How to Wear…Neon

Bored of the same old pastel shades you’ve worn every Spring for the last 10 years? Why not go a shade bolder by taking inspiration from your highlighter collection. Neons ruled the catwalks of Nanette Lepore, Christopher Kane and Peter Som, and since then have been embraced by celebrities and fashionistas alike.

1) Monotone – with a splash of neon
Add a bit of zing to an LBD or classic blazer and skinnys combo with a neon bag or belt. This is a really sophisticated way to carry off this look without going too Saved By the Bell.

2) Neon skinny jeans
For a dressed down outfit, team with a neutral coloured slouchy top and flats. For a night out, wear with clumpy black wedges and a biker jacket.

3) Colour block
For the braver of the bunch. Look to Nicki Menaj for her clashing neon midi-skirt and top, and go even bolder by adding a neon bag or heels.

And now for the best in ethical neon buys…

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ASOS Africa takes clothes back to their roots

These days, most of the clothes we buy on the highstreet have been mass produced in nameless factories, by nameless workers who are over-worked and under-paid. We buy a dress in February, wear it once (twice if it’s lucky), and by the following year it’s most likely to have been pushed to the back of your wardrobe, lying crumpled and forgotten.

But what about the clothes that have survived the wardrobe crush? Why are some re-worn year after year, while others are lucky to last one season? Most likely it’s because these clothes have a story. Whether it’s the scarf that your nan knitted you when you were 12, or your mum’s boho skirt from the 70s, it’s the ones with roots that make the cut.

And this is where ASOS has got it right. Now in it’s fourth season, ASOS Africa is a collection produced in collaboration with SOKO Kenya, a clothing production workshop that was set up in the Kenyan town of Ukunda in 2009 to bring sustainable, fair employment to this impoverished community. The collection, which this year features sports-luxe and acid brights combined with traditional Kenyan patterns, allows underprivileged communities to establish sustainable business through local craftsmanship. Knowing where your clothes have come from and who may have made them means that they take on a whole new level of meaning, and knowing they were made fairly makes it even better. These are the ones that you won’t let out of your sight. Good for your wardrobe, but especially good for the people of Ukanda.

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ASOS AFRICA Organza Skirt £40.00

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ASOS AFRICA Tropical Print Shorts £35.00

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ASOS AFRICA Sleeveless Jacket £45.00

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ASOS AFRICA Stripe Parka £75.00

The grass is always greener…

Well, it definitely is where Sylvia Heisel is involved.

Mark my word for it, 2012 is going to be THE year for sustainable clothing. As high street stores battle to see who can come up with the greenest campaigns, designers are quickly following suit, creating ever-quirkier clothing lines that are more resourceful than ever before.

For me, the prize for the most-resourceful competition has to go to this lovely lady. Of Turkish heritage and raised in East Africa and New Jersey, Heisel’s designs capture this fusion of cultures and blend them together in Monet-esque perfection. And not only are the designs beautiful, but they are also completely organic and eco-friendly. Take her grass print fabric for example – made using polyester from recycled soda bottles, it is (quite literally) as green as you get.

Guaranteed these pieces will make you green with envy too…(I know, I know, I took it too far).

H&M’s Fashion Against AIDS

Wow, H&M are really embracing ethical fashion. Not only did they bring out their eco-friendly ‘Conscious Collection‘ earlier this month, they have now also launched their 5th year of the ‘Fashion Against AIDS‘ campaign. 25% of the purchase price for any piece bought will be donated to organisations who work to on HIV/AIDS education and prevention projects around the world. It’s great to see one of the most popular stores on the highstreet participating in campaigns like these, and even better to see such a high percentage being donated, instead of the usual 5 or 10.

Here are some of my favourite pieces from the collection…

How to host a clothes swapping event

Gone are the days where wearing second hand meant being forced to wear your older brother’s hand-me-downs that had been ‘customised’ by your mum to make them ‘more girly’ (usually involving copious amounts of lace trim and/or an iron-on patch). All we had to do was replace the words ‘second hand’ with ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’ and voila, old has become the new new. With celebrities like Dita Von Teese and Nicole Richie leading the way down (fashion) memory lane, second hand is now far more Grammy than Granny, and not only that but it’s incredibly bank-account and environment friendly too.

Vintage clothing shops have been popping up like daisies across the UK, but despite their musty smell and questionable music choices, they do tend to be quite pricey. And while charity shops can contain some great hidden gems, finding them does often involve trawling through rail after rail of corduroy trousers and velveteen blouses. Of course some do succeed in pulling these off, but it’s fair to say that for mere mortals like me such items should stay firmly in the hands of those in possession of a free bus pass.

So for those of you looking for a fast, fun and pricetag-less way to pick up some second hand sizzlers, why not consider hosting your very own clothes swapping event. For those of you who haven’t heard of these before, it basically involves gathering up a group of people armed with clothes, shoes and accessories that they’ve never had the right occasion to wear, that no longer fit, or they’ve simply gone off, and bringing them all together in one place to be oggled over and exchanged – as they say, one girl’s Crocs are another girl’s Louboutins. Not only does this eradicate the corduroy problem, it also means that the clothes are completely free, and you get the added benefit of catching up with friends or meeting new people at the same time. Here are my top 5 tips for hosting a clothes swap party to remember…

1) Choose a venue
Probably the easiest and cheapest place to host your swapping event is chez vous. Of course if you wanted to make it a big event, it’s usually easy to hire out community centre halls, or even function rooms in hotels or restaurants to make it extra swanky. Ask around for old clothes rails you can borrow (you mum/nan is probably your best bet), or Homebase currently have them on special offer for 2 for £15. Alternatively, you could try stringing washing line from wall to wall and peg clothes on, or simply lay them out on tables.

2) Invite your guests
Send out invitations that include a list of guidelines – clothes should be washed beforehand (and ironed if necessary), in good condition, and advise that old pairs of knickers or socks may not be best-sellers (except of course where Agent Provocateur is involved – if so gimme). Ask for donations to be dropped off before the event so that you’ve got a good amount to get you going on the day. I used this here ‘drobe as a template for my ‘lift the flap’ style invites.

3) Have a wardrobe overhaul
Don’t just rely on your guests to provide the goods -make sure you’ve got something to offer too. A good amount is between 5-10 items of clothing, shoes, jewellery and other accessories each. Be ruthless! My rule is that any item of clothing which hasn’t been worn in a year or more has to go. And no, you can not use the ‘but what if I need it for fancy dress’ excuse.

4) Provide food and refreshments
There’s nothing quite like  a sausage roll to make your guests feel welcome. If you feel like going upmarket, pink champagne and cupcakes go down a treat. If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back (and kinder to the purse) serve up jugs of punch or sangria, and scatter around bowls of crisps and dip. Of course, just offering a nice cup of tea is enough to quench a retail-therapy induced thirst

5) Take any leftovers to a charity shop
Don’t let things go to waste – put any unwanted items in bin bags and drop them off at your local charity shop. They will be more than happy to take them off your hands.

Happy swapping!

Spring clean your wardrobe with SHWOP

Today Marks & Spencer and Oxfam launched their new campaign ‘SHWOP‘. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the clothes swapping events that have been held up and down the country over the last few years, but this initiative goes one step further. Not only can you now use your local Marks’ as a drop-off point for unwanted clothes (which will then be sold in Oxfam stores), you can also trade in old M&S purchases for vouchers! Just hand them in to any Oxfam shop and in return you will receive £5 off your next spree (as long as it’s over £35 – it was a little bit too good to be true otherwise. But I’m not complaining!). An excellent way to spring clean your wardrobe, whilst at the same time reducing the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills and helping to raise money for an incredible charity.

As great as Ms. Lumley looks in these ads, the campaign does seem to be appealing mainly to an older audience. Let’s see Topshop and Alexa Chung sign up for it next…

I went shopping.

I recently experienced two especially distressing clothes tragedies. Firstly, my suitcase was stolen whilst I was on a weekend away in Paris. I say stolen, the truth is I couldn’t be bothered to drag a 26kg suitcase up five flights of uneven, precarious looking steps that only the French know how to achieve to my friend’s loft appartment, so instead I decided to leave it in the little courtyard at the back of the building. I took out my valuables (I’m not that stupid), but thought a suitcase of clothes would be perfectly safe within a secured building in a respectable part of Paris. Wrong. Goodbye favourite half of wardrobe.

Secondly, I loaned a friend my beautiful emerald green maxi skirt that I had practically lived in last summer but had yet to make its debut this year. Unfortunately said friend’s inexperience in the realm of chiffon led her to push an iron over it. It died in the prime of life, and will remain eternally beautiful. The Princess Di of the skirt world.

So anyway, both of these events (as well as the long-awaited appearance of my student loan) made me decide that I deserved to treat myself to a shopping trip. And so behold a shopping trip was created, and I looked at my shopping and I saw that it was good. The main beauty of it came with the discovery of H&M’s new Conscious Collection. All the pieces in this line of clothing are made in a completely environmentally and socially sustainable way, and not only that but they are simply beautiful! An incredible combination of this Spring’s pastel colours, lace and crochet textures and tropical prints, all completely guilt-free. You can imagine my excitement when I came across these adorable floral-print shorts, made entirely from recycled polyester.

Here’s a few of my fave pieces from the collection…

100% recycled polyester cropped top £9.99

Embroidered organic cotton dress £49.99

100% organic cotton crocheted shorts £19.99

Is this thing on?

So I’ve decided to dabble in the world of blogging. How long I’ll keep it up for is debatable, seeing as a) I have the attention span of a narcoleptic goldfish and b) I hate people reading my stuff, so all in all it’s not looking promising. But it’s either that or continue writing for a grammatically-questionable student newspaper, used more commonly as a device for impromptu beer funnelling than as actual reading material. I choose dignity.

A bit about me – my name’s Alicea, and I’m a 22 year old Politics student with a verging-on-inappropriate love for dresses, brogues and Christmas jumpers. However, being a typical politics student means that I also have very unrealistic ambitions to save the world. Hence my dilemma. So many of the clothes we buy today have been produced in sweatshops, and are made from synthetic materials which are often non-biodegradable, use up tons of energy to produce, and contain some nasty chemicals.

But caring about the planet and the people in it doesn’t mean having to sumbit yourself to tie-dye and jesus sandals. There are plenty of ways to maintain a love for fashion and still be environment and people-friendly. Whether that’s through wearing second-hand or vintage, customising old clothes, or even making your own, spreading the love for sustainable fashion is girlvstheworld’s MO.

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