Bookths

Nemesis by Agatha Christie | BOOKTHS

nemesis, agatha christie

Hey.

I know I promised to read a book a month and post about it and I know February was a really long time ago. There are a number of excuses I could spout here but there’s really no point in doing that. My mom always says “what did you learn from this?” when I screw up…

…therefore: it is not always possible to do things as originally planned. I said Nietzsche and I guess I really, truly meant Agatha Christie!

“Any coincidence,” said Miss Marple to herself, “is always worth noticing. You can throw it away later if it is only a coincidence.”

I picked one of her books, an interesting murder mystery from a library sale titled Nemesis, as it looked quick and easy to read (I don’t have all the time in the world to analyze philosophy on top of classes!) The books is especially strange, since I suppose in 1972 books like these had ads in them. They were trying to sell readers cigarettes and perfume mid murder mystery!

The Author:

Agatha Christie is the strangest woman. She wrote 66—sixty-six—crime novels in her lifetime and 14 short story collections. That’s a lot of writing. 

Also she happens to be the best-selling author of all time.

This is all very impressive, but the wildest thing about this famed and damed (she was honored as a Dame after her enormous literary success) author is that she disappeared mysteriously for 10 days.

To make a long story short: Agatha and her husband were fighting and preparing to divorce, when he left to go hang with his lover. Agatha wrote a letter saying she too was going to hang somewhere chill (Yorkshire) but she was not in Yorkshire or seen anywhere really; her car was found empty and abandoned on a road. For those 10 days mass hysteria ensued with a giant police force searching for her—she was even featured on The New York Times  front page!

Then—she was found in the Swan Hydropathic Hotel under the name of her husband’s lover. She never explained or referenced the disappearance in her own memoirs. Many theories floated about: publicity stunt, trying to embarrass her husband, a result of her overworked state and her mother’s recent death, some doctors say a Fugue state…but none of these have explained the strange disappearance and blasé reappearance of Christie. At the very least, it made for some good writing material for those 66 books, of which I would encourage anyone to pick up at any time. But now, onto one of those, a Jane Marple (one of her serial detectives) mystery, Nemesis.

The Who, the What, the Where, the Whatever:

In this particular piece, we have a number of humans to keep track of. They are as follows:

  1. Miss Jane Marple: an older woman with a penchant for crime and a serious intuition for evil, she is our main character and obsessed with gardening.
  2. Verity: our corpse, a schoolgirl of the teenage persuasion, she began to live with three sisters who were friends of her deceased parents, after falling in love with a boy she mysteriously disappeared and was apparently found with her head bashed in!
  3. Mr. Rafiel: the newly deceased friend of Miss Marple from an earlier novel, as a rich and clever man he led Miss Marple to Verity’s case in his will for mysterious reasons…
  4. Michael Rafiel: the son of Mr. Rafiel, wicked by nature and always getting into trouble, he’s imprisoned for the murder of Verity of which the details are still unknown as he claims to be innocent.
  5. Clotilde: one of the three sisters and the loving caretaker of Verity when her parents passed suddenly, she loved Verity like a daughter, Miss Marple thinks of her as an “Ophelia-type” constantly.
  6. Mrs. Glynne: one of the three sisters and “plain but pleasant-looking” according to Miss Marple.
  7. Anthea: one of the three sisters, definitely has issues: she can’t look at people straight and says strange things.

Of course, I couldn’t put every character on here, but just enough to paint a picture.

Miss Marple, according to the will of Mr. Rafiel (with whom she prevented a murder in the West Indies before his death) finds herself on a paid-for garden tour where she is to stay with the three sisters and learns of Michael Rafiel and the violent death of young Verity. Strange things begin to occur: another death and a foreboding feeling in the town where Verity died. Miss Marple enjoys gardens and walks, as she slowly untangles the complexities of Verity’s death…

And so?

This is a lovely light read and a very pretty, retro-looking novel. I would really recommend Agatha Christie to anyone. She’s likely a good gateway drug to crime novels. The book is no Tolstoy but it’s got some good language and dialogue. I especially appreciate the copious descriptions on gardens which is a fun juxtaposition to death and murder and also, in a way, an appropriate one (can you say life from death? hope for justice? this metaphor has legs.)

However, I always try to read critically and I would be remiss to ignore the glaring differences in attitude towards crime during this time. Christie is a traditional woman from middle-class England, born in the early part of the twentieth century. The attitude towards rape in this book is astonishing and also interesting for that reason.

Only recently has punishment and public shame for this crime been so fervent (you could still legally rape your wife in the eighties, after all), but the mention of that part of this murder in this book is strange…

First, the jarring attitude comes from male characters, which is an interesting choice. What does Christie mean by putting these words in these mouths?

Second, these rapes are painted as frivolous and motivated by social shame (which could very well be true, but perhaps not in the way they are explained here.)

One male character says: “Girls, you must remember, are far more ready to be raped nowadays than they used to be. Their mothers insist, very often, that they should call it rape. The girl in question had had several boyfriends who had gone further than friendship.” (Christie, 111.)

While a lawyer later affirms: “Well, we know what rape is nowadays. Mum tells the girls she’s got to accuse the young man of rape even if the young man hasn’t had much chance, with the girl at him all the time to come to the house while Mum’s away at work or Dad’s gone on holiday. Doesn’t stop badgering him until she’s forced him to sleep with her.” (Christie, 134.)

Interestingly, Mrs. Glynne later says in reference to Michael Rafiel and the rapes he’d been accused of: “Once assaulting a teen-ager—other things of that type. Of course I consider myself that the magistrates are too lenient with that kind of thing. They don’t want to upset a young man’s university career. And so they let them off with a—I forget what they call it—a suspended sentence, something of that kind. If these boys were sent to jail at once, it would perhaps warn them off that type of life.” (Christie, 141.)

I can’t quite discern what Christie is doing here…if she were condemning the 70s attitude for rape, you’d think she wouldn’t continually define it as a nagging-mother’s solution for prudency or as a device to slut shame teenage girls for accepting their sexuality. Conversely, the mention of a girl forcing a boy to have sex is, in fact rape, but just in reverse order of sex. Either way: these men are quite lost on what is and isn’t rape!

It could, however, be a subtle critique. I think it’s telling that the men in these dialogues condemn rape as an inconvenient blame game, while the women are either skeptical (as Miss Marple seems to be) or critical of those who remain lax on punishment for assault.

I have to applaud Christie if this is the case; she both appeals to those who side with the gentlemen (at the time, authority figures) while also slipping in a solution that is reasonable: let’s jail them first and stop them before crime is their career.

Epilogue:

One really ought to follow their gut. That’s what Miss Jane Marple does and that’s what I did when I knew I couldn’t finish all that Nietzsche in one month (the shortest of the year too!) This post is later than I wanted to post and I’m already reading March’s book, which will hopefully be posted about by April.

If you would like to join me in reading, by all means please do. I’m doing The House on Mango Street right now (SUPER quick read if you want to pick it up and tell me how you feel about it) and then I’m working on a two-parter: Inventing the Enemy which is a series of essays by Umberto Eco (one of my all-time favorite writers) and the novel that is its friend The Prague Cemetery also by Umberto Eco, which I’m finding to be a thick and complicated text. This is a good thing: it means it has a lot of re-reading to it!

Or, you can just read my Bookths series where I’m just going to talk about the experiences I have reading these books, which is as unique the first time as the next. I hope maybe if you’re looking for something to read, I can help!

Thanks for joining, bisous et plus bisous,

 

Works cited:

Christie, Agatha. Nemesis. Pocket Books, 1973, New York, New York.

Uncategorized

What’s Next: Monthly Notes

While musing about my blog’s future after a semester of more regular writing, I reached out to you to ask what you would like to see from me. Said survey is below:

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An interesting 9% faction of you (approximately one of the eleven who answered, so hardly a faction) do not care about me. Heartening to see my sense of humor has a taker.

So! For each month ahead of us, I will be rolling out at least two posts (more when the fancy or topic strikes). They’re tied to some of my year-long goals in cultural self-improvement and general detachment from mindless technological distraction.

You can join, watch, or blissfully ignore Bookths. 

I’ll be reading one book a month of various classics, modern staples, and whatever else I need to scratch off my ever-growing book list. You can follow along, I will be posting what I’m working on, and I’ll write my impressions and include whatever other interesting tidbits are wrapped up in the reading. It’s very broad and very eclectic (on purpose).

Outside of Bookths, I’ll write up my monthly fixations—aesthetic and otherwise. Those are my Monthly Tidbits.

I really hope you enjoy reading them or follow along! Or at the very least, I’ll enjoy reading more books than usual.

If you have any suggestions or want to read other things from me, I’d be happy to oblige. (You just have to let me know.)

Bisous,

Fashion

Victoria’s Secret to Explosive Marketing

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You know about it, I know about it, everybody knows about the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

I’m not certain it can be called a fashion show at this point, it’s more like a production? A blockbuster? In comparison to normal fashion shows, it’s a hundred times different. For starters, musicians perform on the stage and the venue seats thousands of spectators. Really, it’s a sort of sports event, but for lingerie that teens buy in droves at the mall.

But all of that hardly matters when the widely-buzzed about and highly marketed VS Fashion Show rolls around. There are viewing parties and social media conversations. Have you ever seen that kind of conversation for NYFW? PFW?

On my campus there was a viewing party at a local Buffalo Wild Wings and it made me laugh when I thought about livestreaming PFW at a sports bar with a bucket of wings in front of every viewer. Quelle classe!

WHO’S WATCHING?

I began to wonder, seeing the buzz come in, who was really watching the show? For if the viewers were fashion connoisseurs, up on the latest trends and just as excited for Chanel’s pre-fall collection the day after, then wouldn’t it be the same excitement for any other kind of show?

But no, the men are watching too. Without a doubt there are men involved in the typical fashion cycles, but those who don’t pay attention otherwise are rapt and wide-eyed, watching Adriana Lima strut down the VS runway. Women seem to care a significant amount, as would be expected, but again these aren’t the same demographics for fashion’s usual audience.

Why would it be? This is the superbowl of fashion shows.

It has the kind of showmanship of the Superbowl as well, that propels into the mainstream, not to mention that the commodity itself is one that is far more accessible than designer goods. When it’s presented with the same kind of authority and luxury, well, the sales are nearly confirmed on the spot.

adriana-lima

WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?

According to quantitative research done on the 2013 VS Fashion Show, men and women both speak on the physical aspects of the models. The difference being that the women spoke on the model’s and their feelings towards them while the men noted both the unrealistic body types on the runway as well as the “hottest victoria’s secret models” as shown by the conversational breakdown diagrams.

Outside of those differences, much was the same for men and women who seemed to watch more for the show and the models themselves than for the underwear being shown.

That’s the point and it’s the genius of the event as well—sell the look, the lifestyle, and the excitement of the brand and you’ve sold the underwear.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

A lot. Much more than your average fashion show that prices in at least 1 million dollars. The VS Fashion has been projected to cost 20 million in 2014 at London. That’s more than a pretty penny, it’s a serious effort to create conversation and sales around this now annual event.

As for the bras themselves, the versions on the runways are not available on the website (they’re reported to be worth millions after all) while the core basics of the collection shown are available. What’s seen on the catwalk is usually bedazzled with precious stones, for example in 2015 Lily Aldridge wore the “Fireworks Fantasy Bra” which cost around 2 million dollars, covered with “over 6,500 precious gems, including diamonds, blue topaz, yellow sapphires and pink quartz, all set in 18-karat gold.”

Such extravagances are fantastic for showbiz, but not much for selling in stores to middle-class customers. It’s just further evidence that this show is hardly about the underwear itself, but about the lifestyle being shown, what kind of woman you’ll be when you buy a bra or some underwear.

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I ALREADY KNEW IT WASN’T ABOUT THE UNDIES

Of course you did. If you’re reading this as a man, perhaps you enjoy watching for the women or for your favorite models or maybe because you love Lady Gaga. As a woman, perhaps you follow Alessandro Ambrosia religiously among the other social media stars featured. It’s on par with the award show crowds; the dresses, the performances, the glitz, and the glamour.

It really is the perfect marketing move. Maybe Victoria’s Secret is a book full of ways to draw in the largest crowd of coed viewers possible for average to low quality lingerie.

But it really is one hell of a show.

Bisous,

Fashion

Fur’s Back And It’s A Hairy Situation

brown-fur

Though most people would be quick to point out the difference between fur and hair, I hope you’ll forgive the title (I couldn’t resist a semi-relevant pun.)

Ever since Fendi’s FW15 collection last year and its “haute fourrure” theme, the fashion world has met with its familiar fur debate yet again. And, as we’ve seen this past season, it’s not like fur is going anywhere anytime soon, fueled by an army of celebrities and instagram influencers.

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Fendi FW15, fur coat and scarf.

The trend is luxurious and wealthy both in appearance and feel, which due to the new-age celebrities and their exorbitant displays of wealth, plays well into the desires of fashionistas everywhere. Despite the attraction of the high-fashion look, there are a lot of ethical questions that come with wearing fur.

For that reason, organizations like PETA have always fought against haute couture’s fur love affair. It’s a rocky history, filled with fiery protests and snide comments back and forth in the media. Yet recently, PETA and other such anti-fur protestors have remained uncharacteristically silent about fur’s comeback.

As a consumer, it’s difficult to know what to do. The valid protestations of anti-fur organizations is on our minds and the allure of fur is a powerful one (as well as warm!) Without knowing much about either options, the best route seems to be the research one.

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THE FUR INDUSTRY

As a luxury good, it’s not as if everyone has their hands on furs or in deep enough pockets to even have to make their minds up on the subject. But many people default on the idea of a ban or trade sanctions against the fur industry.

The fur industry however, is just that: an industry. It employs thousands among many sectors and cannot be deleted overnight due to animal welfare, which is a valid concern, but not one that can overshadow the livelihoods at stake. One look at the International Fur Federation’s website shows me that the industry is fully aware of its shaky ethics, featuring sections on sustainability, population control, farming in multiple countries, trade regulations, dying practices, and many more that I never dreamed would be explained so extensively regarding such a controversial topic. And from the IFF itself!

Many countries allow trapping and killing (the way in which trappers are supposed to kill animals is also regulated) for environmental control. For example, in the Netherlands muskrats damage dikes (which keep water from flooding out of dams), so the government allows the trapping of muskrats. The fur trade can help with situations like these by using parts of the animal: fur, leather, etc rather than disposing of the animal completely. The meat of these animals is also regularly sold in these situations rather than being discarded.

An easy analogy is in relation to your hometown—I’m from the Midwest—and what animal is constantly overpopulated—for me, it’s deer. Oftentimes hunters are allowed to kill more of that animal to control the abundance of them, as they damage plant life and make some resources dangerously scarce. Plus, the overwhelming fear of hitting a deer on the road and spinning out is all-encompassing for Midwesterners like me!

How is all of this enforced? How are we to know that the fur we purchase, if we do, comes from a place of humane-trapping and pest control?

Fortunately, the EU, Russia, Canada, and the US have all signed on to the Agreement on International Humane Trapping in the late 90s, which among other things, agrees on international standards for trapping, no trade restrictions on signatory countries, testing of traps, and conventions for trapping that extends to conservation of species as well.

Is fur ethical then? Hard to say. Whether or not these standards are held is an entirely different question and the concerns that anti-fur organizations bring forth are not unfounded. Certainly, a large demand for fur is as dangerous as any other obsession of a consumer population—many times these demands can spin ethical practices out of control into less humane practices, despite efforts to regulate the industry.

FUR, THE ETHICAL WAY

If you decide that fur is, in fact, a material that you’re fine with wearing, but you want to make sure that it’s done ethically, there are options out there. Some brands have chosen to use sustainable fur practices and are incredibly transparent in their usage of fur and animal products.

Brother Vellies, for example, is one such label. Aurora James, the label’s designer, has an impressive resumé and since traveling to Africa in her earlier years, saw a need to protect African artisans and their production. Her leather and fur usage is sustainable, working with governmental sanctions on wildlife removal instead of unabated trapping methods.

Even in light of these efforts, PETA has remained uncharacteristically silent. Back in 2015, they were certainly vocal about Fendi, but a quick look at their website doesn’t appear to show a sense of urgency. Perhaps the constant presence of PETA has somehow lessened their shock value or, perhaps, there is something bigger planned for the future—a campaign to address the fur-crazy trend of these years. Maybe, though it seems unlikely, they’ll ride out the lifetime of a trend—five years or so.

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FABULOUS FAUX-SURE

What of the options for those who wish to look trendy and avoid fur? There’s plenty available with new technology in textile production. Earlier imitation furs were poorly-made, the feel of the fabric tacky and false, and the look of it easy to distinguish from the real deal.

But when Shrimps founder, Hannah Weiland, stumbled upon a fantastic imitation fur at a fabric fair and hasn’t looked back since. Her coats and clutches are whimsical and light; sort of the opposite of what one thinks of with fur (dark, alluring, and glamorous). It’s the kind of clothing you’ll think about far too often and calculate your monthly bills while considering if peanut butter is sufficient food for a month. Or maybe that’s the collegiate in me.

A couple other good options are PelushNYC and Unreal Fur. Faux-fur isn’t horribly hard to find, it’s the matter of finding quality pieces, since the process of producing synthetics isn’t fabulous for the environment either (think chemicals and polyester).

And, finally, thrift store finds and vintage options are great for those wanting to extend the lives of fur coats that may have been less ethically sourced. Recycling is helpful in a world diluted by clothing options.

As always, choose wisely and having done a bit of research. It’s good for your wallet, your style, and those who make meticulously well-made garments.

Bisous,

 

Fashion

Made In The USA…And In Sweatshops

sign-ask-more-questions

Due to increased global awareness of textile worker’s conditions abroad in Thailand, China, and a collective of other developing nations, most Americans think the clothing that they purchase in the US is above such conditions.

They would be incorrect to assume a “Made in the USA” label meant guaranteed ethics. After all, the Federal Trade Commission’s requirement for adding such labels as “Made in the USA” includes determining the “last country in which a ‘substantial transformation’ took place” (FTC, 1997.), meaning the processes or manufacturing that create a different good than the one existing before these processes. As for advertisement and marketing materials, implications can be made as no origin country is required to be mentioned. Essentially, it’s a very gray area indeed.

The US garment industry can’t possibly be that archaic or third-world, can it?

In fact, it can be. Reminiscent of the 19th century conditions, to make a comparison. The US Department of Labor found a continuation of wage violations in a February 2016 News Release, saying that in the previous five years that they’ve paid workers over 11.7 million dollars back after over 1,000 investigations.

Not that any of these violations are news, this is an old narrative for the garment industry, an industry rife with historically exploited employees. In 2012, a sweep of one building in LA’s garment district garnered a shocking amount of wage violations against the Fair Labor Standards Act. The companies that employed this factory included: “…Aldo Group Inc., Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., Charlotte Russe Holding Inc., Dillard’s Inc., Forever 21 Inc., Fraisier Clothing Co. (Susan Lawrence), HSN Inc. (Home Shopping Network), Rainbow Apparel Inc., Ross Stores Inc., TJX Cos. Inc. (TJ Maxx and Marshall’s), Urban Outfitters Inc. and Wet Seal Inc.” (WHD News Release, 2012.) The investigators went as far to describe the conditions and violations as “sweatshop-like employment conditions.”

woman-sewing

WAGE VIOLATIONS

But what does the Wage and Hour Division mean by wage violations? What is the extent of the issue? According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers must be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour with time and a half for overtime (over the weekly maximum of 40 hours). Employers must keep detailed records and time cards for their employees.

The minimum wage in the state of California is, as of January 2016, $10 per hour. What the Wage and Hour Division discovered in 2012 was a piece rate system, meaning that workers are paid for garments that they cut or sew without following minimum wage requirement. According to the 2012 News Release, workers made less than $6.50 per hour on average. At the time the minimum wage was $8 per hour. Since the WHD has continued to find violations and continues their investigations, it’s safe to assume such piece rate systems are still in place.

Federal investigators also discovered tampered time cards and “under-reporting” of the hours that employees worked. None of the workers received overtime pay, according to this 2012 investigation report.

In the next two years, another News Release  revealed yet another slew of violations. That year, 2014, saw 221 investigations of garment industry employers in LA, finding “$3,004,085 in unpaid wages for 1,549 workers.” Coming to about $1,900 per employee, the pay back equalled five times the usual paycheck of sewing machine operator in one week.

WORKERS FIGHTING BACK

Outside of the work that the Wage and Hour Division has and is conducting, the Garment Worker Center focuses on exposing the conditions of garment workers in the LA area, releasing reports  and gathering information from the workers themselves.

In their 2016 Health and Safety report, they report that 80% of garment industry workers never received training for their health and safety in the workplace before beginning work. They also report workers were unable to locate first aid services should an accident occur. Garment machinery, hardly safe and complex at times, needs to be well-understood to be operated properly. However, due to the large amount of immigrant workers in this industry, communication is poor and employers fail to communicate training effectively.

Exits are blocked with items or unknown to workers, with poorly lit working spaces. Should an emergency occur, many workers are at a loss for what to do. As for rest breaks or water, there is a shocking deficiency of both.

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MOVING FORWARD

Both federal organizations along with worker-led groups are making progress in just pay and conditions, but the existence of the continued exploitation of garment workers in the 21st century is shameful in of itself. The fact that it’s a topic of note in the year 2016 in America is one that continues to jar readers, despite all of the information that is available to consumers.

Thankfully it’s the spreading of such information that aids in smart purchasing decisions, with the hands behind the clothing in mind. The issue of immigrant discrimination and exploitation, however complex and deep-rooted, can be abated with the money that we spend on clothing and where we choose to buy. It’s up to consumers to remain informed and use their money as their voice, especially as the holiday buying season ramps up.

Bisous,

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Beauty

Green Faces: The Eco Beauty Wave

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By green faces, I refer not to the hue, but to the environmentally conscious products that keep showing up in stores, on advertisements, and in the hands of beauty influencers.

What’s with the sudden desire for green beauty? Just a few years ago, while working for an organic-focused magazine, I began to discover how important the products you consume, use, and subsequently throw away truly are to the environment and your body.

Surely this is the kind of rhetoric that has diluted public discourse for decades, but I recall excitedly telling my friends about all the gluten-free, organic, and vegan products I was discovering (especially owing to the fact that many of those companies also tend to be charitable, transparent, and equitable.) They expressed their skepticism toward a beauty product that one could, say, eat. To them there was no point of gluten-free, vegan, organic, or environmental beauty?

One forgets the landscape of pores on our skin, the same skin one would hesitate to coat in chemicals normally. When it comes to lipsticks, blushes, and foundations, the importance of the careful screening of materials escapes many people. How many people can confidently say they know what their lipstick is composed of? Much less the lotion they use?

And yet these are the things people spread around their eyes, on their mouths, on their skin, and on their heads. Why not be careful?

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CONSCIOUS CONSUMERS

The good news is that customers are actually being more conscious of these choices, according to a beauty trend forecast by Transparency Market Research; North Americans consumed the biggest portion of organic beauty products in 2013, taking up 34.9% of global consumption that year.

In fact, due to the increased awareness of these products (likely due to publications that support them and emphasis on climate change recently), the market has grown remarkably in a recession economy. According to the Organic Trade Association’s report on Organic Industry in 2016, millennials are driving this change. And it’s a large change at that: 2015 added 4.2 billion dollars in sales and a 10.8 percent rate of growth to the market, which has been steadily growing since the 1990s.

The question remains, however, as to why in a mere twenty years and a handful of generations do millennials feel obligated to live organic and eco-conscious lives? Certainly the environmental crusades of the recent past and the increased scientific study on ecological effects of human beings contributed. Not to mention that the very recent and very public UN Climate Change Conference in Paris underlined global concern for the environment.

One forgets the landscape of pores on our skin, the same skin one would hesitate to coat in chemicals normally.

PAYING MORE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Outside of the health benefits of green beauty, the waste that mainstream beauty products create remains a concern for consumers, driving them to independent brands with creative and less wasteful packaging. Glass, biodegradable, and recyclable/recycled containers are popular in the independent vein of the beauty industry. Lush, the UK based cosmetics company, encourages customers to return the containers they bought to be used again. Customers who do so five times get a free face mask.

Such incentive programs are common for companies who emphasize environmental concern. Seeing as such products are more expensive with or without the added incentive of free gifts, one wonders why the industry does so well. Nielsen’s 2015 global survey measured a pool of global respondents’ willingness to pay more for green products. 66 percent of global respondents would pay more for eco products in 2015, up ten percent from 2014, due to a varied group of reasons.

Respondents consider their trust in the company valuable with a global average of 62 percent saying they would purchase a green product for that reason and 72 percent willing to pay more for those products than they usually pay. As for environmental friendliness, 45 percent of the global average considers it an important factor with 58 percent willing to pay more.

The green beauty industry is carving an impressive and influential niche against economic odds, showing the globe that they’re here to stay.

I intend to ride the green wave as much as possible and, if you’re wanting to come along but don’t know where to start, a couple of good resources can be found here and here. It’s best to decide what’s important to you: cruelty-free, certified organic, etc. to whittle down the list of options.

Stay green, my friends.

Bisous,

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Fashion

Why I Sew

I asked my roommate to borrow a sewing kit earlier this year—a button on my coat had fallen loose—and found myself utterly shocked when she produced one.

She is a rarity among my generation. Most of us hardly sew buttons or over holes and tears these days. We simply throw the piece of clothing away. So removed are we from the ways in which our outfits are produced that we see no value in understanding their make. What if we did? I hypothesize a number of results from this awareness:

  1. Less money expenditure.

  2. Increased clothing quality.

  3. Increased attractiveness.

To make my case, as I flounder in my sewing sprint course, attempting a straight stitch that doesn’t stray a millimeter away every once and awhile, I cannot confidently say that making your own clothing is less expensive. As the cost of fabric, thread, a machine, needles, notions, the pattern, and whatever else you may need is not a cheap buy.

However I can say that knowing how a garment is produced drastically changes the way in which you view your clothes—recognizing one hem over another means that some of the horrible work you’ve accepted before is no longer acceptable. After all, if it’s obvious when a garment is a slipshod job versus a more solid one. What does this mean? You’ll buy the good stuff (and there’s less of it flying around.)

 

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The other magical benefit to buying well-made (and therefore more expensive in general) clothing is that it makes you far more attractive. Why? These clothes tend to be more tailored and, if you so choose, you can tailor your clothing or get it tailored. Both of these options cost some more money and more skill, but they absolutely elevate your look.

Sewing is one of those dusty, domestic skills that not many people see as necessary these days—why should they when new clothes are waiting by the bucketful? Today is not the day of darning socks; it’s the “see now buy now” era. If we understood the blueprints and methods of making clothing, how much it really, truly takes to make a simple dress, would we be so blasé about sewing? Would we buy eight pairs of jeans just because they were super cheap?

In the interest of budget, in the pursuit of knowledge, and out of respect for the art, I am learning to sew. Maybe, in a few weeks or so, I won’t look at my closet the same way and that favored garment of mine will no longer be a mystery, but a map of making.

Bisous,

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Fashion

A Bit of A Non-Paradox: Bitter Words Between Bloggers and Editors

Whether we like it or not, fashion bloggers and influencers are here to stay—or, at the very least, here to usher in the impending changes of the fashion industry. And if they be only the winds of change here for their moment of glory, bloggers have made an awfully large wave.

Vogue published a roundtable discussion after Milan fashion week with some choice words slipped in regarding the industry’s newcomers. After lauding Marni’s “intelligent and elegant” collection for it’s refusal to exist for clicks, Vogue.com’s chief critic Sarah Mower said: “…the professional blogger bit, with the added aggression of the street photographer swarm who attend them, is horrible, but most of all, pathetic for these girls, when you watch how many times the desperate troll up and down outside shows, in traffic, risking accidents even, in hopes of being snapped.” (Vogue.)

Other Vogue editors, chiming in with the critique, went on to despair over the blogger and brand love affair in triumphant tones, wherein Vogue.com fashion news editor Alessandra Codinha said “Am I allowed to admit that I did a little fist pump when Sally broached the blogger paradox?”

Clearly the politics of power here are shifting because, as always, money talks. Meaning, of course, that the influencers brands choose to spend money on are in possession of a fair amount of power and have a loud enough voice to be chosen, whether they be fashion bloggers or fashion industry royalty.

 

“…if they be only the winds of change here for their moment of glory, bloggers have made an awfully large wave.”

 

And, regarding this labeling of the industry-wide panic due to sprinting technological change and globalization as the “blogger paradox” one has to ask: what is paradoxical about the power of the blogger?

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Certainly the idea of advertising for a brand in exchange for money is nothing new. In fact, Vogue’s March 2016 issue had the highest number of advertisement pages with a staggering 405 pages, according to WWD. And, with a quick search online, one can see the cost of an advertisement that appears once on 1/6th of the page is $44,206. In comparison to Vogue’s primary competitor, Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar, 1/3 page advertisement goes for $79,025 while the same ad space goes for $88,481 at Vogue. How can a publication under Condé Nast that charges staggering rates for their advertisements have the right to judge sponsored clothing?

Whether or not the bloggers are maliciously grasping at whatever money comes their way is difficult to judge or discover, but a recent study by Fashion Monitor and Econsultancy dove into the scope of bloggers and influencers’ effect on the fashion industry. Despite the popular and assumed idea that bloggers are attention-starved Internet stars without regard for the soul of the industry, about 56 percent of them consider a brand’s values and priorities (sustainability, charity, etc) before working with them. A similar percentage consider their personal development as high in priority, even over money, a consideration that came in around 12 percent.

Further debunking the myth that bloggers care about their follower count above all else, around 54 percent feel judged and valued by their follower count over their other qualities. Certainly many of these bloggers would rather their value be placed in their work and goals than what number digitally rises and falls on an Instagram account. Brands seem to be the ones running the show in terms of industry morals; after all, a blogger can only do so much to be valuable without the baseline follower count, which is chosen by a brand in most cases. Perhaps Vogue editors should be worried about the ruthlessness of the brands that hand out money by a chosen digital hierarchy rather than those who are influential enough to attract the money.

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What then, is this “blogger paradox”? Is it the frustration of traditional fashion editors as they face the overwhelming popularity and presence of fashion bloggers? After investigation, there doesn’t appear to be a clear conclusion.

This so-called “paradox” could be a scapegoat for deeper concerns, concerns hidden behind an ambiguous vocabulary term to lessen their surface level importance. There is a real fear in jeopardizing the quality of work and the nature of the change that bloggers usher in. After all, the other half of those bloggers who don’t consider the values and issues surrounding the brands that sponsor them may be the very people who are trouncing around in borrowed style.

And, ultimately, how can one be a style icon without having style oneself? Do these blogger’s have any background or knowledge in the fashion industry, and do they know what they’re looking at? Certainly, the army of phones facing runways (in lieu of actual eyes) is alarming. These concerns that Vogue editors brazenly expresses aren’t unfounded.

The plight of newspaper journalists comes to mind, as they fight against increased online competition, with blogs and Snapchat and Instagram beating them out despite their professional training. Fashion journalists are no different; they’re threatened and unsure of the future.

One thing is for certain: the relationship between these groups of influencers ought to be cooperative if either group prioritizes the good of the fashion industry. They might be able to shape the tides of fashion’s future, should bloggers contribute their mass appeal and editors share their industry wisdom. Whether or not they’ll play nice is an entirely different story.

Bisous,

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