Reviving (barely) past trends

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If normcore is dead then what do I do with all my sneakers?

The other day I overheard a statement that Normcore is officially no more. This coming straight from post fashion month reviews where no sneaker was seen or even spoken about. I reiterated the statement to a friend, like I was the first one who ever said it, “Normcore is dead.” So stern, so believable, though I didn’t want to believe it myself. Said friend then mentioned that she had heard the same thing. So it was affirmed. We then bowed our heads simultaneously in a mourning-like gesture because this is a sad time, mostly for my sneaker collection.

Since then I contemplated wearing sneakers. Funny how subconsciously influenced I am. Instead I opted for flats or sandals with kitten block heels and pointy ankle boots to pair with my jeans and t-shirt combo, and literally everything else. Sneakers just seem so casual now. But for the last few years I have done nothing but work hard at my aforementioned collection, so hard that one time I almost went mad!

This may leave you feeling exactly the same way I did –Sad, confused and somewhat cheated- when I first realised that I was heavily neglecting a trend I whole-heartedly gave myself to just a couple of years ago. It easily resonated through every human being’s attire, but if you pulled it off right it became a part of who you were: One with a give-no-fucks-but-just-enough type of attitude. There is a part of me that is ready to let go of comfort dressing and to have a little fun with my every day attire. But what do I do with all these sneakers I’ve got lined up on proud display? Well, the only logical solution is to keep wearing them and continue the give-no-fucks attitude. (After all, this isn’t about what’s on trend, it’s about finding your own personal style, right?). So here are my notes on how I think sneakers work now. You can thank me later.

Before it was all about ironic anonymity mixed with a bit of sports luxe. Now you’ll just want the least flashy pair of sneakers you can find, preferably in a solid colour, as the focus has shifted from our feet to other body parts like neck lines, collarbones, ankles and hair lines… If our bodies were stages and our outfits part of the set, sneakers would be the overseen detail that everyone forgets about, but nothing would have worked without it, you know?

high necks at Giles
high necks at Giles

Compliment your sneakers with layered items that vary in texture, but are all shades of black. You may have seen Thom Browne’s Fall/Winter 2015 lookbook on Style.com, or UK designer Phoebe English’s London Fashion Week presentation of soft, Tim Burton-esque dressing which blew me away (sneakers could definitely be paired here). If black is your thing then look towards Giles, Alexander Wang or Givenchy for some dark inspiration. If it were me, I’d pair these with an all black Victorian-like ensemble that just hints towards my obsession with metallics, especially gold.

The main idea is that the sneaker is invisible but compliments your notions to power dress yourself to the nines, hence why gold sneakers could work with a black, floor sweeping skirt. If you’re more of a chirpy bird then pair yours with slip dresses in florals or softer tones in silky textures a la Céline. Since we religiously follow everything that Phoebe Philo tells us to do, then reach for strappy sandals if you’re wearing jeans and a t-shirt – unless you consider tailored striped trousers under a sheer blouse your ‘jeans and a t-shirt’. Then I think we should be friends and sneakers can still be paired here.

Givenchy Fall/Winter 2015
Givenchy Fall/Winter 2015

If you’re looking to draw more focus away from your feet, I’d suggest accessories a la Givenchy at Paris Fashion Week once again for inspiration. And if that’s too much for you opt for statement neckties or a strappy bra under that sheer blouse. Or just do whatever you want because really, who am I to tell you want to do?

Happy YOLO dressing!

The shoe I never thought I needed

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This is the story about a pair of shoes I couldn’t afford to buy. They just so happened to catch my eye on a cold rainy Saturday right after payday, a time when every man and his dog feels like a king for a weekend, so I yolo’d and bought them.

They’re the Adidas Gazelle platform sneakers in grey. Lovely, right? But after I got them, and subsequently as soon as I arrived home, I questioned my decision to buy them several times over. I’ve never been one to irresponsibly spend my money, especially at a time when I didn’t know how much I could actually afford to spend. But for the next 3 weeks I quivered and hunched in fear that if i dare wear those shoes i might end up a broke bitch come the end of the month. So the beautiful blue Adidas shoebox sat aside my bed for ages. And each day i opened it up to look at the shoes like I had found gold in a treasure box and I was hiding it from the rest of the world.

A week or so later, while having lunch with my creative director, I decided to confide in him my irrational decision to buy said sneakers. It all came out in one long breath, “I couldn’t actually stop myself It was like an adrenaline rush like leaping off a cliff into the ocean I know ill survive but it wasn’t necessarily a thought-through decision and it’s eating me up inside (deep breath) now I can’t even bring myself to wear them in case I have to return them later this month!” I was all messed up over a pair of expensive sneakers.

But then I got dished the good stuff. Ah-Ha! It was so simple, I don’t know why I never saw it before. In response, my creative director said to me, “Wear the shoes. More money will come.” And he was so right! This isn’t to say that I condone impulsive shopping or, *shudder*, mindless consumerism. But sometimes it’s these kind of splurges that make you feel powerful and in control of your life, especially when you’re working hard to earn your money. Treat Yo Self, you know what I mean! There’s definitely some form of liberation that happens when you buy something you thought you would never be able to afford on your own.

So getting those shoes taught me that my weird spending habits aren’t bad ones, it’s good to question your preference (Do I actually need/like/want this?) and not to fill your wardrobe with things you might only wear a couple of times for a season and forget about it the next. Most of all though I learnt that ‘more money will come’. And so what if I was eating bulk pasta for a few weeks in order to make it through the month. I finally wore my beloved sneakers and to be honest, it felt good. They were one of the best things I’ve ever bought because of the circumstances.

So that’s that — things I learned from a pair of shoes I never thought I needed. I’ll leave you with the wise words of Queen B, “I’m a grown woman, I can do whatever I want“, because it’s true.

– Ashleigh

Why it’s OK to not always look your best

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As I fathom the idea of this story in my head, I notice a spec of butternut soup on my white blouse, just above my boob. Fucking hell! There are two more specs on my lap and I shun the bowl, scraped clean by my spoon, as I go to grab a paper towel to clean myself off. Well, this is perfect actually, rather fitting because I now have to spend the rest of my day looking like I may or may not have fed a baby some butternut this morning. This brings me to think of how selfless moms are, but I stop right there and get back to the point. Before I can consider changing my top, or at least letting my hair down and swipe red lipstick across my mouth to distract passers by, I think to myself, you can do this. Do it for the story! Today I do not look my best.

More often than we’d like to admit, we all have our off days. And the days when we’re trying to make more of an effort to look exceptionally creative and unique in our outfits are the ones we may come to regret. Sometimes its just too damn hot to wear the shoes that would go perfectly with that dress because the shoes are lined with fur or have a 3 inch heel and that’s just not practical for the busy day ahead.
Trying to find an outfit suited to Cape Town weather is a struggle all on it’s own. When I got out the shower this morning and checked my trusty weather app it said it’d be 26 degrees today. I thought that was hot and my boyfriend and I bantered for a while when he opted to wear longs and I threw on a pair of shorts. He said, “26 is cool”, to which I made my rebuttal, “I’m already sweating! 26 is not cool, it’s hot!” this went on for a while and it turns out that by noon there were clouds and I was miserable and by 4 the sun was out and I was eating soup!

So, sometimes it is OK not to always look your rocking best. It only means that you’re closer to figuring out your personal style. And while my outfit preference changes as often as my nail polish colour I love finding the similarities in it all. Getting creative with your clothing is all part of the fun, right? And if all else fails, ask ‘What would Winona do in this situation?

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Feet Defeat

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When did I stop wearing high heels? As a teenager, wearing heels made me stand out, or rather, stand above the rest. It gave me a sense of confidence that an outfit not paired with a heel could do. The novelty of growing up and having my own pair of heels, that I could only wear on weekends when I went out and pretended I was an adult, was the highlight of my entire existence.

But then as I got older my need to stand out slowly diminished from the literal sense to something else. I needed to stand out for what I stood for. So I ditched the club-wrecked 3-inches and chose to wear something a little more comfortable that would get me to where I wanted to go faster.

I have since become a obsessed with flatforms (And I can afford to buy my own now) and a good pair of boots are the only other height-lifters I wear. There is no bypassing how much the normcore trend has influenced retailers and consumers alike, that now you are able to wear a good-looking pair of flats that actually complement an outfit in far more ways that any heel would do (Thanks for that, Phoebe Philo!)

However if there was a pair of heels to turn me, it would probably be the most unexpected pair of pom-pom adorning PVC sandals that you’ve never seen me in. Why? Because I feel like this shoe chose me and not the other way around.

Right now you might be thinking, ‘Woah Ashleigh, that’s quite a big step you’re taking.” Considering heels havent been part of my wardrobe attire for a long while, i’d say it’s more like a leap! Why didn’t I just pick a pair of mules that aid in my height transition cautiously? I don’t want to fall over every time I stand up. Or choose something that I could literally wear with absolutely anything? – Actually I think I’m in love with those too. But the thing is – tell me you’ve never experienced something like this before – I have a strange attraction to all everything Charlotte Olympia creates. It’s as if my subconscious already knows what label they are before I do.

I suppose this choice in shoe also has something to do with the kind of outfit that I would ultimately plan around it: a ubiquitously ill-fitting pair of mom jeans and a white t-shirt that’ll give the shoes all the glory they deserve. And maybe because sometimes all I want is something soft and reassuring to counter that ‘I-Haven’t-Yet-Mastered-How-To-Walk-In-These’ strut.

Oh, and if I’m really going to go all out, I’d have to get the matching clutch too. I’d imagine myself looking similar to relaxed on the outside, not relaxed on the inside version of a circus act, in the below ensemble, walking a tight rope, trying to stay vertical and cool and walk and talk at the same time. Ta-Da!

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Topshop jeans and t-shirt. Charlotte Olympia heels.