29/11/2011

Vintage Fur: Is It Okay?

I doubt I have to tell you what I think about real fur: if you read Coffee and Heels, you pretty much know that there aren't many things out there that I hate as much as the fur industry. There simply aren't many other industries that are as cruel, as wasteful, and as unnecessary as the fur trade. So this post is not my contribution to the  fur "debate" (if you think there even has to be a "debate", then this is probably not your kind of blog...even so, feel free to read Coffee and Heels and give me a chance to change your mind!) but a venture into a specific branch of the fur area: vintage fur.

I don't get that angry when I see old ladies on the street in fur coats: the truth is, they really don't know better. In their days, the fur industry was cruel, but it was still far from the horror it is now. And there weren't as many warm, functional, and fashionable alternatives to it. It's when I see young women in fur jackets, fur-lined accessories or shoes (don't get me started on those hideous UGG things) that I get really upset. And when I express my concerns about this to people I know, some react in what seems to me like a very weird way: "oh, I totally agree with you! Real fur is horrible! I do have a mink coat, though. But it's vintage, so it's okay!"



...say what?

Okay, so the animals you're wearing (yes, animals, plural) weren't abused, tortured and killed yesterday, but in the 70s, 80s or so. What about this makes the abuse, the torture and the killing okay? It's still a bunch of dead animals you've got on there. And if you agree with me that torturing animals for fashion is a horrible thing, shouldn't you be choosing faux alternatives?
Excuses that vintage fur-wearers make:

"But it was a gift".
If someone gave me real fur as a gift (I see that as highly unlikely, because if you care enough about me to buy me such an expensive present, that means you know me well. And if you know me well, I'm probably one of the most passionately anti-fur people you know), I would take that person aside and explain that I'm grateful, but I think fur is very cruel and I will not get any use out of their gift. Then, I would inform them of what goes on in the fur trade. Think about it: people that see you on the street don't know it was a gift. To them, you're just saying that killing and hurting animals for fashion is cool, stylish and acceptable.


"But it was my mother's/grandmother's."
Listen, I'm really sorry your mom/grandma passed away and I hope you feel better. But didn't she have a nice ring or a pair of earrings you can remember her by? If not then I would probably just keep the fur to myself and not wear it out on the street, because I'm not comfortable sending that kind of message to the world. But that's just me.


"But it's just a little. It's not like I'm wearing a full-length coat."
I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but animals are actually killed just to make that fur-lined glove/scarf/hood look a bit more "luxe". It's not like the animal was already killed/dead for other reasons and they just took the "leftovers" to make your accessory. Sorry.


"But it´s already dead, so why not enjoy it instead of wasting it?
I personally find this argument very empty and shallow: okay, then go ahead and eat meat as well, it's already dead, so why throw it away? It's not like you killed it. And while we're at it, why not use animal-tested cosmetics? The harm has already been done, so be my guest! Hey, as long as we're not the ones actually doing the killing, we can still all call ourselves animal lovers (insert obvious irony). I believe that if you think that something is wrong, you think it's 100% wrong. And again, what you're sending out to the world isn't, "this animal died thirty years ago", it's "this animal suffered terribly for the coat that I am wearing."


When someone is about to be sent to jail for murder, there isn't anyone going, "oh, you know, it's okay because he's not a serial killer NOW - he was twenty years ago!" If you believe something's wrong, it's as wrong "vintage" as it is new.

What to do? Go faux!
I don't blame you if you're a fan of the furry look - many people go crazy for it. But you know, when it comes to fashion, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani and Miuccia Prada are rarely wrong - and they've all done faux fur in their fall/winter 2010 and 2011 collections. So there are plenty of other options!

When I interned with Swedish designer Patouf in 2009, Anna, the creative director, was in the middle of her winter collection, and she had this gorgeous faux-fur coat with a hood. It looked so luxurious and amazing. I tried it on and it felt fabulous. Then I had to carry it to a PR firm in the rain, and I was delighted to find out that even when it got rained on, it was free from that nasty wet-dog smell that's typical of real fur when the weather's rainy. Anna still makes amazing faux fur, and she's not the only one!

Some vegans think that even faux fur is wrong, as many people can't tell the difference. I agree and disagree: I don't wear faux fur myself, for that exact reason. But when other girls do, I applaud them for going faux! And if I were to ever wear a faux fur coat, it would be one of the beautiful, cruelty-free faux fur coats made with love by the talented Anna at Patouf.

25/11/2011

What Are You Thankful For?



I've never paid any attention to Thanksgiving: I'm not American, and as a vegetarian I'm not loving all this turkey madness. Even when I lived in LA, me and my roommate just stayed in and watched movies all Thanksgiving weekend, because most of our friends had gone home to their families.
But I do like the concept of gratitude, so this year I thought I'd make a little list of big and small things I'm grateful for!
I'm thankful for....


David.






picture by my sister Sofie
They say all girls dream of finding their prince (or princess, if you're a lesbian!), but I always thought I'd wind up a Samantha: 50, fierce, fabulous and single. Instead, I was lucky enough to meet the man of my dreams at 24 and fall hopelessly in love with him. And four years later I still can't believe it. Never in my life had I thought I'd be so lucky as to stumble upon a drop-dead blonde Italian, with green eyes and a six-pack, who plays guitar for a living and has the biggest heart and most fearless soul of everyone I've ever met. And that he actually likes me. No, he loves me. How crazy is that?


My Coworkers.



I have to say, I do have the best colleagues in the entire universe. Every Monday morning I walk (yes, walk, and it takes 30 minutes) to work looking at all the people passing by with facial expressions that say "I have to go to work and I'd rather throw myself under the bus" and I think, wow, I can't wait to chat to my friends and see what they've been up to all weekend. I love the coffee breaks and the cozy lunches at cute restaurants. I love having a drink with them sometimes after work, and this summer on my birthday, when I looked around the room, I was so happy to see it was full of people that I just adore with my heart. I love my job because of them.


Volunteering.



I kept my New Year's resolution for 2011 and started volunteering at a homeless dog and cat shelter, and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. Volunteering is the best feeling in the world and it just gives so much to you. When I come home after spending a Sunday morning at the shelter, my legs ache and I'm tired from dog walking, but I also feel fulfilled. I always feel like I can't be happy because there's just so much cruelty in the world, but after a day of volunteering, it's like a tiny, tiny bit of that pain has been lifted by my trying to help. And that's a feeling that no shopping can buy.


Things to Look Forward To.




Less than two weeks left until David and I are going on a mini-vacation to Venice! We've both been there before but not together, and as it's one of the most romantic places on Earth, I can't wait to explore it with him! Then, on December 21st, we're going to see my family in Stockholm for a snowy Christmas filled with candy and hot chocolates, and a very sparkly New Year's Eve! For me, looking forward to things is sometimes as fun as actually doing them.


Hot Chocolate.


Being a huge chocoholic, it might be a surprise that I wasn't particularly fond of hot chocolate before I moved to Italy. Sure, Swedish hot chocolate is nice and all, but it's too liquid and mostly tastes like milk, and I can't stand the taste of milk. Italian hot chocolate, on the other hand, is dense and thick and luxurious-tasting...and even comes in flavors like "dark" and "hazelnut". But for some reason, people here think you're a complete nutcase if you order/make hot chocolate if it's not December. So, I'm thankful that snowy season's coming up, so I can indulge in my new passion!


Red Lipstick.



For a long time, I didn't think I looked good in red lipstick. I'm too pale, I thought. Then I tried it on at a beauty store, just for fun. And wow. Really: wow. I'm not kidding, it's like I had a whole new face. It's like my pale complexion has a sense, instead of just being pasty-looking. Since then, I don't leave the house without my red lippie, and this weekend I'm getting a scarlet-red one from The Body Shop!



Good Books.



I just adore books. I dream of a day when I find myself in a room full of amazing books and I have nothing to do but read them all day. Currently reading: Candace Bushnell's Summer in the City. Review coming up!


My Beautiful City.


Don't ever say Milan is ugly/boring/gray when I'm around.


Magical Music.



20 years after Freddie passed, his voice lives on. And millions of us are grateful.


Huge, Chunky Knits...to wear with a cup of tea.




This is just what winter is about for me. And I am so in love with my new huge scarf from Zara, 100% acrylic and vegan!


You.




...and all of YOU, my fabulous readers! I'm so thankful that you read Coffee and Heels. It's been four months since I launched this blog and I've gotten way better reactions to this little adventure than I dared hope. Thank you, really. Have an amazing weekend. Because you deserve it.




                                                           

23/11/2011

On Beauty Ideals (Written by a Real Woman)





I read this beautiful post by Swedish blogger and writer Annika Marklund on the thin girl vs real girl debate (yes, it's a little old, yes, I'm a little behind, yes, I've just discovered Annika's blog!) and I decided I just couldn't shut up about it.


I think Annika is right. I wrote my college thesis on beauty ideals in fashion communication, and I've been passionately active in the debate regarding super-slim models versus "real women", because I think that today's beauty ideals are very skewed and have the potential to make many girls very sick. But every time I talk about this topic, or hear anyone else talking about it, or read something about it, I can't help but get annoyed by the term "real women".



Why is it that "real" women are the ones with "curves", while all of slimmer womankind gets confined into this weird realm of what, fake womanhood?

Allow me to bare my soul for a minute here: I've had eating disorders for years. When I was bulimic (from age 15 to about 22) my weight was a rollercoaster. Thanks to an amazing therapist, an awesome nutritionist, lots of exercise and yes, anti-depressants, I now consider myself free from eating disorders and quite a healthy person. I go to the gym two or three times a week and am a happy vegetarian (aspiring vegan) with a passion for dessert. But here's the thing: my weight doesn't go up and down any more. My body has found its way to the shape it was always meant to have...and that happens to be a tiny waist accessorized with Marilyn-style hips and boobs. That's just how I was created, and these days I can eat pretty much anything without gaining an ounce (and I do, trust me!).  Does this make me an "unreal" woman? A "fake" one?  





I also find it quite pointless to defend voluptuous ladies with the washed-out argument of "men prefer girls with curves". A couple of years ago, a famous women's magazine had a survey on what guys liked in a woman. I'm sure it was super-scientific and all, but some parts of it looked like the women working at the magazine had done it just to feel better about themselves. It emerged from this survey that all men adored petite, curvy brunettes in sweatpants with no makeup. All of them. And they all found tall, slender, well-dressed women who went to the gym and liked makeup and jewelry repulsive. Right. Sounds very accurate, no? I'm definitely no Victoria's Secret model, but reading that survey, I felt like jumping in and defending pretty girls from this kind of jealous bashing.  First of all: guys, we love you, but we're not about to change ourselves to fit your "preferences". Second of all: guys do have preferences. Some like curvier ladies, while others prefer a slimmer body type. And third of all, as Annika says, when you fall in love with someone, you sure as hell don't do it because of the person's body type. I'm sure there are women out there who feel better reading surveys like that, but I think that mostly the women writing this are just kidding themselves. It's like a friend of mine who claimed she "preferred" a belly on a man, which I suspect had something to do with the fact that her boyfriend had love handles. It's also very offensive when magazines or blogs write things like "Men want a woman that looks like a woman, not like a washboard." Ouch. If that same magazine would write "Men want a woman that looks like a woman, not like a whale", believe me, there'd be hell to pay. But where's the difference?



When Vogue Italia did their "real women" cover, photographed by Steven Meisel, Italy and the world applauded Franca Sozzani for her "brave" choice. I still see it as yet another publicity trick. The models were beautiful and the photos by Steven Meisel were amazing. But why is it that every time a normal-sized model appears in a fashion context, attention has to be drawn to the fact that she is "curvy"? We don't see any headlines screaming "SKINNY IS BEAUTIFUL" every time Kate Moss is on some cover. It all just seems so very "look at us, we're so democratic, we even have a fat girl on our cover" to me. Choosing a cover model shouldn't be a "favor" to anyone. A model should be on a cover because she enhances and improves the image of the publication, not to make a political statement. And, once again, I hated the "Belle Vere" (real beauties) headline. What, exactly, is a "real" woman? To me, those models seemed just as airbrushed, spray-tanned, and groomed to perfection as the skinny ones. All "real" women are not "plus-size"!
I come from Stockholm, and there, magazines often try and put "real" women on the front line by having the magazine's editors and readers pose for the magazine (sometimes naked). I don't think that  this kind of editorial has ever had the result the editors were aiming to have, because of a tiny detail: women don't want to be ordinary. We don't want to see women "like ourselves" on the covers of magazines, because we don't want to be told that "ourselves" is an average woman. You don't aspire to be the frizzy-haired, saggy-boobed Plain Jane with the muffin top, do you? You aspire to be the fit, toned, tan, glossy-haired and successful glamazon who "has it all". For me personally, even if I know I have flaws and I love myself and am proud of myself exactly the way I am, aspiration is what keeps me trying to improve myself all the time, both on the inside and the outside. To become the woman I want to be. I assure you she's neither ordinary nor ordinary-looking. And there's nothing wrong with that. Aspiration is positive, as long as you aspire to positive things. Men's magazines seem to get this: you'll never see a picture of a balding Average Joe with a beer belly next to a headline that says: "Real Men! You can be just like him!". No, the readers of men's magazines all worship at the altar of the six-pack sex god with the big-shot job and the shiny car. And there's nothing anyone can do about that. We will never want to be average. We will always want to be extraordinary.




 The trick is, at least for me, to learn what is extraordinary for you. For me, extraordinary is inspiring people. And I believe you can do that in a size XL dress as well as a size XS one. As long as you're healthy, happy and feeling good about yourself, you're doing good. And as a fashion editor, I believe that the fashion industry, an industry that practically lives off of aspirational images, should try to convey a more positive message that makes people dream, not feel insecure and inadeguate. I love to see fantastic clothes on beautiful women like Freja and Chanel Iman. But next to them, I would love to see models that represent other body types - less skinny, less tall, less extreme. I'm still talking drop-dead-gorgeous, stunning models - only instead of calling them "plus size" and making a big "democratic" song and dance about it, let's just see what happens if "model" becomes a wider concept.  Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes - let's celebrate that.



12/11/2011

Things I Love Travel: A Year in New York

I stumbled across this video because a friend of a friend shared it on Facebook, and I really fell in love with it:



A Year in New York from Andrew Clancy on Vimeo.


Andrew Clancy, who lives in New York, spent a year with a camera in his hand filming little things that happened around him in the city, ending up with this beautiful video.

I have no real connection to this truly unique, phenomenal city: I have only spent four days of my life in New York. But if even I am so moved by this video, I can't imagine how it touches someone who actually lives in New York or has close ties to the city.

Watching this video on a cold November afternoon in my little studio apartment here in Milan made me remember a part of me that's always been around but that I've tended to pack away for the last few months. I am a natural-born explorer. I love to travel, but I also love to live in new places. I love discovering those little pieces of a city that Andrew has so masterfully captured in his video: the people on the streets, the little restaurants, the shops, the subways, the bridges, the lights that fill up the night. I love to walk on new streets, smell new scents, taste new flavors and feel a new wind on my face, even if it's cold.

I have lived in only four countries in my life and I find them to be excruciatingly few. My soul actually hurts, aches with a desire to explore more, see more, live more. I suffer from abstinence of new beginnings. What I feel is an actual hunger for a new life, and it comes around every once in a while, just when I've gotten used to a comfortable existence of high heels and hot chocolates, cocktails and sunsets. I don't think there can ever be a place where I can stay forever and call it "home." Home for me is resting my head on David's shoulder. Wherever he is, that's where "home" is to me. Fortunately, he feels the same. About me and about the world.

I want to say "thank you" to Andrew for his video, for reminding me of this. Not because otherwise I wouldn't remember, but because this feeling of wanting to spread my wings is a natural high to me, and one of the many things that I call happiness.

09/11/2011

Versace for H&M: Will You or Won't You?

As you know by now I have a huge soft spot for H&M. They're Swedish like me, they create stylish and wallet-friendly looks and so much of their stuff is cruelty free. I have a particular passion for the designer collaborations: my whole office is still making fun of me for being crazy enough to get up at 4 am for my Lanvin t-shirt last November. 

This year, though, Versace has left me with some doubts. 

First of all, the prints: where the heck are you going to wear this ?  If you're not a rave show maniac (I unfortunately am not), then I'm out of ideas.


Then there's the detail that part of Donatella's  eye-catching collection isn't vegan-friendly: so much of it is silk and, as you can read here, silk is a pretty cruel business. Many vegetarians hesitate on giving up silk because "they're just worms", and my answer to them is hey, that could have been you in a past life! All jokes aside, boiling any living being alive is definitely something that I don't approve of, so I'm not a fan of silk.


...cruelty-free silk farms do exist, though, (more info on that in an upcoming post), and we have no way of knowing (at least I don't) where exactly Versace or H&M's silk comes from.


What are your thoughts on Versace for H&M?



07/11/2011

The Show Must Go On: Queen & Adam Lambert

When I first got to know my musician boyfriend, one of the first things he asked me was "do you like Queen?" My answer was, "obviously everyone likes Queen, duh," but in hindsight, knowing now what Queen mean to him, what I should have said was, "OH MY GOD I LOVE THEM!!!".

Queen is by far David's greatest musical inspiration and without a doubt his favorite band. When I asked him who would be in his dream band, he basically named all of Queen. Through his expert knowledge and palpable passion for this band, I've gotten to know more of their masterpieces (I don't call them "songs" - they're masterpieces) and some of them, like Spread Your Wings and Miracle, have become my favorites because they're incredibly meaningful and endlessly beautiful. 

...and of course there will never, ever be a singer like Freddie again. Ever.

But even if Freddie's immortal voice can't possibly be reproduced, it doesn't mean that Queen's music can't live on - the show must go on, including live performances! 
When tuning into the last minutes of the MTV EMAs yesterday (I spent the evening drinking questionable substances at one of David's friends' house, so I didn't catch the whole show. Will have to make up for it this week!), I had no idea what would happen - would Lady Gaga sing? Would they put on old Freddie records? If someone told me that Adam Lambert would be on stage my reaction would have been "...eh?" I do like Adam, but I couldn't quite picture him as a replacement for Freddie.


Boy, did he prove me wrong.


Adam Lambert completely blew us all out of the water last night, proving his pipes were more than up to the challenging task. He had some enormous shoes to fill, and he did so in the best possible way.


Freddie was amazing because he managed to light up the crowd, to make his audience fly with him. Every word he sang, every note, every inch of his masterpieces captured whoever was lucky enough to be listening and became immortal at once. 

Adam is a singer from a talent show. A guy who wears eye makeup. A huge voice. A pretty big personality, too. But I can honestly say I never expected this from him.






...and let's all just take some time to notice how incredible Brian May is.  The man is over 60 years old, guys. And he's also an animal rights activist!

Goes to show that no, real music is not dead. Sure, these songs are all about twenty years old. But still, when talents like Adam meet legends like Brian and Queen, great things are made. A part of me believes Freddie was watching the show from up there and smiling.

.

02/11/2011

Things I Love TV: 2 Broke Girls

Hello, my name is Sascha and I am a tv-series-aholic. 
I have been since I was 10, when I fell head-over-heels in love with Zack from Saved by the Bell. Ah, Zack.


But back to 2011.
I've discovered some awesome new TV treats lately, and one of my newfound faves is 2 Broke Girls, a comedy created by Sex and the City's Michael Patrick King and comedian Whitney Cummings that deals with the unlikely friendship between hard-working, rough-talking waitress Max and ex-rich girl Caroline, who's forced to take a job as a waitress at the same Williamsburg diner as Max after her billionaire father loses everything in a scandal causing her to lose all her cash and all her friends. Forced to move into Max's (unrealistically huge) apartment, Caroline sets out to prove she's not a cookie-cutter spoiled rich girl: she's got big plans for herself and Max to start a cupcake business (Max happens to be a cupcake master) and hit the big time.

I wasn't expecting big things from this show, but after reading about it on Hello Giggles (you all do visit Hello Giggles at least once a day, don't you? If not, get on with it!), I decided to check it out and it was a very positive suprise. This show is funny and ironic, and the barely-20 minutes the episodes last are nowhere near enough.  See for yourselves: