Fashion & Cinema – The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone

We started this year planning a big fashion and film fundraiser in aid of Action For Kids and we will end the year with an even bigger event in collaboration with Peter Ogunsalu from fashion & cinema, raising money for Maggie’s. Peter came to our fundraiser at the ArtHouse Crouch End in March and was taken aback by our fashion show and the concept of glamgiving. He totally bought into what we do and asked us to join him on one of his next events in collaboration with the V&A.

And here we go, six months later, Lou, our new intern Jahanna and I are on the tube heading towards Ladbroke Grove in West London where the inspiring designer Lisa Redman has her showroom.

Sylvia on the way to Lisa Redman's showroom

Sylvia on the way to Lisa Redman’s showroom

I love this area, thinking of Notting Hill Carnival and Portobello Road Market.

imageLisa is a bespoke womenswear designer, making pieces from luxurious occasion wear to dream wedding dresses. Lisa’s signature style is a soft palette of colours such as oyster, champagne, dove grey and bridal ivories. Her newest collection will feature new pastel colours like lemon yellow, delphinium blue and accents of aubergine. She loves embellishment and designs her own embroideries with a hint of vintage. She has been working in fashion for nearly 20 years. After graduating from Chelsea College of Art and Design where she studied textiles, she worked for Betty Jackson, before working for designers Antony Symonds and Ann Louise Roswald, then became the right hand to Elspeth Gibson, before launching Lisa Redman.

Lisa at work

Lisa at work

Lisa’s showroom is very intimate and we are meeting Peter to discuss the details of the event. The event in December will coincide with the V&A‘s fashion series on Vivien Leigh and the screening of one of her lesser known movies ‘The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone’. There isn’t that much to be said about the story other than that the American ageing actress Mrs Stone, played by Vivian Leigh, recently lost her husband and is now living a high society lifestyle in 1960s Rome. Lavish parties, beautiful Roman Palazzies, empoverished Contessas, gorgeous Italian gigolos and glamorous fashion are setting the scene for this stylish film. (This is my personal interpretation of the film) Oh, and I nearly forgot, she is always sipping her favourite cocktail, a Negroni, which is a lethal mix of Gin, Vermouth and Campari. Should these too be a feature of our event?

Peter and Sylvia

Peter and Sylvia

The event we are planning will be a cocktail reception and Peter has a few hot venues up his sleeves… More news on this will follow soon. The focus will obviously be on Mrs Stone’s fashion showcased by Vivien Leigh in the movie. Balmain of Paris designed the costumes for Mrs Stone who seems to have the perfect matching outfit for every occasion. Her ensemble is always complemented with a handbag or gloves in the same colour as her jacket and skirt, sparkling broaches and pearl necklaces that adorn her lavish evening gowns and the gorgeous young Warren Beatty at her side. He even looks glamorous stretching out on a sun lounger on the roof terrace of Mrs Stone’s apartment with views over Rome. … He is wearing nothing but a pair of black swimming trunks and his well toned body … Who could resist?

So, back to our event. Besides our trademark shopping of pre-loved designer fashion we will auction a cape that Lisa Redman will design especially for the Vivien Leigh event and which is inspired by Mrs Stone’s fashion. We had a first glimpse of the soft fabric today and were told that the cape will be embellished with an abundance of Swarovski crystals. Over the coming weeks our blog will follow Lisa on the design journey of the cape.

More to come soon.

How did that event go at the bank in the city?

I wonder why one month on, lots of people still ask me “How did that event go at the  bank in the city?”  In the last week, I’ve been asked this 6 times!  Well here’s how it went ….

When I got invited to join a panel with CEOs from two charities at Commerzbank’s “Inspirational Women” workshop series chaired by the London Women’s Network at Commerzbank, I was flattered but I also really wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

The event was held in Gresham Street in the city.  Prior to the event women working across the bank had been invited to donate designer fashion they no longer wore which would be sold on the night with proceeds to the two charities represented (Research Autism and the London Community Foundation).  Jackie and I arrived early to prep and price fashion we were selling on the night.

My favourite pieces were a unique Dries Van Noten sleeveless silk shirt, a Fendi bag and some Boss shoes.  All in pristine condition.  Some sold and the rest we will be selling at our 1st birthday party fundraiser on 20th June 2013 or on our website with the proceeds going to Breakthrough Breast Cancer!

Around 6pm, staff started gathering in a large conferencing facility.    Shortly after that the event commenced.   I was joined on a panel  by two very impressive female charity CEOs: Deepa from Research Autism and Sonal from the London Community Foundation to share our motivations for working in the charity sector  and to highlight any challenges we face.

After the panel discussions we moved into the adjoining room with fashion and jewellery by Astrid & Miyu (our partner at glamgiving events), to shop and continue the discussions we’d already started.

Our short speeches had had an overwhelmingly positive response from the women present    So why were women in the finance sector interested to hear, and inspired by, what the charity sector had to say given that,  let’s face it, they seem like  polar opposites.

I’ve now had over a month to reflect on the reasons which I feel breakdown into 3 key themes.

  1. Perfect timing

While hats off to Penny for the timeliness of this event (held on the eve of International Women’s Day this undoubtedly encouraged attendance and support), by timing I mean the era we are working and living in and the economic and political environment that frames it.  I believe it is a time when commercial businesses are more open and willing to help charities whether it is for purely altruistic reasons or otherwise

I was impressed to hear that many of the women working in Commerzbank were already giving their time and skills to a range of charities.   And that some of the usage of resources was permitted during working hours.

Increasingly too I see businesses are matching fundraising efforts of individual staff by doubling the money they raise from running a marathon, holding a cake sale etc.

It is likely that businesses are starting to see the wider returns from giving to charity e.g. staff development when the worker is sharing their skills outside the organisation, employee retention, employee attraction etc.

A final point on timing, corporate and public favourability towards charities seems to be at an all-time high – a recent Ipsos MORI survey reported  a significant shift in the proportion of UK adults who saw charities as “essential” from 30% in 2010 to 37% in 2012.  But unfortunately this does not take away from the fact that there is higher demand on their services as well as a downward trend in the proportion able to give to charity.  Two thirds, 67%, said that in the current recession the amount they give to charity has stayed the same, perhaps worryingly twice as many, 18%, say that it has decreased with only 9% reporting an increase.

So while it is clearly difficult financially for charities, the corporate giving landscape may present more opportunities upon which to capitalise on.  But driving awareness of the range of ways to get involved, and the wider benefits to organisations, will be key.

2. People and businesses want to give but are they confused?

And this brings me nicely onto the 2nd reason people are interested.   Our lives are busier than ever and our choices about which charity to give to, and how to give to them, are increasingly complex.  Amongst the women I meet I get asked should I give to small or large, or somewhere in the middle?  Should I give globally or should we be helping ourselves and looking closer to home?

There are also some who say “I’d love to volunteer for a good cause but I can’t commit  time on a regular basis, what can I do?”

And now traditional forms of giving are competing with newer ways of giving.  One of the ladies who’d been to one of our glamgiving parties went on to donate her car to when upgrading to a newer model?  She says she’ll continue with her direct debits to charities for now, but it does make you wonder what will be the longer term impact of this will be.

This makes me think that some people are finding the decisions about who to give to, when to give, how to give and how much to give overwhelming.  Perhaps this can lead to inertia.

3. People love hearing stories about other people, and it’s no different in the workplace

Stories sell papers, stories sell brands and the stories shared on the night from the charity CEOs clearly had an impact.  Each speaker drew upon their backgrounds including their personal and work experiences to draw a picture of why they worked for their cause and what made them committed to it.

Video clip of Lou speaking at Commerzbank

Deepa was impressive when she talked passionately about Research Autism and you could hear the sharp intake of breath in the room as she reported some of the stats surrounding autism, such as that only 15% of those with autism have full-time jobs, according to research by the National Autistic Society (Nas), while 9% work part-time.

Video clip of Deepa speaking at Commerzbank

Sonal is a very bright, articulate CEO at just 35 years old.  With her strong academic background, she could have chosen any career but she chose to work in the charity sector where she enjoys her demanding and varied role , as well as the strong sense of fulfilment she gets from the social change her cause effects.

Deepa and I have kids and we talked about the demands this places on home life and how to best achieve a work/ life balance (which of course anyone with kids knows there is no easy answer and this is always work in progress!).  However, we both agreed that there is no one size fits all when it comes to how you decide to carve out your career post kids and that it’s a very personal decision.

What I guess “the shared stories” might mean for charities is the importance of stories to engage with supporters and corporate organisations, and while they can be told online and there is some fantastic online video content  there is no accounting for hearing the pin drop in the room!

Reflecting further makes me wonder if there is a norm in giving?  I don’t believe there is one. I guess I think in an ideal world we might work towards creating a better culture of giving so that there is almost an expected level of financial and time-based giving to causes, both in the workplace but also as a nation.  Is that possible?  It’s not something that can be tackled by charities alone …  But perhaps the event held at Commerzbank and similar events taking place are paving the way to achieving this in the future ….


Money well spent!

My sister, Ash, got invited to visit Breakthrough’s Breast Cancer research facility on 7th  December 2012. Here is her account of her experience….
It was an uplifting yet humbling experience.  On arrival we were all warmly welcomed and that friendly atmosphere was a constant through the afternoon. The afternoon ‘timetable’ was really well organised and I felt that considerable thought had gone into the visit affording us all a great overview of what Breakthrough does and how it is achieved. The presentations were pitched at the right level for all, and we also had the opportunity to ask questions relevant to our experience or level of knowledge. It was lovely to personally meet and chat with the ‘humans’ (the scientists and medics) behind this well known ‘pink charity’.
I am in remission from Triple Negative Breast cancer which was diagnosed in the spring of 2008. Myself, my father and 3 sisters carry the BRCA-1 gene.
I personally took several things away in my head and in my heart:-

  • just how much focused on genetics, breast cancer (and cancers in general) actually is
  • the huge strides already made and the direction and speed which the research is taking
  • knowing that Breakthrough is among the world leaders in breast cancer research
  • knowing that Breakthrough shares (gives and takes) its research/knowledge with other centres globally, all for a common goal
  • that research and development are present here in Breakthrough in equal measure
  • the passion of the people working there!

I think it is important for fundraisers/donors to have an opportunity to see just how money is spent and opening the doors like this is a perfect way to do that. For me it was a terrific experience and I shall be ‘beating the drum’ for Breakthrough as loud as I can!!!
Everyone was lovely but especially Costas, and the centre manager and the doctor who gave the introductory talk.
Thank you all
Aisling Quinn

The value of an internship

Recently in the media there has been a debate about the value of internships. The question is whether an unpaid internship is a worthwhile experience.

“Today, internships are both ubiquitous and highly contentious. Yet with competition for graduate jobs more intense than ever – last week a survey showed applications were likely to be up by a third this year – internships are still widely accepted as crucial for those seeking the best positions after university” Rachel Williams, The Guardian, Tuesday 24th May 2011.

These days it is vital to have some sort of experience before entering the job market, but I question whether these internship schemes are truly beneficial to the interns and the employers. Over the year I have completed a handful of internships, which have varied in length and value, all unpaid. I have undertaken these positions, with a full understanding that I am doing it to gain experience, and learn more about what I would like to do in my future career in the fashion industry.

Many employers, however, do not seem to understand this. That said, my experience with glamgiving has been a wholly positive one.

The huge problem is that it seems the majority of employers do not actually need an intern. It is so frustrating turning up to work, after being picked out of a number of people, to do something advertised as totally necessary and hopefully exciting, then spending the whole day asking people if there is anything you can do for them. There often seems to be little planning going into the internship role, which is a shame, as many young creative’s talent is wasted.

One sunny day in the middle of March I turned up for an interview not quite knowing what to expect. I  was interviewed by Jess, glamgiving’s Fashion stylist,  at the Bhive Covent Garden and shortly after I heard I had got the job!! The internship began with helping out at a wonderful glamgiving party, and seeing how the guests reacted to the concept of donating and buying fashion.  There was an overall positive vibe, I was hooked.

From then my structured weekly meetings with Lou have gone from strength to strength, we meet, have a brainstorming session on how to save the world, and I even get treated to lunch!! I have been able to get involved in every aspect of the business, and even offer up my own thoughts and ideas, whereas, in my experience, companies do not like to think a young intern could have interesting ideas.

I have certainly gained a lot of experience over my time so far with glamgiving, and had the opportunity to do some wonderful things, including styling ‘Mr Bones’ for our collaborative fundraising event with Kiehl’s supporting Breakthrough Breast Cancer!



The internship has allowed me to do independent work, such as illustration and package design. The freedom and creativity of the role has allowed me to get stuck in, I even had the opportunity to be head stylist at our recent photo shoot with Nice Images, and I loved every minute.

My focus is on the sustainable aspect of glamgiving, I try to think about the influential people and publications who should know about us, ways we can be more eco friendly through packaging and marketing and generally throwing ideas around on how we can spread the glam word!

I am also currently planning my own glam party, designing sustainable invitations, getting local businesses involved, and encouraging everyone I know to move away from consumer driven fast fashion habits and donate some pre-loved fashion to worthy causes!

I have been so lucky that this internship has allowed me to learn so much, as I have watched this small but perfectly formed social enterprise grow from the beginning. So, although almost vital, an internship is not always beneficial. From my experience a little planning and open-mindedness goes a long way. Generally interns want to learn and offer a lot of creativity, so all a business needs to offer is the resources to learn about a company without having to ask, whether that is sitting in on meetings or being asked for an opinion.


Fashion no longer a guilty pleasure – the story of glamgiving …

Here’s my first blog post ever and a pretty timely one as it coincides with this stunning movie by NUW Creative (those clever guys who designed our logo too!) to unveil what glamgiving is all about.  See for yourself …

In theory that means I can say less! So here goes a succinct (hopefully) account of how glamgiving came to be, and what we are now hoping to achieve.

I had my lightbulb moment on the bus!
Back in November 2010 I had a spark of an idea on the bus on the way into work. I looked out of the window at the well-heeled commuters and their fabulous fashion. I started thinking about their wardrobes, and the great pieces they might have that they no longer wore. What if those beautiful clothes and accessories could be given a second life with someone who would love them? And even better, what if most of the money raised could go to charity?

Cause overcoming our emotional attachment to fashion
With my good researcher friend Debbie we went in pursuit of the women like the ones I saw from the bus, and they let us look through their wardrobes. They held up beautiful items and described them as “too good for the charity shop”. These included an impulse-buy dress, fabulous shoes that were a tiny bit neat and never worn and special occasion outfits they would never wear again. It’s hard to part with some of these items as they hold some of our best memories.

When we spoke further to the women, they said they’d be thrilled to donate pieces if they knew they would be well-presented and sold for the price they deserved, especially if it meant charities that mattered to them would benefit. And they’d be recycling great fashion in a sustainable way too: a win-win for everyone.

We like to make it as easy as possible to part with your much loved fashion
While poking around in Wendy’s wardrobe in Highgate, she offered to host the first glamgiving party.

One evening shortly afterwards Wendy’s friends and neighbours came together and brought with them 2-3 fashion pieces they didn’t wear anymore for a great night of fashion, fundraising and a few glasses of bubbly!

……and so glamgiving was born acquiring designer and high end fashion and accessories through parties and events, and selling them for charities at these parties and events as well as online for causes we care about.

A business with cause and sustainability at its core
First and foremost we are a social business. This means that our existence is primarily about making a difference socially and environmentally. Our social side is about raising money for charities that matter to us.

Our charity of choice online is Breakthrough Breast Cancer

There are many reasons we support this charity. Breast cancer affects and touches the lives of so many women (and men). It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK – over 48,000 women and around 350 men are diagnosed every year. For personal reasons too, in my own family we have a BRCA gene which increases risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

By giving fashion a second life, our business has a sustainable and environmental focus.

Fashion no longer a guilty pleasure for me

I often get asked if my background is in fashion.  Flattering but alas it’s not.  In fact the only tenuous link is that my working life has paid for an unhealthy addiction to buying fashion!  But now it’s no longer a guilty pleasure! Women feel good about giving over their fashion to glamgiving and we make sure that it sells for a good price, goes to a good home and makes a difference to a good cause.    As we say “do good, look good, feel good”!