PINK STINKS

Let’s get one thing straight once and for all: I don’t have a problem with the colour PINK. I don’t HATE the thing – in fact, I rather like some shades of it, and when it comes to clothes, pink always takes me to this gloriously girly Luella collection (which interestingly doesn’t feature much pink) and this Meadham Kirchhoff look which was solely responsible for making me believe fashion styling was a worthy profession (I don’t believe in that anymore, though..*sigh*).

What I hate is the commercial dictatorship of pink enforced by companies wanting to profit on archaic notions of gender. These days I take for granted the notion of little girls being more than just pink fairy princesses (they have brains, don’t they?), but then I get confronted with things like this and this more often than not, and it makes my heart sink.

Last weekend I came across the latest Olivia the Pig book, “Olivia and The Fairy Princesses” and it made me laugh out loud because it touches this very problem in Olivia’s quirky style. I got into the Olivia’s books for obvious reasons (it’s my daughter’s name, if you’re new here), and I fell in love with her imaginative, bold personality. She is very much herself all the time (to her mum’s constant dismay) and she is constantly challenging the status quo. It was a breath of fresh air to see a mainstream character act like a decent role model.

This time she goes through an “identity crisis” because everyone she knows wants to wear pink princess dresses and be a PINK FAIRY PRINCESS. Oh, the challenge of not fitting in. I went through the same crisis around the age of 10, and soon found out that the only way to stand out (and be noticed by boys) was to be different, and it all started with my sartorial choices. For a party, Olivia chooses a “simple French sailor shirt, matador pants, black flats, a strand of pearls, sunglasses, a red bag, and my gardening hat”, while everyone else goes as fairy princesses. ISN’T SHE BRILLIANT?

 

20121015-124756.jpg

20121015-124805.jpg

20121015-124812.jpg

Girls should be encouraged to explore their idiosyncrasies, their creative side, instead of being pushed into the nearest Disney store (although, to be fair, the other day I passed by a Disney store and saw that half the princess dolls were wearing blue and yellow… is Disney picking up on this too?)

I was also happy to find this website called Pink Stinks, started by mums Abi and Emma Moore, who were “becoming increasingly alarmed by overtly gender-segregated, sexist products aimed at young children. ”

At the time, Abi was making a film for CNN about US scientist Naomi Hallas, who was doing some amazing work on using nano technology to find a cure for cancer. Abi’s return to the UK coincided with the press furore surrounding the release from prison of Paris Hilton for drink-driving offences. Intensely frustrated by the blanket press coverage of this non-event, this was the last straw for Abi and Emma. Pinkstinks was born.

Isn’t it revolting? That was in 2008, and 4 years later things are not changing much (or at the speed they should be). But Abi and Emma run campaigns and endorse products that go against this negative, stereotypical segregation of girls through pink, and there are loads of options for us mums fighting against this plague. As the mum of a little girl, I feel now this is my own personal battle. Will you be joining me?

The piece about clothes…

…I wrote for the Nike x MM newspaper is below. Try not to laugh.

COOL, Not Yummy

When I got pregnant, none of the people around me were doing the “family” thing: the only close mum-friend I had was thousands of miles away in Brazil, and although she was the coolest mum I knew with her arms covered in tattoos and a wardrobe filled with skinny jeans and Jordans, even she had left her baby phase behind years ago. In my world then, as it was since my teens, fashion was all about experimenting with crazy shoes and impractical fabrics, all about that thing that most mums loose as soon as babies come into the equation: having a choice.

So I started a frantic online hunt for a mum role model. The initial search was depressing: I was inundated with celeb pictures, all proudly wearing sky-high heels and lustrous hair while bouncing babies off their skinny hips. Their manicured universe was never an inspiration to me in the first place, so there wasn’t much point in looking any further. Then obviously there was the whole Yummy Mummy thing, with their skinny jeans and Alexander Wang jumpers, which only left me feeling like an inadequate, scruffy, lazy mess. Tales of school gate outfit competitions and cupcake & champagne parties sounded more alienating than inviting to me, and if I wasn’t finding the energy to get my hair done then, it would never happen after the baby. I looked at the busy mums pushing prams and toddlers up and down Kingsland Road, and as much as I admired their self-confidence and sense of purpose, they seemed to have forgotten their sense of fun – to me, part of having fun was through clothes, even if it was in a laid-back, messy, streetwise London way.

I decided then to tackle this mum-fashion challenge in my own rebellious (and a bit clumsy) way – starting with the bump. Instead of buying frumpy maternity clothes, I raided my fiancée’s wardrobe, wearing his old T-shirts and leather jackets that before were just the wrong side of oversized and now fitted perfectly. I gave up jeans and bought instead some very stretchy body-con skirts, as homage to Neneh Cherry in Top of The Pops. Heels slowly gave way to “flatforms”, which were kickly followed by sneakers.

I knew my life was going to change so much I wouldn’t have a spare second to care about clothes, but I was dead certain I wouldn’t change my slightly anarchic fashion essence. Obviously it did change, but surprisingly I am still the same – only now I have no time to waste worrying about what other people think. It seems that motherhood lent me a more authentic, but thoroughly pragmatic, edge. Once I passed the exhausting first months, during which I wore the same pair of (drainpipe rock’n’roll) jeans everyday, I soon discovered the joys of street-smart sportswear, loose, Japanese-designed trousers, and printed t-shirts (good to hide baby snot and sick). Not to mention a full-blown love affair with hi-top trainers rather than platforms – no matter how much I lack in the height department.

Although what I wear now is a more practical (and machine-washable) version of what I used to wear pre-motherhood (I like to describe it as GRUNGE), I still like my clothes to have some sort of understated loudness, if that sort of thing exists. In the end I realised that being myself, minus the late drinking and lie-ins, was already good enough for the mum role. I love being a scruffy tomboy with weird (that’s another word for “unwashed”) hair. Some people call me a hipster mum. I like to think of myself as a mum. A busy, proud, loving, caring, mum – only in cool threads.

 

Ernesto Neto, Flyknit Collective & Mothers Meeting

The partnership between Nike’s 1948 shop and Mothers Meeting keeps getting better and better. Last wednesday they brought in the great Brazilian sculptor Ernesto Neto as part of a collaboration with artists and the launch of Nike’s IT shoe Flyknit, called Flyknit Collective.

It was obviously a mayhem, with around 30 mums letting their bubbas go wild with an installation created by Neto, who said to everyone’s delight that babies, grannies and the art of crochet inspired his work. He also shared with us a lesson taught by his own legendary granny on how to crochet your own belt/collar/piece-of-string-to-be-worn-anywhere (apparently, she was responsible for teaching him the basics of how to make the whole Flyknit Installation piece – talk about an inspiring granny).

Although I was introduced twice to the man (who had a wonderfully “carioca” sense of humour) as the Only Brazilian In The Room, we didn’t get much of a chance to talk as he was constantly surrounded – but it was a privilege and quite an inspiring one, as Jenny, Mothers Meeting Superwoman, would have been proud to know. There was also an appearance by Jenny’s uni mates Gareth Pugh and a pregnant dazed and confused Katie Shillingford, which lent the chaos a touch of fashion GLAM.

We also wore the famed #fuelband – Nike’s watch-bracelet-thingy that everyone is talking about on instagram and supposedly measures your activity-ness. I ended up being the most active mum in the room, possibly due to the stomach bug acting up in my body and sending me straight to bed for two days after the event. All around fun, nevertheless.

ah, yes, and the shoe: a lesson in lightness, beauty, and efficiency – which is my goal in life, of course. I definitely want to be a FlyKnit when I grow up.

Thanks Jenny and Sharmadean for the opportunity, the freebies, the breakfast and the fun. <3

 

20120806-225532.jpg

20120806-225548.jpg

20120806-225624.jpg

20120806-225640.jpg

20120806-225705.jpg

20120806-225722.jpg

20120806-225737.jpg

20120806-225748.jpg

20120806-225800.jpg

20120806-225813.jpg

20120806-225827.jpg

The Glow

One of the most stylish mums I know recently posted about this website called THE GLOW, a sort of Selby for mums, and rather predictably, I spent some overtly-considerate time reading each entry.

It’s full of thin, sexy, yummy mummies who have “mastered the subtle art of undone glamour”, smiling at their  costume-attired offspring, living in impeccably organised houses which the author of the posts likes to describe as “beach chic meets cool sophistication” or “a whimsical home, perfect for family togetherness.”

 

Well.

If I raise my eyes from the screen right now to glance across my living room, I will see:

1. Toys and baby paraphernalia like muslin squares, dummies, half-drunk bottles, and lost socks scattered all over the furniture and floor, and definitely NOT in a stylish way;

2. Piles of unfolded clothes and winter accessories, clean or desperately in need of a wash, scattered all over the furniture and floor, and NOT in a stylish way;

3. Dirty  dishes, and empty tea mugs;

4. Books, magazines, flyers and folders that range in subject from the high to low-brow (a Bertrand Russel here, a Grazia magazine there), but mostly focusing on the practical (baby feeding manuals, nursery applications, information about the SAFEST form of contraception available on the NHS);

5. Too many electronic devices invented by a recently deceased and absurdly famous CEO, all for the sole purpose of relieving boredom, mine and the baby (as it is obvious, I rarely use them for important things, like WORK);

6. A cat sleeping on the only armchair he is allowed to these days, as clearly I have no time to rid the house of all the fur he is shedding on a second-by-second basis.

If I had a mirror in front of myself, I’d probably see someone rather in need of a haircut, wearing leggings with too many holes   in inappropriate places and a dirty man’s t-shirt, and dark circles under her eyes, dark enough to be the ENVY of any of Tim Burton’s characters.

SO YEAH. I don’t think we’ll EVER be featured in The Glow. Shame.

 

Three Cartoon Role Models for Baby O

I’m sure lots of new parents spend considerate time thinking about what kind of  characters and stories they’ll introduce to their offspring when the time arrives, and although most of them can’t wait to delve into world of pink princesses and romantic castles, I’m not too sure I’ll be going down that route. No. I’m TOTALLY SURE I won’t. If Baby O eventually decides she wants to read every princess tale out there, she can of course – but it won’t be her mother’s idea (unless if it’s to show her that princesses that wear pink and wait to be saved by a prince in a white horse are totally STUPID).

The characters below all are what they are because they despise and reject their upbringing – which makes me think that if I raise Baby O on a daily diet of interesting books, fashionable clothes and quality music, it might come back to bite me in the arse. She might turn out a complete girly, prissy, boring air-head just to annoy me.

Daria Morgendorffer, from Daria


If I ever get a teenager at home with the wry, quick-witted sarcasm of Daria, I’d die a happy parent. Daria, the teenager from the homonimous 90s MTV animated show has a very normal, very American routine of high-school and home, which she absolutely despises. She is surrounded by stereotypical characters including the blonde pneumatic cheerleader, the dumb football captain, a wildly popular and fashion-victim sister, and a set of stressed-out, career-driven parents. Highly intellectual and self-assured, she goes about her days wearing a blasé on her face and combat boots on her feet.

What I love about Daria is that despite the fact she seems to have nothing but contempt for everyone, in reality she finds the sheer idiocy of  her peers quite entertaining and great targets for her killer one-liners. And most of the time they don’t even notice they’re being targets.

Awesome quotes include:

“Don’t worry. I don’t have low self-esteem. It’s a mistake. I have low esteem for everyone else.”

and

“I’m a big believer in self-expression. As in, keep whatever you’re expressing to yourself.”

I’ve never been able to make quick-witted remarks myself  – if anything, I’m slow as a slug to think of any smart-arse observations, so I’d probably benefit from having immediate family capable of helping me out in this department. I’d just say, “YOU WAIT UNTIL MY DAUGHTER GETS HERE.”

 

Enid, from Ghost World.

 

Although less sharp than Daria, Daniel Clowes’ character Enid has a similar sort of background (as well as sharing a penchant for thick-rimmed glasses). A victim of small-town boredom, she and her best-friend Rebecca spend their days trying to amuse themselves by stalking the weirdest characters they can find, and swearing at just about anyone that crosses their path.

Enid is very much herself, and refuses to conform to the dictatorship of high-school, which in itself is a pretty great achievement for a teenager. She doesn’t pretend things are cool, and constantly tells people how shitty they are (also a great achievement. I know a LOT of people who are complete f***wits and they have no idea what I think of them). While Daria is a natural born writer, Enid has a talent for sketching and drawing, and any kid that bores artistic talents is great in my books.

While I DO NOT approve of sleeping with older men, as Enid eventually does, I wouldn’t complain too much if O’s first boyfriend turned out to be the boy equivalent of  old-dude Seymour, in the form of a geek her own age with flawless music taste and an obsession for collecting old vinyls (I went through a phase myself obsessing about boys who obsessed about records when I was 16).

Matilda, from Matilda

 

Alright, I’m cheating on this one, because I have NOT read the book nor seen the film. But I’ve HEARD great things about it (and ordered a copy from my local library now), and what great things. To start with, Matilda is ME: absolute cuckoo about books as a little child. Teaching herself to read when she’s 4, she then goes to the library and read every children’s book available, then move on to adult fiction. I didn’t really teach myself to read, but pretty much forced my parents and brother to read me comic books  until I memorised the lines, so I could pretend to read. And when I finally learnt at 5, I would swap any playtime with other kids to stay home reading books. My family wasn’t too crazy about reading like I turned out to be, but they were not as bad as Matilda’s parents who completely dismiss her as a silly child for wanting to read instead of watching TV.

Apparently afterwards Matilda acquires superpowers which she uses to help out her school teacher, but as I haven’t read it yet I can’t comment much – but I DO believe those superpowers were a consequence of being a big reader (I have some myself, but obviously I’m not telling).

I’m hoping Baby O becomes a passionate reader of BOOKS too, but in times of iPads and apps and twitter, that’ll be nothing short of a miracle (who knows what sort of ADHD-inducing fads will be available in her time). I’ll be teaching her as early as possible, as much to her benefit as mine – so soon she can leave mummy alone to have her own reading time.