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.

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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.

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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.

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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®.

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©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.

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©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.

 

Haig Club Father's Day Gift Set

This Father’s Day, Haig Club is launching a stylish gift set, featuring a bottle of Haig Club accessorised with a limited-edition hipflask. It must be a joy being a Dad. Like having a second birthday right? If you throw Christmas in there they get 3 rounds of gifts on an annual basis. Dads have got it made. Perhaps as adults we're merely compensating for providing zero utility throughout our entire adolescence, other than fetching the paper or the odd beer from the fridge. 

But as parents, surely you know what you're signing up for! 

Personally I can't wait for Father's Day! It's a 'down tools weekend' for me and I make sure I'm present with the people that matter to me most. Well ok, by present I mean I'll only check my phone every half hour. 

 

Let's talk Haig Club shall we? 

You might have noticed on the odd billboard here and there with the ever debonair David Beckham with a Haig Club whisky in hand. Haig Club is a Single Grain Scotch whisky from the House of Haig, created in partnership with global icon David Beckham.

It's tempered flavour and sweet finish make it a very accessible liquid for either the whisky aficionados or the dram novice.

I'm going to love gifting this to my Dad because he loves to share and being a grain whisky it's such a versatile drink that other family members are likely to give it a try either on the rocks or in a Haig Club cocktail

If you want to sound like you know your whisky onions be sure to commentate on the butterscotch and toffee notes, if no one beats you to it. 

This limited-edition Haig Club (70cl) gift set arrives in the iconic blue bottle and is paired with a stylish and contemporary chrome hipflask, offering the perfect taste of luxury for a modern man. 

It's available from online retailer Drinks Supermarket and most major UK supermarkets including Tesco, ASDA and Sainsbury’s RRP £45. 

How are you going to treat your Dad for Father's Day? Drop me a comment in the box below. 

 

How to Pack for a Weekend Getaway or Short Break Away?

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Here we go folks, a couple of tips and hints on how to travel light for that weekend getaway. Whether it's by sea or by futuristic only for secret agent’s teleportation devices, in this article you'll learn how to pack, what to pack, and I'll even put a video tutorial to this article at the bottom of the page.

How much walking will you be doing on this trip?

You have to factor in whether you'll be doing a lot of walking, from the station to the hotel, through the airport etc. My tip - if I think I'm going to be covering some ground I'll need to take something with wheels on. If I'm not burning calories getting from place to place I'll probably opt for a weekender bag.

 

Ok got it, but should I be wearing on this trip? Can I get away with my tracksuit?

Don't be daft, I've taught you better than that. Dress smart and you might get upgraded. Sounds daft but we live in a materialistic world where you get judged on appearances all the time.

For suits I'd avoid linen if you're travelling. I like linen, but it's notorious for getting wrinkles. If I 'm traveling with a suit I'd like to go for something that doesn't wrinkle easily. Mohair is good for that, it has a good elasticity as a fabric it bounces back.

Yes, roll everything, dress shirt, key is to fold the arms in diagonally, cuff the bottom inside out 2-3 inches then roll. Elastic bands aren't always desirable as they can stress the fabric, but I unpack everything as soon as I get to the hotel or wherever so they don't have to suffer too long.

 

What’s the most important thing to remember when packing?

A full hipflask. Haha, only joking. Chargers. I'm always dismayed to discover I've forgotten chargers. I have a little virtual animal farm that needs constant feeding. Cameras, phones, laptops, iPods, headphones, ughh

Remember the gift also. I never like to show up empty handed if I'm visiting or even if I'm going to a meeting etc. A little gift goes a long way so don't forget to think ahead.

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Colours are important... how do you incorporate colour? Socks? Ties? Pocket squares?

I'll normally pack around three shirts, neutral colours and make sure everything is interchangeable. Keep the colours neutral so you can turn 2-3 garments into 9-12 different looks. Not sure the exact numbers, you can tell I'd be no good at Countdown right?

Socks I'm not one to over think the socks, but always pack a few extras if I'm working out.

I like to carry the knitted ties nothing too bilious and maybe one or two pockets squares, I have these here I got in Florence with different designs front and back, sort of a reversible so you'll get more mileage out of these.

 

How much should you bring?

Only bring the essentials. Remember the key is not to try and fill the suitcase. Many people see it as some kind of cryptic puzzle where they have to figure out how to get as much in as possible.

Pack a bag within the bag if you can, I like to in case I see anything I have to get whilst I'm abroad and I'll check it in on the flight home.

 

Can I wear comfy shoes?

Yes, no one will berate you for wearing comfy shoes on a long journey. I like to wear some smart trainers and change into a pair of loafers if I'm driving or flying. These Base London Keel Suede Casual shoes are just the ticket for something like this. 

 

What should you not do - when packing for a weekend getaway?

Don't take the weather with you. When packing don't take the dress watch, the expensive jewellery, just go the everyday elements from your wardrobe.

Things get pinched, luggage gets lost, etc. Also don't take your mental luggage. (Long sniff for profound reverential effect). Haha, be conscious of your mood, your woes, your negativity. There's no need to pack that crap, no one wants that on their doorstep.

The Best of the Summer Wines | Tasting & Education with WSET

We all love wine right? We all know that Bordeaux is a Claret thanks to Faulty Towers, and that connoisseurs feel indifferent towards Merlot thanks to the movie Sideways. But how easy is it to search beyond the vines and really discover what is going on in the glass? Turns out pretty easy, if you're keen to learn and have someone walk you through the differences.

In this article I'm going to recommend to you 5 of the best wines that will be a perfect fit for your cellar this summer.

I was recently invited to a wine tasting hosted by WSET, (the Wine & Spirit Education Trust) who are the largest global provider of wine and spirits qualifications. They offer beginner to expert courses in wine, spirits and sake through Approved Programme Providers across the world for enthusiasts and professionals.

Their flagship, WSET School London, is on Bermondsey Street, which is just a short walk from London Bridge. They offer a full suite of courses, from one-day Level 1 Awards in Wine, Spirits or Sake to the expert Level 4 Diploma, and also host regular tasting events and introductory sessions for people looking to learn a little more about wine but aren’t quite ready to commit to a course.

That's where I come in! The night was excellently curated by a trained sommelier and wine maker and he walked us through 8 varying bottles. 

 

Great Carl, so you drank a whole lot of free wine, but what wines should I be stocking up on this summer? 

No problem, I've got you covered. As promised here are the best wines I personally recommend for your summer parties and why! 

 

Prosecco Le Celline Extra-Dry Millesimato 2017, Italy 11.5%

This is not only an amazing wine, but a great conversation stimulator. You can talk about the light, fresh, simple nature of the flavours.

You can highlight the yeast-y after taste as the yeast is applied to the fermentation process to eat the sugar. As this happens, it bubbles and that C02 doesn't escape, hence the reason we have carbonated wine. See that's something I didn't know. 

TOP TIP! You can mention how it tastes of pear drops and your guests can nostalgically reminisce how awesome Pear Drops were back in the day. When someone asks if you can still buy Pear Drops quickly whip out a bag of Pear Drops that you bought from Marks & Spencer’s earlier. You sly boy scout charmer you. 

 

Riesling, Felton Road Block 1 2016, Central Otago, New Zealand 9%

I'm going to mirthlessly tease you with this one because it's not actually available in the UK. Not for retail anyway. BUT if you attend a WSET class you can sample the joys of this formidable wine as they have the 100% UK allocation of it. 

It comes from the most southern wine region in the world, and is extremely rare. 

You'll pick up odd notes of petrol and rubber underpinning a vibrant rush of floral notes. Very much like smelling a bouquet. There's also some heightened scents of grapefruit and peaches mixed in. 

TOP TIP! Just because it's lower in alcohol 9% don't think it's any less calorific. Apparently what it lacks in alcohol it makes up for in sugar. So don't think of this as diet wine. 

 

Muscat Reserve, Trimbach 2015, Alsace, France 13% 

It might sound like bunkum, but this is the only wine from the menu (and possibly from a lot of other wines also) that smells of grapes. It contains other floral characters too and is less acidic than say a Ca' Nova 2016. 

TOP TIP! You can pair this nicely with goat’s cheese, asparagus and any first of the year salads. 

 

Mercurey Premier Cru Clos L'Eveque, Domaine de Suremain 2015, Burgundy, France 13%

This wine considered by many is considered the nectar of the gods. Quite literally! During the early years the winemakers believed they thought that God had myopically blessed this vineyard because the wine tasted so good. 

Truth is the conditions are sublime for this vineyard. It sits on a slope on a hill facing the sun, just conducive for winemaking. 2015 was an especially exceptional year weather wise. You put all the elements together; great year, great location, great vintage, you have a colossal wine on your hands. 

TOP TIP! When asked what kind of flavours you're getting let everyone do the red berry rounds. Red cherry, raspberry obviously, but when it come to your turn say "I'm getting more 'forest floor'. There's something leafy, leafier than fruity". 

 

Valtelline Superiore Riserva La GAtta, Triacca 2013, Italy 13%

What will you get from this? Naturally the warmth from the alcohol. The Valtellina comes from the same grape as the Barolo grape which is one of the heavyweight grapes in the wine world. 

It has a very full body (which always makes me think of John Cleese picking up the wine bottle and jiggling before agreeing with the supposed Hotel Inspector) it's awesomely fragrant as you'd expect from a wine nurtured close to the Swiss border. 

It's not as viscose or gloopy as some red wines, and as a result, you might not be a fan of this wine if you're die hard Barolo fan. 

TOP TIP! This wine was perfectly engineered to be paired with cheese. A nice Wensleydale will soften the edges.

 

That's it! Do let me know if you're in agreement with my choices, or if you've gone on and done more classes with WSET. You can achieve a diploma in this kind of stuff you know! Now why wasn't that on the curriculum at school? 

 

KOBOX Boxing Club Launches PROUD Campaign

KOBOX Boxing Club has launched its PROUD campaign with Attitude – the UK’s best-selling gay magazine – encouraging gay men to pick up a pair of gloves and help smash away the current stigma attached to the sport. I've been very proud (pardon the pun) to represent KOBOX over these last few months as their ambassador for reasons just like these. 

Not only are they championing fitness, they're also unashamedly egalitarian in the way that they promote their brand. The people behind KOBOX know the true definition of community spirit.

In this campaign Kris Pace, brand director at KOBOX has addressed a glaring misnomer that boxing is a sport exclusive to straight men.  

'The lack of gay men participating in boxing, and boxing-related fitness, has needed to be addressed for some time now, and we felt this was a profound way to deliver a clear message to everyone within the sport.

We welcome anyone through our doors, from any walk of life, and the LGBT community is, without question, absolutely a part of that. On this occasion, after speaking to Attitude magazine and those closest to us, we wanted to start by challenging the perception that boxing is a sport predominantly for straight men in particular. But this is just the beginning...’  Kris Pace, brand director at KOBOX

Boxing clubs are, by some, still seen as hostile, intimidating environments to work out in. Many in the gay community rightly see boxing as an incredibly effective way to get fit, but many say they feel uneasy about trying their hand at it.

Has there never been any famous gay boxers? 

Yes there has, and perhaps more than you think. Emile Griffin is considered one of the greatest welterweight boxers of all time. He killed fellow fighter Benny Paret in the ring on March 24, 1962 and was famously quoted -  

They forgave me for killing a man, but they couldn’t forgive me for loving a man.” 

His bisexuality was only revealed after his boxing career; Orlando Cruz became the first boxer to come out during his professional career in 2012. 

It's amazing to think that we still live in a world where we need these kind of campaigns, but the sad truth of it all is we do. 

So what's the campaign about? 

In the run-up to London Pride in July, KOBOX Boxing Club launches its PROUD campaign with a hard-hitting video, showcasing the isolation and exclusion some gay men may feel when thinking about taking up the sport.

The video is filmed in its London City studio, displaying the visceral environment of KOBOX that runs on the mantra of Fight Club Meets Nightclub. Through the use of deliberate homophobic rhetoric, the film sensationalises the stigmatisation some gay men feel when thinking about getting into boxing.

The video doesn't pull its punches (ok that pun was intended) and has succeeded in delivering some of the underlying concerns and emotions, felt by many people in the gay community. 

No one should feel intimidated coming to a boxing class at KOBOX, or any other gym for that matter. Any perception that gay men aren’t welcome at a boxing club is outrageous.Kris Pace

A host of names feature in the video – which is led by creative director Jerry Reeve – including showbiz journalist James Ingham, TV producer Joff Powell and comedian and TV presenter James Barr.

 

Top Five Beers on my Radar | The Perfect Father's Day Gift

It's festival season. Time to all sing about how great it would be to rid our world of plastic cups, how Trump is going to kill us all, how capitalism has capitulated under the weight of its own failure, then do nothing about it. 

As an aside the beer festivals are the ones that can be the most fun. Less mosh pits, less queues, more optionality than over-priced watered down fosters. 

The one beer festival I have inked into the calendar will be The Great British Beer Festival at Olympia, 7-11th August. Of course if anyone out there is looking to put a wolf pack together for the Oktober Fest later this year then drop me a line. 

Wait Carl, what about a craft beer I can order for Father's Day?

Well talking of wolf packs, there is a craft beer that will sort your Dad out a treat. 

Introducing, Beerwulf.com (Also the support of this article). 

Beerwulf.com is an online retailer that specialise in craft beer. They have also been working on a really special project with Kompaan brewery in the Netherlands to create a limited edition beer called ‘The Mentor’ to celebrate Father’s Day which is only available from Beerwulf.com. 

There's no better way to celebrate father’s day than sharing a beer and talking about how crap modern music is. 

OK tell me my beer guru, what are the show ponies coming up at The Great British Beer Festival

Straight out of the traps I'm going for one from the Beer Monkey stables, UNCLE MONKS. You're going to get a direct hoppy hit, followed by a slightly sweet & growing bitter balanced flavour. 

When tasting say: Those Americans know how to style an I.P.A right?  


Bedlam Porter (5.0%)

The Bedlam Porter from the Bedlam brewery. Yes because the word Porter is synonymous with Menswear. But I'm also into pale ales and the boys at Bedlam have a strong team ethic brewing the finest beer they can. This limited edition is blended with fresh Fuggles and Goldings hops. It arrives Pale, Crystal, composed with Brown and Chocolate malts. 

When tasting say: Anyone else getting some coffee flavours?


RED RYE 4.7%

I'll admit I've gone purely on the name on this one. Of course from the film Cocktail where Doug asks his young apprentice, know how to make a red eye young Flannigan. This beaut from the Hooky Beer Keg Range is a Pale Ale Malt underpinning a symphony of fruitiness from Willamette, Sovereign, Citra, Amarillo and Chinook Hops. 

When tasting say: Jim Carrey and Charlie Sheen were considered for the role of Brian Flanagan in the movie Cocktail, which in the end was cast with Tom Cruise.


XT Brewing have released Squid Ink; bold beast of a beer with its blend of Columbus, Summit, Galaxy and Chinook hops. Yes, it's dark, (not my normal go-to) but you need to prove you have range on your palette.

When tasting say: It's thought that squid ink could be the cure to heart disease in humans.


But what if I don't drink Carl? 

For my non-drinking friends there is also something here for you too. 

Be sure to check out Braxzz Brewery. A is a recent newcomer into the alcohol-free & low-alcohol category, their 'The Porter' edition is dark coloured and aromatic with notes of strong espresso, chocolate with hints of date and figs. 

When tasting say: Does anyone else have weird drunken dreams.

Is Mudho Really the Best Fitness Tracker out There?

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Who or what is Muhdo? Muhdo is a tool that scans your DNA profile and enables you to unlock your natural abilities and get stronger, fitter, faster. When I first skim read the brief and saw the words 'fitness' and 'Mudho', I thought this was Dwayne Johnson doing a sequel to Jumanji. How wrong I was.

Of course those that follow me on my Instagram stories know how hot I am on my fitness, regularly mixing it up at the Kobox gym. (Well mixing it up with the heavy bag).

But maintaining consistency with my work out routines and nutrition has been the true test. And this is what Muhdo sets out to achieve. Muhdo claims to be the answer in making sustainable improvements to your overall health and fitness levels is to listen to and work with your DNA.

Muhdo performs a detailed analysis of your DNA and provides you with personalized health and fitness recommendations to help you achieve your goal. They provide you with free access to hundreds of recipes, workouts and lifestyle advice – all tailored to your DNA.

How easy was it to use?

I need stuff like Muhdo in my life.

I winced at the sound of having to trawl through a 45-page document of any nature. I certainly couldn't do it without a couple of strong drinks, ironically reading about how pickled my liver might be. 

However, the data is presented much like the dashboard of a car. Numerous dials indicate where you're 'gifted' (believe me I'm very tempted to crowbar an anatomical gag here, but let’s keep it professional) and where your ineptitudes lie. 

My read outs were quite clear. Prone to yo-yo diets, lack of discipline in the 'prone to snack' department and susceptible to injury. I quite like the 'likely to injure' warning, would be a great tagline for the next Jason Statham movie. 

It has a very easy to navigate dashboard and disseminates the data evenly, and in quite a fun way. There weren’t too many red flags apart from knowing that my recovery time isn't that of a nubile teenager so I might reduce the weekly sessions as a result. 

I imagine this is how Daniel Craig felt when he over-beefed for his role as James Bond in Casino Royale and was consequently told by the producers, 'he had to lose muscle'. 

It's not the cheapest, £249 for the profiling kit, but as I always say, your body is a Ferrari, it needs to be treated like as such. You wouldn't have some cowboy do an MOT on your Ferrari would you? 

 

THE MUDHO DNA PROFILING KIT

Sotheby’s Partner with Savile Row Tailor Huntsman & Sons

This May, Sotheby’s will partner with esteemed Savile Row tailor Huntsman & Sons to stage its first online-only luxury lifestyle sale.

Featuring an array of bespoke pieces from the private collection of Huntsman owner and financier, Pierre Lagrange, alongside commissioned new works that exemplify the Huntsman lifestyle, this collection reflects Lagrange’s expert knowledge and appreciation of exquisite objects.

The sale will offer a view into the life and passions of Pierre Lagrange as a custodian to Huntsman’s unique heritage, which has attracted discerning patrons throughout the ages. 

Was this the best bloggers breakfast of the year?

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It was right up there. Many looking transfixed as they ogled the fine artisan pieces from Pierre Lagrange's collection, who by the way was impeccably turned out in a traditional pin stripe suit, elongated jacket. He spoke eloquently about his collection, always wanting to impart traditional heritage yet move the idea of tradition into new contemporary areas. (I'm not saying tradition with a modern twist. I REFUSE!)

Of course I have compiled a wish list of my favourite pieces, slightly out of my price bracket unfortunately.

The Huntsman x Sotheby’s auction will run exclusively online from Tuesday 22nd May to Friday 1st June, 2018

Lot 72: HUNTSMAN BESPOKE TANGERINE SMOKING JACKET | Matthew Vaughn

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Yes sir! I'd like the now famous Tangerine Velvet Smoking Jacket worn by lead actor Taron Egerton in the movie 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle'. This isn't the original one, but perhaps one better would be to have this prototype jacket recreated to my measurements by Huntsman's Head Cutter Campbell Carey. ESTIMATE: £7,000 - £10,000

 

Lot 77: THE GLENDRONACH KINGSMAN EXPERIENCE | Brown Forman

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I actually got close to this tipple of GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 1991 Vintage during the films promotion and it was just an awesome blend. As well as a tasty souvenir the bidder will also receive a VIP tour of the GlenDronach distillery in the Scottish Highlands for two people, along with one night's accommodation at Glen House, dinner and breakfast. 

If you'd like to know a little more about how Brown Forman got involved with the franchise you can check out this interview with ambassador Nate BookerESTIMATE: £1,500 - £2,000

 

Lot 5: HUNTSMAN BESPOKE BACKGAMMON JACKET | Amba Jackson

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I'd possibly say this is something I'd not only consider bidding on, but something I'd consider masterminding some elaborate heist for. Designed by Amba Jackson the rock and roll star’s granddaughter and designer and a keen amateur of the board game in her own right.

No one wants to schlepp a backgammon board game around whilst on set. Amba worked with Huntsman's creative team to produce a unique board design printed on the inside lining of creative director Campbell Carey’s black linen travel jacket, transforming it into a wearable backgammon set. 

The prototype offered to the winner of this lot is available in size 36, however the buyer's size can be accommodated upon request. ESTIMATE:  £2,000 - £3,000

 

Lot 43: THE HOURGLASS BY MARC NEWSON FROM THE COLLECTION OF HUNTSMAN'S CHAIRMAN

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Pierre spoke very elegantly about this this extraordinary hand-blown hourglass. It was the first thing he mentioned when doing the talk and I got the feeling he didn't really want to see it go. 

The design features contain a narrow waist, reminiscent of Huntsman's iconic one-button silhouette. ESTIMATE: £35,000 - £40,000

 

Lot 56: WORK AT HUNTSMAN WITH HEAD CUTTER, LUNCH AT ANNABEL'S WITH HUNTSMAN'S CHAIRMAN

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Ok lastly but not leastly, and this one resonates with me truly, a chance to cut my own Huntsman suit with those big Huntsman tailor shears. It would be an absolute dream to not only own a bespoke Huntsman suit, but to be able to make one also under the careful eye of Huntsman's Head Cutter Dario Carnera. 

Get this at a snip, pun intended. ESTIMATE: £8,000 - £12,000

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Lagrange comments, Harry Dalmeny, Sotheby’s UK Chairman, says, “From the clubroom and dressing room, to the garage and grounds, a Huntsman lifestyle can extend to each element of the home. I invite you to discover them in our exclusive online sale, where we celebrate the pieces that form the overall experience of the brand.”

Who is Pierre Lagrange? 

Pierre Lagrange is the owner and executive chairman of Huntsman & Sons, one of the world’s oldest and most sought after names in bespoke tailoring, and custodians of a craft dating back to 1849 when the store was established on Bond Street in London. Lagrange acquired Huntsman in 2014 with a view towards growing the 169 year old bespoke business globally.

All lots will be offered without buyer’s premium, and will be on exhibition in the Wemyss Gallery at Sotheby’s New Bond Street. Visit sothebys.com/huntsman for more details on to find out how to bid.

 

How I Get Ready For a Date | Men's Grooming & Fashion Advice

You're getting ready for the biggest date of your life, or week, depending how much of a woodsman you are.

I've just uploaded a new tutorial to my YouTube channel, giving you run down on how I get myself in the groove. In this article I'll give you the highlights reel on the MUST DO's to get you ready for that big first date

I've also teamed up with Base London to give my readers a chance to win a Base London £100 Gift Card and a Carl Thompson first date grooming kit.

I've included all the details at the bottom of the article but first, guys let's get you prepped. 

Get in the mood with ..  

I want to get in the mood, put a little Marvin Gaye on Let’s Get it On. Only joking. Normally I go for a bit of Jacko, I want to Rock with you or something equally as cheesy, don't ask me to sing it. Or how about a bit of Bobby Womack, Across 110th Street? Yessss now we're talking.

Make sure you're bopping around to a song that empowers you and gets you relaxed.  

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What's in my grooming kit? 

OK give the cash register a nice facial scrub. I currently using one from Lab Series, they're riding the crest of a wave at the moment these guys and I can see why. Makes my face feel really fresh, wakes me up! 

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Not all the girls like a man with a beard, so I make sure mine doesn't look to scabrous. I tame the beast with a bit of American Crew Beard serum

Moving onto the skin, I use the Clinique Maximum Hydrator moisturiser.

They say the eyes are the windows to your soul right? So got to have a little window dressing. Eye contact on dates, so important. I have been using Perricone MD for as long as I can remember. 

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What about my hair? 

You need something that is going to do your hair a solid service for the date, especially if you're going straight from work to the date. 

I use David Beckham's House 99 Pomade; it can give a decent enough hold for 8-9 hours before it starts to lose its lustre. 

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And the best Aftershave for a First Date? 

Keep that aftershave light and fresh, you don't want to overpower the poor girl or else she'll want to dine on one of those tables from that Bruce Wayne used to entertain Vicky Vale.

(That is a timely reference from 1989 and if you get that gag, then let’s go out for a beer). 

The best first date aftershave out there right now is Tom Ford Noir de Noir. It's pushy, but not assertive. 

Why I dress casual on a first date

Suits are too stiff for a first date, that's why I dress light

What’s the most important rule for light dressing? Go easy on the white wine vinegar but plenty of turmeric. Oh you mean clothes? Gotcha, (I have better jokes, haha) light dressing.

You should wear something that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. Dates can be quite nerve racking; you don't want to feel rigid in an outfit you hardly wear.

I have my go-to outfit. 

Before you leave the house remember? 

If you've met her online give her profile one last eyeball before heading out. Look for some veiled clues, like if she's been traveling we can talk about places she's been that I might have been also.

Some people call that semi-stalkery, I call it good old fashioned research.

 

COMPETITION TIME FOLKS

As I promised you, here is your chance to win a Base London £100 Gift Card and a Carl Thompson first date grooming kit. Competition closes 31st May, UK Entrants Only. Enter by clicking this link https://mailchi.mp/683daaf6009a/07k68...

T&Cs blurb for competition:

Gift card can only be used at www.baselondon.com and cannot be exchanged for a cash alternative. Competition only open to UK entrants. Prize will be for one £100 Gift Card and a selection of men’s skin care and grooming products which will be delivered to the winner’s UK address. 

This competition is in no way sponsored, administered or associated with Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Lab Series, American Crew, Clinique for Men, Perricone MD, or David Beckham’s House 99. By entering, entrants confirm they are 18+ years of age, release Instagram, Facebook & Youtube of responsibility and agree to Instagram’s, Facebook’s and Youtube's terms of use. .....phew! 😓 Good Luck!