Life…The Beauty is in the Detail


If blogging is an art form and this is art, then in this case, art imitates life... 

It’s been far too long since my last blog Dandies and I have been longing to get back here so I can do what I love to do the most – write. I am glad to say that what has kept me away has all been good stuff! The past few months have been crazy, productive and somewhat life changing. In fact, it’s nice to have been so occupied with my life for productive  reasons, so that I can now sit here and write this blog feeling one hundred times more content than I did the last time I wrote for Charms of a Dandizette.

Of course, I am always in a pretty serene and constructive place when I am writing my own blog.  However, the last time I blogged I wasn’t completely immersed in these two very significant projects; the planning of my wedding and the design of my new home. Indeed, I am feeling very adult at this juncture in my life, but mostly I am feeling really proud and very happy.

Finding someone that makes you genuinely happy, whom you want to spend the rest of your life with and whom returns the feeling is indeed one of life’s many challenges, but creating and designing a wedding and building a home that represents your journey and your life together is a creative challenge that I am relishing at the moment! I have assigned myself the role of creative director and have found myself exploring design forms other than fashion. Admittedly, not all will approach a wedding like I a creative project, and at times I do feel even a little guilty for referring to my wedding as a ‘project’. But I can’t imagine that any fashion concerned being would look upon the style of their wedding or the presentation of their home, be it grandiose and glamorous or small and simple, any differently to the way we style ourselves, create our blogs or throw our parties. Every opportunity is an opportunity to be expressive and my wedding and my home are offering me endless creative opportunities.

My partner and I have worked so hard to get to this point and I want to love and cherish every moment and every single last detail. So, I am putting that love into these two amazing life projects I am so excited about. At any one day I could be admiring white orchids – which adorned  scenes from Baz Luhrman‘s Great Gatsby so heavily, or selecting chiavari chairs (Italian of course) in white or gold. The next day I am studying layering techniques in interior design and figuring out how I might create a nook in my bay window which leads out to my balcony.

I am finding the designing and styling of my wedding far more natural to me than that of my home. My love for fashion, my love for an exquisite party and my obsession with the 1920s has made this project a glamorous one. Indeed, glamour is also another of my passions. Can you be passionate about glamour? I think so!

However, my approach to the style and interior of my home is very different. As a writer, space is important to me. This will be the space that I write in, that I need to calm me from the crazy, to lure me in even when there’s so much going on outside. I don’t want my home to be glamorous, or even to sleek. Unlike my fashion, my wedding or the hotels and bars that I love to hang out in, I want my home to be soothing, the sort of home that gives you the biggest hug once you’re inside. I am thinking light, airy, welcoming and inspiring.

See what’s charming and inspiring me…
Some of the charms from my Pinterest Boards inspiring my home and my wedding

Be charmed, Stay Inspired! x

Be On Trend, Dress for the Season and Keep Warm…

…in this cold British Spring 2013…

Louis Vuitton Spring Summer 2013
Louis Vuitton Spring Summer 2013

The weather is said to be the most disengaging topic of conversations ever. It’s definitely the most thoughtless and uninspiring of conversations, ideal for filling silences and the perfect small talk with people you don’t really care about, but where fashion is concerned the weather is a big deal. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; if there’s one thing that fashion is dependent upon for its success it’s these four elements.The seasons are indeed what keep the fashion wheel spinning and in turn keep us fashionistas from going crazy, because let’s face it, we fashionistas depend upon change. In the winter we sit at our desks at work fantasising about balmy summer evenings after a day in the office spent on roof top bars overlooking the capital adorned in the latest spring summer trends, with Tom Ford sunglasses perched on our noses and polished toenails peeping out of strappy sandals. Once summer eventually turns to autumn we romantacise about being tucked away in cosy pubs protected by overwhelming woolly jumpers, jeans tucked into long boots with our winter armour of scarves, hats, gloves and the latest statement coat piled up beside us. Of course, us Londoners are unfortunately more familiar with the latter.

The impact the weather has on our state of mind, our being and of course our wardrobes, especially our wardrobes is spectacular. For those that live in countries where the seasons are clearly defined comes a sense of clarity, winter; comforting and protected, autumn; melancholy, settled and reminiscent of the summer, spring; new, refreshed and enthused and summer; alive, liberated, contented and of course, happy. In London right now we’re not quite sure what to feel, we’re not quite sure of the season and we’re not quite sure what to wear, let alone what clothes to buy. It’s mid-may and it’s fair to say the UK is still very much fantasising about Summer…still waiting tentatively for a long enough stretch of good weather so we can put away our winter clothes, prepare our summer wardrobes and finally start investing in all the summer trends we’ve been reading about since September 2012. However, it would appear that the sun isn’t ready to put his hat on just yet, which means us Londoners aren’t taking ours off.

At the end of March I spent four days in Barcelona, the weather was glorious and although it wasn’t the height of summer or even officially spring, it was warm enough not to wear a jacket. So bright and sunny was it that it frequently tempted me into spending a ton of Euros on summer clothes in all one hundred Zaras located on La Diagonal. But I refrained, because I knew it was some 16 degrees colder back in London and that it was far better to have the money in my bank account as opposed to hanging in my wardrobe. After a fabulous four days with my partner, eating Tapas and drinking sangria with the sun beating down on our faces, sipping cocktails on the beach and strolling along the boardwalk as skaters swooped by us, the thought of returning to London filled me with dread. After my partner and I split up a year ago we got rid of our flat and were living separately, which meant returning to separate homes. It meant returning back to reality, the nine to five job that took away my liberty to sit and eat Tapas for hours should I want and stroll along the streets taking in my surrounding as opposed to marching from point to point, always with something to do, somewhere to be, some appointment to make. And of course, it meant returning to the cold, back to boots and coats with scarves and hats. As we sat on the plane mid-flight I willed the temperature in London to have at least reached double figures, but the captain confirmed that the temperature in London was four degrees!

I went to work the following week with that sense of ‘Is this as good as it gets?’. At the time I hadn’t realised I was probably suffering a mixture of holiday blues with a bit of Seasonal Associative Disorder. I was feeling so great in Barcelona and it was though I was crashing. I remember saying to one of my colleagues, who’s young, bright eyed, bushy tailed and not even been working a year yet, ‘I deserve more than this.’ She said to me, as though I were crazy, ‘Like what?’ Through fear of sounding old and depressing I said nothing, but secretly I knew I needed a change. I was beginning to feel like I was in a rut, which isn’t particularly like me. Did I need a change of job? Surely not, I love my job.  Did I need a new project? I knew that couldn’t be it…I have my blog, which I also love and I am still writing my novel…albeit slowly. I was enjoying working out, which I felt good about, momentarily – so what was it? Then one morning, after checking the weather on my phone, hoping it might have changed from the night before when I first checked it and disappointed that it hadn’t, I dressed myself in the weather appropriate ensemble I had prepared the night before; a black long sleeved midi dress, with tights and black suede wedged boots. As I maneuvered myself into the black tights that have been protecting my legs from the cold  I realised I had grown to resent them and once I had hooked and zipped and tied my feet into the black boots I enjoyed clomping about in all winter, I realised I have grown sick to the back tooth with wearing boots. It’s Spring Summer 2013 and I should have been prancing around in  a monochrome skirt, something yellow and an ensemble worn with a pair of metallic stilettos. Of course a major part of being well dressed is being dressed appropriately and knowing how to dress for the weather is paramount, so resentfully and fearful of the weather, I headed to the office that day in my tights and boots feeling warm, but still far from fabulous. That evening I went for after work drinks, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror of the establishment I was drinking in and remember thinking that I looked far too covered up, which is all well and good for winter, but surely not for spring, even if it was only four degrees and raining outside! I ended up removing the tights and suffering the cold and I am not generally one to endure the cold for aesthetic purposes.

It very quickly dawned on me, I wasn’t in a rut, I didn’t need a change of job or a new project, I needed a change of season.  When I am feeling low or less than confident, it’s fashion that I turn to make me feel fabulous. Of course reading a book, writing and such all make me feel great internally, but I am sure most fashion lovers will agree, when going out to face the big bad world, an ensemble that makes you feel fabulous can make this very normal part of living a whole fabulous event. And I will put my hands up and say, that one of the things that makes commuting everyday that little bit sweeter, that bit more fabulous, is wearing an ensemble that I have taken a bit of time to put together and that I love wearing. It makes the train journey, the visit to Starbucks, working in the office, going for lunch, taking meetings and socialising after work that special. And even more so, when I’m wearing something new! But I wasn’t shopping, because it was too cold to buy spring/summer clothes and I didn’t want to waste anymore money on winter clothes, just in case spring did decide to settle in, so therefore I had nothing new. On the other hand I had grown bored and almost angry at the winter clothes the weather still required me to wear. I had developed, what I have coined, Fashion Associative Disorder – caused by the lack of change in season and therefore the lack of change in wardrobe

Instead of getting angry, I accepted this as a fashion challenge and I embraced it. The challenge being, how to look current and on trend, whilst in season, without the weather necessarily correlating with the weather? So, like I would with the turn of any season, I began to select the trends that most suit my style; for the season I have opted for Marc Jacobs Monochrome, so accessible and depending on what garment you buy, doesn’t need to be particularly seasonal and won’t necessarily date too quickly. Yellow, think Louis Vuitton, often associated with spring and summer, but again, purchasing yellow tops as opposed to trousers or skirts, makes this an easier trend to implement into an ensemble and make it look current, without looking too summery or feeling too cold. The perfect trend for UK weather right now has got to be what I am calling ‘the new denim’ – I might have read this term somewhere, just think Philip Lim’s New York runway s/s 2013. This trend is perfect for me, because I love denim, but always fear it can be too casual – this new reworked denim has changed wearing denim on the upper body entirely, denim shirts have become smart and sexy in soft kimono sleeved tops or cropped and boxy soft denim t-shirts. Another key trend I have adopted this very cold spring is the graphic digital print partnered up with a complimentary, but again slightly different print, again inspired by Marc Jacobs.

Once I decided the trends I would be wearing, I decided how best to implement them in this barely even tepid UK weather. I avoided purchasing garments directly associated with spring, so instead of buying little skirts and dresses, trousers to light to keep me warm and floaty tops too summery to be appropriate just yet, I purchased tops and blouses and trousers of a substantial material. I bought myself that soft denim Philip Lim inspired kimono sleeved top from Zara and I wear it with leather trousers and metallic Terry De Havilland wedges – an outfit that nods quite nicely to this seasons’s key trends. I have also found playing with colour is a great technique to make an ensemble appear spring-ier and current, without necessarily having to compromise on warmth from the garment, so I bought jeans from Zara in beige and khaki green and pastel pink and bright yellow blouses, which I have worn with some new black stilettos from Zara, a black blazer and my staple black Chloe handbag. I have also entered into a little monochrome madness, but I justify this with the thinking that monochrome printed shirts and blouses will never date. In fact, I entered this monochrome trend toward the end of last year with a few shirts from Zara and then continued with a birthday ensemble that consisted of a black and white printed vest top tucked into black and white Marc Jacobs inspired trousers, all from Topshop, worn with a black Marc Jacobs handbag and red Miu Miu wedges. And last, but by no means least, my absolute favourite spring summer purchase, that makes me feel fabulous no matter how warm or cold it might be, is without fail my Tom Ford sunglasses. I am now coveting more spring-ier shades for wardrobe pieces that allow a high cost per wear; a handbag, ideally the grey Prada Saffiano bag or the 31 Hour Phillip Lim handbag, of which colour I am not quite sure. And I am still struggling to find a spring jacket that blows me away, it needs to be lighter in weight and in a neutral or pastel colour, but what I have found once again, is that fabulous feeling and that is what’s most important!

The weather is not only affecting wardrobes and our state of minds, but its affecting retail sales and clothing companies are just as desperate to see the spring officially kick in as much as we are. But in the meantime, if you’re feeling this seasonal slump or think you might have a case of my Fashion Associative Disorder, I say embrace the fashion challenge and shop your way out of it! Nobody quite knows how theraputic retail therapy is quite like a fashionista and if it gives you that fabulous feeling, surely that’s all that counts!

Monochrome and digital print pairing, inspired by Marc Jacobs…

Monochrome Madness
The new denim, playing with fabric and totally on trend t
his season, inspired by Phillip Lim…
New Denim
Incorporating lighter  colours into an ensemble,
inspired by the Fendi 2013 colour palette
Springing into Colour
The game changers,  the absolute staples that will define your
summer wardrobe from winter everyday
with great cost per wear value…
On Trend, In Season and Warm - British S/S2013
Be charmed, stay warm, stay fashionable and stay inspired!

Balmain a/w 2012-13 Fashionising for the Girl About Town…

Balmain -Winter 2012-13 Runway Show…

Balmain 2012-13 velvet embellished dress

It’s over the top, I mean it’s very very embellished. I don’t know quite where you’re going wearing those clothes, but if you have the life for it, I envy you.’ Said Cindy Weby Clearly from Instyle Magazine at the Balmain’s a/w 2012-13 runway show.

As I begin to write this post I am realising how ironic and funny life can be…I am even deliberating the theory that life would have it that we are all literally walking talking contradiction – if you’re not, I know I definitely am.

When I first began writing this post I had a future set out in front of me with my partner – marriage, children, a house in Sicily where I’d write my novel and buy beautiful clothes and a house in London where I’d come to see family and friends …of course these are all ideals and I am summarising. Something happened in between the time I started writing this post and I completed it. When I began writing this post I was at a point in my life when I was literally hanging up my dancing shoes and was mentally assembling a wardrobe for myself that resembled neat and clean Celine and Parisian chic, all accompanied with the versatile, sexy but practical court shoe. I was writing style posts that referred to my new refined approach to fashion as opposed to my uniform of little black party dresses and sky scraper heels perfect for partying.

What happened between the time in which I began writing this post and today (the day in which I am completing it) is life-changing. My partner and I split up after seven years. Parties and social opportunities began to arise in abundance, whilst civilised dinners and drinks almost disappeared off my radar.  As did the ties to my future and even my life as I knew it. Ironically, on the top of my shopping list now is a new pair of dancing shoes. Fashion and life is ever so interchangeable, when I began writing Charms of a Dandizette I swore I would never wear a pair of brogues – when I graduated from my Masters and found myself a job that involved commuting daily I realised how impractical navigating my commute in six inch heels was and what did I do? I purchased myself a pair of brogues. I may have written extensively about a recent refinement in my life, and equivocally my wardrobe…but with my loosened ties to my future that I once envisioned comes a looser approach to refinement and a far more stringent approach to having fun.

Of course, the best lives are those that are balanced – so although the glamorous approach to dress finds itself at the forefront of my mind and my dancing shoes and party dresses have once again found themselves at the most accessible regions of my wardrobe…I’ll still keep it cultivated and totally inspired by this alluring and majorly desirable Balmain collection.

After all, isn’t that how every single girl out on the town wants to feel?

Balmain-Fall-Winter-2012-RTW embellished dress and waistcoat runway look

Balmain 2012-13 velvet embellished dress

Balmain winter 2012-13 cream skirt and jacket ensemble

Balmain Winter 2012-13 velvet embellished suit

Balmain Winter 2012-13 velvet embellished dress


Be charmed, stay inspired! X

Gucci a/w 2012-13: The New Direction…

Source: via Ayesha on Pinterest

Whilst the Fashion gliteratti celebrates the collections of spring summer 2013 the civilians amongst us are still very much in 2012, feeling the weather growing colder by the day. So…the research for the amalgamation of my winter wardrobe has begun. Before I head to the high street or make any major purchases, I get a feel for the key trends and the overall tone for the season by  going straight to the source – the catwalk. So let’s start with Gucci – because I always do.

Gucci’s a/w 2012 collection is sensuous, decadent and opulent. It’s a collection to fall in love with, if it were music it would be the perfect soundtrack to an intense winter romance. Regardless of how different this collection might feel to the clean and sharp lines we are used to seeing at Gucci, Frida Giannini never disappoints…

Source: via Ayesha on Pinterest

Source: via Ayesha on Pinterest

Source: via Ayesha on Pinterest

Source: via Ayesha on Pinterest

Gucci a/w 2012 -13 Ad Campaign

Gucci a/w 2012 Runway Show with commentary


Live for Fashion, Die for Food…

Inspired by Dolce and Gabbana ss2012 and a hearty consumption of Domino’s Two for Tuesdays…

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In spite of my efforts to sculpt my body, hula hooping to Andylouis’s deep soulful house mixes on YouTube, just so I can wear midi skirt and crop top ensembles inspired by Dolce and Gabbana‘s spring summer collection, I am just so frikkin excited for Domino’s Two for Tuesdays.  Live for fashion, die for food. x

Dolce and Gabbana Spring Summer 2012 collection crop top and midi dress ensemble
Dolce and Gabbana Spring Summer 2012 collection

Dolce and Gabbana Spring Summer 2012 collection


Be charmed, stay inspired. x 

The Black Book

It is undeniable that the female fashion and lifestyle magazine reader of today is spoilt for choice. The abundance of women’s magazines gracing the shelves is phenomenal, sometimes even overwhelming. A visit to the local WH Smiths can last absolute hours and for the enthusiastic reader, can cost a small fortune, or at least a nice lunch. As readers we select our magazines in accordance to the publications that speaks to who we are, or more aptly, who we aspire to be.  A wealth of publishers, photographers, editors, writers, stylists and designers want to give readers the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. They are the vocal-chord of fashion, communicating the core ideals of the industry through their voices. With great creative manipulation they use the shiny pages of their glossy magazines to show us how beautiful, respectable, fabulous and glamorous the world of fashion is. These creatives, however, that assure us fashion is global, multicultural, powerful and important, whilst being at the same time and most significantly – fabulous, seem to be less eager to style, write, advertise or photograph ethnic women.

London is home to approximately seven million people, known for its great melting pot society. It is the creative hub, rich in cultures, races and lifestyles. There are two and a half million of London’s population living in the capital’s largest borough of Lewisham, half of the population are black. Amongst the assortment of mainstream fashion magazines on display at a Lewisham newsagents it may be possible to spot three or four black women’s lifestyle magazines on the shelf at any one time. This however, does not happen often and when it does, no doubt these newsagents are keen ethnic magazine stockists. There are only but two longstanding UK based women’s lifestyle magazines, Pride, ‘for the woman of colour’ which has been in print for nineteen years and Black Beauty and Hair, ‘for the beauty conscious black woman’, for twenty four years. Acutely looking for these two black ‘lifestyle’ magazines in the Lewisham borough the investigation found it was not always possible to find them on the ethnic magazine stockist’s shelves, however, Jet, Essence, Ebony and Oprah, all of which are black American women’s glossies appeared to be the staple of the such vendors, (of course, whether Oprah is actually a black magazine remains slightly ambiguous).

Whether its music tastes, fashion, Hip Hop and basketball subcultures or hair and beauty matters, it is no revelation that black UK culture follows on the heels of America’s dominant black culture, henceforth, 56% of black women claim they are more likely to read a black American magazine than they are a black UK magazine, opposed to 22% who said they would prefer to read a black UK magazine. 22% of black women claimed they wouldn’t read either. The general consensus feels that black American magazines have a more authentic position on black issues and a greater affluent black population than the UK, with ideologies that UK blacks obviously feel they can identify with. Of course the black population is significantly larger in number in America, hence America’s ability to represent blacks better and produce higher quality black magazines that obtain a larger readership in countries outside of its own. ‘I hardly ever see a Pride magazine in my newsagents and Black Hair and Beauty, never,’ says London College of Fashion trained Afro and European hairdresser, Natasha Bonet. For the woman who never buys a magazine, or doesn’t care too much for them, if there is one place that she is certain to at the least flick through one, it’s at the hairdressers. Most hairdressers spend ample amounts of money on magazines and most black women spend ample amounts of time at the hairdressers. Natasha runs a private boutique hairdressing service in Forest Hill, Lewisham. Her clientele are by referral only. Ninety nine percent of them are black women, who she describes as mature professionals or young upwardly mobile. In the magazine rack in her salon she has Vogue, Glamour, Look, Elle, Marie Claire and OK – all the mainstream glossies you can think of, but not a black magazine in sight, not even a black hair magazine. In this boutique salon, that is, without claiming to be, a posh black hairdressers, even the hair magazines are white hair magazines. If there is a formula for the survival of the black publication it most certainly involves saturating it with black hair editorial, advertorial and adverts.  In fact there are more black hair magazines than there are lifestyle magazines and even those lifestyle magazines are filled with hair products and adverts. Hawker publications, publisher of Black Beauty and Hair magazine also publishes Braids and Naturals, Black Hairstyles and Black Beauty and Hair professional, their media pack says, ‘Black Beauty and Hair has a high pass-on readership because it is the top choice magazine for salons,’ evidently not for this boutique salon.

Black magazines may not be as readily available as mainstream glossies, however this may not be the absolute reason that black women prefer to purchase mainstream magazines as opposed to black magazines. You can guarantee that if there is a black hair shop in the vicinity there is definitely an ethnic magazine stockist nearby. Catford, in Lewisham  has a diminutive town centre, asides from the local butchers, bakers and other high street staples, there isn’t much else there, that is of course, not including two impressively sized, well stocked black hair shops and two newsagents whose black magazine collections are rife. Catford is also home to a WH Smiths, where a black aspiring writer, who refuses to be named, buys her magazines on a weekly basis, ‘I have been collecting Vogue since I was sixteen,’ she says. She also admits that she never used to read them, just admire the fashion and possibly read the cover feature if she liked the celebrity. She only has two black magazines in her collection, ‘One, a friend gave me last year and the other I bought the following month with a conscious effort to support black magazines – what a joke that was.’ She hasn’t bought one since and has vowed never to do so again. There is most certainly a pattern here which is creating a significant problem for black publications. While the majority of black women are quite happy to overlook black UK magazines and receive their lifestyle, beauty and fashion advice from mainstream magazines, the black UK magazine struggles to maintain readership. ‘One hurdle editors and publishers of black newspapers feel that they have to overcome is the lingering belief on the part of many people that any black-run institution is inherently inferior to any comparable white one,’ writes David Hatchett, in his article, The Black Newspaper: Still Serving the Community. He goes on to quote publishing figure, White, ‘Black newspapers have to struggle to get rid of the stereotyping of inferiority that black people place on everything black.’

Many believe that the difficulties that black magazines face are self inflicted, the publications feature poorly edited articles that are neither topical or engaging, the photography at best appears somewhat defective and substandard and the styling and make up, just the same. Of course the quality is a knock on effect of the circulation and advertising rates. Black magazines are a specialist, niche magazine, an alternative to the mainstream magazine, yet they need mainstream readership figures to create the revenue they need to level with the quality of any mainstream glossy, however the black magazine must remain niche, to remain a black magazine. Ed Davies, managing editor of American newspaper, the New Pittsburgh Courier says, ‘Black newspapers are caught in a quality –revenue “Catch 22.” Black newspapers need to hire additional reporters and editors and purchase computer systems and other equipment to improve the quality of their products and attract more readers. More readers will bring in more advertising, which brings in more revenue to further operations.’ Advertising has an insurmountable impact on the survival and production of the magazine, as this is where the publication will generate a significant amount of its revenue. However advertisers markedly are more attracted to advertising their products in magazines with more impressive readership figures, as this creates greater exposure for their product. Mainstream magazines unmistakably provide a more lucrative platform than any niche magazine because the readership figures are greater. ‘Many ethnic magazines are niche products and their publishers should perhaps spend more time promoting the quality of their target readership rather than worrying about the quantity when trying to woo advertisers,’ says Media Week.  Some advertisers claim they are reluctant to advertise in ethnic magazines, some publications aren’t ABC certified (Audit Bureau of Circulations) and publishers swell their readership and circulation figures. Pride has a regular monthly print of 200,000 with a readership of 40,000. Black Beauty and Hair has a regular print of 30,000, how many people actually read Black Beauty and Hair is ambiguous, however Black Beauty and Hair claims to be the biggest selling black UK magazine in WH Smiths and generates the most advertising revenue.

On the complete other end of the scale, Vogue has a total paid circulation of 1,240,800. Magazines such as Vogue can sell advertising space to Versace, Chanel, Christian Dior and Prada and each fashion house has a number of adverts in one edition, advertising various products, from sunglasses, watches, and perfume, to make up, handbags, shoes and clothes. The quantity of adverts in such magazines can be grating for some, in Vogue March 2010, there are fourteen double spread adverts, which totals twenty eight pages, not including the Louis Vuitton double sided fold out, before even getting to the contents page. How does Vogue get away with it? The adverts are beautiful, as are the models, but most importantly they can afford to balance their high fashion adverts with high quality stylists, editors, photographers, features and journalists and for such a reason, their readers are prepared to pay a little extra for the cover price.  Black Hair and Beauty and Pride magazine, the closest equivalent to a glossy magazine, on the other hand fight to secure advertising that can generate sufficient funds to improve the magazine’s quality.

Black magazines cannot attract mainstream advertisers, Versace has never advertised in Pride magazine and neither has H and M.  Media Week claims that, ‘the difficulty for advertisers is that ethnic communities can be as internally diverse in terms of age, language and location as they are distinct from mainstream culture. Add this to a client team’s possible lack of understanding of ethnic cultures and a fear its brand image will be damaged if a company gets its advertising message wrong, and it is perhaps understandable that many advertisers and their creative agencies prefer to stick with the mainstream media they know so well.’ Surely then United Colours of Benetton must have mastered this art, then? The brand prides itself on its diversity and features models of nationalities from all over the world, Alek Wek being a household Benetton model. However, according to the United Colours of Benetton press area the brand hasn’t advertised in either of the major black magazines in the past year and undoubtedly, ever. The truth is, regardless of what Media Week claims about ABC certificates and a team’s lack of ethnic understanding, advertisers don’t consider black consumers to be significant enough to target them solely. David Hatchett quotes a black American media figure, Warren, ‘Many businesses do not advertise in black newspapers because they are not overly important to their marketing strategies in the black community.’ Advertisers are also aware that they can reach the black market through mainstream magazines, as black frequent magazine consumers read mainstream magazines more frequently than black magazines. 86% of black upwardly mobile women under forty read mainstream magazines as opposed to black magazines, 10% of these women said they might buy a Black Beauty and Hair magazine to refer to when getting their hair done.

So what kinds of adverts end up gracing the pages of black magazines? In Pride’s May 2010 edition, seventeen pages of seventeen different brands are dedicated to hair adverts, two double spread adverts, (two brands, four pages) appear before the contents page, in comparison to Vogue’s fourteen adverts, twenty eight pages. Pride evidently has fewer brands to advertise in its publication; out of forty pages dedicated to advertising and seventeen hair adverts, the remaining twenty three pages are dedicated to churches, foster care, community events, black Businesses and organisations and black album releases. The lack of advertisers willing to advertise their brands in black magazines leads to black publications being forced to depend on black businesses, government projects and inevitably, black hairdressers. You wouldn’t be wrong to assume when reading Black Beauty and Hair or Pride, that black women have but one issue in their lives – beauty. ‘It’s embarrassing, surely we have progressed a little more than this, or are we still seeing our beauty through the eyes of European standards?  It’s a shame black history can’t generate more advertising revenue,’ Gemma Ellen says, disappointedly.

89% of black women claim that they do not get sufficient information from UK black magazines, 78% claim they don’t feel they get sufficient information from mainstream magazines either. 75% think that mainstream magazines should diversify and would prefer to see a more diverse and integrated mainstream magazines as opposed to black UK magazines becoming fruitfully successful within their own specialist niche. Only 25% feel mainstream magazines are created to represent the majority and are fulfilling their remit perfectly, they believe it is the black UK magazines responsibility to satisfy black women. 100% of women feel that the black UK magazine is completely necessary for black women living in this country. Although the obvious differences between blacks and Caucasians are hair and beauty related, the disparity isn’t just skin deep, black women feel that the black UK magazines should feature editorial that mainstream publishers won’t publish, such as cultural and social issues, they also feel strongly about covering editorial focused on black history.

Instead what black women end up with is something that resembles the yellow pages of hair, an index of black hair salons, photography of black hair styles and hair stylists (which also advertise black hair salons) and page after page of black hair products. It is overwhelmingly tedious to sieve out any editorial that isn’t advertising or writing about black beauty issues or hairdressers. Black Beauty and Hair’s photography is cleverly disguised, at a first glance you may think the photography is the cultivated vision of the magazine, makeup artists, hairstylists, stylists, photographers and the creative director coming together to create something which captures the essence of the magazine, however you would be mistaken. A source reveals that Black Beauty and Hair magazine have nothing to do with the production of the pages of photography, ‘hairdressers arrange their own photography, send it over to the magazine, who advertise their salon on the page. The magazine doesn’t actually do any photo shoots.’ The magazine’s offices, or office, to be apt is just as non impressive; one office, three desks, no more than a handful of computers and on that particular visit, two members of staff. David Hatchett says, ‘Another yoke around the necks of the black newspapers is the continuous movement of the better black editors and reporters from black newspapers to better paying jobs at white-owned newspapers.’ So, which black journalist, with the possible power to begin the resolution of the black magazine predicament aspires to work for such publications? It is rumoured that the editor of Pride magazine has no journalistic qualifications and Black Beauty and Hair doesn’t appear to have the need to employ anyone that isn’t working on a sales and commission basis. Aspiring black journalists ultimately want exposure, they want their work to be read, accredited and critically acclaimed, understandably they want to receive the big bucks, the aspiring black journalist wants to write for a mainstream publication.

However it would appear that there is a change slowly developing and it has begun by marketers and advertisers recognising the black beauty market share. Cosmetic brands such as MAC, Bobbi Brown and Clinique cater for a greater range of skin colours and therefore nationalities than most mainstream brands and reflect this in their advertising campaigns. MAC has featured black celebrities such as Missy Elliott and Mary J. Blige in their campaigns. Clinique and Bobbi Brown both frequently cast models of various nationalities. All three brands are regularly in the editorial of Black Beauty and Hair and Pride. Both MAC and Clinique have adverts in the May 2010 edition of Pride; Clinique has a double page spread, the only double page spread advert throughout the entire magazine, barring two hair adverts.  MAC has a single page advert which features Lady Gaga. These are, however, the only mainstream adverts in the magazine, whose products cannot be bought at the local pharmacy, such as Vaseline or Cocoa Butter. On the other side of the coin, ‘Superdrug is the first high street retailer to throw its weight behind an ethnic cosmetics brand, by stocking Sleek Make UP in more than 100 stores nationwide. Like the rest of the retailers, Boots sells only a small number of ethnic brands in selected stores,’ says Mintel.Fashion retailer Next revamped its brand in 2007 and made mixed race, Brazilian born Emanuela de Paula its household model. In turn Marie Claire has notably begun to diversify their subject matter and identify with their readers beyond the black token celebrity on the cover; Emanuela de Paula features in the fashion spread of the June 2010 edition, which introduces The New Black, which describes itself, in the words of Marie Claire, as being ‘all about black beauty.’ In actual fact, it’s a page with four hair and makeup tips written by black fashion and beauty writer and editor of, Funmi Odulate, nevertheless this definitely shows the black Marie Claire reader that she is being acknowledged.

What brought on this change? In a word – money.  According to Carole White, co-founder of Premier Model Management, ‘Black models do not sell,’ (unfortunately she made this statement before the Vogue Black is Beautiful edition was released, which flew off the shelves and had to go into print twice). It may be the general media consensus that black models do not sell, but black women most certainly consume. Mintel reports inform marketers and advertisers that the black female consumer is a valuable and untapped market, with a thriving consumer base that can make a significant boost to product sales. ‘Ethnic make-up, skincare and hair care is a niche market worth £65 million in 2007, growing by 18% since 2002. However, the ethnic beauty products market has not kept pace with population growth, due to a lack of impactful new product activity and limited distribution opportunities. Market growth is hampered by limited availability of ethnic brands on the high street. Ethnic brands are losing sales to mainstream cosmetics and toiletries brands as ethnic women turn to a wider range of brands to meet their beauty and personal care needs,’ Mintel reports.

However, advertisers are already aware of the fact that they don’t need to advertise in black publications to contact the black market share as more black women read mainstream magazines as opposed to black magazines anyhow. Should diversification of mainstream magazines occur, it would be more likely to render the adverts that are currently limited to black magazines being advertised in mainstream glossies. This would inevitably lead to mainstream magazines hiring more black journalists. Black readers already lost for reasons to purchase the black UK magazine, in this instance will no longer have any need to do so, whatsoever. Whether Vogue will ever sell advertising space to Sensationnel is debatable, however, if black magazines are already struggling to stay above board and are doing so without being entirely respected by the black population, the diversification of mainstream magazines could lead to the complete demise of the black magazine, the magazine that black women feel is totally necessary to the UK.  If what black women want is the choice between a good UK black magazine and a mainstream magazine then ultimately they need to begin by purchasing the black UK magazine and remaining loyal consumers. Only then will the revenue be generated to improve the quality of production, the increased advertising rates and a better editorial content – but until the black woman’s market becomes a market that can solely be communicated to via its own channel, Versace will never cast a black model and will never advertise in Pride magazine.And how does this affect the black magazine? The impact can be vast. Primarily, the more this niche market  is recognised, the more marketers will want mainstream products to tap into it, this will initiate the diversification in the advertising of mainstream products, possibly employing more black creative advertisers to create more ethnically diverse advertisements, requiring the casting of more black models. Needless to say, such adverts would fit aptly in the black magazine and conclusively give the black magazine its lifeline; a continuous flow of mainstream advertisers. At long length this should precipitate greater readership figures, possible higher advertising rates and a requirement for better black journalists, photographers, editors and staff in general, creating a significantly more attractive magazine for readers, advertisers and prospective employees. It sounds all a bit pie in the sky, but may be less far off than some may realise. The past two years have seen two Vogue Italia editions celebrating blackness in one way or another, in 2008 Vogue Italia created the The Black Issue, in 2009 Vogue Italia celebrated Barbie’s fiftieth anniversary by creating an edition which consisted of back to back pages of  photography of black Barbies only, titled The Barbie Issue. Vogue Italia has even gone that one step further and has a residential section on their website entitled Vogue Black, which devotes itself to the black Vogue reader. Vogue Black is written in English and features black writers from Italy, New York, London and Paris. The site discusses black issues, photos black women and features black celebrities and models.

*It is to be noted that since this investigative feature was written Marie Claire’s The New Black appears to have dropped off the pages since its November edition.

*Boots now stocks a number of black beauty products.

*Toni and Guy and Pantene have developed products for afro hair.


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The Fashion Paradox:Fashion Cycle

The Fashion Paradox:Fashion Cycle

A major part of going out for a night on the town is the dressing up and being appreciated for our adornment – that’s exactly why we do it. There’s no gratitude in dressing up without an appreciative eye to witness our efforts. It’s like wearing an Azzedine Alaia dress where nobody even knows who he is, let alone recognises one of his designs. Vain and self important? Most definitely so; dressing up is part of a process, a self fulfilling prophecy that requires us, once taken pride in decorating ourselves, the need to be seen and appreciated in order to complete the full circle of ‘enjoying’ dressing up. When women meet with friends on nights out, don’t we spend at least the first fifteen minutes together discussing what we are wearing? And new purchases or garments our friends haven’t seen us in before tend to be appreciated more, no matter how much they loved the last cocktail dress we wore. Let’s be honest, without a doubt we feel great in something new, after all, fashion works on a cycle that won’t promise the two thousand pound Stella McCartney thigh high boots you invested in last season will be on the catwalk winter 2010/11, but will assure you change and newness will absolutely be a key trend. So, because we love dressing up and the feeling of wearing a new dress being so addictive and ironically priceless, the dresses bought last year that we adored, spend most of their time in the wardrobe and our money spends most of its time flying out of our purses, trying to catch up with fashion. It’s almost as stupid as a dog chasing its tail. And like that bad boyfriend, we never stop chasing; the capricious and fickle nature makes it exhilarating and indulgently satisfying – for a moment.

Life in Style

For those of you that don’t know i will be starting my masters in Fashion and Lifestyle journalism at the University for the Creative Arts in september, so to diversify my portfolio A Love Affair With Fashion Shopping and a Sicilian is branching out into the lifestyle region. The operative word here being STYLE – everything will still be punctuated with fashion, glamour, FABULATIONS and perfect style – just as life is!
Happy Reading x x x