Category Archives: Cultural Trends

INSIGHT : A 25 year old LA native talks about her world

What do I do in my spare time?

Being 25 years old and married, much of my time consists of staying at home and being domestic. But just because I’m married doesn’t mean I don’t know how to have a good time. When I’m not playing the homemaker role, I enjoy my nights going out to indie rock music gigs at a club called Spaceland. I also enjoy baking. It sooths my nerves when I’m stressed because it’s something I can do alone, and it doesn’t hurt that when I am done baking that I have a nice yummy treat to eat.

Where do I shop?

Being one of the shopping meccas of the world, there are tons of cool places to shop in Los Angeles. I like shopping on the infamous Melrose Avenue. You can find the coolest vintage shops there, such as Wasteland. If you walk the whole strip, you will hit high end designer stores such as Herve Leger and Fred Segal boutique. And if you’re lucky, you may just run into a celebrity while you are out. Last time I was on Melrose shopping, I crossed paths with Rhianna. Also in LA, we have the Downtown Los Angeles shopping district, where if you hunt hard enough you can find cheap clothes from up and coming designers. If I am feeling ambitious, I will make a trip to the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena (which happens every second Sunday of the month), where you can find the best vintage goods cheaply. You can basically find anything and everything at this market from vintage riding boots to antique broaches.

What is your beauty routine?

My mom has worked for a dermatologist for most of my life, so I’ve always been told to take care of my skin. With that said, every morning before I put on my makeup I apply a coat of sunscreen—rain or shine. I use Olay Complete All day Moisture Lotion SPF 15, which serves the function of keeping my face moisturized all day and wrinkle free for years to come.

To maintain a sun-kissed look (which is essential in LA), I use self-tanning lotion.  A lot of women find it necessary to maintain their summer glow by tanning in tanning beds. Because the weather is always nice, California women can show off their skin most of the year. Although “fake and baking” can give a nice glow, it gives premature wrinkles and worst of all it causes cancer, so an easy fix to the “fake and bake” method is self-tanner.

Do you diet?

I am lucky that I’ve been blessed with my mother’s good genes, but I am certainly paranoid that one day my metabolism will catch up with me. I’m not a big eater as it is, but I try and steer clear of carby and unhealthy foods like pizza or French fries. I focus more on eating salads, fruits, and vegis. Being an LA native it is hard to escape the Hollywood media and their view on what is considered beautiful. I have plenty of friends who suffer or have suffered from eating disorders just because of what they see in advertisements and on television, and feel the need to look like Nicole Richie. When I am feeling insecure about what I see in print or tv, I remind myself that these women have personal trainers, starve themselves, and have a good team of Photoshop artists to make them look like a million bucks. I also remind myself and my friends that it’s important to eat right, exercise, and remember that beauty comes from within.

What do you drink when out?

Ok, so maybe I drink more than I would like to admit. But hey, after a hard day at work I think I deserve a glass or two of wine, right?! If I am feeling like a nice hard alcoholic beverage, I go for a vodka and water with lemon. I kid you not, this drink tastes just like lemon water. The only calories you are inducing are the calories from the vodka, so it is a good low-calorie option. Although I drink mostly anything, I steer clear of sugary drinks like Mai Tais, Margaritas, etc… Those drinks will literally make your waist line grow overnight. Not only are they high in carbs, sugars, and calories, they will leave you with a mean hangover the next day.

Top 5 Beauty Must Haves

  1. MAC Studio Fix Fluid foundation with SPF 15. If you have a crater on your face, this stuff will cover it up. It also has SPF 15, which protects you skin from the sun damage.
  2. Nars blush in Orgasm. It gives the cheeks a nice and shimmery pink glow. I use this on my eyes too for a natural shimmer.
  3. Clinique Brush-On Cream Eyeliner. This is the liquid eyeliner every woman should have. It goes on smoothly and does not smudge.
  4. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. My mom let me in on this secret early on. It removes make-up easily while cleansing and moisturizing your face. It’s great for people with dry skin.
  5. MAC Viva Glam Matte red lipsick. 1 word: SEXY!

FOLLOW UP : Are the middle class shopping at Lidl?

I was interested to read in the Metro newspaper an article titled ‘Foodies love a Lidl bit of posh nosh’ (Sept 9th 08).  The article basically confirmed my recent observations which I blogged about – that “Food lovers are flocking to cut-price supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl as demand grows for premium products on the cheap”.  Read about their success with continental cheese and sliced meats here.

RESEARCH SWATCH : 16-17 year olds talk about their lifestyle

Sample : 10

Age : 16-17 / female 

Profile : Boarding school 

Location : York



Although top of the list are high street names such as Zara, Top Shop and H&M, I was really surprised to see how many the high end and luxury labels were also referenced such as Chloe, YSL, Balenciaga, Gucci, Vivienne Westwood and even Alexandar Wang.  Although the latter are mainly ‘desire’ brands, my trustee intern confirmed that several of her schoolfriends actually owned pieces by these brands as well.  Not only is this age group really fashion savvy, but they are also entering the designer world at an execptionally young age.


Most of those interviewed had some kind of beauty routine going – notably cleanse, tone and moisturise. There seemed to be little interest  in using products with SPF – although some did mention that their moisturisers already had SPF in them.  They are not concerned with wrinkles and aging yet.  All girls wore make-up daily.


Everyone responded with makeup as the must-have beauty product (no mention of skincare or accessories such as a hair brush or hair straighteners).  Again, I was surprised by the grown up selection of brands : Mac was the unanimous winner for this group, and for the other choices, think premium department store beauty and you get the picture.  One girl considered Elemis her beauty essential – an interesting answer given this brand is targeted at an older market, plus it doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of a beautiful fashion brand and/or aspirational ad campaigns behind it – this is possibly a brand handed down from mother to daughter?  


The girls were generally contented with their body image which was nice to discover (although how much anyone would reveal about this personal issue in a quick snapshot survey is hard to know!). 


70% would rather be size 10, 10% would like to be size 0 and 20% were kind of in the middle ie not as small as size 0, but not as big as size 10.  


Grazia is where these girls turn to to get their fix of fashion and beauty.  Other popular publications include Elle, Heat, Closer and OK; older target media such as Vogue and Tatler were read by several.


The Hills, Gossip Girl, soaps such as Home&Away, Hollyoaks and Neighbours, plus re-runs of Friends and SATC.  Clearly everyone has SKY at home.


I have never felt so out of the music loop as I have after reading the responses to this question. Chris Brown was the clear winner, and brands mentioned twice or more included Avril Lavigne, The kooks and Rihanna. Less familiar to me, but seemingly popular amongst this set are Tegan&Sarah, Danity Kane, The Long Blondes, Sean Kingston, Sarah Bareilles, City and Colour and One Night Only.


Top of the list is Facebook – it’s also the preferred social networking site amongst these girls – who’ve generally gone off MySpace.  They search using Google, but if they want to read the news they will go to MSN.  Other popular destinations include online fashion sites such as Net-a-Porter, ASOS, TopShop and Zara – these are more for browsing than purchasing, as buying online is considered risky by some, plus the fact that you can’t try before you buy is a put off.  Some are purchasing from Ebay. Hotmail is still the favourite email provider and apparently they don’t IM that much – texting and Facebook pretty much covers it.


No major surprises here but these girls can’t live without their mobile phones to keep in touch with their friends.  Functions used most are ringing, texting and sending photos.  Popular designs have been the Prada and Armani phones and new on the wish-list is the Samsung Tocco.  Apparently apple iphones were cool when they first launched but momentum hasn’t kept up and there was less interest with the new version which launched recently (the reason for this was unclear other than a general feeling that they did not live up to expectation).  Actually, when it comes to apple – the ipod is king to these teenage girls – followed by the apple macs and the iphone last.

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INSIGHT : 4 Random questions for my 17 year old intern

My name is Lydia, I’m 17 and I live in York. This week I have come to London to do work experience for Jess at FashionBarn, and she has asked me to write a bit about my life.  She gave me a list of random lifestyle questions to choose from, and here are the four which I chose to answer.

What do I do in my spare time?

Generally in my sparetime I hang out with my friends by going to the cinema and shopping in town. At school I study drama, so something I like doing when I have free time is going to the theatre. Even in my short visit here I’m going to see the Lion King, which I am really looking forward to. I also study art and have a big passion for fashion so I spend most of my time shopping, reading magazines, surfing the internet researching fashion schools, and drawing designs.

Jess wanted to know whether me and my friends like to hang out in coffee shops such as Starbucks, but we only really walk around and go to each others houses.

Who do I admire and not admire?

I watch a lot of TV and one of my favourite programs is The Hills. I really admire Lauren Conrad who is a fahsion student in LA and interns for Teen Vogue. I think I admire her alot because of her lifestyle and what she’s doing within fashion. She is a good example of what can be achieved in the fashion industry and I really admire her for that. Another celebrity I admire is Ashlee Simpson. I think she seems like she has fun and I like her music. Although she has had plastic surgery I think she is a genuine person who isn’t afraid to be herself.

Someone I don’t admire is Amy Winehouse purely because of how she lives and how she let her fame affect her life. However, I really like her music.

What brands do you like and desire?

At my school most of my friends and myself really like Vivienne Westwood jewellery. Although it’s been around for a while we are still wearing it and think is really chic and cool. Another brand I like is Ugg Australia, although there has been debates on whether they look good or not, I find mine really good for winter to keep warm and love wearing them.  Some girls at school have Chanel bags and Balenciaga bags are also popular.

Another brand I think is cool is a shop called Octopus. I go there when I want to buy a gift for one of my friends or sister because they do quite mad and funky stuff and its a good place to go to buy a random gift.  Benefit make-up is a brand which I don’t particularly wear alot of but I love the brand because I think the packaging and advertising is really fun and bright and all their products have cool names.

If I gave you £100 to deck out your fridge, what would you fill it with?

I love chocolate and especially Galaxy so I would buy alot of that. I would have fruit such as bananas, apples and strawberries because these are also good to have with a chocolate fondue with friends as well as a healthy snack. I eat alot of chicken, in sandwiches and on its own even mixed with pasta and also tuna for another sandwich filler. I would also buy pasta and sauces to go with them because thats mainly what I live off when I’m busy with school work and need a quick meal. I would buy yoghurts too, especially Muller Light ones, my favourite being strawberry and toffee flavour. For drinks I would buy apple juice and Innocent smoothies, I also have recently become a fan of lemon juice.

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TREND : Are the middle class shopping at Lidl?

I was having a conversation with a lady shopkeeper the other day, about how the credit crunch was affecting her business.  This led us on to discussing general changes in food and clothes shopping behaviours in the town.  She came out with the funniest and actually very insightful comment about the budget supermarket, Lidl – 

“it’s not like how it used to be you know, it’s absolutely full of ordinary middle class people like me”. She went on to explain that not so long ago, the supermarket had mainly been associated with its local demographic – one of the poorest areas in the city.  However, she also remarked that despite its associations, it had always stocked some great goods at bargain prices – and there were a whole group of friends and people in the know, who took advantage of this.

I’ve only ever shopped in Lidl a few times, but I must say I was impressed with the quality and range of produce on offer : cheap fruit and veg in good unit sizes (such as punnets of rocket), great gherkins and juices as well as a myriad of continental style goods…basically the kind of stuff you would expect to see in a typically middle class shopping basket. (OK – there are some pretty crazy things too).

Despite their slightly out of the way locations, thrifty decor and sometimes comical product offer (flippers, mask and diving kit, anyone?), will the interesting and at times cosmopolitan (and bonkers) groceries at rock bottom prices drive Lidl to become the new Sainsburys?

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TREND : The rise of the older woman

In a world obsessed by youth and recreating youth, it was refreshing to see that the film Sex and The City – which revolves around a 40+ group of friends – prompted such excitement and positive feedback across an age-diverse, (if albeit, predominantly female) audience.  Unlike the dumbed down, tracksuit wearing, ugg shuffling, ‘The Hills’ and other youth reality-based TV shows, the SATC film – a spin off from the tv series – entertained us with wit, wisdom, emotion and interesting characters (no vacant conversations)  – not to mention a fabulous display of sartorial splendour!

Is this another indicator which marks the rise of the older woman?  I’m excited to see that times are changing and we are definitely seeing and admiring more women who are 50+ – who look great and are doing inspirational and motivational things – in business, in family, in relationships (toyboys on the rise), and in general life decisions.  My mum has just announced that she’s going to move to London (from Devon), because “Devon is killing me it’s so boring, I need to be in London where it’s all happening”.  She recently phoned to say that she’s talking to a friend about sharing a flat – maybe with a male friend too.  My mum is going to be living like a student again – minus the homework and out-of-a-can cooking!.

Recently I’ve looked at a couple of  great websites aimed specifically at an ‘older women’. – a group of stylish, intelligent contributors deliver fun, engaging posts about life, love and a huge range of other topics – a site for the 35+ women dedicated to facing and accepting the aging process with strength and beauty – the beauty reviews are well thought out and insightful 

I also recently read an article about Polly Devlin, a 65 year old mother of three, ex-journalist and writer who is enjoying a whole new lease of life thanks to a part-time job opportunity offered to her at an American University.  For four months of the year, she up-stakes from her Somerset country home to the buzz and image-obsessed city of NYC, where she leads a glamorous and dynamic life of cocktail-sipping, clothes shopping, manicures and blow dries. It’s a far cry from her dowdy, country living where self-indulgence meant buying a new pair of wellies.  Read how she relishes her New York lifestyle and what positive changes have been brought about by the move.–New-York-Sex-And-The-City.html

At any age it’s brave to go to a new city and build a fun, meaningful life for yourself – more so when you’re leaving behind a husband, friends and a family home.  Life is all about perception, and in Western Society we tend to perceive that getting older signals the end of opportunity and good experiences. However, more than ever we are seeing women in the 50+ age group challenging convention and empowering themselves with energy, health, good looks and a whole new lifestyle. I hope this will change attitudes in the media and bring older women to our attention – through the screen and advertising. 

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