The Knot

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Fashion & The Flu

Top: Swine flu in Mexico City
Below: Wayne Cooper uses colour to defy a recession at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week

It has been a news week of colour and chaos as in our relative safe haven of a backyard Rosemount Australian Fashion Week 09 has sent models down the catwalk seemingly in defiance of a recession, while in Mexico City where unemployment rates always run high hundreds of people have reported to have been hospitalised as the result of an outbreak of swine flu in recent weeks.

It's a juxtaposition that underlines the importance of where you live but also of just how small our world is. In the coming weeks the pandemic hysteria will reach our shores and our local colourful fashions will make their way to the American mainland, if not to Mexico City itself.

Australian travellers are already being tested for and quizzed about swine flu. According to news reports, outbreaks in countries other than Mexico have been relatively mild - in fact more like a bad case of traditional flu.

A possible answer for why it's reached dangerous levels in Mexico City may well have a lot to do with the fact that although the city is home to some of the best hospitals in the world it is also a place of very poor air quality. A city, in fact, that could well do with face masks 24/7, swine flu or not.

If Australian fashion designers wanted to show that they were really in touch with reality, they could try sending a few models down the runway with accessorised face masks. Not that's something that would be sure to gain traction, recession notwithstanding.

Photo of Australian Fashion Week:
Photo of swine flu in Mexico:


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thinking Green

Is the state of our planet as important to us today as it was 12 months ago?

With most of the world powers in the midst of a recession, media talk has been more greenback than green track. But just because the environment's not priority front page news right now, doesn't mean that we're no longer thinking about it.

Consumers who have stopped spending out of situation or fear won't be encouraged to do so by the prospect of a dying planet. However, there are people still renovating their homes with slightly more expensive fuel-efficient materials (looking for long-term savings) and choosing organic foods over the alternative (hoping for a longer-term life) so there is every indication that our interest in saving the planet and ourselves has seeped in beyond the surface. Once a concept hits the subconscious level it starts to go mainstream. And I'm certain that's where we're now heading in Australia.

We've become so used to marketers of home improvement goods and motor vehicles focusing on energy efficiency that common exchanges in front a new fridge will be more to do with that than capacity. No one needs to utter the words 'environment' or 'green' because energy efficiency has become part of the everyday Aussie vernacular.

And with everything we now know about genetically modified food and the poisonous pesticides used in the production of many of our greens, who wouldn't choose to eat organic if they have the means?

I've become so label-conscious that it takes me twice as long to do the grocery shopping these days.

And with many projects on our renovation to-do list, my husband and I seem to spend more time discussing a roof sealant that will reduce our cooling and heating requirements than the new bathroom that we so desperately need. We're not tree-huggers. We simply know that a reduction in energy use will be good for everyone, and less expensive in the long run. It's become part of our way of thinking.



Talent On Show

Left: Masterchef Host and former Cosmo Editor Sarah Wilson

Tomorrow evening, April 27, will be special on two counts. One of Australia's most talented magazine editors Sarah Wilson will make her television hosting debut on Masterchef and news guru Darren Wick will take his place as the Head of News to assist in bringing Peter Overton into more homes each weeknight at 6pm.

In the world of Australian media, where politics and friendship are often at the forefront of hiring decisions, it's refreshing to see talent taking its rightful place at the television table. Sarah was always going to be a star. I knew it the first time I met her. She is smart, confident and naturally gorgeous - a winning combination.

I worked with Darren on The Daily Mirror newspaper more than 20 years ago. He wasn't as loud and showy as many of the journos back then. He quietly got the job done. We share a birthday and a healthy respect for quality but commercial journalism. I can't wait to see what he does with the news.

Left: Channel Nine Newsreader Peter Overton

I'm a fan of Peter Overton, having attended uni with him at the same time that I was working alongside his new boss. Peter's a genuinely nice person and he deserves to be a success. The Wick-Overton combination should give Ian Ross and co at Channel Seven a good challenge.

Left: Today Show Host Lisa Wilkinson

Lisa Wilkinson is also due back at her co-hosting duties tomorrow, after a week of holidaying with her children. There is no greater example of a successful transition from print to television than the former Editor of Cleo magazine, and the person most responsible for my media career. Lisa was the Editor of Dolly magazine when I was a teenager and it was my almost religious devotion to her editor's letter each month that inspired my decision to become a journalist and follow in her footsteps as a magazine editor.

When Lisa got the Today Show job last year, the idealists who believe that talent and experience should win out punched the air.

From day one, Lisa had a massive following. Every woman who ever read either of the two magazines that she edited would have tuned in for a look. She was already a household name before she ever appeared on television, due to the uniquely intimate relationship that magazines in the 'emotions' genre have with their readers. Lisa's followers are now 40-plus and will remain with her until she retires.

Sarah Wilson will begin her TV career with a similar (albeit younger) base. As the former editor of Cosmo, a magazine that trades in relationship articles, she will have a keen following before the opening credits even begin. I know that I'll be watching.

Photo of Sarah Wilson:
Photo of Lisa Wilkinson:
Photo of Peter Overton:


Susan Boyle's Makeover - The Daily Beast

Fans have noisily begged Simon Cowell to not makeover Susan Boyle, but the singing Scotswoman seems to have gone ahead and made over herself. Boyle had her hair tamed and dyed chestnut, her eyebrows plucked, had a facial, put on new makeup, and exchanged

Posted using ShareThis

Read more at The Daily Beast



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beyond Our Comfort Zone Of Skinny?

I've been listening to the furore over the "too skinny" Miss Universe Australia contestant Stephanie Naumoska for the last 24 hours. Aged 19, weighing somewhere between 49kg and 52kg (depending on which report you believe) and standing 180cm tall, Stephanie is accused of being malnourished.

In a dress she looks like any other pretty slim model. But get her in a swimsuit and the wincing begins. Stephanie's upper body, in particular, is so thin that you can see the definition of her bones. It's not a pretty sight.

However, I can't help but feel sorry for her. She claims to be a healthy eater. Assuming that means more than the occasional lettuce leaf and that she isn't prone to throwing up whatever she takes in, then perhaps she is just sporting what nature provided her.

It is possible to be naturally skinny. I have a similar problem to Stephanie in that no matter how much food I eat, my chest retains a bony appearance. I've had it all of my life. Where we differ, though, is that excess food manages to snuggle up to my thighs. Stephanie's thighs, I've noticed, are also reed thin.

But that doesn't mean she's malnourished. It may simply be that Stephanie's body type sits outside our comfort zone. And when psychological illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia are so prevalent in our society today it's not difficult to see why we feel so strongly about such a public display of ultra skinny.

If I had a teenage daughter I'd be very strong in my opinion against Stephanie's body 'look' because I wouldn't want her to think that it was something to aspire to. But maybe we should give our children more credit than that. My boys were horrified when images of Stephanie in a swimsuit were shown on tonight's news bulletin. I didn't need to say anything.

We shouldn't be waging a personal attack on Stephanie. The Miss Universe pageant organisers selected her for the final 32 so in my opinion the criticism for publicising her 'too skinny' figure should be aimed at them.



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Mainstream Mistress

Left: The mainstream mistress, Shari-Lea Hitchcock
Below left: Gravely ill businessman Richard Pratt with his wife Jeanne.

You know that the concept of the mistress has gone mainstream when the wife of one of Australia's most high-profile philanderers responds to questioning about her husband's extra-curricular activities with the phrase: "shit happens and life moves on". According to The Sydney Morning Herald, both of Visy millionaire Richard Pratt's families are preparing for his impending death and on the front page of today's edition of the newspaper, Jeanne's photo sits alongside that of his mistress, Shari-Lea Hitchcock.

Pratt is of course just one of many wealthy businessman to have taken a mistress. His became public when Shari-Lea gave birth to Pratt's fourth child Paula Pratt in 1998. Pratt continued to reside in Melbourne with his forgiving wife and family, while Shari-Lea was put up in a $5 million home in Watson's Bay in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

The concept of a mistress seems so outdated to me. I remember reading about the Pratt-Hitchcock affair 11 years ago and wondering how wives continued to endure their husbands' indiscretions in the twenty-first century. There is no need to put up with it these days. Women are no longer dependent on men. But surely examples like this indicate that those wives must feel that they will somehow be less if they break up the happy family. Ros Packer was no different. The fact that Kerry Packer had a long-term mistress was the world's worst kept secret and yet Ros maintained the facade until his death.

A few years ago a wealthy businessman asked me to be his mistress. At first I assumed he was joking, so I laughed. When he tried to grab my hand, I realised he was serious.

Rather than feeling anger, I actually felt sorry for the silly old fool. He was married to a beautiful, loyal woman and had a wonderful family. His children were almost as old as me. I explained to him that I didn't marry my husband for money, I married him for love and that I still loved him. He didn't seem to care.

As I made certain that he understood it was never going to happen, I just knew that it didn't matter anyway because he would undoubtedly find another, more willing, woman to be his mistress. This was a man after a mistress. I wouldn't have been his first and I doubt that I would have been his last.

The next time that we met, for a business meeting, I asked him what was in it for the mistress. He boldly said, "a good time".

When Richard Pratt finally succumbs to the advanced prostate cancer that is threatening to claim his life, let's hope that for Shari-Lea Hitchcock the good time has been worth it.



Monday, April 20, 2009

The Byron Effect

Above: Overlooking Watego's to the north with the Julian rocks in the background

What is it about Byron Bay that keeps you enthralled, regardless of age or lifestage?

Unlike some of our other local tourist destinations, like the Gold Coast, that you tick off your list and move on from, Byron Bay manages to captivate your soul.

My first visit to the far north coast beach town was as a uni student with three of my closest girlfriends. We drove up from Sydney and stayed in a cabin at the Clarkes Beach Caravan Park. It was by no means palatial accommodation but we weren't there for the comfort and trimmings of a five-star resort. We were in our early twenties, unattached and looking for relaxation with a bit of adventure. During our week in Byron, we met some fascinating people from all parts of the world - backpackers who had seen more than we had imagined in our charmed and sheltered existence back home.

I have been fortunate to have visited Byron Bay for work on a couple of occasions since. About five years ago French skincare company Biotherm flew the beauty media in for a new product launch. We stayed at the luxurious Waves, 100m from Main Beach. Meeting the locals and chatting with worldly backpackers was not high on our list of priorities as we were bused from massage to lunch to a guided tour of the famous lighthouse.

This time round I'm 'doing' Byron with my family. We are staying at a friend's beautiful home in Cooper's Shoot, on the road to Bangalow, overlooking the township of Byron Bay. We are just 10 minutes from the main beaches but we could we worlds away. It's pure bliss up here.

Our friends did the seachange thing a year ago, swapping Point Piper in Sydney's eastern suburbs for 10 acres in the hills of Byron. And it's not difficult to see why. Our boys, aged 15 and 11, can roam freely without fear (mine, not theirs) of traffic or abduction.

As I watched them body surfing at The Pass, in my opinion one of Australia's most beautiful beaches, I was suddenly filled with joy. It took me back to the time when I first discovered The Pass and Byron's many other beautiful beaches. I ran into the water, feeling free as a bird, without a care in the world. My boys did exactly the same thing, 20 years later.

I call it the Byron effect.

Travel details can be found at


Boyle and the Invisible Women - The Daily Beast

Read Tina Brown's blog about the phenomenon that is Susan Boyle:

Why Susan's joyous little jig spoke for millions of women we haven't heard from since Hillary Clinton's triumph in Ohio.

Posted using ShareThis


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Our Obsession With Susan Boyle

Why do we assume that a person has to be attractive to also have talent? What is it about our culture that links the two?

When Britain's Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables last week, the reaction that followed was more than a little bit over-the-top. The show had discovered another new talent and before she'd even finished the song Susan was the clear favourite to win this season's crown. That's what the show's producers hope will happen. That is, after all, the point of the program. So why the surprise when it actually does happen?

Is the Britain/America/Australia's Got Talent concept actually 99 percent send-up of regular people and the rest a small hope of finding even a relative talent? Do the judges almost never expect to actually find real talent from real people?

The fact that Susan Boyle's performance has been viewed by more than 16 million people via youtube is fabulous for her. But I can't help wondering why everyone is so surprised that a spinster who's never been kissed from Glasgow might actually be able to sing.

The surprise of discovering a new voice is a wonderful thing and one should never be too jaded to appreciate it. But that's not the point. The hype around Susan is more to do with the way she looks and her status as a confirmed virgin at 48.

If Susan can score a recording contract or at least a new career in the music industry, which would undoubtedly transform her life, then this will all have been worth it. However, I can't help but reflect on the experience of Casey Donovan, the teenage winner of Australian Idol in 2004. A 16-year-old Aboriginal girl with self-esteem issues won the heart of our nation when she stepped onto the stage and sang her heart out each week. She was a remarkable singer but if we're honest with ourselves we wanted her to win because of her life situation. And then we dumped her. IN one minute, completely forgotten the next.

Piers Morgan, one of the judges of Britain's Got Talent, explains why Susan Boyle won his heart in a post for The Daily Beast.

"It had been a long, hard day at the audition coalface, with very little talent on display," Piers shares.

"Then Susan bounced on stage, full of tartan bonhomie, and the reaction was instantaneous: 3,000 people laughed their heads off, me and my co-judges, Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden, stifled a chuckle, and the clear message from our collective expressions was 'This is going to be a car-crash performance of epic proportions'."

I think it shows, very clearly, that there is still the expectation that rough diamonds are very rare indeed. And to me, that's more than a little insulting.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Net-a-porter's New Discount Site

The much heralded designer discount site, the Outnet, is finally live. Net-a-porter founder Natalie Massenet took the learnings from the 'sale' section of her highly successful designer shopping site before deciding that there was a clear market opportunity for a stand-alone discount site.

Apparently women who shop 'sale' are entirely different from those who shop 'new'. Massenet felt it was time to give her burgeoning 'sale' customers a place of their own.

Promising to feature 200 designer brands (including Chloe, Christian Louboutin and Herve Leger) at heavily discounted prices – between 50 and 80 percent off the original prices, it's sure to be a hit.

I've mostly shopped 'sale' on net-a-porter, taking advantage of the lower prices for items that are actually 'of the moment' in our part of the world due to the differences in seasons. It's the bonus of being half a year behind, seasonally and therefore fashionably speaking.

Go to Happy shopping!


New From Gucci: Flora

Above: The ad for Gucci's new fragrance Flora

A good review of this just-released fragrance from Italian fashion house Gucci can be found at Flora was inspired by the re-issue of a favourite Gucci pattern, as shown on the coveted Gucci handbag above. The floral pattern was originally created for Princess Grace of Monaco in 1966. The fragrance is the second for women by Gucci creative director Frida Giannini.

Who doesn't want a spray of this?


Banking On Financial Security

This may not be cool to admit, but I wasn't disappointed when my bank didn't pass on the latest round of interest rate cuts last week. Our mortgage is with the National Australia Bank, and trust me it is significant enough for every decrease to count.

I was delighted to hear that the banking sector is holding up relatively well on the stock market. reported today that two of the four major banks had another good day on the stock market: Commonwealth Bank added 50 cents to $36.76 and National Australia Bank rose 16 cents to $21.94, while ANZ lost 18 cents to $16.81 and Westpac dropped 33 cents to $20.38. Still performing well relative to other sectors, such as retail and property.

According to, The Australian Bankers Association supports the decision by the banks not to pass on the full interest rate cut, as the banks try to bolster their margins ahead of a predicted further slowdown in the economy.

And I have to say that I agree with this position entirely. I would prefer our banking system to remain strong to protect the majority of jobs in that sector and our cash in the bank. There is almost no risk that we will find ourselves lining up outside our banks trying to get our money out before the entire system collapses, as seen in the US last year.

I sleep easy knowing that my money is relatively safe and if the price that I pay for that is missing out on a further cut that would bring my already record-low rate down below five percent, then I'll take it.



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Rise Of The Sugar Baby

According to an article on an interesting twist to the economic crisis in the USA is the proliferation of kept women and sugar daddies. Not a new phenomenon. However, the website is showing 10 times the sugar babies to registered sugar daddies. Believe it or not, there aren't enough silly rich men to go round.

So young women who are seeking to be kept in order to pay their way through college (the sugar babies) are signing up for free by the droves. Apparently it beats prostitution... The sugar daddies, half of whom are married, pay to register for access to the pool of much younger women who are clearly only after their money.

It shows that not everyone's feeling the pinch of a recession if there are still men out there who can afford to support other people's kids in return for some emotionless semi-permanent casual sex. The sugar babies are apparently in control and many of them have boyfriends that they are planning to marry. The sugar daddies are just a means to an end for these women. The tragic old fools know it, but are powerless to their need for 'affection'.

You can just feel that it's going to end in tears, can't you? This time, though, his.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Will This Man Run News Corp.? - The Daily Beast

If James Murdoch's bold plan for his family's newspapers takes hold, he could save an industry—and cement his place as father Rupert's heir apparent.
London’s media elites—at least those who don’t work for him—have long loved to hate Rupert Murdoch. Isn’t it strange, then, that his 36-year-old son James should emerge as a champion of the newspaper industry?

Not really. “Rupert Murdoch is the best newspaper owner in the world,” says Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism at City University in London and a former editor of the Daily Mirror (not a Murdoch paper). “He loves newspapers—and he understands how they work.” James may be a chip off the much-maligned block. “People say he doesn’t love newspapers as much as his father,” says Greenslade. “There’s just no evidence that that’s true.” />Posted using ShareThis

Read more at The Daily Beast



Sixties Style Obsession

Above: Sixties style with a modern twist at

Perhaps because I've become obsessed with the SBS TV series Mad Men in advance of its debut screening this Thursday at 8.30pm, I am also drawn to fashion that's representative of the 60s in which the series is set.

I stayed in to view the documentary on the original Madison Avenue advertising man David Ogilvy last week and SBS cleverly used it to promote their new series. I was hooked immediately. New York in the sixties, fast-paced and stylish. The fashions, the hairstyles, the creativity-fueled's sure to be a huge hit here, just as it has been in the States.

I wasn't surprised to read that the box sets flew out of the department stores across America following the first series. It's the most excited I have felt about any new TV show in a very long time. Congratulations to SBS for bringing the series to our shores.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Legacy of Helen Gurley Brown

Left: Helen Gurley Brown in the sixties

The woman responsible for the global publishing phenomenon that is Cosmopolitan magazine, is the subject of a new biography, Bad Girls Go Everywhere by Jennifer Scanlon, a professor of gender and women's studies at Bowdoin College in the United States.

According to, Scanlon paints Gurley Brown as a feminist who was responsible for the betterment of women's lives.

Gurley Brown took over the single girls' magazine in the sixties, at a time when women were only just starting to discover the freedom of uninhibited sexuality. Her brand of Cosmopolitan was surely the inspiration for Carrie Bradshaw's fictional newspaper column, Sex and the City, decades later.

Success notwithstanding, she was removed from the helm of the US edition in 1996 in her eighties and is ironically now considered a joke by 'feminist' websites like But the Gurley Brown legacy lives on in our belief that we can 'have it all'. We don't question it because women like Gurley Brown and Gloria Steinem fought the good fight on our behalf before many of us were even born.

The Cosmopolitan brand may no longer feel that it needs the likes of Gurley Brown but it has definitely lost its way in the past decade. Once a magazine that stood for something compelling, the Australian edition, at least, flounders on the shelves between the sex-charged teenage magazines and the darling of the stepford wives set, Madison. Before the market got so competitive, Cosmo had a clear voice for women and it was rewarded with 300,000+ copy sales per month. It is certainly crying for a modern-day guru to give the brand a reason to continue to exist.

Magazines like Cosmo are a public service to women when executed to match the needs of the target audience. That's their unique power. Gurley Brown understood this better than most.



Bonding Over Magical Shoes

Last week I had a girly night out with my two nieces. We decided to see a movie. They chose Confessions Of A Shopaholic, starring Australian actress Isla Fisher.

I knew it would be easy to like. A film about shopping, a light chick flick. But I wasn't prepared for the bonding that we would do over the shoes. Isla's character has a shopping addiction (don't we all) with a particular penchant for beautiful shoes. As the camera panned across her shoe wardrobe, we all sat forward at the same time – ages seven, 12 and 43, inspired by the same sets of shoes.

I had a little chuckle to myself. It was such a foreign scenario for me. Only days earlier and then days later I would be at the soccer and then the rugby league with my two boys. I was loving the girl-time and the knowledge that we didn't have to say anything at all to know what each person was thinking about the movie and its magical shoes.

We left the cinema closer as an aunty-nieces team than when we arrived. The shoes had cast their spell.

Rather than scare us off the addictive nature of shopping with a focus on the downside, this cute little film had done the exact opposite. We would soon be organising a shopping trip together in search of glorious shoes, credit cards (mine) at the ready.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Uma Makes Scents

Parfum Givenchy has signed Uma Thurman as the face of a new fragrance to launch in September, according to

A smart move by the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) owned brand.

Uma Thurman is the ultimate 30-something role model because she appeals to women older and younger. Talented, cerebral and attractive, she is celebrated for her work first and foremost. She's managed to keep her image nice, regardless of her relationship sagas (cheat sheet: former husband Ethan Hawke, the father of her two children, cheated on her. She is now engaged to Arpad Busson, the father of Elle Macpherson's two boys).

I met the Kill Bill star in Tokyo in 2001 when she was the face of Lancome, a relationship that ended in tears and lawsuits when she sued the French company for continuing to use her image in their brand advertising years after her contract ended in 2004.

Lancome had flown journalists in from all over the world to interview their prized star about her beauty regime. She was even more naturally beautiful in the flesh. I'd never seen skin that beautiful, causing me to swap to Lancome skincare.

Uma was also refreshingly real – a trait that will become increasingly important to the beauty industry in competing for brand loyalty at the premium end.



Thursday, April 9, 2009

Australia's Climate Disaster - The Daily Beast

You might want to cancel your tickets to the Outback. Australia is undergoing a huge climate crisis at the moment-with prolonged drought and bush fires on one end of the continent, to flooding and mosquito fevers on the other, along with the widespread decline of wildlife, it's now a troubling example of the huge consequences of global warming.

Posted using ShareThis
This is how Americans are feeling about a holiday to Australia at the moment. Should we cancel the tourism ads?
Read more at The Daily Beast


Stimulating Fashion

When Jackie Kennedy wore a cream silk gown by French designer Givenchy during the first couple's state visit to France in 1961, the fashion world swooned. Reporting at the time was favourable and the wife of American President John F Kennedy cemented her status as a fashion icon. Jackie was such a supporter of the designer that she even wore Givenchy to her husband's funeral.

In the past couple of weeks Michelle Obama has stepped out in a host of European and American designer labels. It's well-documented that she favours local up-and-comers like Thakoon and Jason Wu, but America's first lady also donned chainstore brands like J Crew and the cream of European designers such as Azzedine Alaia.

When Obama crossed the fashion border, American designers Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta went nuts. They claimed she should be supporting the American fashion industry by wearing local designers only, especially at this difficult economic time. I suspect they are extra peeved because to date she hasn't elected to wear their gowns.

Certainly it would appear that whenever Obama wears a well-priced fashion item, like the Talbots floral dress she wore recently on the cover of a magazine, the stores that stock the item report immediate sell-outs.

She is being called on to stimulate the economy with her fashion choices. The assumption being that if Obama wears it, everyone will want it and the flailing fashion industry will right itself. Do American brands these days really have so little faith in their own abilities to market their wares?

Does anyone care what labels Therese Rein wears when she's travelling with her husband, our PM Kevin Rudd, on official business? I haven't heard the likes of Lisa Ho and Collette Dinnigan insist that Rein wear their dresses, or any other Australian designer's dresses for that matter.

Perhaps she already does dress locally. But the point is that we don't really know for certain. No one's asking the question because we're not hanging the future of our local fashion industry on her back. Instead, responsibility for stimulating our economy is in the hands of her husband – the one who was elected to do so.


Renovate or Repay The Mortgage?

I have put plans to renovate on hold as we are faced with an economic crisis that apparently hasn't yet bottomed out.

On paper, our household finances look fine. In fact, never been better. Slashed home loan interest rates have left us about 30 per cent better off each month. And yet I've stopped spending. I have been saving for that proverbial rainy day when one of us may be without an income. The reality is that that could happen at any time in any year, prosperity or downturn. But consumer confidence isn't necessarily about reality.

I've put a hold on my once frequent purchases from, have been leaving a few extra weeks between visits to my hairdresser and no longer give in to the boys when they say they need a new Playstation game. Like most consumers though, I haven't sacrificed my favourite coffee and still treat myself to a lipstick or nail polish (rather than a full-blown shopping spree involving new clothing) when I need a lift (for most women that's at least once a month).

Instead of looking to renovate, we're looking to pay down our mortgage, knowing that we can draw on our advance repayments if we get into financial difficulty down the line.

And yet, we have more disposable income now than we did a year ago.

It's extraordinary how other consumers' confidence (or lack of) can strangle our purchasing habits. I discussed this with a girlfriend this morning. I heard myself saying things like, "if I had some money, I'd buy xxx right now...such a bargain". So why don't I embrace the extra cash in my pocket and use it to purchase rather than protect?

There is a market paradox at play here and psychologists describe the lack of consumer confidence as learned helplessness. This means that the more we are exposed to negative information about our economy, the more we believe there is nothing we can do to help our situation and so retreat to a state of helplessness.

The only way out of this downward spiral is to fight our way up with positive news and confident decisions, which explains the Rudd Government's stimulus packages. If they offer recipients spending power then that's got to help consumer confidence in general. Forum discussion on the premium beauty website PRIMPED last week indicates that young women are planning to spend their bonus dollars on the items that give them a lift – in this case beauty products. And that's exactly what the stimulus package was designed to do.

Reading those comments gave me a lift in confidence too and I started searching through my favourite home renovation sites.

Are you ready to start shopping again?


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Detoxed To Perfection

Left: Cindy Crawford at 43.

At any given time there will be a Hollywood celebrity on a detox diet. There is no greater truism.

Cleansing is the new hot diet fad and everyone from Oprah to Angelina Jolie has jumped on the bandwagon. According to Alexandria Polier of The Daily Beast, Gwyneth Paltrow is a juicer, Cindy Crawford favours colonic irrigation and Beyonce is a fan of the Master Cleanse diet (cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon for a week). Makes you want to puke doesn't it?

A week ago I was so ill with a stomach virus that I couldn't eat anything worth keeping down. The poor excuses for food (boiled rice, boiled eggs, boiled potatoes) that I was allowed to eat went straight through me. For a fleeting moment I experienced the life of a Hollywood celebrity. Starved, detoxed and irrigated after a week of 'cleansing', I was lacking in energy, my skin was sallow, hair lacklustre and I was craving chocolate. How on earth do they do choice?

I love a good freshly squeezed juice as much as the next detoxer, but I need to keep it company with some good old fashioned food. By the time the virus had been starved into submission, I could have eaten a horse, and almost nearly did on my next proper meal. I ate so much in one sitting that I could barely walk. My eyes were much larger than my shrunken stomach. For the second week in a row, I went to bed with a stomach pain.

Again, I gained an insight into the eating patterns of full-time dieters like Oprah. If you starve yourself, you'll definitely lose weight. But you'll be so damn hungry that you will eat out your local McDonalds the minute the official diet period is over. The weight will surround you in a meaningful way and you'll once again be full of self-loathing, causing you to think irrational thoughts about a detox. And that can't be healthy.

Gwyneth, Cindy and Beyonce may have some of the best bodies in the world, but it's hard to envy them when you know what they're doing to remain picture perfect.



Tuesday, April 7, 2009

He's Cheating: Would You Want To Know?

I know of a woman whose husband has been cheating on her for years and she hasn't got a clue.

Worse, actually. She was recently heard to say that she'd kill her husband if she ever thought he was cheating on her. The friend to whom she made that statement almost choked on her lunch. It's one of the world's worst-kept secrets. Everyone, except the wife, seems to know.

I was discussing that very subject with a friend the other day and we both agreed that we'd rather know.

"You have to promise to tell me if you ever find that out about my husband," I said.

I'd like to think I would know if my partner was cheating. But how would I know? I read somewhere that 85 percent of women who feel that their partner may be cheating are usually right. For men, the 'instinct' statistic is 50 percent. Either way, that's a very strong guide.

But how do you tell someone that her husband is cheating on her? And not just with anyone, but with everyone. I'm not sure that I could do that – watch her self-esteem crumble before my eyes. I'm not close enough to tell her anyway. Something like that really does need to come from a friend. Or is that just me copping out?

The How To Do Things website offers advice on telling someone their partner is cheating. The main word of caution is to ensure that you're right before you let the cat out of the bag. For example, the recent New Idea disaster with Bec Hewitt and her supposed mystery man who turned out to be her brother. Not a good look to jump in without the facts.

Once you think it's really happening, the advice on offer confirms my thinking that the bearer of bad news needs to be a close friend or family member. If not, she may not believe your intentions are pure.


Nano-blogging: Do You Flutter?

This hilarious video from Slate proposes an easier way to express tiny thoughts to the world. Forget the 140 characters of Twitter. Flutter reduces all messages to 26 characters.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fashion's Finest Hour

The two most famous first ladies in the world met in Paris this week. Michelle Obama and Carla Sarkozy exchanged the European double-kiss for the cameras at the Palais Rohan.

Both looked resplendent in the latest fashions. Obama wore Thakoon and Sarkozy dressed in Dior, each showing support for their local fashion industry.

According to The New York Times, "Possibly realizing that she would be judged against a European fashion icon, Mrs Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer, brought her A game".

For anyone who appreciates fashion, it was an historical moment to savour.

Photo: The Huffington Post


Friday, April 3, 2009

My Enduring Hero

Left: Stevie Nicks at 60

As a teenager I was obsessed with Stevie Nicks. I wanted to look like her, dress like her (not sure if the gypsy look was the height of fashion then but it didn't matter), sing like her, be her. Nicks is now 60 and still touring with Fleetwood Mac. She has also released a couple of solo CDs, proving that age is really only a state of mind if the body is still willing.

In an interview with The Washington Post, she explains how she's managed to keep herself fit enough to be "spinning around in seven-inch heels", not just at her age but at anyone's age. We also get an insight into how she has managed to preserve her looks.

"I’ve never had a face-lift and I never will. I stopped laying in the sun at 28," she says.

"I never go to bed with makeup on. I have creams and lotions and I take 20 minutes of rubbing it in my skin … like a little biochemist."

Nicks tells her many 30-year-old female friends, "If you think you’re not going to care how you look when you’re 60, I’m here to tell you: You are going to care more. When you’re young and thin and cute, beauty, it’s your world. You will be sorry, later on, if you don’t take better care."

In her new DVD, "Live In Chicago", Nicks remains true to her gypsy roots clad in a Morgane Le Fay wedding dress under a black jacket, top hat, feather and the requisite scarves.

According to The Washington Post, "Nicks showed she still knows how to really work a shawl."


First Ladies Club

Left: Therese Rein & Michelle Obama

Now this is an afternoon tea that I'd like to crash. They may be the wives of world leaders, but Therese Rein and Michelle Obama more than hold their own. A Harvard Law graduate, Obama also sits on a number of company Boards. And Rein is the founder and Managing Director of Ingeus, a multi-million dollar international employment services agency. Both women have been the family breadwinner and both have also raised families and supported their husband's political ambitions.

I suspect they're not discussing handbags in this photo, or the milestones of their children.

While their husbands were trying to solve the world's problems at the G20 summit this week, Obama and Rein were undoubtedly doing some strategising of their own.

Imagine what could be achieved if these women were invited to contribute.

Photo: The Daily Telegraph


A Fabulous Local Fashion Find

Below left: Alexia Gnecchi-Ruscone

The story of Eclettica is a simple but elegant one. Founder, designer, businesswoman Alexia Gnecchi-Ruscone, a mother of two teenage children, was inspired to begin her label when she was unable to find quality clothing with an individual style and a realistic price-tag.

The former high-fashion model for the likes of Givenchy and Prada designs classic pieces with a modern twist that suit women at every age, from 20 through to 60. I have accumulated dozens of pieces over the years and they never seem to go out of style.

A new range of Eclettica tailored shirts is now in store. Trust me, you'll wonder what you wore before them. Expertly made in Australia using only the finest Italian cottons, the shirts are available in Classic & Fitted styles, sizes 8 -16.

Alexia's store is at:
1/164 Edgecliff Rd, Woollahra NSW
Mon - Sat, 10 am - 5:30 pm
tel: 02 - 8021 5178 email:

Photo of Alexia: Vogue
Store Photo:


Funnier Than This?

I read that a new UK study has 'discovered' that women are attracted to men who are funny. Apparently we associate humour with wit. Must be true. How else to explain the coupling of Woody Allen with his many women?

Men, however, like their women to have a sense of humour but don't really want them to be the star act at the Comedy Club. Rather, most men apparently only want their partner's sense of humour to extend to their jokes. That is, he tells a joke, she laughs. She could be the one.

But you can't laugh at him. You must laugh with him. That seems fair enough.

Why on earth someone felt the need to study that is beyond me. But wait there's more...the study, conducted by a team from Northumbria University, found most men would still go for looks over a sense of humour any day. Women will happily put humour at the top of their wishlist - and you know what I'm going to say, right. That's because most women are realists and would rather have a partner she can share a laugh with then a lifetime of searching for that holy grail. Yep, it took a study to confirm that too.

As one of my girlfriends says, most women couldn't remain sane without a sense of humour. Laughing at his jokes seems like a small price to pay for peace of mind.



Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Queen and I

This is by far my favourite news photograph for the week. America's first lady Michelle Obama and The Queen. Arms around each other in a warm female embrace. Two icons of our time, representing the past and the future. A statuesque virtual rockstar sharing a moment with a diminutive living treasure.

Protocols about touching Her Majesty cast aside, the Queen slipped her arm around Michelle first and she reciprocated. A sign that the Palace may finally be embracing the times?



A Massive Blow To Female Freedom

Left: Afghan Shia women and children

A new family law for Afghanistan's Shia minority which effectively legalises rape within marriage is believed to have been approved by the administration of President Hamid Karzai.

The yet-to-be-published legislation would make it illegal for Shia women to refuse their husbands sex, leave the house without their permission or have custody of children. A massive blow to female freedom generally.

The Afghan constitution guarantees equal rights for women, but also allows the Shia to have separate family law based on religious tradition. And that means that unless a woman is sick, she has no right to refuse her husband's sexual advances. So no means yes.

And not only that (as if it could get any worse), the law gives the husband ownership of his daughter's body too. Meaning that he can marry her off while still a child. And mum definitely gets no say in that either.

Human rights activists are rightly alarmed by the latest Afghan developments and are suggesting that conditions for women may in fact be worse than those enforced by the Taliban. They must now be in the middle of hell because the Taliban's beatings, floggings, mutilatings, stonings, false imprisonment, were no picnic either.