CASHMERE AND MOTHERHOOD: LUXURY ABOUNDS

               CASHMERE AND MOTHERHOOD: LUXURY ABOUNDS

Founder of Cross Cashmere, Lynne McCrossan talks to REEK perfume about her luxury cashmere brand, girl gangs and old Hollywood glamour.

 

Tell us why you’ve ventured into the wonderful world of Scottish cashmere?

It all started when I was writing my second book Cashmere: a guide to Scottish luxury. I poured over eight of our most incredible cashmere mills and was hooked.

How have you found your personal experience working in fashion and journalism?

Fashion and journalism always walked hand in hand for me. It was writing about fashion that got me styling which ultimately lead to me creating the cashmere capsule. For me it’s all about collaboration, be it with photographers and make-up artists to brand and PRs, every shoot and article links you to a team of creatives behind the scenes – that’s the part I love.

Where do you find inspiration for your own style?

Inspiration for my own style comes from the mood I’m in. I’m a sucker for full-on old Hollywood glamour alongside crisp tailoring. Being able to experience yourself through clothing has always been something I’ve done, be it on set or personally.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day?

I identify with strong women with giant hearts. My female friends are my biggest inspirations. I tend to gravitate towards beautiful and passionate ladies with creative souls. Women like Marchesa Luisa Casati fascinate me, I’d kill for a time machine to share a gin with that woman.

What changes do you think should be implemented to try and encourage more women to go into business and start up their own brands?

The majority of my female friends own their own businesses or are at senior levels in their career so I suppose I’m really lucky to have that kind of support system as inspiration. Ultimately it’s about access to education – I don’t just mean going to university – but that want to excel in your field by learning as much as possible about it. That’s how you conquer the world, or at least your piece of it.

What signifies female strength to you?

The ability to help another woman out. Our strength comes from supporting each other.

What smells remind you of femininity?

It’s all about sweet and salty scents for me. This will sound disgusting but I love the smell of make-up melting on your skin on a warm summer day!

What are your favourite smells and why?

The sea. Whenever I feel stressed I have to head for a beach. That salty air, preferably when it’s cold, is so soothing.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

Doing things that scare me, that’s probably what makes me a damn rebel bitch, I’m not frightened of turning my wildest thoughts into reality. Ultimately I’m a nice bitch, unless I’m hungry – then I’m nasty…


FEMINISM IN THE MALE GAZE

FEMINISM IN THE MALE GAZE

Journalist and ardent feminist, Robert Somynne talks to REEK perfume about equality in the media worldwide and what makes him a male feminist…

What makes you a feminist? And do you find people have a strange response to male feminists?

Coming to the realisation that if we aren’t all free and no one can be free. It seems obvious but there’s a lot of cowardice I had to get over to come to a place of being totally comfortable with saying out loud that I’m a feminist. It’s about being a good ally in the struggle and knowing that it’s not just equality on the face of things but the structural battles that we’ve still to win.

I don’t really mind what response I get from other people (men) nowadays. It perhaps mattered more in the past when I was younger and the brotherhood of chauvinism was stronger – forcing you to not admit things or dilute your commitment. It takes having women around you and yes – having a go and not letting up when you act the fool or fail in your solidarity. That’s the only way you get past gender as a barrier to proudly saying you believe not only in equality but in radical measures to achieve it.

Do you see gender and race equality issues in your own industry? What has been your personal experience of this?

The UK media is pretty piss-poor for both gender equality and ethnic diversity – the Scottish media is infinitely worse. My entry into journalism was helped by coming to Scotland and writing at a time when the constitutional debate was raging at its most fierce. But everyday it’s hard for women and anyone not white to get a decent look in – bar exceptions.

The structural power of the old boys’ set is firmly rooted and hasn’t been shaken despite advances for women in public life in our political parties. The culture of being in the crew to get a gig or story can leave women isolated if they’re not willing to be pliant. However, the group “Women in Journalism” and NUJ Scotland BME group are trying their hardest to fight back.

Some of the best journalists I know are women still shut out of permanent print journalism jobs. But considering how worn down Scottish journalism is, it’s maybe a case of not being allowed access to a morgue.

I’ve often written about issues relating to race, immigration, and other areas only to be rebuffed by editors and then go on to see weaker pieces by writers without the personal experience of being an ethnic minority or child of immigrants in print. That’s grating.

Another issue is how internships that are unpaid even by papers with editors on large salaries, hurt women and BME writers more as they are less likely to have the funds to support essentially free work.

What gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

The pay gap, the bias women face following maternity leave regarding promotion, the safety of sex workers and migrant women and paternity leave.

Three of these issues are critical for men as much as women. I remember a protest in Germany with men demanding better paternity leave and pay and I found it inspiring. If women are denied their economic independence and power it impacts men as well.

Besides the obvious issue of basic justice, we are weakening our economy by failing to ensure equal pay for women for equal work and enforcing it in practice across industries. When women who end up denied the natural progression in promotion after having a child, we lose a captain of industry, a leader and a role model for men and women.

Cultural tendencies such as who looks after the children, does the bulk of emotional labour and domestic labour are important to me because of experiences with my father. He looked after me for much of my childhood and never exhibited any sense that it was odd, shameful or wrong. We think of ourselves as liberal but we still need to be a lot more fluid in what women and men can and should do.

As someone with a keen eye to foreign affairs what would you like to share with our readers about the different challenges facing women in the UK in comparison to across the world?

I focus a lot on the Gulf countries for my research and writing. Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, Bahrain and the wider Arab world including Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and more.

I’ve always resisted the notion that because women collectively face higher degree of physical violence and legal discrimination abroad women in the UK should be silent and “grateful”. There’s a worrying trend of some commentators on the Right using women’s suffering in the Middle East as a political crutch. We need to be vigilant against rape culture wherever it is and men need to get educated and fight the patriarchy everywhere.

In Saudi Arabia for example, the guardianship laws are the prime example of a suffocating regime of gender control that stymies the political and social development of the nation. But there’s some great work going on by Saudi women who are fighting back and who clearly possess their own agency.

Women in Iran possess the highest scientific qualifications in the whole region yet still face formal and informal barriers to technical jobs and management.

What separates women from those in these countries in time and legal status. We must never forget our past and never assume we cannot be taken there again. Neither can we accept that women are permanently doomed in other parts of the world. It’s vital for feminism to be internationalist as well as intersectional and know our actions and choices are connected to events thousands of miles away.

Tell us about some of the females who have inspired you in your personal life and career?

Marie Colvin, was a war journalist who inspired me greatly. Her fearless reporting signalled her out among her colleagues as someone not afraid to go where the story or conflict lead. She was blinded in eye by shrapnel from a Sri Lankan army shelling leaving her with the iconic eye patch associated with her work but she seemed to have great insight in the heart of any conflict she wrote about. She was killed by a shell in Syria at the beginning of the war, aged 56 after a career spanning 30 years. Hers was a clarity of writing rarely seen – it impacts on what I want to do in the future.

I’ve had the pleasure to also meet great writers and makers either at the start of their careers or well into their craft. Jen Sout is a great writer who I hope to see a lot more of in international and Scottish journalism. She’s covered a lot of work relating to Russia, surveillance, LGBT rights and offshore tax havens which is the real meat and bones of holding the powerful to account.

What significance do smells have in your life?

It’s most about memory and reaching back to times where I have felt safe and confident about the world and my immediate surroundings.

Also smells are about comfort so you don’t have to worry about what is supposedly manly or not. Fragrances can entwine you with memory or a relationship, bond you closer with a person or a moment in time.

I’m a history buff and love camping. An enduring smell is wild garlic. I know not something you’d rub on your neck for a night out but it reminds me of when I first moved to Scotland and went to camping to Arran, Kelso, Sutherland and along the forest walks and trails wild garlic was always in season. It’s strong and ever-present,  an unrestrained smell of the outdoors.

What are your favourite smells and why?

This is rather nebulous. The smell of wet leaves on the ground because it reminds me of walks in London parks with my dad in the autumn as a kid.

Anything citrus reminds me of holidays in Sicily.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

One of my favourite essays is an etymological piece by Clare Bayley: A History of the Word Bitch. http://clarebayley.com/2011/06/bitch-a-history/

I’d like to think that I’ve taken from my mother what Bayley describes as the “irritable” qualities which are actually just assertiveness in not letting go of a point you believe in. Especially when you should be quiet or grateful and not “uppity”.

An Alabama representative bemoaned suffragettes as destroyers of “domestic tranquility”. I think that’s a good kind to be.


STONEWALL, PUSSY, PRIDE AND POWER

STONEWALL, PUSSY, PRIDE AND POWER

Sarah Moore talks to REEK perfume about pussy, pride, power and working at Stonewall…

 

What smells remind you of femininity? What are your favourite smells and why?

Pussy, pride and power. To me, femininity is ultimate strength. The scent of femmes, in whichever way that is presented, is everything.

As a queer woman do you feel you are well represented in the industry?

In a word, no. Not yet. The fashion and beauty industries have got a lot of work to do to up their game and diversify the faces we see in all their campaigns. Having said that, last year my then-girlfriend (you might know her, she’s a Damn Rebel Bitch too!) and I worked with the Swedish brand Monki on their ten-year anniversary ‘Monkifesto’ campaign. The concept for this was full of originality and integrity. The brand has since followed through by fundraising for Stonewall, and now Stonewall and Monki are in discussion about an ongoing partnership. This is a great example of how brands can incorporate LGBTQ representation into their campaigns in a sincere, non-pinkwashing way ie actually care about the cause and do something long-term, not just for the sake of sales.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day that have also inspired you to push further in your career or your personal life?

This question is difficult for me, because I don’t think I’ve ever really felt like I could relate to anyone. The first people that spring to mind are the drag queens RuPaul, Sharon Needles and Latrice Royale. I have a really vivid memory of being 20 years old and the absolute lowest I’ve ever been – unemployed, directionless, depressed – and discovering RuPaul’s Drag Race. The motto ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?’ stuck in my head. Sharon showed me that it’s completely fine to be weird and queer, Latrice taught me to embrace myself for who I was and push forward, and Ru made it all happen. I’ll always thank them for helping me turn my life into something I’m proud of, despite everything else. Does that count?  It’s also worth mentioning the following though: Lady Gaga, Madonna, Cindy Sherman, Kathleen Hanna, Nan Goldin, Munroe Bergdorf and all other the visible queer women and non-binary femmes who inspire me every day.

What female or gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

Given the nature of my work at the charity Stonewall, equality for LGBTQ people is something I actively work on every day. Though to me, equality is an intersectional feminist issue, and in my opinion it’s difficult to prioritise social injustice. Just as much work goes into my day job as It does not being a bystander to patriarchal, racist, xenophobic, sexist, LGBTphobic bullshit on my journey home or at the weekend.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

I’m a take no shit, worked my way up from my own rock bottom kinda bitch. But at the same time, I try to be as soft as possible too. I think it’s vital to recognise that everyone’s experiences are different, and if we’re lucky, life has a way of making us resilient, compassionate, loving, patient and kind. To me, these are some of the most important qualities a person can have.  It’s only once you’re able to accept yourself for who you are and be tolerant of others that you can ignite passion and create change. And being a bitch is all about fire. So step your pussy up.

What are your favourite images from the REEK shoot and why?

I don’t often see myself in front of the camera as I spend so much time behind it, but I absolutely love all the shots from the REEK shoot. There are too many to choose from! I love the focus on tongue and lips (it’s the Pussy Pride again!) and I like that I’m smiling in one – it’s rare in photos!

 

Want to know more about Stonewall?

Check out the website or follow them on instagram or twitter.

More wise words and what not from Sarah here.


WHERE PEOPLE SLEEP

WHERE PEOPLE SLEEP

In Glasgow, three flatmates, Amy, Samantha and Shaheeda, have found a way to live and sleep with art by utilizing their living space for breathtaking exhibitions. REEK interviewed them about their radical, feminist art project.

Tell us about the concept behind ‘where people sleep’? How did it start? Why did it start?

AMY: Where People Sleep began out of a desire to take control and utilize our space but most importantly just to have fun and experiment. I was studying at Glasgow school of art and feeling let down by the course. My flatmates were both artists and we had these big cluttered hallways that were asking to be cleared out and used to show art, so it just made sense.

SHAHEEDA: It soon became clear that our street had been a sort of hub of creativity for goodness knows how long before we arrived. I’d just decided to drop out of a Social Sciences course at university, and I was really keen to fill the space in my life that had been taken up by uni and replace it with pushing creativity.

A month later, Sam joined us and was working towards expanding her portfolio, so we began to do up the flat and plan our first exhibition, grand opening: where people sleep gallery.

SAMANTHA: It was Amy’s suggestion to use the hall. We wanted to bring together artists from various genders, backgrounds, sexualities and race. Collaborating with our friends and artists in and around the community, it became a great way for us to bond and get to know how each other. I think it became something we all needed in our life in different ways, which is why it has become as big as it is now.

What has the response been so far?

AMY: It’s been heart warming. Our excitement and drive to keep doing events and shows is heightened by knowing that there’s a lot of people supporting us and keen to be involved. We’re surrounded by friends.

SHAHEEDA: Every time we hold an event, we consider expansion, we are more organised, more experienced and are taking on bigger challenges, which means we are always delivering more to the community! And people are noticing. One of the most special things for me is the delight I feel when I ask someone who I really admire to be involved with Where People Sleep.

Tell us about some of the more controversial artwork you’ve showcased at ‘where people sleep’?

SHAHEEDA: I don’t think I would like to label any piece of work that has been shown in Where People Sleep as ‘controversial’ as that is subjective to the viewer. However, I am very interested in showing work in our space that challenges the status quo, showing work by people that are under-represented in the mainstream art world, people who aren’t always given a voice or work that expresses a perspective on issues that aren’t always talked about openly.

SAMANTHA: Perhaps some of the work that we have exhibited, including Shaheeda’s and my own, might be controversial to others but not to us. Some of it does make people feel uncomfortable but it’s about changing people’s perceptions and understanding of the world. It’s having conversations and discussions and allowing the artist to express themselves in a way their voice might have not been heard before.

There seems to be a huge celebration of women in the exhibitions, tell us how this came about?

SHAHEEDA: I would say that the celebration of womanhood that comes through in our exhibitions naturally – it’s something that is simply ingrained in our curatorial style. Particularly Samantha’s and my work are often concerned with identity and perceived identities, the way we view ourselves and the way we are viewed by others, so I suppose this instinctively relates to the sort of work that connects to us, which we in turn pursue to be shown in Where People Sleep. We are interested in giving space to people that identify anywhere in the gender spectrum and are always thinking of ways to keep our exhibiting artists as diverse as possible.

AMY: We celebrate everything and everyone in the gallery, females, males, kittens, slugs, snails….

What insight have you gained from sharing your female experiences through your artwork?

AMY: Personally my art doesn’t relate to female experience other than it being made by a female, I tend not to use gender as a theme.

SHAHEEDA: I have learnt so so so much since moving to Glasgow, co-founding Where People Sleep and officially beginning to make work as an artist. My identity as a woman is something that I feel has shaped the very essence of my life experiences, many of them being negative ones. Exploring this through my work allows me to start conversations about things that are really important to me like consent, identity and relationships. It allows me to feel as if I am directly attacking a passive world with my message.

SAMANTHA: Through my work I’m constantly gazing at others, gazing at myself and gazing at the world around us. I think it’s important that we celebrate the female gaze. We celebrate being creative and passionate. We look at the definition of Femininity and the many forms it comes in and embrace it. We become inspired by ourselves and those around us and thereby become our own muses. Through my work I’ve gained a greater understanding of my own identity and acceptance of it. And also love and admiration for those who strive to be nothing but themselves. We live in a world with ingrained social constructs, so it’s hard to break through and make up your own mind, that’s why art that challenges them is so incredibly important. I hope through my work I not only inspire women but also the entire gender spectrum.

What would you like to see change in the art scene across the UK?

SHAHEEDA: I would like to see more paid opportunities for people like me. Young, determined and motivated people who have no desire to pursue anything but a career in the creative arts. I would like to see an increase of POC representation across the board, from exhibiting artists to institution staff. I would like to see fewer people talking about experiences that they have never endured. I would like to see more collaborative relationships being built and more focus on how artists can support other artists when they are in positions of power or privilege.

SAMANTHA: Currently what I would like to see change in the Art scene is artists being paid for the work they produce. Not just in the Art scene but the entire creative community. I think people tend to think, ‘Well I’m giving this person a platform for their work to be shown so that’s more than enough payment for their services’. Which if it was any other job sector would be seen as ridiculous. You’ve also got places like Transmission who purposely make the effort to pay the members and artists they employ but are sitting with a committee of volunteers who aren’t being paid for what is essentially a full time job. We’ll end up losing these important and essential organisations which is shameful. That’s is why this is so important to WPS. Although we’re a small collective, we really want to uphold this principle.

There’s also still a strong social class structure within the Art Scene and particularly in Art Education. There shouldn’t be these boundaries. When I think of Art I think of everyone. No matter who they are and where they come from. It’s something that can be so fundamental to a person. Art has the power to change perceptions, to engage with an audience who have no previous knowledge of art. It shouldn’t matter about your race, or what class you come from. That’s why I love that WPS aim to work with a diverse range of artists and particularly bringing together both artists from an art education and also who aren’t. It’s so important to know you don’t need a art degree to make art and have voice within it.

What gender equality causes are important to the collective and why?

SHAHEEDA: Equal representation, lack of censorship.

SAMANTHA: I think it’s so important that we’re able to create a space that is not only diverse but attracts people from all walks of life. We want a space where people can speak freely without fear of judgment or ridicule. Where people can be themselves and show art that is open, honest and real. That’s why gender equality is so important particularly now when the word gender is being redefined. Now is a time to see and understand different people’s perspectives no matter what race, gender or sexuality, we should all have a voice that is listened to and I think that is the beauty of Art and particularly what I want our collective to stand for.

Art is so sensory tell us how you feel about smell?

SHAHEEDA: I like the smell of spray paint. It reminds me of my childhood.

Are you witches or bitches?

SHAHEEDA: Two witches and a bitch.

Find Where People Sleep at: https://www.facebook.com/wherepeoplesleep

Photos by Linda McIntosh