DISSENT REVOLUTION POETRY

DISSENT REVOLUTION POETRY

Poet, performer and game-maker, Harry Josephine Giles, is lead singer of Fit to Work – a quasi-autonomous, non-governmental punk act. They talk to REEK about equality, dissent and the importance of words.

Who are you, Harry Josephine Giles?

I’m a writer and performer. I’m from Orkney and I live in Leith. I do poetry, theatre, games and now punk. I love it all. I never saw an art form I didn’t want to try.

What makes you a feminist?

Um… I desire the complete destruction of an oppressive global system of gender hierarchy? I think the practice is more important than the identity. People claim the identities they need, and that’s grand, but it’s what you do with it that’s most important. I’m always trying to do feminism better.

What equality campaign is most important to you? Why is dissent important?

You know, I don’t really like the word equality. There’s a site, againstequality.org, that I highly recommend. ”Equality” implies some authority certifying it, or legislating it, but I want something we can take. And I’m not interested in equality between groups of people within a system of oppression. I’m interested in the destruction of that oppression. I want the end of a gendered system of being.

As for dissent: well, freedom comes first through learning to say no and being able to say no to things. No, I don’t want that; no, you can’t have me. And once you’re good at that can you find freedom through saying Yes. Yes, please. Yes, do that. Yes means nothing if you don’t get to say No.

What does all that look like to you?

I wish I knew. It’s probably revolution. Let’s be revolutionaries. I guess it looks like mutual support and community and organising in a way that doesn’t rely on hierarchies of power. Trying to overturn power, and trying distribute resources equitably (not necessarily equally). And justice, justice is a more exciting word than equality. Justice, equity, transformation. It also looks like being accountable to our peers, lovers, communities – and them being accountable to us. Mutual accountability is revolutionary.

What has been your personal experience of gender equality?

I’m still figuring out what feels possible there, or even liveable within the system of gender we’re currently stuck with. I’m still in that process. I’m friends with a lot of trans people who find some kind of stable gender identity and others who welcome the instability. The trans umbrella encompasses a lot of different ways of living. It’s an adventure and it’s also hard – terrifying actually. I am quite public about that journey, but it’s fraught with risk and pain. All that means I’ve had different experiences. I’ve spent a chunk of life being seen as male and trying to live up to that, and then a chunk of life trying to understand the psychological wound of masculinity, what bell hooks calls “the first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males, psychic self-mutilation”, trying to critique and recover from that. Now I’m spending a chunk of life as something Other, and that’s different again.
In practical terms, that means that, while my wardrobe all comes off the “Women’s” rack, some days I pass as male, if a little queer, and some days I’m clearly something else. If I’m in a dress and leggings, or have done my full hair and make-up, I get a lot of sir-ma'ams (or, in Scotland, hen-pals), because people don't know where to place you. And then, if you go out with any obvious masculine features and, say, you’re wearing a dress, you will be harassed. I get that at least 50% of the time, just as all women face daily risks of harassment. So my current experience of the lack of gender equality is of being indeterminate and that being a source of both pleasure and danger. Sometimes I enjoy it, and other times the daily violence of that is impossible. And that’s just clothes and self and street harassment. We haven't even started on economics, social exclusion, mental health, border control, the carceral state…

What inspired you to create Fit for Work?

I didn’t! A couple of friends of mine who are professional musicians and who I went to school with asked me to do vocals for their punk side-project. I said yes immediately, obviously, cos it sounded fun. Thinking through what I wanted to do with that, I decided I wanted to put an aggressive femininity into that very masculine space of punk. I strut around in my thigh-high boots and my knee- high dress and bring to the stage a feminine energy into that the refuses to be boxed in. That is inspired by the long history of Riot Grrl – women’s punk music. Femininity can be furious, violent and resistant too.

Do you feel there are big changes happening right now? What words are important in that?

There are always big changes. In one way history moves really fast and it can be astonishing how quickly some things change and at the same time how slowly other things change. For example, I grew up and went to school under Section 28 (the most destructive imaginable law – the law that banned even discussion of anything LGBT in schools) and not only has that now gone, when I do workshops in school I see posters for trans youth groups – meeting at lunchtime. That took only 20 years. It’s an enormous change. But, on the other hand, it we had hundreds of years of feudalism, and now we’re only a 150 years or so into capitalism, and even though some of the dynamics have changed it’s still the same destructive and immiserating system it ever was.

What people do you most identify with from history?

Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, Catullus and Sappho.

Is smell important to you? Which smells and why?

You’re in the best place to fight if you’re centred. So my favourite smell is the smell you get when you are halfway up a mountain and the wind is blowing and you get the freshness off the top of the trees and the freshness coming down off the snow. You can’t smell the city at all. That’s when I feel most calm.

Then there’s rotting seaweed and silage and manure – the overpowering smells of living on an
island. They take me right home.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch?

I’m damned – I’m definitely going to hell and I’d be disappointed if I weren’t. I grew up with hellfire sermons, so though I don’t actually believe in hell my gut is still convinced that’s where I’m headed. I’m a rebel cos it’s in my bones. I have never got past the stage when a two-year- old kid first learns to say No. I’m still there. And I don’t know if I’m a bitch yet – but I aspire to be.

Tell us what kind of bitch you’d be, then?

A problematic bitch.

Find out more about Harry’s work: www.harrygiles.org and more about Fit to Work: fittowork.band

All images by Void Works Photography.


DIVE QUEER PARTY

DIVE QUEER PARTY

REEK spoke to those Damn Rebel Bitches, Dive Queer Party’s’s creators Miss Annabel Sings (MAS) and Agent Cooper (AC). Credited for ‘redefining the Scottish queer club scene’ (The Skinny) and being Scotland’s best-loved and most notorious queer cabaret party mongers, they return to the Traverse Theatre with their outrageously queer Camp as Xmas Cabaret. The event will raise funds for Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity, in recognition of World AIDS Day.

What makes you a feminist?

MAS: Feminism means equality and freedom to us, which form the bedrock of what Dive is all about. We live by our mantra – you can be whoever you want to be, however you want be, wherever you want to be – and promote the power of positive expression.

What equality campaign is most important to you? Why is dissent important?

The never ending campaign for LGBT equality. Dive recognises and cherishes the privilege of being born and based in Scotland, the country voted the best place in the world to live for trans* people and where at one point this year three out of four political party leaders openly identifying as gay. But these are all rights and privileges that were hard fought and could so easily be taken away. Only a short time ago it was a criminal offence to be gay in the UK and the stigma and brutality doled out by the powerful during the AIDS epidemic in he 80s was just yesterday, really. Our Xmas show will raise funds for Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity, in recognition of World AIDS Day. World events are spurring both massive leaps forward and tragic steps back for LGBTIQ rights around the world, so we want to spread a message of expressive freedom and acceptance and rallies those on stage and in the audience to stand up and come together in celebration of difference, promoting a world where you can “be whoever you want to be, however you want be, wherever you want to be”.

What inspired you to create DIVE? Tell us about drag and how things are changing?

MAS: Our four eyes met across a sticky carpet during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011 when I was touring with notorious live art collective Eat Your Heart Out. I asked AC on a date but despite having lots in common we never made it to first base (thank goodness). We got scheming instead, joining forces to talk about our shared vision for a queer space to share, explore and show off their collective creativity, joy and madness in a safe, fun and inclusive environment. We take having fun very seriously and spend lots of time together being silly and making each other laugh.

AC: That space would eventually become Dive Queer Party, which started off as an eclectic, anything-goes queer party in the murky depths of a subterranean dive bar in Edinburgh in July 2013. This is where the foundations of the company and collective were rooted and from this early stage we were promoting a world where – through the power of positive expression – you can be whoever you want to be, however you want be, wherever you want to be. (By the way I still deny she ever asked me out on a date – there is no evidence and frankly, you would, wouldn’t you?!). I’m excited about the blossoming drag king scene in Scotland and the UK, which must be inspired by the profile of feminist campaigns and women’s rights and issues. Nights like The King’s Court (at The Rabbit Hole at CC Blooms) here in Edinburgh and places like Bar Wotever, Kingdom and The Glory down south are leading the way. We were so lucky to have the amazing internationally renowned artist and drag king Diane Torr based in Glasgow until she died this
year. Her stage appearances and Man For A Day workshops are legendary and Dive was lucky enough to work with her many times in the short time we knew each other.

What people do you most identify with from history?

MAS: Leigh Bowery, for being so out there and showing us anything is possible. My whole view of performance changed when I encountered his world. This was the inspiration for our ongoing show ‘Homage’ – a celebration of queer heroes from the past, present and future, resurrected or given life through the medium of performance and showcased in the unique, rainbow- adorned, glitter-streaked world that is Dive.

AC: The aforementioned gender activist, dancer and drag king Diane Torr. We became friends with Diane only 3 years ago but she made a massive impact on me before she sadly died earlier this year. For over thirty years she explored the theoretical, artistic, and practical aspects of gender identity and was so generous in sharing her knowledge and experience at the same time as being ruthlessly experimental and open to trying new things. I think she’d be excited and proud to see the blossoming drag king scene in Scotland and the UK.

Is smell important to you? Which smells and why?

MAS: Ooh, the whiff of a Dive Queer Party and the other queer spaces in the city like The Rabbit Hole, Pollyanna, Grrl Crush and Hot Mess, to name a few. Nothing quite like it.

AC: Smell is v important. I like hanging out in urinals, gym changing rooms, lorry sleeper compartments anywhere with the heady scent of a real man really.

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

We are DAMN QUEER REBEL BITCHES!

Gender and sexuality is so threaded into the fabric of our society and how power is exerted over us. Being queer, being your true self (whoever you want to be…”) makes us hellu Damn Rebel Bitches by default. We feel we have a responsibility to be visible, loud and proud here in Scotland, where LGBT rights have been hard fought and we hope help make change possible in the
rest of the world.

We had a review recently which sort of sums that up:
”In a lot of ways, Dive’s Homage might be one of the best shows to really capture what Fringe is about. The radical, the alternative, the ‘fuck you’ of convention, the freedom of expression. We’re all different and we all fucking love each other is the message of a night with Dive.”

What treats are in store for audiences at The Miss Annabel Sings Show Camp as Xmas Cabaret?

MAS: Oooh well, it’ll be a proper festive feast of anarchic queer cabaret featuring some of the best bits of Dive’s triumphant year, with performances from the fairest drag kings and queens of the realm, as well as saucy sing-song-a-longs, riotous audience games, delicious festive cocktails and a very special (bio)Queen’s speech.

AC: We’re delighted to be raising funds for Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity, in recognition of World AIDS Day. And there’s a special guest performance from transgurl cabaret singer SADIE GODIVA, one of the stars of Dive’s over 50’s cabaret project which was launched for LGBT History Month in February in partnership with Luminate – Scotland’s creative ageing organisation, and LGBT Health & Wellbeing.

MAS: The event kicks off with an atypical office xmas disco from 4-6pm with Dive’s resident DJ, DAVE FROM ACCOUNTS. The Miss Annabel Sings Shows opens straight after at 6pm, stuffed full of the best bits of 2017 and guest performances from drag queens FEDORA VERONICA HOMBURG,

DUCLEA REIGNS, GEORGIA TASDA and THE DUCHESS, and Drag Kings KING BIFF -,SIMON PATERSON of very own AGENT COOPER. Also starring LUKE PELL as the Angel Gay-briel and an alternative carol concert from the hilarious PORN CHOIR (they do exactly what it says on the tin).

Diva will be at Traverse Bar Café, Edinburgh on Sunday 3 December 2017,
4-9.30pm. Box Office: 0131 228 1404
www.traverse.co.uk www.dive-party.org.uk
@DiveQueerParty

Waverley Care is Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity. The organisation’s work is focused on prevention, education, testing and support throughout Scotland, reducing new HIV and Hepatitis C infections, getting people diagnosed and supporting those affected in whatever ways they need. Waverley Care challenge HIV and Hepatitis C related stigma, tackling health inequalities and promoting good sexual health. In all that Waverley Care do, they never give up on people and are always there to walk alongside anyone affected by HIV or Hepatitis C.

http://www.waverleycare.org


ANARCHY, WITCHCRAFT AND ART

ANARCHY, WITCHCRAFT AND ART

Artist Karen Strang talks to REEK about her latest paintings,
The Scottish Witch Trials Testament Series and what
inspired her work.

Who are you, Karen Strang?

I’m a visual artist / painter / anarchist working from Alloa in the Forth Valley of Scotland. It isn’t always easy being a flaneuse in the Central Belt! I take obsession with my subject matter to heart. Previously it was Rimbaud in the latter half of 1874 that rocked my boat. Currently I’m obsessing with the local Witchcraft trials of Glendevon and the Forth Valley. I see feminism as a transitional position, I’d be heading for an agendered non-speciest world, if that could exist.

What makes you a feminist?

Experience. Simple as.

What equality campaign is most important to you and why?

Too often it seems being born with a cunt automatically puts you into a livestock category. I am continually horrified by the treatment of women around the world. One has to start somewhere in addressing these issues. I do it with my paintings in the hope that what I express physically provokes a change in thinking. A starting point is the female gaze on another female. It seems a gentle enough approach until one realises the strength of reaction. Self-possession and recovering ownership of one’s sexuality in one’s own terms.

What inspired you to create the Scottish Witch trials paintings?

Over decades I have been fascinated by aspects of female knowledge of nature, which has been seen through history as a threat to order. The outcome of this fear, envy and misogyny is the epidemic of witch-hunts and in Scotland this was a particularly aggressive and brutal period, known as the Killing Times. I seek to redress the balance between the forgotten victim and the torture and murder which until recently has been swept into indifference or quaint superstition. More and more facts and numbers of victims are being unearthed. We may never get to know how many people were murdered under the excuse of religion and superstition for what was ultimately a culling under the socio-economic needs of a patriarchal system.

Do you have a favourite painting from this series? Why?

I am in constant dialogue with each of them as they develop. I work with a number of pieces that seek out their own conversations, creating an energy force. For example, the series of five paintings, “Tides”, rely on each other to create a dynamic narrative. So possibly, just for this moment, I would select “Jetsam”. Tomorrow it might be another.

What has been your personal experience of gender equality?

I was the first female school pupil at my comprehensive school to be allowed to sit in a technical drawing class. I spent five years attempting this. Finally I got to sit in the class but not to take the O-Grade. A small early victory for me against the State! But I still couldn’t wear trousers to school.

How do you feel about the way images of women are represented in the media?

I am not convinced that the abundance of staged selfies expresses self-ownership. A lifetime of gazing into the eyes of others as an artist makes these “portraits” appear to meld into an algorithm which caricatures sexual commodification, objectifying rather than opening a genuine dialogue with the viewer.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

Witch never bitch.

So what makes you a DAMN REBEL WITCH?

Society doesn’t fit me, I don’t fit society. (Maybe it’s ‘cos I’m a left-handed sinister sorceress!)

Several of Karen Strang’s witchcraft paintings are currently exhibiting as part of a collaborative show called “Seasons of the Witch” at Front Room Galleryin Alloa. A large solo exhibition of her witchcraft works, called “The Burn and the Tide”, will follow at the Lillie Gallery in Milngavie in February 2018, exploring the psychological as well as the factual effects of women accused of witchcraft.


WOMEN IN THE MEDIA

WOMEN IN THE MEDIA

Tori West, Editor of Bricks magazine, spoke to the bitches about women in the media and her vision of how to do things differently ie better

Tell us a bit about what you do?

I always find this question difficult because it always turns into a long-winded answer, but I’ve recently settled for the terms publisher, writer or editor. I started BRICKS magazine three years ago and I just launched the platform Neighbourhood.tv for Village, a fashion communications agency in London. Both of them, although different, support emerging talent. I want to share the voices of people, regardless of their social following, those who I think deserve to be heard. I make content that I think needs to be made. I hate this entire ‘journalism needs to be click-bait’ attitude, screw the stats, I want a more honest media. I’ve also started organising day events outside of London, where I bring editors/writers from titles like Vogue and Dazed to network with creatives outside of London. I want to make the publishing/magazine industry less exclusive – there’s an entire world of artists and creators out there, outside this bubble and I’m determined to find them all!

How was it shooting with the REEK team and knowing the images have no retouching? You work a lot with the curation of editorials, was it strange being on the other side?

Yeah, it is actually, I get asked to model for things quite a bit but I’ll only do it if it’s a brand I truly relate to or if I love the photographer. I appreciate REEK because I know you won’t manipulate my body in any way. It must feel awful being a model and receiving the images back and you’re looking at an unrealistic version of yourself in the photograph.

Do you think it’s important for more campaigns and editorials to step away from retouching?

Yes, definitely! At the end of the day, if there was no retouching, we’d have a much healthier vision of our own bodies. What’s the point in marketing society’s – well I may as well just say it – man’s ideals and unrealistic expectations of how a woman should look? I don’t understand it. I relate much more to companies like yourself, you’re working with real people to promote your product, you’re not trying to represent them in your way – you give it back to them and allow them to choose how they’d like to be portrayed. That’s my idea of empowerment.

Tell us about what gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

At the moment, what’s bothers me most is the gender segregation of sex education in schools. People are still confused on the differences between the terms gender and sex. I was taught issues and the logistics of hetero-sex only, but I grew up so confused about my sexuality because of it. I’m 24 now and I’m still not sure how I identify, but it wasn’t until a few years ago I realised that was ok, I didn’t need to be placed in a box, I still don’t need to answer yes or no to whether I’m straight or not. I think if kids were being taught same-sex education and the emotional relationship we have to our own bodies rather than labelling us ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ and sex is for straight people to make a baby, we’d be a lot less confused and more open to having conversations about it growing up. And also, same-sex marriage being legal in every single country, it’s still shocking that only around 25 have legalised it.

Do you feel women are represented well in your industry? Is there more work to be done?

No, not at all. We’re still valued on our outward appearances way more than our inward qualities.

What women have inspired you both in your personal life, career and style?

I’m so grateful that I’ve been surrounded by such inspirational, phenomenal women throughout my life. Every single one of them has motivated me in some way and made me feel more human.

What are your favourite smells and why?

The smell of a new book or a printed page, because it means new content.

Are you a bitch, a witch or a bit of both?

WITCHES UNITE!


PERFUME SOCIETY'S SUZY NIGHTINGALE

PERFUME SOCIETY’S SUZY NIGHTINGALE

”Suzy Nightingale, fragrance expert and freelance writer talks scents, female strength and about her favourite smells with REEK Perfume. This is the kind of smelly chat that dreams are made of…

What brought you to the world of perfume?

Firstly, my mother. She has always been incredibly glamorous, and as a child I had that classic hankering for a dressing table filled with intriguing bottles and jars of mysterious, scented lotions and potions. We’d often go on holiday to Jersey – a duty-free haven of perfumeries – and my favourite memories are of spending hours in dimly-lit, velvet-clad spaces filled entirely with women, talking in hushed tones about secretive things while sniffing perfumes and exchanging beauty tips. I felt like I’d been given access to an inner sanctum of adulthood, a perfumed cabal of possibilities! I was allowed to choose miniature bottles of perfume to try, and my first full-size choice, aged ten, was Chanel’s Coco. Hardly a ‘suitable’ choice for a young girl, I suppose, but I wanted to grow in to it, and I’ve always actively revelled in being perceived as ‘unsuitable’! Later, when I was already a writer, I stumbled across the online forums of Fragantica (an online encyclopaedia of perfume) with people reviewing and discussing their own collections of fragrance. I enthusiastically joined in, and was asked by the editors to contribute articles to the magazine section. I became their UK Correspondent for a while, and quickly realised I loved the challenge of describing the artistry of perfumes – the stories behind them, the emotions inspired by them. Now I’m freelance as the Senior Writer for The Perfume Society website and magazine, The Scented Letter, as well as writing for industry magazines like Esprit, creating trend reports and fragrance forecasting for corporate organisations and providing expert consultations. It’s a fusing of creative writing and journalism, just as perfumery is a fusing of science and art; and all without a language of its own. There are hardly any (positive) words for smells alone. We are constantly forced to allude to taste, texture and deep-rooted feelings in those descriptions, to pass on a message. It makes my brain itch and my soul ache and I adore it.

Do you feel that women are celebrated in your industry? Tell us about some of the women who have inspired your own career?

Well that’s a very interesting question, because ostensibly they are, or at least they appear to be. You could argue the majority of the fragrance world is devoted to celebrating aspects of womanhood, with a perfume along the way for every stage of your life, your every mood. But in the past these were devised and decided almost exclusively by men, from the brief given to the perfumer to the perfumer composing the scent and through to the men making the advertising campaign, right up to men buying the perfume as a gift for their wife or lover. Now a lot of these companies are being run by women, many more perfumers are women… I think there’s still a very long way to go, particularly with advertising that can render what’s potentially an interesting fragrance in to yet another woman in a bra or a bikini looking breathless on a beach; but things are happening. As for women in the industry I admire – there are so many! I’m particularly inspired by characters such as Germaine Cellier, who was a pioneering nose in the 1940s, creating outstandingly new (and then scandalously daring) perfumes such as Balmain‘s Vent Vert – overdosed with galbanum and considered the first “green” perfume of its kind – and Robert Piguet‘s Fracas, a bombastic, room-filling, man-terrifying tuberose (which sadly I can’t personally wear as it feels as though I’ve been shot through the head with a silver bullet, but I love the mere fact it exists in all its audacity). She seems like a formidable woman who barged her way through at a time the entire world was otherwise dominated by male perfumers, forging the way fearlessly and stamping her mark in scent history. Cellier very much believed in doing her own thing. I’d love to have met her. Estée Lauder, too, was a perfume and beauty pioneer. Before Youth Dew was released in 1953 as a scented bath oil that could also be used as a perfume, it was seen as socially unacceptable for women to buy their own perfume – it marked you as some sort of whore, as opposed to nice, respectable ladies who used delicately scented dusting powder and perhaps dabbed their temples with rose water or Cologne after an exhausting day of looking decorative. Lauder was an incredible saleswoman – she knew what women wanted and how to give it to them. She forged an empire and paved the way for women to buy their own perfume and cosmetics, not just passively waiting for some husband or potential paramour to present it to them. I’m also really inspired by women like Monique Remy, who founded LMR (Laboratoire Monique Remy) in 1984, a manufacturing and processing facility for natural perfume and flavour ingredients. Her foresight guaranteed fair trade, good working traditions and long term investment in vulnerable communities worldwide. She strove for quality and sustainability at a time nobody else was really considering these values, and forced the closed world of Grasse to begrudgingly accept and carry forward her demands. And Chantal Roos! She’s legendary in the fragrance world for commissioning and launching some of the biggest fragrances of all time – seeking out the best of the best way ahead of her contemporaries. Lovers of Yves Saint Laurent‘s Opium and Kouros, Jean Paul Gaultier‘s Classique and Issey Miyake‘s L’Eau d’Issey have the gutsy marketing savvy of Roos to thank. Now she’s working with her equally talented (musician and composer) daughter Alexandra on their own perfume line, Dear Rose. Ballsy women with a vision, all of them, and there are countless others…!

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

I’m really moved by young women highlighting issues of concern for their generation – I think for my (Generation X) contemporaries, we’ve seen this gradual backwards slide in equality, young girls feeling uncomfortable about identifying themselves as feminists, putting up with terrible abuse on all forms of social media just for being female and having an opinion or not conforming, being objectified and sexualised at an early age… I’m heartened the younger generations are increasingly not only aware of this, but trying to address it in their own way. It gives me hope.

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

Good grief, where do you start?! I’m going to have to begin with Aphra Behn – one of the first women to earn a living as a professional writer. I’m with Virginia Woolf when she said “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Harriette Wilson has always seemed like a bit of a goer. An infamous courtesan, she seduced men with her passionately worded letters and – in later years – made a pretty penny by offering them a special chapter in her memoirs unless they paid up. We all owe a huge debt to the brilliance of Ada Lovelace, who ushered in the digital era. I was the first girl in my class to get a computer, and used to pretend I was Ada while attempting to program my ZX Spectrum. I wonder what she would have made of my failed attempt to make an American flag digitally wave while playing a tinny tune? I admire the biting sarcasm and wit of women like Dorothy Parker – how glorious it must have been to be part of the Algonquin Round Table – and Bette Davis. Now there are two women you didn’t want to cross. And my god, who doesn’t adore women like Helen Mirren and Judy Dench, who continue to excel at an age most women in their profession have long been sadly discarded? I am inspired by women who speak their mind, ask difficult questions and don’t attempt to hide their cleverness.

What signifies female strength to you? 

Refusing to shut up. Bravery balanced with dignity. Persisting through everyday battles perceived as trivialities. Being yourself, whatever that means to you personally.

What smells remind you of femininity?

Outrageously opulent and musky smells that are seen as ‘a bit much’ are the very essence of what femininity means to me. Women have long been told they should smell clean and simple – nothing to startle the horses or children or tremulous men. I say dare to at least sometimes wear a fragrance like a weapon or a suit of armour and leave crowds trembling in your wake! I’m not really a clean and simple sorta gal.

What are your five favourite smells and why?

I can’t possibly do this in order, as that fluctuates depending on my mood and what I need… but here we go.

1 – Vicks Vapour Rub. I used to rub it into the fur on the neck of my toy rabbit (which I still have, though she’s a bit of a bald rag now, bless her) and sniff it until I fell asleep. It makes me feel comforted and cared for. My mum also used to slather me in it when I had one of my many rounds of childhood pneumonia and various coughs and colds. I associate it with a cool hand on a fevered brow.

2 – Books. Old books foraged in dusty second hand shops and found in libraries, new books with that delicious just-printed smell (particularly those expensive, small-press coffee table type arty books). I always smell a book before I read it. If they don’t smell right, I’m bitterly disappointed.

3 – Necks. That warm-skin of your lover’s snuggle smell, or the neck fur of a beloved cat or dog. Or even a toy (see my previous Rabby Rabbit scent memory), favourite jacket or scarf – I’m probably seen as a bit vampiric because I like to lean in for a good neck smell. You can’t beat it.

4 – Orange blossom absolute. It sounds as though it should be so delicate and pretty, but the properly good stuff is hypnotically indolic and utterly filthy.

5 – Oriental/vanilla perfumes. My first and forever love. I refuse to choose a favourite. Give me opulence abounding!

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

I always end up saying what I think, I cannot sit on something I feel to be unjust or untrue and hold my tongue. I find it physically impossible. I don’t give voice to absolutely everything I disagree with, these days, because life is short and I’ve learned to edit and prioritise my extreme displeasure. I am extremely – fiercely – loyal to those I love. I think I’m a funny, sarcastic bitch at times, but it’s nuanced with a huge capacity for love and kindness. I enjoy everyday acts of rebellion by being myself, and enjoying it. I refuse to give in to my own worst fears, which are manifold. I like scaring people, sometimes. Including myself.


AKVILE SU

                      AKVILE SU

We speak with unisex  jewellery designer, maker, part-time model and full-time activist Akvile Su about her minimalist jewellery brand, comparing UK and Lithuanian feminism and her favourite smells..

Tell us about your brand and the concept behind it?

My brand is minimalist, unisex, classic, but modern. Some of my designs are created with the intention of challenging social norms surrounding jewellery: how it is worn, and by whom it is worn. Jewellery is one of those things that are unnecessarily gendered. I think it is a very dated idea to separate adornments into either ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. I strive for my jewellery to be for any age, lifestyle or anyone with a strong sense of style and personal aesthetic. Ultimately I just  hope my jewellery empowers people in some capacity.

There is quite a strong theme of sexuality in your jewellery collections. What has been the response to that of your customers and followers?

It’s been surprisingly good! People who understand what I am trying to say congratulate me for not being afraid to speak up about social issues through jewellery. People who approach me often love the idea of these little messages I am trying to send via my campaigns, social media and often jewellery itself.

You moved to the UK to study, do you see any differences in gender equality here from back home?

To be honest I do. Personally I think the UK, especially Scotland, is far more progressive in regards to gender equality. I was pleasantly surprised at little things that seem so casual now. Let’s say sharing housework and cooking is pretty common and normal thing here, while back home in Lithuania it’s still assumed to be the ‘duty’ of a woman. Women in many cases are still treated as accessories for men. And we are still often advised to find a good man for our bright future, pressured to have kids early and make a family.

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

The most inspiring females of my life have been my great grandma, grandma and my mum. They are all strong and very talented women who were true multitasking masters working to develop their careers and also raise children. I am so thankful for all the lessons they have given to me and support and love I receive daily.

What gender equality causes are closest to your heart and why?

I would like to point out that all gender equality causes are very important for me and I believe that there’s time for everything to be discussed and advocated. But at the moment my online presence and conversations with others been mainly about everyday harassment on the street & work. I aim to reflect this in my work through my use of both form and symbols to highlight how the sexualisation of the  female body is a subjective, artificial structure that does not reflect it’s organic, innate properties.

What significance do smells have in your life?

Smells play relatively big role in my life. I connect smells with memories, places I have been to, people or home.   Familiar smells give me this sense of safety and it can be nostalgic too.

What are your favourite smells and why?

My 2 absolute favourite smells are the smell of wet ground after summer rain and the smell of basement or an old house. It reminds me of my childhood, when I used to play outside all the time and live carelessly. Also one of my favourite activities was to look for ‘treasures’ in my grandma’s attic. She lived in this huge house built in 1800s and believe it or not we actually found the treasure one day. It was gold wedding ring from America hidden away between old junk, I still have it. Maybe one day I will turn it into new piece of jewellery.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

I like to think I’m more of a witch. Back in the day it was strong and forward thinking women who were called witches.

 

Website – www.akvilesu.com

Instagram – @suakvile


ALICE RABBIT - DOWN HER RABBIT HOLE

                      ALICE RABBIT – DOWN HER RABBIT HOLE

We speak to Alice Rabbit, Scottish drag performer, creator of The Rabbit Hole and mother of three about the Scottish drag scene, her favourite smells and biggest style inspiration. She’s such a smelly bitch and we love it…

Who are you, Alice Rabbit?

Alice Rabbit is a hard-working mother of 3, Edinburgh’s queen of queens and a full time people pleaser. She will literally do anything * wink wink *

Tell us about drag and how things are changing?

Things are getting to a point where there are performers within the UK & Scotland getting recognition from each other and from some Ru Girls, however I think with drag becoming more and more popular it is a lot harder to be noticed by show producers. That is healthy though as it encourages everyone to  step it up. As drag becomes more mainstream things will get even more exciting.

What’s your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration are styles from the 60s, 70s and 80s. I love the shapes and the prints and I try to incorporate that into my own style.

What women or woman influences you?

Well I don’t know about ” women ” but my biggest influence is Divine, I just relate a lot to how he felt about wanting to be a star, being in love and entertaining people. I also really appreciate his body of work and how hard he worked to get somewhere. I also feel very inspired by women like Brittany Howard and Adele who are, in their own ways, different from the pack. Their talent shines through and they are both amazing women – I love their style.

What equality campaign is most important to you?

Pay women an equal wage. Fuck the pay gap.

Is there something you’d like to change?

The Drag and Queer Community needs less in-fighting. I, myself can attest to this and I worry a  lot that we spend more time fighting each other over things that are not important to the bigger picture. We should be able to put our differences aside to take on the real enemies who are taking away our legendary venues and trying to stop Drag and Queer performance being visible.

What are your favourite smells?


I love the smell of bacon frying in the pan, but if we are talking scents for a perfume I’d love to smell like chocolate so I could encourage the world to take a bite.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

I am both. To me the word Bitch is empowering: for me it means being strong and powerful and not letting people walk all over you and most people who call someone a bitch secretly wish they had the strength to be bold. In terms of being a Witch I associate that with creating remedies to life’s situations and building a happier life. I always need that empathy otherwise I’d go crazy.

What makes you a DAMN REBEL BITCH?

What makes me a Damn Rebel Bitch? My existence. There are a lot of people I walk past on the street who either don’t understand me or don’t want me to be out in the open. I live a life where they don’t have that authority over me and hopefully seeing a fearless bad bitch like myself, well, maybe they can take something from it.

We are celebrating 2 years of The Rabbit Hole TONIGHT, 26th September with a 9pm- 3am party, with drag, burlesque live music and constant hilarity at CC Blooms, Edinburgh. For details click here : featuring Crystal Lubrikunt and Rococo Chanel from Brighton as well as the Rabbit Hole residents and hosted by Alice Rabbit.


BITCHES UNITE WITH SOKI MAK

                 BITCHES UNITE WITH SOKI MAK

Fashion stylist and creative director Soki Mak speaks to REEK perfume about body confidence, girl gangs and her favourite smells. Starting her career as a fashion assistant at Dazed & Confused  Soki now styles a long list of brilliant bitches, from personal styling to editorial publications.

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

I love when you walk past a woman and you get hit in the face with their perfume, there’s nothing stronger or sexier than the smell of our based perfume’s, It’s quite a masculine smell and is a real smell that only fellow women appreciate which is why I salute ladies who wear it. Its predominantly found in more arabic perfumes.

My favourite perfume is Diptyque, Do Son. I spray it all over my clothes and body.

Do you feel pressure to act/look a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty?

No. I personally love seeing people being different, flaws are beautiful and we each have our own, that’s what differs us from the others. I guess I don’t really understand perfection because it’s not reality and working in the fashion industry is like being at school, you either bother or you don’t. It’s your own mindset and interpretation of beauty, I like to feel good so I work out and try to eat well which then results in a better metal attitude towards your own confidence. I don’t let these things take over my life, there’s more to life than that.

How well do you feel the UK beauty industry represents women through advertising? In terms of size, age and race.

I think that things are definitely changing. I see more and more brands that are trying to represent a wider range of beauty. I think that in the UK, especially in fashion, there is a lot further to go. In fact, everywhere there is a long way to go, but there is a much bigger movement right now with brands representing different sizes/races and ages but I do feel at times it’s all a big scam and they’re jumping on the bandwagon. I’d like to believe that the world is better than this but time will tell. It does make me feel proud to be a women where I understand risks women take to fight for this. Society has been diluting the minds of the younger generation for too long, we have to love ourselves for who we are and be proud.

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 is a tricky question. I would have to say the women who surround me day in day out. I am really lucky to have so many strong and powerful women in my life and we all push each other to go further, supporting each other along the way. I am also going to say my mum, but I bet everyone says that don’t they? Yeah, but still, my mum.

What signifies female strength to you?

Fighting for what you believe in, never giving up when times get hard or shit, or you can’t pay your rent or eat/you’ve been dumped. Whatever it is remember we’ve all been there. These hard times are so crucial in setting you up for what other shit life throws at us. (that’s life eh) Be true to yourself, be kind to others, stand up for what you believe and never put someone else down in order for you to look better. Every single woman has it in them to be strong (we were built to give birth!)

What makes you a DAMN REBEL BITCH?

Because I hate doing interviews/ I’m terrible at writing but I support this movement enough to write this (lol) I worked really hard to be able to make a living off my work, i cried a lot and got myself in some terrible situations but it made me appreciate life and people and that’s the most important thing.

www.sokimak.com


DOUGLAS GREENWOOD

DOUGLAS GREENWOOD

Journalist and editor of Frowning, Douglas Greenwood answered all the bitches’ questions about feminism and smells.

What first made you take an interest in fashion writing?

Is it bad to say The Devil Wears Prada? I saw the film version in a multiplex movie theatre as an 11-year-old kid, and I remember thinking that that world seemed so luxurious, if slightly unattainable. I’ve always been a bit of a fantasist in that sense. My goals have never felt like they were in easy reach, and so I thought “Fuck it, I want to work at a magazine one day”. It just so happened that I had to make Frowning to get there! I write about everything now; fashion, cinema and music mainly. But fashion has always had that fantastical place in my heart. Streetwear takes

I write about everything now; fashion, cinema and music mainly. But fashion has always had that fantastical place in my heart. Streetwear takes hold, because I love that democratised, slightly rough around the edges element to it. The discussion around it is so intriguing too, because it’s something that can be owned by a rich, influential figure and a semi-broke fashion student. I love that disparity, and how the two parties style in their own way.

Tell us about some of the women who have inspired your career?

I think women have been instrumental in shaping my creative side, which ultimately became my career. It goes back to my mother, who pushed me to read books as a kid, and my grandmother who used to call me up on a Wednesday evening to ask which magazine I wanted her to bring the following day. It gravitated from comic books to Vanity Fair over the space of a decade, but all the while I was reading incessantly, and that shaped me hugely. Neither of those women are with me now, but they’re the ones, along with the rest of my family, that I truly work hard for.

My sister’s an artist and had a keen interest in fashion when she was younger. It was her who taught me about designers when I was a fascinated 12-year-old! She’s my buddy for everything now: cinema, concerts, exhibitions, and I like to think we teach each other lots.

And although she’s not family, Hanna Hanra has been a mentor-like figure for me for the past year or so. She runs this kickass music zine called BEAT and headed up the i-D and Chanel project The Fifth Sense, which focussed on the sensual power of female creativity. She’s now (deservedly so) the digital director of i-D. Hanna was the first editor to ever commission me to write as a professional after I slid into her Instagram DMs to ask her advice on how to run a zine properly! Thank god she replied. She’s my saviour in journalism, and I wouldn’t be half the writer I am today without her. Where do you find inspiration for your own style?

Where do you find inspiration for your own style?

Ask anybody I went to high school with: I’ve been dressing like an attention-seeking loon for a decade! Nowadays, my style is much more pared back and subtle, but I love statement pieces, and mixing streetwear with more tailored pieces. My go-to outfit tends to be a Gosha Rubchinskiy t-shirt, a pair of wide legged tuxedo trousers and a pair of sneakers.

I guess my inspiration comes from everywhere: outfits I see skateboarders and streetwear kids wearing; Instagram; shit my dad used to wear. I think there needs to be an element of narcissism in style. You want to look good and stand out to a degree, which is super important. I feel a sense of disappointment when somebody says I’m dressed “normal” some days. It fucking sucks! What gender equality causes mean the most to you personally and why? I write a lot about cinema, and the blatant dominance and preference for the work of the middle-aged white man still troubles me greatly. Sure, an experienced director who fits that bill can make great or even masterful cinema, but there’s not a lack of female directors; it’s just a case of who’s getting funding to make more films.

There’s an embarrassing photo from the Cannes Film Festival this year, in which a line-up of Palme d’Or winners is a sea of grey white men with the brilliant Jane Campion tagged on the end. In the festival’s 70 year history, she’s the only woman that the juries enlisted felt was worthy of that prize, and that’s troubling. It’s an issue that permeates so many subsections of cinema; people of colour and the queer community experience similar discrimination. Look at the listings for your multiplex cinema on any given day, and there’s a 95% chance that there won’t be a woman director on that list. Is that not fucked up?

I suppose this issue affects me personally because some of my favourite filmmakers and cinephiles are women, and these issues aren’t even subtle to them. It’s blatant everyday sexism that they have to face, and once you see things from their perspective, the industry looks bleak.Do you identify as a feminist? Tell us how that is received?

Do you identify as a feminist? Tell us how that is received?

Of course – I reckon you can’t fully trust the opinion of anybody who isn’t a feminist these days.

The thing that gives me hope is that people my age (those born in the early/mid nineties) have feminism in their blood. We’ve been influenced by the world around us to believe that this is an important issue to follow, and it’s now second nature to so many. That doesn’t mean the problems solved, it just means that the pool of allies fighting the cause is growing, which can only be a good thing.

I mentioned I was doing this to a few people, and they laughed off the idea of me being a “feminist writer”, but I do consider myself to be one, even if it isn’t the label slapped on everything I do. As a writer, it’s my job to seek out the stories that need to be told, and the issue of feminism is always something I’m conscious of when pitching to places or curating the magazine. Frowning is dominated by amazing female voices and artists, and I’m really proud of that!

What are your favourite smells and why?

• Lavender, because it reminds me of spending Saturday nights at my grandmother’s house with a hot water bottle as a young boy. Even now, I’ll always pick lavender flavoured/scented everything first.

• Molten sugar, because there’s genuinely nothing that’s smells as delicious as that.
• Fresh air, because as a writer it’s something you rarely get to experience!
• Roses, because it took me so long to warm to them and now I’m making up for lost time.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

I reckon 90% of my mates would say a bitch, but I mean my snide comments to them in good humour! Bitch has connotations of power, being headstrong and knowing what you want, so fuck it
– call me a bitch!


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…