Mags Loves Jimi

“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” ― Frida Kahlo

Make Me (Up)

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Artwork by  #DARIABIRANGXINEZANDVINOODH

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When I started wearing makeup, the world began to change. I mean this literally: I was a thirteen-year-old girl in the post-9/11 world. Seeing my mother in her black patent shoes with rouged lip-paint; she was a war hero, at her best. She shone with a palette different from my own, a contrast to the innocuous person I thought I was.

Stereotypes only furthered this innocuoucy. Women who wear makeup are insecure. Women of colour who wear makeup are trying to be something they’re not. I’ve heard it all before. My thirteen-year-old self knew the weight of those words and feared it.

John Dovidio, a professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, stated this in an ABC article: “When you’re a social animal, you need to be able to distinguish who’s a friend and who’s a foe. You need to understand who’s a member of your pack, who’s a member of a different pack.”

Australia is a multicultural society, full of colourful people rich with culture. One would assume because we are surrounded by difference there would be an immunity to stereotypes. This is far from the case. Bias opinions are involuntary and unconscious. But to adhere to a stereotype even after the preconceived assumption is broken or revealed is a testament to our relationship with trust.

Professor Dovidio also assured in the same article, “We categorize people automatically, unconsciously, immediately, based on a person’s race and based on a person’s sex.”

These sounds like clichés, don’t they? Judging someone based on their race or sex is basis of the Hollywood marketing mix—a surefire way to ignite discourse and disagreements within a pleasurable setting. According to Merriam-Webster, there’s a difference between a ‘stereotype’ and a ‘cliché’. The words cliché and stereotype both come from the French; in fact, cliché is French for stereotype. In modern language cliché means ‘an overly familiar or commonplace phrase, theme, or expression, whereas stereotype means ‘an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic.’

It’s interesting how a cliché and a stereotype are branches from the same tree, yet have two very different meanings. One could be an explanation of the other—it is a cliché to stereotype. It’s also a stereotype to call something too familiar a cliché—a case of semantics. What we know for sure is stereotypes hold negative connotations. Chimamanda Adichie, when asked via The Atlantic what American’s get wrong about Africa, affirms this poignantly: “I don’t think stereotypes are problematic because they’re false. That’s too simple. Stereotypes are problematic because they’re incomplete.”

Research studies conducted by cognitive and social psychologists reveal we have different stereotypes for different social contexts. Have you ever been a room full of people who looked like the direct opposite of you, aesthetically? Say you have jet black hair and the room is full of blondes. Suddenly a Mattel-filled minefield comes to mind—Attack of the Blondes by Barbie. You start to think of a time where you felt overwhelmed by noticeable differentiation. A very simple example (and perhaps a cliché of the dumb and dangerous Blonde – shoutout to Marilyn Monroe) but a common theme.

How do we combat these feelings of self-consciousness without falling into the trap of compartmentalization and dissention? I’m reminded of what my favourite marketing maverick and people-person, Seth Godin, wrote about in his blog about our ability to be judgmental yet call out others for the same thing:

“Everyone believes that other people are terrible at judging us and our potential, but we go ahead and proudly judge others on the basis of a short interview (or worse, a long one), even though the people we’re selecting aren’t being hired for their ability to be interviewed. The first step in getting better at pre-judging is to stop pre-judging. This takes guts, because it feels like giving up control, but we never really had control in the first place.”

So, if stereotypes are based on a fear of lack of control, then shouldn’t we focus on how we deal with controlling a narrative? Insert the beauty business who promote self-love yet dictate how you should present that love to the public.

Is there a double standard for the tattoo and piercing artist who goes to church every Sunday? What about the virgin who enjoys pole fitness? How about the chubby girl who swears she isn’t ‘eating her feelings’ or the skinny minny who just doesn’t like to eat as much. A stereotype would be to assume the tattoo artist is not a devoted Christian, the dancer is a slut, and as for the girls on the opposite physical spectrum, well they must be sad.

The moral of this story is stereotypes have negative and uncontrollable reactions and consequences that usually affect others internally. To reiterate what Seth Godin stated, we are all guilty of pre-judging others because of the belief they’re judging us wrong. I can safely say my thirteen-year-old self didn’t want to be stereotyped as the girl of colour who wanted to stand out. Now as an adult double that age and then some, I can understand that a stereotype is just another way to fill in blanks to the unconvinced. The best course of action is to not convince yourself something about someone else without any personal experience whilst balancing this with a good healthy dose of common sense.

By Margretta Sowah


 

This article was written by Margretta Sowah; a freelance writer and Fashion Marketer based in Sydney. All opinions expressed are her own. She cannot be held liable for bad taste. She also likes to spin yarn from time to time. Read more at:  Blaire Creatives 

Breaking Bad (Habits)

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2.13am. A downtown loft. In a glitter-esqe façade, rugs of Persia are merely design accents. Down the hall, in a small room full of mirrors, a woman stares at her vanity cabinet. Red pill. Blue pill. Yellow pill. White. How much can I take in one night? A friend raps at the door: “everything okay in there?” A small voice says, “Yes, just taking my medication, give me a sec.” The friend leaves, nodding knowingly. The woman is in pain, after all.

There seems to be a foggy, sexy stigma against prescription pills, or any pills, for that matter – the sort of over-achieving sibling of the drug la familia. According to an article in The Conversation: ‘The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has called for submissions on the idea of deleting Codeine from Schedule 3 (pharmacy only) availability and moving it to Schedule 4 (prescription only).’

This does not come lightly. Studies show Codeine is not as potent without the other components added to make it marketable and therefore ‘stronger’. In the Cochrane review, findings showed researchers would need to treat 12 people with 60mg of Codeine alone to achieve a 50% reduction in acute pain for one person. Talk about a Placebo; so I guess it’s not Every You, Every Me?

In the Western world, we don’t play games with pain the same way we do with pleasure. When it comes to treating pain relief at your GP, the more subjective, the bigger the script can be. Speaking from personal experience with an immediate family member battling mental health (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, to randomly quote a Smashing Pumpkins song), I have questioned the scripts plenty of times. But I’m reminded of this: who’s place is it to say you’re not in enough pain to warrant any medication?

That’s not the purpose of this investigation into Codeine. It’s about treating the cause, not the symptom. Having said that, the decision to change how we access Codeine may be a bit of a hassle. Sometimes waiting at the doctor’s office is more of a headache than the actual headache. Wouldn’t you want a permanent fix, if possible, instead of the Band-Aid effect of Codeine? I know which one I’d prefer, but I also know what I’d be more likely to do.

When it comes to Class A-Z drugs, prescription and over-the-counter, we’re essentially talking about the same family—the whole clan: cousins, nieces, nephews, and let’s not forget any parties who are made accountable by God and the State (the step-mum/dad and whatever step-in-between), y’all included too. These medications are used to alter, magnify or numb pain in the human body. Modern medicine has shown us this, and so has the drug epidemic. Bottom line is this: we do NOT want to be in, stay in, or be subject to possible pain (unless you’re into BDSM; in that case, how you doin’?), but at what lengths and at the cost of whom?

Reports show there are much better alternatives to Codeine containing OTC formulations with a combination dose of 200mg ibuprofen/500mg paracetamol. This was made effective in a head-to-head trial against paracetamol 500mg/Codeine 15mg tablets. The truth is an unsupervised dosage can have serious risks with no real benefits. No doubt a fair share of GPs and hospitals have seen cases of liver damage due to high paracetamol doses. I’ve seen my fair share of overindulgence in pills unfortunately for no other reason but boredom.

Regular Codeine use can cause chronic rebound headaches with difficulties in reducing or stopping the dosage. Countries such as the US, Sweden and Germany have already made the shift from over-the-counter to prescription only. Will there be change from documented harm due to addiction from addictive and non-addictive doses? Only time can tell. It will take more than just a prescription to shift the view society has on the benefits of Codeine. Staff working in pharmacies will not be able to consistently monitor potential substance abusers, because there is no one-size-fits-all expression.

Regardless of whether this is passed in profession is not the point. We need to reevaluate how we see pain and how we deal with it. One white pill here could save a life; another could end it. The choice, undoubtedly, belongs to you. The difference could save you from being a statistic, instead of part of the solution.

By Margretta Sowah


 

This article was written by Margretta Sowah; a freelance writer and Fashion Marketer based in Sydney. All opinions expressed are her own. She cannot be held liable for bad taste. She also likes to spin yarn from time to time. Read more at:  Blaire Creatives 

Judge(me)nt | #SethGodin

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Artwork via Xaviera Lopez 

 

Our pre-judgment problem

Most of us can agree that picking a great team is one of the best ways to build a successful organization or project.The problem is that we’re terrible at it.

The NFL Combine is a giant talent show, with a billion dollars on the line. And every year, NFL scouts use the wrong data to pick the wrong players (Tom Brady famously recorded one of the worst scores ever 17 years ago). Moneyball is all about how reluctant baseball scouts were to change their tactics, even after they saw that the useful data was a far better predictor of future performance than their instincts were.

And we do the same thing when we scan resumes, judging people by ethnic background, fraternity, gender or the kind of typeface they use.

The SAT is a poor indicator of college performance, but most colleges use it anyway.

Famous colleges aren’t correlated with lifetime success or happiness, but we push our kids to to seek them out.

And all that time on social networks still hasn’t taught us not to judge people by their profile photos…

Most of all, we now know that easy-to-measure skills aren’t nearly as important as the real skills that matter.

Everyone believes that other people are terrible at judging us and our potential, but we go ahead and proudly judge others on the basis of a short interview (or worse, a long one), even though the people we’re selecting aren’t being hired for their ability to be interviewed.

The first step in getting better at pre-judging is to stop pre-judging.

This takes guts, because it feels like giving up control, but we never really had control in the first place. Not if we’ve been obsessively measuring the wrong things all along.

Via Seth’s Blog

Pillow Talk | #AdviceToWriters

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“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”
― Winston S. Churchill

Price and Power


 

In today’s politically charged atmosphere of 140 characters and things like Sienna filters, it is no surprise Fashion is wrapped in this fray. The American FLOTUS’s Fashion choices, or lack thereof, is a source of analytical contention. Questions like; Can privilege be bought? Is price indicative of this? Tom Ford was famously quoted saying his clothing was “too expensive for a First Lady to wear because they have to ‘relate to everybody.” Be that as it may, start-up brands and young designers can learn a lot about pricing themselves accordingly.

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Price and Privilege

To be honest, when researching these flashbacks of my Undergrad surfaced; lectures and tutorials dedicated to the rising cost of raw materials, COGS and markups. In Fashion, as any business and serious relationship, there is a give-and-take. A mutual agreement. This is the financial exchange made between the brand, retailers and consumers. Profit comes from markups, which determine the RRP (recommended retail price). Markups allow for ‘breathing space’, permitting more units to be produced and therefore a greater chance for more volumes to be sold. This increases your profit and ultimately satisfies any shareholders and stakeholders; especially for retail chains and luxury brands.

In BOF’s article on the rapid rising cost of Fashion it’s stated; “Gross margins for luxury companies typically hover around 65 percent — that sounds like a lot, but it’s what shareholders now expect. It also means that a $3,500 bag costs roughly $1,225 to produce and bring to market, all the way from materials to sale. There are many steps along the way that contribute to the final price. There are the costs of raw materials, design, manufacturing and fulfillment. Then, at retail, there’s the cost of prime real estate and sales staff. And finally, there’s marketing: those glossy fashion adverts cost a pretty penny to produce, let alone to place. Over the past 10 years — and particularly since the end of the recession — many of these costs have increased dramatically.”

There are three main structures of the fashion system when sectioning yourselves to the market. These are Luxury, Fashion and Premium, according to marketing heavyweight and academic Professor Vincent Bastien in his article for Entrepreneur Middle East.

The luxury strategy aims at creating the highest brand value and pricing power by leveraging all intangible elements of singularity- i.e. time, heritage, country of origin, craftsmanship, man-made, small series, prestigious clients, etc. The fashion strategy is a totally different business model: here, heritage, time, are not important; fashion sells by being fashionable, which is to say, a very perishable value.

The premium strategy can be summarised as “pay more, get more.” Here the goal is to prove -through comparisons and benchmarking- that this is the best value within its category. Quality/price ratio is the motto. This strategy is, by essence, comparative.

Taking these models into account it is very important that brands knows where they stand on the proverbial totem pole of the retail mix of ROI. Another article on Forbes also accurately stated; “One of the main problems with the launching a new brand is that you have absolutely zero pricing power – meaning that you have the market setting the price within a narrow range & subsequently have a high cost basis to manufacture product. This begins the most challenging part of this stage – the tweaking of materials to levels that deliver sufficient quality right up to the monetizable equilibrium between the quality of the materials, construction of the product, and the customer’s willingness to pay for these costs. Keep in mind that $0.50 in manufacturing costs equals about $2 at retail (2x markup to wholesale and 2x markup to retail).”

In business, profit is the main aim of the game. When composing your pricing strategy it is imperative you know the value of your product versus the cost of it. A bar of chocolate is valuable to many (myself included, believe me!) but to produce is a much smaller cost – per bar, pre-market. The cost of raw materials and staff required (yes, cheap labour is still rampant): $1.15 including tax. Value: $5+ for the average consumer. Taking these numbers into account you have a profit of $3.85 per bar. Once you understand your cost versus your value as per product, you can add other variables such as brand cache, customer demand and scarcity of product.

There is power in being truthful with your core objectives because it means when leverage does present itself (because of your great price strategy) the benefits; whether monetary or socially will have a longer effect. This will also aid in communicating with your retailers, wholesalers and stockists.

pricing catwalk bw

Profit and Personality

When we talk about ‘personality’ we mean traits that make up your behaviour. I have a ‘playful’ personality; meaning I can be a bit cheeky… perhaps even a little silly. Can you think of a brand with a similar personality? Moschino Cheap and Chic comes to mind. House of Holland. Mary Katrantzou. Kate Spade. Charlotte Olympia. Even Taco Bell is good at cracking a few jokes. Your personality, in branding, is what distinguishes you from your competitors, not unlike in real life. These traits are organically part of the brand’s DNA. The power in personality can be seen in the steady increase of profit margins.

Having a flexible, dynamic and profitable pricing strategy is an ongoing measurement; constantly in need of revision and reworkings. If numbers are not your thing (such as myself) then hire or have those around you that you trust and who are knowledgeable in finance – even if it’s your immediate family, to begin with. Your team is paramount to your success in the eyes of the public.

Some of the world’s most valued and loved brands hire hundreds of people all over the globe to research market fluctuation and value of raw materials, trend forecasting and political/social issues. All have a bearing on your pricing strategy. Price, psychologically, can be differentiated by the archaic yet still relevant class system – the haves and the have-nots, though, with the introduction and seamless integration of the internet and technology, this gap is becoming more and more ambiguous.

We can look at the Engineering Triangle as a basic example of the beginning stages of a ‘pricing strategy’ – if it is good and cheap, it is not fast. If it’s fast and good, it’s not cheap. If it’s fast and cheap, it’s not good. Does this apply to your business model and pricing strategy? If so ask yourselves how good are you to your customers if your item is fast and cheap? If you give products to your customers cheap, how good and fast can you accumulate profit? If it’s fast, how cheap and good will raw materials be? When we say ‘good’, we mean valuable and of quality.

All of these are valid questions that your core customers will care about… the ones who choose you over the others largely due to a perceived and curated personality, which most likely reflects your pricing strategy. To put it in Fashion terms; Hermes cannot be calling you Bae. In the same way a high street brand like Topshop cannot be trying to sell you a facetious fantasy because the two worlds are different and that’s okay. The Topshop woman can still be a Hermes woman; she just needs to be reached in different ways for different purses. Most of us in the industry have a basic understanding of this. The challenge is focusing on a flexible yet profitable pricing strategy while maintain that gleeful exuberance unkempt creativity allows us.

The truth is, you have to be true to your product, not expectations.

By Margretta Sowah


 

This article was written by Margretta Sowah; a freelance writer and Fashion Marketer based in Sydney. All opinions expressed are her own. She cannot be held liable for bad taste. She also likes to spin yarn from time to time. Read more at: Fashion Capital UK

In Retrospect

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“People don’t like to think, if one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.”—Hellen Keller

artwork by Xaviera López

Busy Beings… | Note to Self

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I lied and said I was busy.

I was busy;

but not in a way most people understand.

 

I was busy taking deeper breaths.

I was busy silencing irrational thoughts.

I was busy calming a racing heart.

I was busy telling myself I am okay.

 

Sometimes, this is my busy –

and I will not apologize for it.


– Brittin Oakman Poetry, Anxiety Doesn’t Knock First

*via The Artidote

#Untitled 48 (Two of a Kind)

 

We stand, two of a kind.

Drawn in by numbers and figures –

dates for data (minding our pasts).

I saw her in you as you saw me in you. Were we fools, to begin with, or has love done something crazy (immaculate)?

I see not her, but me in her… (I guess a past of the past too.)

If I could visualise a space where we too could meet, right at the middle, it would be because we’re two of a kind.

So then, do you remember which one

is me?

Free Yourself | Today I Will…

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Working for free (but working for yourself)

Freelancers, writers, designers, photographers–there’s always an opportunity to work for free.

There are countless websites and causes and clients that will happily take your work in exchange for exposure.

And in some settings, this makes perfect sense. You might be making a contribution to a cause you care about, or, more likely, honing your craft at the same time that you get credibility and attention for your work.

But just because you’re working for free doesn’t mean you should give away all your upsides.

Consider the major publishing platforms that are happy to host your work, but you need sign away your copyright. Or get no credit. Or give the publisher the right to change your work in any way they see fit, or to use your image (in perpetuity) and your reputation for commercial gain without your oversight or participation…

Now, more than ever, you have the power to say “no” to that.

Because they can’t publish you better than you can publish yourself.

It doesn’t matter if these are their standard clauses. They might be standard for them, but they don’t have to be standard for you and for your career.

Here’s the thing: you’re going to be doing this for a long time. The clients you get in the future will be the direct result of the clients you take today. The legacy of your work down the road will be related to the quality of the work you do today.

It’s your destiny and you should own it.

Freelancers of all kinds need to be in a hurry. Not a hurry to give in to one-sided deals and lousy clients. Instead, we need to be in a hurry to share our bravest work, in a hurry to lean into the opportunity, in a hurry to make work that people would miss if it were gone.

Via Seth’s Blog

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Sending Signals

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All journeys are solitary. For me to say I need you to come along is misplaced faith. You don’t meet people on your journey, you meet them in theirs.