Holly Harwood | Her Inspiring Journey, Making Her Own Gin

My passion with gin started when working at Dolly's Gin Palace in Falmouth (whilst studying for my history degree). This was about 8 years ago and I actually had my eyes set to create my own gin then. However I felt I needed more experience in the industry. After a big move to London and many hours working in pubs, bars, gin festivals, a role as a gin brand ambassador and drinks blogger... I still couldn't get making my own gin out of my head! 2 years ago with a lot of support from my family and friends, I started Holly's Gin.

The Gintern

Some people reading this may be following my story as Gintern for ILoveGin.com. This was a viral job advertised last year for a gin lover to visit distilleries and create gin recipes and content. It really is the best job ever and I couldn't believe I actually landed my dream job at the beginning of this year. My journey has influenced my own gin massively, from the design of my bottle to the botanicals I used to create the recipe.

The Design

I was very fortunate to work with my talented friend Ryan on the design of my bottle, as well as Allied Glass believing in my madness! I love anything Art Deco and have a fascination with this era. I really wanted to give the bottle an antique feel. The frosted green really stands out, and I love how the gold shines in the light. The shell logo was inspired by my love of Cornish beaches and the gold leaf design has some of my key botanicals added in! The design is actually printed onto the bottle itself which really looks fantastic.

The Taste

I love London Dry Gins and just knew I had to make one! I also wanted to use some unique botanicals and create something a little different. There are 9 botanicals in total. The 3 key ones are Orange, Gentian root and Passion Flower. I actually drank passion flower tea for years, as it is recommended for its calming benefits. The flower looks pretty cool too! It doesn't taste too floral but perhaps similar to Meadowsweet. There is definitely an earthy, rich aroma. The gin itself is fresh, vibrant and perfect with a premium tonic water!

Cornwall

It was very important to me to have my recipe distilled in my treasured home county of Cornwall. After a meeting with Trevethan Distillery, I knew I wanted it to be made there! Not only do they have Art Deco inspired bottles with a history dating back to the 1920s, but John the distiller has so much expertise and has been fantastic at knowing how to scale up my recipe correctly. This is something that was trickier than I first thought! With the help of John and the team, it tastes wonderful. John will be using their two 300L Copper Pot Stills, called Doris and Rose. Each still will produce around 300-350 bottles each. I will be bottling and sticking the back labels and seals on myself, so you really know it is handcrafted!

Pre-Order Now!

I am crowd funding to make the first batch and make sure the bottles go out before Christmas. All the money raised will go into the production (bottles, labels, corks, distillation, duty), as well as helping me actually get the gin out to you! This is a true labour of love but I am very excited! The support I am receiving means the absolute world to me. I am doing this on a very small budget, but I am determined and just know everyone will enjoy my gin as much as I do!

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/hollys-gin

My Predictions on The Vuelio Blog Awards 2018 | Men's Lifestyle & Fashion

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Oh the woes of a Blogger. We bloggers love to bemoan how hard we work, the endless hours we spend chasing brands for payments, the RSI we endure through fiddling with Instagram pins. 

Yes it can be a slog, as Tom Cruise would say in Jerry Maguire, 'a soul swallowing siege, that I will never fully tell you about'. But we all make our choices in life. And some days those choices feel vindicated. Days like when your blog gets nominated for an award.

That's right, Vuelio, have picked me from the many esteemed and well-heeled bloggers for this year’s Mens Fashion Award. The Bloggers award ceremony is now in it's 4th year and the winners will be announced at the Bloomsbury Big on November 30th. 

Here are the other candidates and I'd like to just share some quick thoughts on each and how I see the contest going. 


Ape to Gentleman - apetogentleman.com

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Run by Chris Beastall. A very tidy platform, easy to use site that delivers quality and informative articles. Very fashion centric, I love how the site never compromises on image quality.

Chris will be a tough opponent, he's tall and will have a long reach. But I figure if I catch him early with some counter punches and keep myself away from his 'hammer' right hand, I predict an early knockout, with yours truly coming out on top. 

Prediction: KO round 3 - Thompson wins



Clothes Make The Man - clothes-make-the-man.com

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Run by Anthony McGrath. A solid seasoned veteran with an all-round game. I think Anthony will struggle to keep up with my level of fitness though so I expect him to tire in the later rounds. 

Prediction: Thompson wins on points, unanimous


Grey Fox - greyfoxblog.com

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Run by the ever studious David Evans. David is a former English teacher so I'd struggle to win the war of words. I know he's a keen cyclist so his fitness coming into this contest will be on a parr with mine. 

David however does struggle with concentration. I know he is on social media a lot and I expect his mind to wonder halfway through the contest. When I see his concentration levels dip, that's when I'll go in for the kill. 

Prediction: KO Thompson wins round 7


Man For Himself - manforhimself.com

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Robin James and his lustrous hair. Strong all round game. Trouble is with Robin, he's too much of a nice man and too good looking. I don't know how much he really wants to go to the trenches with me on this and mess up the cash register. 

Prediction: Thompson wins, Man for Himself forfeits the contest


Permanent Style - permanentstyle.com

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Simon Crompton, well with 500k page views a month Simon will certainly have the home crowd on his side. He has a tidy game, his site is dynamic, his content engaging. However, I know Simon is used to fighting in the upper-divisions, coming down to this weight class will be a huge wake up call for him come fight night. 

Prediction: Thompson wins, KO round 12 Thompson 

I'll keep you posted and will be sharing my thoughts leading up to the event but for now a huge thanks to the good people at Vuelio for the recognition. If someone can inbox me where I need to drop off that envelope of cash that would be great. 

 

Edward James | My Hair Salutes You | Keratin Hair Treatment Experience

I've been asked a bunch of times by friends and contemporaries, how long do I plan to keep on blogging? How many times can one review beard oils, how can you keep on finding new ways to describe the projection of Cedarwood in grooming products? 

My answer? So long as I have hair on my head. I am duty bound to exploit my lustrous head of hair; live vicariously for my follicle-y challenged chums. 

Most recently I was cordially invited to visit the luxurious salon of Celebrity hairstylist Edward James. Edward James has spent 20 years perfecting the art of good hair and is the catwalk creative behind brands such as Stella McCartney and Chanel.

His passion and commitment, expert knowledge and artistic eye make him one of the UK’s most heralded and sought-after stylists.

“Our philosophy always remains the same, to create beautiful manageable bespoke hair for each of our clients,” says James.  "And our team is always striving to create new and innovating ways to enable our clients to be the best and most polished versions of themselves”.

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Edward is wildly charismatic and a great conversationalist. It was a great experience meeting him in his Clapham salon (he also has one in Putney) and my hair never looked better. 

However, it was the added extras that made the whole experience such a delight. I felt like a Saudi Prince as I was treated to a massage during my short wait with some relaxing oils. During the wash I got to further enjoy the feeling of relaxation in the massage chairs. 

It's so important to have trust in your barber. Before I even sat down in the chair this emanated throughout the experience. I scrutinise everything. How old are the magazines on the table? How good is the coffee? Do they even offer coffee? 

Along with his creative team at Edward James’s Salons & Spas, James has won numerous industry awards including ‘Salon of the Year’ and ‘Business of the Year’ and remains committed to reaching ever higher; as he continues to build on his creativity, drawing new inspiration as he strives to reshape the global beauty landscape.

Edward James ticked all the right boxes and having him on my doorstep here in Clapham is a Godsend. How can one ever give up blogging? My hair would never forgive me. 

Introducing Barc London | Now Your Dog Will Look More Stylish Than You

Today I'm going to introduce you to Barc London, a socially conscious dog accessory brand, providing aesthetic and affordable pieces for your four legged friends. As you can imagine I get a fair few products through the post to review. Charlie my French Bulldog gets riled into a frenzy each time a parcel arrives at my house.

Imagine waking up for Christmas each morning and finding out that none of the gifts under the tree are for you. Better yet, you're forced to watch everyone else open there's whilst you slump crestfallen into a corner, licking your own, well you get the picture. 

Well today, it was a special day as Charlie received a special gift from Barc London. A Cool Grey Leather lead from the Core Collection. (Available in 6 colours). 

Barc London has keenly spied a gap in the market; a serious lack of affordable, yet contemporary products that will appeal to all different individuals and their dogs.

Charlie has never looked so on point. But I do worry this might be the start of an ego trajectory for Charlie that will be difficult to harness. (Pardon the pun). Until now Charlie's accessory door had an uber-minimalism look to it. Now with the introduction of this stylish Barc London leather collar, he might be looking at me come October and asking 'Carl I wore this for the entirety of last month.

How would you feel wearing the same shirt every day in public? It's beyond humiliating. I have a dedicated community of Instagram followers that look to me for style advice and .. ' You get the idea. 

The finish on the collars are beautiful, with complimentary hardware and embossed branding, the leather is supple and has a very premium feel and look to it. 

Be one of the early birds and treat your Dog to a wardrobe upgrade by visiting the Barc London Kickstarter page. There you'll find a full break down of pricing for end users and wholesale. 

With every purchase you'll also be donating to Dogs Trust. Dogs Trust is a charity close to my heart whose sole objective is helping dogs who aren’t as lucky as ours by specialising in rehabilitation, protection and rehoming.

"We want to build a brand with a heart; a brand where we are conscious to give back and help solve a very serious issue: According to Dogs Trust Stray Dogs Survey Report in 2017, there were 66,277 reported stray dogs. Dogs Trust and other charities mission is to bring about a day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, "free from the threat of unnecessary destruction". – TEAM BARC

HELP SUPPORT THE BRAND ON KICKSTARTER

UK Shirt Subscription Service | Hawkins & Shepherd


I've been asked on a variety of occasions to explain the minutia of the shirt subscription service on Hawkins & Shepherd, so I'd like to walk you through it. 


Why do I need a shirt subscription service? 

Reason One

Shirts are the most used item of clothing a man could own. Unlike our American counterparts, us Brits rarely wear a vest beneath the shirts so the garment is in constant contact with our skin. Meaning it should be washed or dry cleaned more regularly. 

We also wear out our shirts quick. The elbows start to perish as they meet every day demands of being rubbed on our desks. The collars start to deteriorate and discolour. It's important for someone who wears shirts daily not only to equip oneself with a decent supply of shirts, but to have them on rotation. 


Reason Two 

You also don't want to be the guy in the office that is Mr Predictable. You don't want your co-workers to think 'he's wearing his Monday shirt' or 'he's wearing that shirt still with the toothpaste stain on the chest'. 

You're redoubtable presence in the office will not go unnoticed if you appear fresh and well-groomed for the workplace every day. 


Reason Three

Save time, save money. You don't need to shop around and look for discounts, waste weekends fruitlessly maundering the high street in search of your correct size. With the Hawkins & Shepherd subscription service we take out all the heavy lifting and ship direct to your door. 


How does the shirt subscription service work? 

We have broken the subscription service down into 3 tiers, dependent on budget and how demanding your lifestyle can be. 


Enthusiast - One Shirt per Month 

If you are a business traveller or maybe you just love the feel a crisp new shirt gives you, then this is the package for you. You can either opt for a 6 month or 12 month subscription package. UK Customers Only. You'll be asked for a few details such as collar size, colour and fit and once selected we'll be sending a shirt out to you every month at 40% off the price of an average shirt. 



Executive - One shirt every 2 months

If you wear shirts every day for work, they can become stiff, discoloured and worn. Keep up your sartorial game with this package. 

With a 12 month subscription package you'll be able to get 6 shirts a year at 30% off. 



Essential - One shirt every quarter

Everyone should to be able to wear a Hawkins & Shepherd luxury shirt. Split the cost of one shirt over the period of 3 months with this package. This is a great deal for those that are on a limited spend, but still want to have the option of getting a fresh look with an investment piece. With the Essential package you'll be getting 4 shirts a year with a 20% discount. 

If you have any questions regarding this service then please do not hesitate to ask. We aim to answer all questions within 24 hours. 

 

HAIG CLUB Awards Jeff Goldblum Icon of The Year at the GQ MOTY Awards 2018

If any day was to be my Groundhog Day, then this was the one. I was cordially invited to the GQ Man of the Year Awards at Tate Modern by the good people at HAIG CLUB, the Single Grain Scotch Whisky from the House of Haig. The awards will honour the iconoclasts who shape the world's cultural landscapes in style, politics, entertainment and sport. From the best of film, music, sport, TV, books, politics and this year, even Royalty.

This year, HAIG CLUB was the official spirit sponsor of the awards and after-party. As a sponsor, HAIG CLUB also awarded Jeff Goldblum Icon of The Year – for his long service to awesomeness. 

He wore a two tone gold and silver jacket that looked to made of a silk-viscose blend. Twin jetted skirt pockets and a skinny grey tie. His silver shirt really complemented his grey stubble, accentuated by further grey tones on the side arms of his glasses. 

Is silver going to be the colour of the year for 2019? Pantone, I'm calling it now. The voguish silver-grey movement is coming through the field like Seabiscuit. 

 

So what did I wear to party?

The agony of choice. Of course the de rigueur of such an esteemed show demanded black tie. My weapon of choice, the AW18 grey Ebury velvet blazer from the Chester Barrie ready to wear collection. As Tommy Nutter once said 'the only company you could have quality clothes (ready to wear) made by in this country is Chester Barrie.' (He also cited that they were too expensive, but you get what you pay for).

The jacket has no vents (black tie means black tie) and is crafted in a cotton velvet with silk Mogador facings. The waist is suppressed and the lapels are peaked. I'm also combing a few pieces from a previous season to hammer the point home, these pieces are investments. I don't need a brand new everything, every time I'm on the red carpet.

With the wardrobe nailed down I was shipped off to Barber & Parlour. A salon connected to Soho House with beautiful vintage decor, with reupholstered tanned leather seats and faded chestnut panelling.

To appreciate this escape from the humdrum, this quiet before the storm, I indulged in a Haig Club Clubman Espresso martini. This was to be one of four serves presented to the 850 guests during the awards dinner and at the HAIG CLUB Bar at the after-party.

 

The other three:

  • Haig Club Clubman Boulevardier - Haig Clubman, Belsazar Rose Vermouth, Italian bitter aperitif, orange twist.
  • Haig Club Clubman & Cola - Haig Clubman, Fever-Tree Madagascan Cola, fresh lime.
  • Haig Club X GQ Cooler - Haig Club, elderflower, Fever-Tree Ginger ale, fresh cucumber.

After pressing the flesh on the red carpet for a spell, hanging with the irrepressible Timothy James and Toby Huntington-Whiteley, sampling some HAIG CLUB X GQ MOTY cocktails, it was time for the 3-course meal prepared by Paul Ainsworth.

Then it came time for the awards. Prince Charles picked Prince Charles won Lifetime Achievement for Philanthropy. On stage he jokes: “I thought it might be some sort of fashion award. I’m like a stopped clock - fashionable once every 25 years.” He also quipped “I didn’t want to show you all up with my very snazzy dinner jacket.” (Referring to his double breasted Navy lounge suit). 

Other standouts for me in the style department were Paul Weller who won song writer of the year. His 3-piece chalk line jacket and waistcoat looked fantastic. The roped shoulders and broad lapels didn't scream black tie, but nonetheless followed the lines of his body intensely. I'm curious as to why he wasn't wearing the tuxedo issued in the GQ press release that looked very much like a Hugo Boss suit, the official partners of the event. He styled the jacket and waistcoat with flat front grey flannel trousers with a turn up over his eye catching white and brown penny loafers. 

The award for the most stylish man went to John Legend won also serenaded us during the event. He wore a shimmering cobalt blue velvet tux with black facing peak lapels and a nice barchetta breast pocket, reminiscent of Tom Ford. (I want to say it is Tom Ford, but am mindful that most of the celebrities would have had their wardrobe catered to by the event sponsor). 

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The after-party was buoyant with some well-heeled souls, everyone looked like they had pulled out all the stops. The HAIG CLUB cocktails were going down well with all attendees, a testament to its unique smooth versatility. There is no better single grain whisky on the market that caters to both the whisky aficionado or dram novice. 

HAIG CLUB CLUBMAN (70cl) is available from Waitrose, Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Co-op, Drink Supermarket. RRP £25.

Responsible drinking is at the heart of HAIG CLUB. 

Here is a full list of the GQ Men of The Year 2018 Winners.

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*This sponsored post was created in collaboration with Haig Club.

 

A Quick History of Menabrea | Italy’s Iconic Brewery

What an incredible place Milan is. It has a unique energy, steeped in history, the architecture is beguiling and importantly, the beer is sensational. Last week I was introduced to the wonderment that is Menabrea beer, with a guided tour of Italy’s iconic Menabrea Brewery with Menabrea’s master brewer and 5th generation of the Thedy brewing family, Franco Thedy, as my personal guide.

In 1846, Giuseppe Menabrea travelled to the town of Biella in the foothills of the Italian Alps. There he discovered an underground cave system, ideal for the traditional process of 'lagering'.

The combined elements of pure water and cold fresh air of the region made conditions conducive to build a brewery.

Fresh off the plane, a lunchtime arrival in Milan and I was quickly chaperoned through the provenance of authentic Italy, stepping off the beaten track to explore the historic town of Biella. There, residing in the foothills of the Alps – the birthplace of Italy’s premium Birra, the Menabrea brewery. 

When you visit Biella, you'll still find Menabrea brewing their award-winning beer on the same site, made in the same way, by the same family, with the same ingredients, passion and care.

Biella is a northern Italian town situated midway between the two historic cities of Milan and Turin; it’s nestled in the Bo mountain range in the foothills of the Alps – an area rich in springs and lakes.

The brewery has that inimitable Italian beauty, an eclectic blend of historic brickwork, vaulted ceilings, now modernised with sophisticated production lines carefully manicured by the dedicated staff that oversee operations. 

Both varieties of Menabrea (Blonde and amber) are matured gently in the perfect temperature of the brewery’s cave cellars for a taste of superior clarity, made with alpine water, and distributed around the world.

The blonde (Bionda) is my go-to beer, a sumptuous blend of citrus, bitter tones and floral, fruity undertones giving a consistent and refined flavour. It has a complex malty, hoppy taste with exceptional head retention due to the quality of the ingredients and maturation process.

The Amber beer (Ambratta) is served at a  A 5.0% ABV amber beer, full bodied and well rounded, with a moderately bitter flavour. Amber in colour with bronze undertones, this lager is another example of the brewery's exceptional capabilities.

Whilst in the UK we serve scampi fries and pepperoni's to caveat the blandness of our beers, in Italy there is no need for such apology.

In classic establishments, serving a Menebrea is usually accompanied with an aperitivo - traditionally a bowl of olives or nuts as something to whet the appetite so you can sit back and savour la birra perfetta. We also had a chance to attach some ‘Sbirro’ to the tasting, a Menabrea-infused cheese fresh from the cheese factory situated next door. 

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Milan is the metropolis of northern Italy, the global capital of fashion and design, and a hub for first class arts, culture and hospitality in Europe.

Biella is a nippy one hour drive from Milan and well worth the detour should you be looking to escape the city for a day or so. You can enjoy lunch al fresco at Menabrea Brewery Restaurant before taking a tour of the brewery and cheese factory.

Milan of course is dripping with fantastic bars and restaurants that I was lucky enough to frequent during my brief stay. The famous Duomo di Milano, Galleria et Emmanuelle (don't forget to twist your heel in the mosaic Bulls' testes 3 times for good luck) not to mention the Italian nightlife culture along the famous Ripa di Porta canal.

 

Lastly, I know I get a lot of comments from people saying how they're super jealous of me travelling here there and everywhere. Well soon you'll also be able to enjoy a pint in northern Italy’s beautiful town of Biella, exploring Menabrea’s historic brewery. 

That's right I'm talking about my new teleport machine that I've toiling away with for the past couple of months. You've all seen The Fly? Imagine that, without the wires. And the carnage. 

Of course I jest, but a visit to the Menabrea brewery is made possible through virtual reality technology. Menabrea will be touring restaurants and premium bars across the UK with the VR experience - offering a 360degree tour of Italy’s oldest brewery. 

The VR tour can be experienced later this year in selected bars in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. More details will be available at Menabrea UK on Facebook.

Water Wednesday | Wake up and Smell the Addiction

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Has coffee become the nation’s scourge? My beloved pubs are taking a battering in light of societies palpable shift from Carlsberg to Costa (other watering holes are available) and at the current rate of growth, researchers expect coffee shops to outnumber pubs by 2030.

Charlie and I have too much of a steak dependency to embrace 'No Meat Monday' but I can get behind the new Water Wednesday initiative set by Aqua Optima. It's aimed towards encouraging more people across the country to give up their caffeine fuelled beverages and calorific drinks in exchange for water every Wednesday. 

Coffee is like any form of ritualism. You must first recognise your dependency, and accept the substitutes will be more beneficial. Replacing water with these drinks borne out of a fraught medley of societal dictum and egregious commercialism, will be no mean feat. Going against the grain; breaking patterns, I know, it's time to start moving to a strange new rhythm. 

 

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Breakfast: Coffee? Of course. How many of us hit the kettle before we pull our eyes into focus? Drinking water stimulates the metabolism which is far more productive for your body.

The six to eight hours of recommended nightly sleep is a long period to go without any water consumption. "Drinking a glass or two of water right when you wake up, however, is a good way to quickly rehydrate your body," says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and the author of "The One One One Diet," about the potential benefits.

"Most people have their coffee first thing in the morning," she says. "Although it is a good source of antioxidants, it is also dehydrating. You can offset this with water."

 

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Lunch: Oh coffee. Let's just meet for coffee. Of course you drink soya milk which is an extra 50p in every damn coffee house. Of course you want to try a hazelnut cappuccino because it's the most expensive damn thing on the menu.

Let's just reign in it shall we with this lunacy. Let's also stop turning everything into a damn hashtag, no one is interested in your flat lay laptop and coffee Instagram pictures. Knock that off millennials, please. 

I switched my flat white to a cup of hot water with lemon, and when my lunch date arrived I ordered a bottle of large Evian for the both of us. I offered her a hot water with lemon and of course she ordered a macchiato. What can you do, I tried. 

 

 

Afternoons: I normally take a bottle of water to my KOBOX boxing workout, but sometimes slip into vending machine mode. They say you shouldn't shop in a supermarket when you're hungry, same goes. Don't hit the vending machine and think that sugars going to be the antidote for your dehydration. 

I know a blogger that has given up alcohol that talks about hidden triggers. What lies down the track that could cause imminent derailment. The vending machine is one, the McDonalds on the way home is another, and the cinema! Don't get me started. Well actually, let me finish with that. 

 

Evenings: I've been feeling good all day. I haven't lapsed into a coma or felt like my eyelids are tied to 10k dumbbells. In the evening I took a friend to the cinema, and I figured out why I love the cinema. It's just a glorified Willy Wonka Factory for adults. There is a 100g of Sugar in a large 32oz post mix Pepsi. It's lunacy. 

Of course every assistant encourages the bumper bundle large drink and popcorn deal, that should come with a list of all the local dentists you'll need to fix the holes in your teeth once the movies over. 

I ordered a bottle of water and snuck in some apples slices, of course my friend had the sugary treats and I just cried all the way through the movie. Maybe I should move movie night to the Weekends. 

It's a great idea, 'Water Wednesday'. Shame it's only once a week, but it’s a start. 

 

It’s a TRAPP! Brandnew IO Walks Away From Owing Influencers and Staff Thousands

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Today I'm going to introduce you to a man that has robbed me and many other influencers of a tidy sum of money. Luckily I've got enough going on where I can notch losing a grand to experience, the lights will remain on in the Carl Thompson house. Charlie will still get his treats, Christmas won't be cancelled and I am still able to afford Waitrose's double velvet toilet paper. (I know, the ultimate barometer for one’s wealth). 

A couple of months ago I was approached by an influencer marketing company called Brandnew IO. Their CEO Francis Trapp (I know right? Don't even..) founded the company in 2013 and claim to be the leading Content Creator Platform for brands and agencies.

 

 

According to their LinkedIn profile: Our (Brandnew IO) platform enables marketers to efficiently discover Creators, manage relationships, collaborate on high engaging content and measure campaign results.

After the payment failed to come through for a campaign I did on their behalf, I contacted the brand who assured me they had paid their end. I was CC'd into a few emails and eventually the trail ran cold as they say in the Secret Service. 

 

So who else has been duped? 

I checked out Brandnew IO's social pages and found over influencers and content creators had also been chagrined, for want of a better word. Wait I have a better word; ripped-off! (Ok I had to hyphenate). 

A fellow influencer, Audrey Leighton Rogers, really blew the lid open on these guys in her Instagram stories and after asking around the influencer community she was not the only one.

"Often we use agents/platforms who act as a middleman to connect brands with influencers. So our contract is with these people.

But often these businesses are new and seem to come and go take Brandnew IO for example.

They have been getting influencers work and the brands have paid them yet they have kept the money and not paid their influencers for the content they have created and the money they are rightfully owed.

Often we are waiting on 90 days for payment, so what happens to that money during that time? It is used to run the business. Staff, office etc. And these apps/platforms cost huge amounts in development so simply is (if) the brands dry up and stop using the platform the cash flow soon fails.

I’m not saying this has happened at Brandnew IO but they filed for insolvency on the 1st August 2018 leaving 100s of influencers unpaid for content they have created."

 

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So why has Brandnew IO disappeared? 

This is the strangest thing. I understand that setting up a company like this requires a large investment of capital upfront. Developing the software to integrate influencers with brands costs money. IT developers don't come cheap so you might see a lot of these influencer agencies come and go in the night. 

However, Brandnew IO was founded in 2013 according to their LinkedIn page. Surely they've managed to recoup the initial startup costs and reached parity by now? 

I took a closer look at their funding and whilst these reports are speculative, it appears that the company came to prominence from small capital investors. I’m guessing family backed with initial funding then persuaded some private investment from Zurich.

Although the last round of funding was over 4 years ago, the company have been riding that wave and developing their platform but without making a sufficient return, failed to generate enough profit to keep the lights on. Perhaps they managed to pay their investors back, but failed to leave enough in the kitty for their staff and consequently, us. 

So where's the money gone? The money gets sloshed around, invoices get delayed, chased, delayed, emails miraculously get sent to junk mail or never received.

I can only imagine Trapp has reinvested the money into the ailing business and thrown good money after bad. Or has simply bought himself a nice couple of bespoke suits, a few Rolex watches. God I'm sounding like Sam Rothstein questioning Ginger in Casino.

"I bet he had a good time on my money. How did he get fitted for suits that fast? He's not going to wear 1,000 dollar suits. But let’s say he did which he won't, how are you going to get fitted for 25 suits in 3 days? How can you get fitted that fast? I can't get fitted that fast and I pay twice as much." 

I've tried reach out to Francis Trapp for a quote as the company has neglected to update any of its social media platforms which have served more of a petition page for out of pocket influencers demanding payment. 

Trapp has refused to reply. Consistent to everyone else’s experiences. Including content creator Gemma Talbot who has this to say:

“To say I’m angry is an understatement. Weeks of chasing payments that are months late with no response. The most frustrating part is that I’d been paid for one collaboration I completed through the Brandnew IO platform but not the other two.

Why not? I’ve completed the work and whilst I appreciate the brand in question may not be to blame they’ve still gained the exposure yet I'm at a loss of both money and time taken to create the content in the first place. 

It’s hard to just accept you’ll never see money for content you’ve created because the company have filed for insolvency.

It just doesn’t seem fair or right. Money that I’d counted on to pay rent and bills. After all, living in London is pricey. Not only do I feel sorry for the other influencers affected (some are owed several thousands of pounds) but also for the employees of Brandnew IO some who have contacted me directly on Instagram via DM to tell me the company owe them up to £8000 in wages!

Quite frankly it’s disgusting. Whilst it appears all my emails have gone unanswered, when I publicly called Brandnew IO out on my Instagram stories by tagging the brand directly someone managing their social media had seen it immediately.

I received no email update, no apology and had been completely left in the dark. I’m trying to perhaps understand from their point of view but quite frankly there is no feasible explanation. It’s simply disgusting and wholly unprofessional on their part.”

 

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Wake up Call

It's a wakeup call for brands also, finding the right influencer for your product is hardly a feat of acrobatics. The blame cannot be placed on the brands for a 3rd party company they have also trusted going bankrupt. However in many cases the brands have appointed influencers for their campaigns themselves and redirected said influencers to signup to Brandnew IO as a platform for the campaign. Now in this case does the brand have to take some responsibility? Legally, no. If they want to do the right thing, then yes. 

In my particular case, I was approached by a major Media Agency to do some work for a brand. After lots of email back and forth we agreed on deliverables and payment. At this point, I was told to signup to the Brandnew IO platform to continue the campaign. Fast forward months, I completed the campaign, submitted the content and requested payment from the platform. The Media Agency and the brand were happy with the content, although a month ago I got an email from the Media Agency it said:

"I just wanted to reach out regarding the delay campaign payment.

Huge apologies for the major delay in payment for this campaign. I completely understand that this is very frustrating and we have been investigating this as much as we can.

Going forward, I have cc’d my Brandnew support contact, who will be able to keep you updated from their side and get in touch with you directly. Just to clarify, Brandnew is a separate company from us and act as an influencer identification platform for us that processes campaign payments to bloggers. Therefore, your Brandnew contact will be handling this financial delay with you going forward. Please do feel free to keep me CC’d within emails."

That's great but it also felt like one of those 'we know what's going on here with Brandnew IO and trying to cover ourselves' kind of emails. Since that email I have sent at least another 6 emails asking for payment updates which were ignored. I then contacted the Media Agency and again ignored. I guess I have to chalk this one down to experience and think about how to alleviate this from happening in the future. It maybe in the form of tighter contracts, shorter payment terms, better due diligence and risk assessments.

If they need to cast a wider net with a certain campaign a lot of influencers (like myself, like Dapper Chapper, like Human Research etc) will spearhead a campaign on their behalf and advise them on which of their contemporaries will be a good fit for their brand. 

As for Brandnew IO and Francis Trapp, I welcome them to make a statement in reply to this blog.

I'm happy to pick up the phone and demystify why they've neglected to pay their staff and hundreds of other influencers. I don't sling mud that often, but Francis, you've forced my throwing arm. 

 

 

The Best Books to Up Your Dating Game

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Gentleman, it's been over 13 years since many of us picked up The Game by Neil Strauss, chucked on the most bilious of shirts and peacocked up and down the streets of Soho like the horrible wretches we were. Has there been any other decent books about dating since then that will help us up our game? Here's a list I've put together for you. 

 

Confessions of a Tinderella 

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It's not all about learning chat up lines and body language. This book from Rosy Edwards talks about what Tinder can be like from the other side of the fence. Are women just as frivolous when it comes to swiping as guys? Are they any less materialistic? Rosy talks about where guys are going wrong on Tinder in a candid and hilarious way. 

 

High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

Yes it's fiction, but High Fidelity is a real page turner. The film is also a great watch and it really encompasses a spiritual journey that all men would like to embark on; hounding out our ex-girlfriends and finding out why they dumped us. 

 

You Just Don't Understand - Deborah Tannen

How often do we get to hear that? Tannen makes the important point that if two people communicate in different ways, continuing with the same approach - only trying even harder - won't solve problems when they are at cross purposes.

Not currently in print but well worth digging out if you find it pop up on eBay or in vantage market stalls. 

 

Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps - Allan Pease

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This book demonstrates the fundamental differences between men and women's brain circuitry. There is some clever use of humour and some nice anecdotes, which enhance the pleasure of reading this book.

It is well written and uses scientific fact very well to explain human behaviour. Slightly sexist and dated at times, so anyone that's a fan of the early James Bond films will love this. 

 

On Love and Loneliness - Krishnamurti

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Sometimes we need to pull back the onion layers on a relationship and ask what we are really in it for? Is it a quick bang? Are we filling a Dad shaped hole? (That's for the women reading, otherwise that sounds weird).

On Love and Loneliness is a compelling investigation of our intimate relationships with ourselves, others and society. 

 

Why Men are the Way They are - Warren Farrell

I once read that any man that hasn't read this book, is walking around with a blindfold on.

It's a book that sympathises with both sexes although centres on Farrell's assumption that men prioritise women's looks in their partner selection, while women have multiple criteria. 

 

How To Flirt With Women & Get What You Want: A Guide To Flirting, Dating & Seduction - Ryan Harris

This book doesn’t only tell you how to up your game, it teaches you the benefits of a positive mindset, and really engaging with mindfulness, to bring your successes to other arenas of your life.

This book focuses on creating quality connections with women, recognising and utilising your own strong points and building the confidence to use them to their fullest.

 

JOIN ME AT THE DATING SHOW LIVE 2018 - BIRMINGHAM NEC

Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th November | Day tickets £22 Weekend £45

Get your tickets here

Watching Every Beat With the Braun ActivScan 9 | Blood Pressure Monitor

Here's a matter close to my heart, pun intended. I've recently road tested the ActivScan 9 which is one of two new blood pressure monitors recently launched by Braun. The ActivScan™ 9 is a comfortable and intuitive blood pressure monitor. It measures and stores your blood pressure, which you can access through the dynamic user interface.

The monitor is fully compatible with smartphone devices via the Braun Healthy Heart app, which lets you access your data anytime, anywhere and enter lifestyle data to create a complete picture of your health and lifestyle.

 

 

Why do I need an ActivScan 9?

It's time to start paying attention to what your body is telling you. High Blood Pressure is one of the major contributing factors to heart failure and research conducted by Braun tells us that almost two thirds of adults don’t consider themselves to have a healthy lifestyle.

Ask yourself what is more important, following the progress of your own blood pressure, or following the progress of some stranger and their cats on Instagram?

With ActivScan 9 you can synchronise this data with your calendar, include some lifestyle features like sleep, exercise diet etc. You can then see how all these variables impact your blood pressure. This information will be a great source of reference for your doctor when it comes to prescribing illnesses and monitoring your health.

Braun, whose new generation blood pressure monitors provide smart, intuitive readings that are easy to understand, is working with experts to help raise awareness of the benefits of regular monitoring and the positive lifestyle changes.

Their four leading experts specialise in Sleep (Elite Sport Sleep Coach), Mood (CEO of the Happiness Research Institute), Diet & Nutrition (@FitnessOnToast) and Hypertension (Medical).

 

 

My personal story

Around 5 years ago now I had a heart operation to correct a congenital heart defect, which remained undetected since birth. The condition was a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) which is common in premature babies although rare that it would have been undetected through 30 or so years of my life. The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that connects the two major arteries (Aorta & Pulmonary) whilst the baby is in the womb and is an essential part of blood circulation. This connection allows blood to be pumped from the right side of the heart straight to the aorta, without stopping at the lungs for oxygen. While a baby is in the womb, only a small amount of his or her blood needs to go to the lungs. This is because the baby gets oxygen from the mother's bloodstream. When the baby is born, the ductus arteriosus closes, allowing normal blood flow to your own lungs to get oxygen. Mine simply didn’t close and remained open or Patent.

In short having a PDA for 30+ years caused increased strain on my heart and therefore the heart was working harder to pump blood around my body, leading to my heart (left ventricle) becoming enlarged to counteract that increased workload. I always think about my heart now and how to care for it and monitoring blood pressure is an essential part of that.

It is hard to say what long-term strain or damage has been done to my heart if any, but what I do know is that this heart defect could have been fatal. I guess I was lucky that a) the PDA diameter wasn’t large (b) I have always led a healthy active lifestyle.

Detection of my heart defect was simple; the PDA causes a continuous heart murmur, always present, always detectable. The Braun ActivScan 9 can help detect high or low blood pressure and irregular heart beats, so if I had this device years ago, who knows I may have detected it much sooner.

 

How easy is it to use the ActivScan 9?

I know, it's another mouth to feed right? Another piece of technology we have to get to grips with. Luckily the ActivScan 9 is swift and easy to use. (Even I didn't need to read the instructions).

Once it has read your blood pressure it colour-codes your results, from green to red so you can interpret your heart’s health at a single glance.

The dynamic user interface is simple and intuitive to use and the full colour display is controlled by an easy navigation wheel and soft touch buttons.

Their custom-made, pinch-to-open cuff fits easily around your upper arm and uses soft inflate technology. This provides gentle measurement, enabling you to discover your blood pressure comfortably.

 

Where can I get my hands on one?

Braun blood pressure monitors are available to purchase from Boots. For more information visit the Braun website at www.braunbloodpressuremonitors.co.uk

 

*This sponsored post was created in collaboration with Braun Blood Pressure Monitors.

Who is Making the Most Money on Love Island?

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Love it or hate it, you can't escape it. Love Island has built on its phenomenal success of last season and it's not just a ratings success, but a huge commercial success for the broadcasters ITV who managed to rake in over 2.3million viewers on ITV2 on Friday, more than the BBC and the ITV. 

 

Who is making money out of Love Island? 

The winner will get £50k, but it’s said they'll get hundreds of thousands from endorsements, live appearances etc. The show is sponsored by an entire myriad of commercial collaborations.

Love Island viewers can vote via the show's official app, which has previously been used to allow viewers to pick who leaves, who returns and who goes on dates with who.

The app also features a style page with links to buy clothes seen on the islanders and fans can listen to the official Love Island: The Morning After podcast there too.

 

Brand integration

The commercial success of Love Island is not just down to the alchemy of the contestants, their chiseled pecs or porcelain skins, but the integration of the brands used within the show.

One example being the clothes on the show being supplied by the shows partner Missguided. The daters were given daily outfits to last them through their time in the villa as a form of product placement, handing over bits from Missguided casual, summer, festival, and out-out product lines.

It targets that 16-34-year-old audience which until now has been a difficult lock to pick due to the younger generation watching the majority of their TV through other online platforms rather than the live experience. 

 

How much are these brands paying to be on Love Island? 

According to Steven Ballinger, MD for Investment at Ad agency Carat, the biggest sponsor is most likely Superdrug that will be paying in the regions of £4 million to be involved with the shows integration. 

Other brands integrated such as Kellogg’s and Thorpe Park that has a theme park ride dedicated to the show, will likely to be paying in the regions of £1 million for show integration. 

For a spot during the commercial breaks the estimated fees are likely to be between 30-50 thousand pounds. Which is a handsome sum, but compared to the £150k price tags that is demanded for a spot in the X-Factor, still relatively small. 

 

So is brand integration the future for broadcast networks? 

It seems likely. This show has changed the goalposts for product placements. ITV have also adopted the vertical integration by providing its own merchandise from the show. Nothing is more popular than the Love Island personalised water bottles that you might have already started seeing in the drinks holsters of the treadmills in your gym. 

The direct to consumer model eliminates many middle men, circumvents a lot of unnecessary supply chains and keeps the products accessibly priced for the younger markets. 

 

 

Top 10 Film Locations You Can Visit in London

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One of the great things about living in London is the infinite amount of things you can see or do. I'm going to jump straight into this one and give you a tour of the top ten film locations you can visit in London.

 

Robin Hood and the Prince of Thieves St Barts Church

It posed for the Cathedral of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well having featured in many films, Transformers, The Avengers, Four Weddings and a Funeral (final wedding) and Sherlock Holmes. 

It's five pound entrance fee and open week days, though best check their website for times as they are closed through during the week through the winter months. 

 

Skyfall

Ok this isn't an exotic location but it's right on the doorstep of St Barts Church and you can't miss it. As Tanner takes Bond to their 'new digs' he escorted down a winding road that leads down into leads the Smithfield Car Park in West Smithfield alongside the famous Smithfield Meat Market.

There are a couple of pubs dotted around the winding road you should have no problem finding one that will serve food. 

 

Batman's Police Station

Just up the road is The Farmiloe building that provided the interiors for Gotham City's Police Station in all the Christopher Nolan's Batman films. It's become a vacant event space, almost typecast as the abandoned warehouse where sh*t goes down. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Inception to name but a few. It's also provided the exteriors for Eastern Promises.

You can try calling the buildings representatives to see if they'll let you in for a nose round. The guy’s name is Matthew Mycock. What? I'm not laughing. Why are you laughing? 

 

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Harry Potter

From the Barbican head up two stops Kings Cross from the underground on either the Hammersmith & City, The Circle or the Metropolitan line.

The queues for this can be dreadful. That said, it's well organised. The Trolley is embedded into the wall by the Harry Potter shop. (They had to move in within the station as the real platform was getting over run with tourists). 

It's free to take pictures with your own phone or you can get a professional to take one that you can pay for in the shop. 

If you're looking to eat then Kimchee is just a two minute walk from the station. I recommend the Bibimbap, a mixed bowl of rice and sautéed vegetables topped with a fried egg and hot, stir-fried rice cakes, Bulgogi Ddukbokki. It gets busy so might need to book. 

 

James Bonds Flat!

You may as well right? Go see where James Bond lived in the Movie Spectre. That's where he orders Moneypenny to drop off the remnants of M's office. Which is ludicrous because she is walking with him, package in hand, and he tells her to drop it off at his place in the evening? 

If I were Moneypenny I would say 'Look Bond, I'm right here, with the box, why don't you take this from me now, save me schlepping across London to deliver it. We're not going to shag if that's what you're after. We haven't shagged in the 23 movies previous, we're not going to start now.' 

From Kings Cross jump on the Circle or the Hammersmith & City line. About 30 mins on the tube and you get off at Ladbroke Grove Station. From there it's a short walk to 1 Stanley Gardens, Notting Hill, W11. 

 

Whilst you're in Notting Hill

Yes, I think you've guessed it haven't you. Go to the Notting Hill Travel Book shop that was run by Hugh Grant in the movie Notting Hill. The only snag is there isn't a book shop there, the real book shop on which it was based closed down due to rising real estate, ironically boosted by the popularity of the film. According to the Movie Location blog

There is no ‘Travel Book Company’ on Portobello Road, the down-at-heel shop owned by William Thacker. The store was Nicholls Antique Arcade, then furniture store Gong, it’s now a gift shop/souvenir store, sensibly called – yes – Notting Hill142 Portobello Road (and rather cheekily replicating the film’s typeface). Somewhat misleadingly, the shop-owners have added an additional sign reading 'The Travel Book Shop'.

Next week we'll head over to West London. 

 

How to Take Amazing Smartphone Pictures & How I Edit my Instagram Images

 Photo by  Yen Vu  on  Unsplash

Photo by Yen Vu on Unsplash

Have you ever been wowed by a picture on Instagram, and then feel stupefied to find it was taken on an Smartphone? A friend recently posted an exotic photo from his trip to Thailand and it was like a screensaver. I asked him what camera he was using these days and to my bemusement (and mild embarrassment) he said, 'on my phone'.

I've had plenty of friends tell that posting native shots on Instagram gets way more traction. I.E taking a picture of something on your phone, in the moment, rather than a professional image taken on a high-resolution camera that has been edited in Lightroom, cropped etc. 

Someone that is on top of her game when it comes to making the most of the smartphone is Katrina Frazer, a pro-photographer known as the ‘Queen of light’. (That's a good name, sounds like the next fragrance from Beyonce). 

Along with the Nokia 7 plus, Katrina brings you her top tips for pro-style pics all from the tech in the palm of your hand.

 

Top Tips for Smartphone Pictures

Play with the shutter speed. Taking great pictures at night is just a nightmare. Notice you don't see too many night time fashion shoots on the streets of London? Lighting a shot is a massive operation and isn’t as simple as just pointing and clicking. 

To capture more detail, you need more light. A slow shutter speed keeps the camera lens open longer to let in more light.

* If you don’t have a tripod, try spreading your feet shoulder width apart and lean your back against a wall to create a tripod with your body

* If you have a desk/table/counter to lean on, plant both elbows on the platform - elbows should be wider than your shoulders

* Another way to steady a shaky hand is to take the picture as you slowly breathing out

Playing with shutter speed and movement in low light can help you create artistic effects.

 Photo by  Arthur Osipyan  on  Unsplash

 

ISO-what? While your smartphone camera auto-settings might work well enough, one simple way you can ensure pro shots is by playing with your camera’s ISO settings.

For the perfect portrait or selfie that brings out the contours and shading of a face it’s better to use a low ISO.

To make the most of the detail this setting allows, you should ideally try to position the subject in natural light, with the light focused on their face. In these circumstances, flash will kill the image so try to use the light available along with adjusted ISO settings to create pro-portraits.

Some smartphones allow you to manually change settings in your camera and play with ISO levels, shutter speeds and aperture – getting it right is sometimes a matter of trial and error!

Pro Mode on Nokia smartphones is the perfect interface to give you full manual control over all your camera settings. Available on its latest models including the photo-fab Nokia 7 plus, Pro Mode allows you to easily access manual settings in one swipe. Combining innovative optical hardware and imaging algorithms, the Nokia 7 plus captures moments into photos that are true to life. It’s optimised and integrated for maximum performance and battery life, even when you are broadcasting your #Bothie videos (videos taken using the front and back camera simultaneously to create a split screen image) live on Facebook or YouTube.

Available in Black/Copper, the Nokia 7 plus is available to buy for a RRP of £349.99.

 

Other smartphone tips for Instagram

Whilst I don't post many pictures from the smartphone (I would say that only 5% of my Instagram images are smartphone taken). I do post vids and snaps on the stories. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. When taking a photo, always try and leave space in the picture for some text, arrows and emoji’s. 
  2. Always Geo-tag your location and tag someone that might enjoy the photo. 
  3. If you're in London hashtag #VisitLondon. I find that the best tag for outreach on stories. 

 

 

How I edit my photos for Instagram

I often get asked this and in all honesty I don't have a particular Lightroom preset or any template to use. What I tend to do is edit each photo individually but in a similar way to achieve my desired look and feel.

The first stage of a good Instagram image is an exceptional photographer who knows you and your style. My Instagram tends to be quite dark, shadowed, sharp, high contrast, simple colours and cool tones. So the first stage is to make sure your photographer knows your style, for me there is no point in getting professional images that have warm, pink, earthy tones to them because 1. It doesn't fit my feed and .2. If I then re-edit the image, I'll be pissing off the photographer and the quality of the image will deteriorate. 

If I have time on my hands, I tend to use the RAW files and edit in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Although this isn't always possible, so more often than not, I just use mobile apps to edit my images. 

So if I only have 5 minutes to edit and post a photo to Instagram, this is what I'll do:

1. Transfer the photo to your smartphone. Make sure the transfer doesn't affect the resolution of the image.

2. Open the photo in the Facetune App. I ONLY use this app for the Details and Whiten features. I do not and will never ever edit my face, spots, greys, wrinkles etc. If there are any green trees or bushes, I'll use the whiten feature to grey them out slightly. I'll then use the same feature to whiten any tungsten, amber light or features. If there are any details in the image that I would like to sharpen and highlight, I use the 'details' feature to go over, such as a watch face or pocket square. Export the image.

3. Use the above exported image to post to Instagram. Use the custom editing tool and never a preset filter, to create your own style. Again, it depends on the image but here is roughly what settings I use to edit in Instagram:

- Brightness 0
- Contrast 0
- Structure +2
- Warmth -30
- Saturation 0
- Colour 0
- Fade 0
- Highlights 0
- Shadows -100
- Vignette +80
- Tilt Shift 0
- Sharpen +35

Trial it out and let me know what you think.

 

How to Win Most Stylish Man at Chester Races

Mr Green Ladies & Gents evening kicks off on 13th July at Chester Races and now is the time to start planning the outfit if you want to be in contention for the best dressed male. Gates open at 4.30pm offering the perfect excuse for an early dart from work. Take advantage of their ticket offer before the expiry date and make this Friday the 13th a lucky one.

Before I throw my hat in the winner’s circle with style tips, let’s take a look at the dress code pulled from the website.  

*It's worthy to note that different stands will have different codes. The Open Course has no dress code although they advise you to dress for the conditions. The more exclusive the enclosure the stricter the code. Below is the code for the Winning Post. 

Dress Code: Gentlemen are required to wear a well-tailored suit or a blazer/sports jacket with smart trousers, together with a shirt, collar and tie. Ladies are required to wear smart dress. No denim jeans of any colour, no trainers, no sportswear and no fancy dress will be permitted.

Notice the words 'well-tailored'. This doesn't mean we need to get a bespoke suit fast tracked for the price of a king’s ransom. But we do need to have a think about when was the last time you wore that event day suit. 

 

How do I win best dressed male at Chester Races? 

We can start by looking at last year’s winner Mr Stewong on Instagram. He is dressed in a light blue double breasted 2 piece from Gieves & Hawkes

The material is possibly flannel which is boiled wool, that gives it a textured look which will definitely help you stand out. In my opinion this is a great look, a cracking suit, but not tailored to my style. 

The jacket is suppressed at the waist so follow the lines of his body well. But the jacket is too short for my liking, it has a rather feminine look to it. I would have liked to have seen the jacket come an inch past his wrist. 

Notice also on the leg how tight the fit is around his thigh and crotch, yet the calves have plenty of fabric. It's an uneven look on the leg and it has a jarring effect. The cuff of the trouser falls neatly on the break which tells me this has been tailored. 

Don't be so mean on the guy Carl! 

You're right, and this is only my opinion. I actually like the suit and think the light blue colour and the accoutrements are brilliant. The Navy Silk Pocket square contrasts perfectly with the light blue. The loafers keep the look youthful and overall, it's the details such as the tie pin, the sunglasses etc that has distinguished Mr Stewong from the competition. 

If you'd like to follow in Mr Stewong's footsteps I've picked out some other blazers from the Gieves & Hawkes online store that are currently in the sale

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Should I wear Tweed to the Races? 

It's a free world baby. Tweed and horse racing go together like Ike and Tina, before Ike got a bit hands on. One thing to bear in mind with tweed is that whilst it looks amazing, it is a dense fabric and won't circulate your body heat. But tweed has been made more accessible with the likes of Dashing Tweeds in West London introducing lighter 'city tweeds' for the urban man. 

I'd say there's nothing like a girl in tweed so I prefer to see it on women than I do men. That said if you break up the tweed look with a pair of white chinos that will certainly get you noticed. When it comes to ties and pocket squares match the colour with one of the over checks in the blazer. Notice the gentleman on the right pairing his green and purple over check 3 piece suit with a magenta tie and pocket square. 

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That's about it from me. Above all make sure you enjoy the day and drink like a gentleman, not like a hooligan. Try and wear something that will turn a few heads but without being overly-peacocky. Below is a gallery from Chester Races to give you an idea of what race-goers have worn in the past. 

*Article sponsored by Mr Green: Ahead of Chester Races, the award winning UK casino Mr Green are offering a special welcome offer. Get up to £100 in Bonus Cash on 1st Deposit of £20 or more & 200 Free Spins *x35 wagering applies to bonus cash & free spins. New customers only.  T&Cs apply. 18+ BeGambleAware.org

 

Are Facebook or Instagram Reading my WhatsApp Messages?

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Have you ever googled a product or a brand, then seconds later found that same product or brand advertising on your Facebook feed? Ever thought it a wild coincidence that you've just googled 'How to wear Chelsea Boots' then to find endless pictures of Chelsea boots on your Instagram feed?

The critical mass finds this somewhat invasive, creepy but are still willing to waiver the targeted adverts as the price you pay for free social media. But I have to tell you about an experience that happened to me the other day.

I was discussing with a friend the benefits of sugar free Ice Cream over WhatsApp. My friend had never heard of the brand, never googled it, it was not on my friend’s radar whatsoever. Then as if by magic, said Ice Cream was all over her social media banners.

A coincidence? Pull the other one Zuckerburg, it's got bells on it. Facebook own both Instagram and WhatsApp, so it's not surprising that adverts are interlinked and cross pollinate through different platforms, but aren't WhatsApp conversations encrypted?

I had no idea that Facebook are listening in. This was not only creepy as heck, but the first real wave of targeted advertisement that made me sit up in my chair and look around.

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So are Facebook listening in and if so how are they doing it? 

I pulled this from an article from Lifehackers written by Nick Douglas, a very interesting read.

"Facebook’s mobile app theoretically could listen in on you, at least while you have it open. It even has a public feature that will try to recognize any audio in the background, like music or TV—but only while you’re entering a status update, and only if you’ve opted in. Facebook says this feature is never used for advertising."

I should state as thorough and insightful as this article is, it is dated a year ago and the author is convinced that Facebook is not listening in due to its credibility and Douglas is quoted as saying in the article:

"Facebook is cagey, but they don’t tend to openly lie about huge data-collection schemes."

But the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal which rocked the Facebook community has changed people’s perception of that. 

To counter this argument, it could also be said that there have been a million Facebook advertisements that I don't identify with? I'm admittedly very susceptible to confirmation bias. That's when your brain notices positive examples of what you were conditioned to believe, but doesn’t notice negative examples.

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But what about WhatsApp? What about the Ice Cream convo? 

Again there is another decent blog by Natasha Lomas for TechCrunch.com that offers the following advice. 

“When your messages are end-to-end encrypted, only the people you are messaging with can read them — not WhatsApp, Facebook, or anyone else.”

How interesting! This encrypted messaging service only works by the way if both parties agree. So make sure your text buddy is onboard. 

 

So what does Facebook want from my WhatsApp number? 

Facebook has your number, in a lot of ways! They use your mobile number for Custom Audiences ad offering. So any WhatsApp users that have given a business the same mobile phone number they use for the app can be served targeted ads by that same business via Facebook. And let’s face it, we all just use the same number for everything right? 

 

Final Verdict. 

The tools are there. Sure you have encryption on the messages, but your iOS has no added security for archive chat. The database that stores your chats on your iPhone does not benefit from an extra layer of encryption. 

That said I don't want to start sounding like a conspiracy theorist and we should state that there has been no evidence of proven case studies of Facebook reading or using data from encrypted WhatsApp messages.

Although how can Instagram serve both myself and said 'friend' with the same Ice Cream Sponsored Post on our feeds the day after discussing it on Whatsapp? I'm sceptical. 

In April 2018 Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress and directly implied that WhatsApp chats are inaccessible to Facebook because of end-to-end encryption.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES, COMMENT BELOW.

 

Your Ultimate IGTV Guide | How to Upload Videos to IGTV on Instagram

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It's been getting a bit crazy on Instagram of late. The IGTV platform feels like it's been talked to death already and it's barely a week old. Now the proverbial dust has settled what is it all about and is it truly the game-changer everyone is making it out to be? How can you monitise it and how do you edit you videos for the IGTV vertical format?

 

I'm still unsure, what is IGTV? 

IGTV is a standalone app and one that can have integrated into your Instagram account. You can upload videos up to an hour long if you have a verified account. Although I believe there are some hacks or ways to get around this limitation for non-verified accounts.

For those minnows like you and I we will be restricted to 10 minutes. Which is plenty of time for a vertical video. (We'll talk about the vertical video problem/solution later). 

It will certainly enhance the sales of Gimbals as the jittery homemade videos will soon get tiresome, much like all the found footage movies did after The Blair Witch Project.

It will certainly separate the men from the marines when it comes to video content because you'll need to be a bit more clued in with editing, creating ideas that doesn't just involve 15 seconds of you filming yourself blowing out a birthday cake. 

Ten minutes might be a very long time for people with so few ideas. 

 

Will using IGTV benefit my business? 

You bet your ass it will. Imagine having an hour long video platform where you can demonstrate your products to your audience, of course there is also LIVE for that but let's be honest, what brands really use that? It also helps brands or Influencers who do not currently have a presence on YouTube target their audience on Instagram with more engaging video content. 

There are insights available for your IGTV video. So far IGTV insights include: Views, Likes, Comments, and Average percentage watched.

There's even a handy chart to show you the points at which video viewership increases and drops.

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How do I edit IGTV videos for a ten-minute format? 

Well this is where you need to get that big brain a'cookin’. Firstly, lets talk about the editing. As IGTV presents videos ONLY in vertical format then any new videos you shoot for IGTV should be filmed in portrait but make sure there is enough resolution left after the cropping. 

It would be great for a horizontal format to be introduced but for now make sure every time you film something with your cameras you need to keep the object in the middle of the frame. As we're the guinea pig generation for this new format then I wouldn't start hiring out film crews or studios just yet. 

I'm going to film everything on my Sony A7Sii, then import the videos to my iMAC and edit them in iMovie or FinalCut. For this demo I'll use iMovie, so this is how to create a video for IGTV from scratch:

1. Film your subject in portrait NOT landscape. Copy from your SD card to your iMac. Open iMovie, create a new project "IGTV Test" and import the video into the project. Even if you've filmed in portrait, iMovie will rotate the content to display in landscape...don't panic.

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2. On the top right-hand side in iMovie, click the "Cropping" icon, then "Rotate the clip clockwise" until your movie displays in portrait as below.

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3. Edit your video as you would normally and save to file. If you are using Airdrop to transfer the video from your iMAC to your iPhone then save in 1080p although I do believe that IGTV supports 4K resolution.

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 16.09.03.png

4. Then simply open IGTV and upload your movie. Remember that on IGTV you can add URLs in the description and they become clickable links --> use this format https://www.hawkinsandshepherd.com/

I haven't had the chance to experiment with including music on the videos. Currently IG stories can be uploaded with music, (royalty and non-royalty) but posts on the home feed that contain music that require royalty fees, get taken down almost instantly. 

According to Digitial Music News it looks like Instagram is also working on layering music into Stories. This is still at the rumour stage, though monetization would likely include both background music and intentionally added clips.

IGTV 2.jpg

I'm a blogger/instagrammer, what are the best videos to upload to IGTV? 

I already uploaded one of me working out in KOBOX. I can imagine fitness vids and instructors making huge use out of this. 

 

FITNESS TUTORIALS

What will this do for all those fitness apps out there like Tabatas that you need to subscribe and pay for to see this kind of content? They'll need to rethink their model that's for sure. 

 

UNBOXING

We mentioned product demos but I think Unboxing videos will be great for this. Unboxing vids on the stories is tricky, and boring because it takes 15 seconds just to get the damn sellotape off. 

 

EXCLUSIVES

How about doing content that no one can get on any of your other platforms? Imagine a news release or a giveaway code for a product? 

 

Recently I thought David Haye missed a massive trick. He announced his retirement on his website with a very thorough and well thought out blog post. 

Then he just reeled it all off on an Instagram vid for those that he said 'can't be arsed to read'. I mean there's repurposing content and there's just killing all the emancipation. 

 

Why should I move over to IGTV? 

When a new platform is started, there is an opportunity for content creators to get noticed. New platforms lack content so there is a greater chance of your content getting noticed.

When it comes to bright and shiny new things people are in “exploring mode” looking for people and content to enjoy and follow. Which makes it much more likely for your content to become popular.

Also we're migrating more and more to our phones. The IG blog highlights that “by 2021, mobile video will account for 78% of total mobile data traffic" and that they’ve “learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals”.

 

50 Years Anniversary for Rolex & Sir Jackie Stewart

2018 is a particularly special year for Rolex and Sir Jackie Stewart, as it marks the 50th anniversary of their partnership. At the minute, aside from Charlie, I'm struggling to find something that will attach itself to me for 50 minutes let alone 50 years. 

 

How did it all begin Rolex and Jackie Stewart? 

Back in the 1930s, trailblazer Sir Malcolm Campbell aka “the king of speed” broke the World Land Speed record with a Rolex on his wrist; a pioneering moment on the long, flat and firm Daytona Beach which would establish motor sport as an integral part of Rolex’s culture.

Did you know that the most expensive watch in the world was a Rolex that Paul Newman wore throughout his racing career? Originally a gift by his wife Joanne Woodward, it sold for $18 million dollars at an auction last year and has the inscription engraved “Drive carefully”. 

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In 1992, Rolex formalized its relationship with Daytona as Title Sponsor of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA and following the turn of the twenty-first century the watchmaker was named an Official Partner and the Official Timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

You may have noticed Rolex's presence in Formula 1 in the last couple of years, in 2013, Rolex became a Global Partner and the Official Timepiece of Formula 1®.

 ©Rolex/James Moy THE START OF THE FORMULA 1 2018 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

©Rolex/James Moy THE START OF THE FORMULA 1 2018 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

Reflecting on his career to date, that includes three FIA Formula One Drivers’ World Championships™, Sir Jackie Stewart said: “I am honoured to have been with Rolex for 50 years, it’s a rare commitment and almost unheard of in sport – it has been a fantastic journey together. I am still as impressed and in awe of the brand today as I was back then.

I purchased my first Rolex having qualified well at the Indianapolis 500, before I became a Rolex Testimonee. It was a Rolex Day-Date 18 carat gold with President bracelet and it instantly established my love of and respect for Rolex.

 ©Rolex/Guillaume Mégevand ROLEX TESTIMONEE, SIR JACKIE STEWART BEFORE THE GOODWOOD REVIVAL 1957 BRITISH GRAND PRIX CELEBRATION

©Rolex/Guillaume Mégevand ROLEX TESTIMONEE, SIR JACKIE STEWART BEFORE THE GOODWOOD REVIVAL 1957 BRITISH GRAND PRIX CELEBRATION

The watch that I particularly treasure is my new Daytona. It was presented to me in 2016 by Rolex at the Grand Prix de Monaco to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my first win around the hallowed streets of the principality.

There is a special engraving on the back of the watch, which of course makes it all the more important to me. Rolex has become the most desired watch in the world – the esteem, the prestige, the pride of ownership that Rolex commands is unmatched.”

Wearing his distinctive Royal Stewart tartans, Sir Jackie continues to attend races globally and his ongoing loyalty to motor sport makes him an ultimate Rolex Testimonee – embodying the dedication, excellence, precision and innovation that also underpins Rolex watchmaking.

We only wish Rolex would come back and usurp the Omega boys that are currently running the helm at the James Bond franchise. As well as racing they have a lustrous heritage for appearing in style-driven films such as American Psycho and Get Carter. 

 

The KOBOX Influencer Press Day | Boxing Fitness

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending and hosting an influencer work out at the KOBOX gym in Chelsea. Not only was it a privilege to be asked, and I got to see some familiar faces, (Anton Welcome from Maketh the Man, Edmond from Cuts for Him, naming a few) but it also gave me the chance to meet some of the good people of the Instagram community (the lethal Darren Branch and his lovely other half Helen) that I've been following avidly for the past few months. 

Influencers of the world unite! (Blows heavy sea shell like conch across the London skylines). By the way where are we at now with the term 'Influencer'? Are we Bloggers? Vloggers? Instagrammers? Content creators? Or just good old fashioned digital marketers? I feel like that statement requires a phone in and a cash giveaway! 

For those that have been living under a rock for the past couple of months, Kobox is a 50-minute, high intensity classes that will see you tackle all the fundamentals of boxing.

With two studios located conveniently in Chelsea and Liverpool Street, my best kept secret is now well and truly out. These guys are taking over. 

You may have also seen KOBOX in the news recently backing a recent PROUD campaign, encouraging gay men to pick up a pair of gloves and help smash away the current stigma attached to the sport.

At the end of the work out, which was brutal and possibly the most amped session I've had at KOBOX to date, (we're a competitive bunch) we all got to take away a Fitty London box.

Fitty are a no nonsense wellness brand that have developed signature boxes to help drive the health and wellness movement. Reportedly they turn down around 50% of products that want to feature in their. Their boxes are manufactured to be convenient, affordable and exciting in a way to discover the products to fuel and recover, fast. 

Book a session with KOBOX today, there are many instructors all with great energy, but I have to give a special shout to Ollie who put us all through our paces that day. 

Lara from Match.com Trial/Review

A year since Match’s artificial intelligence chatbot Lara came to Facebook Messenger, daters can now use  her as their personal wingwoman through the Google Assistant. Yes, that's right I said wingwoman. "Lara can be my wingwoman anytime." Cue the climatic emotional music and hug it out!  (As a quick aside, did you see Tom Cruise posted a picture from the production of Top Gun 2? Simply wow). 

I digress. 

In a UK first, this innovation is the first time that a dating coach has come to a smart home device. The new service offers you a unique ‘daily match’, bespoke dating tips and suggestions of the best date venues, all through informal conversation.  

And about time! For all those that are reading my dating blogs, you'll appreciate I have a personal vested interested in this technology. This introduction of Lara from Match paired with Google Assistant can change the game in dating. Or should I say up YOUR game. (Deep referential sniff). 

You can strike up a chat with ease by saying, “Okay Google, talk to Lara from Match”, and through artificial intelligence and key word recognition technology, Lara understands your intentions and can hold a full conversation to help you though your dating journey.

This will come as great relief to my closest friends who must feel like they're only in my rolodex to serve as a soundboard to my dating woes. And that's something I must change. 

They'll attest to being my counsel when I need advice on what to wear, where to go, and even who to date! Now Lara does exactly that. I imagine at some point that technology will reach that point of singularity and I'll be sending Lara on these dates. 

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ME - "Hey, honey how was your date?" 

LARA - "Oh she's way out of your league Carl, plus she supports Chelsea, I should have flagged that up sooner, sorry".

Of course I jest, but Lara proactively encourages continuation of conversations by offering further dating tips and asking if you need any more advice. The more you chat to Lara and the more she gets to know you and the more tailored her answers will become.  

 

So what tips has Lara given me so far? 

I like the confidence booster tip. 

 “Strike a power pose and stand there for at least 2 minutes before your date”. 

I have employed that one. Makes sense to me to find a good relaxed posture and look that doesn't feel forced. You might consider it the Everest of male vanity, but it’s all about projecting a positive aura that others can latch on to. I stop short of slapping myself round the face and saying 'you've got this'. I save that for Kobox

 

Lara has also sent me daily matches to my phone based on the criteria I've given her. 

ME - Lara find me Scarlett Johansson 

LARA - You're looking for someone that looks like Scarlett Johansson 

ME - No find me Scarlett Johansson, the real thing. 

(Yes I know that's a gag lifted from the BBC sitcom Bottom, for those about to email me accusing me of plagiarism). 

For Match members only, Lara will help you find a date by selecting a unique member profile based on your Match search preferences (age, location and common interests) once a day. The profile details of the daily match can then be sent to a phone via SMS, allowing you to seamlessly contact your potential date.

 

Anything else? 

There are plenty of features, but I'm really just giving you a taste of my experience. 

I also found the location finder a handy tool. I know London fairly well, but finding those best kept secrets is getting increasingly harder. 

Lara can offer suggestions for the best date location. She will ask what kind of date setting you are looking for and use Google Map’s Geocoding API to make a recommendation, such as the best place for cocktails or a quieter place for coffee.

Providing you give permission, Lara will then offer to send you the details via SMS with a link to a map. The more you chat, the more Lara will learn from your dating experiences and then suggest more relevant locations in the future, based on your feedback.

 

Is this the future

A great question. Certainly the advance of chatbots have advanced immeasurably in the past couple of years. 

They've become a useful tool for businesses (so much so I'm looking at installing one to assist my customers on my Hawkins & Shepherd site as we speak). For example They certainly alleviate the mundanity of replying to everyday questions such as 'do you deliver abroad?'. Most common ones are 'what time are you open?'.

Chatbots do not require breaks, get frustrated or get tired like human employees. According to some experts, chatbots will be indistinguishable from humans by 2029. Scary or good news?

 

Before you go

For anyone about to try this new-fangled technology you should know the daily match functionality is only available for Match members. You need be signed into a Match account with Google for Lara to offer the matches.

We are always looking at the role technology can play in improving our member’s experience to offer them new ways of meeting their potential dates that will easily fit in with their busy everyday life.

Building upon the success of Lara on Facebook, we wanted to enhance and explore the possibilities of AI, which has provided us with a great outcome so far.

We look forward to developing Lara further as technology evolves.”  

Enjoy Lara (that sounds weird) and let me know how you get on.