Despite what the harsh sunlight may imply in these photos, it was a bitterly cold afternoon in London. In a sea of Arctic down parkas, the chunkiest scarves you'll ever see and warm, rosy cheeks, I was the strange, MacBook-coloured, Dior-shades-wearing fish swimming against the tide - underdressed and oblivious to the weather. Yes, I know it's winter. Yes, I know my coat isn't warm enough. No, I'm absolutely not feeling cold.
Another one in the long list of lies I tell myself. But sometimes you gotta fake it till you make it, right? Think tropical, sunny thoughts, Faiyaz.
Although it's one of the first things I check every morning, it should come as no surprise by now that the weather app on my phone plays a very, very insignificant role when it comes to me deciding what to wear. I'll brave the sun and snow, whatever it may be, to put on an outfit that tickles my fancy. Yes, I'm one of those people who are willing to go the extra mile (read: suffer) for fashion.
You call it crazy, I call it commitment. It's all about perspective, my dear Watson. You know - one man's trash is another's treasure. Likewise, one man's irrational behaviour is another's sweet devotion.
Jokes aside, I'm really not that insane to take on sub-zero conditions without a few weapons up my sleeve (quite literally). The secret to staying warm lies within the loose-fitting formula I've been exploring this winter. The more space between your skin and clothes, the more layers of HeatTech you can squeeze into. Crew neck, V-neck, polo neck, long Johns, leggings, socks - I've got them all. Sometimes, I've got them all on at the same time.
No one ever said layering could only be done with outerwear, right? Amazing what a little change in your point of view can do.
After a brief stint of overnight snow last weekend, the temperature in London took a dip and danced around the freezing point for the remainder of the week. It was only when I headed down to Victoria Park for a much needed dose of Sri Lankan chai (following several hours of mind-numbing lectures) that I realised how cold it really was. The West Boating Lake had partially frozen over.
My mug warmed my trembling hands, but watching life on the lake warmed my soul. Ducks, geese, seagulls and other waterfowl continued with their usual fanfare at a negligibly greater elevation than most days. They were clumsy little creatures, tripping and stumbling all over the place as they attempted to tread over slippery surfaces. I observed them silently as I demolished my brownie. The mallards seemed to struggle the most with every step they took, while the coots appeared condescending in their rooted positions. Only the wise swans knew it was better to stay out of the lake altogether.
As the sun grew in intensity, the smooth surfaces began to lose their solidity and move like satin again, creating ample opportunity for the cormorants to dive freely. I wasn't particularly sad at that point in time, but I felt like a weight on my shoulders too melted into the lake. It's important to learn how to go through life mindfully. Recently a friend told me that, "happiness is when you live in the present and let go of all your troubles, of negativity, and just enjoy the moment".
In today's hectic world, most people, myself included, spend too much time contemplating and worrying about future events and where life will lead us. During the time that's left, we reminisce what we think were better days or wish to change some regrettable action of the past. How many of us can say that we take time out to just be?
Overlooking the sparkling lake at one of my favourite cafes, I felt happy that frozen afternoon.
Shots of myself by Vanessa Low.
Wearing: Zara - Shirt, trousers, scarf // Topshop - Coat // Bally - Oriano sneakers // Givenchy - Nightingale bag
Pavilion Cafe is located in Victoria Park, Corner of Old Ford Road/Grove Road, London, E9 7DE, UK.
Contact: +44 (0)20 8980 0030
Much like a Taylor Swift song, good basics never go out of style.
With fashion month creeping up on us in only 28 days (already?!), I've been thinking a lot about what to wear and the trends that we'll be seeing after the Fall/Winter 2016 season. If Pre-Fall was any indication, I have a good feeling about where things are heading. One thing we all know about the world of fashion is that it's beyond fickle-minded. The value that trends carry are volatile. One day you could look haute and the next day not. But much like a Taylor Swift song, good basics never go out of style and I'm going to show you how not to drop off the best-dressed radar. Put away your gladiator sandals* and listen up closely.
It's easy to be temped by the allure of a fashion fad. There's nothing more seductive than being constantly fed image after image of a particular trend as you flip through Vogue. Or even while scrolling through your Instagram feed, full of streetstyle, during fashion week. No matter how much you may think you dislike fringe, if you see it the right amount of times, you'll probably think "maybe I could pull that off." And here's proof. But before you do so, I believe it's important to learn to appreciate clothing that can endure the test of time - classic and quality pieces that will not only survive wear and tear, but the ever-changing sartorial landscape.
Two pieces that have never let me down are plain white t-shirts and leather jackets. They're versatile building blocks for all wardrobes, whether you're a guy or a girl (or anywhere on the spectrum), no matter your age and regardless of where you come from**. I love the nonchalance of a crew-neck tee. They should be a necessity for everyone, yes? And as for leather jackets, over the last century they've evolved from utilitarian to decorative, taking a different form each decade, but not once were they unfashionable. Whether it's a bomber or aviator (or biker, for myself), it's going to be with you for the long haul.
You can find your perfect white tee from COS (on sale!), & Other Stories, T by Alexander Wang or Saint Laurent Paris. And my picks for a timeless leather jacket are these from Topshop, J. Crew, Acne Studios and Givenchy.
Photo assistance - Sarah Wong
Wearing: & Other Stories - T-shirt // Politix - Pants // H&M - Leather jacket // Ted Baker - Shoes // Maria Francesca Pepe - Rings // Céline - Knot bracelet
* At least until they show up on the runways again. Or maybe not, even then.
** Unless you come from an equatorial country, then I don't recommend wearing a leather jacket out in the daytime.
If you've ever been to heaven,
this is twice as nice.
Several years ago when I first began to dabble in shooting editorials, it used to be a small and simple party of two. Just me and my model. In addition to taking photos, I would style outfits, do hair and make-up (thank God for YouTube), build my own lighting equipment (with lamps, boxes and paper) and try to be my own assistant by stretching out an arm to either fan the models hair or hold out a foil-wrapped makeshift reflector. I played these multiple roles partly because I was insecure and shy to allow other people to witness what I was doing, and partly because I was a stubborn brat who insisted and wanted to prove that I could do it all on my own. And partly because, being the perfectionist that I am, I didn't trust anyone to carry out something I had visioned in my head.
After all, they say if you want something done right, do it yourself... Now I've learnt that it's not always the case. Yes, there are times when it would be best if I multitasked, but that doesn't mean it should be so constantly.
Change can be frightful, but it can also lead to beautiful things. It started out with friends lending a helping hand on set - some voluntarily and some forcefully. I was so relieved by how much easier it was to get things done. Then, once my entire wardrobe had been exhausted in the photos I took, I decided it was time to ask someone else to step into the styling department. It's amazing how others interpret your brief and pull together something you would have never thought of. And most recently, after admitting and accepting the fact that teased bed-head, a smokey eye and funky photoshop-coloured lips could only be done oh so many times, I decided to finally call in some beauty reinforcement.
My initial fear that things wouldn't go according to the blueprint in my head were completely erased by the end results. The images we were creating and the stories we were telling collectively were of a much greater quality than when the process was a one-man operation. Two minds really are better than one - or in this instance, three.
The other necessary factor required in visual story telling is, of course, the model. It wouldn't be an editorial without them, now would it? I've seen it happen one too many times - photographers get so caught up with styling, location, lighting, make-up and props that they forget to pay attention to the model. These things are secondary and should enhance qualities already possessed by the model, not overshadow her. Fashion photography (to me at least) is a form of portraiture. The subject of the photos should contribute to its creation as much as anyone else on set. They need to shine through at the end of the day. Creating a harmony between the model and the rest of the visuals around her is what I always try to do. That's why I believe that casting the right model for the right shoot is next to Godliness.
So when Kemi and Stephanie walked onto set that cold, rainy morning, I knew it was going to be heaven. What's better than shooting a striking girl with a bubbly personality to match? Having to shoot two of them. Between their jokes and antics (which I hope you caught on Snapchat), the rest of us were in stitches. It's not very often that an entire team can work simultaneously, uninterrupted, with a perfect dynamic - but that's what the experience of shooting this editorial was. I have no doubt that we made a dream team.
Moral of the story is, don't be afraid to engage with other creatives people. It can only lead to better things. Mostly. Here's to more collaborative efforts in the pursuit of beauty. Ciao!
And just like that, it's that time of year again.
We've survived the accumulated stress that always seems to bottle up somewhere mid-December, from academic and professional deadlines, the loss of a normal sleeping pattern and self-imposed urges to do something "for the last time" in the year. Entering a new year is like opening a fresh notebook with the most pristine of white pages, eagerly awaiting to pen new stories in the darkest of inks. Even though in actual fact, other than the date, nothing much changes in the transition from December to January, there's something exhilarating about the idea of starting anew. It's human nature to crave second chances, to wipe clean their stained slates, to have a sense of rebirth and rejuvenation. To atone for the mistakes in our lives over the past twelve months, we make resolutions - New Year, New You.
I for one never bother to make any for the simple fact that I know myself - I would probably think of something elaborate and unrealistic to maintain, only to disappoint myself when I break it two seconds later. Instead, the year-end holidays are a time of reflection for me.
2015 has been an exciting year, thankfully without any major hiccups, full of unbelievable opportunities that will always be cherished. Some of my highlights include starting to blog again, visiting beautiful places, meeting my many fashion heroes, attending fashion week, both in London and in Paris, getting photographed by The Sartorialist and photographing incredible women. After a turbulent and tumultuous year before, it's been an important time for self-discovery and personal growth. I'm grateful to always be surrounded with love from those nearest and dearest to me. I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of friends, old and new (you know who you are). I'm also grateful for everyone who visits my little corner of the internet, you keep the fire beneath my feet lit. And I'm grateful for heartening memories that life has offered up to me, always keeping me inspired.
One of these memories that I'm ending the year with was the afternoon I visited Regent's Park with Naomi. It was full of sensory pleasure. No matter how hard I may try, a photograph couldn't possibly capture the feeling of damp foliage beneath my feet, the Cinderella symphony of birdsong fluttering around me, the sweet smell of wet, decomposing earth nor the rush of excitement and fear whenever a squirrel attempted to climb up my leg. On days when I feel down and face a creative block, like I have been recently, these are the memories that help me to find my feet again.
I believe good things await all of us in the coming year.
Feliz Navidad, Joyeuses Fêtes, Happy New Year.
See you in 2016, kids.
Wearing: Gap - Cashmere turtleneck sweater // H&M - Trousers // Burberry - Sandringham trench coat // Prada - Sunglasses // Dune - Boots