Talking to the wall about Cup-a-Soup

FullSizeRenderWhen I was a child I spent a lot of time talking to the kitchen wall. Not like some creepy nine-year-old Shirley Valentine with woes beyond her years, mind, rather I would play out my own cooking show, and the shabby-chic coloured tiles and patterned lemon-yellow wallpaper in our little galley kitchen were my audience.

At that time, around the age of nine or ten, I’d return home from school a good couple of hours before my parents, and left to my own devices, I would while away the time messing about with whatever we had lying around the kitchen – probably an unremarkable mix of dried pasta, condiments and the kind of packet sauces that nobody thought much about stocking up on before cooking got all sexy and cool, this century has been cruel to Old El Paso’s oeuvre – and describe out loud what I was doing. Steps, no doubt, that I’d lifted straight from the back of the packets, or had previously seen my mum grudgingly do in a rush.

“If you can’t be bothered to whip up a proper creamy sauce for your spaghetti after a day at work”, I’d say, recalling the cheerful, you-can-do-it-too tone I’d seen Ainsley Harriott charm his ‘Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook’, audience with, ‘just mix up a chicken cup-a-soup with half the amount of water you’d usually use and stir it into freshly cooked pasta for a quick carbonara!’.

‘Chicken Soupreme’, a simple dish of diced chicken cooked in Heinz chicken soup, was a favourite tea of mine and my brother’s growing up and had no doubt inspired my innovative cup-a-soup shortcut. Our mum would cook it for us as a treat now and then and serve it on white rice, always arranged into a ring with the sauce ladled into the centre, and in our book, it was the fanciest thing going after an Indian takeaway.

On a usual day she’d be more likely to cook a basic Bolognese, still so much my mum’s specialty that the rest of the family will mock her when there’s a simmering pan of ragu on the hob every other day, except back then she’d tend to make it with textured vegetable protein and a jar of Dolmio rather than ground beef, passata and fresh herbs, as she would now. As far as me and my brother were concerned at the time, our parents must have had some nasty vendetta against us, serving TVP to kids with wild claims about how all the cool people were eating health food now, while kids at school would boast about whatever Bernard Matthews fare their parents would dish up. I’d have given anything for easy access to Turkey Drummers in 1992.

What you don’t get when you’re seven is that fake-meat is a lot cheaper than the real stuff – my parents weren’t actually jumping on a hippie trend, they were just poor and trying their hardest to give us something that didn’t cost a lot, but didn’t make us feel like we were clinging onto the breadline either. We’d recently moved from Liverpool to Birmingham so that my mum could study to become a teacher and my dad could get a better job, aiming give us all a better life. Making something from nothing and striving to achieve things that were bigger than what was seemingly on offer became a dominant ethos for our family, whether that applied to furthering one’s career potential, or tarting up cheap food. Soup-in-a-can sauce might not sound like such treat now, but when my mum pulled that out the bag, me and my brother were on top of the world.

A few years ago, beauty website, Into the Gloss, launched its addictive ‘Top Shelf’ feature, where all manner of famous women, from Cindy Crawford to Lindsey Lohan will describe their daily washing rituals and the beauty products involved, giving readers a rare insight into the psyche of stars who are usually guarded by media training and PR restrictions. Often a Hollywood actress will cite a store-cupboard tip she learned from a family member as her biggest beauty secret, or express affection for a cheapo body lotion because its scent holds a poignant memory.

Most of us who regularly read it will admit to having planned out what would be included in our ‘Top Shelf’ if we ever became notable enough to be called on Emily Weiss and co to share it, and in the shower the other day, I found myself describing, in my head rather than out loud this time, the terrible hair breakage that led to my love of Aveda conditioner, or the fondness I have for Le Petit Marseillais shower gel after my French housemate brought me some home from a family visit, and was reminded of those days I used to spend talking to the kitchen wall.

Speaking out loud is something we’ve all become quite accustomed to, often projecting our every thought online, but in the heavily edited realm of twitter, facebook, or whatever your internet poison happens to be, the self that we shout about can’t help but be calculated. I still often eat Heinz chicken soup and think fondly of the delight me and my brother would feel when a ‘Soupreme’ meal was on the cards, but it’ll be an elaborately steamed fish or spiralised courgette you’ll see on my Instagram.

Maybe next time you want to know what someone’s really like, just ask them how they’ve always done their toast.

I’m through with online dating. Chance would be a fine thing…

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 5.10.01 PMFor work reasons, I spent two solid days reading men’s online dating profiles last week, and what a shit-show of long walks in the park, sipping cocktails and eating roast dinners by a cosy fire they were. Nowhere are afternoons wandering around a gallery or a good gig more prolific than on the quietly needy pages of Guardian Soulmates. If anyone did these things as much as they say they do, the Tate and Brixton Academy would be the biggest pick-up spots in London (unless you’re into tourists or teenagers with Sam Smith tickets, they are not). Speaking of London, there’s a hell of a lot of men looking for love who might already have found it in the form of ‘this enchanting city, with all its exciting possibilities!’.

Of course, women’s online dating profiles probably come with as many of their own tiresome clichés, as plenty of men were quick to point out when I published my takedown of the unoriginal dick-heads that keep liking mine. Personally I think women on dating sites are having the piss taken out of them enough every time some cretin with ‘up for a giggle’ in his bio starts angling for a shag, so I’m leaving that particular stone unturned.

Essentially though, we’re all lying, because admitting that you spend your time getting pissed, watching telly and googling horoscopes until you find one that sounds good, probably wearing trackies, isn’t the best way to get a date. But even if we weren’t, could you really determine whether you’d have a connection with someone just because they tick all the boxes on your mental checklist of what a person should be anyway?

Last week the New York Times recalled a study by one Dr Aron that claimed love could be conditioned between two strangers by asking each other 36 questions, from ‘what would constitute a perfect day for you?’ to ‘what, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?’ followed by staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes. Supposedly, as the intimacy of the questions increases, so does the connection between the strangers involved. While the participants of said study, and the writer trying the technique did indeed fall in love, she’s the first to admit that ‘you can’t create romantic feelings based on convenience alone’, citing various other reasons she and her partner could have ended up together anyway.

That you could coerce intimacy with a simple set of criteria is an appealing idea, but one that I have trouble believing in, both in Dr Aron’s study and in the context of online dating. I recently stopped seeing a guy after a few dates because despite the fact that according to his Soulmates profile he wore the right clothes, read the right books and even in real life pretty much said the right things to make me want to go out with him, the elusive connection you look for in a person worth pursuing was not the sum of those parts.

When I have fallen for anyone in the past, they’ve never fit some pre-determined picture of what I think I look for in men, nor have those connections ever occurred in situations I’d particularly sought out. But that’s the exciting thing about letting chance take over – you learn things from people that might never have occurred to you before, and in turn, end up learning new things about yourself too. Frustrating as it may be, chance is about as easy to go looking for as four leaf clovers, so your best bet is to embrace doing the things that make you happy on your own, and you might just end up crossing paths someone amazing, if chance is on your side, and if you don’t, so be it.

After publicly lampooning the attributes men were using to promote themselves I became very conscious of what was written on my own online dating profile, a simple list of my likes and dislikes – ‘Lennon not McCartney’, ‘an olive not an onion’ – that probably made me sound like as much of an arsehole as the rest of them, and in the end changed it to the straight-forward one-liner: dick head averse. ‘If you’re basically writing “fuck off” on your profile’, my housemate said to me when I told her about this alteration, ‘it’s probably time to just delete it’, and she’s right, so I did. Am I really likely to find a soul mate on Soulmates anyway? Fat chance.

A resolution, of sorts

New Year's Eve, 2014

New Year’s Eve, 2014

Considering I began 2014 feeling like I’d been smacked around the head with several wine bottles, knocking out any real memories of anything past 10pm the night before in the process, this year is already off to a triumphant start. A pleasant night of (rare) dancing with mates, devoured jerk chicken on the way home and a hangover that was far kinder than a load of chemical beer should allow, is hopefully a sign of a more positive year to come.

For me 2014 was a bit like a service station sandwich – it served its purpose while being completely unremarkable. It was a mediocre year spent trying to change self-doubting, negative behaviours, and tentatively sowing seeds for better times to come.

This summer I lost my job, which turned out to be a total blessing. It hammered home that there are just some things that you can’t control, so stop trying to. You can lay out your intentions for career, or relationships, or what you’re having for dinner tomorrow all you like, and the rug can still be pulled from under you at any time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the best out of whatever transpires -‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’, as my mother likes to quote John Lennon.

I’m not trying to suggest that redundancy can be a liberating career change for everyone, but I was very lucky that enforced freelancing meant I finally got to write for a food title I love, interviewed an author I hugely admire, and cashed on all those teenage years spent dicking around Birmingham City Centre wearing too much eyeliner.

So my resolution for 2015 is simply this: stop fretting about the future when you have so little control over the present anyway. Simply be kind to people, don’t be scared to seek out opportunities, write without worrying about it being shit or if anyone will ever read it, and speaking of reading, do as much of that as waking hours will allow, because you can never learn too much. Keep running and eating well because health is more important than anything. Be positive and have fun and the future will probably be fine whatever it turns out to be.

With my 30th birthday approaching at the end of January, this year also marks a new decade for me, and I don’t doubt that it’ll fly by even faster than my twenties did. I still don’t have the answers to whatever I spent those years moaning about, and I fully expect to meet you back here when I’m 40 feeling just as clueless, so instead of wasting time bitching about some existential crisis that I’m totally not even having just because I can’t afford a flat to myself, and I’m still incapable of picking my clothes up off the floor, I’m just going to try and enjoy myself.

TOPMAN MAGAZINE: Seen and not Heard – music photographers share their favourite shots

upqUuU1dD4iZQ5QupvEhoXfTyWOhu-qBmrxzVYYiqycThe sight of music is as powerful the sound. A shot of Salford Lad’s Club, from The Smiths’ album, The Queen is Dead, will no doubt fill you with as much teenage nostalgia as hearing Morrissey’s melancholy warbling would, and you only have to witness tourists blocking up the zebra crossing on London’s Abbey Road every day to be reminded how much an album cover can be etched onto our collective consciousness. When a great music photographer captures their subject, they freeze in time the silent energy and spirit that a musician exudes, both in the heady exuberance of a live performance, and in tellingly intimate moments off stage. Here, some of the world’s greatest music photographers, including Laura Levine, who’s responsible for preserving the music of Downtown New York on film, and Peter Beste, who famously opened a window into the shadowy world of Norwegian black metal, share their favourite moments from their own extensive archives.

EBRU YILDIZ

Turkish, Brooklyn based photographer, Ebru Yildiz has shot pictures for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NME, Pitchfork and many more of your favourite music mags. She was selected as one of the 50 greatest music photographer’s right now by Complex magaxine in 2012.

APlaceToBuryStrangers_EbruYildizPhoto: A Place to Be Strange, Coral Room, New York 2004.

‘This photo was taken i using one of my favourite films, Fuji Neopan 1600. Neither the venue nor the film still exist. Even the person in the photo is no longer in the band, but this photo will always have an incredibly special place in my heart because it’s of those photos that helped me figure out exactly what I’m looking for when I’m shooting live shows. It’s a defining moment that helped me find my own style.

MALLORY CORR

Mallory is a photographer passionate about exploring the relationship between visual arts and music. She is currently studying Photography and Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her photos have been featured in publications such as Complex, Rookie, and DEVISE.

Mallory Corr demarcoPHOTO Mac DeMarco at Klub, Czech Republic, May 2013

‘Although Mac and I are both based in New York,  our paths crossed in this college dorm basement/club in a residential district of Prague. The image illustrates everything I love about his persona: dynamic live performances, a cult following, and a lot of cigarette smoke’.

SHIRLAINE FORREST

Manchester based Shirlaine Forrest has for the last nineteen years been shooting artists including Paul Weller, Jesca Hoop, Morrissey, and Kasabian. Her work has appeared in NME, New York Times, Vogue and more.

Shirlaine Forrest Haim 13PHOTO: Este Haim, Glastonbury, 2014

‘I don’t have a favourite image of my own, as I shoot so much it changes regularly. I do love shooting Este though, she rocks a bass face! I think that once a photo is published and the audience puts their own interpretation on it, the image is theirs to enjoy or dismiss, it’s no longer solely down to the photographer to cast an opinion, something I love about photography!’

LAURA LEVINE

Laura Levine was the Chief Photographer and Photo Editor of the seminal underground music paper, New York Rocker, in the early 80’s.  Her iconic music portraits of Bjork, R.E.M., the Clash, the Ramones, the Beastie Boys, Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Madonna, have appeared in countless magazines, album covers, books. She is best known for her documentation of the music scenes of downtown New York, as well as London, and Los Angeles in the 1980’s and work has been exhibited at MoMA, The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery and the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea.

Tina Weymouth & Grandmaster Flash NYC 1981 © Laura LevinePHOTO: Tina Weymouth and Grandmaster Flash, NYC, 1981

“I took this photo of Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club) and Grandmaster Flash for the cover of the New York Rocker in 1981. It was the beginning of a new movement in music:  the cross-pollination of the uptown and downtown music scenes, hip-hop and post-punk, black and white. The session was a joy — Tina and Flash had never met before, and got along wonderfully. I took them to a playground on the Lower East Side just a few blocks from my apartment, where I knew there was a great graffiti’ed handball court wall painted by Lee Quinones. They played, they danced, and they had a great time, as did I. After the session they each ended up using each other’s music in their own releases. Boom boxes were the prop de rigeur back then.”

IAN WEST

Based in the North East of England, Ian West has photographed and produced music videos for artists including The Futureheads, Badly Drawn Boy and Hyde & Beast. His work has appeared in countless major music magazines including Uncut, Mojo, NME, Rolling Stone and Rock Sound, as well as The Guardian and The Sunday Times.

futureheads_ianwestPHOTO: Promo shot for The Futureheads’ album, Rant, 2012

“Being asked to pick just one shot has been so difficult, but I just love everything about this image from a shoot to promote The Futureheads fifth album ‘Rant’. It seems to encompass where the band were at that time, the style of the record they were making and what you could expect from their live show all in one frame. The setting and the lighting work beautifully, they let me put my style into it and it all works so well together, just a really great promo shot”

PETER BESTE

New Mexico and New York based documentary photographer Peter Beste has intimately captured numerous musical undergrounds including the London Grime scene, Houston’s rappers, and the mysterious black metallers of Norway. His exploration of the latter was transformed into Vice’s popular book and documentary film, True Norwegian Black Metal.

13_gaahlcabinIMAGE TWO – Gaahl, Western Norway, 2007

‘I spent a week living in Gaahl’s (infamous vocalist for Godseed and formerly Gorgoroth) remote cabin near the western fjords of Norway where his family has lived for generations and the town still bears their namesake. This photo was taken after a brutal two hour mountain hike to a tiny cabin built by his grandparents’.

NEVER UNDERDRESSED: Greta Gerwig says it’s OK to give up

s4g_JyGiOEM5CeQRp7Bv6POdoBV_6bksZK9P591mZTYTo a certain kind of girl – the type who shops at A.P.C, wonders whether Girls is a reality show, and wouldn’t eat a cupcake if she was starving – Greta Gerwig is queen.

Having become an indie-film darling with, amongst other things, a lead role in Whit Stillman’s cult hitDamsels in Distress last year, and writing, directing, and starring credits on the most depressingly accurate break-up film ever, Nights and Weekends, as well as popping up on the red carpet at top fashion events wearing the likes of Saint Laurent and Band of Outsiders, you want to pick her brains as much as raid her wardrobe.

With her mixture of genuine intellect, humour and enviable style, she’s the perfect foil to the faux-cute ‘kooky’ actresses that Hollywood usually tries pass off as indie and alternative – the thinking girls’ Zooey Deschanel, if you will.

With her latest film, Frances Ha, co-written with partner Noah Baumbach, and in which she plays the eponymous starring role, Gerwig gives us even more reason to ink her onto our fantasy BFF lists. This artfully shot coming-of-age tale will no doubt ring true to anybody who has ever felt lost or unsure as they are catapulted through their tumultuous twenties, and a viewing can teach you a lot about the trickily evolving friendships you blindly navigate along the way.

Ahead of the film’s long-awaited UK release this week, we spoke to Greta Gerwig about how Frances came to be, the most valuable lessons your twenties can teach you and what she’s obsessed with right now.

How much does Frances Ha mirror your own experience?
Noah and I put pieces of ourselves and our experience into the script, but it’s really a totally fictional creation, the autobiographical elements just get folded into the movie. It’s like, when you make a cake, you’ll use eggs, but I can’t show you where the eggs are when it’s done. It feels like you use stuff from your life, but then it gets disguised or changed in significant ways and then the story just lives in its own world.

Then the actual acting is a whole other process. You’re costuming this woman, and you’re deciding how she walks and who she is. I felt like I found Frances in a kind of big comedic, physical performance, almost in the tradition of a silent film actor and I was thinking about performances by Buster Keaton and Peter Sellers who are kind of like these alter-ego comedians. It felt like she was larger than life. I’m really not that clumsy – I don’t fall that much! So while there’s certainly a lot of me in the character of Frances, it’s outside of myself too.

In what ways does your physical performance of Frances reveal her character?
She’s running full speed emotionally and literally, and you fall harder when you’re running full speed. She’s supremely confident, even in her wrongness, like she’s running towards totally the wrong thing, but she’s doing it as fast as she possibly can and I think there’s sincerity and purity of intention in that. But eventually you have to take a breath and assess, where are you going?

“THERE’S A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF DIGNITY IN ACCEPTING THINGS ON THEIR REALISTIC TERMS.”

How did you and Noah write together – did you collaborate from the start or piece together your individual work?
We wrote separately, but we kind of developed ideas together. The film really grew out of this list of ideas that I sent him, and that acted like a springboard that his ideas were added to. They weren’t plot ideas as much as they were little moments or little exchanges of dialogue, and some of them are actually in the film and some of them aren’t. The scene where Frances is deciding whether or not you pay an ATM fee was on the original list so Noah was like, let’s write the scene around that. We thought aboout what surrounds that moment, so I wrote the dinner scene, and then Noah wrote in Frances falling, which led the scene to her date’s apartment, so, you each write something and it fits together later

To what extent do New York and Paris, where Frances Ha is set, become characters in the film?
I think New York is the main lover in the film. Sorry, that sounds incredibly douchey! But I think that when Frances struggles with her ambition to be a dancer, and to live with Sophie in a house, she feels like New York is rejecting her in the same way that everything else is rejecting her. Paris is the lovelorn trip – it’s this emotional reaction to finding out Sophie is moving on. It’s like she’s saying to New York, ‘why can’t you love me back the way I love you? I’m just going to drag my heart to Paris’.

What do you think the film can teach us about changing friendships?
I think there was a feeling that with friendship and career ambitions that it can be just as triumphant to give something up if it’s not going to happen. It can take so much courage to give up your fantasy of what you expected something to be in order to embrace what is actually in front of you, and that you’re able to do. There are so many films that are like, ‘never give up the dream!’ that I felt like there needed to be a counter-balance to that, to say that it’s OK to give up. There’s a tremendous amount of dignity in accepting things on their realistic terms.

How did you use humour in the film?
Her roommate Benji’s nickname for Frances, ‘the undateable’, was sort of playing with this idea that when she starts saying it about herself, it’s like it’s this badge of honour. She’s saying she’s not going to conform to conventions, and won’t be put in this box of marriage, because who could possibly deal with all of that craziness?

What’s the best thing you can do in your twenties?
The best thing is to not think that your twenties is the end. I’m 29, and a lot of my are friends are feeling like it’s too late to be changing paths, that the moment’s already happened. But the thing is, it’s not too late – you can totally change what you’re doing. If you take all of that energy from worrying about it and just put it into what you want to do then you can change things. Like Julia Child she didn’t start cooking until she was forties. You should also not waste any time being envious of anyone else, because everyone’s on their own path.

What are you obsessed with at the moment?
Kendrick Lemar. He’s amazing. I like that he’s honest and weird, and crazy and smart, I love him.

I also really love Sarah Polley’s new movie, Stories We Tell, I’m obsessed with her. She’s a lady director who’s like, the real deal. She writes and directs movies that really go for it, like go for a big cinematic feeling, and I find that totally thrilling. I feel that way also about the Kathryn Bigelows of the world, but I feel like Sarah Polley is more like a peer in a way. I mean, she’s a little older but like me, but doing amazing things, and that’s so inspiring for me.

NEVER UNDERDRESSED: Should you be carrying crystals with you?

F2p-xioo24EhVd_4tQoHbc_oOAYAkZXAQBXl4Fbynn4The fashion world has always been one for a fanciful dalliance, so it comes with little surprise to discover that crystals are now as prevalent as coconut water backstage at the shows. Long-time crystal lover Victoria Beckham recently told an audience of students at La Salle College in Singapore, ‘if I told you my backstage rituals, and was honest, you would think I was a little weird’, and professes to keep crystals about her person, and placed around her studio at all times. ‘I carry my crystals with me which some people might think is odd, but it works for us’.

Katy Perry too shared her love for mystical stones with Cosmopolitan, claiming that her constantly coupled relationship status is down to the fact that ‘I carry a lot of rose quartz, which attracts the male. Maybe I need to calm it down with the amethyst’.

But like Kabbala bands and novelty veganism, are crystals the reserve of celebrity spiritual tourism (let’s not even bring stone-fiddlers Spencer Pratt and Robin Thicke into this), or are they something we should all be embracing? The glimmer of quartz on the odd desk around the NEVER UNDERDRESSED office suggests the latter. Beauty writer Viola Levy, whose computer is flanked by chunks of negative energy-deflecting black tourmaline, stress-reducing amonozite and energising Iron Pyrite, says, ‘I definitely feel calmer having crystals by my desk and by my bed at home’. Personally, I’m with her. The piece of amethyst quartz by my own keyboard, known for its calming properties has zenned me through many-a stressful gif search. ‘It may just be a placebo effect’, Viola admits, ‘but if it works, it works’.

Over at British fashion powerhouse Marks and Spencer, a little bit of crystal magic is also at work. Menswear editor William Oliver told us, ‘I find the age and the mechanics of the creation of crystals really amazing, anything that is that old and naturally beautiful makes me think there has to be attached spiritual properties’. He continues, ‘just having them around makes me feel better, something calm in the middle of quite a hectic city lifestyle. They’re quite a beautiful object, and being around beautiful things – art, clothes, people or crystals – definitely does you some good’.

Beauty is guaranteed to catch the magpie eye of us fashion types, such is the nature of the profession. But why are crystals unique in their allure, and can sceptics be persuaded to do anything other than scoff at them? According to Sheila Young, crystal expert and reader at Psychic Sisters in Selfridges, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in their powerful properties or not.

‘All crystals have energy forces,’ she says ‘so whether you see them as a placebo or something that genuinely works, they will do their thing anyway’.

She verifies this theory with an account of a stroppy teenager, who she saw tamed when asked to sort stones as her mother shopped at Psychic Sisters. ‘Unwittingly her energy was mixed up with that of the crystals and she was calmed down’, Sheila says. ‘It’s the same as when Negative Nora stomps into the office and offloads her negativity onto you; You feel awful and she feels great again because basically, she’s put all her shit in your energy field’. Believer or otherwise, we can all no doubt identify with that.

“ALL CRYSTALS HAVE ENERGY FORCES, SO WHETHER YOU SEE THEM AS A PLACEBO OR SOMETHING THAT GENUINELY WORKS, THEY WILL DO THEIR THING ANYWAY.” – SHEILA YOUNG, PSYCHIC SISTERS

According to experts, the power of crystals, as opposed to a favourite postcard or sentimental talisman, for keeping your desk free of everyday beef, is their crystalline structure’s ability to absorb and amplify energy. ‘They’re kind of like transmitters’, explains esteemed astrologer and New Age thinker, Shelley Von Strunckel, who since retiring as a fashion stylist and buyer many years ago, has been writing on mystical matters for publications including Vogue and The Sunday Times, providing a voice for these often misunderstood topics.

She’s careful to point out though, that feeling the benefits of crystals is not as simple as ordering some quartz and hoping for the best. Without being correctly energised, ‘crystals are passive, so on their own, they’re just a bunch of rocks’. According to Von Strunckel, the best way to understand a crystal’s energy is to think of it like a computer chip. ‘Computer memory is made of silicon chips, which is a variety of crystal, and when you apply energy to it, in this case electricity, it remembers something’.

‘Like a computer, whatever you programme you put into it is what you’re going to get back from it,’ she continues, ‘whatever you put into a crystal will be mirrored back’.

Simply acquiring a crystal is not enough then. ‘That’s like buying a diet book and then eating whatever the hell you want, you have to make it good for you’, she laughs. But how does one fill a crystal with the power to quell your rage when someone steps on your foot in a tube carriage or you discover your local coffee place is still not doing almond milk? ‘People always ask me who can energise their crystals’ Von Strunckel tells us, ‘and I say, “you can baby, you’ve got the power!”’.

She explains that if you’re given a crystal ‘you don’t know where that crystal’s been hanging out’, so it’s important to cleanse it by placing it in sunlight or running water, ideally, she suggests, ‘a running stream if you’re near one’. Then, she says, it’s as simple as ‘holding it to your heart and focussing your positive thoughts’. An increased understanding of mindfulness and the act of ordering one’s thoughts would indicate that this meditative process is beneficial whether you believe the crystal absorbs your energy or not – the focus will no doubt prove calming regardless. ‘Call it what you will – energy, vibes or whatever’, Sheila Young says. ‘people notice it, spiritual and ordinary people’.

“CRYSTALS ARE PASSIVE, SO ON THEIR OWN, THEY’RE JUST A BUNCH OF ROCKS.” – SHELLEY VON STRUNCKEL

Von Strunckel also agrees that a positively energised crystal is a wonderful gift for a friend, and was given many of hers by the late Kazuko Oshima, who she describes as ‘Miss Designer Crystal’. As well as being stocked in Collette in Paris, she had a case in Barney’s, and ‘every woman in New York knew her’, Von Strunckel proudly explains. ‘She was very generous with her designs and would go around all of the magazines at Conde Nast giving crystals to the editors’, she says. ‘She gave one to an editor who’s been trying to get pregnant, and three months later, she was’. She continues, ‘people tend to think of crystals as new age hippy stuff, but she was so fashion’.

For the more practically minded, or those who work in the conservative kind of office where crystals might not be a commonplace desk accoutrement, Aveda’s new Dual Exfoliation Facialoffers the chance to dip a toe in the crystal waters, as it were. The treatment uses Tourmaline, which Aveda therapist Georgia explains is ‘exceptionally effective at healing and protecting the skin, since the absorption of nutrients into the skin is increased and optimised’ before administering the most blissfully calm facial I’ve ever had. As well as using a ground form of the stone to exfoliate skin, a whole stone is used to massage in the tourmaline charged radiance masque, and it’s undeniable that following the treatment, skin feels plump, smooth and uplifted and looks fabulously glowing.

In the wise words of Fox Mulder, ‘I want to believe’, but do you? Von Strunckel suggest that crystals could have found greater appeal as we learn to ‘step away from stuff for stuff’s sake and look for something different that has a story to it – live a more conscious life’. She continues, ‘The interest in crystals is that they’re not just stuff. They have a capacity to hold energy so a value beyond their existence as an object’.

You needn’t start wearing batik harem pants and adopt a spiritual name to get a step closer to enlightenment then. Just mix some focus, a natural gem and a dash of suspended disbelief into your everyday life, and you may just find yourself radiating a little more positivity and calm. Hey, if it works for VB…

 

NEVER UNDERDRESSED: Why do we love 90s film fashion? Summercamp’s Elizabeth Sankey talks style nostalgia

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What’s your favourite teen movie? Everyone has one, whether Carrie recalls your senior school days, Heathers informed your sixteen-year-old outfit decisions or you spent your half-term leisure time attempting to emulate the girls in The Craft with a game of ‘Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board’.  Call it the eternally adolescent Generation X’s creative powers coming to fruition, or the fact that the genre had simply had time to develop into its own as the twentieth century came to a close, but there’s little doubt that the 90s, and the decade’s overlap into the indecisive first few years of the 2000s, are the golden age of the teen movie, an idea celebrated in a new documentary by Charlie Lyne, Beyond Clueless. The Kickstarter funded film, which debuts at this year’s South by South West festival, is narrated by teen-queen Fairuza Balk, she of The Craft and Almost Famousnotoriety, and is soundtracked by indie-pop dreamers Summer Camp, a band so enamoured by this cinematic canon that they named a song on their first album after My So Called Life anti-hero Brian Krakow, touts itself as ‘a dizzying journey into the mind, body and soul of the teen movie, as seen through the eyes of over 200 coming-of-age classics’.

‘I think that coming-of-age period of time is appealing because it’s so dramatic but at the same time, so meaningless and so safe’, Summer Camp’s Elizabeth Sankey, who describes the subject as ‘very close to [the band’s] heart’, told us over coffee in the type of bohemian hangout in which we’ve seen many friendships decoded and broken hearts nurtured, to an REM soundtrack, on screen. ‘It’s this wonderful kind of escapism with themes that are repeated constantly. Every generation comes to it thinking that it’s all theirs, without realising that they’re repeating patterns that have gone before’.

Clueless is the great one of that time’, Sankey says, ‘and Drive Me Crazy with Melissa Joan Hart’, a film which has Britney Spears’ song of the same name leading the soundtrack as a cherry on a 90s-nut’s cake. ‘Jennifer Love Hewitt in Can’t Hardly Wait does that thing of being really cool, but really relaxed’, she continues, ‘and I love all the Scream films’.

More so than the 70s and 80s, which feature notable teen-film gems including Grease, Fame andThe Breakfast Club, the 90s throws up more of the genre’s stone cold classic, in particular the much-aforementioned Clueless, as well as The Craft, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, American Pie, Cruel Intentions, Go, She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You, not to mention TV favourites such as Clarissa Explains it All, Dawson’s Creek and Party of Five. ‘So much of it is the attitude of that time – everyone just seemed so nonchalant and sure of themselves’, Sankey offers of as explanation of the era’s appeal. ‘There are a lot of very strong females in these films too. Seeing a girl shave her head like Robin Tunney’s character in Empire Records, was like whoa! That’s exciting!’. Considering it in retrospect, she laughs, ‘it’s also lame – she was just a girl working in a record shop so things can’t have been that bad’.

The fashion seen in these films is particularly prevalent right now too. Band of the moment, Haim, with their Alanis Morissette hair worn with washed floral dresses and oversized biker jackets reminiscent of the wardrobe in the Winona Ryder classic, Reality Bites, look like they’ve been lifted out of the cinema sometime between 1993 and 1996, and pop star Iggy Azalea, she of the Christina Aguilera circa 1998 look, recently released a video for her song, Fancy, where she re-enacts some of your favourite scenes seen at Bronson Alcott High. On the catwalk, London label Antipodium cited Alicia Silverstone’s infamous valley girl as a direct influence for its spring 2014 collection, a theme that seemed to continue in Miu Miu’s candy-crush teen dream offering for autumn 2014. Sankey too, when we meet her, wears trainers, high-waisted, tapered trousers, a textured cream bomber jacket and a baby pink mini-rucksack – just a tip of the iceberg of the 90s film inspired wardrobe she shares on her popular fashion blog, Sankles.com. ‘I remember a few years ago finding things and being like “god, that’s so like something [Clueless’] Cher would wear” and nearly buying it, but thinking, noooo, I can’t’, she laughs. ‘But now it’s such a huge thing’.

Sankey continues, ‘what I love about teenage films is that they create this kind of aspirational teendom’. She’s right – anyone who didn’t long to drink punch from red cups at wild parties that like, the whole school crashed, instead of squashing into your friend’s bedroom to watch said scenes play out on their portable TV-Video Combi is probably lying. ‘A film like Clueless is interesting because nobody was actually really dressing like that in the 90s’. She says, ‘I talk to my friends in fashion and they’ll say, there were some plaid skirts and knee-socks but also everyone was really grungey or there was actually a lot of very simple clothing and work wear’. Instead, the prevalence of some trends that we’re seeing come back around are ‘the look of the films rather than what people were actually looking like’. Think about it – when was the last time you actually saw someone wearing ski-pants and a shell-suit jacket? 1992?

Of course, with the internet offering such a bountiful source of reference, not just giving you access to all the scenes from every film from the era, but also showing you how and where you can re-create the looks from them, it’s no surprise that replicating the trends that are etched on our psyches is such a huge trend in itself. ‘It’s so easy now – you can compile these lookbooks and once you have an outfit, you can just google “short floral dress” or something and it’s right there to buy’, Sankey says. This means that unlike previous generations, who’ve always tapped the past for inspiration, girls now are walking around in exact replicas of what their idols from 20 years ago were wearing. ‘Ten years ago I feel like vintage was a lot vaguer’, Sankey remembers. ‘You’d go to Beyond Retro and get stuff from the 80s, because that was the trend then, but then alter it, and you might have a bit of 70s as well, so it would be this kind of amalgamation’. Where the first time around ‘you’d want to be Liv Tyler in Empire Records, and you’d get one thing that was right, but then you wouldn’t be able to find any of the other stuff’, now, ‘you can just go to the high street and completely recreate outfits, which is amazing, but also sort of weird’.

This is of course no accident, as it’s not just the people buying the clothes who are using the internet to inform their sartorial decisions, the brands are too. ‘There’s a lot more communication between brands and the customer, particularly those who’re online, because they can easily tap into that world’, Sankey suggests. ‘They can look at Tumblr and say, “OK, this is what girls like”’, and they respond accordingly, right now, Topshop with pastel ‘co-ords’ and ASOS with straight outta sophomore year floral dresses. ‘You look at a brand’s Instagram and it’s often not that different to the Instagram of a seventeen-year-old girl’.

The question is, what next? Second wave teen classic Mean Girls has just turned ten, and as Sankey points out, ‘there are actually a lot of parallels between that and Clueless, with the pink and short tartan skirts. I don’t know what we’re going to do when we’ve run out of decades to reference’. For now though, Sankey isn’t too worried, and says that with her blog, ‘it’s just really nice to have the space to re-create outfits from films, and I love doing it’. Plus, she says, ‘it’s quite a fun way of getting yourself to wear something different. I’m suddenly like, do I want an ankle bracelet?!’.

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