I don't consider myself a vain person, nor do I find myself amazingly attractive; but when it comes to my appearance, I try not to compare myself to others and most of the time I'm relatively happy in my own skin.  I eat well, I exercise and I try to live my happiest life, but that's where it ends for me.  My Mister has a similar view; he hates what he refers to as "fake-beauty" and is certainly comfortable in his own skin too.  So why is it that the culture of celebrity nowadays is to constantly strive for aesthetic perfection?  Is it the ultimate sign of happiness to know exactly what you want from a plastic surgeon in order to achieve perfection?  Or is society constantly insecure about not being perfect enough?

'...Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections...' John Legend, All of Me

Yeo's "Skin Deep" was put together over a ten-year period.  Starting in 2008, The Aesthetic Surgery Series investigates the process of cosmetic enhancement whilst looking at a person's motivation for undergoing such intrusive surgery and society's obsession with youthfulness. Working with surgeons and witnessing live operations, Jonathan Yeo was able to combine his skill in drawing faces whilst revealing the truth behind the invasive procedures.

Extended SMAS Facelift II 2018

There's a couple of notes I need to make here before I continue.  The first is that part of the exhibition deals with breast augmentation and that there are quite a few images of breasts as a result.  Whilst I don't have a problem with this, I haven't included them here in fear of having my blog taken down or reported.  I know it's art, but people can be a bit funny about that sort of thing!  So with this in mind, I've stuck to showing the imagery of the facial augmentations.  The second point worth making is that some of the images aren't for the faint-hearted and are at times quite gruesome, and rightly so.  This exhibition wasn't intended to fluff-up cosmetic surgery, after all there are plenty of online advertisements that do just that.  No, this collection shows the whole truth behind the procedures, with quite shocking and thought-provoking results.

Rhytidectomy III (with surgeon's hands) 2011

What I found really interesting was that all of the subjects in the paintings were women.  It was just something I subtly noticed whilst walking around, but then when reading the exhibition catalogue, it seemed that Yeo had never intended it that way, but found that men who were undergoing surgery, were less enthusiastic about being featured in the paintings.  Also, it's worth noting that surgeon Miles Berry added that even towards the end of Yeo's ten-year study, the numbers hadn't changed much with 85% of his clients being women.  I wasn't at all surprised by this; I absolutely love fashion and although I'm not blaming it entirely for the rise in cosmetic surgery, glossy fashion magazines' love of airbrushing and photoshopping images add pressure to women to look perfect, giving us all unrealistic expectations of how we should look.  Add social media and its million filters into the mix and it's quite a toxic cocktail!  In relation to this, I also read that the angles our smartphone cameras use to enable us to take a selfie make some of our facial features look bigger or wider than they actually are, providing us with a unrealistic self-image!  Is it any surprise that cosmetic surgery is on the up?!

 Rhytidectomy I, 2011

 Extended SMAS Facelift, 2011

 Lower Lid Blepharoplasty II, 2012

Reduction Rhinoplasty, 2011

Whatever your view of the collection, I'd definitely recommend a visit.  There's so much to think about and discuss; it's covering something which couldn't be more current in today's society.  My summary?  I think as a nation we need to promote more positivity and self-love if we really want to see a decline in the quest for beauty and perfection.  Is perfection even that beautiful?  I really think perfection and beauty comes from our flaws, it's the quirks we have that make us unique and human.  I've always enjoyed being a little bit different, maybe that's why plastic surgery isn't for me!  I'll always strive to be the best version of myself, away from the surgeon's scalpel and I can only wish for a world where more people feel like that and find comfort from love and inner-beauty.  After all, aesthetic beauty is merely "Skin Deep".  I'd rather be remembered for the things I've achieved in life and for being kind and compassionate, than for being "beautiful".

Mother and Child 2016-a portrait of Lily Cole breastfeeding
This is my favourite from the collection and the most natural, yet weirdly the one most frequently removed from social-media!

Many thanks to Jonathan Yeo for this amazing collection, I've thoroughly enjoyed writing about it!  Also to Rachael Fletcher at the Bowes Museum for providing me with some images from the launch (starred).  All other photographs and opinions are my own; I really enjoyed the exhibition and would urge you to visit!

"Skin Deep" runs until 17th June, 2018.  Book your tickets online here

Until next time,

Kay x


Sunday, 1 April 2018

All ready for summer: Fascinators and fashion @ The Bowes Museum...

Hello lovelies!

On Sunday 25th March, I had my first trip of the year to The Bowes Museum.  I've not been for a while, and I was really excited to visit the new exhibitions (these will be featured in upcoming posts) but the main reason for my visit was to take part in the 'All Ready for Summer' workshop, ran by my wonderful friend, milliner Margaret Woodliff-Wright (read more about Margaret's work here).

The fascinators we were about to make in our workshop

My Mam loves to craft, so when Margaret told me about her workshop I thought taking part would make the perfect Christmas gift for her; I booked a place for us both.  To make the day even more perfect we awoke to glorious sunshine, the perfect weather to see the museum in all it's glory and what better way to get ready for summer than with a backdrop of beautiful blue skies!  We arrived early, so started our day with brunch and a coffee in CafĂ© Bowes, followed by a visit to the Jonathan Yeo exhibition, Queen Victoria in Paris and to the fashion and textiles gallery to take in the new acquisitions (all of which I'll feature on Coco so stay tuned for those!).

We met Margaret in the Education Rooms ready to start our crafting.  We looked at some examples of beautiful hats that Margaret had made and then she set us to work wrapping fabric around a metal hairband, a couture technique that would form the base of our fascinator.  Next, we had to choose which colour fabric we wanted to use, and cut it into squares.  We used a combination of netting, chiffon and 'solid' fabric, cutting a number of each which we would then combine to make up the three flowers for our fascinators.  Once we had our fabric layered, it needed to be folded and cut into a flower shape, then pinched together and stitched to form each flower.  I realise that I make this sound really simple, but it was super-fiddly!  I was so glad that I had both my Mam and Margaret on hand when occasionally things went a little off track!  Once my flowers were formed, I managed to sew two of them to my hairband (my Mam helped with my third) and when it was all put together I was astounded at how beautiful it looked; I couldn't believe what I'd managed to create in just a couple of hours!

 Our finished fascinators, mine in baby blue and my Mam's in a beautiful copper colour!

It was lovely to spend an afternoon chatting with the ladies and creating such a gorgeous piece.  I like to think of myself as a creative person, but I definitely wasn't a natural at this!!  Be sure to watch out for Margaret's next workshop, she's a great teacher!

We finished our day with a cream tea in the ceramics gallery which was absolutely delicious!  We all wore our fascinators whilst we ate, which was a really nice touch!  I loved every minute of the workshop and I'm pretty sure my Mam did too!

Mam, me, lovely events coordinator Rosie, Sylvia and Erica in true fascinator fashion!

If you're interested in taking part in one of Margaret's workshops, be sure to check her website here, or alternatively if you'd like to try a workshop at the Bowes Museum, you can see what's available and book via their events page here.  This is my second workshop at the museum, you can read about my first, learning fashion illustration with Frances Moffatt here.

Thanks for reading,

Until next time,

Kay xx

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