Support your local high street

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I often wonder about the future and despite Fermanagh being quite far behind much of the UK we have come a long way in terms of fashion and technology. I often laugh at old pictures of me and my friends from school and the fashion we used to wear. We didn’t have much selection of shops here in Fermanagh when I was growing up and even less when my parents were growing up.  I am thankful for the great selection we have now and although some people moan about the fact that there are certain shops that we don’t have we should be thankful for what we do have and support our local businesses.

Studies show that a staggering 80% of us are shopping online rather than supporting our local high street for even the simplest of things. Many will say this is due to price, ease of access, choice and variety and modern technology. You could say that this is a natural progression in the modern world; however I find it very sad to see stores closing and our high street half empty.

Despite the ease of access of internet stores you can always argue that a high street store has its advantages. Firstly we are known here in Fermanagh for our excellent customer service and friendly approach. You just don’t get the same customer service, if any at all, from an internet store. Think about it, if you compare how many times you have been let down by an internet store and how many times you have been let down by a local store I would say the majority of us have been let down more times by an internet store. I for one have been let down more times than I can remember by different internet stores mainly due to the wrong product being sent, something being broken or damaged or the wrong size. In many cases when getting a refund or exchange you have to wait for a long time and this is after having sent several emails. How much easier is it to just walk into a shop, explain the situation and either get your refund or exchange there and then.

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With an internet store you can’t actually see, touch or try on what you are buying. You are taking a bit of a risk especially if you need it in a hurry. Yes it is easy to power up your laptop or tablet or even your phone and just click to buy however it is also easy to just pop into town try on and hand over your card and you have it instantly.

Although many internet stores have reviews, tips and advice on the products you are buying there is something a little more reassuring about speaking to a local expert about a product face to face and them actually demonstrating or showing you how the product works before you commit to buy.

Although I feel at the moment there is no immediate danger of the internet taking over in Fermanagh, it is likely to happen if more and more of us continue to ignore our local stores and shop online. I am not saying never shop on the internet, let’s face it there are certain items we simply can’t get at home, however instead consider shopping locally instead if you know you can get it locally. I think we would all agree that it would be a very sad sight to see empty towns and villages and no nice shop windows to look at.

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There’s no place like home

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Back in July I had the most amazing and unforgettable holiday in Dubai where I enjoyed lots of sun, relaxation, luxury dining, amazing fashion and to top it all off I also got engaged in the 7 Star Burj Al Arab hotel, an evening I will never forget. However despite the amazing experiences I had I was soon to discover that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Throughout the entire holiday I felt like a celebrity. The shopping malls were huge with everything from high end designers like Dolce and Gabbana and Chanel to high street stores like River Island, H&M and also privately owned boutiques. The main thing I noticed about Dubai was that the locals use the Mall as an escape from the harsh temperatures outside. For this reason the malls in Dubai are more than just a shopping trip they are a whole different experience. In the ‘Mall of the Emirates’ for example as well as picking up your groceries and a wedding outfit you can also go skiing in the huge indoor ski centre with real snow.

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Dubai really is a fashion paradise however for such a forward thinking, multicultural and ambitious state it can be very reserved and backward. I knew before I went that Dubai had strict Muslim values however I wasn’t prepared for just how strict they actually were. I was there during Ramadan, which is the Islamic month of fasting but unlike some other countries the UAE also expect tourists to observe and respect their holy month. For us this meant no leisurely ice creams or milkshakes in the mall while shopping in fact the only place we could get anything to eat during daylight hours was in our hotel.

I can respect them for being so serious about their religion to fast all day however they rely on tourists and many of their religious values can actually make tourists feel uneasy. For example I was shocked to find that many of the malls have rules of conduct such as no public displays of affection, no short trousers or skirts and no exposed shoulders (I found this out as I was walking through the mall in a strapless dress).

On one shopping excursion to one of the Souks (traditional shopping stalls) I felt so uncomfortable as though I was being stared at and there were no women to be seen, I had to buy a shawl to cover my head and shoulders. I felt a bit sorry for the local women especially when I saw one trying to make her way down an escalator in sky high heels covered completely from head to toe in black robes and a veil completely covering her face, not even cut out for her eyes (the traditional burqa).

It made me appreciate where I come from and being able to have the right to choose what I wear and being treated as an equal in society. At one stage I was having a look at the Arabian section in River Island and two girls came along dressed in niqabs (black robes with only their eyes showing). I couldn’t understand what they were saying but I knew they were excited about a short skirt they were both looking at. I felt a bit sad for them because although they could probably wear it in the privacy of their own home in public it would be covered up in their robes so no one could ever see how good it might look on them.

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Although Dubai is a fashionista’s dream and I will always treasure the memories there really is no place like home. In Fermanagh I have the freedom to walk down the street in whatever I choose, I can let my hair down, wear makeup, say hello to a stranger on the street and most importantly I am not treated as a subordinate to any man.

Join the revolution!

This Old Thing

For years now I have been trying to convince the people of Fermanagh and beyond to choose Vintage and pre loved fashion. I’m not saying that you should only wear vintage but instead mix it up a bit with items from the high street. I have always said that cheap ‘fast fashion’ cannot possibly be a good thing. In light of recent events with Primark, where customers found ‘SOS’ labels stitched into items of clothing,  there has never been a better time to step away from the huge chain stores.

Although nothing has been officially proven, Primark have recently released a statement saying that following their investigations they can only conclude that the labels are an elaborate hoax. Having examined the labels from items bought from their Swansea store Primark believe that they have came from the same source yet both garments are from two different suppliers, one in Romania and one in India and therefore the labels must have been sewn in at a later point and not from the factory they were supplied from.

As regards the cropped trousers bought in Belfast, Primark are still investigating this with the factory in China. Whether the incidents are a hoax or not it still doesn’t excuse the fact that these factory workers do work long hours and sometimes in dangerous conditions. Look at the recent incident in Bangladesh when a factory where garments were being made to supply fashion houses in Florence collapsed killing 1,129 workers.

Although garment production does provide many in third world countries with a steady income; mass produced clothing, which is made with low quality materials, are not designed to last, hence the reason why they are sold so cheaply.

Clothing nowadays is simply not designed to last due to the fact that we live in such as fast society with fickle tastes and changing demands. Trends change so often that the fashion industry has to keep up with this and provide it at a reasonable price. With cheap clothing that you can just throw away when you are fed up with it and buy the next latest trend, what incentive is there to buy vintage or pre-loved? One major incentive is the fact that you won’t find anyone else wearing the same outfit as you. The new channel Four programme ‘This Old Thing’ hopes to convince the UK that vintage is the way to go.

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At last the word is getting out there that vintage clothing is not only unique and special but also much better quality with a lot more durability than modern clothing. It’s great to see the vintage revolution spreading to prime time TV. The UK mainland has embraced the vintage revolution and in fact seasonal trends are now emerging in even vintage lines. For example people are now hunting for fifties circle skirts, tropical prints and kimono jackets; tropical prints also being very popular this season on the high street.

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Unfortunately Fermanagh has not yet caught the vintage bug, however I hope that this new Channel Four programme will encourage people to consider vintage as an alternative to the high street

A dress for the summer

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If like me you are loving the heat wave we are currently enjoying but not loving the thought of baring your pasty flesh and struggling with finding something comfortable but suitable to wear you are not alone. Although heat waves in Fermanagh are a pretty rare occurrence when they do come we Fermanagh folk do nothing but complain about hot how and uncomfortable we feel in the heat. Don’t get me wrong; if we were all off work or had nice cool air conditioned offices perhaps we wouldn’t complain so much. During the recent heat wave I found it difficult to find something cool to wear each day and found that the most comfortable thing to wear was a light summer dress.

In my opinion dresses are the ultimate wardrobe staple because they can be worn casual or dressy depending on how you accessorise them. The thing I love about dresses is the fact that there are so many different styles now that no matter what your shape or size there will always be something suitable for you.

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You don’t have to be a girly girl to enjoy wearing dresses because there are so many different variations you will find that you don’t have to go for a pretty look, you have so many more options. For any tom boys out there you will find lots of variations of the shirt dress, tunic or sporty style dresses.

As well as simple shirt dresses that can be dressed up with heels or dressed down with flat sandals or trainers, athletic style dresses are a hot look for the summer. If neither of these styles float your boat the other key looks of the summer are simple no fuss shift dresses in refreshing pastel colours, again these can be dressed down with flats or styled up with heels and statement jewellery.

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As always Bohemian inspired maxi dresses make a welcome appearance in the summer months, I usually like to team a maxi dress with a gladiator sandal or a pair of wedges. I also love a bright statement print dress either in a bold colour, a geometric print or just simple bold stripes. Bright colours just say summer for me and even on a wet summers day bright colours give you a bit of a pick me up.

The other summer dress of the moment is the 1950s style swing dress given a modern twist with graphic prints or just kept simple depending on how you like it. Style wise and depending on where you plan to wear it you could have strapless, boat neck, spaghetti straps or short sleeve. For me a prom dress will always be dressy and just doesn’t look right worn with trainers. If you want to make a swing dress look less formal team it with a pair of flat sandals and minimal accessories.

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However you choose to stay cool in the Fermanagh sunshine, and here’s hoping that our heat wave will last or at least come back again soon, a summer dress is always a good choice for work, rest or play.

Brazilian mania hits Fermanagh

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It’s pretty much impossible to avoid World Cup fever here in Fermanagh at the moment and I am sure this can be said for most of the world. Every other advert on TV somehow relates to the world Cup and even your weekly grocery shop is invaded by ‘’World Cup offers’. Many of you may be taking part in a world cup sweep stake or having world cup parties to celebrate the launch or just as an excuse to have a party.

It seems the world cup has also had a major influence within the fashion industry mainly due to the fact that it is being hosted by Brazil this year. You can see jungle prints, carnival inspiration and neons all over the high street at the moment and this can be no coincidence.

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In terms of sportswear Adidas in particular have taken inspiration from Brazil in the release of their Adidas originals X The Farm Company collection. This unique collaboration with Brazilian based label ‘The Farm Company’ includes everything from running shorts and vests to tracksuits, t-shirts and trainers. The collection features flowers, fruit, neon colours, jungle prints and the carnival inspiration from Brazil. It is a very wearable collection that looks great either worn for sports or if you’re not into sportswear but love bold prints it is both comfortable and extremely fashion forward.

On the high street here in Fermanagh I am sure you have noticed the vast amount of Brazilian inspired prints not just in the women’s department but also the men’s. All departments have got World Cup fever with all sorts of both carnival inspired prints and Amazon jungle inspired prints.

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Carnival colours such as neon pink and yellow, bright oranges and greens can be seen everywhere at the moment as well as bold statement necklaces and earrings, flower garlands and bright bold prints.

Jungle prints are the other major trend here in Fermanagh. Inspired by the Amazon Jungle of Brazil you will see everything from Parrot prints, jungle leaf prints, tropical fruits such as pineapples and bananas, tropical flowers and other jungle wildlife.

I have noticed that it’s not just Fermanagh ladies that get to enjoy the influences of Brazil. Despite the fact that many of our men will be wearing their favourite team colours over the next few weeks they will also have their choice of Brazilian inspired prints. Tropical print shirts in particular seem to be a big thing with the boys as well as jungle print board shorts, tropical fruit prints and jungle wildlife. In fact some of the shirts in the men’s department have even caught my eye and I have considered buying one or two myself.

 

Hen Weekend packing made simple

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I don’t know about everyone else but I always find packing for a weekend or a few days away a lot more difficult than for a longer holiday.  With longer breaks you can pack in as much as your weight restrictions will allow. With a City break it just doesn’t make sense to lug a massive suitcase away with you when you are only away for a short time. Therefore you need to limit yourself and make the best use of the little space you have in your suitcase. As I and I am sure many other Fermanagh ladies head off on a hen weekends all over the UK and Ireland I am sure there will be lots of packing and unpacking of hand luggage to ensure you have the right things with you.

The trick for successful packing is to opt for day to night outfits. Start off with your basics like one or two dressy tops and one or two casual tops, one dressy and one more casual cardigan in case the weather isn’t what you expect or cooler in the evenings.

When you have the basics worked out then think about items of clothing that you can wear day to night and also bear in mind that you may want to get really dressed up one or two nights. I always pack a maxi dress, which can be dressed down during the day with flat sandals and sunglasses and even a hat and then glammed up in the evening with a pair of wedge sandals some nice jewellery and your hair and makeup done.

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Try packing items that don’t take up too much room in the suitcase such as skirts and shorts. These can also be worn day to night if you team them with flats and a casual top during the day and change the look with a dressy top and heels for the evening. You don’t have to wear the same outfit the whole day but instead rotate and mix and match. So for example if you wear the skirt with a casual top during the day and the maxi dress in the evening, then the next day wear the shorts with a casual top during the day and the skirt again that evening with a dressy top and heels.

I always make sure to pack a few pieces of statement jewellery as it really helps to bling up an otherwise plain outfit. I will always pack two pairs of flat sandals as with city breaks you tend to do a lot of walking around and usually just one pair of heels or wedge sandals to suit all outfits for the evening.

Whatever your plans this summer don’t go overboard with your packing, keep it simple by bringing along day to night and mix and match options. This will save a lot of time, give you extra space and give you more time to enjoy your evenings rather than fuss around choosing an outfit

Are our local charity shops becoming too greedy?

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A recent article I read claimed that charity shops were beginning to become almost as expensive as high street stores, which obviously sell brand new items rather than previously loved clothing. Call it what you want previously loved or other people’s cast offs I have always believed that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and I am proud to say that some of my greatest finds have been purchased in charity shops.

Some people say that modern day charity shops have abandoned their traditional clientele in a bid to become more appealing to modern society and modern tastes. This new approach however does seem to be working with charity shops now outnumbering shoe shops on the high street and charity shop chains such as Oxfam reporting sales of £90 million in 2011, which is an all-time record.

After reading the article I took to Facebook to see what others thought and a few did agree particularly those living in Belfast where charity shops have become more like exclusive boutiques. As always though Fermanagh is that little bit behind and things haven’t changed much here in terms of charity shops. Although they are trying to reach out to new clientele I have to say that the majority of customer’s in Fermanagh charity shops are older people just looking for a bargain.

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The shopping experience in a Belfast or any city based charity shop is completely different to the experience I feel in Enniskillen. I almost feel intimidated sometimes by other shoppers as though they are questioning my motives and why I am invading their territory. For this reason I feel that nothing much has changed in our local charity shops whereas in Belfast and other cities prices have gone up because quite frankly they can afford to charge more due to the calibre of customer. Nowadays a charity shop in Belfast will charge more than the likes of Primark even though the items are second hand.

For now I don’t believe our local charity shops are at all greedy in fact they are quite the opposite, they could probably charge more for many of the items they sell. I don’t think our local charity shops will change any time soon or at least until they modernise, appeal to more fashionable customers and get in a few more exclusive items but then for me the whole fun is in searching until you find that one special item.

It’s not all about the clothes!

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Fashion isn’t all about dressing in the latest trends nor is it simply about clothes and accessories. The term fashion itself reaches across a huge spectrum and it refers to not just material things but also behaviour. It also refers to a fad, a craze, a trend or something that people are raving about. The annoying thing though is that when it becomes a craze then you will find that people begin to lose interest because everyone is doing it.

When I compare Fermanagh to other places like Belfast, Dublin, London and further afield it is interesting to see just how behind we are. In terms of clothing trends we are well over a year behind the likes of London and even Dublin, however there are a few trend setters about who follow what’s going on in the fashion capitals and are ahead of our local stores.

All that said I can understand why some local stores stock the clothes that they do and are not prepared to be as ‘out there’ as the City. Having worked in the retail industry in Fermanagh it used to annoy me that we didn’t get in a lot of the stock that some of the bigger city stores did purely because head office felt that small rural stores couldn’t sell the more adventurous items. There are however many independent stores who are able to do their own thing.

When it comes to lifestyle I am the type of person who tries all the latest fads but doesn’t really stick at anything. Everyone has their own thing be that dancing, acting, art, photography, sport or cooking. I have tried many different things partly to make my life a little more versatile and partly because it’s the latest thing to do. It got to the stage though when I was doing so many different things that I had no free time so I had to rethink what was working for me rather than doing everything just because it was the in thing.

Having very recently taken up running I had no idea that I had entered this whole new community. I had always viewed runners as very thin with masses of stamina, however when I started to run around Castlecoole it really opened my eyes. There are people of all ages, sizes and abilities out running and in fact Castlecoole put me in mind of Central Park in New York purely because I just couldn’t believe the range of people out running even mums with push chairs running along with their dogs on a lead; now that’s multitasking!  I also discovered ‘Parkrun’ which is a free 5k run every Saturday in the grounds of Castlecoole. I never thought I would try this particular craze but for many it’s much more than a craze it’s a way of life or a routine and I have to say it is becoming addictive.

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If you have thought about making a lifestyle change but you just couldn’t stick at it or if you have tried the latest fitness trends but given up soon after I completely know where you are coming from. You don’t have to be the best runner in the world and in fact you don’t even have to run you can go at your own pace. I am living proof that a lifestyle change can completely turn your life around, make you a happier more positive person and give you a whole new outlook on life.

For more info on the Enniskillen Parkrun visit www.parkrun.org.uk/enniskillen or if running’s not for you why not try Fermanagh Fitcamp which will be taking place from June for further info visit http://www.24fitcampfermanagh.com.

 

Fermanagh Fashion – perhaps not as reserved as you think

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I come from a generation who want to experience more, travel, see new cultures and live life beyond little Fermanagh. It makes me a bit sad to see great people leave the county simply because there are no jobs or nothing to keep them here and as much as I would love to get out and see the world it scares me a little bit. Fermanagh or Ireland in general is like a safe bubble where everything is predictable and we are a fairly tolerant society, despite how backward some people’s views may be.

This summer I will be taking the trip of a lifetime to Dubai and although I am looking forward to getting away and experiencing pure luxury I am slightly worried about the cultural differences. If you thought Fermanagh could be backward this is nothing compared to the Middle East. For a Country that is so modern, forward thinking and exciting Dubai is incredibly reserved in terms of culture and fashion.

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Here in Fermanagh we ladies take for granted being able to walk down the street wearing more or less whatever we want. During a hot day shorts and vests are a common sight about town during the day but in Dubai and other strict Middle Eastern countries this is a non existent sight due to strict Muslim modesty rules.

One of my pet hates is leggings being worn as trousers and this annoyingly enough is a common sight in Fermanagh. Leggings are supposed to be worn with tunics, long tops that cover your bums and in my view not with short tops or normal t-shirts. The only time leggings are acceptable with t-shirts is in the gym or for running.

It seems I am not the only person who feels this way about leggings. In Qatar leggings have been banned and new guidelines, which have been laid out by the ‘Reflect your Respect’ Campaign launched by the Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre, state that tourists must conform to these strict decency guidelines. It is not just leggings that are deemed unacceptable in public but also shorts, vests, miniskirts and sleeveless or strapless dresses.

There are of course tourist friendly areas where people can wear these items without being frowned upon but in any of the main public areas, near Mosques, government buildings or cultural areas men and women must respect the cultural values laid down by the government.

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The new fashion decency guidelines tie in with the launch of Chanel’s Cruise collection, which was launched in Dubai and took inspiration from the Emirate. Every item of clothing on display fitted strict religious guidelines and was very much inspired by Middle Eastern traditional dress.

Although I can’t afford the Chanel price tag I do intend to respect Dubai’s cultures during my stay there by dressing appropriately in the non-tourist areas. I am looking forward to experiencing a whole different lifestyle and comparing fashion there to what we have here in Fermanagh. I am particularly looking forward to getting into the Souks or markets and the huge shopping centres, which will make Erneside look like a tiny corner shop.