On Friday night instead of donning garb and heading out to party, I went to the Southbank Centre to hear two feminist icons in conversation. Asking the questions: celebrated Times columnist Caitlin Moran; promoting her new book Not That Kind Of Girl, prolific polymath Lena Dunham.
Tickets reportedly sold out in 12 hours. “Even Stephen Fry couldn’t do that,” quipped the Southbank Centre’s artistic director in her intro.
Summarising Lena’s successes, Caitlin spoke of her “sheer fucking ladyballs” and her prodigious effect as a writer, actor and producer on the show Girls, which internationally made girls feel that they are normal – “I can see me!” Caitlin emphasises.
8x Emmy nominated and 2x Golden Globe winner Lena wrote her book in antidotal chapters and on Friday night she read from the chapter about her mother / selfies / nudity. Perhaps most revealingly, she explains in response to critic’s exclamation at her bravery at stripping off (she half-jokes – I bet Blake Lively doesn’t come under this questioning) “it’s not brave to do something that doesn’t scare you.”
There were a lot of nodding & smiling & clapping moments, but here are a few more of my favourite soundbites from the evening:
Caitlin asks Lena “when was the last time you were anxious?” “About 10-15min ago,” Lena replies. The Call The Midwife crew is in the audience thanks to Lena’s tweeted special request. Miranda Hart waves in a queenly manner towards the stage. “What if they don’t feel the magnitude of my gratitude?” Lena asks sincerely.
Continuing on the anxiety theme, Caitlin asks “if we were calm, would we create as much?” An oft-pondered question, Lena quotes her father in response – “Fear isn’t what keeps the plane in the air.” Her Dad said that by worrying we can’t prevent what’s challenging in life. In fact, Lena explains, the things that threw her weren’t what she would have thought to worry about at all.
On the criticism Lena received when the sum she received for her book deal was announced: There’s a moral dimension to earning so much money and entertainers are paid unfairly when you consider doctors and nurses and teachers. But being questioned for how much you earn is a feminist issue – guys don’t have to deal with this. She gets anxious “lest I be seen buying shoes I don’t deserve.” Recalling how she once saw a male celebrity who she won’t name “wasted in the airport on a golf cart” she deadpans – “that must be a fucking pleasure.”
Discussing food and appearances and women’s complicity, Lena laughingly brings up the Daily Mail article that recently came out: “The Daily Mail said I had debuted a noticeably slimmer face. I was enraged from a feminist point of view, and also like thank you. [...] Every time I’m cat-called – it’s horrible and it’s validating and that combination is super dark.”
Caitlin asks, to the audience’s delight,”is being friends with Taylor Swift as much fun as it looks?” “I want to tell you guys it’s not,” Lena pauses, “but it really is. She’s so rad. She has an amazing amount of control over her business. I can’t say enough good things about her… She smells amazing.”
Lastly, towards the end of the evening an audience member poses the question about the lack of diversity in Girls. Lena answers “there’s a lot of criticism I don’t are about (being called fat, etc.) but I do care when women say they feel excluded.” She goes on to explain how she didn’t feel capable of representing everyone’s experience. “The problem of representation in TV is people need to see themselves on television, but more women need to be in positions of power in the industry to bring their story to television.”
Caitlin then jumps in to defend Lena: “You have to look at who’s commissioning. It’s a predominantly straight, white male industry. [...] To be racist by omission? That’s a big word we use for serious things. Can you call a person who’s written something semi-autobiographical about their experiences racist?” Getting the final word, Lena says “this is a conversation we need to have and if I’m the one that has to take one for the team to start the conversation I’m all in.”
I can’t sufficiently express how much the evening got the brain juices flowing and all done with wit and poise. It’s kind of cringe to think I’m just another person in the 2000 strong audience from one event on the book tour, but what can I say – girl crush to the max.
I am totally obsessed with Carmen Woods’ clutch bags. They look like they’re that kind of super squishy, comfy clutch bag that you can just throw everything in and throw about on a night out. Having said that, there’s something about those vibrant colours, uninterrupted by boring functional zips – tassels are so much better – that is wholly glamorous and fun. That tangerine is sure to pep up any outfit; I’m really taken with the metallic and gorgeous ornate patterns too though..
Perhaps the best thing though is that Carmen has a shop in one of the towns next to my hometown in Essex. Home grown talent with an international twist (Carmen lived and worked in Ravenna, Italy) – it doesn’t get better than this.
I’ve already been thoroughly spoilt and there are still **days** to go until Christmas day..
The reason for this premature indulgence is ultimately due to the fact that I am starting a new job in January*. As such I’ve had to say goodbye to arguably the two best bosses a girl could ask for in the fashion industry. Although as a freelancer my time during this past year has been spread out amongst various projects like Twin, Dazed, Ligature, 1883, etc. I really owe a lot to these two women who plucked me from obscurity and helped me make a name for myself, not to mention taught me multitudinous skills and gave me a regular wage. And although my new role is quite ad hoc and flexible, it is predominantly full-time, at least until London Fashion Week’s over, meaning that as of January I will have my hands full.
So I have given over my Christmas/Thank you cards and presents – small tokens of appreciation as much as Christmas presents, not even considering for a second that I might be getting something myself. (Honestly .. I’m not just saying that to sound modest!) But it seems that I did have some presents coming my way – and what lovely gifts!
The Shirt Company Christmas card
Donna at The Shirt Company took me on for one day’s work in August 2010 and I have worked with her ever since. At times I’ve spent the majority of my week there, dealing with everything from PR and marketing to the website and budgeting – it’s been a really hands on experience. Anyway, Donna sent me over a ridiculously indulgent present which I officially received by courier just today – I will be getting the Cowgroom Maintenance treatment at the Cowshed spa in Shoreditch House. The blurb goes something like this:
“Two therapists work in synchronised movements ensuring complete pampering and relaxation. All treatments begin with the feet and an invigorating exfoliation with peppermint salt scrub. This is followed by a forehead pressure point massage and a de-stressing shoulder massage to prepare you for your chosen Cowgroom.”
I’m having the Cowgroom ‘Maintenance’ – an all-encompassing MOT for tired bods like mine! A Cowshed Facial, Eyebrow Tidy and Cowshed Manicure (or Pedicure). I literally cannot wait!
Then yesterday I did my last day’s work with Sasha at LibertyLondonGirl.com, who clearly needs no introduction with her 40,000 odd Twitter followers and winning of awards. I was frantically beavering away not only trying to get all Sasha’s receipts in order (so that she can complete her tax return) but also surreptitiously ordering a festive bouquet of flowers from Rebel Rebel for her. At the end of the day when I was just about ready to start packing up Sasha started murmuring about Christmas presents and before I knew it not one, but two bags were thrust in my direction..
One contained the most chic, yet somehow also eccentric (green with a pink bookmark – I love it!) notebook from Smythson of Bond Street, the elegant stationery brand whose sleek notebooks I have always coveted but never dared dream I’d be able to lay my clammy mitts on. The front cover says ‘Dreams and Thoughts’ – highly appropriate for me considering I’m always either away with the fairies pondering or making lists! I may have to get my fountain pen out to scrawl in this bad boy.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the second bag contained – and this was most definitely too much – the most beautiful faux snakeskin bag in a delicious berry hue from Angel Jackson. I am beyond delighted with it – indeed, both gifts are so me – and I think I was so overwhelmed that I felt altogether emotional as I stumbled out of Sasha’s office for the last time to walk home smiling absentmindedly like a goon.
Holly Wilcox‘s jewellery really reminds me of both the sea and forest. The intricate detailing and seemingly whipped shapes are both fragile and striking. Holly gave me an insight into her beautiful works..
How did you get started in jewellery?
I’ve always enjoyed making things, but I realised my love for jewellery design at an afternoon workshop when I was 15. I made a ring from sterling silver (which I still have today!) and was hooked from the moment the solder ran…There’s nothing more satisfying than manipulating a piece of solid metal into a different form!
Your pieces remind me of the sea and woodland berries – are you interested in nature?
Yes – growing up in a costal village has given me a real interest in nature. I love photographing and drawing all the ihe interesting little details in plants, and picking up smoothed seaglass and stones from the beach. What I find most interesting about nature is the life cycle everything goes through, from teeny tiny buds starting to flower to the crinkled leaves falling from trees. Even the view of the countryside from my window back home is inspiring.
What else inspires you?
So many things! My everyday surroundings, whether it’s an interesting leaf found on the ground, to discovering a jeweller with gorgeous work I’ve never seen before. Meeting other artists and designers and hearing them talk passionately about their own work is inspiring too.
Which jewellers do you admire?
I absolutely love Ruth Tomlinson’s intricate work – my favourites are in her ‘Flora’ collection. The use of porcelain next to precious metal creates pieces so delicate and beautiful. I also admire Ruth Wood and love the organic qualities of her jewellery.
What’s the one piece of jewellery you never take off?
I constantly wear a little delicate gold ring, which was actually a bit of an experiement but turned out beautifullly and may well lead to the next collection…and I’m also currently enjoying wearing one of my own ‘Cluster’ bangles. I tend to go through phases with my favourite piece of the moment and wear it all the time till I change my mind to the next one!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I would love nothing more than to still be designing and making jewellery and perhaps be running my own gallery filled with beautiful objects…watch this space!
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