dresscode don n o L t a wh
and . . . g n i wear e r a n me
r o s e p o o l e
NW7 N3 NW9
W13 W7 W13 W7
SE26 SE19 SE20 SE25
SW7 SW5 SW3 SW10 SW6 SW11
SE3 SE13 SE12 SE6
Introduction...................... 9 Foreword. ........................ 11 NW1 Izzi....................................... 14 NW5 Eleanor.............................. 16 N19 Lily. ..................................... 18 N3 Francesca. ........................ 20 NW7 Caroline. ........................... 22 NW3 Mia....................................... 24 E8 Lora..................................... 28 E4 Jacqui. ............................... 30 E11 Ruby. .................................. 32 E18 Mel....................................... 34 E9 Jo. ........................................ 36 E2 Alex..................................... 38 SE24 Daryl. ................................. 42 SE13 Kate. ................................... 44 SE17 Kim. .................................... 46 SW3 Catherine. ........................ 48 SW19 Jenny. ................................ 50 SW14 Katherine......................... 52 W14 Amber................................ 56 W11 Marisha. ............................ 58 W3 Rachel................................ 60 W5 Maggie................................ 62 W8 Sybil.................................... 64 W4 Maz. ..................................... 66 5
acknowledgements Of course I did all the hard work myself, but there are a few people who may have given me a slight helping hand along the way. Tim Harrison for his excellent graphic design and motivational shouting. Mary Ann Ellis, the real journalist, for her valuable creative input. Dan Williams, for absolutely everything. Daniel Smith and Oliver Shenton for taking truly fantastic photographs and not demanding a fee. Andrew Tucker for his incredible patience, wise words and
antique clown toys. Londonâ€™s most stylish women, for giving up their evenings and weekends to pose beautifully. And finally to everyone who has offered kind words of support, made helpful suggestions or just told me to get on with it. Thank you. Rose Poole London December 2009
introduction introduction “City life and fashion have always been intertwined, but nowhere has this relationship been more excitingly expressed than on the streets of London.” Christopher Breward Fashioning London. 1965
s a Londoner born and raised, what has intrigued me most about growing up in this vibrant metropolis are the people within it. Every time you walk down any busy London street somebody manages to catch your eye. This city is the best place in the world to be intrigued by people, especially if what fascinates you most is the clothes they wear. London is known throughout the world for it’s innovative, sophisticated and eccentric approach to style. The clothes Londoners choose to wear one day are on the catwalks in Paris the next. With a deep history in art, literature and architecture, the city is a place of inspiration and creativity. While other parts of the world may be best at selling the trends, London is the place that creates them. It was Mary Quant who defined the swinging sixties with her King’s Road boutique, specialising in micro minis and leather hot pants. Vivienne Westwood swiftly
followed with her equally as revolutionary ‘Sex’ shop that dragged women out of their disco flares and into ripped T-shirts and dog collars. From the teddy girls and their boater hats to the modettes and their heavy fringes, Londoners have always dared to be different, and the rest of the world has snapped at its fashionable heels. From sartorial students and chic city workers through to modish mummies and the vivid dancers of Notting Hill carnival, when it comes to style, Londoners have forever honoured all types of tradition, rebellion and diversity.
“It is impossible to distil London’s essence ... London thrives on the very contradictions it creates, the borders that it blurs.” Lucas DietrichStyle City, 2005
Londoners pride themselves on having the best high street shopping in the world. Paris may be
known for Chanel, Dior and Haute Couture but in London, a girl doesn’t need to marry a banker to get her hands on the season’s latest collections. She just heads to Topshop and finds the cheaper imitations. From rummaging around in jumble sales and car boots to browsing the many markets and boutiques, a Londoner is always determined to go that extra mile.
extraordinary outfits, be they tasteful or vulgar, sexy or demure, modern or retro, we instantly think about the person wearing them, wondering what kind of lives they lead and how and why they choose to present themselves in this way. Superficial? Maybe, but also a common observation of women – most perceptive of creatures. To satisfy my own curiosity I decided to compile a type of book that caters perfectly to the female spectator – pages upon pages of unique London women, attired in various outfits and each offering a different attitude to style. As a Londoner I was sure I had a good knowledge of the people who lived here, and I was aware, as most people are, of our multi-cultured and diverse population. However, I didn’t want this project to turn into some sort of social study or trend analysis. Instead, I wanted the portraits to be both personal and intimate, looking at the subject as an individual, instead of confining them to the ‘trends’ and cultural identity of their post-code. What therefore seemed like an obvious solution was to photograph these London women in their own homes. The domestic space is a safe environment where a woman can feel her most comfortable. It also provides an insight into their taste, habits and lifestyle. Many women will spend hours rifling through clothes, putting on make-up, trying to look as perfect as possible, assured of the fact no one can see and judge her. One step outside and an outfit that felt
“Foreign fashion journalists might not bother coming to Britain for London Fashion Week, but they do come to pick up cheap dresses at Oxford Circus.” Hadley Freeman The Meaning of Sunglasses, 2008
Wading into a deep study of London’s fashion history is not the objective of this book. Although certainly a celebration of our capital’s clothes, this is not a book about trends, tribes and trilbies. Instead it’s about real women, real Londoners and real style. It is a commonly known fact that women are intrigued by other women. For centuries we have thrived on watching how others act, speak, and, most importantly dress. We stare, scan and size up and if we’re feeling cruel, sneer. It’s part of our nature and some may even consider our duty. London is the best place to satisfy this lady-like curiosity. I have spent many an afternoon sitting in a café or bar, looking out upon the urban landscape, thoughts swirling. “Grey on grey? Where’s that hat from? How can she afford those boots?” When many of us do see
flawless within the warmth and isolation of the bedroom can often make one feel vulnerable, insecure and even unattractive. A home is often a woman’s sanctuary, a place where she can truly be herself.
high street, many of the subjects did not spend their days trawling through Topshop, neither did they follow the latest trends or designer collections. Most of them had an interest in fashion, some did not, and a few even said that clothes weren’t important. For many of the women, putting clothes together seemed like a natural talent, others felt less self-assured and wanted to pose in what made them feel comfortable instead of fabulous. Most weren’t born and bred Londoners, many had travelled from overseas or other parts of the country, but all mentioned, in one sense or the other, that this city had influenced the way they lived their lives and, most importantly, the way they dressed. Many women were inspired by the urban delights that surrounded them, more than a few relied on subcultures and music scenes to influence their style. Some women looked to their heritage for inspiration and few expressed regret at the fact they didn’t work more on their appearance. However, whatever the story, behind these women’s wardrobes, all of them agreed that London was a liberating place to live, and somewhere they felt the freedom to dress and live the way they wanted to. All the women I interviewed were happy to reside in this city. Everyone was here because they wanted to be, and nearly all talked about the area they lived in with a sense of contented pride. Although some expressed a desire to move to a nicer house or a better area, all felt safe and relaxed within their own home. It’s hard to imagine in a city as developed as London
“Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is life’s undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room.” Harriet Beecher Stowe The women who have posed for Dress Code vary in age, ethnicity, occupation and appearance. I have not stereotyped, judged or mocked. These women are unique, interesting, authentic and have a story to tell. I found a fair few eccentrics, but also discovered that the average working woman or standard student was just as interesting when discussing clothes and life in the capital. I visited suburban streets, halls of residence, council estates, maisonettes, student digs and a converted pub. What I found with most women was that they were shy, modest and often uneasy in front of the camera. Many subjects would consistently apologise for the mess and many insisted that they “didn’t really have a style.” Of course they did but British women prefer not to appear arrogant. The subject who spoke with the most confidence was predictably an American, pondering why London women were so shy and reserved especially since they “dressed so pretty.” I completely agreed. Even though we live in a city renowned for it’s
that some women can’t feel safe and that every day, in their own home, their very lives are at risk. This is why Dress Code is being supported by the Advance Advocacy project, a local charity that specialises in helping women who suffer from domestic violence. This book provides a snapshot of London women. We have picked subjects who feel confident enough to invite us into their home and reveal, through the clothes they wear and the places they live, the kind of people they are. The sad thing is that this book is not representative of all women. For many women in the capital, their home is a place of fear and oppression. They live with a violent and controlling partner who may decide what they wear, where they go and who they see. When I first approached The Advance Advocacy project with the book concept, Maura Jackson, the director was instantly intrigued. She told me that women often come to them completely devoid of confidence, esteem and a sense of self-worth. Once these women get the help they desperately need and have the courage to escape their abuser, they often make changes in their appearance, styling their hair, putting on make-up and buying nice clothes, all a symbol of their rehabilitation and start of a new life. It therefore seemed perfectly appropriate to have the good work of this charity support the purpose of Dress Code: a celebration of London women who can live the kind of life they like, happily, safely and of course stylishly. This is a book that looks at all the various meanings and connotations clothes can carry for the different women that wear them. We all look
at each other’s clothes, sometimes admiringly, often judgementally, and many of us will search for the hidden messages behind them. We all have different influences, icons, ideas and situations that inspire our outfit choices, and I want to not only show examples of that diversity, but also celebrate it, London of course being the perfect environment to do this. This book is a snap shot of what London women are wearing and why. Enjoy.
foreword introduction Foreword by Maura Jackson, Director of Advance Advocacy Project, a non-profit organisation committed to helping victims of domestic violence in London Advance are happy to support Dress Code since our organisation specialises in helping women throughout the capital. We are a domestic violence advocacy project, working within the city boroughs of Hammersmith, Fulham and Brent, providing 24 hour crisis intervention, risk assessment and legal advice to those suffering from domestic abuse. We are happy to support this project because we agree that all women should have the freedom to dress the way they like, and express themselves in a safe environment they call home. Many women find themselves being told what clothes and make up they can and cannot wear, with extreme consequences for not adhering to a partner’s demands. This control can be extended to hairstyles, jewellery, tattoos or make-up, all things that represent a person’s individuality. Even when nonabusive relationships end, women make changes to their appearance to mark a new chapter in their lives. This desire for change is more marked when a woman has been in an abusive relationship dominated by fear. In some women, their appearance and the way they present and behave will reflect their situation. Women will often become shadows of their former selves, their self-esteem and confidence at an all-time low. For example a victim may have learned to dress in a way that doesn’t attract attention, or for others it may be a lack
of money that forbids from doing anything pleasurable such as shopping. The appearance of a woman reflects many things, her mood and well being, personal tastes, access to resources and choice in shoes, clothes and other products. However in some cases the outward appearance can actually hide what is going on, and be a symptom of the abuse itself. Many women will wear heavy make-up and bright colours to convince herself and others around her that everything is OK. No two individuals are the same. Dress Code shows how having a strong sense of identity can enrich and enhance any woman’s self worth. There is a similarity between the empowerment Advance tries to promote through supporting women fleeing domestic abuse and the sense of self that can be created when women have the freedom to be themselves and reflect that in whatever way they desire through their appearance. Having control over one’s life is a priceless commodity, and hopefully one day, all London women will have that opportunity. Maura Jackson Director Advance Advocacy Project www.advanceadvocacyproject.org.uk
caroline thomas mill hill
francesca kletz finchley
mia buckton hamstead
lily york archway eleanor bonikowski kentish town
izzi von kohler camden town
Photograph: Rose Poole
nw1 Izzi 23 shop manager camden town
My style icons are My Little Pony and Hello Kitty. My Little Pony is what inspired my hair. I love the colours she has and Hello Kitty is just super cool. I love to wear a lot of accessories, like plastic jewellery and Tarina Tarantino headbands. My tattoos are also a very important part of who I am. My arm tattoos and the circles on my thighs were all done by a close friend’s husband. I think I could only ever have them done by people I really trust. I’ve lived in Camden since 2005. It’s very easy for me to be myself here and look the way I want. I first lived in Brixton when I arrived in London from Bristol and found a lot of the people there very difficult to deal with. I was stared at constantly and people would approach me and try and touch my hair, I was even attacked a few times. North Londoners are more accepting and less invasive. The main problem with the south is that they seem more divided and hostile – but here, everyone seems a bit more relaxed and harmonised. Cyberdog is one of the best known stores in Camden, specialising in crazy, intergalactic space fashion. It’s a fun place to work as you get to meet a lot of interesting characters. I’m a very hard worker and very dedicated to my job. I like the people I work with but I don’t really hang with them. I’m the boss and therefore I always have to be extremely professional. As the manager, it’s also my responsibility to represent the store, so I do tend to wear a lot of Cyberdog clothing. However I’m not a walking advertisement. I still have my own style and often mix a lot of Cyberdog stuff with other various bits and pieces. People assume when they see me walking down the street that I’m coming back from clubbing. In reality I’m just going to work. It’s quite funny really. I’m now used to the bemused stares of bleary-eyed commuters. I’ve actually been working on this look since I was a young teenager – years before I started working at Cyberdog. My favourite colours are pink, blue and white and all my clothes are in those shades. I wear a lot of Topshop and American Apparel but also buy a lot of vintage. My favourite clothes shops are around here in Camden, although I’m not a fan of the market. All the clothes are tacky and repetitive – it’s only for tourists and young teenagers now. Drugs and crazy raves are not for me – I work too hard for that. I don’t particularly fit in with the cyberpunk scene – I just tend to dress this way. I’ve never been a tribe-follower and the people I hang out with are dressed completely differently – my boyfriend’s actually very normal looking. The way I choose to look is a very personal thing. Some people may think I look strange, but I’m completely comfortable in my own skin, unlike a lot of people my age. I think sometimes you just have to dare to be a little different in order to really be yourself.
nw5 Eleanor 22 writer kentish town
I grew up in the very boring suburb of Ealing, west London and have only recently managed to move out. Many of the people I grew up with will probably spend their whole lives living there, sending their kids to the same schools, going to the same pubs; that really wasn’t for me. My friends and I managed to find a decently priced flat in Kentish Town – an area that I was keen to explore. We’ve been living here for three months and already I feel completely at home. There’s so much to do around here, people to see, places to go. There’s a real chaotic atmosphere that you just don’t get living out in the sticks. I spend most of my time writing, and there are a few greasy cafes around where I can sit with beans on toast, sugary tea and just work. It’s perfect, apart from the occasional wolf whistle from a group of builders sitting on the next table. At the moment, I’m in the process of writing my first novel, but I do a few temping jobs here and there to help pay the rent. My parents help me out as well which is lucky. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes and I have to make do with things I already have. I also like to steal things from my sister’s wardrobe when she’s not looking. I took these white tights about three years ago and she still hasn’t noticed. When I was at university in Canterbury I spent most of my loan on vintage dresses from the local thrift stores. Because the shops were rarely pillaged by trendy Londoners I was able to get my hands on some wonderful pieces. This purple lace dress cost me twenty quid and it fits amazingly. Since moving to north London, I’ve found a few nice things in the local charity shops. The ones in Golders Green are particularly good but at the moment I try to spend as little on clothes as I possibly can. It’s no fun buying dresses if you can’t afford to go out and show them off. So right now I’m living in my standard black skinnies and old jumpers. I can’t even remember the last time I went into Topshop. I wouldn’t say I’m the quirkiest of dressers but I do to occasionally like to stand out in something bright. Growing up in Ealing, all the girls I knew seemed to dress in the same boring, conservative way – as if they were already preparing themselves for marriage and motherhood. I wasn’t like that at all, and was always looking around for little trinkets and accessories. I definitely didn’t feel like I could be myself until I went to university. There I could wear what I wanted and behave exactly the way I liked. Here, in Kentish Town, it’s the same sort of thing. There’s amazing diversity here. Every time you walk down the street someone’s outfit will catch your eye. All the eccentrics of London seem to live around here. Just the other day I saw a man in Morrison’s wearing a gold suit and a gold top hat. He looked amazing.
n19 Lily 81 pearly queen archway
My son, Roy, is Pearly King of Smithfield Market and I became the Pearly Queen after helping to raise funds. I’ve spent years collecting various pearl buttons and badges to stick on my suit. A lot of my time is spent making accessories to go with the outfit. I decorate bags, shoes and of course my hat, and recently made this red purse for carrying my hip flask. You often need a nip of brandy when fundraising out in the cold. We’re a very busy group, and we have events all year round. Every first Sunday of the month we meet at Covent Garden and collect money from the public. Tourists love us, and we’re forever having our picture taken. My son and I also go to a lot of functions and care homes to sing old Cockney songs and get people up and dancing. I do like a good-knees up. I’ve lived in North London my whole life; the house that I grew up in is now the local McDonald’s. I was born in the East End. My mother went into labour right outside Bow Church, so I guess you could say I’m as true a Cockney as they come. After my mother passed away at the age of 28, my sister and I were placed in a children’s home. When my father remarried, my new stepmother came and took us to live with them. She was very kind to us and we loved her dearly. I’ve never wanted to live anywhere but north London – even during the war I stayed put. After I got married we moved briefly to Aveley in Essex but I came back as soon I could. I missed the city terribly. One of my sons has emigrated to Spain and he wants me to move there but I would never leave my home and the rest of my family. I do go and visit all the time for holidays. I once took my Pearly Queen outfit and sang all the Cockney songs to their Spanish friends. They really loved it. The Pearly Society was founded in 1875 by Henry Croft, an orphan from Somers Town. Whilst working as a road sweeper he made friends with the costermongers from the local markets and got to know their way of life – such as their rhyming slang and charitable deeds. To demonstrate their status in the marketplace the Costermongers would sew ‘Smoke’ pearl buttons on the seam of their trousers, jackets and waistcoats. Croft got the help of the costermongers to collect money for charities in London such as hospitals, churches, children homes and the sick and poor people of the city. Making the pearly outfit is hard work. We get a basic suit in a dark colour that fits and has a bit of wear in it. You then lay out the pattern and build it up slowly. I have to get a lot of the buttons I use online or sent from Amercica – there are very few places in London that still do them. Each suit is customised but we all wear a feather hat. That’s the finishing touch.
n3 FRANCESCA 22 graduate finchley
North London has been my home all my life. My mother moved us from Totteridge to Finchley after she and my dad divorced. Even though I like to complain that it’s a bit suburban and far out, it’s always been a nice place to live. Plus it does have a tube station – that’s the most important thing. North London may look quite vast, with its parks and quiet streets but we’re only really a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Camden or Kentish Town. One of my favourite places to go out in is Hampstead. I just love the cosy shops. Of course it’s a snooty place full to the brim of yummy mummies but it really is one of the most beautiful spots in London. That’s the best thing about north London – it has a place for everyone and it’s like a little city in itself. As a Jewish family, we feel very much part of a big community here. Of course this area of London from Temple fountain to Golders Green is known for its rich Jewish culture. Everywhere you look there are delis, kosher bakeries and synagogues. We’re not strictly practising Jews. I had a Batmitzvah and went to Hebrew school but now I only sometimes go to synagogue or fast on Yom Kippur. My mum has a lot of Jewish artwork in the house. I guess she has them to convince visitors we’re still commited to our faith, or maybe it’s just to remind her lazy children of their heritage. Living in London has helped me to be more daring with my style – more creative. With the massive flagship stores of Oxford Street and the numerous markets and shops, women get the option of having it all. You can dress how you want here, and growing up with such diversity has allowed me a definite freedom with clothes. Even though I’m a Londoner born and bred, travelling is very important to me. I love exploring new places and of course avoiding all responsibility. I like to think this has a good influence on my style, as I’m always collecting unique items on my travels, like this Aerosmith T-shirt which I picked up in Australia. Surprisingly, Texas had really amazing vintage shops, and Thailand some very interesting designers who produced beautiful clothes. I can’t help but shop when I’m away. When I was fourteen I imagined my style evolving into that belonging to a 1950’s movie starlet. That wasn’t exactly what happened but I do try and get hold of as many retro style dresses and vintage items as I possibly can. North London is perfect for vintage finds –the shops are plentiful. You can’t beat the charity shops up here either. My favourite is a Jewish charity shop called All Aboard that has the most trendy, cheap, amazing stuff. I bought a sequin cardigan from there recently which I just adore. My most treasured item though has to be my black Chanel bag, a 21st birthday present from my parents. It’s something every girl wants, even if they won’t admit it.
nw7 caroline 49 gym owner mill hill
I’ve been a North London girl all my life, but I do tend to prefer the quieter areas further out. The centre of town is always too busy and crowded, whereas around here you get a real sense of peace and calm. I live in a converted pub with my cat, Bagpuss, 20 chickens and two goats, Spot and Dot. I love being able to lead a tranquil, country way of life and still be within reach of the hustle and bustle of town. It’s every commuter’s dream. Attached to my house is a fully equipped gym that I own and run single-handedly. It’s hard work but I love having my own business. Fitness is not only my livelihood but also a lifelong passion. I’ve done everything from long-distance running to currently being part of a roller derby team. I did professional body-building for two years, which was a big commitment and incredibly hard work. It was a long period of eating nothing but lean chicken and spoonfuls of rice and doing intensive exercise regimes for up to five hours a day. Getting that perfectly sculpted shape was a real challenge, but that’s what I loved about doing it. I’m completely driven and a real perfectionist. Body-building took me out of my comfort zone and gave me a goal. I came 5th in a national competition – something I saw as a real personal achievement. Getting up on the stage and doing the poses gave me a huge adrenaline rush. I can’t even describe how great it felt. The clothes I wore to the competitions were fantastic. Sparkly bikinis and high heels really gave an added glam factor to my poses. I’ve found I always try and make some sort of statement with the clothes I wear. They always have to be interesting, maybe even wacky. When it comes to my personal style I have definite punk and psychobilly influences, and I love things with a fetish feel like leather and PVC. I also have a very big thing for animal print – my whole house is covered with it. I buy most of my clothes online or in Camden – the only place in London that does the quirky stuff I like. As a new challenge, I recently joined the London roller derby, and am currently head of training for the Steampunk Roller Girls. For the first time I’m doing a sport where you get to be part of a team and I’m really enjoying it. At 49, I’m the oldest player in the squad – but also one of the fittest. I love the ‘steampunk’ dressing up theme, where all the girls put on strange neo-Victorian accessories like corsets, goggles and fishnets. The players all come in different shapes and sizes but we all like to show off our bodies by making an effort with our uniforms, personalising them all to our own individual tastes. I like to wear fishnets and animal prints with my team colours. I try to be sexy but not sleazy – there’s an important difference.
nw3 mia 49 filmmaker hampstead
I don’t do the high street. I prefer to look around charity shops and small boutiques. I have friends who own small vintage shops so I often pick up clothes from them. I don’t really have a budget for clothes simply because I don’t really do a lot of shopping. I will spend more money on special pieces but I never buy much. Hampstead is one of the most peaceful and idyllic places in London. You don’t feel like you’re in London. It’s more of a village with decent coffee shops. I’ve thought about moving to Suffolk permanently but I could never give up my flat. I’d miss my early morning walks on Hampstead Heath, and pottering around town. You can never be bored in London. There are too many things to do and see. I have a lot of items by Vivienne Westwood, my favourite being this print dress in black, white and red. It reminds me of a slaughtered zebra, so through the dress I feel I’m showing my aversion to animal cruelty. I’d say Vivienne Westwood is my favourite designer, although I don’t particularly like wearing lots of labels. With Westwood, I believe you should never wear more than one piece and I think that’s true of most designers. People should never determine their style by how many labels they wear. Victoria Beckham does that all the time and she looks vile and terribly insecure. Style is quite important to me. When I lived with my grandmother as a child she wouldn’t let me wear any nice clothes so I was never able to express myself. So when I was older I taught myself how to make and alter clothes. I’m greatly influenced by old films. The fifties and sixties were, in my opinion, the most stylish eras. Brigitte Bardot, Julie Christie and Audrey Hepburn were all phenomenal around that time. I have a lot of vintage clothes from those eras; a leopard print jacket that I adore and a skirt with cats printed on that I think was made for a chubby 1950’s child. The most interesting piece of clothing I own is a t-shirt by designer Robert Carey Williams. He makes the clothes and then shoots them with real bullets. I did a painting course with him at Central Saint Martins and he’s completely mad. I also had this really boring black top from Benetton which one weekend I left on the back of a chair. When I picked it up a couple of days later, my cat Walah had scratched huge holes into it, but strangely she had scratched them in a really neat, well-patterned way. It looked extraordinary. I wore it to a party the next night and a friend came up to me and said, ‘McQueen?” I replied, “no it’s McCat.”
jacqui deevoy chingford
mel robinson-white woodford ruby williams leytonstone Lora Garney dalston
jo ayre hackney
alex rowse shoreditch
Photograph: Rose Poole
e8 Lora 20 fine art student dalston
I was born and bred in the half posh, half ghetto area of Sydenham, south east London. I had a very love-hate relationship with the place – it was an OK area to grow up in, but there was no excitement – everyone was the same. Only recently, since I left , has it become the new up and coming area for trendy, quirky folk. East London, on the other hand has always attracted me. It really is one of the most diverse and exciting places to live. Dalston has a cool reputation, but unlike Hoxton and Shoreditch it currently remains unspoilt – perfectly balanced between the grimy and inspiring! As an artist I find it a very stimulating place to be. The way people dress around here is a real reflection of the diversity, creativity and colour of the place. You get a real sense of freedom from the area. Where I’m from I would have been ridiculed for dressing differently and as a child it made me very insecure. I felt I had no choice other than to follow the pack. Here in the East End I can go out in the most mental outfit and no one will even look twice. You’ve got everything from the arty types to the ghetto fabulous. There’s so much going on and everyone can be who they want. I wouldn’t say I have a definitive style. I often just throw on whatever I can find. My mother’s family descend from Romanian travellers so I have a definite gypsy streak in the way I just pick up certain items. Walking down the street the other day I found these old Indian sari trousers. I took them home, washed them and now I wear them around the house – they’re the most comfortable things I own. I have nothing expensive; I buy my clothes from markets mainly and never put too much thought or get too attached to the things I own. Sometimes I will just give my clothes away. If something I lend makes someone happy I’ll just give it to them. I’m not possessive like that. Saying that, I have a couple of items that I truly cherish. One is my lucky top, which cost me 50p from a charity shop. I wore it when I first started university. I never wear it anymore but I’ll never throw it out. The second item is this necklace that I’m wearing at the moment. One of my closest friends does jewellery design at Central Saint Martins and I recently helped him out with his first exhibit. As a thank you he gave me this necklace and I always wear it. It’s so special I wear it everywhere. I’m not someone that settles on one style – I always want to wear new things. My style, if I have one, probably reflects that of the area I live in – eclectic, creative and diverse. Eventually I’ll move on from East London. I always want to explore new territory, experience new things.That’s what keeps my artistic flow going. I like to be in a constant state of transience and I guess the same thing could be said of my style.
e4 Jacqui 46 housewife chingford
I don’t particularly feel like I’m in London living here. Most people assume Chingford’s actually in Essex and it certainly seems that way sometimes. I prefer the fact it’s a small town – I don’t like the chaos of London. It’s peaceful around here, people know you and it’s all very self-contained. My postcode certainly suggests we’re part of London but it doesn’t really feel like it – we’re right next to Epping forest for God’s sake. We live in a big house near the local park, and it’s perfect. We’re renovating and we’ve just finished re-fitting the kitchen. I love changing things as much as I can because I think it’s important not to get stuck in a rut. My partner’s a contractor so he’s done a lot of the work himself. We might go into property developing soon. I think with my interior skills we make a good team. I go to Oxford street about twice a year but apart from that I tend to do all my clothes shopping locally. There are a few standard favourites around; M&S, Topshop etc – but what I’m very good at is charity shopping. I always manage to find incredible stuff. It must be a talent really – I suppose it’s because I’m always prepared to rummage. Just the other day I had these beautiful Miu Miu grey cowboy boots on. One of my daughters was shocked to see I was wearing something so extravagant and demanded to know where I got them. I coolly replied, “a tenner at Barnado’s.” The argument ended there. I recently bought this sparkly dress for £12 at the same charity shop, and everyone thinks it’s brand new. It’s my new favourite new thing and I’ll be wearing it throughout the party season. It’s lucky I’m good at finding bargains because I do tend to be a bit of a spender. I love to shop, and with teenage daughters in tow it can lead to trouble. Although we do tend to share a lot of the clothes we buy. We all have the same shape, so I often dive into their wardrobe if I feel like putting on something new and vice versa. That’s the great thing about Topshop, it’s got universal appeal. Chingford has definitely got some Essex style to it. A lot of the women walking around will often have bleached blonde hair, acrylic nails and an orange tan. I’m not saying I don’t sometimes like to slap it on myself but some of the women just look ridiculous. The town centre on a Saturday night is not a particularly pretty sight – girls stumbling around with their bottoms on display – but I guess a lot of places are like that. I prefer a more subtle approach to style. If I decide to wear a short dress I’ll always wear tights. I think it’s important to have balance.
e11 ruby 19 elf leytonstone
It’s a bit of a mission to get to work in the morning but I do like East London. I originally lived in Basingstoke, but as the eldest of six children, it got too crowded and I left three years ago to come to the city. I left school early so I’ve been moving around from job to job ever since. Most of my friends are students but I never really felt like going back to studying. I can’t really be bothered with it all. I live with my friend and her parents – her mum’s an artist and they’re a very cool, liberal family. Their house is beautiful and I feel very privileged to live here. Leytonstone could be viewed as quite a dodgy part of London. It definitely needs renovation in places, but on the whole it’s a decent place to live if you don’t mind long commutes. There isn’t much to do around here but I have friends scattered all over London, so I don’t spend much time at home. I’m currently working as a Christmas elf in Harrods, which is definitely one of the most bizarre jobs I’ve had. Unfortunately you don’t have a full Grinch-like ensemble to put on every day – which quite appealed to me. You just have to wear black. Harrods is a very strict company to work for and they demand an impeccable appearance at all times. I have to wear full make-up and high heels which can be awful when you spend all day on your feet. But the people are really nice and as long as you don’t mind screaming kids it’s an OK job. Luckily I’ve had plenty of experience with younger siblings. I love dressing up to go out, and am definitely one of those people who make an effort. I love all sorts of clothes, and don’t have any one particular style. I recently did some modelling shoots for a friend where I had to dress up in burlesque gear. I felt amazing and very sexy. I love all that kind of femme fatale retrostuff. I always wear red lipstick because many people say that my pout is my best feature. I love to shop on the high street but I do enjoy a good vintage shop every now and again. My mother is a really stylish lady and has tons of amazing clothes from the eighties. She had this amazing Chanel belt that a rich boyfriend gave her. Before she even thought about giving it away I quickly snapped it up. I rarely wear it, but it’s very nice to have vintage designer piece whenever you need it. My most treasured item are these cute little red shoes from Harrods. I was obsessed with the Wizard of Oz as a child and ever since have been on a constant hunt for the perfect pair of Dorothy shoes. These shoes were exactly what I was looking for. I secretly hope that one day I’ll just click them and they’ll take me somewhere amazing.
e18 mel 36 art director woodford
Being a larger lady I often find it very difficult to find clothes that suit me. It seems that leading stores on the high street only cater for size 14 and below, which I think is very unfair. I’ll often see lots of fantastic dresses in Topshop and H&M that are never available to me – it can be so infuriating. I do love clothes and like making an effort although I tend to live in jeans and T-shirts. Working on a magazine means you can dress very casually, so most of the time I just like to feel comfortable. It can be quite difficult living on the borders of Essex because many of the women around here tend to look so pristine and made-up. Every morning I go to the gym and am amazed to see women there who look absolutely immaculate and pristine at seven am. I don’t know how they do it. We moved to Woodford about three years ago and so far we’ve really felt at home. It’s so close to Essex that it can seem quite rural, which is perfect for long walks with the dog. It can get rather hectic working in town so it’s nice to live in a peaceful area where everything’s calm and quiet. However, saying that, I often crave the convenience of an urban life. Everything usually shuts down here around nine and there’s nowhere particularly lively to go out at night. It can be rather boring, but luckily for me I’m so worn out by the end of the working week that all I feel like doing is curling up on the sofa with a glass of wine. My two sisters were both fashion students so I learned from a young age about how to put things together. I suppose I used to be quite ‘trendy’ when I was younger, spending my weekends rooting through jumble sales and buying wacky accessories to go with my colourful outfits. Now I think I’ve definitely become more of a conformist, sticking to a staple outfit of jeans and cardigans. Although I still love accessorising and will often add a floral brooch to my cardigan or jacket. I love necklaces too. This silver heart necklace I’m wearing was given to me by a friend. She had it handmade at this small shop in Hastings and I absolutely love it. My partner Vicki only takes up around fifteen percent of our wardrobe. The rest is all mine – but she tends not to complain. I have a thing for shoes and own quite a few pairs. I love buying cowboy boots from Rokit in Covent Garden and Dorothy Perkins does some great smart shoes. I must confess that I own a pair of crocs. I know they’re a bit of a fashion no-no but I wore them to a festival last year and they were the most comfortable things in the world. I could never be parted from them.
e9 JO 21 receptionist hackney
We haven’t been living long in Hackney – my friends and I just moved in a few months ago. I was reading anthropology at university but I got really bored with studying, so I left and came to London. I’m definitely more suited to living in a big city – there just seems to be lots going on here. My friends and I don’t like to get set in our ways so we try and go to as many different clubs and bars as we can, and this area of London is perfect for that. Working as a gym receptionist can be quite a boring occupation so I try and do other things. I’ve done some modelling for a few retro fashion magazines and also do a bit of work as an extra. I was recently in a Lily Allen video that was shot in a club. It’s quite fun to do and it’s quite easy work, as long as you don’t mind standing around for hours on end. My style is 40’s and 50’s glamour and my biggest style icon is the American actress, Traci Lords. She’s beautiful with fantastic style but also a little bit grimy. I love the way she opted out of the A-list lifestyle and filming with Johnny Depp for a career in porn. That’s pretty cool. I only really wear vintage, and love rummaging around London for good pieces. It’s actually very difficult to get your hands on a well-fitted, vintage dress these days. Because retro-fashion has become so popular, a lot of shops like Beyond Retro just sell complete crap at ridiculous prices. It’s a symptom of the East End becoming such a trendy place – nowadays anyone can just get an oldish looking dress and call it vintage. This blue dress I’m wearing I actually found in a charity shop, and it fits amazingly. I know that it’s an original fifties dress which is probably why it’s so well made. You can really tell the difference between the crap they sell in Absolute Vintage and the good stuff. If I find a dress or something I really like but it doesn’t fit right then I usually alter it myself. You have to make the effort when you buy stuff second-hand – I don’t like things that fit badly. I also like to add my own individual quirks. I think it’s important to wear something that looks exactly the way you want it to. If it doesn’t, then just do something to make sure it does. I love to accessorise with the perfect pair of shoes. My blue Vivienne Westwood Melissa heart shoes are amazing and they always smell so good, like vanilla or something. I also like to accessorise with tattoos and have plenty. My most recent were two portraits done on the back of my calves. I had no idea what I was going to have until I got to the place – I like to book a session and then decide at the last minute. It’s more fun that way.
e2 Alex 20 student shoreditch
I’ve only lived in London for a few years. I originally hail from Bognor Regis, a dire place with a small-town mentality. People would just hang around and do nothing but get into fights. It was pretty dull. I only recently moved into a small place in Hoxton. I live in Hobbs Place Estate just off the market. It’s a cool place to live actually. The other residents are very friendly and I feel absolutely safe. The other day I got locked outside in my pyjamas and some Spanish guys who lived next door gave me a cigarette. That was nice. I originally moved to New Cross when I started university. South London is an interesting place, it has a great traditional community feel, full of old man pubs and greasy spoons. It’s the perfect place for students – everything’s cheap and cheerful. I loved living in New Cross but it was time for a change. I worked at the New Cross Inn for a while and definitely saw it all – pervy old men and fist fights aplenty. East London is definitely a better place to go out, minus the irritating hipsters in sailor hats and glasses. The bars and clubs around here are probably the best in the city, as long as you don’t mind bad service and shitty toilets. I like to think I’m quite a scruffy, boyish dresser. I like wearing men’s shoes, leather jackets and denim. As a student living in the East End I guess this is the only time I can get away with such a look, as around here you don’t have to worry about dressing smartly. I do love Topshop but still try to avoid the big high street stores as much as I can; Oxford Circus is a nightmare place to be. I tend to spend my time browsing the East End Thrift Store and Beyond Retro. I don’t bother with charity shops anymore unless I’m back in Bognor. The trendies have discovered them here and now they’re really expensive. I’m a big fan of vintage dresses – the one I’m wearing at the moment is my absolute favourite. I bought it from Beyond Retro when I first arrived in London, and it’s incredibly special. Although I sometimes feel a bit like I’m wearing a nappy. I’m very possessive with my clothes and I rarely lend them to anyone. I like to hoard everything. I don’t wear anything particularly expensive but I like to have all my things around me. Sometimes I can get into a bit of a rut, constantly wearing the same items over and over again. When this happens I try to resist buying new clothes and instead do something a bit different with what I already have. If you just belt something or roll up the sleeves you can end up with something that looks completely different.
kim kamale elephant and castle
catherine hodgkiss chelsea katherine ellis east sheen
daryl smith herne hill
kate hutchins lewisham jennie fiddler wimbledon
Photograph: Rose Poole
se24 Daryl 48 personal assistant herne hill
Everyone often assumes South London is a rather dodgy place, and some parts are, but there are also many parks, greens and commons that really help make this area a very pleasant part of London. I’ve moved around a little over the years, living in Highbury at one point and then overseas in Switzerland for a while. However, something always drew me back down here. I guess it must be the Sidcup girl in me because the south east seems to be where I belong. I think that many parts of London have their time to shine and, at the moment, that seems to be true of Herne Hill. Loads of great bars and restaurants have popped up all over the place, and there’s a great mix of old and young people around. Plus, since it’s quite a small area, a lot of people seem to know each other. It’s got a definite village feel to it – sometimes you don’t even feel like you’re in London. I work in Soho, so it’s definitely nice to get a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. I’m a very active person and love long walks and exercise. I do a lot of my running and training in Dulwich Park as it’s so peaceful and open. I wouldn’t say I’m the smartest of dressers. Around the house I’ll wear sweats – I have a set in pretty much every colour. I’m also obsessed with jeans and love wearing them to potter around in. Being tall, I find it very hard to shop on the high street. A lot of styles make me look like I’m wearing childrens’ clothes so I tend to steer clear of places like Topshop. Whistles is my favourite store – the clothes are always wonderful quality and not particularly expensive. I bought a leopard print fur coat from there years ago and it still looks and feels great – it’s the perfect shop for classic pieces. I try not to buy designer but sometimes it’s worth making an investment. Donna Karen and Joseph are my favourite labels and Nicole Fahri does amazing knitwear. I tend to favour buying a few pieces that are good quality and more expensive than loads of cheaper stuff that I’ll have to throw out in a couple of months. I strongly believe that if you buy cheap you buy twice. I have some wonderfully smart pieces like my Joseph trouser suit and this black dress which I got from a fabulous boutique down the road. It’s a real favourite as, for once, it’s a dress that fits in all the right places. Even though I often love to look smart and elegant I’m not particularly great at getting glammed up. Although saying that, I do love a good fancy dress party – it’s the only time I ever feel comfortable in sequins or leather. I once dressed up as Siouxsie Sioux with a fantastic wig. The cab driver on the way home thought I was a bloke in drag. Not exactly the biggest confidence boost!
se13 kate 20 student lewisham
Living in London has definitely made me more interested in fashion. I’m originally from Norwich, a place not exactly known for its trendsetting ways. I love shopping for cheap stuff around the local markets and east London has some great vintage shops. However, Topshop, undeniably, will always be a favourite. My mum bought me some wonderful Russell and Bromley loafers recently because all my shoes were falling apart. They’re a real investment and I wear them everywhere. I don’t try particularly hard at being kooky or alternative – I tend just to wear what I like. Going to Goldsmiths, you meet a lot of try-hard, arty trendies. People who think, by living in London, they’re the coolest people in the world. Funnily enough, when you go into a lecture sometimes you feel that the most outrageous, alternative people there are the ones dressed in just t-shirt and jeans. They’re the ones who really stand out amongst the trilbies and the crazy jackets because they’re the real students. I think that if you are a genuinely creative and interesting person you don’t need to make an effort to show it. In the past few years, younger women have become much more into traditional arts and crafts. Things that were once associated with older housewives are now seen as fashionable. So many girls my age love to knit, sew and bake cakes. I think it was only a matter of time before the traditions of the Women’s Institute became accessible to a younger generation. A friend and I came up with it when we were discussing what societies we could join, none seemed to particularly interest us. We wanted to do something that was creative, where girls could hang out together and have fun. When we started the first W.I. meetings the response was great and so far we’ve had very successful knitting classes, tie dying and numerous cake sales. There’s been a lot of publicity surrounding the first W.I. at Goldsmiths and we’ve done photo shoots and even an interview with the Evening Standard. People seem to like the idea of the traditions of the W.I. appealing to humble students. The best thing about Goldsmiths is that it’s really not how you would imagine a city university to be. For starters it’s got a great campus that has everything, and the buildings aren’t scattered over town like many London colleges. Everyone lives close and instead of trekking into town and going to expensive bars and clubs, people just have house parties and go down to the local pubs. Things seem cheaper down here as well, especially the rent. I live in this big, lovely Victorian house with views from my bedroom window of Canary Wharf. Even though I live with five friends, and the place is a bit of a mess, I still feel very lucky. South London is definitely my favourite area of the city. I heard the New York Times recently voted Deptford the best place to go to get a taste of real London. I don’t know if I completely agree but it does have an amazing market.
se17 KIM 21 shop assistant elephant and castle
I’ve lived on this council estate all my life. The place has its good and bad parts. Because I’ve grown up here, I have a lot of friends around. So for me it’s comfortable and it’s always felt like home. There are many people and places around here I’d miss if I moved away, especially my hairdressers. However, this isn’t the nicest area of London, and it’s got a lot of problems. Even though I was brought up here, I think it’s an unsafe environment for children and I could never live in this area with kids. A lot of young people don’t get enough of an opportunity living here. I want my kids to learn ballet and piano, not spend all their time messing around on the streets. If I wanted to stay in London, I would have to move to the suburbs – it’s definitely more family-friendly. Right now, I really want to move out and experience a new area of the city. My ideal place to live would be Earls Court in West London. The houses and flats around there are really nice and I love the idea of being able to have everything on your doorstep like good restaurants and a Starbucks. When I eventually move out I’ll definitely miss the brilliant view you get here from living on the seventh floor. Our flat looks over Westminster and Battersea Power station and I love spending time looking out the window over the city and just pondering. It’s the most relaxing thing to do. Hopefully I’ll be able to afford a penthouse someday and then I’ll have the best of both worlds. When it comes to style, I’ve always had my own thing going on – I don’t just like to follow the latest trends. I used to be quite boring and shy when it came to clothes, but then I got a job as a sales assistant in Urban Outfitters. Because all the other people there looked so interesting I decided to make more of an effort. I’ve done quite a lot of retail jobs which has probably influenced my style more than I know. I mainly rely on the big high street stores but I do like to visit a good boutique when I can be bothered. I absolutely despise Primark – the clothes are always awful and fall apart after a few months. But if I want really cheap stuff Peacocks can sometimes have a few nice things. River Island is my favourite shop at the moment. A lot of their things used to be quite trashy but it’s got a lot better. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a fashion disaster recently when I bought a gorgeous sequin dress from there for my 21st birthday party and my cousin turned up wearing the same one. It was so embarrassing and I still haven’t quite forgiven her. Aside from clothes, my real passion is make-up artistry and hopefully I’ll be able to enrol on a course next year. I love being imaginative with different kinds of make-up, and I would love the opportunity to work on fashion shoots. I’ve done quite a bit of modelling as well – a few magazine shoots and things. I quite enjoy it, but really hate having my make-up done by other people. I guess I’m a bit of a control freak.
sw3 catherine 27 editorial assistant chelsea
When I first moved to London I lived in Clapham Common, so south-west London has been all I’ve known really. Many friends from university headed to the East End but for some reason this area of London has always appealed to me and Chelsea is a great place to live. You’re right in the centre of town and the King’s Road has wonderful shops, great pubs and fantastic restaurants. There’s always been a great vibe to this area of London; people seem to feel safe and happy here. I can cycle everywhere instead of using public transport and it’s so much more pleasant than hopping on a bus or a crowded tube. At the moment I work as an editorial assistant, but I come from an artistic background, and am actually currently trying to build up my portfolio as an illustrator. I love working on magazines, and working at the BBC is like being at university again – it’s great fun. However, I’d love the opportunity to work on an interiors publication or a magazine like Homes & Garden or Country Living. Doing page layouts on beautifully put-together magazines like that would be amazing. Since I spend most of my time cycling and rushing about I guess my style is whatever feels most comfortable. I’m definitely not your typical Chelsea Sloane – unfortunately I don’t have enough time to make such an effort, but I do look at the young girls who walk around here and they always looks perfect. It can make one feel rather dowdy, especially since I never dressed like that when I was a teenager. I was more of a baggy jumper type of girl. I have simple taste when it comes to clothes. I definitely don’t like to make any sort of statement – but I do like to think I have some classic pieces. I shop mainly at places like M&S, Kew and Jigsaw. There are some lovely shops on the King’s Road which I occasionally venture into when I can afford it. Whistles always has beautiful things. I mainly live in jeans and comfortable tops but occasionally I’ll put on a nice dress – it’s good to make an effort sometimes as people are more inclined to notice. I guess I’ve always had a classic template for clothes – growing up in the Cheshire countryside doesn’t exactly give you an adventurous taste. I always like to look presentable but clothes aren’t particularly important to me. I tend to place more value on the jewellery I’ve accumulated over the years. Certain rings and other pieces I’ve been given have huge sentimental value, and I think these are the things I find more important than the latest designer bag or shoes.
sw19 jennie 20 exchange student wimbledon
When I first arrived in London I was so shocked at how reserved and super polite everybody was. Back home, strangers like to approach you and start up conversations but London is nothing like that. Since I’ve been here I’ve come to both love and hate things about this city. To me, everything seems so sweet and delicate in comparison with New York. I love the greenery and the fact everyone’s so pleasant and courteous. Where I go to university in Kingston is a bit far out and suburban though. I’d definitely prefer to be in the middle of everything. To find a decent club in London you have to really search. Nothing is advertised like it is in New York but I like the way so many parts of this city are hidden beneath the surface. What I miss most about New York is the fact that it’s so much easier to get around, and you’re able to catch the subway at any time of day. Here, if you decide to go home late then you end up having to get a hundred night buses because the cabs are way too expensive. I also miss being able to get a cup of decent coffee at midnight and getting good service from waiters. Funnily enough, I’ve bought a lot of shoes since I’ve been here. London seems to be really good at leather boots and I’ve bought some quality pairs. Wimbledon has a good shopping centre with all the regular high street stores but my favourite place to shop is Brick Lane. I know that might make me sound a bit like a tourist but the stores are incredible and the whole place seems to have real energy. It’s very much like Williamsburg in Brooklyn – I instantly feel at home. I also really love Camden which has an edginess rather like the Lower East Side in Manhatten. I love walking around the market just looking at the people and smelling Chinese food. New York and London can be very similar at times, and I like that, especially if I’m feeling homesick. Londoners are definitely more elegant dressers than New Yorkers. The way girls dress around here is definitely reflective of the culture. They’re far more reserved and feminine. Many American women feel like they have to make a statement all the time, often mis-matching colours and wearing silly hats. Even though England’s known for its comedy I think it’s the American’s who dress in a bolder, more humorous way. The English take themselves very seriously when it comes to clothes – treasuring vintage dresses, always looking very demure and pretty, and being very careful with layering and accessorising. American women sometimes don’t know when to stop. I definitely think I’ve toned things down a little since living here. I’m a firm believer in the statement that American women dress to be approachable and English women dress to be unattainable.
sw14 katherine 44 singer/songwriter east sheen
When I’m on stage I definitely play the diva and absolutely love to dress up. I get most of my stage outfits – like this red dress I’m wearing – from Catwalk Collection. I know the designer quite well and I’ll often go their warehouse to pick things out. I also have to wear very high shoes when I’m performing and these six-inch heeled boots from Xtremeshoes.com are perfect for stomping around in. I tend to stock up on quite a few pairs. I get all my ‘over the top’ accessories, like this ring from Rubiz, a fantastic costume jewellers in Stoke-on-Trent. I think dressing up for performances is all part of the fun. When I’m not working I become the housewife and make absolutely no effort with my clothes, hair or make-up. My sons call all my dresses and glam accessories ‘mummy’s working clothes’ and sometimes they’ll ask me to pick them up from school wearing them. I did it once, and my son Gulliver was bragging to all his friends, “It’s what my mum looks like on the radio.” I’ve been making records and performing since 1997 and I mainly do House music. Right now I’m writing lyrics for tracks and performing at various shows and clubs around the world. I travel a lot, and have been all over Europe, Australia and the U.S. I’ve recently just got back from Russia and had a fantastic time – Moscow is beautiful and the clubs are amazing. When I was last over there I was booked to perform at this upmarket restaurant where incredibly rich people pay about £30,000 to sit at a table. I was belting out all my songs to them at full nightclub volume and they just sat there eating – it was very bizarre. I have various stage names that I have adopted over the years or have been given to me. My favourite has to be ‘Thunder Lungs’, it sums me up perfectly. I love the way everything seems to come together when I perform. Singing in nightclubs is wonderful because you really feel you’re orchestrating everybody’s escapism – helping them forget about their troubles and have a good time. It’s a hedonistic way of thinking but, in relation to clubbing, it really does seem to make sense. Performing in London is always a pleasure, not only because it’s wonderfully close to home, but also because it has a great atmosphere. The city is full of House music lovers so there are always lots of events and club nights at which to perform. I tend to work in such a hectic way that I’m always knackered when I get home. All I want to do is spend time with the family and do normal, everyday things. You do realise from the extreme experience of travelling how quickly time passes and I think it’s very important to remember that.
maggie rogers ealing
marisha green holland park
rachel bryan-hamilton acton
sybil devlin kensington
amber claxton west kensington maz spencer chiswick
Photograph: Rose Poole
w14 amber 22 nanny west kensington
I’ve lived in west London ever since my parents divorced when I was little. My mum and I lived in a tiny flat in Shepherd’s Bush for years, but when I became pregnant at 18 I realised there was no space to put a baby. I love Shepherd’s Bush – the schools are great and there are plenty of people around that I know and have grown up with – but finding a decent place for young children to grow up in is incredibly difficult. Flats around here are really overpriced which is why we’re currently all cooped up in a two bedroom top floor flat. I’d really like the kids to be able to have a garden to run around in but it at the moment it looks unlikely. Before I had kids, I was just a schoolgirl and therefore obviously into clothes and buying nice things. I never particularly followed the latest trends but I always loved to get dressed up for a night out. Since I had Kye and then Ilicia, I’ve learned to be less selfish and now I have to spend the money I earn on clothes for them or on anything else they need. These days my clothes are always very low on the priority list. Having said that, it’s always nice to make an effort with your appearance and I would hate to be one of those mums who always looks stressed and dull. So I do wear make up and make sure my clothes are matching. My body’s definitely changed since I’ve had kids. I used to be really skinny and always felt confident. Now I’m far more curvaceous. My boyfriend doesn’t really mind and I’ve become used to it but it’s definitely harder for me to wear whatever I want. I tend to wear a lot of baggy trousers and jumpers just to feel comfortable and concealed. I know it’s a bad habit to fall into but it makes me feel better. I wouldn’t say I’m a scruffy dresser but practicality is definitely a priority when you’ve got kids to run around after. Short skirts, high heels and smart tops are not an option when you’re feeding toddlers and finger-painting. I often walk through snooty places in west London like Chiswick and Holland Park and look at the yummy mummies and think how on earth do they manage to keep themselves so perfect? It seems unnatural to me – they must have a lot of time on their hands, or maybe a lot of hired help. My most treasured item of clothing has to be the gown I was christened in. My British parents adopted me from a family in El Salvador when I was eight months old and on arrival in England they immediately organised a big christening to welcome me into the family. My grandparents had my christening gown made as a gift in creamy silk with embroidery. My mum kept it in great condition and Ilicia wore it last year at her christening. I couldn’t stop crying.
w11 marisha 27 fine art student holland park
I grew up in the house next door so I know this area pretty well. It’s a nice road. Some of my neighbours I’ve known my whole life, so that can be quite a comfort. I love to take my dog Masai out for walks to the local parks, and up around Notting Hill it’s pretty and very peaceful. My mother ended up buying this flat to rent out, and a few years ago I moved in. It’s a basement flat and can get rather dark, so we’re hoping to knock down all the walls and just have a big open plan space. Hopefully it will add a little brightness. I was originally studying fine art in Kent, but I moved back to London a few years ago and recently went back to study on this course at Wimbledon, specialising in fine art filmmaking. Being 27, I’m a mature student, and I think studying in London is more suited for that. I didn’t really want to go back to the campus lifestyle. Living here there’s a lot more around to inspire you – architecture, galleries and cinemas – pretty much everything. I’m the biggest hoarder in the world – I’ll buy anything and keep everything. This flat is just full of things I can’t throw out. I also love collecting bits and pieces, particularly anatomical things and religious relics. However, my biggest obsession is with clothes – I absolutely adore them. I own a whole load of wonderful vintage pieces and I’m constantly rummaging through second hand shops, boot fairs, and bidding on ebay. I also attend auctions where you can get some really incredible things. My favourite London auction is Rosebery’s in Streatham – I always manage to find something there. I’m slightly claustrophobic so I can’t ever take high street shopping. I tend to shop online If I want anything from those kind of stores. I absolutely hate American Apparel, the clothes are so cheaply made and boring. Over the years my grandmother has kindly given me tons of wonderful designer vintage clothes. My wardrobe is full of Yves Saint Laurent from the seventies and eighties so I feel very fortunate. I only buy second hand designer clothes; I don’t see the point of spending tons of money on today’s labels. Even though my wardrobe’s fit to burst I live in my Sass and Bide black skinnies. I’ve had them for about twelve years and they’re yet to fall apart. I’d be devastated if they did. Even though I have some beautiful clothes, I cherish my black converse – they’re the best shoes I own. I used to be a fit model for the label Ghost. It was great and quite an easy job. All you had to do was stand around and chat whilst they worked. It’s nice to think that parts of their collections were made with the help of my body shape, plus I sometimes got to keep the clothes.
w3 rachel 24 sales assistant acton
I need to be kept on a tight leash when it comes to shopping. I see and I buy immediately. I’m a very whimsical shopper – these leopard print shoes I’m wearing were too expensive but I just had to have them. The thing is now I’ve realised that they’re incredibly hard to walk in and I might have to take them back. I hate making that kind of mistake. Since I work at Topshop in Oxford Street I tend to do most of my clothes shopping there – not because I get a great discount or anything but because it’s easy. I’ve been working in Topshop for fourteen months and apart from the rude customers and the chaos that comes with working in a flagship store I rather enjoy it. Retail is a type of job I can easily handle. I like to work hard and get things done. This can often make me come across as very bossy to the rest of the staff but I’m not bothered. Lots of people that work there just don’t care and sleepwalk their way through the day but I can’t do that. If a job needs to be done then it needs to be done right, no matter how low the pay is. I do buy an incredible amount of Topshop clothes, mainly because you get first pick of some of the best items before they sell out. There’s recently been a load of hype surrounding the new Christopher Kane collection that’s just gone on sale. On first sight when it came in I was disappointed. All the pieces were ugly and badly made, and perfectly demonstrated why people shouldn’t be stupid enough to follow ‘fashion’. One of the many great pieces of advice my mother has given me is ‘If you follow fashion, it’ll kill you.’ I therefore have never followed trends or dressed like everyone else. I find that to be incredibly boring showing a real lack of imagination and confidence. I don’t care what people think of me at all – I’ll wear things that make me feel great, and I think that’s the key to a successful style. Living in Plymouth for a year after starting a university course there was very difficult, I’d never felt so uncomfortable or out of place, even though I was going to one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the country. Plymouth was a small town with a small town mentality and I have never attracted so many stares. It was the main reason why I came back to London – the city where everything is acceptable, whether you’re talking about the colour of your skin or the clothes you wear. I’ve lived in this area of London pretty much all my life. I like west London, especially Acton, but I feel like I’ve lived here too long. It can feel quite small sometimes and everyone tends to know everyone else. People can also be too polite. A friend once said to me that west Londoners live closest to the Queen and therefore always behave themselves. I think British snobbery definitely originated from west London. I’d quite like to move somewhere in south London. It seems like a much more vibrant and exciting place, and there’s a stronger black community too. I really feel I could make a home there.
w5 maggie 69 clairvoyant ealing
I’ve lived on this same council estate in Ealing since my divorce in the early eighties. It’s always been a bit rough but I’m oblivious to it all now – I’ve lived here so long. The neighbours call me ‘The Duchess’ because I hobble around on my umbrella and wear colourful outfits. West London has always been one of the nicest areas of the city. I spend a lot of time during the summer months strolling around Kew Gardens and smelling the flowers. I also love being a tube ride away from the museums and art galleries – especially the V&A. Two of my children and their families have all moved down to Brighton and want me to join them but I don’t think I could ever leave as there are too many things I would miss. The council are planning to knock down this estate and I’ll be rehomed somewhere else. I’d like to stay in London and somewhere local with a garden would be perfect. I’m originally from Mumbai in India so over the years I have accumulated many saris and salwar kameez. My favourite is a red and green salwar kameez that was given to me recently by a Sikh friend who lives in Southall. It’s a beautiful gift, and I wear it on very special occasions. I also have both yellow and pink salwar kameezes that I picked up in a charity shop. They are such lovely colours and look perfect with one of the jewel encrusted pashminas that I bought in Delhi a few years ago. I have many saris, even some incredibly old ones that I wore as a child. However, they’re not so flattering on me now, plus I always needed someone to help me put them on. People often laugh at me when I wear my Indian dress because I don’t look particularly Asian, (my father was Indian, and my mother was of German descent) but I don’t really mind – I’m just very proud of my heritage. Liberty is my favourite store. I just love the design of the place and can walk around it for hours. I have a few scarves from there and a hat that I bought fifteen years ago for my son’s wedding. However, these days I can never afford to buy anything, so now mainly I shop in Evans or TK Maxx which is not nearly as glamorous. I would hope people would see me as an eclectic, creative dresser and perhaps a little eccentric. I love fancy dress. When I was a child I used to make massive, vibrant costumes out of crinoline. I still like to dress in bright colours, and my favourite items have to be shawls, scarves, jewellery and handbags. I love all kinds of drapery and I have about twenty pashminas. I think accessorising is very important, plus these days scarves hide all the lumps and bumps. I change my jewellery according to the astrological movements. So when it’s an earth sign I’ll wear emeralds, for fire it will be rubies, air is sapphires and water is opals. My favourite is the water sign because I always get to wear my opal rings and they are the most beautiful.
w8 sybil 15 schoolgirl kensington
My mum moved us to Notting Hill when my parents divorced; we previously lived in Chiswick. I prefer living closer to town, but there are a few things I miss, for example some of my friends being local – although they’re always keen to come and stay here. I like going to the market on Saturdays, but I’m usually so busy with school-work I don’t have much time to do anything else. I do really love to shop though. Normally, I’ll go to Topshop, Urban Outfitters, American Apparel and of course Portabello market. I prefer to shop with my mum or friends. For girls of my age it can be a real bonding experience with either. I used to shop in Primark a lot but now I find it too cheap. I’ve heard that it’s unethical, but I think it’s that way with a lot of shops. The clothes are badly made and don’t fit that well anyway. I bought a pink and black dress there a couple of months ago for £10, but it’s so badly shaped that I’ve never worn it. So even though it was so cheap it turned out to be a complete waste of money. The most expensive item I own is a strapless dress from All Saints that my Dad bought for me as a present – I think it cost £375. It’s my favourite thing to wear on a night out and I only really wear it for truly special occasions. Last time I wore it was to an underage club night in Ladbroke Grove. It’s very special. Strapless dresses are hugely popular with girls my age. I think my biggest style influences are the current trends. As a teenager you become very influenced by what your friends wear, but if I like something they don’t then I’ll probably still buy it, I think it’s important to have a bit of individuality. Some people I know follow trends completely, like head to toe Amercian Apparel. I think that looks awful – it’s good to have balance. I think the biggest trends are skinny jeans as per usual, although recently there was a bit of a high waisted sugar rush. Dresses are always very popular, but there is a rule about how you wear them. Jeans and heels or dresses and flats. If you ever mix them up when you go out to a party or somewhere you run the risk of looking too overdressed or too casual. I never dress for comfort, it’s mainly for my friends or boys. That may sound a little shallow, but if I dress to impress, then I usually do. Boys usually like my quirkiness. It takes me ages to get ready to go out, although I’m usually always messing about with my friends, trying on each other’s stuff. I definitely don’t like to be rushed. You have to pick your outfit very carefully.
w4 Maz 34 burlesque model chiswick
I’m originally from Toulouse in France. However I’ve lived in London for around ten years and I would never dream of going back. I feel like this is my home and always will be, and for me there’s no place in the world quite like this city. I initially lived in Muswell Hill, North London. It was quite fun but I definitely prefer where I am now. Chiswick is the perfect, leafy suburb – you feel like you’re away from all the chaos but still close enough to get into town whenever you need to. People think of Chiswick as quite a posh area of London, but it’s also a very relaxed and pleasant place to live. When I’ve got time off I love just going for a stroll down the High Road or chilling out with friends in cosy pubs. The nightlife around here is pretty non-existent – after eleven the place becomes a ghost town. But central London is only a short tube ride away, so you’re able to get the best of both worlds. My work means I have to travel a lot and I’m always busy doing shoots and performing at events. Alternative modelling has so far been a fantastic experience because you meet so many interesting, creative people and it never gets boring. Jobs vary from photo shoots, hostessing and stage performances. At the moment I’m working for a comedy cabaret show in the East End called Lucha Britannia. It mainly revolves around Mexican wrestling and I’m the girl who comes on at half time with the score cards. It’s a really fun event to do. Other performances have included pillow fights, custard fights and of course burlesque cabaret. I was first introduced to burlesque six years ago by a wonderful corsetiere called Miss Katy. I met her at a party and she said I would be perfect for the burlesque look, instantly signing me up to model her own designs. I didn’t really think much about it but I went for a few jobs and it just seemed to escalate. I now couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The clothes I wear are always beautiful – everything from corsets to latex catsuits. I tend to do a lot of catalogue and brand modelling and I enjoy dressing up in both burlesque and fetish styles. I don’t take part in the seedy side of alternative modelling, like stripping etc. I just like to dress up in fabulous clothes. The real satisfaction I get from my job is being able to honour and represent fantastic designers. My favourite item of clothing has to be a black and white pencil dress that was made by my friend Miss Katy. I had it made to fit, so it’s completely in sync with my body shape. It’s perfect. I buy most of my outfits from a shop called Showgirl on Holloway road; it’s great for corsets, retro dresses and platform shoes. London as a whole is the best place for burlesque and fetish designers. The wonderful thing about corsets is that they give you great posture and shape. They’re not the most comfortable things you can wear, but they are definitely the sexiest. I can wear my corset so that my waist measures 20 inches – but I only do that for special occasions, such as my wedding two years ago.
“By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show” Samuel Johnson