Monday, 26 October 2015

Stylist Live : The event I was, amazingly, invited to.

Stylist magazine has always been a favourite of mine; I am constantly 'liking' their tweets with stories or articles attached so I’ll have them saved ready to read later over my afternoon extra large peppermint tea. This magazine is not like the others – and I know that anyone could say that about any mag-type publication these days, with all the barriers being broken down and the taboos being talked about, but damn it this one really is different. Stylist was the original boundary-demolisher. 

Their articles and pieces are always totally on trend, and on point.
I connected with the ‘Being a Girl Guide’ piece – and I really liked that I got to put my two cents in by responding with the hashtag they set up (#beingaguide). Their collection of ‘The Greatest Ever, Most Inspiring Random Acts of Kindness' made me weep and believe in humankind once again. The amazing ‘long reads’ piece taught me a lot and gave me several new idols and similarly ‘The Big Idea’ which was a series of bestselling authors revealing their creative inspirations and secrets had me scribbling down as many ingenious writing tips as I could. Also I was amazed at the ‘Women Who Traded in Their 9-5s’ – who knew the office life isn’t the be all and end all?! 
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The piece about maternity leave and managers misbehaving was eye-opening. Their cover featuring a pic of the Queen with the title ‘THE BOSS’ was perfect. I also adored their Uzo Aduba cover. “Crazy Talent” should be the Crazy Eyes actress’ real-life nickname. Their almost weekly recipes they share are just next level – who knew it was possible to have totally healthy comfort food such as ‘Burrito Bowls’, or to make perfectly delicious dairy-free bakes such as coconut milk scones?!
And finally, my not-so-guilty pleasure at the end of each week is their ‘Best of Instagram’ piece, featuring the most liked, or most outrageously gorgeous snaps, celebs have posted on social media in the past seven days.
Now, the thing that really sets them apart from other magazines today is their genuine kindness. Let me tell you a wee story here:
Once upon a time, Stylist were tweeting constantly (@stylistmagazine on Twitter) about their upcoming event Stylist Live (@StylistLive), the first event of its kind for them. Featuring endless beauty pros and a selection of some of the best writers on this planet today, it was an event I was desperate to attend.The event took place from Thursday 15th to Sunday 18th October, in Islington at the Business Design Centre. It was after several weeks of these tweets that I spontaneously replied to one of them, saying “so devastated that I can’t go to #StylistLive, reason #3269 that radiotherapy sucks!” (I can list the other 3628 reasons as well)
I was just mindlessly ranting, not expecting a response at all, let alone what the magazine replied with (within the hour!). Tweeting me back, saying they were “sorry to hear this” and asking if there were any days I could attend that they could get me tickets for…I was speechless with delight. They then DM’d me the following Monday just after 9am (I’d been so worried they’d forget about me, but no!) asking which day I’d want to attend.
So yes, we love Stylist for a myriad of reasons, but this will always be my #1. They didn’t have to do that. They could easily have just seen my tweet and thought “meh, one less girl drooling over our Aveda stall I suppose”, but no, they reached out to me and made one of my weekends off from treatment all the more precious and magical.
They sorted out two tickets for me and my Mum, and for some bonkers reason they made us VIP. Meaning I could reserve a place at one of the many awesome talks occurring that would normally cost £10 on top of the regular ticket price, I’d also have access to the VIP Lounge, get a goody bag and free drinks, plus I could attend a catwalk show.
They had told me I could choose which day I attended, so I had such fun scrolling through the Stylist Live weekend timetables online and I eventually decided Sunday 18th was the day for me. It seemed like my perfect day.
  
I arrived at the Centre alone, Mama due a little later on, and I was first totally knocked back by the enormity of the spectacle. The whole exterior of the building had been given a Stylist makeover and was surrounded by glam lads and ladies, then when I got past the ticket desks (and the VIP band was wrapped around my wrist) and walked into the main hall area, I had to take a deep breath. Gorgeousness. As far as the eye could see. Everything was pristine and perfect. There was a snazzy shiny display immediately to my left, with some of the Stylist reps mic’d up and talking to guests in front of a small crowd, then “The Story of Stylist” to my right – a little exhibition area showing some of the magazine’s best covers and explaining how the publication came to be, and came into its own. I did hover there for a while, wanting to soak up every piece of fabulous information and maybe jot down a few things for that time in the future when I invent and launch my own magazine.
There were make-up stalls everywhere; Clarins, Benefit, NARS, Birchbox, Bean Burst. Hair-wise, the many hundreds of us in this building were sorted: Aveda and GHD were my personal favourites. There were fashion pop-ups everywhere too – I fulfilled my dream of actually seeing first-hand (not just on the browser on my phone) BOB by Dawn O’Porter. I fell in love with a pair of silken trousers with Egyptian cats on, then almost wept as I couldn’t find my size.
I also really loved that Waterstones had a little pop-up, too. They were of course selling books by writers present at the event, and all of the author signings took place there. Also, my inner online fangirl freaked out ever so slightly seeing YouTuber Daniel J. Layton manning the desk there – I’ve always meant to go into a London Waterstones and track him down, maybe snatch a smouldering selfie with him. Sadly, on this day he was too busy and I was too starstruck to attempt conversation. Oh well.
The only thing I found annoying about this event was that there were too many awesome things happening at once. I couldn’t fit them all in!
Here’s what I chose to check out:
There was a ‘Today’s Papers’ talk happening at 10:30am, in which the brilliant minds of Dawn O’Porter (who was co-hosting the entire event), Jessie Cave, Diane Morgan and Shazia Mirza dissected the Sunday papers.
At 2pm there was a ‘How to Write Your First Novel’ seminar with Laura Barnett (author of The Versions of Us) – which unfortunately I was not able to attend as I foolishly turned up to queue outside Learning Lab 2 at 1:50pm, when girls had been waiting there since midday which meant the board was up saying “this session is full”. My own stupid fault, thinking I was one of only a few who would want to be taught how to become a bestselling author, by a bestselling author…
2:30pm was the Stylist Life Lesson: ‘Things Get Better’ by Katie Piper. I’ve always been an admirer of this awesome woman from a distance, so being a few feet away from her and hearing her passionately speaking, sharing this lesson with us, was an honour.
Here are some other amazing things I missed out on as my schedule was already rammed:
At 10:30am, there was also a flower lollipop-making session with Alex Hoffler (one half of the hugely successful Meringue Girls, responsible for the recently released cooking book Everything Sweet). There was also a ‘How To Upcycle’ class with Annika Nicklinson (designer, art director and author of Junky Styling: Wardrobe Surgery), and I so desperately wanted to attend that as upcycling your old items of clothing or furniture never fails to amaze and inspire me.
At 11:30am there was another mind-blowing session: ‘How To Be More Mindful’, with Elaine Slater. Mindfulness is so important, and I am adopting it as best I can at the moment, so I would have loved this talk if I wasn’t already spoken for at that time. Then at 11:45 Frederique Tietcheu, (creator of SHE Unleashed and blogging at igobyfrankie.com), was teaching us all how to boost your confidence with the miracle of fashion and finding the right style to suit your personality.
The ‘Why Motherhood is Not the End’ talk at 12:30 intrigued me – Dawn O’Porter, Sharmadean Reid (WAH Nails’ founder), Genevieve Kunst (MD of ShopStyle), Natalie Lee (House of Mamas co-founder), and Katie Kirby (Hurrah for Gin blogger) gathered to discuss why settling down and having kids is most definitely NOT the end of your career or social life.
However, I was at the talk I’d selected as my VIP option, ‘Social Media, Sherlockand Finding Your Own Voice’; Sherlock actor and writer Louise Brealey analysing the importance of social media for getting your voice out there, with Nimko Ali the women’s rights activist and co-founder of Daughters of Eve charity.
I thought of several friends of mine who might have appreciated one other talk happening at that time: ‘How to Get Your Fashion Business Off The Ground’ with Julie Deane OBE, founder of The Cambridge Satchel company – y’know, that gorgeous made-in-Britain accessory that’s taken off like crazy in just seven years; I’ve promised myself that the day I get accepted onto that MA, I will be treating myself to one… Preferably that hefty deep red one…or the teeny lilac one…
At 3:15 was a seminar on ‘How to Find a Mentor’ with Cassandra Stavrou, founder of Propercorn (the perfect snack we sell at my work and I treat myself to every now and again on my lunch breaks), talking about how important mentoring is and how she came to create the Propercorn Platform competition earlier this year.
Now, I totally would have attended this talk if I hadn’t been ogling at models..more on that in a sec.
First, I must share this little blip in my otherwise magical and stylish day:
I may have had a tiny personal panic about an hour and a half after I arrived.
I was still alone, wandering around drinking in all the beauty, and then I decided to grab a light lunch. I trotted up the steps to Feast Street, the mezzanine level which boasted many food and drink outlets; Grind coffee, Pukka tea, Delancey & Co., Anna Mae’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese… So many options for a bite to eat! I went with Jack’s, the slightly larger cafe with heaps of seating that overlooked the centre from the front – a spectacular lunchtime view. I paid £5 for half a butternut squash crammed with blue cheese, walnuts, zucchini, onions plus some other greens and quite honestly guys, I’d have paid a grand or two more had I known it would be that delicious. As I sat and munched it in the most ladylike way I could, while at the same time gasm’ing so hard over the deliciousness, I looked around me and saw an endless sea of beautiful women and handsome men, all giggling and discussing important things over their salads, walking by me with their VIP tags swinging from their expensive handbags or adorning their already heavily bejewelled wrists…I was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling of I don’t belong here. I’m a fraud! I got tickets because the magazine were so damn lovely to poor old me, not because I work in fashion or am being paid to exhibit, or because I have that perfect profession of writing articles about these type of events. No, I’m just a fluke here. What’s worse is they all know it too – all these chic fashionistas or genius journos are looking at me and seeing an alien. “Who let her in? Oh my god, is that a VIP band? Who the hell is responsible for this?!”
I imagined a witch hunt taking place, an angry mob chasing me out onto the street with flaming torches and pushing me onto a train in Angel underground.
I kept calm, polished off my outrageously perfect lunch and snuck away to the loos. I locked myself in a cubicle and dug into my VIP goody bag, downing the super-sweet Birch water, gasping at the Aveda Dry Remedy freebie (how didStylist know that’s my favourite hair product?!), breaking into the NARS Jungle Red lippy but not daring to put it on my stupid un-chic face. 
As expected, as I always do in times of extreme anxiety and silliness, I took to Twitter.
I tweeted: “Okay, I suddenly feel super out of place. I’m not one of these glam gorgeous gals! I’m a fraud! #StylistLive”
Not only did one of my all-time favourite tweeters and major blogging inspiration Lucy Powrie reply straight away with a comforting “YES YOU ARE”, but Stylist themselves responded to me yet again with “We have no doubt you look glorious! Have a wonderful day x”.
  
That was all I needed; I hugged my phone, gathered my stuff, opened the cubicle door and marched up to the mirror opposite. I whacked out that perfect NARS and painted my smile the most delicious red, then strutted back out and into the main hall, the epicentre of style.
I roamed about with confidence for another twenty minutes or so, then my mum arrived.
I was soon rushing my mum around the VIP lounge (“Look mama, look at this! And this! Quick, get your goody bag! And your champers! Oh my gosh FREE CUPCAKES!!”) and then pulling her into the fifth and last VIP catwalk show of the day. I was beyond excited to attend my first ever catwalk show.
It was just like in the movies…but with Stylist, fortunately it was much more cheerful and accessible. There was a brief talk beforehand about the key trends we were about to see examples of – in high street clothes. The trends were all unique and exciting – especially for my mum, the Colour & Style Consultant, sat next to me. I was so thrilled we were both enjoying the show – her because she loves colours and changes in style, me because I had a free vodka cocktail in my hand and was geeking out pretending to be in The Devil Wears Prada.
The models were all kinds of beautiful, and bossed every single outfit. They somehow managed to get one outfit off and the next outfit on backstage between the change in trends – which was signified by a blast of a new eccentric club track. I was seat-dancing a little bit.
  
I found it so amazing that they kept cool and poker-faced throughout the show, strutting their stuff and working the cameras at the end of the runway, and then so lovely when they all came back on at the very end they were grinning and hugging and dancing. Of course, I thought, it’s their last show of the day and of the entire event. I found myself wishing I’d been invited to the models’ after-party.
In fact, I would be so interested to have had a glimpse of the whole Stylist after-party. Or even better, I’d have loved to have seen the office the following morning – hungover writers, ecstatic CEOs, half-asleep photographers, and the general feeling of accomplishment and joy just radiating through the building. The team did well!
The whole day was a crazy success. I was so delighted to have been given the opportunity to attend this one-of-a-kind, soon-to-be legendary event. And all thanks to a silly little tweet. Ah, the power of social media…
Stylist, thank you for inviting me, for responding to me and for reassuring me; I will owe you and worship you always. Let’s be Twitter pals forever. And maybe someday, you’ll want me to speak at one of these gorgeous events…or at least run the Waterstones pop-up stall…
 

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