The Christmas Cup-Off

Well lads it’s that time of year again, C H R I S T M A S (cups) – get your Mariah Carey playlists pumpin and dig out that Christmas tea towel you’ve lying at the bottom of your third drawer. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear Michael Bublé doing his warm-up.

First of November marks the start of the countdown, and what better way to start than with beautiful festive coffee cups??

Me and my ma had a competition going to see who could spot and photograph (trust no one) the first Christmas cups of the year. The prize (aside from the pleasure of winning) was the winner got taken out on a coffee date by the loser. And there’s me always say I’m strictly anti-gambling, I know. The HYPOCRISY of me.

Well – I won. I saw ELEVEN Starbucks ones in town on the 1st but couldn’t whack out my phone in time, but finally captured the red cups in action on Tuesday (thank you, Caitlin for bringing in your Starbucks to the lecture).

But me and Claire aren’t the only ones having a Christmas cup competition, the coffee shops are, too.

It’s like a Christmas cup-off in the coffee shop world; if you don’t have them, you could be losing out on customers. Let’s be real, we all go somewhere purely for the novelty of the cups this time of year. People go into cafés and ask for a takeaway cup even though they’re sitting in (and not just because the takeaway’s are bigger) and parents ask for cups for their children (I know this is true because my ma does it for me). Little do the baristas know that “my wee girl” is 21, not 5.

It’s a race to see who can release them first (usually Starbuck’s, and Caffé Nero last) and who can do it best. Yeah, fair, people actually want the drinks inside, so I guess nailing the menu is important too, but the real winner is the winner of the cup design.

Not a fan of Starbucks but their cup game is strong

See, you don’t have to go for a fancy festive drink, you can get your bog standard americano, but give it a wee bitta razzle dazzle with a Santa cup. It’s a simple way to get in the holiday mood, without having to drink an eggy, cherry-y or gingerbread sugar-bomb concoction. Dentists, rejoice.

Companies need to NAIL their Christmas drinks campaign, and not just to attract customers with their coffees and cups. What’s the whole point of branded cups – Christmas or otherwise? Brand reinforcement. You need a distinctive cup so when people see that cup on the train, in people’s hands or used as an ashtray on someone’s windowsill (classy), they know who’s it is.

See a Costa cup, *subliminal message received*. Want a coffee? You didn’t but since you saw that woman with one, you’re kinda in the mood for one. Sure why not nip into the Costa round the corner there, you deserve it. Don’t want one? No problem. Sure just REMEMBER that Costa cup, retain the brand name and place it at the forefront of your mind so when you think coffee, you think Costa. Just visualise that cup, v i s u a l i s e.

So having a Christmas cup that really grabs attention is ESSENTIAL. Why do you think there’s so many ads for them? Companies need to shout about their fabulous crimbo cups (and drinks, I guess) so that when you see a wee Rudolph, Santa or Christmas tree cup, you know where it’s from. Christmas cups aren’t normally in the brand’s colours or style, so they need to make people aware that “hey, we look different, but it’s still us”. Not that Clements need to do that because the grinches that they are keep the same grey cups all year round – bah humbug.

So, lads, the Christmas cup-off is ON – but only one can win. Who are you voting for?

Coffee Doesn’t Costa Thing

Well lads, in case you haven’t heard, Costa are giving people FREE COFFEE today  at all of their Costa Express machines. Can I get a ‘yeo’?

Not the type of Yeo I meant, but ok Google, cheers.

That’s right, pop into any wee garage or shop with one of these ‘Costa Express’ bad boys and grab yourself a free coffee. And, this is available all day (1st October). No conditions and no hidden charges. Except you’re only allowed one per person, but sure there’s nothing stopping you caffeine junkies doing a wee tour and hitting them all up. #RoadTrip. Not that I would condone such behaviour. Not at all.

So, why is Costa doing this? Well, to celebrate National Coffee Day and promote their snazzy machine coffee. But, why this specific tactic?

Well, to raise awareness. They want to shout about the fact that you don’t have to visit a Costa to get Costa coffee. There’s the sort of assumption that machine coffee isn’t as nice as the “proper stuff”. So, they want to tell everyone that you don’t have to choose convenience or good coffee. So, good news for people who like Costa coffee but don’t live or be near one. And of course, good news for Costa who are able to ‘go’ to those who aren’t ‘coming’ to them. But, the thing is, you no don’t have to want to go to Costa or have a Costa coffee. You just have to want a coffee. Being realistic, if you’re driving about at 8 in the morning in rush hour traffic, you’ll probably take any brand of coffee you can get your hands on. “There’s a garage, I’ll pop in there while I get petrol”, “There’s a shop at the top of the road, I’ll pop in there while I grab a meal deal”. Whether it be Frank and Honest, Barista Bar, Centra’s own or Costa, you’ll most likely buy it.

The point is, Costa aren’t restricting themselves to deliberate purchases. They’re increasing their convenience and impulse sales, too. More people are buying and drinking Costa coffee, whether or not they intend to.

So, where are these machines? Which shops or garages? Well, you can figure out where your nearest one is today, can’t you? “We’ve got decent machine coffee at selected retailers” doesn’t exactly motivate people to jump to Google and see where, does it? “We’ve got FREE COFFEE at our coffee machines” does. I’m guessing Google’s got A LOT of recent searches asking where these machines are. So, Costa doesn’t really have to promote where exactly the machines are, because customers are hella motivated to figure it out for themselves. Then they’ll know for future where they can get this decent machine brew. It’s a wee coffee-fuelled treasure hunt. Move over, Easter bunny.

Normally, the point of offering ‘free’ things is that you’re hoping people will buy other items off you while they’re there; but, it would be the retailers benefiting from this, not Costa. If they offered free coffee at Costa cafés, people might buy biscuits, buns or food while they’re there, so Costa can still make money. But, in an independent retailer, Costa won’t reap the benefit of any add-ons. Unless they’ve agreed to get commission for every Kit-Kat sold or something, I don’t know.

They’re probably hoping for repeat purchases and loyalty. Once people try Costa machine coffee, they’ll never go back to anything else. Well, in theory, that’s possible, yeah. But there’s always gonna ‘brand switchers’ who just want the freebies or whatever’s on offer, regardless of the brand (@ me). This is always the case with this type of marketing promotion, but maybe even more so because of the ‘convenience’ nature of these coffees. Like I said, it’s not just people who want a Costa coffee, but a coffee in general. So, they’ll likely buy whatever the quick and handy option is.

The thing is, whether people decide to be brand loyal to Costa Express coffee or not, depends on if they reckon the taste and quality is worth the price. The fact is, once the offer’s over, you have to pay the same price for the machine coffee as you would a barista one from a Costa café. So people need to decide whether they’d rather have a Costa machine one for like £2.50, or if they’d be happy to go back to their regular 99p or £1.79 or whatever they normally pay. If it’s a small price difference to their usual, standard machine brew, chances are yeah, they will become loyal. But again, this mightn’t be through specific intention.

“£3 machine coffee?” Costa’s dream customer^

So, it’s a bit of a risk for Costa, and an expensive one at that. So, what else is in it for them? Well, they’re getting people talking. They’re getting free publicity. Everyone will be saying, “Here, did ya hear there’s free coffee at the garage down the road?”, “Costa are doing free coffee, Google the closest one for us there”, I can’t even mentally prepare myself for the cued Insta stories “Thank u @Costa!!!”. We all know how powerful word of mouth is, you trust your mates more than ads, so if they like the coffee, chances are it’s good. They’re not being paid to say it like. Plus, not to state the obvious but Costa have managed to get ME to write about them so they MUST have hit the jackpot. Lucky duckies.

So, Costa can sit back while consumers spread the word and promote the offer, their brand, the machines that do NICE coffee (I didn’t know it was possible either) AND the location of them, for free. Maybe that’s worth more than the £2.50 coffee is.

“Free publicity?” ^Costa

A wee downfall is that Costa cafés might get fewer sales, but, mostly for takeaways or pre-planned visits. People who are passing by and aren’t near an Express machine will still call in. People who wanna sit on comfy seats and leech off their wifi and electricity for a few hours will still call in. People who take a wee notion for a coffee will still call in. Plus, it’s national coffee day so they should be busy enough like. So, it’s good news for them. But, bad news for baristas who were hoping to skive for the day. Sorry, mate.

But, this tactic doesn’t just benefit Costa, it potentially harms competitors, too. Double whammy. If Costa are serving more, then, their competitors might be serving less. Costa could benefit from ‘sales’ from those who would usually get their coffee elsewhere. Just say you go to Caffe Nero or Starbucks normally (even though they leave their water taps running CONSTANTLY), would you not be more likely to give the Costa one a go since it’s free? You never know, you might actually prefer it. There’s not much in the price anyway. So that’s another thing, Costa are able to encourage consumption by those who would otherwise not be motivated to switch brands. They could become some people’s “new favourite”. So, increasing consumption of your own brand while possibly reducing that of your competitors, not a shabby idea, lads. Chapeau.

So, go forth and enjoy your free Costa coffee (unless you live in the north of Ireland of course, SHOCK we’re oppressed excluded).

*Not sponsored by Costa. Although, if you want to repay me in cappuccinos, that would be nice 🙂

2,599,964‬ Fake Fans

We all know that ‘IG Influencers’ are thee new, hip-happening social media marketing tactic, with many major companies ‘collabing’ with bloggers, vloggers and other ‘big names’ on social media (although clearly not because I haven’t been DM’d yet?) to get them to promote their goods.

The whole idea is: “okay they have 1 million followers, so we should get x many impressions; they get around 50,000 likes so there’s at least 50,000 active users who will be exposed to the content. Of these 50,000, x many will actually ‘like’ the product (not just double tap while mindlessly scrolling) and then proceed to buy the merch”. Simple.

So, how come an Instagram influencer with over 2 million followers, was unable to sell 36 items from their own clothing line?

Instagram influencer Arii launched her own clothing line, and then 13 days later uploaded (and since deleted) a post apologising to her ‘fans’. I think. To be honest, I’m not really sure what the point of the post was, she seemed to be apologising to customers, calling people out and thanking others at the same time? I’ll let you be the judge because here’s a wee screenshot. Enjoy.

Anyway, Arii states that the clothing company she was working with had a rule that she had to sell a minimum amount of products for them to keep working with her and producing the clothes, which seems fair enough like, it has to be worth their while. But, the minimum order amount wasn’t achieved, which meant the clothes couldn’t be produced so any buyers had to get refunds instead, and the company would stop working with her. Yikes.

So, what went wrong? How could someone with (apparently) such a big ‘influence’ over hundreds of thousands of people and the power to persuade them to buy certain things, fail to persuade them to buy her own line?

Well, likes aren’t everything. *Louder for the Gen Z’ers in the back*. 40,000 likes doesn’t mean 40,000 orders. Your followers and likers aren’t necessarily going to be your customers. People follow companies just to have a wee jook, but have no real intention of buying their products. And on the flip side, I don’t follow a single clothing company on Instagram, but I buy from them. It’s not about how many follow you, but who. Are they actual customers, fans or just wee robots?

Another lil issue may be that Arii didn’t really promote the line? She posted one video announcing the launch. Then another promo post for good measure. And then, boom: the line “failure” post. I’m no expert, but how can people buy what they don’t know about?

But, apart from all that, what about the clothes themselves? Look at Arii’s feed. Look what she wears – the style, the colours. Now look at her clothing line. Does it look like the sort of thing she would or does wear? Sweatshirts and what I can only assume are cycling(?) clothes don’t really fit in with her style. She isn’t even wearing her own clothes in her posts? Even if you don’t actually wear them, at least whack on a sweatshirt, take some pics saying how “comfy” and “cute” it is and then change into something else. Just lie, girl.

People follow influencers and like their photos because they like what they’re wearing. They have similar style, so will buy clothes of that style. If you show them something completely different to what they like or wear, why would they buy them? You need to know who your customers are and what they want. Just because you are selling a product, doesn’t mean that people will buy it. Especially if you wouldn’t even buy it yourself.

But sure don’t we all love a wee conspiracy theory? What if this was just a marketing ploy? Did Arii think and hope that sharing her story of fake friends, fake fans and unfulfilling promises would make some of her 2.6 million followers feel bad and buy the products to help a gal out? Did she want them to take pity on her? Young girl starting her own clothing line in this massively competitive market is bound to be daunting like, why not give her a hand in helping her achieve her dream? Or did she want them to take pity on the people who actually wanted and bought the products but now had to be refunded instead because not enough people ordered them? I don’t know much (or anything really) about clothes production but it seems a bit weird that a minimum order amount is 36 pieces? Could’ve at least picked a round number, pffft.

The post was also deleted which is a bit sus. Maybe she realised that it was a bit questionable to blame people who didn’t buy her clothes and broken promises for the failure of the line. I mean, maybe making your fans feel guilty isn’t the best move? Neither is calling out people who didn’t leave you a review. Or maybe, the post had caused enough drama and pity to get people to buy enough clothes to fulfil the order amount. Either that, or she noticed that she forgot the word “take”. I sure did.

me

So why did Arii’s clothing line supposedly fail? Was it because she didn’t do market research before launching the line and people just don’t like the clothes? Maybe it was because she didn’t actually promote it? Or, was it all a big lie and this is actually her way of promoting it? That post got Twitter and Instagram talking about her and her line, with everyone giving their (very qualified) marketing opinions and advice. Buzzfeed wrote about it, and more importantly, I’m writing about it. So it must be a big deal.

Then again, maybe we’re giving her too much credit and it was just an ugly clothing line that only 35 people liked. Who knows?

Placement: Recap and Advice

So, here I am in my FINAL two weeks of placement. Scary biscuits. It’s mad to think it was a year ago when I first bounced in the door not having a notion what I was doing and discovered my love for blazers. This is just a wee summary of my placement experience, which may or may not be of any use to people preparing to go on theirs. You’re welcome in advance.

I’ve done 9-5 days in retail and worked since I was 16, so I thought I sort of knew what the 8 hour day and working life would be like. Yeah I THOUGHT. I was so used to running about on my feet and being hands-on all day, so sitting down facing a screen and phone was a massive change for me. I’m glad I don’t have a fitbit because seeing I’ve only done 53 steps all day would be pretty depressing like. It does take some getting used to, I remember thinking “I’ll be less tired because I’ll be sitting all day” – oh honey, no.

Anyway, my placement hasn’t been what I thought it’d be like, because to be honest I hadn’t a clue what it’d be like. I had no expectations to meet. Which was good, because it meant I wasn’t disappointed or panicking about how good or bad I’d be at my job before I even knew what it was. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time trying to predict what I’d be doing because I would’ve been COMPLETELY wrong (for the first time in my life) – and sure who doesn’t love a wee surprise?

To be honest it’s probably a better thing that I didn’t know, because if I had’ve known that this is what I’d be doing, I wouldn’t have done it. Because I never thought I’d be able to. So, don’t try to predict how good (or bad) you’ll be at whatever it is you think you’ll be doing, because you won’t have a clue until you actually do it. Plus, do you really want to risk that self-fulfilling prophecy? Didn’t think so.

Even though I wasn’t at uni, I still learned a lot in my year out; a lot about the advertising industry, sales, customer service and working life. But I learned a lot about myself too. I learned what I could do, what I was capable (and incapable) of; I learned what I was good at and where my skills were, and I learned my limits – who knew I had any? I also learned a lot about what was actually going on in the world because I read like 3 newspapers a day. Like I was HELLA informed on the goings on in the world. And I got to compare 3 different horoscopes and choose which one I wanted to believe. Ha.

I met so many amazing people and made some really good friends this year, and I genuinely don’t know if I could’ve done the job I did in a different company. Everyone was friendly and said “hi” when they walked past, even though they clearly hadn’t a notion who I was. They’d make small talk when making lunch in the wee kitchen and then make a jokey comment when their soup exploded in the microwave. It was those extra 15 seconds, Dave, shouldn’t have done it.

Luckily, I got on well with my colleagues and we had such a GEG together. We exchanged conspiracy theories, had wee debates and discussed what we were having for dinner a LOT. They helped keep me sane, and were such a good support network for me. I was constantly asking questions and looking advice, and they were always more than helpful and gave me lil hints and tricks. At the end of the day, they were new once too. So don’t be afraid to ask questions or feel like you’re bothering people, because chances are they asked the exact same ones when they started. What makes you look worse, asking someone how to do something or doing it completely wrong and having to get them to fix it?

I was also really lucky that I had managers I felt I could go to if I was struggling, and who had more realistic expectations of me than I did. I constantly compared myself to my colleagues who had been doing the job for several years, because I had no else to compare myself to. There was no other placement student. I should’ve compared myself to who I was when I first started to see how far I’d come and how much I’d learned, but I didn’t.

So take my advice, compare yourself and how you’re doing to yourself at the start of your placement. Are you the best? Maybe not. But are you better than you were? Hell yeah. Don’t – and I mean DON’T – compare yourself to other people. Placement’s a learning experience, not a competition. You’re not on the apprentice, love.

Well I’m not going to lie lads, I was a bit of a yo-yo this year. I had my fair share of highs and lows and a few little “episodes”. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough at times, but that’s life. No matter what you do or where you do it, you have bad days. *Cue Hannah Montana* Work is hard. But obviously it’s hard – why would someone with no experience going into a full-time and proper adulty job be easy? Like my granda always said “hard work isn’t easy, and easy work’s hard to find”, you’re a wise man, Matt.

I’m not trying to scare anyone like, I’m just being honest. There’s no point in me saying it was all rainbows and fairies and easy coasting. It’s important to admit that I found it tough at times.
My problem was that I didn’t and kept acting like I was fine because everyone else seemed to be fine. I was like a wee duck paddling along, looking all calm above the water, but flailing like mad underneath. But we’re all ducks. Everyone’s pretending they’re fine because everyone else is pretending they’re fine. It’s a vicious duck cycle.

This is just MY experience though, some people mightn’t have a single bad day on placement. Good for them. Everyone’s in a different job, in a different company and with different coping abilities. So obviously no two placement experiences are going to be the same.

My most important advice is make sure you ENJOY your year. I don’t mean your placement, because that’s work. Ew. But your actual year. Go out for dinner, drinks and coffee or go to the gym if you’re one of those people that actually enjoys it. Weirdos. Don’t let your placement year just be about your placement. Also make sure you bring in buns on your birthday, people get REALLY annoyed when you don’t (@ Benny, we’re still waiting).

Do it for the ‘Gram

Nowadays, people seem take photos of almost everything they do, buy or eat. It’s all about the “aesthetic”. Not just any angle, gotta be birdseye and of course you’ve to draw a wee heart with the pen tool. Very cute.

We’re all guilty of doing it – well most of us millennials anyway. Out for coffee? Snap that cappuccino art. Out for food? We want to see your poached eggs and avocado. Nails done? Ooh girl, show me. Don’t dare start sipping or eating before you’ve got the perfect photo (if you’re feeling nice you might even include your friend in the background). There’s no disappointment like getting blobby latte art, like how are you meant to insta that?? Pffft.

So why do we do it? Is it because we’ve got smartphones now so it’s easier to do? I don’t remember people whipping out disposable cameras in Barnam’s when I was younger, and I didn’t find photos of brunches when I went through my family photos. I didn’t find many of me either but that’s okay, I’m not bitter 🙂

Our camera rolls and galleries are like a digital diary – we can look back and see all the places we’ve gone, things we did, food we ate and people we were with. It lets us reminisce the good days, and when we’re older and can’t afford a house, we can look back at all the avocados we ate and know that they were worth it.

But we don’t just take photos for ourselves and the people that steal our phones – I don’t scroll through my gallery to fondly remember all the cappuccinos I’ve had like. We upload them on social media, namely Instagram. We whack a wee filter on it (mostly “Lagos”) and post it on our stories with a wee geotag of where we are, much to the delight of stalkers, kidnappers and the government. I mean, what’s the point going out somewhere or doing something if people don’t know about it?

We post these for all our followers and creepers to see, incase they didn’t know how much this social butterfly flapped her wings. Uh yeah I have several friends, didn’t you know? You can show off your social life and show your ex that yeah you ARE living your best life. You got a hair cut and you have your life together. Ha. You can show off that yeah you do cook sometimes, you actually did go to the gym after work (go you) and you did get paid today. Make it rain, babe.
It’s nice to post and broadcast things that we’re happy about, things we’ve achieved and people we love like.

As well as this, people are nosey and want to know what you’re doing. Like yeah you work 9-5, but what else do you do? The whole point of Instagram stories is to let people see you what you do when you’re not getting candids or going on nights out as shown by your normal posts. It lets people get to know you a bit better, you’re not gonna pollute everyone’s feeds by posting “pointless” photos (not that your mirror selfies have much of a point either like), but whack a wee story up and people can choose to see it. Who cares if it’s just a photo of poached eggs? And so what if your hair looks weird? It’s gone in 24 hours anyway.

Some people underestimate the power of Instagram. Without realising it, we’re all influencers: showing off your claws and tagging the salon, tagging the tattoo artist in your tat photo, posting that coffee, brunch or clothes haul. Instagram acts as a little window shop basically, you get to see so many things you otherwise wouldn’t, and find out what they’re like, where they’re from and how much they are. It’s not just the “behind the scenes” of people’s lives, but clothes, food, drink and activities. Even posting stories and photos of you going on holidays lets people see what that town, city or country’s like – and what there is to do. What would you rather see, “Top 10 Things to See” on TripAdvisor or real people taking real photos of what they saw there?

Even small things like going out for dinner and taking photos of the food lets people see what it’s actually like. Hardly any restaurants post photos of their food, and when they do, you can never really trust them. Before I go somewhere, I love having a wee jook at the menu, downloading the PDF and of course, having a wee creep on Instagram to see what the food actually looks like. But I don’t go on the restaurant’s account, I look for the tagged and geo-tagged photos. Why? Because these have been taken by real people. It’s like when you see the advertised vs real product from clothes sites. You can’t always trust what the business posts, because they need it to look good, it’s their job to. Like we’ve all seen the McDonald’s ads and know it’s just plain lies.

We need others to take one for the team and be the guinea pigs for us. It saves you going somewhere or buying something that turns out not to be that nice. Yes, “looks can be deceiving” and “don’t judge a book” and all that, but we rely a LOT on what we see. If food doesn’t look nice or the portions are tiny, I don’t want to eat there. If clothes are crap material and poor fit, I don’t wanna buy ’em. If a destination doesn’t have much to do or see, I sure as hell ain’t wasting my sanity or time going through security and flying there.

Businesses are relying on us too, to promote their brand for them. They need us to tell our friends that we went there, what we had and how nice it was. They need us to take photos and share them with our followers. Even those candids and photos of nights out do this. They lead to “omg love your top😍” “thanku sweetie it’s from topshop!!” There you go, Topshop got some free advertising. The girl you follow just acted as a mannequin, but she’s more your size than the 5″10 girl on the website. So you know this top is nice, looks as shown online and yeah you actually could wear it out. So Topshop just got a wee sale and customer. And they didn’t have to do or spend anything to do so.

These real-life posts are a lot more reliable than what you see in ads, websites and brand social media accounts. We all know that the most trustworthy reviews are by people who gain nothing for leaving positive feedback. Critics writing reviews in magazines and blogs isn’t a true representation. They’re normally given the best service and treatment, and are “rewarded” in some way for the review. Imagine getting free food in exchange for giving an opinion, pfft. But most importantly, their tastes are probably more “refined” than ours, well, mine anyway. They go to fancy places for fancy food, posh boutiques for one-off quirky pieces, and cafés that do teeny tiny flat whites and “biscotti”. I’m never going to go to these places, I don’t want to. I want to go to places that my friends and NORMAL people go, because I trust them a lot more.

So, to all the story spammers and feed polluters: please DO continue taking photos of everything, you’re doing us a favour. Shame that you never take pics of the bill though.

Why Do People Buy Brands?

I was sitting in mass last week (how all good stories start) when a woman sat down in front of me who was wearing a Michael Kors bag. I just looked at it and thought “how much did she pay for that bag? And why?” (It was either ponder this or the gospel according to Mark, yikes). This was just a plain black over the shoulder bag, nothing you couldn’t get in New Look *screaming in background*, except without the fancy name. Why did she spend £500 on a handbag? Is it better quality? Will it last longer? Or was it simply so people could see she could afford it?

Me thinkin’ ’bout how she afforded that bag

To be fair, I grew up in a house that didn’t really do “brands”. I own no “designer” brands, I never have – unless Missguided counts? I ~thankfully~ avoided the whole Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch phase in third year (yeah you should be scundered) and never had Vans or Converse when they were the IN thing. All the guddies I own are wee cheap ones from places like Primark or Boohoo, and the same goes for my clothes. My logic has always been “why buy 1 top for £50 if I can buy 5 for the same price?” Which is probably why I ended up with 67 tops at one stage even though I only wore 4.  Anyway, the way I see it, I’d rather have a cheap purse with more money in it, than a designer purse that’s nearly empty.

If something is a certain style or design, that only one brand really does or specialises in, then fair enough – I can see why people might want to fork out and buy it. But I seriously don’t get branded clothes that are literally just plain clothes with a logo on them.

I mean, I don’t really get the concept of paying extortionate amounts of money to advertise a brand for them? Surely they should be paying you? Wearing clothes with obvious branding kinda makes you a walking billboard. I get it from the companies’ points of view, I mean why pay models to promote your clothes when you can get consumers to do it free? But I don’t really get why consumers choose to do it.

Is it the association that if you buy and wear designer brands that you have money? (Even though you’ll not likely have much left after spending £120 on a pair of guds). Like are we still in that “having money makes me cool” or “will impress people” mindset? “I can afford this and others can’t”? Truth is, others can. We simply choose not to. I could technically afford a £20 pair of Adidas socks, does that mean I will or would even consider it? Hell to the no. I could buy 10 5-packs of primark ankle socks for that price. 2 socks vs 50…hmmm tough one.

Me after my Primark sock haul

But surely the whole “showing off” thing can’t come into play here, because who’s realistically going to see the logo if it’s hidden under your trousers? So then why buy them? Are these socks so superior and the best quality that will last me longer than any other type and not shrink in the tumbledrier? What actually makes them so special to justify costing so much more than the competition?

“I buy them because they’re comfy”; “they’re good quality”; “they last ages”; “I just like them” – all valid reasons. But unless they’re 5 times comfier, better quality or last 5 times as long, why pay 5 times the price for them?

See, people don’t wear branded clothes, they wear brands. It’s not just a top, it’s an “Adidas” top. Not just a bag, it’s “Michael Kors”, those aren’t sunglasses, they’re “Raybans”. People don’t just buy branded clothes to wear them, but to be seen wearing them.

If designer branded clothes didn’t have logos on them, would as people still buy them? You like that top? Cool. Would you pay £50 for it if it was made by Nike but didn’t have the logo? Would it still be “worth” the £50 if people couldn’t see it was Nike? Hmm I don’t know. Do you reckon people would still spend £475 on Louboutins if they didn’t have the red soles?

So pretty but so not worth £525

When a leading shoe brand release a new pair of guddies, and a high street shop releases a similar “copy cat” version, why do people feel embarrassed to be seen in these “rip offs” or “fakes”? If you’re buying something for the design and appearance, then what difference does a wee tick on the side make? I doubt the lack of logo somehow makes it hideous looking.

I’ve seen it myself – schoolkids making jokes and digs at friends who have these copy cats. But what’s so funny about buying cheaper goods? If I can buy the same thing you have but for £60 cheaper, surely I should be laughing at you? This peer pressure drives some people to buy brands purely to fit in, regardless of whether or not they actually like the goods. Like no harm but there are some ugly shoes out there that wouldn’t be popular if they weren’t made by a designer brand.

If Boohoo invented these designs, would they still be worn? I really wish they had, would save me having to lay my eyes on these…things. I think it’s sad that we live in a time when who made it is more important than what they actually made. Like don’t even get me STARTED on iPhones.

But that’s me, and that’s my preference – I always have been a cheap and cheerful kinda gal. Which I guess is why I don’t understand people who choose other wise. I’m sure I’d think differently if I was brought up thinking that brands actually mattered, but I wasn’t so I don’t. And I’m perfectly happy this way, buying and wearing “cheap” things – I don’t want to be “branded”, I ain’t a cow.

Moo

The Exclusivity of “Inclusive” Lingerie

Well if you want to see some Victoria’s Secret models in lingerie and heels, then my friend, you have come to the wrong place. Sorry. But, since you’re here, why not have a wee read and you never know, Gigi Hadid might actually feature.

This is pretty much a sequel to my “Exclusivity of “Inclusive” Fashion” post, which was basically me complaining that I can’t buy clothes that fit. But this one’s exploring (not so) “inclusive” lingerie. I can tell you’re on the edge of your seat already.

You. Right now.

The reason I decided to write about this is because I see a lot of people online complaining that they can’t find bras to fit, and that retailers only offer “small” sizes and don’t cater for ‘curvy’ or ‘fuller’ women. I just want to point out that like with clothes, sizing often excludes smaller sizes just as much as larger ones.

bra

For those of you who may not know, bra cup sizes (the letter) start at AAA – yes, like the batteries. The next size up is AA – also batteries, followed by A- you get the idea. I’m telling you this because most retailers only offer from size A (or in many cases, B) and upwards.

As well as this, the bandwidth (basically the circumference of your back) starts well, at any size, depending how small the person’s frame is. This tends to be any size from 26 inches upwards. But, the sizes offered mostly start at 32 inches. This has lead to people either having to go to elsewhere and look harder for underwear, or buy the bigger size and just get on with it (tumbledrying works too at shrinking them though- you’re welcome).

For the record, I’m not saying that smaller sizes aren’t available, they’re just less readily available. This means that instead of buying a £2 t-shirt bra in Primark (when we still had one 😦 ), I have to go to M&S and pay £6 for one that isn’t as pretty. Basically it means people have to pay more and have less choice.

Although larger sizes are also harder to come by, meaning women have to go elsewhere for their size too; the difference is that there are several “inclusive” brands like Bravissimo, Curvissa and SimplyBe which cater specifically for those with fuller figures. Ah, the old “forget including various groups, only including one additional one makes us inclusive and not exclusive at all” thing again. *sigh*

Anyway, these brands are also more expensive, because the retailers know we’ll just fork out the money because we haven’t really got a choice. If there’s such a demand and so many needing to go to alternative retailers for these sizes, why don’t more brands start offering them? Why are they making it so hard for us to buy things? JUST LET ME SPEND MY MONEY.

Then again, why would you want to increase your customer base, sales and therefore profits? Pffft silly me.

Recently, there’s been a lot of praise and celebration at the launch of Rihanna’s lingerie line ‘SAVAGE X FENTY’ because it catered for a range of sizes and “real” women. It offers multiple shades as well, meaning that several skin tones can wear a ‘nude’ or ‘skin coloured’ bra which is actually, well, skin-coloured(!!) So women no longer have to all wear the one universal shade of beige that somebody decided was all we needed. Who knew such things were possible? But yes, Rihanna’s new line is great, it does cater for a lot more sizes than typical high street retailers, and it does represent women of all shapes and sizes – as long as you’re not below an A cup. Or smaller than a 32. Oh you are? Hmm. Never mind then.

This has led to people (rightly so) asking that other brands follow suit and also cater for “real women”. But that’s my issue. “Real women“. Basically, to be a real woman you have to have big boobs and a bum. Reinforcing the self doubt and unfeminity felt by women who don’t naturally have these assets have. They don’t need or deserve to be made to feel any less validated as a woman than their more curvy peers.

How is showing slim built models any worse than showing those with figures which are unachievable to some without getting cosmetic surgery? Most people can change their weight; but people can’t help it if they naturally have small breasts or bums (and don’t even THINK about telling me to squat, I’m warning you). How can you tell women -especially young, vulnerable girls- that they’re not real women? Do you know how dangerous that is?

Imagine how it must feel not be able to find underwear to fit, and then be told it’s because you’re not a “real woman”. Not to mention those with alternative gender identities such as trans or intersex, who may require smaller sizes too and already find it hard enough to conform to female beauty standards.

Every identifying female is a “real woman”. End of. Stop telling girls that their natural build, genetics or lifestyle choices make them any less of a woman.

Make small bra sizes available. Make large bra sizes available. Don’t tell women the reason they’re not catered for is because they’re not real women. Stop damaging our girls.

Gigi-Hadid-Catsuit-2018-Victoria-Secret-After-Party

There you go, happy?

Confessions of a Placement Student

Well, here I am, 5 months into my placement year, and I thought I’d share some home truths with you.

I never really knew what to expect out of doing a placement, I mean my brother did his at an IT company (he’s super smart) and didn’t really talk about his work (he’s also SUPER quiet). My sister on the other hand, went to Korea (the South, before you make a witty “the North? Ha ha” joke) for hers, so I somehow think her experience in Jeju is a tad different than mine in Belfast.

Which brings us here. I’m going to let you in on a few things I learnt when on my placement year. Disclaimer: The following may be experienced by other readers, and is not me saying that they are the case for everyone going/on a university placement. I.E – It could just be me and I’m doing it all wrong. But nonetheless, enjoy.

 

1. 11pm is LATE.

I’m in bed by 10:30pm most nights; partly because I’m knackered after working 9-5, and partly because I now know the importance of getting 8 hours sleep*. Plus the fact it takes me around an hour to get to sleep no matter what time I go to bed at- isn’t that a fun and not at all disruptive trait??

*I am determined to get this amount some day.

sleep

2. Weeknight nights out – please don’t

Working at 9am the next day isn’t the same as a 9am lecture the next day. Save your nights out for the weekend, when you can properly enjoy it without checking the time and thinking “I have work in x hours”. I also wouldn’t advise doing a university student’s Fresher’s week, because you will in no way be “fresh”.

 

3. Coffee becomes less of a treat and more of a necessity

I need my daily coffee, not because of a caffeine boost (although it definitely does help), but because it’s important to start the day off with a little treat or “pick me up”. Don’t like coffee? Oh you will, all in good time my friend.

 

4. “I’ll start the gym” – You probably won’t.

I had so many plans to start the gym when I started working full-time, because “I’ll need something as a wee distraction” and because I don’t do half as much exercise as I used to. There aren’t very many ways to make sitting a desk an ‘active’ task. But well, who was I kidding really, the gym isn’t for me – when it comes to choosing between going to one or going for coffee with friends, it just so happen to lose the coin toss every time!!

gym

 

5. “After work drinks” – the only thing I drink after work is coffee.

“We should SO go for cocktails after work sometime!!” We all know where cocktails lead and it is NOT a pretty place. *See number 2.  After a day at work, I want to sit down and have a chat with my friends, in a comfy chair, and be home by 9pm. Call me a granny all you want, but I am a content granny.

 

6. You DO get used to it.

I worked in retail for years, and found I could work a 9:30am-6:30pm on my feet rushing around all day no problem; but sitting down for 8 hours at a desk somehow exhausted me? My friend who was working full-time before me had promised me “Don’t worry, you get used to it”. 2 months in I realised that either she was lying, or was coping better than I was. But behold, I am now a machine (sort of) and I promise, you do get used to the change of routine. You too, will become a machine.

 

7. Your employers know you’re a placement student.

I know that one really knocked you for six. The point is, don’t put too much pressure on yourself; you’re not expected to crack the code and master all aspects of your job within the first few months, let alone weeks. Don’t compare yourself  to the other people in your office who have been doing the job for years. Of course they’re going to be “better” than you, but Michael Jordan’s better at basketball than you too – sorry, I’m not trying to lower your self esteem, I’m simply saying you can’t compare yourself to professionals.

 

8. You’ll make (in my case, loads of) mistakes.

You’ll make mistakes, and that’s OKAY. If you don’t do something wrong, you won’t learn what you shouldn’t have done and what you should do differently next time. It’s not so much a mistake as a “how to” for next time. As Hannah Montana said “everybody makes mistakes” and “nobody’s perfect”, what more inspiration and motivation do you need? So, next time you make a mistake, have a wee Hannah Montana sing-song (in your head preferably) and you’ll definitely feel better.

giphy.gif 

 

9. You will meet some of the most amazing people

Those memes on the internet about having work friends who know your whole life story are scarily accurate. You’ll have so many weird conversations and debates about food (we had a very heated one about whether it was candy apple or toffee apple), and you’ll find yourself weirdly invested in your colleague’s dinners. You really do lean on and support each other, as well as get all the scoop on their best friend’s pyscho-ex. Brilliant.

*It’s toffee apple. Not up for discussion.

 

10. You might not figure out what you want to do – but you might figure out what you don’t.

Even if you realise what you’re doing on placement isn’t what you want to do in life, that’s okay. You can rule it out, and you’ll still have learned so much; about the industry, yourself, and working full-time in general. I mean, would you rather do a job you don’t exactly love for a year and never have to do it again, or end up stuck in one after graduation for the foreseeable future? The job’s only for a year, not forever, so  b r e a t h e .

11. Prepare for pensions and National Insurance

I’ll never forget the horror of seeing some of my pay going into a “pension pot”, I remember thinking, “I’m only 20? And saving for a pension??” Well, it’s okay, I’m over it now. Plus I’ve a nice wee £80 cushion to fall back on, so I’m currently deciding between early retirement or buying a villa in Spain…

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Me celebrating my glorious £80

12. You will get excited about new work clothes

I used to go into Primark and think “Okay, why is there a whole floor of blouses and blazers? This would be so much better used for guddies.” Well, let me tell you, there is no such thing as “too many” work clothes. Patterned blouses? Hated em. Blazers? Hated em too. But now, my friend, ain’t nothing I love more than a nice wee print blouse and some fitted trousers. So, you may laugh now, but soon you too will be BUZZIN to hit up the town and buy blazers, just you wait.

 

I had a lot more but didn’t want to bore anyone (might be too late though). I hope this list helps anyone on or going on a placement; you’ll either relate to some/all of these, or you’ll not experience them and then feel a lot better about yourself. Either way, you’re welcome.

If you have any questions/ queries or just want to talk about going on or preparing for a placement, please do get in touch! I’m more than happy to instil my pearls of wisdom and give advice and share my experience! I may not have many pearls, but I’d say I have at least 2.

The Exclusivity of “Inclusive” Fashion

Why do I (and many other women) only seem to buy clothes from the same 3-4 companies all the time? For me, it’s not so much a preference (or the fact that they’re a lot cheaper than Topshop), it’s because these are the few shops where I can actually buy clothes in MY size.

And so is the struggle of many people. “Ooh XXX have a sale- oh wait, they don’t do my size”. *goes on website…checks sizes…exits website and huffs*.

Now don’t get me wrong, it does have its perks- think of all the money I’ve saved because I can’t actually buy anything 🙂

NM26

Over the past few years, there has been an “inclusive fashion” movement among retailers whereby they have extended their clothing size range beyond the traditional 8-14s, to cater for women of “all shapes and sizes”. Shops have gone from offering 4 or 5 sizes to 9+. So what’s the problem? Well, for one, the range only seems to extend to suit one body type.

While an increasing number of retailers now offer sizes over 16, very few cater below a 6. Now, to my delight, around 2 years ago Primark began producing clothes in a size 4 – but this was at least 5 years after they began producing sizes up to a 22.

Yes, there’s a whole debate and backlash about this;  some believe that offering smaller sizes promotes an unhealthy lifestyle and reinforces beauty standards, with others saying how one extreme is no better than another, and promoting larger sizes contributes to the normalisaion of obesity.

But this is not about that. Trust me, I did my A Level HE assignment on this topic and drafted and redrafted a literature review around FIFTEEN times so I am not even going into this *has flashbacks and shudders*.

I’m simply saying that yes, it’s obviously good that retailers are adapting to meet the needs of their customers, but why cater for one type over another? I just want a pair of jeans like, it shouldn’t be this hard.

It does lower your self esteem when you bring 7 items into a changing room and none fit or look nice, but that’s not just the case for larger sizes. Do you know how it feels to look like you’re wearing your mother’s clothes? Not good (no offence, ma – I think your clothes are lovely). It probably feels just as bad as looking like you accidentally tumble-dried your clothes and shrunk them.

NM25

I welcome retailers extending their size range and catering for more than 5 sizes, I don’t think anyone should have to go a certain shop/s to be able to buy their size, or settle for clothes too big or too small for them. I’m just saying that retailers need to branch out a bit more. “Start doing a size 16, that’ll keep ’em happy”- well Mr Multi-National Retailer, on behalf of said “’em”, we are not happy.

Bringing in an additional 2/3 sizes doesn’t make you ‘inclusive’. Being inclusive means bringing in a variety of new sizes. Only extending your range to suit one body type actually makes you more exclusive than inclusive, just saying.

Don’t get me wrong, “inclusive” fashion is great – as long as you’re between a size 10-14 and are no shorter than 5 ft 3 or taller than 5 ft 7.

Now, some retailers have started offering a “petite” or “tall” range, thank God. But why?

If the average woman in Ireland, the UK, America, and most countries is around 5 ft 4, why are nearly all clothes made to suit people who are over 5 ft 6? And why are the models always 5 ft 7 – 5 ft 10? Surely it doesn’t make much sense to make clothes which only fit a a very small proportion of your customer base rather than the majority? But maybe I’m just being fussy, idk.

NM27

And so is the beauty of online retailers – they offer plus size ranges, size 4s, maternity wear, petite and tall ranges *heavenly choir sings “ahhhh”*.

I personally prefer online shopping, but it’s not because I can buy clothes from the comfort of my bed while looking like a sight that is not fit for anyone except the postman to see (although I am determined to make dressing gowns a socially acceptable outerwear) Note: NOT a ‘house coat’. It’s because I can buy clothes.

People wonder why high street shopping is down year-on-year. Maybe we’ll go into your shop when your clothes don’t make us feel bad about ourselves and you actually do our size. And I’ll give you that gem of business advice for free.

NM28

I was planning to write about the exclusivity of the bra industry but I guess I underestimated just how exclusive the fashion industry was- silly me. So to the (I’m assuming) joy of any male readers that haven’t given up or fallen asleep already, you are spared. And well done you for making it this far, you must either be interested in what I have to say on this topic, or you’re really bored.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to do some online retail therapy, because I can. And because Boohoo have 30% off coats -sorry, bank account.