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Shichigahama Seascape 

Leaving Tokyo on the bullet train was a rush of emotions. Tokyo had felt like a holiday and now zooming out in to the wide expanse of scattered, seemingly nowhere towns into the unknown was wild and scary and very exciting.

Mountains cover a lot of Japan, thick, bristly, vast, overwhelming mountains; they made me gasp in awe when we first started zooming past them on the Shinkansen. Snow became thicker and thicker on the ground and we found ourselves in a Christmas card of a wonderland. Landscapes flitted by. Industrial towns barely visible in the snow appeared in the gaps between the peaks, chugging tirelessly along on the back of local logging factories.

Finally, after a minor hiccup (which involved going too far on the train and ending up in Shinjo, on the other side of the Japan Alps – three hours away), we arrived in Shichighama to our host Taka’s welcome smiles and warm house.

We were in Basho country, staying in a traditional Japanese house that Taka had renovated himself. He was given it by the government after the tsunami which followed the 2011 Tohoku earthquake that devastated much of the coastline. Shichigahama, which literally means seven beaches, is still trying to recover from the tsunami. On our walk around town the next day it wasn’t hard to find evidence of the damage caused by the ten metre high wave. Men with hard faces worked diligently in impeccable uniforms along the sea front; it was a bleak January day but the tireless job of recreating the fishing port did not stop. Steel bars twisted up out of the concrete pavement, bent by the force of the wave years before. Wasteland bordered the roads.

We found a cafe to shelter in on an estate of houses that looked like they were built in a hurry. Coffee was sipped out of mismatched Japanese cups. Whelks were handed out by the owner who stood over us and watched as we tried to pull the creatures out of the shell in ‘one try’ – it was impossible. He spoke no English but told us endless stories in Japanese, much was lost in translation bar the sadness and tragedy that he felt by the loss of the town he had lived in all of his life. An album of his photographs of the tsunami was produced from behind the counter. He turned the pages at a fast pace, pausing in places of his story which were poignant to him. His house had only missed the wave by a metre or so. He showed us the pictures of the flames that engulfed buildings in the aftermath, the ships tossed by waves to sit on the tops of buildings, people sheltering on roofs surveying the waterlogged nightmare below. I could see from his eyes that I couldn’t understand how he truly felt: over ninety people from Shichigahama died because of the tsunami, six are still missing. I tried to think of my own home town devastated in a similar way, how the loss of so many members of the community would leave a dent for decades to come.

The following day we hiked up to a Shinto shrine, Tamonzan, that overlooked the sea: the view of the islands scattered below is one of four panoramic views of Matsushima, the famous islands that are one of Japan’s top three scenic spots. Sitting to eat lunch on a bench overlooking the seascape the beauty of this famous coastline revealed itself.

We came to Shichigahama to explore the area made famous by Basho and visit Mastushima. Along the way we stumbled through a small town marred by the sadness that the tsunami brought, yet regardless of the scars on the landscape and on the local people’s faces, it was the tenacious will to carry on that made it feel as if we had discovered the spirit of Japan.


  
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Tokyo Took My Heart 

From winding backstreets at sunset to the peaceful stillness of a graveyard in the snow, Toyko took me by total surprise with its delicate details and cosy chilled atmosphere, the city is much more than what first meets the eye.

Before I arrived in Japan I thought of Tokyo in flashes of images – Scramble Crossing, Harajuku fashion, blaring lights, overwhelming crowds – a daunting and hardy futuristic metropolis. What I discovered was global city filled to the brim with fun and warmth, considered design, understated style and endless adventure. Ticking off the famous sights was a must but it was walking home along the backstreets at sunset when Tokyo took my heart.

When the sun is setting in Japan, down suburban streets, a quaint traditional song is played through speakers on every corner. I asked a Japanese friend why this was, they told me it was to let the children know that it’s time to go home. The first time I heard the tune I was returning to where I was staying in Sasazuka along the same path as the weekday commuters, the shadows were long and the air was cold, through an open window I could hear a child was practising trumpet, everything was calm and relaxed and seemed to be just how it should be. This was when I realised that Tokyo was much more than the sense-overloading megalopolis that people would have your believe it is, here was a place of delicately layered lives filling up every corner of entwining towns, each brimming with their own unique texture, heartiness and unimaginable charm. A lifetime of living would never be enough to know Tokyo.

                                                                    

  1. Local shrine
  2. Tokyo backstreet
  3. Hachiko Statue
  4. Scramble Crossing
  5. Myth of Tomorrow, Tokyo underground
  6. Tokyo backstreet at sunset
  7. Yoyogi Park
  8. Meiji Jingu
  9. Meiji Jingu girls
  10. Tokyo backstreet at sunset
  11. Akihabara
  12. Graveyard in Yanaka
  13. Cats in Yanaka graveyard
  14. Shopfront
  15. Flowers protected from the snow at Buddist temple
  16. Top of Takao San
  17. Shinjuku
  18. Hanging out near Shinjuku station
  19. Government announcement poster
  20. Vending machine restaurant
  21. Vending machine noodles
  22. Pokemon Centre, Ikebukuro
  23. Roppongi Hills
  24. Asakusa Temple
  25. Girls in Asakusa
  26. Rainbow Bridge from Odiba Bay
  27. Ginsa at night
  28. Oto Coffee
  29. Cats on a shutter
  30. Founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui’s grave
  31. Shibuya promotion girl
  32. Shibuya graffiti
  33. Boos in a crane machine
  34. Massive daikon
  35. Shibuya at night

I am in Japan!

The big trip to Japan and beyond began on Friday as I flew out of London on a crisp and sunny winter’s morning. My family waved me goodbye at the airport as I walked through the security gate and into a world of travel and adventure.

I arrived in Japan on Saturday morning after a luxurious flight in first class (which was empty apart from one other passenger). We travelled with my Uncle and Auntie who work for the airline and managed to get on the same flight as us. The journey was ridiculously fantastic, we had champagne, a four course dinner and our own beds. We flew over Norway and saw beautiful fjords, the sun setting across the horizon. At one point my auntie tapped me on the shoulder whilst I was were watching Jurassic World and told me to look out of the window… we could see the Northern Lights over northern Russia. They were so amazing. We stared for ages at the shapes moving upwards and reaching for each other, the huge streak across the sky dancing. It felt like a good omen for the start of the trip and the wonders we are going to see.

I arrived here yesterday morning. All the Japanese people have been so lovely and kind. I have tried to speak some Japanese. Everyone is very interested about the trip and the plan to travel around the islands for four months.

I slept for a few hours when I arrived at the hotel where we are staying for two nights to try to adjust to the time zone. We wandered into Narita town, which is just outside of Tokyo, along the river and through winding streets. Narita is an ancient pilgrimage town with lots of little roads and old buildings. It felt familiar straight away, like an old dream. The small buildings with the paper screens and the careful attention to detail were straight out of an anime. It’s nice to hear the tones of Japanese language and to experience the kindness of the locals. We went for a couple of beers with my auntie and uncle and then for a curry at a restaurant they always visit when they’re here. They said they used to watch cockroaches climb the walls in this restaurant and have competitions to see whose would win. It’s been cleaned up since then but the food is apparently just as good.

This morning, on my first full day here, I woke up at 7am which I think means I’m used to the time difference now. We watched the mad Japanese television. The news was like something out of a Wes Anderson film, pastel colours and cute graphics, everything just so. Watching the weather was my favourite – the snowmen on the map looked like they were from Mario 64.

We just popped down the shop outside the hotel to get some breakfast which was an experience in itself. Russell managed to order coffee in Japanese and we bought some food, which I hoped was vegetarian. I thought I purchased an roll topped with egg, but it turned out after the first bite that beef curry was hiding inside. Russell said it was tasty.

I’m going to spend some time reading though guidebook and planning the next few days in Tokyo. This afternoon we are going back into town to see the temple in Narita which was built in 940!
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Also…the toilets here are as amazing as I hoped. The toilet seats are warm and toasty!

Celebrity City

Is wearable technology really the next big thing?

Wearable technology sounds like it would be (and more often than not is) quite ugly, which is why it’s more than a little confusing that the fashion industry has been pushing the idea for a while now. Is it that the fashion editors of the world think that a watch that tells you what cereal to eat for breakfast is the next cool thing, or have the technology companies themselves bolstered the techy trend with big bucks? Do we really need glasses that do everything our brain combined with an iPhone can do? (Maybe: if they look as cool as the visor Geordi wears in Star Trek, which is, let’s face it, wearable technology at its finest).

The problem with discussing anything that’s sold as the next big craze is that, if it actually becomes as big as it promises, you could be like the guy that proclaimed from the perspective of the dark days of 1995 that the internet had no future and was going nowhere. Of course, the article he wrote on the subject way back when has gone down in internet history as the most idiotic forecast ever.

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So what is this wearable technology stuff and is it as wearable as they claim?

The calculator watch, for instance, is wearable tech in its more retro form and most of us have seen one of those in our time, but wearable tech continues to seem alien and strange to us. The Apple Watch is the big item of the moment, the display of the watch brought to life with a host of knowledgeable apparatus the watch promises the future. Google Glass, one of the more publicised examples of wearable tech, brought the term ‘ubiquitous computing’ closer to reality with a stream of information straight in front of our eyes. Clever marketing and careful product placement wasn’t enough to bring Google Glass to widespread public use, however, and concerns about privacy and effects on health meant that Google withdrew the prototype with the aim of further developing the idea.

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Designers of the fashion world have partnered up with technology companies and developed products that push the boundaries of fashion. Clothes powered by solar panels that can charge your phone and monitor your heart rate are just some of the ways that fashion and tech can be harmonious. Jewelry is becoming a smart way to integrate computers into our lives: the bubble bangle was developed by Alexandr Kostin with the aim of creating a wearable design that can recycle polluted air and put clean air back into the atmosphere. Designers are utilising newly found technological knowledge to create garments that are more sci-fi than s/s15 – a dress fitted with eye-tracking technology that shimmers when looked at create a new and interesting relationship between the wearer and the audience, thinning the boundaries between fashion and art. Clothes that react to their environment are becoming a theme; designer Amy Winters has created a dress made from holographic leather that responds to sounds by illuminating as the volume increases.

Wearable tech - image 3Bubble bangle by Alexandr Kostin

Wearable tech - image 4Leather holographic dress by Amy Winters

We are yet to create tech, wearable or not, that passes the Alan Turing test, but pushing technology forward and mixing it with the creativity of the fashion world is an intriguing and exciting development; wearable technology isn’t the big thing we all want it to be, but the ideas and the drive are both there, we just need time to create genuinely effective and forward-thinking design and not just products which are created to fit a market’s drive. Propelling the world and its people, rather than the filling the purses of a few, should be the main goal.

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The handbags that look like cartoons

People love cartoons and people love handbags so why not combine the two and make cartoon handbags? It can’t be done, you say? Cartoons are just drawings; they can’t become real-life, physical things. Well, have a look at these surreal creations and think again!

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At first glance the bags seem like they’re straight out of the film Who Framed Rodger Rabbit; the unrealistic boldness of the colours, the thick black outline and 2D shape look out of place and surreal, but these designs are genuine, fully functioning totes and satchels. The Taiwanese brand behind the colourful bags, JumpFromPaper, wants to bring a little bit of playfulness into our lives in order to “fulfil everyone’s childhood fantasy.” Sparking a childlike imagination is definitely part of the bags’ charm and with a tagline like ‘I Give Myself Permission to Be Me’, the bags are undoubtedly encouraging a level of playfulness that’s more than often lost along the way in the serious business of fashion.

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Reminding us that clothes aren’t meant to be all black and stoically severe, the cartoon bags aren’t as simple as they look; the clever design plays with the rules of visual effects, challenging our perceptions of what is real and seemingly making a cartoon drawing come to life in the process.

Our collections are always inspired by those mis-spending time on cartoons and comics in childhood! Our team are all heavy internet users and love collecting things. We’ve been collection funny and weird pictures and quotes and have a huge wall in our HQ for it all. For us, anything with a sense of humour could be inspiration.”

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The bags themselves are fully functional with pockets and flaps and fastenings and can even fit the items you’d usually put in a bag for day-to-day use, as well as bigger items such as books and laptops. The popularity of the bags has been spreading and JumpFromPaper now have a more fashion-focused line alongside their original designs with a menswear collections also added.

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The JumpFromPaper philosophy of “Why take everything so serious?” is one which we can all learn from. Fashion should be fun: taking a few risks and wearing something playful would make us all smile a little more. Maybe Taiwanese design shows more courage than that of the Western world, thinking outside the lines of traditional fashion and daring to create something to make people laugh.

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Want to get your hands on a piece of cartoony fun? Check out www.jumpfrompaper.com, prices range from £50-£100.

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Trending: neckerchiefs

You may think that the neckerchief is a style reserved for those working on aeroplanes or small boy scouts, but don’t underestimate the style credentials of a simple piece of cloth worn well.

The neckerchief has been around for a long time, popping in and out of popular culture when you least expect it, and it’s happening again right now: the neckerchief is having a moment. Turning your outfit into a fashion-forward, trend-conscious ensemble all for the cost of a square of cotton, the neckerchief is the perfect transitional trend, making it the stylish-girl-on-a-budget’s dream and it can be worn with simple ease.

Whether it’s a bandanna with a biker edge knotted around your neck or a paisley print piece twisted twice, this spring a neckerchief is all you need to add colour and bit of cuteness to any outfit – all while keeping your neck warm too!

So how do you wear this simple slice of sartorial style? Here are some tips on how to knot, twist, layer and overall rock the neckerchief this season.

A neckerchief need not be formal; a simple loose twist to the side with a bold print scarf looks effortlessly chic worn over a casual t-shirt.

Tuck under the collar of a crisp blouse and pair with a cute skirt or some mum-style jeans to make the look: it’s breezy, casual, understated and perfect for spring.

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The trend on the catwalks at every major fashion week was overwhelmingly the 1970s and with it all the flares, fur trims and funk that comes with the decade. The polo neck is perfect for wearing the 1970s trend ahead of time and for the spring season. Tie a thin neckerchief with a small knot and wear it inside the roll of the jumper so that it peeks out showing off a flash of colour and print.

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Cowboys never fail to look cool, so take some inspiration from how they wear their scarves and fold yours into a triangle and tie at the back of your neck or wrap it around twice and tie underneath the point at the front to add a relaxed vibe to your look.

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Where can you get the best scarf?

High street – The mid-range scarf hunter will be more than likely to hit the high street in search of scarves to match the neckerchief trend. Topshop, Claire’s Accessories and River Island all have some stunning scarves to try out this season. Have some fun, shop around and see what colours and shapes suit you.

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Grey lightweight paisley print scarf, £15, River Island

Vintage – Vintage is the buzzword and it comes with a price to match but, as most vintage fashion fans know, charity shops run on donations that have been holed up in the back of people’s wardrobes for decades and the odd rummage around a charity shop bargain bin can reveal some truly hidden vintage gems for the price of a penny. Have a wander around your local charity shop for scarves, you might even be able to pick up a few to wear with different outfits and the likelihood of being seen with the same scarf as someone else is pretty slim.

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Designer – Designer clothes come with a designer price tag so if you want to be part of the designer club but can’t afford to spend the price of a mortgage on a handbag you could invest your hard-earned money in smaller pieces like a neckerchief. The scarf will be made out of luxurious fabric, carry this season’s on-trend print and you will know that you’re wearing a slice of designer history. For scarves that seem like they come straight from heaven Hermès is the only place to go.

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Le Fil d’Ariane, Silk in silk twill, hand-rolled, £310, Hermès

Rebecca Saunders

February on instagram

February came and went and then I had the idea of doing a Best of February post with the best of my instagram for the month. I know it’s definitely not February anymore but here it is anyway.

It starts to be Spring in February which means daffodils and a little more sunlight making things seem a lot better than they were in the depths of winter. We got some new piglets at work, four of them. They are so cute and loud and adorable. I have been out walking in the woods and down along a lake near where I live. Usually on Sundays. Watching the season change there is really beautiful.

It was my birthday which was nice. I got to have a tasty breakfast, go for a walk with my Dad and eat some Turkish food which can’t be bad. I celebrated with my friends at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Sink the Pink was on. Everyone was dressed in drag and half naked. It reminded me of the madness of Ibiza.

I went into London to see some shows at Fashion Week. I had to write reviews of shows within an hour of seeing them which was tricky. The Magnificent Obsessions exhibition at the Barbican was interesting, I spotted ole Damien Hirst himself there in a dressed-down disguise.

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Rita Ora

Big things are happening for Rita Ora stateside: as well as being a judge on The Voice and recently having a cameo in 50 Shades of Grey, Britain’s very own pop star has been stepping up her style game recently and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

With every red carpet appearance Rita Ora has been winning big fashion points and becoming a superstar right before our eyes. She has been popping up all over the place from singing next to the Obamas to rocking it at the Oscars, this girl is big and she is only going to get bigger. Trust us: she is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Her usual urban chic-grunge combo, clashing prints and bold colour choices are all still part of her eye-catching look, but her wardrobe has also been injected with a huge dose of Hollywood glamour to match her Marilyn Monroe curls and boy, is it working! There isn’t a best dressed list that doesn’t include Rita in the latest risqué fashion-forward outfit – her stylist must be having a field day.

The evolution of Rita Ora’s style

A list pets of Instgram - imgae 1

A list pets of instagram

Ever seen someone’s pet on instagram and thought that it was having a better life than you? Whether it’s hanging out of designer handbags or out of the side of flashy convertibles, even pulling off a diamond studded collar with ease, this is the high life and it’s only reserved for a select few – and their pampered pets.

Instagram: a place for people to show off all the amazingly fun and exciting things in their life – and a place for the rest of us to gawk at the things we don’t have, like million dollar mansions or six packs. We all continue to torture and entertain ourselves with endless scrawling through filtered, carefully set-up poolside hotdog-leg-snaps and exclusive backstage premier pass selfies, the whole time comparing our own less-than-entertaining, sofa-dwelling, pizza-eating lives, so it could be more than painful when scrolling though your instagram feed to come across super rich pooches out there getting a better deal than the rest of us, sunning themselves in the Bahamas one minute and skiing in Switzerland the next… Or is it just a purely entertaining glimpse into the bizarre and vacuous world of the super rich?

Here is a round up of some of the best A-list pets of instagram just so you can make your own mind up.

Katie Perry’s dog Butters

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So you get to hang out back stage with actual Katie Perry as well as sleep in her bed and get dressed up in her outfits. Big deal.

Lady Gaga’s dog Asia

Asia has what every dog wants – a couture dress to have a nap on.

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Most dogs just have a back garden to run around in, this dog gets the actual White House’s lawn.

Kylie Jenner’s dog Normie

Kylie Jenner’s dog Normie - The silkiest dog in the world is living with one of the most famous families in the world and he probably doesn't even know it, in fact in this picture he’s curled up behind Kim. Check out his own instagram

The silkiest dog in the world is living with one of the most famous families in the world and he probably doesn’t even know it, in fact in this picture he’s curled up behind Kim. Check out his own instagram

Taylor Swift’s cat Olivia

Chillin’ on Swifty’s lap on a private jet as she flies all over the globe. S’all good.

John Legend and Chrissy Teigan’s dog Pippa

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This pooch rides around in chauffeur-driven cars with a pop star and his model wife and gets plenty of snuggles too.

Miley Cyrus’ pig, um, Pig (fka Bubba Sue)

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You’re a pig and instead of getting made into bacon you get to go to fun festivals with Miley Cyrus. This pig is living the dream.

Cara Delevingne’s rabbit Cecil Delevingne

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Cecil has his own Cara Delevingne Mulberry handbag to chill in. Follow him on instagram

 Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s dogs Dolly and Peggy

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Styling out designer frames and soaking up some rays is just one of the things these two cuties get up to with their supermodel owner.

 Karl Largerfeld’s cat Choupette

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The ultimate in luxury pet living. From the cover of Vogue to having her own actual fashion line, this is kitty has it all and, naturally, her own instagram.

Want to see more ulta rich pets living out lavish lives? Have a look at Rich Dogs of Instagram, it is more than just entertaining.

Becky Saunders

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Christopher Raeburn collaborates with Wool and the Gang

It seems nowadays that the fashion world is full of collaborations. From Vans to Versace – everybody is keen to get on the Brand X Brand bandwagon, eager to work with well known names to get themselves spoken about some more. Some creative collaborations have been more than questionable but the developing partnership between designer Christopher Raeburn and Wool and the Gang (WATG) seems to be a affiliation worth pursuing.

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Together, the fashion label and knitwear brand have produced a collection of funky new accessories to compliment Raeburn’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection. Known for his use of unusual fabrics, such as parachutes, to create stylish yet functional designs, Reaburn has a keen interest in ethical fashion, a concern shared by WATG who focus on sustainable community-based production. According to Jade Hardwood, creative director and co-founder of WATG, the blossoming relationship between the two labels is ‘a natural collaboration’.

She continued: ‘We both work under the same values and ethics. Christopher Raeburn’s influence on ethical fashion is big so we’re very proud to be part of his collection.’

The resulting fusion of forward-thinking designer and fun knitwear label is chic and cheeky. The WATG X Chrisopher Raeburn mash-up was shown off to the world at London Fashion Week last month, with models walking the runway in Raeburn’s A/W2015 collection wrapped in enveloping snoods, deliciously understated knitted belts and chunky warming mittens, all of which were designed by WATG to compliment Raeburn’s garments. Each piece is handmade in 100% Peruvian Wool and upcycled yarn sourced from fashion fabric cut-offs. The star piece of the knitted collaboration are the playful shark mittens; members of the front row at the LFW show were given a pair to take home, whilst other guests were gifted Knit Kits to make their own pair of Bruce KnitMitts themselves.

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The collection, apart from the shark mitts which are on sale now, will be available to buy later on in 2015 as ready-to-wear pieces and in the form of Knit Kits for DIY fun, with prices ranging between £49 and £250. Maybe the concept of the fashion collaboration has a lot more to offer us after all, especially if those involved are able to focus their attention on design and innovation rather than money and attention, inspiring ethical creativity and producing designs that are silly yet truly chic.

Want to know more about the fun being had at Wool and the Gang? Have a look at more of their creations here.

Becky Saunders