Mothers And Their Daughters

If I’m honest I wasn’t aware that people even celebrated Mother’s Day. I’ve no recollection of there being a build up to the event, let along the animated chatter I’ve heard all week.

My interest has clearly been piqued though, not in the gift sense because I don’t go in for Hallmark holidays, but in the sense that I’ve been mindlessly googling images of Suri Cruise and Katie Holmes all week.

Anyhow, after amassing a strange number of tabs of famous moms and their equally famous daughters, I figured I may as well share some of my favourites.

Lena Dunham and Laurie Simmons:

The scattered, callow character Dunham brings to life in her HBO series Girls stays with you after she’s left the screen. But Dunham’s mother Laurie Simmons is equally intriguing – not  because she’s an artist whose images are imbued with feminist undertones – but for her quiet, perennial presence in her daughter’s work. Frequently, when I read Dunham’s occasional New Yorker column or re-watch Tiny Furniture, I see the dynamic I have with my own mum.

Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson:

I don’t know a lot about this mother-daughter dynamic, but Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn are two of my favourite on-screen heroines. Admittedly, both have a tendency to play silly, frivolous characters chasing after men and marriage, but they do it well, creating fun personas with cute laughs and fantastic hair to match.

Kate Moss and Lila Grace:

Talk about winning the genetics lottery. Daughter to Kate Moss and Dazed & Confused founder Jefferson Hack, Lila Grace has got to be the epitome of style.

Victoria and Harper Beckham:

I’ve softened to Victoria Beckham since she rebranded as a designer, but that name still conjures images of bad breast implants and oversized sunglasses. Harper Beckham however knows how to work a crowd (and a ballerina bun), getting a smile from Anna Wintour at her mum’s sring/summer show last year. Cutest. kid. going.

Bags of Style

Jil Sander infuriated the Internet a few years ago when she launched a hand-stitched lunch bag made of coated paper and resembling a McDonald’s carryall. Naturally, writers were taken aback by the price tag but many failed to recognise the irony of the piece or the influence contemporary art played in its design.

Personally, I loved the idea – God, I even blogged about it – appreciating that it drew more from Marcel Duchamp and Roy Lichtenstein than it did easily-packaged, commoditised goods by Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors and Co.

Just like Duchamp’s Fountain, Sanders took a mass-produced item, signed it and challenged critics by posing questions relating to object, function and the role of the designer.

I’m a sucker for this kinda stuff, which is why Anya Hindmarch’s Crisp Packet clutch bag got me grinning a few weeks back. Described on net-a-porter as a “gilded ‘Crisp Packet’, which took months to perfect and is designed as a “piece of wearable art,”  it was made in Florence, with each piece taking around seven hours to produce.

Andy Warhol, the shaman of modern art once said, ‘The reason I am painting this way is that I want to be a machine. I think it would be terrific if everyone was alike.’

To this end, Andy Warhol signed Campbell’s soup-cans and aligned himself with the forces which governed post-war America. By becoming like everyone else, Warhol became unique.

This bag by comparison does the reverse. Instead it turns the objet trouvé into a sleek design that appears simplistic but is imbued with one of a kind craftsmanship.

Of course, ultimately I can only ever pay lip service to these products, which I love but could never afford. It’s probably for the best though as Hindmarch’s metallic clutch might share another Warholian quality: Pop Art by its nature makes its point clearly, convincingly and immediately meaning a viewer need not look at the image ever again. Pop Art is intended to be disposable.

At €1,195, this crisp packet is far from disposable, but the idea could rapidly stale.

The Timid Blogger

For someone interested in marketing, I’m appallingly bad at marketing myself. I ran into an old friend recently and was intrigued by his ability to inform me of his goings-on with CV-like precision. Meanwhile I was left stammering my usual self-deprecating nonsense before asking for more information about his fun life abroad.

My limited branding skills go further than one-on-one conversations though (in fact one-on-one is normally where I thrive). I’m incapable of marketing this blog through the usual social media channels with the majority of readers finding me the organic way: Google search.

It seems ridiculous that I can’t bask in the spoils of hard work seeing that I work pretty hard on each post. And unfortunately, the Internet is only getting smaller – while seeming infinitely larger – meaning timid bloggers like myself are  increasingly becoming marginalised on the web.

A recent Nielsen report highlighted last year’s mobile internet usage with some 89% of online browsing taking place through apps rather than the web.  Women – presumably my target audience – also spend more time logged into mobile apps than their male counterparts do. Essentially, apps are splintering  the web and preventing mobile-heavy users from finding non-Facebook highlighted stories; terrible news for a timorous writer like myself.

When blogging became mainstream five or six years ago, it was lauded as organic and unique. This view has since turned sour with street style blogs increasingly reflecting the mainstream media values they were thought to shun.

Increasingly, blogging has become more about self-branding than it has quality content. And in an age where Facebook reigns supreme, only the best brands will stand out and succeed against the company’s user data-driven model and targeted ads.

As they say, blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Just not the Internet.

Blurred Lines

I spend a significant portion of my day scanning online clothing stores, digital consultancy sites and the Sunday Times Style mag, plucking headlines and copy ideas while trying to get my head around key styles for the season at hand.

I’ve become relatively intuitive to good marketing and wary of savvy product endorsements, but what irritates me is the increasingly obvious, frequently banal hard-sell across different platforms.

NET-A-PORTER and Mr. Porter offer the most cohesive Internet experience in my opinion, creating a clear-cut pathway between inspiration and transaction.

The Edit, NET-A-PORTER’S digital magazine, offers users an integrated experience by combining new and traditional media and creating a product that’s unique but inherently familiar. By comparison, GQ.com runs weekly Mr. Porter style edits with press shots and copy, which serves as quick and effective click-bait.

That a print magazine has lapsed into limited content marketing, where its source has moved into quality content production, is remarkable but perhaps not surprising.

Last week, NET-A-PORTER launched Porter, its new global publication featuring bespoke fashion and lifestyle features, which can be shopped via your phone. Porter’s effortless amalgam of content and commerce underlines a desire amongst retailers to utilise media in new and creative ways that promote the brand and give it a lifestyle dimension.

This is something that H&M and its subsidiary brands do this with aplomb (how cool and gimmicky is t-commerce?) Earlier this month, the company teamed up with Bauer Media to launch a new website for 20-something women called The Debrief. Using tailor-made native advertising (read: undercover adverts dressed up as genuine editorial content), the company encourages readers to click through to the online store and shop the looks that inspire them.

Meanwhile, H&M’s sibling brand Cos launched its fourteenth bi-annual magazine last week. Free in-store, it pursues the brand’s minimalist aesthetic through typography and design, with articles featuring well-known figures in Cos clothes. It’s not quite as understated as Porter but it’s the same idea at heart.

These endeavors, all funded through Internet shopping, show an ability amongst retailers to adapt to the digital sphere, transcend our expectations, and create brand identities which readers can instantly explore online. What this means for journalism is intimidating, but what it signifies for retailers seems pretty exciting.

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Stockholm Syndrome

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I visited Stockholm last week, confirming my suspicions that Sweden is the glacially cool epicenter of Scandinavia.

Small and easy to travel, the city’s medieval architecture unfurls like a fairy-tale town in a children’s pop-up book. The temperature was a brisk subzero, but I couldn’t appreciate the sights or fresh air on my first day. Instead I was plodding along feeling hopelessly lost.

I had set out early that morning for the Royal Palace, blissfully unaware that Stockholm’s museums and shops don’t stir till 10 or that my iPhone (and by extension my Google maps) would go temporarily AWOL.

Freezing and slightly frantic, I suddenly had no idea where I was. I couldn’t see a street name and even if I had found one I can’t read maps. So I walked. I walked down the river past clusters of boats towards a beguiling Renaissance castle. This had to be the Palace I told myself. Surely I was in Gamla Stan? A signpost confirmed just how geographically challenged I was: this was Djurgården, two islands beyond my destination.

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I decided to start at the rustic castle I had followed down the river, pushing my way through a large door into the rectangular hall of the Nordic Museum.

A remarkable building with a collection to match, it featured a temporary exhibition on the role of stripes in Swedish culture. Gimmicky, yes, but very intelligent, it was a lot of fun and a solid introduction to the city’s cultural heritage. Afterwards I braced myself for the cold once more, turning my back on the city’s ABBA Museum in favour of the Vasa ship.

A solemn presence against the Stockholm harbour, the Vasa Museum is a one-of-a-kind structure designed to look like the 400 year-old Vasa ship salvaged from nearby waters. Despite its imposing masts and steel roof, this charming building integrates seamlessly with its harbour surroundings.

Inside, Vasa’s all-encompassing education centre was outstanding: blending six floors of interactive history and culture, it created a rich, faceted view of this remarkable ship and its passengers. The Vasa itself is displayed in the central hall, its high stern and oak timbers glimmering on glass surfaces while several of the ship’s passengers are meticulously recreated using scientific reconstructions.

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The following day – and several cinnamon buns later – I visited The Modern Museum, trudging up-hill through snow in search of some Swedish avant-garde.

A spectacular site met my pilgrimage: four contorted sculptures by Alexander Calder stood in stark relief against the grey Skeppsholmen sky. Beyond these stood the museum whose austere glass shell shielded the city’s preeminent collection of modern art.

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Presented chronologically, the permanent collection drew parallels between Swedish art and the European avant-garde. Moving seamlessly from the turn of the century to the inter-war years, it displayed photographs, prints and painting by neue sachlichkeit artists including George Grosz and Max Beckmann, creating a clear trajectory across the different cultures and countries.

A Futurist and Kraftwerk installation ran alongside the permanent collection, underlining a century-long fascination with industry, mechanics and the potentials of the machine.

Meanwhile, in the basement, Marcel Duchamp’s silly, conceptual artworks were concentrated in a custom-built space, his surrealist contemporaries lining the walls and Luis Buñuel sound bites drifting from nearby video cubicles.

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Of course I visited other sights while in Stockholm: I finally made my way to the Palace and its accompanying museums; had what can only be described as a bucket of hot chocolate; did the Architectural Museum; found Acne Archives, and ate a fancy geometric Semla in bed, slathering whipped cream over my face like a recalcitrant little kid. But it’s The Photography Museum that stands out as my final highlight.

Several exhibitions ran simultaneously at this museum but the Elliot Erwitt show caught my eye. Erwitt’s images were eloquent but juxtaposed and imbued a one-liner quality. I took out my phone to snap this would-be romantic scene of Paris. Definitely the first photo-bomb, I thought.

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Cool Story, Bro

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Fashion after college was a slight whirlwind. I started working in an art gallery shortly after, then moved into an e-commerce business where I was asked to waive my rights to blue jeans and unusual hair colours. I started my first month with a remarkable collection of black clothing collected over several years and built on these with new structured separates from Cos.

Through my new job I became interested in online retail and began to study my favourite brands (all Swedish), observing their social media platforms and checkout processes while carefully honing in on their online image and its role in creating a strong brand identity.

The process began with Cos, moving through H&M’s remarkable catalogue of celeb collaborations, with a stop-off at Acne, before landing on H&M’s new sub-brand & Other Stories.

& Other Stories’ website is remarkable: playing on the concept of Pinterest, it is a high concept brand that combines the austerity of Cos with the brand’s vibrant, mischievous aesthetic. The result, like Pinterest, is addictive, and the site’s assertive merchandising strategy constantly pulls you in with more shoes, more jewellery and more make-up.

I visited & Other Stories in Stockholm last week where their store was adorned with mood boards, tables of leather, wool and cashmere accessories, a make-up area with light wood counters and a second floor dedicated to shoes.

Naturally I more-or-less bankrupted myself in that little space on Biblioteksgatan, but my heart also skipped a beat when I read this morning that & Other Stories will finally ship to Ireland.

Until then however, I think I’ll stop off at their Regent Street Store when I visit London in March. If only to cash in on this Simone Rocha-esque workwear line.

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Sharon Rooney: Absolute Girl Crush

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Over the years, there’s been a slow but steady vanguard of buxom pop stars that have chipped away at the mainstream and brought fuller-figure women back into the public domain.

But while buxom ladies are making their much-needed comeback, there are still very few real women with real curves stepping out on our screens and slotting themselves in amongst the stick-limb horde. One woman who is however – and who I love for it – is the green-eyed, black-haired, Glaswegian lass, Sharon Rooney.

Last January, E4 launched its new series My Mad Fat Diary, starring Ms. Rooney as the titular Mad and Fat Rachel Earl, an obese and anxious teenager from Lincolnshire.

But initially, I – I being the categorical chooser of cool women and Director of Girl Crushes HQ – had slight cause for concern.

Before the show aired, GC did a quick Google-search and learned that Sharon was in fact twenty-four, a long-way off from the sixteen-year old Rae Earl whom she plays. But after two episodes it was obvious why Ms. Rooney was perfect for the part: she captures the inherent awkwardness that being sixteen is all about, and makes the story as funny as it is sad.

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What’s more, she originally auditioned for Skins, E4’s flagship teen series but didn’t get the role and had to wait another five years for her breakthrough part.

So, what do I love so much about her?

In an interview with Radio Times last January, she said:

“I wish so much there had been a Rae when I was growing up. It would have made my life so much easier to have had someone real on TV that I could have looked at and gone: ‘I kind of look like her. I don’t look perfect, but she’s got friends. People love her so maybe people will like me for being me. I don’t have to change.”

Please don’t change Sharon because I think you’re perfect as you are!

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Caitlin Moran’s “Manifesto of W’evs”

Caitlin Moran In Conversation At The National Concert Hall

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Photo by David Mannion. More here: http://on.fb.me/18c1cpI1

Last Thursday, Caitlin Moran appeared to a sold out crowd at The National Concert Hall as part of the Dublin Writers Festival. Since publishing her second book, How To Be A Woman in 2011, Moran has ascended to household-name status and is lauded as the hilarious, gregarious big-haired feminist who made not-giving-a-shit a basic feminist principle. More significantly, she’s revered for making feminism cool again, and for liberating the subject from stodgy textbooks and ITV period dramas.

Last week, when Moran finally appeared on stage, the excitement was palpable and the audience, which seemed to absorb every age category imaginable, cheered and clapped as she waved at her 1200-strong fans. This was feminism’s Beatlemania moment and Moran was determined to get a photo of it.

‘Stand up,’ she beckoned. Duly, the audience took to their feet and Moran whipped out her phone, declaring, ‘I’ve got to tweet this!’

Photo taken and audience still standing, she shouted, ‘Now, I want all the women in the audience to say ‘AY OH.’ ‘

AYYYY-OOOOH, chorused back the female-strong audience.

‘Now the men; say AY OH.’

‘AY OH’, chimed the significantly smaller (but equally enthusiastic) patches of men dispersed throughout the hall. Everyone laughed at this and sat back down.

Immediately the show was underway with Sinead Gleeson attempting to field questions and Moran firing into non-stop chitchat and anecdote, which nearly always ended with some kind of eloquent, hilarious zinger.

From the moment Moran appeared on stage and increasingly throughout the night there was a funny sense of camaraderie about the event as though this were a town hall meeting and Moran was the town’s representative. When the questions were turned to the audience, women asked and spoke about everything from comedy and classism to ‘what should I do if someone makes fun of my vagina?’ (Answer: resolve this like a twelve year old and sit on their face.)

There were also hysterical pokes directed at Moran’s second generation Irish father who discarded a Guinness Moran had specially brought back from Dublin Airport (“The old country”) to Wolverhampton, wrapped in Cellophane; “it’s flat,” he pronounced. She also described her experience on The Late, Late Show last year (‘if I laugh telling this very sad story, it’s only because I’m nervous’) and how The Duchess of York became her feminist icon (or at least was until she chose to name her first child Beatrix.)

‘Did you know much about feminism growing up?’ Asked Sinead Gleeson. ‘Kind of. Whenever my mother got cross, my father would say ‘Alright Germaine Greer, keep your hair on.’ So I knew who Germaine Greer was but I thought she was a baddy.’

Overall, it was an incredible, hilarious and dare I say it, inspiring evening. After the questions, Moran duly signed books till 11, meeting and greeting everyone in her queue and taking photos and answering questions.

As Marian Keyes wrote on twitter after the event, ‘Come back! We miss you badly!’Let’s hope Caitlin Moran will be back soon to inspire more people and tell more swear-y tales about her family, the royal family and the nun who was knitting a scarf the last time she appeared on The Late, Late Show.

Bourjois Rouge Edition Lipstick

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Bourjois Rouge Edition in Fraise Remix (11)

I bought this lipstick with a hint of trepidation. The woman I sit beside in work had one on her desk and I asked her whether she thought I’d get away with such a bright colour or if I’d look like some kind of 1980s, Cindy Lauper throwback. She’s a professional make-up artist, so when she told me that the colour would complement my fair skin and pink cheeks, I figured she must know what she’s talking about.

I was still a little anxious when I bought it though. Despite being a drugstore brand this lipstick is still pricey, and at €10.99 it would have been a particular waste of money if it had wound up being too pink or too tacky and relegated to a drawer in my bedroom for the next 12 months. But even though I only bought this last Thursday, I’ve worn it everyday since and am so far really happy with the colour. I’ve tried pale pinks and light corals before and all of these have given me a washed out look as well as being several shades lighter than my natural lip colour, calling for lip liners – an absolute no-no in my books.

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Anyhow when I bought this lipstick I sort of expected it to be slightly more corally but instead it’s a very vibrant pink that’s also incredibly pigmented. For something that’s so bright however, I love that I can apply it quite liberally and not have to stress about drenching my lips in too much colour or needing to use a lip brush to keep it from looking over the top.

As for staying power, well, many lipsticks claim that they have a ridiculous amount of the stuff. Personally, my view is that if I find it difficult to sleep for more than 6 hours a night, how can my lipstick be expected to hack six hours of eating, drinking, talking, biting my nails and whatever other run-of-the-mill things my mouth does over the day? It doesn’t seem possible, so while this one lasts about two hours before a quick re-app is needed, I think that’s about standard.

Overall, I’m really happy with this purchase. I think the colour really works with my skin tone and it isn’t sparkly (yuck!) or drying (groan) although if you’ve dry lips this might exacerbate any flakiness. I can definitely see me using this and continuing to like it although I think I might try and invest in a similar colour from Mac, which I imagine would have an hour or so additional staying power and wouldn’t have that perfume-y budget lipstick smell, which, to be fair, isn’t that strong in this case.

Straighten Up

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Originally published by Image Magazine: http://www.image.ie/Beauty-Health/Health-Fitness/Straighten-Up/ 

It’s Thursday, it’s 10am and you’re absolutely spent. You battled your way onto public transportation at 8am, or crawled down the Dual Carriageway for a good hour. So, now you’re sitting at your desk, one leg wrapped around the other and your bum planted somewhere in the middle of your seat. Sure, you could sit straight and put your feet firmly on the ground but this 45-degree angle between your backside and the chair frame is sooooo comfortable…

Well you know what? We say, sit up! Here’s why.

Bad posture makes you tired: Your energy levels depend on various factors and naturally, they ebb and flow throughout the day. Sitting up straight might sound like a chore but slouching is a known source of fatigue that causes more than mere backache.

The facts: Every time you slouch, your bones are out of alignment, which means your internal organs are out of step. This misalignment causes poor digestion and increases pressure on the heart. It can also cause arthritis in the long term, while contributing to stress and headaches in the short term due to increased pressure on the neck and facial muscles.

How do you know if your posture is good or bad? If you’re standing, then glance down at your feet. If you can see your shoes without craning your neck, then you have good posture – Congratulations! If you’re sitting down, then your head should be lined up over your body, so your ears are directly over your shoulders. If your head’s sticking out, then you need to rethink your position on that chair.

Easy ways to get perfect posture at your desk: We all fall victim to The Crimes Against Posture charter; staring at our screens and slumping over our desks like Quasimodo with a laptop are the norm. But there are simple and immediate ways to tackle your posture woes.

  • Put your feet flat on the floor
  • Place a small pillow at the small of your back. This will support your spine and mitigate undue back strain.
  • Place your elbows at your side and touch your shoulders with your hands – an easy one to do next time your webpage isn’t loading or a tweet isn’t sending.

Handy gadgets to get your back on track: While you might have every intention to sit straight with your feet on the floor, sometimes a little outside help is called for.

Backjoy Posture+ works by lifting the pelvis forward to correctly align the spine. This allows the body’s weight to be properly distributed, alleviating pain and strain on the spine.

The PhysioRoom Seat Wedge Posture Spine Cushion: As names go, this one’s a mouthful but as claims go, this one does a lot for a small price. The inflatable wedge-shaped cushion works by tilting the pelvis forward, which helps to prevent slouching – sort of like an MBT shoe for the bum!

Still not sold? Statistics show that people who slouch are deemed ‘less attractive’ by their co-workers. Okay, so we made this up and there isn’t a shred of evidence to corroborate our theory but we’re certain that if we grabbed a pen and rounded up everyone in the office, they’d agree with us, so sit up straight, readers.

iPhone Appaholic

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Originally published by Image Magazine http://www.image.ie/Life-Work/Working-it/Shortcut-Apps/

Five apps to make your (work) life easier:

Expensify: If paper isn’t your thing, then maybe you need Expensify to keep you in cheque – I mean check! This free app syncs with credit cards to track purchases in real time, pulling in electronic receipts using the iPhone camera and producing a PDF that can be emailed to your accounts department.

Mailbox: Is there anything more tedious than having to work your way through a neglected mailbox? Mailbox, a free app, allows you to cut through the junk and read only what’s important. Now, you can put off messages with a swipe and a tap. Snoozed mails return to your inbox automatically so you never lose anything either.

Asana: Got a list you need to share with your team? This app is ideal for freelance groups who need to interact within email but don’t want to sign up to a particular service. Now no one can say that they didn’t get the memo!

OneSafe: Hacking is becoming more prevalent and when you think about, your secret question on Gmail or Dropbox probably isn’t that big a secret. OneSafe allows you to save and encrypt documents as well as credit cards and web passwords using one pin or password. Not only that, the app will alert you if someone is trying to break into your personal, password-protected accounts. It costs € 5.49 but is a genuine time and hassle-saver.

HulloMail – Call us anti-social but is there anything more irritating than having to listen back to your partner/friend/sibling babbling away on voicemail? Then halfway through remembering that you’re paying for this terrible privilege? It’s time to cut the middleman and have those voice messages texted to your mobile phone where you can delete at a glance. After all, how 1990s is the whole pen-and-paper thing?

Girl Crush: Helen Steele

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Originally published by Image magazine: http://www.image.ie/Real-Women/Girl-Crush/Helen-Steele/ 

So, what do the Danish supermodel, Helena Christiansen and the inventor of the wrap dress, Diane Von Furstenberg, have in common with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi? A shock of white-blonde and pink hair plus a duck farm in Monaghan, it seems.

No, no, neither the Prince nor Helena has gone punk or signed up to Big Brother in rural Ireland – but what a weird and wonderful changeup that would make. Nope, what this lot have in common is their shared interest and collection of the Irish abstract artist (who last year added Fashion Designer to her CV), Helen Steele.

And before you say it, we’re aware that a punk called Helen who lives on a farm sounds like an oxymoron.

Indeed, maybe we’re reading into her punk sensibilities a bit much, but with funky hair like hers and an abstract, print-oriented fashion label carried by twenty international stores plus a past pinned-down as the front-woman of a punk group, let’s just say she’s more Courtney Love than Simply Red.

So, other than her client list being almost as varied as her biography, what makes this lady and her label, Helen Steele, different from the rest? Well, this stuff is art. Literally.  Steele explains, “[My plan was always] to put into practice what I do on canvas in the studio onto fabric… The process always starts with the paint.”

Indeed, her methods sound somewhat in keeping with Jackson Pollock’s paint splatters – all chance and chaos – except the outcome is far more psychedelic.  “Myself and my team propel layers of multi-coloured paints into the air with the aid of wind machines, leaf-blowers and chainsaws. We ground the busier bright prints with little bits of black and blue, and then use mad fluoros to balance that out. We then film the process, taking stills from the footage and creating our prints from this. The print dictates the shape of the garment.”

Perhaps most significantly, Steele describes how she picked each colour with colour therapy in mind, adding, “To me, what I am creating is a work of art that you can wear.”

So, whoever quarrelled that fashion couldn’t be art, or said that a good outfit wasn’t a legitimate pick-me-up for when you’re feelin’ blue, Helen Steele would beg to differ.

February Makeup Buys

Last month I went on holidays with my dad, which included lots of tasty food, a little sun, a lot of rain and an absurd amount of makeup shopping. Surely I’m not alone when I say that picking up beauty buys in the airport is one of the best bits about going away.

Anyhow I made a lot of impulse buys and picked up one or two products that I’d had my eye on for a while. These included Benefit’s Fine-One-One cream blusher and the Benefit bronzer, Dallas, both of which I probably saved €4-ish on in the airport. I’ll get back to these two products later but funnily, it’s the splurge-buys that I’ve had a lot more fun with and managed to seamlessly integrate into my makeup bag and daily routine.

My splurge list is pretty long and I don’t want to think how much this lot cost.

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Here we go:

While away I picked up Mac Prep + Prime BB Cream (in Extra Light); Kiko Soft Focus Compact Wet & Dry Mineral Foundation (02 Peach Pink); two Kiko face brushes (106 foundation brush and limited edition powder brush); Kiko Skin Glow Light Effect Day Cream and Mac Creme in Your Coffee cremesheen lipstick. Remarkably, the Kiko stuff came to less than €50 while the Mac BB cream was nearly ten euro less in Malaga airport than it was in BT2, Dundrum.

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I discovered Kiko two or three years ago when a friend of mine, Ailbhe, came home from Rome and told me about this European makeup brand she’d discovered, which was packaged like Mac, had the same variety as Mac but retailed at a fraction of Mac’s prices. Myself and Ailbhe visited Kiko on several class trips to Rome, Paris and Madrid but each time I was a little reluctant to commit to more than lip balm or cheapie mascara. This time, I decided to surf their website before heading in to the shop and because the shop was significantly less busy than the stores I’d visited in Madrid and Rome I had the option to play around with the products and work out what I wanted before waving goodbye to my cash.

Because Kiko was only launched recently in the UK and is still not available in the US, it’s quite difficult to find information on Kiko products. MakeupAlley reviews were limited I found and YouTube tutorials and blogs were nearly always in Italian. But here I am writing about these products in English and I have to say they’re fantastic.

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The Skin Glow Light Effect Day Cream is without a doubt the weakest link in the chain. I wear it almost every day but I doubt I’d replace it when it’s finished. The cream comes with a handy pump and looks quite thick when squeezed onto the skin. Once it’s rubbed into the skin it becomes transparent and has a light sheen, which I usually rub into the apples of my cheeks and over the bridge of my nose. It also has an SPF, which is pretty impressive for a €12 moisture cream but my main gripe with it is that it’s a tiny bit sticky. It’s certainly a good, cheap product and great for me because I never have the patience to apply highlighters or brighteners to my cheeks and skin. But the sticky-factor irritates me and it doesn’t feel particularly hydrating on my skin.

It looks thick but becomes transparent after it’s rubbed into the skin

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I’d probably mark it 6/10.

The other Kiko products would probably get top marks. In fact I cannot talk them up enough. A few years ago my mum bought a Mac foundation brush, which I used a few times but never really saw the point of. I’ve owned several cheap foundation brushes from Boots and The Body Shop, which were always those stiff paint brush types that leave awkward streak marks on your face. Until I bought this brush, I used my fingers and saw foundation brushes as a gimmick. But now I’ve given up using my hands and solely use this brush. The brush is soft and a little puffy at the end. It’s very easy to clean, dries quickly after a run under the tap and applies foundation almost flawlessly. My only issues is that there’ll occasionally be a stray hair or two after use but I feel like this is unavoidable.

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I’m equally in-lust with the powder brush, which is remarkably soft, especially for a synthetic brush. The large, angled fan makes it very easy to apply a light, loose lair of finishing powder instead of the dreaded moisture-sucking veil of white, which previously led me to give up powders completely.

Inevitably, I’ve been using the Kiko Soft Focus Compact as my new finishing powder and I think it’s pretty great! According to the instruction booklet, the makeup can be worn as a powder mineral foundation like the Bare Minerals range but it can also be applied to the skin with a wet sponge, giving it a creamier foundation look. I haven’t really tested the foundation claim to be honest. It comes with a small sponge, which I ran under a tap and rubbed onto the powder but nothing seemed to happen and I wasn’t particularly interested in a powder-to-cream formula anyhow. As a powder though, this is very good. The colour (02) is very light and I’ve worn it over my foundation and on its own as a mineral powder and both look bright and natural.

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I’ve always been a big exponent of Bare Minerals but stopped wearing the product because it was priced too high and contained too little product, which nearly always evaporated what with it being a loose powder. This however comes in a handy compact with a mirror and sponge (a little like Mac Studio Fix) and so far looks like it hasn’t taken much of a dent despite being used every day for the past month.

Because I buy a lot of Mac products I’m not as excited or surprised by how good the Mac BB Cream or lipstick is. I’m a big fan of BBs and usually find foundations heavy and irritating on my skin. The only problem is that most BBs seem to come in a one-shade-suits-all, which almost never suits me or my vampire-white skin. Extra Light however is pale, light and when I wan to build up coverage, I just apply a touch of foundation on top, which somehow never looks cakey or clogged.

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The lipstick, Creme in Your Coffee is also nice, easy to wear, not drying and generally a safe buy for someone who hates bright pinks, dark browns and who owns about eight different shades of purple and plum lipsticks.

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My last two buys, which I’m a little sceptical about are the Benefit cheek products that I picked up in Dublin airport.

I had read a considerable amount about Benefit’s Fine-one-One on the Internet, had tried it on at the counter and even watched this embarrassing promotional video that Benefit produced for the product’s launch last January.

This isn’t a bad product per se it’s just unnecessary. It comes in a really nice container, which looks like an expensive Zip Lighter. The stick, which is swivelled out of the container, includes three side-by-side colours that look like an intimidating pink and orange flag. It’s pretty easy to use and works by swiping the stick across the cheek with the lightest colour at the top and darkest shade middling around the centre of the cheeks. It’s then rubbed in, leaving a nice cream-t0-powder coral colour on the cheeks. But is this necessary? I’m very pale and like to smudge a lot of pink onto my cheeks. This product looks bright in the tube but when applied seems very light, the darker shade barely showing up at all on my skin. I have high cheekbones anyhow, so highlighter is a nice touch rather than total necessity.

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Fine-One-One is also very large, certainly too large to throw into my tiny handbag or carry around with me during the day. It also gets covered with a lair of makeup after I swipe it across my cheeks, which makes my blood pressure spike. I’m confident I’ll finish this product but I won’t be replacing it when it’s gone.

Benefit’s Dallas on the other hand is a good, basic product that smells nice and includes a lot of product (90g to be exact!) But as someone who’s never really used bronzer before, I find it a little intimidating (my makeup rule of thumb is that I should be able to apply all products in the dark while half-asleep.)

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In all, I bought a stupid amount and all of it has turned out alright. Some products were better than others and impressed me a lot but more-or-less I’m pretty pleased.

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Making It Up As I Went Along

I wrote this for the kind people at sirenmagazine.ie. Check them out if you haven’t already and remember to ‘like’ them on Facebook!

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I’m the badass one on the left wearing red. Notice how my shoes match my dress. Stylin’ circa 1995.

For whatever reason I’ve always been drawn to make-up. As a kid, I was very much a girly-girl. I wore dresses and colourful tights. Until I was seven I loved nothing more than sitting on my parents’ bedroom floor in a pair of my mum’s flesh-coloured pop socks, so long on my short legs that they rolled all the way up to my thighs. There I would carefully apply my mum’s brightly coloured lipsticks and pucker into her gilded bedside mirror.

Naturally, as I got older I stopped trying to emulate my mum. I lost interest in her make-up and easy-to-snag knee socks, and it wasn’t until I finished primary school that my curiosity in make-up piqued once more. Every time my mum and I went to the supermarket, I’d wander off to pick up shampoo or soap and stop off at the make-up section to eye up the funny tubes, sticks and pencils. Eventually I decided I’d have to invest in my first piece of real make-up. I was probably twelve going on thirteen at the time.

I’m a strangely secretive person. I scheme a lot and over-think every situation. In retrospect I could have asked my mum to buy me mascara in the supermarket. But instead I hatched a plan. I was going to go into town after school, stop off at the Building Society and raid my childhood savings account, then head off to Boots to kick start my first day as a grown up. Everything went to plan. I bought mascara. Rather expensive mascara in fact. The woman at the counter didn’t say anything either. I was so worried she’d ask if my mum was with me. She even gave me a receipt in case I needed to flex my consumer rights. I was so chuffed with my purchase. It was one of those L’Oreal mascaras with a wand at each end, one end white, and the other black.

I simply could not get over the transformative difference wearing mascara and not wearing mascara made. Some time last year I read a book on the history of glamour, which included the story of a New York chemist whose sister would apply a mixture of coal dust and Vaseline to her eyelashes. The girl’s brother recreated the product in his laboratory and sold it under the name “Lash-Brow-Ine”, which was the first mascara ever sold in the US. He soon learned that the product’s cumbersome name was holding it back and decided to rebrand it, combining the vital component, Vaseline, with his sister’s name, Maybel. Maybelline is now one of the biggest make-up brands on earth. When I read that story I wondered how Maybel felt the first time she saw her longer, darker eyelashes.

I remember the first time I wore my mascara outside. Every Friday I went to drama and one Friday I decided to wear it out. I looked in the bathroom mirror, wondering if it looked like I was trying too hard to be an adult. For a year, this strange arm’s length relationship with my mascara persisted and then one day, before starting my second year of secondary school, I suddenly went absolutely eyeliner-maaad. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. I couldn’t wear enough of the stuff!

The teenage eyeliner phase is probably the most awkward. I’m secretly glad that Amy Winehouse became a global superstar when I was seventeen and had somewhat mastered the ubiquitous flick (or at the very least knew when the flick had beaten me and make-up remover was needed). Here’s a photo of me around this time. I’m wearing a lot of eyeliner but bizarrely have no eyebrows. This is down to one of two rather embarrassing reasons:

  1. at some point I accidentally buzzed them off with a razor because I was an idiot with a strange fear of tweezers
  1. I had overcome my fear of tweezers and accidentally shaped my eyebrows into some pink-plucked oblivion.

Either way, I’ve always had issues with my eyebrows and hair removal in general. Even now I still hate plucking them. Instead, once a month, I use an angled brush and paint on the eyebrow shape I want using dye. It’s easier. It doesn’t make me sneeze (surely I’m not the only girl who sneezes plucking her eyebrows?) and there’s no chance of any over-zealous plucking.

I find my hairstyle equally hilarious (I use the term ‘style’ loosely). I had managed to incorporate three totally different shades onto one single head. There’s light brown at the top, black-brown towards the bottom and some kind of blonde-ombré thing going on at the ends. Maybe I was ten years ahead of the trend? Maybe hindsight can often just morph into some sort of personal justification.

When I was fourteen I dyed the ends of my hair blue, with them then turning seaweed green, resting on an eventual orange-blonde. I dyed the rest of my hair black, then discovered that the black was a bit, well, black. For a long time, until my hair grew out, the roots appeared to be grey. I was going grey at fourteen! Fortunately, a new look was on its way. I was going to dye my hair blonde. But not before I dyed it a rather dull shade of brown. Like this:

In case you’re wondering I think I gave up smiling when I turned thirteen. I don’t own a single photo of me smiling before Transition Year. I also seem to have gone through most of my adolescence believing I had a side fringe when I didn’t.

When I was sixteen, I got my first job, working six hours every weekend as a cleaner. Not exactly glamorous but the influx of forty-odd quid every week meant that I had plenty of money to fritter away on hair dye and horrible eye shadows that I now regret and resent. I found this while cleaning my bedroom last week: Pout duo eye shadow in some horrific shade of blue. I wish I’d been on drugs when I bought it.

I also wish I had been on drugs when I wore it.

As far as I’m aware I only owned two Pout products and both were horrible. During my recent bedroom cleanup I found a second product called ‘eye slick’, which was sort of like lip gloss for eyes. It was grey, shimmery, and from what I remember quite difficult to apply. I think I used dot it along my lash line and rubbed it in to get the ‘dark and sultry look’ magazines always advocate, the one teenage girls go mad for on Irish Debs programmes. In reality, I probably looked like I had rubbed my eyes too hard and smudged my make-up. How ideal.

Luckily, I never really had skin problems as a teenager. In fact, spots were so uncommon that a bad one was enough to keep me from leaving the house. But as a fourteen year old with an interest in make-up and a fear of foundation, I couldn’t quite work out what the middle ground was. At some point I decided to give concealer a go. I remember robbing a particularly white one from my mum, rubbing it beneath my eyes and being shocked by its power to cover up dark circles. The only problem was that whatever way I put it on, it stopped rather drastically beneath my eyes. I had a flawless, well-rested finish that Kate Moss could only dream of. Followed by a lot of pink and some light freckling. I had a strange relationship with foundation for a long time, too. Even now I’m sometimes put off by how gooey it is. I remember trying on a Maybelline foundation when I was fourteen or fifteen, which was so thick that I felt like I was smearing toothpaste across my face.

I think I more-or-less got a handle on my hair colour and make-up regime around the time I finished Transition Year. Unfortunately I also started wearing tops that were a size too small, so as to make my boobs seem significantly larger. At the time I thought I had stumbled upon something brilliant and subtle. Now I cringe and hear my mother’s voice distantly asking “Would you not buy your clothes a size bigger, Michelle?”

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Going through these, what you may or may not have noticed is a lifetime love of hoop earringss and earrings that dangle. Nothing has changed. I still love a good piece of metal swinging from my ears. Except when I was eighteen I went to the doctor and mentioned that my earlobe was constantly getting infected and that one of my piercings was getting larger. So large in fact, I could fit paintbrushes and small pencils through it. My doctor didn’t find the situation as bemusing as I did and told me my earlobe was going to snap open soon and sternly told me that I had to stop wearing earrings immediately. A normal person might panic slightly and resent what they had done to their lovely ears. Instead I decided to wear my dangly earrings in the next piercing, right above the one that had almost snapped. As a result, if you look closely at my earrings now, you’ll usually notice that one is slightly higher than the other. They will always remain a little lopsided.

I’m sure there are plenty more mistakes, a litany, I could include. My past penchant for highlighter-colour bras could easily be a standalone post and no doubt future-me will blanch at the purple and plum lipsticks I love and wore throughout college.

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Above is a photo of me age-six alongside a photo of me taken last month. I am 23 years old now. Seventeen years have passed and I’ve somehow returned to the same haircut and hair colour. I don’t wear much make-up anymore and have thankfully come a long way since my blue eye shadow days.

Okay, so I forgot to apply my second earring but I’ve more-or-less found my footing, right?

Right?

Portlandia Top 5

I’ll skip the part where I mention that I liked Portlandia’s theme track  aaages before I watched the series and go straight to linking my favourite clips. That way when I ask “Have you seen Portlandia?” followed by an out-of-context quote, you’ll be more than covered. I got your back.

1) “Hey, I guess you’re never texting me back, so I’m annulling our friendship. Bye!”

I’m one of those people who’s had an iPhone for more than two years and who treats it like it like a small and delicate child. It doesn’t have a cover but leads a scratch-free existence. My stomach nose-dives everytime I watch this scene. I’d probably vomit if I dropped my iPhone.

2) “It’s kind of a house but it’s kind of falling apart? I think that describes your life right now, honey.”

One of my favourite clips right here.

3) “Does my voice sound fat?”

My favourite food is pasta. I constantly ask people if they think my face is getting fat and I once wondered if my voice sounded like a fat person voice or a thin person voice on the phone. Basically this is me:

4) “Did you read that thing in Mother Jones about eco-chairs and eco-ways to sit?”

5) “Imagine a Portland with 100% employment? A Portland where we all have jobs!”

A little tea came out of my nose when I saw this.

 

Weekend reviews: Courteeners and Foals

The Courteeners: Anna

The Courteeners are very much part of that English brand of lad-pop. They belt their songs and drawl their words, embracing their arrogance and winning over crowds with pithy pop ditties like “Not Nineteen Forever” and “Take Over The World”.

But Anna, The Courteeners’ third album, hits a brick wall. This isn’t standard third album confusion either, but rather third album bewilderment. It’s as though the guys sat down, charted a map of the current pop music landscape and declared that ‘80s was in, and vaunted English lad-ism was out.

The outcome of that conclusion is so-so. “Lose Control”, Anna’s lead single starts well but soon descends into an insipid mix of ‘80s synth and stadium rock. And while Anna’s eleven tracks are an easy listen individually, they’re unvarying and forgettable together.

That said, this is easy enough music to sing along to: not because the lyrics are particularly catchy but because every song seems to include around 100 ‘ooh-ohhhs’.

3/5

Foals: Holy Fire

When Foals released their first album Antidotes, I was in my final year of secondary school. Their second album, Total Life Forever, came at a time when I was starting to understand what college was about, and now their third album coincides with my first year as a graduate. Having spent the same amount of time navigating the education system and outside world as Foals have creating albums, there is, for me at least, an odd affinity: Foals’ albums are still associated with times rather than meaningless gaps of time.

Like most, I love music that wrings my brain of everyday thoughts and floods it with summer nostalgia. Normally Friendly Fires are my go-to group for that kind of fanciful dance-about pop – the kind that relocates you to a warm day, with a cold drink, maybe even at a festival like the ones in the O2 adverts. And here, there’s whimsy pop in abundance, particularly in songs like “Inhaler” and especially “My Number”, both of which were made public before the album’s release.

“My Number” isn’t worlds apart from Foals’ earliest output, songs like “Mathletics” and “Hummer”. But where “Hummer” and Co., were slightly more rigid and a little difficult to dance to, “My Number” is that dependable brand of soft pop. The chorus of “cos you don’t have my number” is a great sing-along chant while the trill of the electric guitar keeps the whole thing finger-tappingly upbeat.

Oddly, “Preclude” and “Inhaler” remind me a little of Jane’s Addiction’s 2004 album Strays, as though they share a musical chromosome of sorts. Incidentally, Foals’ last big hit, “Spanish Sahara” was used in the season seven trailer for HBO’s Entourage whose theme track is Jane’s Addiction’s “Superheroes”.

Meanwhile the fourth track, “Bad Habit”, draws a leaf from Temper Trap’s books with its easy-going jangle of guitars, and could undoubtedly soundtrack the next of those aforementioned O2 adverts. But despite the opening tracks’ enthusiasm, the album isn’t an eleven-song list of sing-along tracks to gyrate to while vacuum-cleaning the house. Final track “Moon” for example, is five minutes of chiffon-like pop that chars itself into your memory while “Late Night” is the album’s central break-up track, which builds, then ebbs away.

Like Total Life Forever, Holy Fire tails off somewhere in the second half. Regardless, this is still a great album; where Total Life was inspired by technological super-intelligence, Holy Fire avoids the esoteric and instead favours everyday tales of breaking up, and that person not returning your calls. But more significantly, Holy Fire consolidates a new stage in Foals’ career. This album sees the group leaving behind their arcane ‘math-rock’ roots to channel a new style that could easily propel them to UK pop star status.

4/5

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Digital Mailing Lists and Online Look-Books

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Gosh, which one am I?

God knows why but every so often I suddenly think that inking my digital signature into an online clothing store’s mailing list is a good idea. And nine time out of ten I’m wrong. What’s more, getting my name crossed off that list usually winds up being infuriatingly tedious and kind of like the online equivalent of a Chinese finger trap.

So wait. You said nine time out of ten. Does that mean you’ve made an exception somewhere online?

Yes, there was an exception, and the exception was Topshop. But Topshop’s the only one! I spend a lot of time pissing about on the website, so I suppose it’s only natural that I’d enjoy scrutinising weekly look-books featuring the same washed out ankle grazers I almost bought, paired with a jumper I wouldn’t have considered, and all browsed from the comfort of my phone.

So what’s your point?

Well, one of the kickers that come with shopping looks is that looks never have to deal with the real world. I mean, Office, meet my Galactica sequined playsuit. Playsuit, meet my gawping colleague.

If magazine features were people, then this would be where one would sidle over and cock its hip and say in a reminding voice, “But with the right accessories, you can turn that sensible day-time look into a night-time one that’s kickin’!

And what would you say?

Well I’d say thanks Ms. Magazine Feature but there are several problems at hand that lead me to believe you’ve never tried and tested your own advice. Firstly, is one expected to lug a suitcase from home to work to the club?

And if not, if we perhaps “layer” the different looks as you advise, then what’s the call of duty if the heater in work’s been turned up and you find yourself forced to expose some sequin?

Trying to comfortably incorporate multiple looks into one day is difficult, even in college. Truthfully, I have no real advice. In College I found that adding a white fur headband and red lipstick garnered both side-glances and pettings from strangers.

So that’s it, that’s all you’ve got?

Well, if you’re interested in sage advice, then mine would be thus: wear black. Black works. Black dresses and boots work. So do black dresses and boots and modest black cardigans for the office.

Black mascara is also good. At the moment I’d recommend Benefit’s “They’re Real”, which really is flake-free.

Obv no one will ever look as good on the job or in the club as The Good Wife’s Kalinda Sharma but a good mascara, some black clothes, good shoes and maybe a piece of statement jewellery will at least help you maintain that you did rock it from AM to PM.

Or at least from 8am to 11pm.

 

One-hundred years of Grand Central

In University I studied History of Art and Architecture and in my final year I took a course on architecture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One of the essay questions I received in my second term (and avoided answering) was something horribly convoluted (despite looking marvellously simple) like, ‘Is a building just a building?’

Had I stuck with that question (instead of taking the easier option and arguing something-or-other on Frank Lloyd Wright), it probably would have resulted in some very questionable defence, which, when broken down, was about as concrete as ‘I’ve tasted real butter and I can’t believe it’s not real butter’.

Anyhow, now that I’m out of college and not being marked out of 70, I thought I might as well take a light-hearted stab at that question, with Grand Central Terminal (the station’s proper title!) in mind.

This month, Grand Central, located in New York City’s Midtown, turned one hundred. Externally, the building is a stunning example of American Beaux Arts Classicism, while the station clock, which faces onto 42nd street, is the world’s largest example of Tiffany glass (according to Wikipedia). More significantly however, Grand Central consolidated train use and travel as a very central part of modern American life.

New York City has forever been the backdrop to countless films and TV programmes, including Sex and The City, Girls, Gossip Girl and The Sopranos – let’s not forget Medow’s undergrad years in Columbia. But where New York’s been a backdrop, Grand Central’s been the film-set where some of the best-known scenes in celluloid history were made.

There’s Carey Grant fleeing New York in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest; Al Pacino running, ducking and firing a gun on an escalator, trying to dodge thugs and make a train to Miami in Carlito’s Way, and the beginning of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin’s friendship in ‘80s classic, Midnight Run.

So, is Grand Central simply a building? Technically no, because it’s a train station, too, (remember!) But I’d also argue that it’s one of the most remarkable film-sets on earth.