Badass women

Not much to add to this supercut of completely nails action heroines, except that I love it when a film can feature a badass character who just happens to be female, rather than making it all about “femme fatale” cliches. This compilation features some of the greatest action figures eva (IMHO) from Alien‘s Ripley to Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. The women all expressing fury, skill and fierceness (not in the Drag Race/ANTM way) in a way that’s exhilarating and liberating (not in the women’s lib way)  through a brutal kind of physicality that women rarely get to express .

via The Mary Sue

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I love space

I’m really obsessed with space, partly through years of sci-fi immersion (of both the classy and trashy types), but mainly because of the incredible size and scope and possibilities that are out there. I’d love to go to space more than anything, but i fear civilian space travel is unlikely in my lifetime, even if i could afford it, and i’m definitely not clever or fit enough to be an astronaut. So instead, I love out the fantasy with grand space operas like Interstellar, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gravity and Star Wars or the (modern) Star Trek films, and thanks to NASA’s incredible Instagram feed, which captures the greatness, terror and opportunity of space in bite-size snaps, for the contemporary astrophile. The video above and pictures below are just some of the nuggets of amazement that these pioneers and loons have created to help us understand space a tiny bit better.



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Fashion x Feminism

Fashion and feminism are two of the subjects closest to my heart, but they often seem in conflict, with fashion brands and media refusing to offer anything but derogatory or unrealistic images of women, and academic feminists disdaining any woman who works in fashion (I’ve experienced this first-hand, and it was deeply disappointing).

In the last year or so, fashion brands have begun to catch on to the growing wave of popular feminism, with varying results. I feel deeply ambivalent about this. Originally, I thought it was great that one of the most visibly “female” industries was starting to behave in a slightly less misogynist way, but when feminism becomes a trend like any other, there’s the danger that it gets taken up quickly and then is discarded like last winter’s pink coat. Anyway, I tried to put some of my research on this into some kind of useful form for a report on Stylus, a brief excerpt of which is below…

Feminism sells

One of the most-debated words over the last year, it seems that feminism has gone mainstream, with brands and celebrities co-opting feminism to gain greater traction with female consumers. Elle UK recently devoted its entire November issue to feminism, as well as launching a controversial “this is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt in conjunction with Whistles, while the magazine’s parent company, Hearst, has launched a website that aims to empower women.


“Are you a feminist?” has become a regular question in celebrity interviews, while a growing number of celebrities, from Miley Cyrus to Benedict Cumberbatch, have “come out” as feminist. Stars expressing support for equality have proved hugely popular with fans, and raised the profile of feminism, but they are also held to a higher standard of body-positivity, sisterhood and social awareness as a result. Those celebrities who don’t always reach that standard risk accusations of inauthenticity, such as Beyonce, whose single Pretty Hurts promotes self-empowerment, yet she has been accused of regularly airbrushing her supposedly candid Instagram images.


Fashion brands are increasingly aligning themselves with feminism too: Chanel recently made noise with its protest-themed catwalk show, where models carried placards bearing slogans such as “Women’s Rights are More than Alright”, “Ladies First”, “History is Her Story” and “We Can Match the Machos”. The show inspired a phalanx of think pieces about whether the brand was satirising, co-opting or promoting feminism, showing that the relationship between brands and feminism is a challenging one.

Body beautiful

In fashion imagery, stylish plus-size women are finally coming to the fore: For the first time, the 2015 Pirelli calendar features a size 16 model, Candice Huffine, and glossy plus-size magazine SLiNK, now available in 15 countries, aims to show that “beauty and style doesn’t stop at a size 8”. Actress Melissa McCarthy certainly agrees, recently announcing her own plus-size clothing line, due to launch in 2015. A Mintel study found that 34% of women want to see more clothing photographed on larger models.o-DEAR-KATE-570

Those brands that are behind the body-positive curve risk censure from consumers,as Victoria’s Secret found with its “The Perfect Body” shapewear campaign. Consumers objected to the ads, which featured universally slim models, and the brand was forced to change its strapline to “A body for every body”.

But it’s not just about body size – beauty brand MAC has launched its MACnificentMe campaign to promote “being creative, being confident, having fun and most of all, being true to yourself”, by asking women to share their mantras about what makes them unique.

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Staying Native – the rise of localised travel

An excerpt from my recent piece for Protein Journal’s Travel Report…travel_report_2

A guy flicks through a pile of vinyl records, groups of colleagues converse over fresh juices, a girl takes away a newly bought bouquet of flowers, while a barista in the corner hands out an endless number of flat whites. This sounds like a typical scene at the city’s hippest market on a Saturday afternoon – but it’s not. This is all taking place in the lobby of a hotel on a regular Tuesday morning. The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, to be precise.

Ace – and localised hotels like them – are redefining the hospitality world, just as the wave of Ian Schrager-pioneered boutique hotels did around the turn of the millennium. These designer hotels, which courted young, jet-set, Wallpaper magazine-reading entrepreneurs, fell upon the glitzy, but somewhat cringe-inducing, formula of starchitect + banging club = supercool hotel. But it’s not so easy for today’s local hotels which look to neighbourhood immersion, creativity and authentic collaborations.

Hotel groups and individual venues are now being inspired by localism. “For years, a hotel was seen as a refuge from the alien city you’ve landed in, but travellers are getting braver – they’re now more interested in discovering the environment they’re in than being shielded from it,” says Julie Fawcett, managing director of Qbic.


Generator Hostel, Copenhagen

The ease of online communication has enabled people to have a back-up for that bravery, as they can learn from other people who have taken the leap to try an unusual location or untested hotel. International networks of friends and peers, plus the growth of Airbnb, have also boosted travellers’ bravery. A recent survey of travel agents by American Express found that 34% of travellers are “specifically looking to immerse themselves in the destinations they visit”.

“There is a new generation of travellers looking to experience a city like a local. Hotels now have to offer more than just a bed to sleep in,” says Janneke Heijer, head of communications at Volkshotel. Guests are looking for hotels to help them get under the skin of the area, rather than making them feel like tourists. And to make a hotel and its guests feel native, hotels must “go out to the local community and bring it in,” says Fawcett.

It’s becoming standard practice for authentic hotels to welcome in the creative population of its surrounding area: Ace Hotels host ‘takeovers’ by creatives such as Jocks & Nerds magazine or up-and-coming product designers, while Volkshotel runs an artist-in-residence programme. Local creatives also make their presence known throughout these hotels, which stock artisan snacks and microbrewed beer, fill their rooms with art, and sell niche products on-site and online.

Ben Pundole, hotelier and editor-in-chief of the website A Hotel Life, agrees: “People don’t care about traditional brands anymore – being surrounded by like-minded people is more important.” According to a US survey by Chase Card Services, millennial travellers are more likely than other groups to want to meet other people staying at their hotel, with 57% wanting to mingle.

Hotel Hotel, Canberra

Hotel Hotel, Canberra

However, meeting other travellers isn’t quite enough immersion for today’s jet-setters. They also want to get acquainted with the locals, and these hotels, by providing great amenities beyond those just used by guests, prove conveniently popular destinations for their city’s permanent inhabitants. Feeling like a local is about more than lobby encounters, though – it’s also about understanding the character of the surrounding area. Hotel Hotel’s co-founder Nectar Efkarpidis believes that making a hotel part of its local community is vital to guests’ experience: “You can’t achieve anything of lasting value if you don’t respect the context that it operates in.”

Hotel Hotel is so committed to supporting local skills that it spent nine months searching for the right bins for its bathrooms before commissioning a local blacksmith to make them. Ace Hotels’ secret sauce comes in the form of its cultural engineers who are based at each property, working with the city’s creatives to ensure the products and events it hosts are on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the area.

But with the new wave of hotels making so much effort to blend seamlessly into the life of its location, is the hotel making the area or is the area making the hotel? Pundole believes that hotels have always defined the areas they inhabit – with legendary places such as The Plaza in New York and Claridge’s in London becoming landmarks. Local hotels are becoming landmarks in a different way now – bestowing legitimacy on up-and-coming areas, or adding coolness to overlooked ones. “The Ace in New York opened in a strange neighbourhood full of African perfume shops, but the presence of a creative, stylish hotel changed how people think about the Flatiron district, and now a NoMad hotel has opened there too,” says Pundole.


In London, the Ace invigorated a strangely blank part of the otherwise buzzing Shoreditch High Street, by introducing local florists That Flower Shop, a Lovage juice bar, a much-anticipated London outpost for Opening Ceremony and a vinyl-only branch of Sister Ray. It’s an approach that other local hotels are taking on: Volkshotel is working with Amsterdam Dance Event and Unseen Photo Fair, while the Wythe Hotel hosts pop-ups from the likes of APC and ethical leather brand Marlow Goods. Meanwhile, Standard hotels has an ongoing partnership with eyewear brand Warby Parker.

Chic or artisan partnerships are one thing, but Pundole points out that for a hotel to truly become ‘local’ it must also give back to the neighbourhood it inhabits. In Amsterdam, Volkshotel provided a disused newspaper building slated for demolition with a new lease of life, while Qbic focuses on regenerating rundown buildings and transforming them into affordable hotels. Qbic’s London property, in the multicultural area of Whitechapel, works with local groups to improve the safety and wellbeing of people who live in the neighbourhood. The hotel is decorated through a partnership with the Café Art project, which works with formerly homeless artists, and collaborates with FoodCycle to limit food waste. The team is also working with the local council to improve the nearby Altab Ali Park by helping with planting, adding new lighting and benches, and introducing communal ping-pong tables.

And while hotels all have the same fundamental purpose, local hotels are taking a different tack to traditional brands – they’re determined to enrich the lives of those in the area and to provide a platform where local people can explore their creativity, as much as being a way for visitors to explore the local area. As Efkarpidis puts it, “That’s a local hotel’s magic formula”.

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Gap says Dress Normal


Under the leadership of former Cos design director Rebekka Bay, the rejuvenated Gap is still finding its feet, but seems to have relaxed into its reputation for simple basics. Normcore, you could say. But while the #Normcore trend is no longer a hot topic, it does speak to a growing interest in simple, well-made clothes that let you lead your life. At least that’s what Gap is counting on, with its Dress Normal campaign.


The print ads feature actors renowned for their substance more than their style – Anjelica Huston, Michael K Williams, Elisabeth Moss, Bobby Cannavale and Jena Malone.

Meanwhile, Gap has worked with David Fincher, director of films such as Fight Club, Se7en and the forthcoming Gone Girl to create a series of video ads that create mysteries around the people wearing these fairly straightforward clothes.

Seth Farbman, global chief marketing officer for Gap told AdAge, “There’s always an anxiety in Fincher’s work…What I wanted, because this is Gap, was positive anxiety – that was the brief. We wanted to make it more challenging than what people think of as a Gap commercial. Rather than a beginning, a middle and end of the story, we wanted to tell part of the story and leave a sense of wonder.”

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The new superheroines

X-Women have now got their own comic book

X-Women have now got their own comic book

Comic-Con, the major sci-fi and comic event, was held in San Diego last week, showcasing the biggest and newest brands in the sci-fi, comic and entertainment worlds. As geek culture has been male-dominated for many years, it was great to see a new generation of superheroines coming to the forefront. These superhuman, kick-ass mutants are inspiring us for SS16…


The new Thor

The newest iteration of Thor (the super-strong Norse god) is female in the new series of Marvel comic books. Series writer Jason Aaron said: “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is THE Thor.”


Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

After much hype, Wonder Woman‘s new look was revealed at Comic-Con. With a more warrior princess vibe than Wonder Woman’s usual patriotic scanties, she’ll be appearing in the forthcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. DC Comics describe her as “The full package of beauty, brains, and brawn, she’s been a feminist icon since her star-spangled intro in 1941”.


New iteration of Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel has this year been rebooted as a Muslim teenager from New Jersey, gaining new sensibilities and much less saucy outfits.


Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in X-Men: Days of Future Past

More of a villain than a heroine, X-Men‘s Mystique is unapologetic about her mutant status, revelling in her abilities to change form and kick ass.


The Wasp, in giant mode

We’re also looking forward to Rashida Jones’ take on The Wasp in upcoming blockbuster Ant-Man. The character can shrink to insect size. grow giant, fly on insect-like wings and shoot energy blasts.

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Boy/girl, boy/girl

MSGM menswear catwalk

MSGM menswear S/S 15

Fashion’s love of androgyny and fluid gender have taken a more practical step forward, with the increasing appearance of womenswear on menswear catwalks, and vice versa.

Y-3 catwalk menswear

Y-3 menswear S/S 15

At the recent menswear S/S 15 shows, collections from JW Anderson (who loves a bit of boy/girl fashion) to Givenchy’s delicate florals, Marc Jacobs’ dreamy pinks and Dries Van Noten’s balletic flourishes all offered something for the girls as well as the targeted boys.

Meanwhile, menswear shows from designers as diverse as Prada, Y-3, MSGM, Daks and Katie Eary also featured women on the catwalk.

Prada catwalk menswear

Prada menswear S/S 15

In an interview with The Telegraph, Miuccia Prada gave an insight into how some designers are approaching their men’s and women’s collections:

“I am introducing more and more women [in menswear]. Because I think the combination is more real. It is more today. Otherwise it looks like we are in classes, in the time of my grandfather, women divided from men. The shows divided are so unreal and I think that it is when you put them together you get a sense of what is meaningful and real…Basically I think to people, not to gender.”

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Beautiful Games


Still from Mountain by David OReilly

The latest gaming innovations are increasingly sophisticated and fantastical. A mysterious, floating, rotating mountain is the strangely beautiful new game from David O’Reilly, the digital artist who created the animations for Her. As far as gaming goes, Mountain is hardly high-octane – O’reilly calls it a “relax-em-up” – but it’s absorbing all the same. The mountain, which is generated according to the player’s drawn responses to a couple of questions, is better described as an “ambient companion”.

It continues to slowly turn in the background while you’re working away on your computer (or smartphone), but changes gradually – and beautifully – over time, as weather, wildlife and marooned objects (meteors, sailboats, giant padlocks) change its landscape.


HomeMake by Cory Seeger and Matthew Conway

The urban dreamscapes of HomeMake were created to allow players to explore architecture. Designed by two architecture students, players complete traditional gaming elements like puzzles and quests, but the landscape is defined by the player and constantly evolves as a result. According to makers Cory Seeger and Matthew Conway: “The main gameplay mechanic is the character swap, a mind transfer between characters. Each character has a unique perception and platforming technique connected to the world, creating a different exploration experience with each character.” The game has just been successfully funded on Kickstarter and is in development for iOS, Windows and Linux.

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The path not taken

Automated systems pretty much run our lives at this point, removing much of the need  – and the ability – to choose. They may make our lives easier, but are we increasingly offshoring our own choices? Algorithms define our Google searches, our Amazon purchases and the ads we see online, as well as things in the real world: they can create museum displays, design products and publish newspapers. They’re very clever, sure. But they increasingly define our interactions with, and understanding of, the world.


Chairs designed by algorithm, by Autodesk

Amazon’s algorithm notices that I bought some children’s books, and then endlessly suggests kids’ products and parenting stuff as a result, in spite of the fact that they were a one-off purchase. Netflix notes that I watched some superhero film, then endlessly brings up all kinds of crappy sci-fi, in spite of the fact that the superhero film was a hungover choice that i’d be unlikely to make again. The basic premise of each of these services – If you liked that, you’ll like this –  funnels my choices into an increasingly narrow focus.

TV channels and movie studios are just as bad – if that one film was popular, lets make a bunch of sequels and prequels. If people watched that crime show, let’s make loads more like it.  What about surprise, choice, the shock of the new? And of course FOMO – what are we missing out on if we just follow the route created for us?


Scene from the rejected pilot for Wonder Woman

A handful of innovators are looking to escape from the world of automated choices and explore the path not taken. Streaming service Screenhits is launching a Pilot Showcase, which aims to give airtime to TV shows that were rejected by studio executives. The site will offer 50 pilot shows for streaming for six months,allowing show-makers to recoup their costs, but also allowing advertisers and other studios to take on the projects and develop them into whole series.

Viewers can watch the shows for free, supported by advertising, and can pre-order any pilots that end up getting made. Shows that have been closed down by networks – such as Arrested Development and Community – have been revitalised online, so perhaps this service can lead viewers to discover new and interesting content that they actually want to support, rather than just absorbing the choices made for them.

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Death of the mallrat


Photography by Seph Lawless

While it may seem unlikely on a packed Saturday at Westfield, the communal shopping experience of malls – going “into town” on a Saturday to find a going-out dress or new bedlinen, queueing for a purchase, cramming into communal changing rooms and battling crowds at sale time – is on its way out.With it, the icons of youthful commercialism, the Mallrats, will be a thing of the past too, as many teens’ first experience of shopping-as-pastime will be online, not in store. In the US, online shopping is taking 6% of malls’ trade, while in the UK, there’s a higher percentage of empty units in shopping centres (16%) than in high streets (9.6%).

But it’s not just the internet that is preventing people from venturing to these vast retail hubs – it’s also the effort and the cost. Why pay out for a day trip to fill your car or your arms at retail parks and mega-malls, when you can browse online stores from the comfort of your home, and get your goods delivered for free. Convenience also plays a major part, with consumers considering themselves too busy to spend time journeying to, and then traipsing around, an out-of-town shopping centre. Local shops, online stores and m-commerce offer much more appealing options for the young, super-busy, urban shopper.

Dying mall culture has already affected the fortunes of key teen brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale, which are now struggling to keep up with teens’ changing shopping attitudes. Long trading on their destination stores, their in-store experience (Abercrombie’s being the most notorious), and the cool factor of their wearing their branded tees and sweats (and, of course, carrying their bags around the mall), these mall staples are losing their lustre. Instead of buying these logo’d clothes, teens are funnelling their spending into their mobile devices. As a result, phones and tablets become their gateway to shopping experiences, keeping them away from the mall – and mall brands.


Photography by Seph Lawless

The Retail Gazette has warned that for UK malls and retail parks, “there is a danger that larger spaces will turn into empty buildings, with only tumbleweed passing through them”. In the US, this is already happening, as shown in photographer Seph Lawless‘s eerie new book, Black Friday: Death Of The American MallThe book documents the deserted landscape of the once-bustling Rolling Acres Mall in Ohio, which had gradually fallen into disuse and disrepair. While the mall closed in 2008, some retailers attempted to keep standalone stores going until 2013, but eventually gave up the ghost, leaving these crumbling monuments to our once-beloved mall culture.

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