Friday, 24 June 2016

Levi's LGBT Pride Collection x Harvey Milk Foundation

Yesterday afternoon I was invited by Levi's to meet an icon of LGBT campaigning; Stuart Milk. As Stuart explained to me, his surname is very uncommon so it may resonate with you also: he is the nephew of the visionary San Franciscan politician and LGB (the T and Q had not yet been intorduced into the acronym) campaigner Harvey Milk who transformed the lives of millions of gay, lesbian and bisexual people throughout the 1970s. As co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation which champions and helps transforms the lives of many men and women in countries which have a poor track record of LGBTQ rights, Stuart had flown to London to promote the Levi's LGBT Pride Collection. The collection consists of jeans, jackets, t-shirts and accessories adorned with emblems and logos resonating with the famous rainbow flag and as well as the foundation with a proportion of the proceeds benefiting his foundation which started in 2009. I sat down with Stuart to talk style, campaigning and what it means to be LGBTQ in the 21st century. 

LSoD: You have just come back from Baltic Pride; how was that experience?

Stuart Milk: It was thrilling and progressive this year. As the region does not have a great track record of LGBTQ rights, we have been working with them for 5 years and the national government and city government has always tried to stop the pride parade and march but this year it didn't happen. 

LSoD: So you will be attending Pride in London this weekend?

SM: We don't usually do the big successful prides as our work takes us to the less progressive ones, however with the Levi's collaboration it was a big no brainer. We have an amazing Levi's float which you are the first person to see the mock up! I love it it is really cool. It will probably out do San Francisco this year. 

LSoD: Why are collaboration such as these so important? 

SM: One is that it is a really good fit for the Harvey Milk Foundation, as we have had other brands approach us but they are not great fits for many reasons. Firstly Levi's is San Francisco based and there is a nice connection with Levi Strausse himself. The brand was out front first internally supporting LGBT colleagues and then supporting the community outside and using a global brand to promote that is very important. Coming back from Baltic Pride where it is seen that supporting minority groups does not make economic sense however this partnership gives gravitas and sends an important message that it is an important thing to do as well as being good for business. 

LSoD: What is the main objectives of the Harvey Milk Foundation?

SM: The Milk Foundation was really founded with the help of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who approached me at a White House dinner and challenged me to do more formally with my uncles legacy. Along side the other co-founder and my uncles campaign manager Anne Kronenburg the focus is on the global emerging and struggling LGBT communities and I would love to tell you we don't have much work on the horizon but unfortunately we have a tremendous amount of work to do. We have this whole darkness east of Istanbul where 75% of the worlds population live, and with 72 countries where is illegal to be LGBT and 12 of those it is punishable by death; we had India go backwards when they re-criminalised their LGBT rights so a twelfth of the words population went backwards and your very existence is illegal. There are a pockets of hope such as Vietnam where they are hoping for marriage equality very soon and we have been to Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City which is progressive and of course Israel which has a great track record of LBGT support but for the most part it is really dark with honour killings in Turkey. There is a lot of work to do, even in Europe with the rise of the ultra nationalists. They may say that they are only against immigrants but as my uncle would say, "they have a shopping list", meaning they have more on their agenda which often includes the LGBT community. 

LSoD: Your foundation and your uncle has inspired millions of people but who inspires you? 

SM: I am really inspired by the local activists that we work with around the world. There was one in Hungary who I wrote about for the Huffington Post but this one is more recent story from Lima, Peru. 

So we did an event as there are no rights or recognition for the LGBT community and the only one openly gay politician Congressman Bruce took me there to give me an award. It was the highest award they have called the Diploma of Human Rights and then that day it was timed for the vote on civil union but as it was voted down I gave them back the award and planned a march from Congress to Liberty Plaza which the press were very critical over my giving it back and the fact we were marching. Then they turned to a young guy in the crowd called Cezar and asked, "are you here to support the gay people?" to which he replied "yes". They asked why and he responded with "it's the right thing to do" to which they then asked "are you gay?" He paused for a moment and said "yes" and as quick as a flash they asked when he came out. He paused and said, "just now. Hi mum. Hi Dad" which then became the story of the day and carried over. It was a very brave thing to go as his mother was very strict, tied to the Catholic church and had made a lot of homophobic remarks and actively encouraged the family to do so also. So we put him up the front of the march and learned how homophobic his family were towards him, partially his calling him names. His uncle saw him on the march and called his mother and said her son was a faggot (but in Peruvian) and was on the march. So at the end of the march we saw a woman approach Cezar, crying and it turned out it was his mother who had found her way down to embrace him whilst saying; "everything I have told you is wrong. I love you; you are perfect, ignore everything I have said". They cried and embraced which again made the national press and became the lead story. 

That alone made more progress than me and Congressman Bruce could ever do as it humanised the story. People can understand that a mother wants to love their kid, with a lot of backstory work by the press and making him visible really moved Peru ahead. Those are some of my heroes. They are the everyday people who are staying in those countries doing the real work in taking things forward and standing up for their self and beliefs. 

LSoD: Do you find that these stories are becoming more regular or only occasional?

SM: Where we are seeing society progress we are seeing more and more of these stories however I expect at Pride this week there will be a bunch of young people, perhaps growing up here in London expecting a support system for them to enable them to be visible and help them come to terms with their sexuality. They will come out and see this fabulous grouping of people who are not only LGTB but supporters, faith groups, business likes Levi's out there where they may want to work one day and think they can take of this mask I have been wearing and can come out. In places such as New York and San Francisco there is still the statistic that LGBT people are ten times more likely to commit suicide or become homeless because of their sexuality whether by force or choice. No matter how much we are still included we are still a minority. With the Orlando tragedy, what made it more tragic was that not only was it against an LGBT community but also a Latin one (it was a Latin themed night) which is a demographic who struggle with their sexual identity more so than others so we have work to do around the world, including at home in the USA. 

LSoD: Lastly, what is your favourite piece from the collection? 

SM: I love it all! It is a superb collection but the pinnacle is the Pride Trucker Jacket. It has my uncles quote on the back, "Hope Will Never be Silent", which is very emotional every time I read it. 

If you are attending Pride in London tomorrow, the Levi's float will be part of the famous parade from 1pm. Please check the official website for route details. It goes without saying, have a safe and happy Pride and make sure you check out the Levi's collection here

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Stonewall x Absolute LGBT Pride

It can often be said that the LGBT community likes a drink and a celebration (no more so than at this Saturday's Pride in London) so this collaboration between campaign group Stonewall and Absolute Vodka is a perfect. Partnering on a series of designer customised bottles all designed to raise money for the charity through an online auction through auction platform Givergy with the auction closing during Pride Weekend. 

With names including Henry Holland, SIBLING, Gareth Pugh, Piers Atkinson, Princess Julia and Munroe Bergdorf plus many more have created one of pieces inspired by the idea of #AbsolutPride, Absolut will also be donating a percentage of sales from the official bottles above over Pride Weekend in London to Stonewall. Cheers! 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Monday 13th June was a wet and muggy day. The air was thick and the ground drenched by the afternoon rain. Yet as I stood on the roof of the Ham Yard Hotel in Soho around 6.30pm toasting the end of London Collections: Men, the clouds parted and the evening sun bounced off my glass of champagne, the bubbles glistening. Call this yo-yo weather a typical British summer but it could easily just have been a favourable blessing from someone on high as the party emptied at ten to seven.  

A lot has happened in the last fortnight or so. Both the world and we as a society are changing; our outlook on life has developed dramatically in the run up to the EU Referendum on Thursday as well as a reaction to the violent unjust slaying of Jo Cox MP, who gave her time to local and global minority causes. We have become more urgent as well as far more outspoken - and this is a good thing. News most days reaches us that acts of intolerance, hate and violence against communities close to us, both of people and geography. We need to relax. Take stock and change our attitudes for the better. We need to be more vocal when a right is wronged. This sentiment was graphically apparent as we descended the lift from the hotel roof to the streets of Soho, battling crowds and gridlocked traffic in order to get close to Old Compton Street - the heart of London's gay community. We could only get as far as the top of the street because up to fifteen thousand impassioned people had descended to reflect on and remember the victims of the atrocious attack on the Pulse gay club in Orlando, which resulted in the execution of 49 innocent people by a lone gunman. What I witnessed was breathtakingly emotional. As the crowd paused for a two minute reflection, the deafening silence ended with the release of 49 balloons and an incredible applause was followed by a rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water performed by the London Gay Men's Choir, followed by another emotional round of applause before we returned to the roof top to raise a glass to those who we had paid tribute to. There was initial reports immediately after the tragedy and of course, facts became clearer in the following days and weeks. We will never know what the true motives were for this vile attack on not only a local but global community. However, I do know that for the loss of life that occurred that night, it spurred people to relax, take stock and come together to show solidarity in our beliefs and way of life. 

That is why the blog will be dedicated to the LGBTQI community and Pride in London for the rest of the week. On Saturday, I will come shoulder-to-shoulder with not only friends but a community that has fought for equality over many decades, only to have a progressive way of thinking regularly degraded by those who aim to disrupt society. To paraphrase a well known saying, "Fashion comes and goes however solidarity is eternal".  

To find out more about Pride in London, click here and to donate to both the Jo Cox MP Go-Fund Me page and the Orlando Pulse Victims Fund, here and here respectively. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Aveda Man Grooming Pop-Up

As the great and the good of menswear starts prepping for  London Collections: Men which begins on Friday, you can also get in on the action with Aveda. Whilst you may not be able to secure a much prized ticket to the four day event that kick starts menswear season, you can get your grooming game on in the pop-up shop in the Fitzrovia area of central London. 

Hosting an Aveda Men Barbershop - which in my experience are exceptionally good - as well as fragrance from Tom Ford and Zegna, there is also skincare from Clinique and Lab Series to ensure you look and feel great. As you can see, the space is fresh and captures the spirit of up cycling and craftsmanship which creates a great hangout destination for men, with free WIFI. 

If you are attending any of the free, public British Fashion Council/London Collections: Men events over the period, then make sure you head here first. However, if you can't make it - keep an eye out for great team ups from the pop-up with other brands which aim to create a great immersive experience into the Aveda man's world. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Tudor Watch Black Bay Dark

When taking a brand forward, it is not always the case to look back however that was  exactly what Tudor watches did at their launch for the Black Bay Dark. In a space in Soho the other day, I was greeted with a beer and the Tudor ‘museum' which detailed the history of the brand and highlighted when the iconic Black Bay was introduced. As part of this, they showcased the last watch in existence taken on the British Green Northland expedition from 1952 to 1954 alongside one of the original timepieces designed especially for the French Navy that influenced the Black Bay’s design today.

Tudor also presented some of the technology methods that we have used when developing the Black Bay Dark and the titanium carbide coating, the same technology used on spacecrafts exiting and entering the earth’s atmosphere. Coming with a metal, fabric or leather strap, the price is £3,050 on steel/fabric and £2,840 on leather - a great price for a superb watch. 

Mr Porter Summer Grooming Kit

You may have read on the blog last week that Mr Porter has released the Summer Grooming Kit - a curated box of 13 luxury travel and full-sized products for all of your holiday needs. This limited edition kit, priced at a great £75 which makes it ideal for Fathers Day, is not only packed with a superb range of brands but also are picked from Mr Porter's best and most essential list of grooming products. The e-tailer very kindly sent over a box to review so I spent three mornings (and one evening) trying out each of the products - no small task given the amount of them! Whilst some may require a longer period of usage to see any benefits, here are my favourites...

Baxter of California - Exfoliating Body Bar
This moisture rich body bar smells incredible; clean, fresh yet masculine. Made from pumice, jojoba meal and crushed olive seeds, it gently exfoliated my skin without leaving my skin feel rough and left it incredibly refreshed. 

Patricks - M2 Matte Finish Hair Pomade
I have quite a thick head of hair meaning that some products wear well on my hair, whilst many don't. However, this product is designed for guys like me. It applied well and held well throughout the rest of the day. Often many don't, particularly if I have been in a rush and applied it to damp hair. The best bit of this is the fragrance; a heady mix of bergamot and warm sandalwood. 

Tom Ford - Intensive Purifying Mud Mask
This was the first product I tried as not only the Tom Ford name got me a little bit excited, but because his products are incredible. I once had the moisturiser which lasted me well over a year and solved a slight patch of dry skin around my nose. This clay based mask was applied and kept on for about 30 minutes whilst I was in the bath, and after washing it off, left my skin looking incredible. Very impressed, Mr Ford. 

Byredo - Mister Marvelous Cologne Soap
This was another product which got me a bit giddy; the Nordic based perfume house who are one of the last luxury producers of fragrance. Mister Marvelous is one of their best sellers with good reason as it combines neroli flower, mandarin leaves, white cedar wood and black amber to bring a refreshing scent. I have been using this everyday and I have to say, the scent lasts all day too which is impressive for a soap. 

Malin + Goetz - Grapefruit Face Cleanser 
One of their best sellers, I applied this after my Tom Ford face mask - just to make sure that my skin was looking its best and has cleared the London pollution from my pours. Fresh, invigorating and smelling good enough to eat, the grapefruit extract is combined with amino acids to purify and hydrate the skin. It really is quite an impressive product. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Mr Porter Summer Grooming Kit

As the saying goes, 'winter hates your face' however it can be easy to forget that during the summer our skin also goes through a lot. After the success of the first grooming box which launched in time for Christmas 2015, Mr Porter has today launched the summer grooming kit with a curated collection of 13 travel and full sized products for all of your holiday grooming needs. 

I can already see luxury brands Byredo and Tom Ford jumping out at me but here is the full list:

Erno Laszlo - Antioxidant Complex for Eyes
Baxter of California - Exfoliating Body Bar
Bumble & Bumble - Thickening Shampoo
Patricks - M2 Matte Finish Medium Hold Pomade
Malin + Goetz - Grapefruit Face Cleanser
Perricone MD - Cold Plasma
Lab Series - Future Rescue Repair Serum
Tom Ford - Intensive Purifying Mud Mask
Byredo - Mister Marvelous Cologne Soap
Czech & Speake - Oxford & Cambridge Hydrating Body Wash
Clinique For Men - Broad Spectrum Moisturiser SPF21 
Ren Skincare - Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist 
D R Harris - Spearmint Toothpaste

Browns Fashion Beach Pop Up

After such a gloriously sunny Bank Holiday Weekend, today we have a deluge of rain in London and around the UK however this news from Browns Fashion should brighten your day. Bringing summer to South Molton Street, London W1 with an big designer takeover. In celebration of this there is the in-store summer pop-up – Browns Beach. In collaboration with a number of design houses Mira Mikati, House of Holland, Tata Naka, Stella Jean and No21, there is a host of customised designer beach huts plus delicious gravitas are being served to passers-by in flavours from fresh strawberry to melon.

Browns are also showcasing a range of exclusives at Browns Beach pop-up, including a capsule collection of casual summer wear from AMI (Lemon Print Shirt - £170), Fendi (Monster Print Shorts - £330), Gucci (Striped Boat Shoes - £370) and Dolce & Gabbana (Printed Canvas Espadrilles - £345).