How It Began… Part II

Not every case of ME begins in the same way… I know of others who have woken up one day and out of the blue, are unable to move their bodies, becoming bed bound for days, weeks, months or years and in the worst cases, for life. I realise that this sounds extreme but unfortunately it’s the truth and that’s sadly what so very few people understand, how severe ME can really be. With no gradual symptoms, which I now know are a warning sign, these ME sufferers seem to be the unluckiest ones. I hope more than anything that after reading my last post How It Began… Part I you will now recognise some of the signs and symptoms of ME as it begins to make itself apparent in someones life. I desperately wish that someone close to me had known about ME at the time I began to get sick so I could perhaps have been diagnosed sooner. The faster the diagnosis, the higher the chance of recovery and now I fear that it is too late for me.

August 2012: You are probably wondering how my diagnosis occurred after the constant set backs from NHS healthcare professionals telling me ‘there was nothing wrong with me’.  Our determination to find an explanation to my spiralling symptoms led us to changing GPs on numerous occasions until someone finally gave us an answer that justified our queries. I would like to say it was the answer we were looking for but I guess any diagnosis isn’t one you were searching for. My latest GP suggested that I may have ‘ME’ (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome ‘CFS’), which I nor my parents had ever heard of. She referred me to an ME specialist; a recognised immunologist (that’s someone who studies the immune system). Google became my friend, for the new terms I was faced with along the way.

I can’t remember much about that day but it is that day and that day only that haunts my life since I started “living” with ME. It was the turning point and whether I chose the wrong turn, ending with the dead-end I find myself in now; I am continuously debating. That day was a bit of a blur to say the least; less cloudy day, more hurricane storming through my existence sort of day. I successfully blocked it out for the first two years since the appointment, as it is only in the last year I have finally acknowledged what he said to me. ‘I am 100% sure you have ME. You are a classic case. You should not go to university. You will become extremely sick, much more ill than you are already.’ It took him 30 seconds, that was it, 30 seconds to diagnose me with this nightmare, known as ME.

I was done before he had barely even started. That was it for me. I didn’t hear anything else he had to say. I didn’t want to. How could this man, who didn’t know anything about me tell me what to do? Who the hell did he think he was, telling me not to go to university? I wasn’t going to throw my life away just because HE said so. I instantaneously detested him and everything he stood for, wow I was really going in on this guy! (In my head of course. His outlandish comments were met with cute smiles and grateful gestures in real life). Anyway I’d never heard of ME so how serious could it really be? Surely if it was that serious, a doctor would have picked up on it sooner? It is only now, 3 years later that I have had the wretched experience of knowing the answer to that question.

On a more positive note and we certainly need one… arrives my fashion story… my personal cinderella experience. Day-dreaming of fashion was something that has occupied my time since the early age of 11 when I would frequently scroll through catalogue after catalogue, dreaming of having some sort of tangible association to the shiny girls, in the shiny clothes, in those magical shiny pages. I guess I have my dad to thank for my dream, as he was the one who provided me with a vast array of catalogues (NEXT (oh dear) and Littlewoods (seriously OH DEAR) but the French charm of La Redoute was always my firm favourite. The only colours entering my wardrobe at the time were a strict palette of baby pink, lilac and sky blue, no other colour was deemed acceptable, apart from a knitted cream poncho I shamelessly wore EVERYWHERE, there was no stopping me. It wasn’t long after when I began to realise what I was going to do with my life. If there was one thing that I was put on the planet to do, it was to make my way into the fashion industry. At the age of 13, subscriptions to Vogue, Elle, Grazia and Look Magazine were my only form of access (before the internet and all, am I really that old?!). Almost 10 years later and the Vogue subscription is still going strong. Fashion wasn’t a hobby for me, it was a subject, something to study, learn and absorb. It was something to be good at and I wanted to be the best (Type A Personality here you go again). At 14 I would go through an entire issue of Vogue and name every single model in every single ad campaign, editorial and advertorial; the modelling world was the first sector I wanted to try out and 7 years later I got my chance when I scored an internship working for my idol, Sarah Doukas, founder of Storm Model Management, also known as the women who discovered Kate Moss (my other idol) at JFK airport in 1988. Here are a selection of my favourite Kate Moss for British Vogue covers, ranging from her latest, December 2014 to her first, March 1993. (images from vogue.co.uk)

Throughout Year 11 and 6th Form I attempted to worm my way out of school as often as I could during a specific four weeks, twice a year, ever year. Why? Fashion month. Day by day I blasted my face with a hair dryer (little tip there) and claimed I was ‘ill‘ until my mother left for work, which was when the fun really began. I lived my fashion life in secret, watching live streams of the fashion shows from New York, London, Milan and last but by no means least, Paris!!!.

When Christophe Decarnin opened Paris Fashion Week with this collection for Balmain, my adrenaline levels flourished. This show, is the one I will always remember, the standout moment when I became set on making my dreams into a reality.

Back then, very few shows were live streamed so my life revolved around the little access I had to these spectacles and the mystical realm I was consumed by. I never told anyone my little secret, I feared no one would understand as I had never met anyone with a love for fashion as deep as my own. Oh how it bothered me when others claimed, ‘I LOVEEEE fashion too’, when what they really meant is ‘they like clothes’ or more often ‘they like shopping’!!!! As you can see, fashion came first in my world, it always had and it always would, nothing would ever compare and to this day nothing has so when this so-called ‘doctor’ (I tried to convince myself that he wasn’t really a doctor and he was a member of a crazed cult uttering nonsense) told me to not go to university, he shattered my one and only dream. The path I had chosen to follow for my entire teenage life had led to this moment and the Fashion Promotion degree I was about to embark on (exactly one week after my diagnosis), I firmly believed was my only way in, or so it seemed. Which path would you have chosen? Would you have listened or would you have followed your dreams?

Backstage at London Collections: Men

For this fashion season (menswear) I worked at Kokontozai (KTZ) Autumn/Winter 2014 for London Collections: Men (LCM)…

On the day of the show I woke in the early hours of the morning with a mixture of fear and excitement, the adrenaline was enough to stop me from returning to my dreamy sleep. Up I bounced when I realised I had no idea what I was going to wear (the same as most days but today was not any old day). After quickly visualising an outfit using the rules we had been sent from KTZ – all black, no jewellery and no excessive make-up, I attempted to slow myself down so I wasn’t a nervous wreck waiting for two hours until it was time to leave. My plan didn’t go too well because I was even ready before Ugly Betty was due on (it must have been early).

I still didn’t want to be waiting around for hours so I hopped on the tube, eager to explore the show space and its surrounding area. At Russell Square I admired the beautifully grand Russell Hotel, which brought back fond memories of my mother and I nosy-ing around the hotel to get a good look at the famous guests during the times she resided here. I arrived at Bloomsbury Square, greeted by the ornately traditional building Victoria House, which was also the KTZ show space. After trying to worm my way in through the front entrance to get some sneaky snaps of the fashion lot waiting for the shows, I was kindly escorted by a man who resembled Liam Neeson in Taken, all suits and ear pieces in tow, to the backstage entrance which was full of other young fashion interns stumbling their way around.

You can tell who the other dressers are because they look no older than 18, legs crossed, arms folded, usually about twenty or so of them and every one of them are standing their in silence. Awkward to say the least. I can’t stand these awkward silences between new interns so I introduced myself to two pretty Asian girls, one from Singapore who is studying Creative Direction at LCF and the other from China who is studying Lingerie Design at De Montfort. It’s rare you meet other interns at shows that don’t study design (I study Fashion Promotion) so I was pleasantly surprised to see that for once I wasn’t the only intern lacking in the design credentials. Another intern had come from interning at Columbia Records who had decided ‘to give fashion a go’ and a cutesy wutsey pigtails girl from Poland who I shared stories with about my trip there last summer. Communicating with interns is the only way you find out the secrets of the fashion world. You either get interns who are too proud of the people they work for to slate their bosses (you will never hear me say a bad word about J.W Anderson) or those who tell more than their fair share, on this particular occasion I was warned to NEVER intern at PPQ.

Anyway on with the show ! I know that on show day you have to expect to be shouted at, a lot (for doing nothing wrong). To be very confused because you have 10 different people telling you ten different things and to stand around waiting for an unusually long time watching everyone else run around whilst feeling very useless, until you are bombarded with hundreds of tasks at once. There is pressure, a lot of it. No one wants to be the intern that screws up on show day. Three models were assigned to me, all equally as good looking as the next. Ladies man Tom from Cambridge (Kate Moss’ latest playboy shoot was his screensaver), the one with the beard (hipster or what..) and Jacob from Texas (my personal favourite). There was a lot of charming going on and the typical ‘oh my god I love your accent.. it’s so British.. you know because your British do you wanna come to the after party with me..’ In my head my response was something along the lines of, ‘oh my gosh yes I would absolutely love to go with you but I have this really boring thing called uni tomorrow because we don’t all live a glam life like you’ but out came a feeble laugh and my poor attempt at changing the conversation.

Despite all the glamour, I couldn’t think of a worse job than to be a model. I actually felt sorry for them having to wait in a room the size of a classroom, 200 people over capacity, whilst they were head to toe in Arctic furs. One of my models had five workers simultaneously fanning him so he didn’t pass out on the runway. Others complained of the heavy silver body paint, the lack of water, the high temperatures and having to replace their current contact lenses with black ones. Great ! Blind models were being sent down the runway ! The clothes aren’t to my usual taste but that doesn’t mean I’m not obsessed with them. The entire KTZ team was dressed head to toe as if they had just stepped out of the latest street style blog. I don’t think the dress code applied to them seeing as most of them wore twenty pairs of eyelashes, studs coming out of every piece of skin available and layers of printed clothing over more studs ! After dressing all three of my models and blowing in their faces to cool them down (yes I actually did that) the show went by in a heart beat; the heavy base blasted through the walls as we watched the army of Arctic Warriors pace onto the runway with light bulbs flashing in every direction. (We were lucky enough to watch the show on a giant screen backstage). After the founder took his long awaited bow, claps of joy and generous hugs filled the crowd. Emotions were running high and before we knew it, it was all over again until next season. The crowds dispersed, models left for Milan, hair and make up teams moved on to the next show and the KTZ team were given five minutes to evacuate the area before Nasir Mazhar moved in. All in all it was a wonderful day, I even spotted my favourite blogger Alice Point ( http://alicepoint.com/ ) on the front row. KTZ kindly invited me to return for the women’s show in February but I will be half way across the world by then preparing for Sydney Fashion Week !

Take a look below at the three fabulously monochrome looks I dressed: Look 5, Look 26 and Look 37..

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To see the full collection visit..

http://www.style.com/fashionshows/complete/F2014MEN-KTZ

and make sure you follow KTZ on Instagram @kokontozai and Twitter @ktz_official to see the likes of Cara Delevinge, Rihanna and Kanye West endorsing the brand.

Interning @ J.W. Anderson

For those of you who haven’t heard of J.W. Anderson yet, he is the one to watch out of London’s emerging designers. After winning the award for emerging ready-to-wear designer at the British Fashion Awards in November 2012 and being appointed designer at Versace’s diffusion line, Versus, he is certainly a global fashion player of the future. In January this year, he caused a media frenzy at his London Collections: Men AW13 show by dressing the male models in ruffle-hemmed skirts and bustiers! Yes, bustiers for boys!

Immediately after the debut of this controversial menswear collection, I began interning at J.W. Anderson for the lead up to the womenswear AW13 show in February 2013. This is without a doubt one of the best opportunities I have had so far on my fashion journey. I was shocked at how small the studio was and how little staff worked at the company, considering he was the ‘IT’ emerging designer of the moment. There were only two rooms, one where Jonathan worked on his designs with a few other members of staff whittling away on their computers and another teeny weeny room where the heads of pattern cutting and production worked amongst a revolving door of over ten interns at a time. It is safe to say that there were always more interns than staff. The influx of interns was colossal, we worked hard, my friends and family called it slave labour as I worked on my two days off uni and Saturday and Sunday from 9am until 12am, with only thirty minutes break for lunch and all over again a week later. Did I mention this internship like most in fashion was unpaid? We were frequently told “the collections wouldn’t exist without interns” and many of my friends actually had pieces named after them as it was their designs which made the final collection AW13 collection.

During the six week internship, I mainly worked in the pattern cutting studio even though I have virtually no skills in pattern cutting. I was more of an assistant to everything and everyone one, I am highly skilled when it comes to organisation. Although at times I was forced to come up with design ideas when word was passed from the design studio, “Jonathan needs collars for the show, everyone make sample collars now!” and I spent the majority of the time running (literally) from factory to factory trying to get the garments pieced together in time for the show.

My favourite part of the internship was obviously getting to work at the show! This was my first time at a fashion show and I worked backstage, setting up the looks to ensure sure they were perfectly pristine. We were then assigned a model each and had to keep tabs on them as they had their hair and make up done making sure we didn’t lose them (backstage at a fashion show is hectic to say the least). We had about 30 seconds to dress them with Jonathan shouting, “We need models now!!! Hurry!! Faster! Faster! Now! Now! Now!” As the show began some of the models were still in hair and make up so it was a mad crazy rush which added to the thrill of it. Within five minutes the show was over and everyone was cheering, hugging and crying congratulating Johnathon and the super stylist Benjamin Bruno, who Jonathan worked closely with, on all their hard work paying off.

My favourite looks from the show…

Click on this link to watch the show and you can see me in the background on the right at 1m 53s cheering away!