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Simply Stylish in London

September 2013

By Martha Alexander, London

London style at the moment seems to be bound by one main, overarching idea: a minimalist, unfussy aesthetic that does buckle into the realms of grunge or grime. It is the antithesis of groomed, perfect, matching or glossy. In London, beauty trends seem to be going down a demure trajectory. No one is interested in painting themselves in fake tan, or having acrylic nails tacked onto his or her fingers.

Pale faces are dominated by large, almost unkempt eyebrows subtly shaped at Brow Haus. Unlike the “Scouse Brow,” which is always black with aggressive angles, these brows have the look of something that has never been in a beauty salon.

Similarly, the trend for hair that looks like it badly needs its roots dying is gaining momentum. The dip dye job itself seems to have gone entirely mainstream. Londoners go to Bleach to get their perfectly terrible roots.

While there is a trend for long pointy nails on global stars like Rihanna, in London short squares are not a bad thing, even if they are bitten. Having highly detailed or gimmicky nails created by Wah Nails are the perfect accessories when the rest of you is bare, pale and understated.  Make-up, however, can pack a punch with a statement lipstick or liner by cult makeup brand Illamasqua.

When it comes to interiors, bare and basic is also winning the day in London – where what is perceived as a New York loft aesthetic is the ideal environment to call home.  Everyone wants a loft or warehouse space somewhere, even if it means turning the insides of a Victorian terrace into one. Exposed brickwork and bare floorboards are essential.

There's definitely a drive towards keeping sparse interiors, yet punctuating them with one or two statement pieces per room ­– a sofa, armchair or even the lighting. Perhaps a painting by emerging artists, like Mary Ramsden and Charlie Billingham, or a photography piece by Derrick Santini. Homeowners who are feeling the pinch in these austere financial times are likely to invest in one piece from somewhere like Alfie's Antique Market in Marylebone. The unusualness is the main feature against the emptiness, and this is part of the home’s appeal. Opulence is not in keeping with the current economic climate or general aesthetic. 

There is a polarizing trend in photography, which divides serious photographers with iPhone owners who can adapt their images with easy applications: Hipstamatic and Instagram are perhaps the most popular amongst Londoners.

However, the frame and filter options mean that even the most elementary photographer can produce great images. As Instagram’s popularity increases, plenty of photography purists are looking for ways to prove their work is authentic and the result of skill, time and effort. They don’t want their work to be easy – they want to show they are capable of using difficult techniques. They might typically use Lightroom or Gimp, two software programs for more serious photo touching, both of which take a lot of skill and patience to use.

Many purists are also abandoning digital filters and refuse to pander to them, and instead just take images on DSLRs or SLRs that they have to develop. People are so used to seeing square images through a red filter or with a Polaroid edge, that seeing a clear, fully-focused photograph without any tinkering at all is beginning to look almost avant garde.

Photographers look for new ways to distance themselves from Instagram culture and being part of a more exclusive community – this might be joining somewhere like The Camera Club, which was opened in 1885 and requires full vetting of all new members. The British Journal of Photography offers masses of practical advice on products and methods as well as being a forum for all of those in the profession. It also allows photographers to be a part of a community that is exclusive.

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