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Digital (physical?) revolution

26 Aug

I recently went to Digital Revolution, an exhibition at the Barbican in London looking back – and forward through digital technology and our relationship with it. I was lucky enough to be invited to a talk by Jim Boulton, the curator of the Digital Archaeology section of the exhibition that explores the hard and software of the last 40 years, and the impact that this has had on culture (or, indeed, the reverse; how did our evolving culture affect the development of consoles, drum machines, art software and games?).

As a self-confessed nerd when it comes to tech and digital, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and see loads of cool stuff. It didn’t disappoint.

Jim talked about how digital wasn’t confined to the last 40 years (even though that’s the timescale that the Digital Archaeology section spanned). Some of the stuff he showed us was from way back in the 1950s – like the Manchester University Computer Love Letter Algorithm that was used to write notes of affection that were then left around campus, always signed M.U.C. (xo <3!)

 Digital Revolution Gemma Critchley MUC love letter algorithym

Going into the Digital Archaeology section was like jumping into a deep, dark pool – the effect of all the video and sound was immersive and almost overwhelming; kind of how I’d imagine it would be to time travel from 50 years ago and end up confronted by a world of tablets, smartphones, video calling, contactless technology and augmented reality.

Two things struck me about Jim’s talk. First, I was surprised to see how far technology has come in those 40 short years. Second, I think most of us get how much this technology had impacted on our lives, but it was eye opening to see how much it had done this and how quickly.

Jim’s talk was limited to the history of digital tech, and the rest of the exhibition branched off to explore immersive and interactive technology, film, music, gaming and wearables.

It’s the first branch that really interested me – immersive and interactive technology. Interactivity was something that flowed through the whole set-up of the event; touching, playing, taking photos and sharing was all encouraged. I won’t share too much as I’d suggest you go and experience it for yourself if you can, but there were some really awesome exhibits.

I had a go at controlling the ‘street folding’ scene from Inception, experienced the 3D graphics of Gravity, called up some birds made out of old mobile phones to make them tweet, controlled a game with my mind (yes, really – this freaked me out a bit but was pretty rad), changed the design of a skirt thanks to interactive LEDs, played some awesome indie games like Thomas Was Alone, went to what I can only describe as a sensory rave in the basement of the Barbican and saw some pretty sweet neon art:

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One of my favourite exhibits was – part of the Digital Archaeology section. This was an art project that was launched in the 1990s, using code as art (there’s also a big section on DevArt in the exhibition itself); but what I loved about this was the subtly subversive nature of it. What looks like pages of broken code are actually very cleverly put-together sites that have a message buried in the source code. Kind of using destruction as a form of creation – I like the idea of pulling everything apart and seeing what emerges…


I’ve always been fascinated by escapism of all kinds – why do people play games, read fiction, watch films, drink alcohol, dress up? I won’t try to answer that now but what I will say is that this exhibition made it clear that the desire to escape – or to enhance – reality is very much alive and well.

You might have seen people sharing photos on Instagram of themselves as ‘digital birds’ or with smoking eyes… (if you follow me on IG you will have, nestled in between snaps of hipster food and nail art). Basically, there were several parts of the exhibition involving cameras that visitors could interact with to create an alternative version of themselves. These seemed to be the parts of the exhibition that people appeared most rapturous about. Does this show narcissism? Maybe. A desire to explore an alternate reality or other self? Perhaps. What I think it does show is that people are actively looking for next level digital tech – where it can transform us in a way we haven’t been able to achieve before, and where the physical and digital converge to elevate our experience.

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There were opportunities to whisper a wish into a flower and watch it emerge as digital text before transforming into a butterfly and visitors had the chance to design their own piece of 3D art, with the potential for it to be selected for 3D printing which would then be added to the exhibition. 


This convergence of the physical and the digital is not just a futuristic vision that’s confined to a museum, though. Games like Ingress and James Frey’s new novel, Endgame, are real-world location-based experiences that tie story, community, digital and physical worlds together to answer this desire to anchor digital interactions in the physical, but to disconnect from reality. Oculus rift achieves something similar, but perhaps the games/story elements for this piece of hardware aren’t quite there yet to make this stick as well as things like Ingress. Facebook clearly sees its potential and is looking for ways to use it to help people feel more connected, as it recently bought the company behind the virtual reality kit – I can’t wait to see how this pans out. 

There’s been a lot of talk in retail and marketing for the last few years about how to combine social and local elements to drive action (and a few murmurs of it are rippling through the learning community, too), but few seem to have been able to get this right. The advent of games like Ingress, the level of sophistication of today’s mobile devices and the evident appetite for combining physical and digital worlds might mean that the time is right to combine these and open up doors for those looking to exploit the sweet spot between community, location and storytelling. Provided they’re good enough at harnessing the power of all three, of course…

If you’re interested in how the future (or even present) of digital looks set to play out, I’d definitely recommend going along to the exhibition and letting your mind wander. Digital Revolution was part art, part tech and it all made me think.

I reckon that the next frontier in tech/digital/innovation (call it what you will) is the relationship between the physical and the digital. The next digital revolutionaries will be those who are brave enough to explore these connections and who dare to exploit them to make messages stick with users. 


Tribal dance

23 Apr

With the influx of photos from Coachella Festival in California, I’ve started thinking of my own summer festival jaunts and, perhaps more importantly, what I’ll be wearing to them. If any of you went to Coachella, I’m insanely jealous, by the way.

Le chap and I booked our tickets to Optimus Primavera Sound festival in Porto in June, so the hunt is on for those perfect festival essentials. I love the tribal/aztec vibe that was everywhere at Coachella, and this gorgeous tribal-style beaded bag from Accessorize gives the perfect nod to it without having to commit your whole outfit to one theme.

coachella festival bag celeb style fashion gemma critchley beaded tribal aztec bag accessorize

I’m thinking it’d look just as good with a bikini on the beach as it would with denim shorts and a fringed vest for the festival itself. Multitasking I can get on board with!

I’ll definitely be blogging live from Optimus Primavera Sound, hopefully with some good snaps of amazing outfits. Will you be going to any festivals this year? What will you be wearing?

April showers

10 Apr

Everyone complains about April showers. I secretly like them, and not just because I know they’re making the grass lush and green, ready to be lounged on all summer in those hazy after work afternoons in the park.

April showers mean rain macs and there are some beautiful ones around. Try these on for size:

aubin and wills mac

Aubin and Wills yellow mac – bring some sunshine into those showers.

jil sander for net a porter mac

Jil Sander for Net a Porter – candy colours are still everywhere at the moment.

Burberry Brit jacket yellow coated cotton

Yellow again from Burberry Brit – must be spring in the air!

See, aren’t you positively looking forward to those grey clouds on the horizon now?

New designer crush: Fazane

5 Feb

I recently was lucky enough to be pointed in the direction of hot new fashion talent Fazane Malik.


Malik recently re-launched her label Fazane with a winter 11/12 collection, featuring a number of sleek, gorgeous monochrome pieces. Luxury silk and wool feature heavily in the collection, giving it a super-luxe feel.


The prices are pretty reasonable  considering the interest that’s already been buzzing around Fazane in the run up to London Fashion Week. What I love about Fazane is that so much passion and determination has gone into creating the label. The designer signs and hand numbers each piece and they’re all limited runs so you know you’re getting an exclusive. I predict big things for Fazane in 2012.


Here are a few of my favourite pieces:


The Cath silk shirt (£119) is lush, really simple and elegant:

cath silk shirt fazane fashion designer gemma critchley fashion blogger


I love this Nicola jumpsuit (£109), it channels 90s power dressing perfectly and the crepe fabric gives it a modern edge.

CATH AND NICOLA jumpsuit and silk shirt fazane designer fashion blogger gemma critchley carrot top PR

This Rebekah faux coat (£250) is perfect for snow days and is lined with 100% silk, making it feel super-luxe.

REBEKAH faux fur white coat silk lined fazane designer fashion blogger gemma critchley carrot top PR

The whole Fazane collection is available online now via the Fazane website.


Gemma and her techicolour dream coat

2 Feb

I found the perfect coat recently.

It’s from Burberry Prorsum and is an amazing geometric beaded trenchcoat. I love it almost as much as my old red velvet and faux fur coat I had when I was in sixth form, which is the one piece of clothing I have never been able to better.

burberry geometric trench coat beaded tribal beading prorsum gemma critchley fashion blogger   burberry beaded trench coat geometric beads prorsum gemma critchley fashion blogger


Unfortunately it costs about £5,000 and I very much doubt that my bank would give me a loan just to buy a really nice coat. Still, a girl can dream…


28 Jan

I’ve been on Pinterest for about a year now but haven’t really used it much. I’ve started using it much more and I’m quickly noticing themes in the kind of things I pin, particularly when it comes to style and fashion. Lots of sequins seems to be a definite theme at the minute.

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Are you on Pinterest? Follow me – username GemStGem – and let’s share awesome things.

You and me could write a rad browmance

26 Jan

My new favourite trend is The Scousebrow.

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Pioneered by, well, everyone from Madonna to Scousers to Lady Gaga to Bobby Brown… Have a look at the Scousebrow Tumblr and get yourself an eyebrow pencil and some scouse beauty nouse. Currently photoshopping amazing eyebrows into all of my scousebrow-less photos with a marker pen. In a way*.

*In every way.

Tangerine dream

8 Jan

Pantone’s colour of the year for 2012 is 17-1463, or Tangerine Tango.

pantone 17-1463 tangerine tango colour of the year gemma critchley fashion blogger

The Measure in the Guardian remains to be convinced, but I reckon this hue definitely has legs. Not quite subdued enough to be one of spring’s hot pastels yet not bright enough to scream summer holidays, it’s an unassuming, subtle hue that is already finding its way into graphic design, interiors and fashion.

Tangerine Tango reminds me of something that Mailchimp would use on their website (which, for the record, I adore) and a pair of jeans in this colour would be the perfect item to add a bit of lift to my winter wardrobe.

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ASOS call these jeans ‘peach red’, but they’ll do for now until I find the pair I want. The ones I love are currently available from Dylan George but just not online.

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I’m on board.

New year’s style resolutions – new blog for Madam Rage

4 Jan

I’ve been getting back to work in body, mind, spirit and style. For more, take a look at my latest guest post for the Madam Rage blog.


madam rage online fashion shop blogger gemma stone structured shift victoria beckham style dress


This is my second post for Madam Rage with lots more to come. If you like it, leave a comment on the Madam Rage blog!

Lush last-minute party dresses

22 Dec

The party season is in full swing, giving me license to stock up on fabulous dresses at every opportunity. With the office Christmas parties done and dusted and one of my favourite events of the year just days away, I decided it was time to turn up the glamour to maximum for Christmas and the New Year.

Having scoured most of the shops online and in Leeds, I was feeling a bit stuck for inspiration. Lucikly, I had one of those ‘OMG moments’ recently, when I went on a night out and saw my friend wearing one of her gorgeous dresses from Warehouse. So, I thought I’d get my fash-sleuth on and see if I could track down any similar gems for my own wardrobe from the dresses that they had to offer.

Warehouse have got so many amazing party dresses, I was pretty spoilt for choice. The good thing about shopping now is the fact that a lot of parties are done and dusted and so the sales have started, meaning you can grab a bargain to wear on Christmas eve or New Year’s Eve, and spend your savings on cocktails…

The ultimate Christmas Eve outfit

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’ve got more than a small obsession with glitter. If you can’t get the glitz out on Christmas eve, when can you? This stunning gold cutout sequin dress is perfect, with more than its fair share of sparkle to make you really stand out at your Christmas eve party. Bare legs (if you dare brave the December cold) and skyscraper platform heels will let the dress do the talking – keep accessories to a minimum when you’re wearing this many sequins!

gold sequin dress warehouse dresses uk gemma critchley fashion blog

My perfect Christmas Day dress

Christmas day is all about family, fun and indulgence. This cute green skater-style dress with its lace bodice would look fab with opaque tights and maybe a string of pearls to give it a bit of a vintage feel. The pleated skirt is bang on trend, too. Plus, the colour is festive without making you look like an extra from Elf…

green lace dress vintage style skater dress gemma critchley fashion blog party dresses UK warehouse

New Year’s Eve glamour

If Christmas eve is all about sparkle, then New Year’s Eve is about sizzle. It’s the last blast before those new year’s resolutions kick in, so dress for misbehaviour! This 1920s style drop-waist embellished dress from Warehouse is absolutely drenched in luxury. Intricate beading on the top gives way to one of this season’s hottest pieces: the sequin skirt. This item is from the Warehouse Luxe range, and it’s easy to see why. Teamed with a sequin headband and a faux-fur stole, I’ll be rocking 1920s glamour as I see in 2012:

Warehouse luxe 1920s style dress sequin gemma critchley fashion blog

Fash-sleuth success! I’ve got my dresses sorted for the next few parties and they’re sure to stand me in good stead for any soirees that crop up in 2012. With a bit of clever styling I can tone down the festive feel of these dresses, turning them from one-wear party dresses into investment pieces.

I can already imagine wearing the green lace skater dress in January with chunky, shearling-lined boots and a duffle coat for a trip to the outdoor ice rink in Leeds, before hitting the January sales…

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