Category Archives: Skills

Future deluxe


Studio Drift’s Fragile Future chandelier

One of the subjects I’ve been looking at a lot this year – from various angles and for various clients – is shifting attitudes to luxury. Fuelled by heritage boredom, fascination with the future and millennial attitudes, 2015 has seen a major shift in how we understand luxury. It’s getting more high-tech, more experimental and more fun.  I did a thing on this for the excellent new watch magazine The Hour, and i’m sure it will continue to be a thing into 2016 and beyond…


The Scented City

ScentedCityI don’t get to write about perfume – one of my favourite subjects – as much as I would like, but the good people at Homes & London let me do this nice piece about London and perfume, featuring some of the great established and up-and-coming British perfumers.

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Badass women

Not much to add to this supercut of completely nails action heroines, except that I love it when a film can feature a badass character who just happens to be female, rather than making it all about “femme fatale” cliches. This compilation features some of the greatest action figures eva (IMHO) from Alien‘s Ripley to Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. The women all expressing fury, skill and fierceness (not in the Drag Race/ANTM way) in a way that’s exhilarating and liberating (not in the women’s lib way)  through a brutal kind of physicality that women rarely get to express .

via The Mary Sue

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I love space

I’m really obsessed with space, partly through years of sci-fi immersion (of both the classy and trashy types), but mainly because of the incredible size and scope and possibilities that are out there. I’d love to go to space more than anything, but i fear civilian space travel is unlikely in my lifetime, even if i could afford it, and i’m definitely not clever or fit enough to be an astronaut. So instead, I love out the fantasy with grand space operas like Interstellar, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gravity and Star Wars or the (modern) Star Trek films, and thanks to NASA’s incredible Instagram feed, which captures the greatness, terror and opportunity of space in bite-size snaps, for the contemporary astrophile. The video above and pictures below are just some of the nuggets of amazement that these pioneers and loons have created to help us understand space a tiny bit better.



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Boy/girl, boy/girl

MSGM menswear catwalk

MSGM menswear S/S 15

Fashion’s love of androgyny and fluid gender have taken a more practical step forward, with the increasing appearance of womenswear on menswear catwalks, and vice versa.

Y-3 catwalk menswear

Y-3 menswear S/S 15

At the recent menswear S/S 15 shows, collections from JW Anderson (who loves a bit of boy/girl fashion) to Givenchy’s delicate florals, Marc Jacobs’ dreamy pinks and Dries Van Noten’s balletic flourishes all offered something for the girls as well as the targeted boys.

Meanwhile, menswear shows from designers as diverse as Prada, Y-3, MSGM, Daks and Katie Eary also featured women on the catwalk.

Prada catwalk menswear

Prada menswear S/S 15

In an interview with The Telegraph, Miuccia Prada gave an insight into how some designers are approaching their men’s and women’s collections:

“I am introducing more and more women [in menswear]. Because I think the combination is more real. It is more today. Otherwise it looks like we are in classes, in the time of my grandfather, women divided from men. The shows divided are so unreal and I think that it is when you put them together you get a sense of what is meaningful and real…Basically I think to people, not to gender.”

I originally wrote this post for

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Beautiful Games


Still from Mountain by David OReilly

The latest gaming innovations are increasingly sophisticated and fantastical. A mysterious, floating, rotating mountain is the strangely beautiful new game from David O’Reilly, the digital artist who created the animations for Her. As far as gaming goes, Mountain is hardly high-octane – O’reilly calls it a “relax-em-up” – but it’s absorbing all the same. The mountain, which is generated according to the player’s drawn responses to a couple of questions, is better described as an “ambient companion”.

It continues to slowly turn in the background while you’re working away on your computer (or smartphone), but changes gradually – and beautifully – over time, as weather, wildlife and marooned objects (meteors, sailboats, giant padlocks) change its landscape.


HomeMake by Cory Seeger and Matthew Conway

The urban dreamscapes of HomeMake were created to allow players to explore architecture. Designed by two architecture students, players complete traditional gaming elements like puzzles and quests, but the landscape is defined by the player and constantly evolves as a result. According to makers Cory Seeger and Matthew Conway: “The main gameplay mechanic is the character swap, a mind transfer between characters. Each character has a unique perception and platforming technique connected to the world, creating a different exploration experience with each character.” The game has just been successfully funded on Kickstarter and is in development for iOS, Windows and Linux.

I originally wrote this post for

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The Hunger Games’ fictional fashion world

Whether you’re a fan of the $1.5bn The Hunger Games franchise or not, the visual language created for the films is impressive, from the impoverished outlying districts, to the rich and wasteful Capitol. In many ways a celebration of the costume designer’s art, each district in the fictional world of Panem, where the stories are set, has a distinct palette of colour, silhouette and materials.

Poster images for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One

Teaser poster images for upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

These newly released poster images have a Soviet-style feel, promoting the heroism of the humble workers of each district, with inventive and witty use of materials for the Transport, Grain and Lumber districts.

The film-makers are adept at using social and viral media to blur the boundaries between the fictional world of The Hunger Games and the real world that it satirises. As the promotional juggernaut revs up for the forthcoming Mockingjay Part 1, out in November 2014, expect to see glimpses of Panem creeping into everyday life. Panem’s autocratic government already has its own website, which recently released this beautifully blanc new teaser trailer – the monochrome white setting adds to the chilling tone of the propaganda.

Meanwhile, the frivolous, outré style of the Capitol is glossily and excitedly chronicled at fictional fashion magazine Capitol CoutureThe site also profiles innovative real designers such as Peter Popps, Stella Jean and Lucy McRae.


Cover Girl’s beauty collection for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in 2013

The first two films, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, have already been influential on major brands: costume designer Trish Summerville has collaborated with Net-A-Porter to bring the style of Panem to the real world, while the OTT beauty style of Capitol citizens was encapsulated by Cover Girl. Details of Mockingjay-branded collections are yet to be released, but we expect them to be equally high-profile.

I originally wrote this post for

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Learning to work

Now that I’m freelance, all my writing and trending energy has had to go into client work, so i’ve had less time for blog posts.

Protein Journal - the Work Issue

Protein Journal – the Work Issue

Here’s an extract from a piece i did for the great Protein Journal, out now

The path from education to employment used to be straightforward, but with fewer permanent jobs available and a glut of graduates, youth unemployment is a now major issue.  24.4% of under-25s in the Eurozone were reported to be unemployed at the end of 2013, while in the UK, there are 3.74 times more jobless under-25s than the national average. At the same time, higher education costs are rocketing – US education costs have gone up 400% since 1980 – leading many to find new paths between learning and employment.

Gensler senior associate Maria Nesdale comments, “Students are now clients and they are voting with their feet – they’re demanding more out of their education, and will go wherever offers the best value.” According to a poll by Time magazine and the Carnegie Corporation, 80% of US adults believe that the education received at most colleges is not worth it; 41% of college presidents and senior administrators agreed.

One of the key elements of the new value equation is, “will this course land me a job?”, so brand-savvy students are looking for opportunities to bridge the gap between business and education in innovative ways. Nesdale says, “The relationship between learning and work is getting closer every year – universities are starting to adopt corporate methods, while big companies are getting more involved with learning”.

Femi Bola MBE, director of employability and student enterprise at the University of East London, is collaborating with major London businesses to give students insight into the real necessities of the modern workplace. “The skills needed by employers are rarely fostered in traditional education: they’re looking for business acumen, great written and spoken communication, and an entrepreneurial attitude”, she says.

Entrepreneurial spirit is not lacking in the current crop of university students and graduates. A 2013 survey by the Kauffman foundation found that 54% of US millennials want to start their own business or have already started one, while BMO data suggests that 46% of students want to start their own business.

Hyper Island, Manchester

Hyper Island, Manchester

Chicago’s Starter School and the Boston-based Startup Institute are reinventing traditional business schools for entrepreneurs by offering courses that focus less on management theory and more on knowledge that’s directly applicable to current market needs. Starter School’s 9-month course on the coding, design, and business skills to build web apps is not cheap at  $33,000, but still beats the six-figure fees for leading MBA courses. Both schools emphasise their connection to industry, with Startup Institute students working with real startups, while Starter School participants spend 3 days a week working on projects for businesses such as Twitter’s Bluefin Labs.

It’s not just about breaking out on your own, though: many students and graduates are looking for innovative courses that augment traditional qualifications and boost their employment options. Hyper Island and General Assembly are very modern learning institutions, offering courses in highly marketable skills including app development, data analysis, digital strategy and user experience design. The idea seems to be working: General Assembly reports that 97% of the graduates of its 12-week immersive programmes find paid work within 90 days of graduating, and it now has campuses in innovation capitals including Sydney, London, New York, San Francisco and Berlin.

Mozilla Open Badges

Mozilla Open Badges

These kinds of education incubators – to borrow a term from the startup world – are just part of education’s new guard. As Megan Cole, Mozilla’s Marketing Strategy Lead, points out, “Today, modern learning institutions are empowering learning to go beyond just the traditional classroom and thrive in the online environment. They rely on technology as a way to help extend and transform learning all across the world”. MOOCs – or Massive Open Online Courses – have been hailed as the future of education, with venerable institutions from Harvard and MIT to Princeton and King’s College London throwing their hats into the ring. Leading MOOCs include Udacity, with over 750,00 registered users worldwide; EdX, which offers over a hundred short online courses to its 1.8m students; and Coursera,  serving 4m learners.

While some of the initial excitement around MOOCs has died down, new elements are being introduced to give them greater relevance to business, from new qualification standards such as Mozilla’s Open Badges, to brand-sponsored courses. Udacity is working with six major companies, including Google and Microsoft, to create classes in high-value skills such as 3D graphics and Android app development, while branding giant Wolff Olins has partnered with FutureLearn to develop a course on The Secret Power of Brands.

Cole comments, “Learning today looks very different than previously imagined. Learning is not just ‘seat time’ within schools, but extends across multiple contexts, experiences and interactions. It is no longer just an isolated or individual concept, but is inclusive, social, informal, participatory, creative and lifelong.”

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Flawless strength

Amidst all the noise about Beyonce’s new “surprise album” is a seeming shift in policy from Queen Bey. After sidestepping the inevitable “are you a feminist” question for a good few years — disappointing cultural commentators and fans alike — she’s now smartly aligning herself with feminism without actually answering the question, by sampling author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s great TEDTalk on new track Flawless.

I’m ashamed to say i hadn’t watched Adichie’s talk before (there’s really a lot of TEDTalks and only so much time in the day!), but, led by Bey, i was captivated by it (as I’m sure many more fans will be). Powerful, thoughtful, touching and funny, the author talks about how women make themselves smaller to be less threatening to men, pretending to be less than they are and turning that pretence into an art form.

She also raises the excellent point that many of the characteristics that led men to be more prominent (such as physical strength) are decreasingly important in modern business, which instead prizes intelligence, creativity and innovation. Many writers and commentators say that these are “feminine” qualities, but I rather disagree (not least because it seems a conciliatory gesture  – “Men may rule the world, but women are creative, nurturing” etc.) Like Adichie, I believe that neither gender owns these talents or skills – they are up to an individual to cultivate and explore. Ascribing certain values to one gender or another – no matter if they are positive or not – keeps people in gender boxes, dictating who we should be rather than who we are. And while physical strength may have lost its prominence, the strength we gain — men or women — from being ourselves is an increasingly important currency. 

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Bladerunner in 60 seconds

One of my all-time favourite films, Bladerunner, got an animated and abbreviated makeover from Philip Askins, winner of Empire’s Done in 60 Seconds award. His monochrome figures and dispassionate voice-over add an even more noirish tone to an already wonderfully dark story…

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