Changing Lives One Bag at a Time

Like many fashion bloggers, I love charity shop browsing. When I was younger I cringed as my mummy stopped in her tracks to get a closer look at an outfit in a second hand shop window. But now, chart topping music, magazines and bloggers glorify preloved pieces, it's cool! When getting my second hand fix I visited a very trendy store called Ten Foundations. The shop is a haven for feel good shopping (and they serve coffee, bliss!). However, the NI based organisation goes a lot further than the store itself. One man had a vision to create a livelihood programme for a community in the Philippines living in poverty, and that's exactly what he did - one bag at a time.

Deemed by it's customers as 'The Hollister of Charity Shops' Ten Foundations is a non-profit, non-religious charity situated in the fitting fashionable Lisburn Road area of Belfast. The place is full of character and purpose, you might be looking at an on trend preloved dress from Topshop while a decorative message on the wall from one of the volunteers catches your eye. The hand written notes do not only inform shoppers of the charities achievements, the mirrors are doodled with complements.

Unlike most charity shops I have been to, the essence of the charity at Ten Foundations is not lost. The shack like counter that serves cosy cappuccinos, is reminiscent of a Filipino store front while the walls hold impressive statistics, reinforcing the immense impact the charity has had on the lives of the Bayanihan community.

It's not just the store that sustains the lives of these women - it's all in the bag! Ten Foundations specialise in school bags, made from recycled materials, these bags are so unique and high in quality. The charity teaches women how to make these bags which in turn are sold to give the workers a wage. The charity states:

"Our shop in Belfast is already making a difference to us. We now have over 30 mothers making these bags and it's the most important thing we do. In 2014, these mothers were living in complete poverty - no money, no education and no hope. Today they are earning up to P10,000 a month, it is all about giving them the ability to change their own lives."

This whole idea started when one man, Ian Campbell, decided he wanted to make a difference. He didn't like what he saw and he decided to do something about it, he made a decision, believed he could and he did. Now Ian hopes to build more livelihood centres all over the Philippines. It is truly inspirational hearing Ian's story, his passion to help others and belief in his decision to do so. It seems that I am not the only person who has been touched by Ian's willingness to help others, as there has been a lot of coverage on his story...

In speaking with Ian about the sustainability of his charity and the 'give a man a fish and you can feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you can feed him for a lifetime' concept, I loved how it flipped the process of todays fashion industry. Our society has fallen into a trap where many multi national retailers are making profit on cheap labour where the creator of the product is not receiving the benefits and in some cases are being exploited. Ian's charity is showing that it doesn't have to be this way. Ten Foundations are using the creation of a trendy bag to completely benefit the bag maker, it goes against the norms of todays fashion industry which really is, revolutionary.

Visit the store at: 355 Lisburn Road
Find Ten Foundations online: tenfoundations.org
Like the Facebook page: facebook.com/tenfoundations
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My First Airbnb Experience

If you have a computer, read magazines or are a human being, I am sure you have heard about Airbnb. Beyonce bagged a $10,000 a night accommodation with the company during her performance at the Superbowl in San Francisco, the business has been valued at around 1.5bn and the website hosts a collective of unique accommodations like a castle, or maybe you fancy a night in a treehouse? In my (and my boyfriend's) case our accommodation consisted of a cow shed converted into an adorable cottage known as 'The Swallow's Nest' - a haven in the hills of Donegal, Ireland. We met some kind and unforgettable souls on our trip and I say 'souls' because one was our lovely host Allaye, who welcomed us with open arms and brought us mouth watering freshly baked scones, and the other was a sheep called Dolly.

Day Trips

Living the life of serene simplicity for five days might sound like there isn't much to do. No TV, no internet, not even a radio, but the sweet sounds of the countryside and picturesque views out every window was enough to keep us entertained for hours. From reading reviews, it seems that some Airbnb, hosts like to hand over the keys and leave it at that. Luckily for us, Allaye was different, she had prepared an 'off the grid' tour of South West Donegal, to make each of her guests fall in love with the area just like she did. We followed her detailed directions and visited absolutely breathtaking areas of the emerald isle that we wouldn't find in any tourist leaflets.

Glengesh Pass Glenties
Maghera Beach Bridge
Maghera Caves

The Cottage

If you live in the city, you'll particularly like staying at this cosy cottage. Instead of an alarm, you awaken to bleating sheep in the sun. At night, the sound of soft running water in the meadow will help you relax. The mezzanine bed is what makes The Swallows Nest such a clever design. It not only saves space but one side overlooks the living area and vintage style kitchen while the other is lined with a window to the outdoors. It's particularly cosy when it's raining. Allaye told us that she and her husband did all the work to the shed themselves, the interior design is pristine with a healthy mix of homely and fashionable on trend pieces.

Pasta and Campagne
The Shed
Cottage Window

The Soul Cleansing Countryside

Driving to the accommodation you will witness mother nature at it's finest. The cottage is conveniently situated close to a little town called Glenties. However, it is tucked away in the hills just enough for you to experience the bracing Irish wilderness. The words 'ruggedly beautiful' come to mind when describing Donegal. My stay genuinely made me feel like I had pressed pause on the everyday hustle and lived a little snippet of time being adventurous and free. The Swallowest Nest did not only cleanse my soul, as a couple we spent a different kind of time together. We stayed up late drinking wine and playing board games, cooking together, getting lost on country roads and most importantly feeding our new best friend - Dolly the sheep in the mornings. If there is one thing I have taken away from staying at The Swallows Nest, it is that having a connection with nature is much more important than having a connection to wifi, without a phone to waste your time, the world is truly at your feet.

Sheep in the Sun

Need your fashion fix? Here are some fashion related facts about Donegal:

McElhinneys: McElhinneys is a family owned department store in Ballybofey Donegal. The luxury shopping haven has been recognised for its business excellence winning Best Ecommerce Website in Ireland in the European eCommerce awards in 2015 and Best Search Marketing Campaign at the Digital Media Awards this year. Visit their online store at mcelhinneys.com.

Zara Mc Daid: Zara is a fashion blogger and art teacher from Donegal, she has been featured extensively in magazines across the UK and Ireland including Xpose and U-Magazine, while also listed in RSVP magazine's one to watch list. Want to know more about Zara visit her blog at ZaraMcDaid.ie.

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The Festive Fashion Windows of Belfast

With fashion retail, comes visual merchandising. I could talk about visual merchandising all day long, from the perfectly posed mannequins to the eccentric theatrics creating a stage on the high street. Retailers are keen to grab our attention and communicate the brand image, throwing modern techniques such as digital screens and social media into the mix. Video fashion shows and hashtags are slowly creeping into our window shopping routine. But with all these advancements in fashion visual merchandising, the big question is did Belfast live up the mark this year? Yes, but with the contemporary displays came the old school glamour and downright quirky, bringing a little more depth and imagination to what could have been a host of simply festive windows.

Marks Spencer

A few days before Christmas Marks and Spencer had a combination of windows luring over the busy streets of panicked shoppers. One included glossy oversized bow wrapped gifts, another featured a screen playing a video of M&S's latest fashion while the most extravagant of all displayed three impeccably dressed mannequins with fully bloomed orange petal wigs. What I have always loved about the Marks & Spencer mannequins is there life-like poses, it looks like they are genuinely hanging out together in the window. This particular window was to advertise the pre-Christmas sale, it certainly got my attention with its playful colour palette and stylish simplicity.

River Island

River Island incorporated Christmas into their window this season but kept to the fashionable cool the brand represents. The slogan 'Style is Not Just for Christmas' was used with a party wear backdrop. The display was finished with a posh dog and cat decal sticker, giving the feel of a high-end street in London or some other prestigious city. The smart play on the phrase is one that stands out, and although I am obsessed with Christmas, it was refreshing to see a retailer have an alternative approach. It would, of course, be a sad scene if all retailers had a window that had so little festive presence.

New Look

New Look did festive but with a cool edgy vibe. The icy tones were brought to life with the sharp striking collective of snowflakes, glitter backdrop and blue linear lighting. The mannequins were dressed in trendy clothing with black and grey colours dominating the window, fitting in with the overall theme. The window was a head turner with all the bells and whistles. It shows the new range well while instilling that festive feeling. 

Ted Baker

Always outstanding in the areas of creativity, theatrics and creating a buzz, Ted Baker in Victoria Square have created an original and interactive window display this Christmas. The 'Abominable Snowman' is a seasonal marketing campaign, where you can go online, pick a song and take a selfie, with the end result being your face placed on the snowman's body while it sings a holiday song. This fun yet eccentric concept was highlighted in their window display using the link tedbaker.com/tedpresents to encourage passers-by to get involved. Not to mention, the snowman's tongue was moving, which added to the fun factor. Well done Ted, well done.

Local Boutique Alert!

I wanted to give a special mention to Peel Boutique situated on Bloomfield Avenue Belfast. They shared their stylish winter wonderland on social media where they impressively incorporated their fashionable high-end pieces with the Hollywood glamour festive setup.  The boutique commented:

"It was all done from scratch, with wrapped up boxes, all three floors are decorated." 

To see more follow them on Instagram @peelfashion.

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Tennent's Vital: The Fashion Edit

It was reported that around 65,000 festival goers attended Tennent's Vital at Boucher road Belfast this year. The weekend kicked off with performances from John Newman, Ellie Goulding and Calvin Harris, ending with an electric live session from Irish bands Kodaline and The Script. I attended the Sunday event, and in between the lights of the big wheel and fast food stalls, I scoured the crowds for some show-stopping festival fashion. I bring you - Tennent's Vital: The Fashion Edit.

The event is being described as Northern Ireland's biggest entertainment weekend, which is no surprise after the flood of crowds that made their way to Boucher Road playing fields, with Saturday night selling out. The crowd prepared for the typical Belfast weather dressed in stylish welly boots, printed raincoats and layered looks. However, the layered look wasn't just for practical reasons - the trend is a hit on the high street this season. Of course, there were many more fashion trends demonstrated at this year's T Vital.

Grunge Luxe:

Checked shirts, ripped denim and printed tee shirts were a familiar sight at Tennent's Vital. Below, these two party goers use black as a staple with a classic twist of rose gold jewellery. The head scarf fits in seamlessly with this style and appeals to the cool vibe of this event.

Fashion Spotted - Jessica Crilly and Chloe Crilly 

Military Chic:

Khaki Green is a key colour for Autumn/Winter 2015. Go all out, by opting for a camouflage print or bring in some green tones paired with chunky statement jewellery.

Fashion Spotted - Sarah English and Jade Hegarty

Seventies Influences:

The seventies trend has transcended seasons this year from Spring/Summer to Autumn/Winter, the look has stayed strong. Festival goers were found teaming their outfits with suedette and crochet pieces, finishing with a touch of tassels - perfect!

Fashion Spotted - Deborah Dutton and Helen Lavery

The music event did not just welcome ticket holders. The Script run a competition to find a lucky select few to help them 'paint the town green', by parading with majestic green flags during the concert. One lucky winner Chloe Moore said that she felt the experience was daunting but unforgettable.

“It was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done, it was an amazing experience. The Script are a nice bunch of lads.

It is touching to know that The Script not only got their fans involved but choose people from the local area. With a fashionable crowd, great music and happy fans in tow. In the words of The Script - 'we always have a good time' at Tennent's Vital. 

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How to Survive an Internship

The stereotype that students are lazy with bad time keeping is dated. Congratulations - if you are a current or recent student, you have taken part in changing perception. With rising tuition fees in a post-recession job market, students have been made to work increasingly hard to get noticed and bag a job. A student lifestyle survey carried out by The Complete University Guide in 2014 states that a lack of funds and the pressures of academic workloads are among the reasons behind students socialising less. Even though graduate jobs are on the rise, the survey points out that today's generation of students worry about gaining a high classification, as well as future career prospects. The need for students to get the most out of their degree is making the possibility of an internship increasingly important, but with money stretched and the majority of fashion internships being unpaid/partly paid, how are interns supposed to get by? Here is my guide to surviving an internship.

Coffee starts at home:

In the fashion industry, it is easy to buy into trends. What was once trendy to drink out of a branded take out cup is now all the fashion to drink from home. The thought of walking into your internship with a Starbucks in hand is tempting, but it is becoming increasingly acceptable to carry your homemade coffee in a stylish travel cup. Step into any high street store such as New Look or Primark and you will be graced with these quirky containers in a range of designs, or if you are a coffee brand queen Costa and Starbucks have their own versions.

Starbucks Belfast

Get a Job in Retail Fashion: 

Working in an internship you want to feel good and make a good impression, but how are you going to look smart without a full-time wage? Staff discount my friend, staff discount. Working in fashion retail is a great way to get further experience in the fashion industry and with the addition of a steady wage and perks of the job, you can save you a small fortune. Topshop, for example, do not just offer discount within the brand, staff receive 25% across the whole Arcadia group. Other brands such as New Look and Coast offer 50% staff discount. Although you could be working a five-day week in your internship, squeezing in some paid work is a must to get by. However, make sure you get at least one day off a week from both jobs or else you will get exhausted pretty quickly.

River Island Belfast

Use Public Transport:

Admittedly, I have fallen victim to sacrificing saving money on travel for an extra five minutes in bed. However, I have kicked the habit and opted for public transport. With train and bus ticket prices rising faster than inflation, there is no need to put yourself even more out of pocket by going private and in some cases, paying extortionate parking fees. Sometimes, it is optional to obtain a 'pay as you go' type travel card that can save you money such as Metro Smartlink and iLink cards available in Belfast. 

Know What You're Owed:

That's right, you are out in the big bad world of work now and it's time to know your finances. Everything from student loans to student discount in stores, it all adds up. Just remember that you are owed certain rights just as the paid employees are, for example, you can book time off for holidays, within reason. Talk to your employer and ask when would be the best time to do so, the last thing you want to do is leave your colleagues struggling. 

Intern Insights:

I talk to fashion interns Kerry Smyth and Jamie Baird to find out their tips on making the most of a fashion internship. I asked them if they had any advice on getting through the year. 

Jamie Baird - Graphic Design Intern

Jamie advises interns to be confident, embrace each day and have fun.
Immerse yourself in the experience, grab the challenges it brings by the horns and don't forget to enjoy yourself in the process!

Kerry Smyth - Fashion Intern 

Kerry believes that team spirit is the key to gaining a positive experience, it's all about the office morale!
“Team work makes the dream work

To view Jamie's illustration work visit - jamiebeard.co.uk.
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The Story Behind the Style

After a visit to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, I have gained a new appreciation for the past. The trip reminded me that we take so much influence from bygone eras, sometimes not even knowing the history behind the style. If you have set foot in any high street store lately you will see that vintage has been made mainstream. Not preloved clothes per say, but preloved style - the sixties and seventies are as strong a trend as ever. Today I talk to vintage homeware trader Betty Orr about why the past is so important and I hear from Elaine Lavery, my mum, who has experienced the height of seventies fashion the first time around.

The last time I visited the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, I was a little child. My memory of it was hazy but to be honest I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as an adult. I was pleasantly surprised. The museum is a time capsule, taking you on a journey from the eighteen hundereds right up to the eighties. Interestingly, snippets of today's creative culture were found in these windows to the past, from classic suitcases to Belfast's 1970s trolley buses.

Picture House - Ulster Folk Museum 
One era that stood out to me on my visit was the late '60s to early '70s, this timeframe is a very current source of inspiration for this season's fashion. Of course, there is a contemporary twist, however walking into some high street stores most definitely feels like a time warp. I am not just talking flared jeans and fedora hats here, from interiors to fashion - this once dated epoch is now considered fashion forward and modern. But why is it that the past is now trendy? 

Betty Orr trades vintage homewares under the acclaimed company name Betty's Lounge. Celebrated in Belfast and beyond. Betty Orr admits that our society is looking to the past because today's furniture is being created to fulfil a basic need, however, we need more than that, and that's where the past comes in.

Unfortunately, the furniture that is massed produced and used in today's society is quite often purchased without thought other than to fulfil a basic need, we are on a mission to educate and supply people with not only the basic need of furniture and homewares but to offer this along with good design, build quality and elegance.

Orr insightfully points out similarities between the homeware and fashion industry. She highlights that there are different sectors within each industry that offer their own interpretation of merchandise to the masses.

Furniture and fashion design have mirrored each other right throughout the last 50 years. In fashion there are pioneers all throughout the industry from high end to high street that try to offer items to the masses that differ from the basic needs, again the two worlds of fashion design and furniture parallel again.

1970s Poster Art at the Ulster Transport Museum 

Summer of Seventies at ASOS

1960s Living Room Replica - Ulster Transport Museum

You only need to walk into any high street store to see the regurgitated version of this adored style where rust oranges are contrasted with a mustard shade of yellow and crochet cardigans are made cool. But how was the trend way back when it made an appearance for the very first time? I talk to Elaine Lavery to hear her thoughts on growing up in the height of '70s fashion.

“Our flares came in a rainbow of colours - orange, yellow, royal blue, you name it. I think the '70s may have come from an aftermath of the hippy movement in the 60's. I tended to hang about in strides and t-shirts paired with platforms I stole from my sister’s wardrobe. You didn’t need to buy a lot, you borrowed and swapped back in them days. It was simple.”

There is no doubt that the past serves a purpose in today's fashion, we take influence from the 'it' looks of previous times when women of former decades sported a different style. A point that both Betty Orr and my mum makes is that the quality back then is something that we don't see as often today. With fast fashion at the forefront of our generation, trends move so quickly and it's hard to keep up. Maybe as well as adopting hand me down colour palettes and retro patterns we could adopt the hand me down culture. Reviving the longer lasting pieces that are good enough to pass on to a younger sister, or even a daughter. After looking at pictures of my parents in the heyday. I wish she had of kept a few pieces for me. Vintage in the family? Why not!

Check out some of my favourite vintage shops in Belfast:

Betty's Lounge

Betty's Lounge is a vintage homeware company situated at - 1 Main Street Ballyclare or alternatively like their Facebook page.

The Vintage Magpie

The Vintage Magpie is a clothing vintage store situated at - 5 Rosemary Street Belfast City Centre or follow them on Facebook.

Kloth Vintage

Kloth Vintage is a trendy clothing vintage retailer that sells through kilo sales and online through ASOS Marketplace. Find them on Facebook here.

Oxfam Vintage

Oxfam Vintage is a charity shop that sells vintage specific pieces, the store is situated at - 8 Castle Street in Belfast City Centre or visit their Facebook page.

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The Tall Ships: From a Fashion Perspective

The Tall Ships event graced Belfast’s Docks from the 2nd to the 5th of July 2015, reports state that the event was expected to bring half a million visitors while boosting the local economy. I spoke with fashion blogger Gemma-Louise Bond from That Belfast Girl to get some insider scoop on what was described as the biggest event in Northern Ireland.

Warm milk chocolate oozing from freshly made crêpes and frothing coffees in hand, The Tall Ships wasn’t just about the impressive maritime. An explosion of culture was found in the market’s food and trade stalls which hosted everything from majestic healing crystals, hand crafted wood work and my personal favourite – fabulous drag queens selling fast food. Pure bliss! And of course, you can’t have an outdoor event without a heated German beer tent. It is safe to say ‘the craic was 90’. However, it was not just businesses within the event that benefited from the hype, the infamous creatives collective, Studio Souk was crowned Best Tall Ship Window Display with The Wickerman and Fred J Malcolm as runners-up.

The event encouraged further creativity, sponsor of the event Lidl held an art competition prior to the event, exhibiting the winner’s pieces. The company have recently launched a fashion range and have been massively involved in the local community since arriving in Northern Ireland in 1999. Acclaimed blogger Gemma-Louise from That Belfast Girl attended the Lidl launch party where fashion press and media personalities alike celebrated the beginning of what turned out to be an outstanding few days.

"I really enjoyed The Tall Ships event - it was amazing to see Belfast look beautiful and everyone be so happy! The good weather really aided in the success of the event. The nautical fashion theme was in abundance with breton stripes and white jeans scattered everywhere. I myself opted for a linen dress and navy boat shoes though I must remember to wear trousers next time I'm on the stairs as the stairs do not bode well with a skirt bottom half!" - Gemma-Louise Bond

The carnival Ferris wheel decorated the Belfast skyline along with the grand masts of the tall ships. These ships weren’t just for looking at, some were open for viewing and each ship brought a new lifestyle experience with over 50 in total coming from countries as far as South America. The lively vibe from the carnival was not lost when viewing the ships, traditional music blasted from the under deck on the Guayas vessel while excited spectators took pictures. It was clear to see that it was not only lovers of all things nautical that attended the event, families, couples and groups of friends could be seen enjoying the day – it really was an event for all to see.

The Tall ships have left Belfast standing tall, however, there is no need to sulk because the event is over. As a recent fashion graduate, I feel that Belfast has a lot to shout about - Studio Souk opening in Castle Lane Belfast has brought a much-needed welcoming of local talent, creativity and enthusiasm to the city. I don't know how many times I have nearly walked into a passer-by because the window display has caught my eye. In addition to this the influx of the friendly and ever-growing blogging community here in Belfast is awe-inspiring.

Need more to shout about? Here are some maritime moments that inspired Belfast's fashion landscape:

Mr & Mrs Stitch.com: 

Have you ever heard of Belfast-based luxury brand Mr & Mrs Stitch.com? If you haven't you are missing out. The brand have teamed up with esteemed shoe company Grenson, to create a Mr Stitch signature shoe called 'The Docksman' this beautiful brogue is a tribute to the heritage the docks have brought to Belfast.


Have you stepped into Argento's city centre store recently? The Northern Ireland based company has had a refurbishment with a stylish Belfast influence. The store design features exposed red brick and yellow hue fixtures as a nod to the iconic cranes Harland and Wolff.

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