Laura Recommends

January Recommendations

February 4, 2018

January is not usually among my favourite months, simply because of the stay-cation-inducing weather, but this past month was probably one of the best starts I have ever had. I caught up on some films, books and series, I published and drafted lots of new articles, including this heartfelt one on vision, and I finally went to some museums I should have checked long before. I am having a good feeling about the coming months and about 2018 in general, so here’s to rocking the months ahead!

Until then, here is a wrap up of books, exhibitions, videos and lots of handy things I enjoyed this past January.

 

BOOKS

Book Depository

I recently did an online book haul and I decided to try out this website that I have heard so much before and it did not disappoint! I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical due to the heavily discounted prices and free shipping, but all my books arrived in pristine condition in 7 to 10 days, so I am more than happy and will definitely order again. One thing which bothered me a bit is that they don’t accept Maestro cards, so you should take that into account when placing an order (if it affects you).

Sapiens

I know, everybody raved about this book in the past months. Naturally, I am always curious when there is a hype this big around a book, so I read Sapiens over the second half of my winter break and I must say, I really enjoyed it. I think it is a great introductory book into the history of humankind, and I have to say the last chapter, “The End of Homo Sapiens”, was particularly good and really got my mind busy.

Start with Why

When flipping through one of my old notebooks, I realized I actually watched Simon Sinek’s wildly famous TED talk in early 2016, so it felt nice to finally read the book which became an “instant classic”, Start with Why. While Sinek may be a bit too pushy with the core idea and with his favourite vocab words, there is a lot to take away from the book, no matter if you want to start a business, if you are already leading a team/ company or if you just want to understand where to head next and how to present yourself and your purposes.

How To be Alone – Sara Maitland

“Yes, thank YOU!” and “Finally, someone said it!” are just two of the thoughts I had while reading this book. It’s full of messages I am sure lots of people think about, yet not so many say them aloud or act on them.

“Most of us have a dream of doing something in particular which we have never been able to find anyone to do with us. And the answer is simple: do it with yourself”. How elementary is this idea, yet challenging to apply in real life?

Another thing which stuck with me because it hit me only while I was reading, is this: Nowadays, we value autonomy, personal freedom, independence, self fulfillment and individualism more than ever, yet we still shame solitude. John Oliver would definitely say “How is this still a thing?”

 

MOVIES AND SERIES

Persepolis

If you have not watched Persepolis, do that right now. I got the graphic novels of Marjane Satrapi two years ago and I thought they were enough in order to understand her story, yet nothing prepared me for the harshness, the joy, the anger and the overall emotional roller coaster this animation is. So relatable at times, yet so hard to digest the reality that wars, power abuse and revolutions are still harming people and destroying homes.

Loving Vincent

To cheer you up a bit, this movie is on the list because I have never seen something so exquisite until now. To give you some context, this film is about the life and death of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh as told through his paintings. Yes, the entire (!!) movie was hand painted in his style based on the works he left from his nine (just 9!!) years as an artist. Dozens of artists gave their best to make this happen over multiple years, so you should definitely see it! What’s more is that it just got an Oscar nomination so act fast before you cannot engage with your friends in an post Oscars-worthiness discussion*.

– also, the final song was so beautiful and touching it left me in tears (you can listen to it here, if you need a good reason to shed some tears)

*haters will say the actors’ accents are not accurate and that the story is not complex or vivid enough, but we can never be pleased, can we?

The Crown

Only after watching this series have I realized how little I knew of the Royal British family. If you are interested in history, British culture and tremendous acting, you should start watching this as soon as possible. Try not to binge watch everything in one day, OK?

 

HANDY

Rescue Time

In January I promised myself I will be more attentive with the time spent on Internet (which is why I deleted Facebook from my phone!) and I found this browser ad-on very helpful in counting the hours I waste spend on certain sites. It also records your average daily number of productive hours, so that is also pretty helpful.

On Multitasking – The Cost of Continuously Checking Email (via Harvard Business Review)

This article, which takes you less than 10 minutes to read and fully digest, has such a powerful analogy in it that I had to share it:

“Suppose each time you ran low on an item in your kitchen—olive oil, bananas, napkins—your instinctive response was to drop everything and race to the store. How much time would you lose? How much money would you squander on gas? What would happen to your productivity?

We all recognize the inefficiency of this approach. And yet surprisingly, we often work in ways that are equally wasteful.” – Ron Friedman on multitasking

Optical Character Recognition (via Office One Note)

OK, this trick may sound fancy, but it is so so helpful! Recently I had to transcribe a lot of text from images (particularly print screens) and I dreaded doing it. However, thanks to this Office help page, I learned that if you insert an image in an Office One Note file, you can right-click on it and select “Copy Text from Picture”. How NEAT is this?!

Google Docs transcribing tip (via Quartz)

Another awesome trick I learned in January is that you can transcribe vocal files easier if you dictate them to Google Docs. Much easier than typing down everything!

 

VIDEOS

The world organized by incomeAnna Rosling Rönnlund

This recent TED talk shed so much light on how, on a global scale, we are not that different from one another. Turns out, it is not necessarily culture, but money that creates the boundaries between us. Please watch this to get a different perspective on your own life and wealth and on how similar we all are.

How Atomic Bombs can Uncover Forged Art

I just discover the “It’s Okay To Be Smart” YouTube channel and this video is a great example of how you can teach people something very cool about art and forgery while making it light and fun to watch along.

 

EXTRA

Legendary Trunks exhibition, Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam

Although I am cheating a bit because I saw this exhibition in February, it is on just until the 18th, so I figured, if you want to see it you should know about it. What is this about and why should you go if you’re in town? It’s the work of a Louis Vuitton trunks collector who managed to bring together the suitcases of Gustave Eiffel, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Judy Garland, Ernest Hemingway and so many more together with unique pieces of trunks for flower bouquets, casino nights and even caviar! It’s learning about history in some of the most pleasant ways ever!

 

Hope you got inspired and if you do test out some of the things listed in my Recommendation series, do let me know!

Have a fantastic February,

Laura

 

Photo by Cynthia de Luna on Unsplash

life

I have lost my vision

January 23, 2018

No, not my eyesight.

I have lost my vision in the sense that I feel as if I am floating in an endless sea, mindlessly drifting from one thing which comes my way to the other. I seem to have lost the bigger picture of my life and my career (can I say that? “career”. Do I have that? After all, I am just 20 and still in school, so, can I?). It seems to me as if I had had this vision once, as if I knew where I was going, what I was doing and what steps would follow. After all, I think I knew what I was doing when I chose to move abroad and when I chose living and studying in Amsterdam. But, somewhere on the road, after those moments, the picture got blurry, and eventually, I found myself not only not remembering what was my vision, but also not knowing what I want to do next.

I realized we have no direction or control whatsoever on our lives. Yes, this was news to me. I was somehow still believing in this deterministic ideal and it proved faulty. No wonder. I also became aware that whenever I seem to lose the faint grip I have on my storyline, I panic and I go into this desperate, hyperventilating mood in which I jump at all opportunities that arise, even though they seem wrong from the start. What’s more, I undervalue myself. And so I accept doing things which are not bringing enough into my life.

For the past months, I have been relying on inertia, achieving things out of what seems to me a lucky strike of coincidence and convergence of lines, people and hazard. And I know this is wrong. Because I am the only one behind my actions, the one who made them all possible. But I just can’t seem to enjoy it. I do a ten seconds celebratory dance and then I start wishing for more. Which is deeply toxic, if I am being allowed to point out the obvious.

I am in my very early twenties and I already had a career crisis. *eye roll I thought I had enough of fashion, publishing and social media work. *double-eye roll Although liking them, I felt trapped. I felt as if I had already seen my future: an unemployed self-employed contributing editor and social media assistant working here and there, earning just enough money to make a living. I am sorry. I am not deeming this lifestyle bad or inferior, it’s just not what I had imagined for myself. What have I imagined, you may ask? I don’t know. Maybe I was picturing myself already laying the foundation of my own business or already being financially independent. Guess the whole Self-Made legend got to me.

It may take me one more week or a few more months to get back at it, to see again how the dots connect with each other and how the decisions I have made so far lead me to my bigger picture, but for now, all I wish for is a pair of glasses that would show me what I should do next.

And I know this is not the typical story you read or want to read since it does not have a clear ending or an inspirational resolution, but I think it’s important to keep it real.

Yours,

Laura

*collage by yours truly

LauraxELLE, travel

Jet. Set. Amsterdam!

January 12, 2018

As a proud adopted-Amsterdammer, it was about time I shared my favourite places in the Dutch capital, along with some little secrets. You may find all of them below in this adapted post from an article I wrote for ELLE  Romania.

HOW TO GET THERE:

There are four daily flights from Bucharest Henri Coandă (OTP) to Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) operated by TAROM and KLM, so you have where to choose from.

WHAT TO DO:

Although the Dutch don’t have a vast gastronomical culture, they compensate very well with pastry products, sweets and coffee. Among my recommendations there are the white chocolate core biscuits from Van Stapele Koekmakerij, the almond creme croissants and lemon tarts from Simon Meijssen and the coffee from CT Coconuts, TOKI, Scandinavian Embassy, Bocca Coffee and Lot Sixty One.

During this whole sweet journey, don’t forget to discover the beauty of the canals by boat, explore the Albert Cuypstraat market, walk through VondelPark, Holland’s biggest park, visit A’Dam Toren, which hosts Europe’s highest swing and go through Bloemenmarkt, the only floating flower market in the world.

WHAT TO SEE:

Gathering under the same roof thousands of masterpieces from the Golden Age and not only, Rijksmuseum is a constant presence in global museum tops, alongside another one you will adore: Van Gogh Museum. The entrance to both museums can be facilitated also by electronic tickets or by the I Amsterdam card. Besides those two touristy landmarks, you should also go to some less known places:

Cinema Pathé Tuschinski
One of the most beautiful cinemas you will ever see, Tuschinski has been functioning since 1921, stunning movie-goers with its Art Deco and Art Nouveau design. The movies are not dubbed, so you don’t have to worry if you don’t know Dutch.

Tassenmuseum Hendrikje
What happens when you work in the field of antiques and you end up owning a collection of more than 5000 bags? You open a museum. This is the story behind the biggest museum of bags and purses in the world. *Must see

Eye Film Museum
For all lovers of film, contemporary architecture and not only, the newest residence of the Dutch Film Museum, opened in 2012, is definitely worth paying a visit. To get to the OZN-like building it’s necessary only to go on a free three minutes ferry ride from Central Station to Buiksloterdijk.

WHERE TO STAY:

Pulitzer

Being newly renovated in 2016, Pulitzer Hotel is made out of 25 interconnected canal houses. As Amsterdam’s XVII century canal network is part of UNESCO world heritage, the houses couldn’t have been modified on the outside, but inside there is a whole labyrinth of rooms. Antique Collector’s Suite and Book Collector’s Suite are probably the most beautiful rooms in Amsterdam.

The Dylan

Also located inside the canal ring, the Dylan is a hotel in the proximity of De Negen Straatjes area (a little quartier made of literally Nine Little Streets) famous for its small boutiques, artisanal spaces, cozy restaurants and shops with local products. Having a French specific restaurant, views over the canals and an elegant decor with traditional Dutch accents, it would be very tough for this hotel not to please you.

BEST TIME TO VISIT:

Starting with the last weeks of April, when the Tulip Fever begins at the Keukenhof Gardens and its surroundings and until the end of October, when the days are already too short.

 

You may also want to check out:

Bar Botanique

Brouwerij het Ij

Tropenmuseum

Hortus Botanicus (one of Europe’s oldest botanical gardens – 379 years)

Hermitage Amsterdam

Museum Van Loon

Museum ons Lieve Op Soldier

And of course, Anne Frank House

 

This article originally appeared in ELLE Romania, December 2017 Issue, number 241

fashion, LauraxELLE

IT boys and the Fashion Industry in 2017

January 4, 2018

A Little Dictionary of Clothes, Accessories and Men of the Moment

If menswear of the previous years has thrown you into a nebula from which you see no way out, then you definitely need a guide. Below you’ll find an extremely practical one so you’ll know who and what matters in the stylistic landscape of the season. You’re welcome!

Ripped, almost torn apart jeans, Yeezy sneakers, beanies, dad sneakers, Instagram posts tagged with #MyCalvins, über-skinny pants wore exclusively with cowboy boots or Vans, products superimposed with the Supreme logo and the hairstyle which lead to an increase in hair ties’ sales, the man bun, seem to have taken over men street style. 

Meanwhile, on the runway, big fashion houses like Gucci propose all-denim outfits with patches, they bring back clothes with epaulettes, as shown by Vetements, or produce crop tops for men. Other initiatives, such as RompHim, a male jumpsuit, raise over 350.000 dollars on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform. Therefore, questions such as “What is going on with menswear?” and “What is menswear direction?” are perfectly understandable. 

Currently menswear seems more demasculinized than ever before (and anyway, what does “masculine” mean today?) and seems to be running away from any kind of convention. Still, before examining the influences and the directions of menswear, it is necessary to go over the vocabulary required for such conversation. Therefore, I am proposing you a short dictionary of men style and contemporary pop culture. 

#MyCalvins. The hashtag associated with the Calvin Klein brand counts more than half million Instagram posts in which customers show how they wear their CK underwear.

A$ap Rocky. American rapper and music producer. Most famous member of the hip hop band A$AP Mob and one of the unofficial Gucci ambassadors. 

Beanie. A thick and long sock-like hat, frequently worn in an unpractical way only on the tip of the head.

Brooklyn Beckham. The oldest son of David and Victoria Beckham, Brooklyn has already published a photography book. Considering his family, his connections with the fashion world are not few; Brooklyn being the cover star of multiple magazines such as Miss Vogue and a Fashion Week front row attendant. 

Crop Top. Literally, a cropped top. This garment’s dimensions are slightly bigger than a woman’s bustier, in effect leaving the abdomen bare.

Fedez. The Italian rapper of the moment, currently engaged with  Chiara Ferragni, the most popular fashion blogger and entrepreneur. He is one of the biggest Supreme fans, and their products appear even in one of his latest videos, Senza Pagare. 

Harry Styles. The unofficial leader of former boy band One Direction, who meanwhile became a solo singer, actor and style icon.

Jared Leto. The soloist of the pop rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, Jared Leto is the image of Gucci and an artist who was never afraid of bold clothing choices.

Justin Bieber. Canadian singer turned famous during his teenage years, now one of the most well known pop artists in the US.

Kanye West. American rapper, music producer and clothing designer. His first collection, for F/W 15, received mixed reviews, but along the seasons, Kanye established a name for himself in the fashion world with highly watched and debated shows, his catwalk presentations becoming one of the most looked forward shows of NYFW. Kanye is also married to Kim Kardashian, a constant figure in the fashion industry and the most widely known person to wear clothes designed by him.

Man Bun. Masculine hairstyle which entails long hair to be tied in a bun (usually on top of the head).

Nick Jonas. The youngest of the Jonas brothers, Nick became a solo artist, actor and model, having recently shot a campaign for Calvin Klein.

Nike Huarache. Model of sport shoes originally launched in 1991, easily recognizable after its heel area, which ends with a thin layer of neoprene that looks like a sock.

Pharrell Williams. Besides the fact that he is a musician and producer distinguished with 10 Grammys, Pharrell is also one of the boldest artists in what regards his red carpet appearances. 

Romphim. A short jumpsuit for men in pastels colors and funky prints. The crowdfunding campaign got viral on the Internet, bringing into discussion the fact that are no reasons for which only women should be allowed to wear short jumpsuits. 

Supreme. Initially a brand dedicated to the young skate and hip hop subculture, Supreme rapidly became one of the most loved brands thanks to its multiple collaborations with Nike, Air Jordan, Vans, Levi’s, Comme des Garçons and the most recent one, Louis Vuitton. The ques for the new products are already famous, their collections being so sought after that they get sold out in less than 3 minutes.

Vans. American brand dedicated tk skate shoes, today very much present in youth’s closets. 

Vetements. French brand created in 2009 by designer Demna Gvasalia. The Georgian origins of the designer have become the signature of the brand, being associated with the eastern european and soviet influences of the clothes and the styling.

Yeezy. (1) Collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West for a line of sport shoes. So far, the collaboration gathers three models: Boost 750, Boost 350 and Boost 950. The shoes get sold out in as much as 90 seconds from the moment they become available online.
(2) Kanye West’s clothing line.

Zayn Malik. Another former member of One Direction, Zayn is now a famous solo artist and at the same time, a trendsetter, alongside his girlfriend, Gigi Hadid.

At a more detailed analysis of the elements and participants from fashion’s chess table above I am sure you have noticed some patterns. I have identified three:

Brands love It Boys
The first pattern refers to the two sides: the fashion houses and IT boys. And although there is nothing new in the fact that most fashion houses pick someone from the showbiz industry to represent them, the examples above indicate a more niche approach of the brand ambassadors typologies. They are no longer people everybody knows, but some influencers who would have adopted anyway the aesthetics and the products of the brand. Concrete examples in this case may be Fedez, never separated from his red Supreme duffle bag and his logo t shirts or A$ap Rocky and Jared Leto and their closets full of Gucci. Therefore, the transition from fan to ambassador or image associated with the brand comes naturally and credibly. This aspect further leads to more exposure for the brand, which is not a surprising effect of using brand ambassadors, but in this case it leads to the authentic diversification of the audience. Would rap music lovers have worn head to toe Gucci had it not been for the influence one of the genre’s most popular icons had?

Subcultures
In the dictionary above there is an intentional high number of references to two subcultures which now have a special influence on fashion: the skate culture and the pop-rap culture. Although the two categories don’t normally overlap with the clothing and accessories industries, men’s closets include increasingly more sporty, casual and even athleisure pieces, in the shape of sneakers, sport shoes, sport hats, beanies, jogging pants and hoodies. So, through ambassadors from skate and pop-rap cultures, companies specific to those niches, like Supreme and Vans, bring into the mainstream elements typical for those areas.

The Family Tree
And, finally, I cannot ignore the personal links that IT Boys have with key people in the fashion industry. With a mom awarded with the CFDA prize in 2015 and with one of the world’s most stylish men as a father, there was no surprise that Brooklyn Beckham got influent in the fashion world, even becoming the photographer of a Burberry campaign in 2016. Moreover, his younger brother, Romeo, was the protagonist of a Christmas themed video for the same fashion house back in 2015, when he was only 13. Another stylish man who developed ties to the fashion industry is Zayn Malik, whose girlfriend is one of the most well paid models in the world. Together, they were the protagonists of a Vogue US cover in which they both sported… nothing else but Gucci. Should I further mention the Vanity Fair Italia cover with Fedez and Chiara Ferragni, fashion world’s number 1 influencer as declared by Forbes? Or the multiple Harper Bazaar’s covers with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West?

All these patterns indicate the fact that fashion is in a perpetual change, that we are constantly redefining what style, masculinity and elegance mean and that brands should listen more to subcultures if they want to stay relevant and even more, if they want their name to be on everybody’s lips.

Article originally published in ELLE Romania, ELLE Man supplement, November 2017 issue, number 240

LauraxELLE, travel

Jet. Set. Moscow!

December 27, 2017

Looking back to one of the cities that surprised, scared and impressed me all at the same time in the past months, here is a English adapted version of my first travel article in ELLE Romania.

As always, I want to be fair and transparent with you, so the places marked with an asterix (*) are places I have not had yet the pleasure to pay a visit, but they are still highly recommended amongst the well-traveled circle.

The capital of an excessively polarized society, Moscow best illustrates the contrast between the soviet architectural style of poor neighbourhoods and the glamorous and cosmopolitan city centre where the best apartments have a view over the Kremlin.

HOW TO GET THERE: 

From Bucharest Henri Coanda Airport (OTP) to Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) there is a daily direct flight operated by Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot. The flight takes about three hours.

WHAT TO DO: 

Besides the necessary visit to the Red Square, the Saint Basil Cathedral and the luxurious commercial centre GUM, you must see at least five metro stops: Kievskaya, Belorusskaya, Komsomolskaya, Ploshchad Revolyutsii and Novoslobodskaya. On top of these you must not miss a visit to the Kremlin, especially to the Armory, or to the famous Tretyakov Galleries or a night at the Bolshoi Theatre. Further recommendations are:

Tsaritsyno Palace

Located on a 405 ha propriety of  Empress Catherine the Great, the Tsaritsyno Palace was designed especially for her, but it remained abandoned after her death. After 200 years, in 2007, the construction of the palace was finally finished and the palace became open to the visitors. You can find out more here.

Kolomenskoye Palace

A former summer residence of Aleksey Mikhailovich, this palace is made completely out of wood, after intense renovations which had to take place due to Catherine the Great’s decision to tear the building apart. Today, the palace is the host of interior events, and sometimes, on the 390 ha property there are music festivals. You can read more here.

WHERE TO STAY:

Ritz Carlton*

Located at a one minute walk from Red Square, Ritz Carlton is also enjoying the largest hotel rooms in Moscow. At the same time, the hotel’s restaurant is being lead by a three Michelin stars chef and the hotel’s bar offers panoramic views over the capital. You may access more information here.

Petroff Palace*

A former palace owned by Catherine the Great in which they say Napoleon also slept in, the Palace has 43 rooms decorated with royal charm and benefiting from all modern comfort. During summertime, the most renowned soloists from the Bolshoi theatre are the stars of outdoor concerts in the Palace’s garden. More about its story here.

WHERE TO GO:

White Rabbit*

Voted as the best Russian restaurant, eating at the White Rabbit is deemed as an unforgettable experience. Focusing on local produce and reinterpretations of traditional dishes, the restaurant is memorable also due to its glass dome, from where you have amazing views to Moscow City, the modern business hotspot of the Russian Capital. For reservations click here.

Café Puschkin*

Hosted by a baroque mansion, the restaurant has been topping Moscow’s horeca charts since its opening in 1999. Appreciated both for its Russian and French gastronomies and for its sumptuous dining rooms (where there were once a bookshop and a pharmacy), the restaurant deserves a visit. More information here.

I hope you liked these recommendations and maybe they inspired you to pay Moscow a visit!

Article originally published in ELLE Romania, November 2017 issue, number 240.

Laura Recommends

November and December Recommendations

December 23, 2017

Since December is close to an end, I decided to wrap up the previous two months in one neat article with my recommendations of books, movies, campaigns, events and more. I hope you’ll enjoy them and I would love hearing your recommendations as well!

BOOKS

Freakonomics – Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt

In the past weeks I finally managed to make ends meet and I read the book which started the whole Freakonomics phenomenon: the first book (originally published in 2005). If you remember, back in the September Recommendations article I shared one of my favourite episodes of Freakonomics Radio which was discussing universal languages and especially Esperanto. The book was very entertaining and it posed some very interesting, albeit dubious questions, which link sumo wrestlers to teachers, the impact of the names we receive from our parents on our success and so much more. A nice read to make you see things from different perspectives and link some elements you wouldn’t normally associate.

Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

I previously read The Tipping Point by Gladwell and I really liked it so naturally I wanted to read more books written by him. I think I enjoyed Outliers even more and it has definitely influenced the way I see success now: indeed, it’s a lot of work and personal skills and dedication, but also plenty of additional factors that I previously didn’t consider so relevant or which I have overlooked. I really want to read Blink as well but I have received mixed recommendations so far. Anyone care to share their thoughts on it?

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery

I fought hard not to like this book. It seemed way too overhyped. But I was wrong. In the end, the title of the book received more than an explanation. To me, the book in itself stands as an illustration for the elegance of the hedgehog. Because sometimes the people and things which from outside look the most frightening or displeasing, end up winning us over with the treasures they hold inside.

EVENTS AND EXHIBITS

Lessons from my grandfather – Arun Gandhi

This was an event organized by The School of Life Amsterdam in early November in which, yes, one of Mahatma Gandhi’s grandsons came to talk about continuing to spread the peaceful ways of his grandfather’s and promoting non-violent solutions in a world in which there seems to be increasingly more disputes. Arun Gandhi is an activist and author of several books such as Nonviolent Communication: A Language of life, Grandfather Gandhi, The Gift of Anger: And Other Lessons from my Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi and Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story. 

Christian Dior, Couturier du rêve

One of the presents for my birthday this year were tickets to this Parisian exhibit. My dad waited in line more than three hours in the December cold for us to get tickets as soon as possible and it was so worth it! I have seen quite a few fashion exhibits this year, but this one topped them all! They had an extensive collection of dresses worn by celebrities, old New Look deux-pieces and an entire rainbow room of miniature dresses and accessories.

This exhibit is open until the 7th of January, so if you really want to go, you still can!

At the Table with Nigella Lawson

This was another event organized by the School of Life Amsterdam in which the renowned cook and cookbook author Nigella Lawson came to talk about the more profound meaning of food and “its connection to pleasure, meaning, belonging and creativity”. I never thought talking about food could ever be this entertaining and above all, hilarious, but Nigella and the other hosts of the event proved me wrong. If you are interested in listening to a talk about food recorded between Nigella and Alain de Botton, the founder of The School of Life, click here.

PLACES

Librairie Galignani, Paris

In 1801 this was the first library in continental Europe to sell books in English and it has been located in the same place on Rue de Rivoli since 1856. They have an impressive collection of “coffee table” books, which in my mind translates to 50×50 cm books weighting half of my weight which talk about Chanel design, contemporary jewelry making, French castles and gardens and more. Naturally, their selection of English books is an impossible-to-resist type of place.

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris 

Ever since it has been renovated, France’s National Library (locally known as BNF) has welcomed many visitors eager to be left stunned and maybe a bit jealous too since the studying area is one of the most beautiful I have seen so far (maybe tying with the Rijksmuseum Research Library). See what I mean here.

COOL CAMPAIGNS AND COMPANIES

#ReadToLead

I recently came across this campaign which I couldn’t help sharing: #ReadToLead, initiated by Influencers on Facebook. The campaign challenges CEOs, leaders and heads of large communities to share what books have inspired them in 2017 or what helped them improve their business. So far, the CEOs of PayPal, Walmart, Booking.com, Marriott Hotels and many more have joined the campaign with their lists, so you might want to check it out here.

Rareform

I stumbled across a video about this company and my whole face lit up. They recycle billboards by turning them into surfboard bags, duffel bags, backpacks, fanny packs and wallets since billboards are made of colourful vinyl that can double as bag material. Since so many of these billboards end up in landfills, it is absolutely amazing that a company is repurposing already existing resources. Click here to watch a video about the company’s story or click here for their website.

WEBSITES

Lekiosk.fr

While looking to buy a French magazine I missed while being in Paris, I found lekiosk.fr, an amazing website from where you can buy digital versions of most French magazine (so lifestyle, automobile, cooking, sports, fashion etc.) for less than the printed cost while also accessing older issues. How cool is this?! Also, they have a broad selection of British and Italian magazines, so you should definitely take a look at their website. P.S. They also carry a bunch of free magazines.

Sunflight.net

It seems like I am not the only one always thinking about which plane seat gets the best amount of light during a flight. I discovered this website which shows you which side of the plane you should stay in if you want as little light as possible or contrary, if you love some nice sunrays. Or, of course, you can always calculate the sun’s position by yourself, but I decided it’s good to double check :p

This has been all from me this year in what regards my recommendations. I certainly hope you enjoyed them and that maybe you found some new delights across the ideas I proposed. If you have not checked out the other Recommendation articles yet, you may find them below or in the Laura Recommends tab of the website.

I am wishing you a fantastic 2018, full of great books, films, cultural events, thoughtful conversations and anything else that enriches your mind!

Yours,

Laura

life

20

December 3, 2017

In the previous week, my favourite animation turned 20, the best romantic movie of all times turned two decades as well and my dearest magazine already published its December issue for the 20th time. Why am I bringing this up? Not only had I grown up with Anastasia, Titanic and ELLE Romania, I also happen to change my first digit in about the same period as them.

The shock I felt when I realized all of this should have prepared me for the mental realisation that my teenage years are gone and that I am starting a new chapter. Yet they only made me feel behind all the plans I made for myself.

One month before turning 20 I was going through the hardest times I ever faced – far worse than in my first year apart from my family. I would have frequent anxiety attacks and there was a constant state of helplessness over the very things affecting me. At one point, my mental state had gotten so bad I couldn’t stop crying and I was so restless I had to ask my mom to tell me a bedtime story over the phone.

So, comparing the truth to the reality I have envisioned for myself was a brutal exercise.

I thought that by the time I was 20, I would know what I wanted to do after graduating, either if it were a master or starting a business and I would have been at least partially financially independent. However, here I was: alone, emotionally drained, exhausted, overall confused, and unconfident in myself and thus, questioning all my choices. Was it right to move out of my country? Was my study choice the perfect fit for me? Was I living my best student life? Was I fit to apply for a master? If yes, which one and where?

I will not lie – it was a period I do not wish to relive. I have not fully recovered in order to be myself again and I don’t know what that even means now. However, I am trying to look at the bright side and acknowledge the fact that I still have amazing, supportive parents, that I am healthy and that I am extremely privileged to live through all the good events I get to experience.

Yes, I was planning to read more, to know more and to be more before I turned 20. But I realized that all of these are in vain if your mental health is not on a positive and stable path. So, for my twenties, I am turning my mental health into a priority. My newest goal is to be at peace with myself and with my own body and to find the right balance between controlling things and letting go in front of the unknown.

Here is one of the best messages I came across in Paris, the other day, at Shakespeare and Co. bookshop:

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. – Hafiz

*The photo above was taken in Paris, where for one moment, it seemed as if I was stepping into someone else’s shoes. Someone happy, lucky and holding the very magazine once only looked up to which now listed their name under Editorial Team. I still have to come to terms that person’s me and that, maybe, the dream life actually made its way into mine.

 

Laura

LauraxELLE

What is the Gig Economy and why are so many people freelancers?

November 29, 2017

Here is a scenario with which we are already accustomed to and another one which has big chances to become our reality:

2017: ‘So…what do you want to be when you grow up?’

Pilot like my Daddy! Judge like the lady I’ve seen on the TV. Princess, just like Elsa! Architect, like my brother. Doctor like my Mommy.

2037: ‘So…what do you want to be when you grow up?’

Creative freelancer like Mommy! Independent worker like Daddy. Part time collaborator just like my sis! Zero hours contractor like the gentleman from the radio.

Sounds freaky? Well, the change of our professional dreams may be just one of the effects we have to think about when we preach the global implementation of the Gig Economy.

What is the Gig Economy, what is the connection between Facebook, Airbnb, Alibaba and Uber, why so many youngsters are flexi-workers, what are consequences of the freelancer careers on the society and why should you care? Read below to find out.

Gig, an English word predominantly used in showbiz, means a performance. For example, when a band organizes a show or when they are asked to play at an event, this is called a gig. So, generalizing, gigs refer to actions which happen just once and which, consequently, do not imply constance. So, the revenues of people who do gigs come fragmented and from more sources, usually via a digital request.

The origins of this way of working may be traced to the development of the Internet networks from the ’90s. All of the sudden, Internet connection was offering the world to its users, reducing the dependency on a fixed office. Moreover, at the same time with the euphoria of digital companies (The DotCom Revolution), increasingly more firms started to take advantage of the fact that they could externalize a considerable amount of work, which led to an increase in the number of requests for collaborators, freelancers and independent subcontractors. Soon, companies realized that the externalization of human resources leads to huge cost cuts since the respective workers are not considered contractual employees, which means they are offered less social benefits.

Before detailing the effects and the problems generated by this new way of working, it is essential to trace the extent to which two current trends in the economic system are complementing the directions in which the Gig Economy runs the society: the Sharing Economy and the Collaborative Economy.

To start with, the Sharing Economy is a term used to define an economic system in which goods or services are used by multiple people for free or for a fee paid to the owner or the service provider. For instance, Uber, the world’s biggest taxi company, is representative for such an economy because a driver is sharing his or hers own car with other people by driving them from place to place for a certain fee. The same goes for AirBnb, the biggest website for short-term renting, where users can list a spare room or an entire house for a price point they get to decide. Peerby, a Dutch start-up, allows users to borrow and lend household items, electronics, bikes and cars for a short period. Here it comes the notion of collaborative economy which entails that more people consume or use an object collaboratively, which reduces consumerism, diminishes personal investments (why buy a drill when you can borrow one?), optimizes resources usage, produces waste and some might say that it even improves interpersonal relationships between users, which may be neighbours or complete strangers.

The Gig Economy sums up those notions of consumption, collaboration and work, but it distorts them by considering that these activities can replace a full-time work contract. Let’s return to Uber and the fact that you can get extra money by using a good you already own. Sounds absolutely lovely, right? What could possibly be wrong with this? The issue is that the Uber driver, by driving his car for a client, works for a company and is not considered an employee, but an independent contractor. Which means that the Uber driver can set his or hers own working hours by being their own boss and can generate more money during days with special events or during peak times. However, advantages stop here because the Uber drivers, thousands of them, are not medically insured, are not having their car insured by the company, are not guaranteed a certain workload, are not promised a minimum monthly pay, are not offered paid vacation days, are obliged to contribute to the tax funds all by themselves and … the company does not contribute whatsoever to the pension funds of the drivers. Moreover, Uber may decide at any time to revoke the access of a driver, this happening to drivers who score 4.6 stars or lower (out of 5). However, Uber, Lyft and other transport companies are charging a commission from every ride, which can reach up to 25% of the whole value of the trip, which justifies the fact that in the absence of these platforms, drivers would not be able to find clients. The complaints and numerous protests of drivers have brought the attention on the fact that these companies are making profit on the backs of their drivers, without offering as much in return. And they are not the only ones to highlight this new way of management which seeks high and rapid profits and which ignores long-term consequences in the lives of the exact people who bring those revenues.

Other examples of companies and initiatives based on transportation are Uber Eats, Foodora and Deliveroo, which attract bikers to provide food delivery services. Put simpler, if you are craving for a fast food in the middle of the night and your favourite restaurant is still open, you can have your food by your door in just few minutes thanks, in the majority of the time, to a student on a bike who wants to get extra money. And there is nothing wrong in this. However, if the biker gets sick or has an accident on his/her way towards a client, the company is not responsible and will not offer any kind of compensation, although it takes a commission from every successful delivery.

Postmates, an American company, boasts with the fact that it’s a logistics firm which offers on-demand services, which means their network of service providers receives tasks from groceries shopping to picking up clothes from the dry-cleaner. Users who register for platforms such as TaskRabbit and Fiverr, receive similar tasks, from participating in a video as an extra, verifying the spelling of a CV, offering foreign languages classes, assembling furniture, sorting letters and many other tasks which others either don’t know how to do, don’t have time to do them, don’t want to do them or need help. The difference between the two websites is that on Fiverr, all tasks are rewarded with 5 dollars, from which the platform will take for itself 25%. Completely unsurprising, these companies are not covering work-related accidents, free days or days in which a certain service provider does not manage to get tasks. So, working for these platforms is unstable and unsure, which represents one of the negative effects of the Gig Economy.

The first questions about the uncertain future of full-time Gig workers, which are those who do not have a job with conventional terms on the side, are headed towards the necessary arrangements for a life that can support the new work style and life. Such activities include: managing a private pension fund, declaring their revenues for taxation, possibly hiring an accountant, diversifying the type of gigs and platforms they are available  on so there are as few periods of inactivity as possible, analyzing the feasibility of maternal/paternal leave, incorporating rest vacations in the structure of the year so the remaining working days can sustain them and also, saving up money for likely future spendings (kids’ education, buying an apartment) and saving funds for urgencies like medical problems.

Furthermore, these administrative tasks are combined with negative social consequences of these platforms: the fact that people are treated like, yet not considered employees, but more like human assistants, easily-replaceable people who can be offered unqualified work which does not have many requirements. Moreover, these platforms exclude all types of motivation and stimulation, from good, stable pay to hierarchical advancements, the possibility to receive company stocks or to attend development trainings. Which leads to an increase of societal polarization, in which rich class continues to use the less-fortunate people, which live from month to month. This structure explains why so many young people work as freelancers: since the requirements for certain tasks are minimal, many youngsters see in this aspect an opportunity to generate their first income. And as most young people do not have time for full-time jobs due to their studies, yet they need the extra money, they have to start their careers with side jobs/gigs, which sometimes revolve around simple, unspecialized tasks for the entry-level. Again, nothing wrong here. But because this structure does not rely on progressively developing the complexity of the jobs, many young people remain entry-level workers for long periods of time, which later makes it harder for them to make ends meet.

However, there is another type of worker: professional freelancers, those who take on projects which require abilities and training in a certain domain, such as illustration, programming, copyright, publishing, photography and other markets which have accepted the fragmentation of work and the idea of collaboration between wider groups of people.

Gigantic companies such as Facebook, AirBnb, Uber, Alibaba and other smaller-sized competitors from almost all industries have come to revolutionize the way in which companies make profit and the way people work. How? They are all relying on the sharing and collaborative economy which include goods their users already have, services which they can provide and information that they can use commercially. This way, the contributions of these platforms are minimal, in the sense that they do not have journalists to create media content (Facebook), nor real estate (AirBnb), nor fleet (Uber) or product stock (Alibaba). Therefore, these companies take advantage of their positions as leaders in connecting the offer with the demand in order to generate high revenues with minimal investments.

So, it is possible that in the next years we will all become freelancers, contractors paid by the hour, independent subcontractors or micro-entrepreneurs.

But are these the profiles we want to pursue for our children?

This article originally appeared in ELLE Romania, November 2017 issue, number 240

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

fashion

5 reasons why I don’t like Victoria’s Secret

November 25, 2017

If you have been active online in the past few days, you may have noticed the abundance of pink-related content popping in your social media feeds. Yes, I am talking about Victoria’s Secret, and I think that now, when the hype about their latest Shanghai show is still high, is the best time to start a discussion about some reasons why this brand is not going on a good path, at least, as far as I can tell.

Here’s why:

1. It promotes unrealistic ideals
Percentually, the VS models represent a minority of the society. Yet they are advertised to the masses. So we are all made to think that this is how everybody looks and how everybody should look like, which is an issue for all, from young 8-year olds watching the show on TV to the women who just gave birth and feel insecure about their bodies, to the teenagers feeling extra-conscious during beach trips and to all women who throughout the years have put on a bit more weight. Also, those mental perceptions don’t affect just women; they affect men’s ideals about women too, which is also concerning.

2. The brand is not backed up by value, beliefs and inner inspiration
I am honestly fed up with things which don’t bring value into my life. So, how can a show displaying lingerie enrich my life? If I wanted inspiration, I would have just talked with my mom, thanks. Also, if I wanted fun and entertainment, I would have chosen a book. So I can rely more on my brain than on my exterior looks throughout my life. Watching a 10 minute show with models holding onto their toes in heels while they strut with heavy wings on is not bringing anything into my life, except maybe the thought I just wasted some minutes I will never get back.

3. The VS show is an unnecessary and expensive parade of unpractical costumes, some which also pose cultural appropriation issues 

I mean, have you ever worn a bedazzled bra under a sweater? Yeah, not a good match. Or how often do you take your one million dollar bra for a spin? Never? Yeah, me neither.

Also, how many people wear Navajo-inspired headpieces alongside lingerie and 11 cm heels? No one? Oh, yeah, because it is completely unpractical and insulting to other cultures. Who knew?!

“Honey, does this make me look sexy racist?” “You bet”.

4. It’s part of an old era when objectifying and misrepresenting women was not penalized.

Applauding women while they are almost naked on a runway and looking up only to skinny and (mostly) white women who are no older than 40 is in no way something still tolerated. Today, more than ever, we need to embrace the notions of diversity, representation and natural beauty. When Rihanna launched her Fenty Beauty cosmetic products, she included 40 skin tone shades in her foundation line. 40! The outpour of positive responses and encouragements is something which shows how much-needed this color range is and how much people desire to have access to the same type of products and to generalize, the same type of opportunities. Products need to be relatable in order to sell, and by representing as many categories as possible, brands are more likely to build a positive corporate image for themselves, while also improving sales.

5. Victoria’s Secret is the work of men. And this is easily noticeable.

VS was founded by a man, Roy Raymond, in 1977, and 5 years later it was sold to another man, Leslie Wexner, who still owns it. However, I am pretty sure things would have looked much differently if the management of the brand was mostly female. Because in no way could women think so narrowly of gender representation. I mean, look at Emily Weiss and the latest Glossier Body Hero campaign. Tastefully done, inclusive, body-positive and a perfect example of marketing done right. And their sales, customer satisfaction and word of mouth support this.

Overall, I think Victoria’s Secret concept will have to adjust soon in order to fit the more mindful and conscious customers and in order to strengthen their image throughout different racial, geographical and demographical markets.

What do you think? Are you a VS customer? In your own experience, what was their selling point?

Can’t wait to hear what you think,

Laura