2 Apr 2013

Wang Watch

Vera Wang vs. Equality?

How do I love thee Vera Wang?  Let me count the ways.  WWP was never 'that girl' who used to make a wedding gown out of tissue paper at the age of 5 and have every detail of the clearly predestined nuptials planned before pubity.  Yet if there is one thing I do know, it is that if I am ever to get married and I am in a financially stable position (read: rich beyond my wildest dreams), I want to own a Vera Wang wedding gown.  It doesn't have to be couture, hell, it doesn't even need to be new, but being the slave to the fashion world that I am, it has to be Wang. 

This level of worship from the fash-pack isn't, unsurprisingly, due to the fact that Wang designed Kim Kardashian's wedding dress, but because her designs are ultimately very, very good.  Hence, there is a very high demand.  So in China, the boutique implemented a 'try-on charge' of around £317, to discourage those "crazy, random chicks!" who try on wedding dresses for fun.  Fun because (a) they either cannot afford them, and/or (b) aren't even engaged (And if their answer is (b), I think we can all work out why they are yet to find a husband.)  In the past week, the power of Twitter has meant a campaign of anti-discrimination has been zipping its way to Vera Wang PR, on the grounds that charging to try on wedding dresses is unfair.  In the words of the ever-thoughtful and charmingly eloquent Daily Mail Online readers: "Beautiful dresses, but what a greedy woman!" (cornishpixie) and "Money makes people do crazy things" (HP18). 

'Vera Wang' is not one 'greedy', 63 year-old woman who makes dresses on a Brother sewing machine in her garden shed. It is a global company, which, just like any business, aims to make a profit by eliminating unnecessary costs.  If you're trying on a multi-thousand pound dress - that you have no intention of buying - for free (and as a side-note, this will not be the Topshop changing room, there will be champagne involved), you are an unnecessary cost. Moreover, the fee was redeemable if you bought a dress, and let's face it, if you're serious about buying Wang, you've got £317 to spare.  Anyone's need to transform this into a debate about egalitarianism will stem from an underlying problem with capitalism. There really is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is certainly no such thing as a free 90-minute dress fitting with afternoon tea.

13 Mar 2013

Tales of the Underworld

The Politics of Non-Payment

Image: internaware.org

On any regular day the notion of unpaid internships should make any would-be graduate - suffering with even the mildest case of pessimism - break down and weep.  Not only is their life no longer their own (it now belongs to their department, their course, their tutors' marking decisions, the library), but the world will soon be unceremoniously flung onto their front porch like a wrecking ball, and the graduate in question will have no idea what to do with it.  They say there are only two things in life that are certain, paying taxes and death.  Now, in a job market that looks uncannily like the Nevada desert (dustballs and all), who knows if today's graduate will ever earn enough to cross the first tax threshold.  Is death really our only certainty?!

Forgive the severe case of pessimism (and slight morbidity) but WWP, for the first time, really did break down and weep today.  For the System (namely Her Majesty's Revenues and Customs) that had always be so kind, screwed me over royally over in both the long and the short term.  In the short term, they refused to refund me the minimum wage for the ten months work I did for a company that (illegally) never paid me a penny.  Despite the fact that this and this is going on right in front of our noses every time we switch on the 10 o'clock news (and/or check the BBC website when we've read everything on our Facebook feed), the Department of Work and Pensions  is unrelentingly refusing claims such as mine on the basis of an 'employment contract.'  You apply for an internship with a company, you create content for that company, most importantly you create revenue for that company...and your payment? 'Experience' or 'training.'  John Stewart Mill it ain't.

Our generation crave independence more than we're given credit for. Yet we are thrown like overgrown babies with BScs into bassinets and dumped at the door of businesses, a want ad for an unpaid internship tucked in our blankets.  We're expected to wait another five years in employment purgatory before we are finally allowed to fly the nest a second time. Apologies for the hyperbole; I should probably be writing semi-romantic prose highlighting the implications unpaid internships have on social mobility.  (I have, incidentally, already done that here).  But I want to dare to let a little emotion leak into this poor, malnourished blog.  The System has screwed me in the long run by expecting me to work for free.  I feel unappreciated, I feel hopeless. The desperate pleas of my cover letters make me feel embarrassed. But most of all, I feel ashamed for wanting to create a career in something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember.  The political consequences of unpaid internships are broader and deeper than I could ever explain here.  But the emotional consequences are greater than I've ever wanted to explore.

3 Dec 2012

A Theory of Justice

Model's Rights

WWP is the first to admit a hatred of models.  Most are everything I will never be (read: tall) and their career involves wearing dresses worth more than my life savings.  Yet in the spirit of advent, perhaps it is important to see the models as more than deities of thinspo and envy, and realise that they are humans with rights.  More importantly, they are usually children with rights.

Back in February, the model Sara Ziff launched the Model Alliance, a quasi-union that has produced its own 'Models' Bill of Rights.'  Its aims are to undercut industry-level notions that forced nudity, child exploitation, sexual abuse and anorexia are acceptable.  Now, why this story escaped WWP's radar can either say a lot about my journalistic skills circa February 2012 (apparently tragic as even the Mail Online covered it) or the conscious ignorance of the campaign by the public and media.  For as Ziff herself succinctly put it, most 'probably see the industry as a privilege.'  And so, incredibly, this collective jealousy has excused an entire industry's law-breaking shenanigans.

It does beg the question though, as to why one career class must instigate their own bill of rights - unless I skipped over that clause in all my sales assistant contracts.  Unpaid child labour for instance must surely be covered in some form of legislation.  The problem appears to be the self-circulating cycle of the modelling world; models of around the age of 14 are employed, and when the wretched exploitation of the industry comes hurtling their way they cannot/will not speak out because of their age. Those who grow up and stay on as models become desensitized to this abuse and hence do not protest due to an artificial, constructed ignorance.  So as sad as the need for it is, the Model Alliance seems to have the right idea in acting as the middle man between malleable children and money-driven agencies. However to eradicate the problem completely, a dissolution of ignorance is what is needed.

28 Nov 2012

Bad Hair Days

Michael Fabricant: Unfortunate name, unfortunate hair.

WWP is astounded.  The minute I saw that blonde head poke out over Ken Clarke's shoulder in PMQs, I knew that this post had already written itself.  For in a world of mundane suits and receding hairlines, a wig-like hairstyle excites all that is politically fashionable in me, even though the photo above would feature heavily in my definition of the antithesis of fashion.

Michael Fabricant is the conservative MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire.  Until now he has generally sat quiet in a variety of semi-fun roles in the Commons (culture, media and sport select committee; BBC drama political adviser), yet this week has seen him raise his Ken-doll head above the Ukip parapet and call for an alignment of the two parties.  Particularly, he is calling for a weird, electoral barter, whereby if the government calls for a referendum over the EU, Ukip will not stand for some seats at the next election.  Hence the Tories will scrape the racists (sorry, EU-skeptics) from the bottom of the constiuency pan and, voila,  win a majority in parliament. Well, that's the plan.  And one that looks increasingly unlikely to work due to: i) Nigel Farage's sibling rivalry/hatred of Cameron, ii) Miliband and Labour's biblical resurrection in the opinion poll stakes and iii) Fabricant's slur that branded Ukip and some members of his own party as 'closet racists.'

When WWP started researching the post, I was very sure that it would be entitled 'Michael Fabricunt' and proceed to be a predictably exasperated rant over out-of-touch Tory boys that can't come to terms with male pattern baldness.  However after following him on Twitter, I have formed a soft spot in my heart for Michael.  He's a 62 year old politician who knows how to utilise social media for a start, and tweets about the price of a pint, John Lewis adverts and inside Tory jokes.  It is unlikely that this will ever convince anyone to vote for him.  But whilst he has a seat it's refreshing to see an MP who has a sense of humour and an idiosyncratic dress sense.  

9 Oct 2012

Communist Stylewatch

Hasta la Victoria, Siempre

WWP was on her travels this summer.  In September I took a very grown-up, relaxing trip to a port town in Majorca with First Serious Boyfriend, and in June I packed up my backpack and flew to Havana with Friend From University, where we traversed the top half of the island by coach.  Cuba was many things to me.  Communist (obviously), sexual (unashamedly), joyful (largely). Yet the description which has been stuck on the end of my tongue every time friends ask, is time-warped.  Cars run on black smoke and gaffa-taped exhausts, computers run on Windows '98 and the people run on rum, salsa and cigarettes.  No, really.  The radio plays Greenday and Kelly Clarkson circa 2001.  And the women dress from a time WWP is struggling to pinpoint.

A typical Cuban chica's daywear wardrobe would consist of: cotton shorts - strictly half an inch too long or five inches too short; an emporium of jersey halterneck tops embellished with diamante (delete as appropriate) Playboy bunny/'Sexy Biatch'/marijuana leaf; a selection of brightly coloured bras with thick straps (to be worn with the halternecks); an assortment of footwear, ranging from plastic white gladiator sandals to plastic white stilettos; and a jewellery box filled with even more diamante for good measure. A night spent at the Casa de la Musica? Never before have hemlines tested the boundaries modesty like they have been in Havana. 

After spending only two weeks travelling through the country, it is impossible to grasp how exactly a communist system dictates lives.  I know that people queue for their bread in the morning and I know that the tax rate is incredibly high. I know that there is a prominent commodity-based black market, and I know that Cubans, who are generally the most gregarious and welcoming of people, will do almost anything to scam a few Pesos from an unsuspecting couple of English tourists.  However how this trailer trash look started, I do not know.  'Time-warped' doesn't cover it - the '90s in the Western world may have been a decade of fashion sloth and purgatory, but at least we matched our underwear accordingly to our crop tops and distressed flares.  Cuba, I love you, but surely Communism is no excuse for looking like a ho.  And if it is, let's hope an Iron Curtain is never dropped over us again.  

1 Oct 2012

Style icon

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Can you say hot?  Argentina seems to have a knack of producing captivating politicians, a knack that Britain devastatingly fails at...Teresa May with a good blowdry and substantial amount of make-up?  I think not.

Cristina and her beautiful (I assume Chanel) tweed generally appear to stay out of trouble in the political spectrum.  Mirroring that foxy Peron lady she followed her husband into politics, gaining just the amount of the presidential vote needed to slyly slip herself into the top job in 2007.  She is an advocate of equality, consumption and fairness and her political style is ballsy and ultimately feminist.  Feminist in the sense that everything she believes is clearly right and she'll aggressively ignore you until you apologise - sorry Brazil, that's just the woman Argentina is.  

However sick this President must get of being compared to Miss Evita, the comparisons are so obviously there to clutch at that it would almost be rude to ignore them.  As Fernandez beautifully put it herself, she is the Eva Peron with  "the hair in a bun and the clenched fist before a microphone."  Add to this a wardrobe so exquisitely large that she is often late to diplomatic meetings because she is getting dressed and you have the archetype of what a female Head of State should, and successfully can, be.  Oh, and since her husband's death she has only worn black:  Queen Victoria, you have been put to shame. 

31 Jul 2012

WAG Watch

Sam Cam Can

As painful as it is for a student of politics to write about the wives of politicians (there are few real 'girlfriends' in the political sphere due to the fact that everyone's Christian, old, or awkwardly closeted), it would be slightly anachronistic for a blog like this not to mention them.  And at the end of the day, as much as I'd love to see Tom Ford style Ed Balls on a day-to-day basis, I'd much prefer to write about Carla Bruni's penchant for Dior.  Or slag off Yvette Cooper's hair.  Whatever.  So to start at the top of the pile as it were, enter Spouse of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Samantha Cameron.

The question of whether Mrs. Cameron actually likes being called 'Sam' must be asked.  After all, she is descended from King Henry VIII, and comes from the same gene pool as Princess Diana.  Yet she has done a pretty outstanding job at keeping this from the Great BP.  Yes, her family own two, 300-acre estates but she studied art at Bristol Polytech; yes, she named her second child Arthur Elwin but she's got a cute Deschanel-esque fringe in place of a horrendous Cherie Blair blow dry.  Her style is somewhere between poster-girl for the Whistles' Basics range and Carole Middleton on crack.  She knows what suits her, accessorizes near-perfectly and in another life I'm sure she could have made it as a model.  For the Boden catalogue maybe, but a model nonetheless.

The thing WWP likes the most about Sam is her face.  It has this permanent demeanor of 'I'm slightly too cool for this politics business...where's my intern? I need a macchiato pronto.'  Coupled with her mildly hilarious aversion to hats (opting for a clip-in fascinator at the Royal Wedding, going sans headwear at the opening of parliament), SamCam has turned out to be one of the more successful first ladies to grace our lands, Zara blazers and all.