Guided Tour & Afternoon Tea at UK Parliament

Visit to UK Parliament

I am not exaggerating when I say visiting Parliament was like Christmas for me. I studied UK Government & Politics at A Level and was just fascinated by our brilliant but bonkers system. Like, we have a Head of State, the Queen, but with such limited powers…but we just like it… We STILL have people sitting in the House of Lords who are just, ya know, there because their great grandfather was a Lord. We have delicious traditions like Black Rod who on the day the Queen opens Parliament, goes to the House of Commons, only to have the door slammed in their face. They then must knock on the door to let the MPs know to pop through to the House of Lords. All in the name of tradition!

I was invited by Visit Parliament to experience their Guided Tour on a Saturday when the Members of Parliament and Lords are all off, doing their gardening and doing a spot of yoga, so it was access all areas (apart from the Bars – someone please get me into the one of the Bars). We already know that Big Ben is a bit bongless at the minute, encased in a scaffolding tower, he’s defo looked better but it is all in the name of restoration.

THE TOUR
I was surprised to find that the Houses of Parliament is slated for its own refurbishment in the 2020s (which sounds SO far away but is only in two years time) which will see everyone move out for six years while they fix essential shiz like the plumbing. So if I were you, I’d go and see if while you can!

The guided tour starts in Westminster Hall (which I have been in before on Open House London weekend) and you are efficiently herded into a group of about 20. It is all done with military precision so even with about three tours going on at the same time, you never feel crowded. Our guide was really friendly, remembered where everyone was from, and gave us a mini grilling about who our MP was (and rightly so!).

Visit to UK Parliament

I am not exaggerating when I say visiting Parliament was like Christmas for me. I studied UK Government & Politics at A Level and was just fascinated by our brilliant but bonkers system. Like, we have a Head of State, the Queen, but with such limited powers…but we just like it… We STILL have people sitting in the House of Lords who are just, ya know, there because their great grandfather was a Lord. We have delicious traditions like Black Rod who on the day the Queen opens Parliament, goes to the House of Commons, only to have the door slammed in their face. They then must knock on the door to let the MPs know to pop through to the House of Lords. All in the name of tradition!

I was invited by Visit Parliament to experience their Guided Tour on a Saturday when the Members of Parliament and Lords are all off, doing their gardening and doing a spot of yoga, so it was access all areas (apart from the Bars – someone please get me into the one of the Bars). We already know that Big Ben is a bit bongless at the minute, encased in a scaffolding tower, he’s defo looked better but it is all in the name of restoration.

THE TOUR
I was surprised to find that the Houses of Parliament is slated for its own refurbishment in the 2020s (which sounds SO far away but is only in two years time) which will see everyone move out for six years while they fix essential shiz like the plumbing. So if I were you, I’d go and see if while you can!

The guided tour starts in Westminster Hall (which I have been in before on Open House London weekend) and you are efficiently herded into a group of about 20. It is all done with military precision so even with about three tours going on at the same time, you never feel crowded. Our guide was really friendly, remembered where everyone was from, and gave us a mini grilling about who our MP was (and rightly so!).

QUICK FACTS
the Palace (yes Palace of Westminster) was build in 1016 and was subsequently given over to be a Parliamentary building by the Edward VI (Henry VIII’s son)
it was rebuilt in 1834 following a fire
Queen Victoria reigned when it was build (Prince Albert selected the architects who submitted plans anonymously) and so she has a heavy presence in Parliament
Was hit by a bomb in World War 2
The House of Lords side is all red and the House of Commons side is all green

ROBING ROOM
As I was so excited, I had purposely not thought about where the tour would be or definitely didn’t dare to dream about where we would be allowed access to so my socks were well and truly blown off when we started the tour where the Queen usually comes in (oh yes) and into the Robing Room (so called because this is where the Queen, erm, puts her robes on).There are no words which can sufficiently explain the grandeur of this room with the high intricate golden ceiling, magnificent ornate fireplace. I imagine the Queen must really enjoy being here! She is accompanied at State openings by Prince Philip normally but the last one, Prince Charles joined her instead due to his retirement.

ROYAL GALLERY
The Royal Gallery is a long and impressive room with humongous paintings of The Battle of Trafalgar and The Battle of Waterloo (try even thinking about that without singing the Abba song).

HOUSE OF LORDS
After that, you reach, DEEP BREATH, the House of Lords Chamber! This is THE room where the House of Lords sit, where the famous Woolsack is and also where the Queen’s stunning, and very regal, wood carved gold leaf throne is for the opening of Parliament. The throne really does take your breath away which took years to design and build by architects Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin, I think this is the jewel in Parliament’s crown with details of the Royal Standard glistening and standing in perfect symmetry (as the house itself).

PRINCES CHAMBER
This smaller room has paintings up high of the Tudors and the Stewarts. If you know your history, you’ll know this was a pivotal time for British history, most notably because Henry VIII decided to have SIX wives and his intention to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, ultimately ended in Henry divorcing the Pope.

Members LOBBY
This is so memorable because of the lifelike statues of the iconic Prime Ministers; Winston Churchill, Clement Atlee, David Lloyd George and Margaret Thatcher. The Churchill Arch was bombed in WW2 and has been purposely left looking a little damaged as a reminder of wartime hardships.

HOUSE OF COMMONS
Mirroring the House of Lords beautifully, the House of Commons differs in the more worn green benches and instead of the Queen you have the Speaker’s Chair. It seemed a little smaller than on TV but mesmerising with the galleries up high for press and guests and mini microphones hanging from the ceiling to capture every word. Did you know Parliamentary records are kept and it is called Hansard!

AFTERNOON TEA
I finished this epic visit with the most delightful Afternoon Tea which looked out onto the Thames – how lucky the MPs are to have this view! We feasted on aubergine, salt beef and salmon sandwiches, followed by warm fruit scones (cream on first and then jam obvs) finished off with desserts which included a Millionaires Shot (basically something naughty with salted caramel in a shot glass). We enjoyed Earl Grey Tea and a glass of cold white wine.

NakedPR Girl at UK Parliament

I throughly recommend the Guided Tour & Afternoon Tea – check here to book – http://www.parliament.uk/visit

Follow then on Twitter and Instagram.

I was invited as a guest by Visit Parliament but my geeky enthusiasm is all real!

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NakedPR Girl guided tour, UK Parliament, London

Guide to Sintra in Portugal

Sintra is a sparkling jewel in Portugal’s crown; a place of history, mystery and vibrant colour. It has the ability to make modern, white washed, marbled life look rubbish, and instead it has made me yearn for pattern, detail and rainbow hues. Here’s my guide to a long weekend in Sintra. Quick note, we went end of April 2018 which seemed to be busy to me but apparently it gets MUCH worse!

Getting there
We booked with Expedia and stayed in Sintra at Hotel Arribas which is on the coast with lovely sea views over Praia Grande Beach. The good point side, it is nice and quiet, the bad side, it is a good 20 minutes (10-20 euros in a taxi) drive from the main centre. We flew into Lisbon and Sintra is about an hour away so we got our transfers included in the price (top tip as I’m guessing it would be expensive).

Getting around
Now, you have to understand that Sintra is busy and has a LOT of tour groups. Add to that things are quite spaced out so it can be a bit of a logistical headache, however Google is fantastic for plotting routes, telling you when things are busy and also telling you how long people stay in each place on average.

On the first day, foxed by everything and desperate for a glass of Verde wine and a pastry, we took the Hop on Hop off Red Bus which was 20 euros each for 24 hours. The good thing was that we managed a 10 minute stint at Cabo Do Roca before going onto our main destination, the picturesque Pena Palace. HOWEVER, we ended up having a glass of wine and enjoying the sunset so we missed the final bus back to Sintra (approx 6pm in ‘Winter’) and had to find our own way back. So unless you are on your own or have an aggressive schedule to keep to and need to fly round Sintra – this may be an overly expensive option for you. Also we found ourselves waiting 40 mins for a bus, when if we had taken a taxi we’d have been at our destination.

Having said that, there’s nothing quite like sitting at the back of an open topped bus as it winds around the Jurassic Park style hills. An alternative is Uber or just a normal taxi. We found Uber the cheapest, reliable and super friendly so a lot of our Sintra knowledge came from them 🙂 Something to try once is the Tuk Tuk and you can slide down the hill for just 5 euros.

What To See

Pena Palace – you need 2-3 hours (30 mins from Sintra)
Top of my list was the multi coloured fairytale palace which were thought up by King Ferdinand II and are the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism. Top tip – book in advance as it will save you an hour queue. The grounds are sprawling with lots of little buildings and features like the High Cross where you can look out over Sintra, so take your time as there is plenty to see. The main castle is breathtaking and is total Instagram gold. It is probably the most tourist-with-back-pack and tour-guide-holding-an-umbrella-in-the-air heavy I’ve ever known so try and be early in the morning, or late at night so you don’t end up having a fight with someone. At 5pm you should be able to get straight to the restaurant with no queue and get yourself a glass of wine to toast the sunset in peace. Note it can take a while to reach the castle as traffic is very heavy so plan plenty of time.

Pena Palace, Portugal

Moorish Castle – you’ll need 1.5-2 hours (30 mins from Sintra)
Opposite Pena Palace so ideal to do together if you can! Again book in advance and ignore the first gate to go straight through the garden to the main castle. This is a more traditional, historic castle than Pena Palace and completely outdoors so please be cautious in wet weather (or go on a dry day). The walk around the castle walls is the main attraction here and the view is breathtaking. If you are worried about heights, go slow and take your time.

Quinta da Regaleira – you need 2-3 hours (in Sintra)
In the centre of Sintra, this is a big site so I would recommend taking your time. I don’t actually think this place ever really was ‘quiet’ because people just flocked to the hot spots. Check out the main palace, the wonderful gardens and the historic statues and architecture. The pinnacle has to be the stunning inverted tower (Poco Iniciatico) which leads to an underground network of watery caves (Lago da Casata) – use your iPhone to see where you’re going. After you’ve battled the tourist-with-back-pack and tried to get a shot without someone with a red cagoule in it, head to the cafe. It has a great selection of food and wine which you can eat overlooking the main palace.

National Palace of Sintra – you’ll need 1-2 hours (in Sintra)
This was probably my least favourite – sorry Sintra – and was quick and easy to get around. It was a cold day when we visited and it was a cool place to be inside of. The main attraction were the perfect detailed ceilings and the astounding kitchen – which is home to the two impressive Madonna Cone Bra style iconic chimneys.

Monseratte Park & Palace – you’ll need 2-3 hours (10-15 mins drive from Sintra)
Holy Moly I loved this place. It had beautiful gardens which would be different depending on the season with landscape gardens created by Sir Francis Cook over 33 hectares. You’ll find a Rose Garden, Ornamental Lakes, a watrerfall, Mexican Garden and Fern Valley as well as architectural treats like the Indian Arch and Chapel. The main palace reminded me so much of Versaille with the soft pink marble columns and intricate ceiling, a sign of the romantic era. This is a little out of Sintra and has an ‘in the middle of nowhere’ feel but the Hop On Hop Off bus stops here, and there’s always Uber!

Caba da Roca – you’ll need 1 hour (20-30 mins drive from Sintra)
This rocky edge of the Western coast reminded me so much of Cornwall; the cliffs, the tropical wild flowers and the vibrant turquoise ocean. We went twice – once on a windy and sunny day as a ten minute stop off on the Hop On Hop Off Bus and a second time when it was a more mixed but less windy day. The views are incredible but we did get caught in a bit of a rain storm – so retreat to the cafe when that happens for a cup of tea!

Cascais – you’ll need 3-4 hours (30-45 mins drive from Sintra)
This wasn’t even on our hit list, but time after time, it got recommended by taxi drivers, bar men and my friend Antonia Taylor PR. Cascais is a small town with the signature cobbled streets and tiled buildings about half an hour drive from Sintra. We headed straight to Inferno Da Boca (or Devil’s Mouth) on the coast which was eerie as the devil really does seem to talk to you from the archway! Top tip – use Trip Advisor to find the best place to eat as we went to 5 Sentidos and had Monkfish with Shrimps and I was SO #BLESSED.

Dinosaur Prints – you’ll need 1 hour (20 mins drive from Sintra)
A lesser known fact is that there are dinosaur prints on Praia Grande Beach although it is not easy to find them. This location is 20 mins out of Sintra so unless you’ve got loads of time, or are on a Hop On Hop Off bus, it might not be worth the detour. Go to the far end of the beach where you will find a massive staircase. Halfway up, look up and you’ll see them in the rocks. The beach is gorgeous though for a nice stroll.

What to eat
EVERYTHING YALLLLL – YASSSS QUEEN! Sorry! I recommend croissants as big as your head – jeez they do such good chocolate filled heaven which I had every morning at the hotel. We had amazing spinach pastries at pretty much every palace (when in Rome as they say) and I also had a pretty phenomenal Pastel de Nata at Pena Palace.

For evening meals, it is pretty much fish all the way. My travelling companion Kate Gorbunova, loved an octopus and her favourite was from 5 Sentidos, although Incomum in Sintra came a close second and I loved my Scallop Risotto.

You also must try the famous Vinho Verde literally ‘green wine’ which is so crisp and clear and frankly gorgeous! It is all pretty reasonable – you can get an evening meal with a bottle of wine for two for around 50 euros.

What to pack
Layers. That icy Portuguese wind can get CHILLY. In end of April, I had a combination of top, cardigan, jeans or skirt, denim jacket AND sometimes my trench coat too. You just can’t tell. On the flip side beware of the sun with these high up castles and wear factor 50.

ENJOY!!!

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NakedPR Girl, Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

Erika Swinn - NakedPRGirl Interview

Erika Swinn – NakedPRGirl Interview

If you look up ‘happy’ in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure you’ll find a picture of the bubbly and vivacious Erika Swinn smiling out from the pages. I met Erika circa 2010 (give or take) when we were both working at Mamas & Papas and she was a confident, lovely girl working in the marketing team. Little did I realise that she was about to make a swift exit, retrain and soar up the career ladder to become a successful hair and makeup artist. At just 30, Erika has made a name for herself working in fashion, celebrity and TV plus she has a successful wedding hair and makeup business (Erika Swinn Weddings) and to top it off she has just launched Erika Swinn Masterclass so that she can share her experience with others (errr yah I’d like some of that please!) So I wanted to know how did she channel good energy into a brand new career? And also, what is she planning next? Because something tells me, this is just the beginning of Erika Swinn’s empire.

Erika Swinn

NakedPRGirl: Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

Erika Swinn: I’m from Blackburn in Lancashire and funnily enough after moving around for years we are back in the house we bought in our late teens. It’s our third time living here so I’m hoping to stay put for a few years at least.

NakedPRGirl: What did you study? What was your first job?

Erika Swinn: My degree is in International Fashion Marketing BSc, my first graduate job was working in the marketing department for Mamas & Papas in Huddersfield.

NakedPRGirl: Why did you decide to pursue a career in hair and makeup?

Erika Swinn: I’ve always wanted to but once I’d started my degree I really felt I should finish it, and then I got the job I wanted. It was always in the back of my mind and I kept thinking, if I wait until a promotion, it will be harder to give up that extra income so I need to do it now while I’m still 22, no children and can totally dedicate myself to making it a success.

NakedPRGirl: When setting up your business, how did you decided your USP? Who did your logo/branding?

Erika Swinn: I used Toby from ‘We Are Fine’, he was in the creative department at Mamas & Papas when I worked there, we worked closely together at the time. Coinciding with me retraining as a make up artist, he was also setting up his own business so it worked really well for both of us. Since then I’ve branched out into ‘Erika Swinn Weddings’ and the ‘Erika Swinn Masterclass’. For these I used a friend I met working on a TV show. He’s altered my logo for each section of the business as we both saw fit. I’m lucky I’ve had both these creative’s involved in the building and expanding of my brand.

NakedPRGirl: You’ve come a long way in a short space of time, how did you get into the industry and start getting your first jobs?

Erika Swinn: I took a lot into consideration when going to train, I took a chance on a brand new make up school ‘Cassie Lomas Makeup Academy’ based in Manchester. I had a strong gut feeling to choose this school as Cassie is a very well established make up artist and as this was her first ever course I knew she would be heavily involved so i would learn a great deal from her directly. Another huge advantage to Cassie’s Fashion Course was getting the chance to assist her on those first few jobs which was just amazing. I also had lots of contacts from my marketing degree and my graduate job which really helped me. My managers and colleagues didn’t really know how good I was at make up, but they knew me as a person and knew my work ethic and determination to succeed so luckily they gave me a chance.

NakedPRGirl: What was your big break?

Erika Swinn: I would say Cassie sending me to work as an assistant to the amazing Paul Percival on Will Young’s music video, ‘Jealously’ in London. I was 22, I had only just finished my make up & hair course and was extremely new to the industry. I had no idea what to expect and only had a minimal kit but knew I had to take the chance, even though I was terrified. Once I got there, in the end by Royal Mail delivery!!! (that’s another story), I realised I would be doing hair and make up on five dancers and also drawing an intricate tattoo on Will Young’s back. This took me by surprise and I was so nervous but again knew I had to do it as I didn’t want to let anyone down. Hand shaking and heart beating before I started, ITV asked me to sign something so they could film me doing it. I seriously couldn’t of been more nervous. I walked away from the job, 12 hours after arriving, on cloud nine. I thought to myself this is why I wanted to do this, that’s buzz you get from a job gone well. That job meant meeting Paul Percival who is incredible and of course working with Will Young, as well as gaining the experience of a production team.

NakedPRGirl: Do you have a favourite shoot that stands out? Any great people you love working with?

Erika Swinn: Yes totally, I still can’t believe to this day that I got to shoot with the most incredible Hollywood Photographer John Russo. If you’re not familiar, Google him – he shoots every Hollywood star there is and has won a Golden Globe. When I received the email back in 2012 from his assistant I didn’t quite know what to think, he even asked me to recommend a stylist!! John himself was just incredible, you only have to look at his portfolio to see how amazing he really is. The shoot was with Sergio Aguero for Hugo Boss and Esquire Magazine. Still now I can’t believe I worked with such a huge name and talent.

NakedPRGirl: I spotted you also do amazing wedding makeup – is this something you are really passionate about?

Erika Swinn: I have always taken wedding jobs since I started as I love working with brides helping to make it the most special day of their life. I take maximum of 25 a year but do try and keep to 20, this keeps it personal and exciting for each bride. I have made so many friends over these last seven years and keep in touch with pretty much all of my brides.

NakedPRGirl: You new Masterclasses are a great idea for anyone wanting to get a little bit better at doing their own makeup – where did the idea come from and how is it going?

Erika Swinn: I’m always getting asked to do individual lessons from brides, wedding parties members, friends, people that know what I do. I wanted to do something where I could create an experience and that was also fun at the same time as learning. I know lots of artists do Masterclasses on a large scale, a few of which I have attended. I would describe mine as more of a beauty workshop, it’s really personal as I only take 10 on each course. I adore the masterclass days, we meet and chat over coffee, demos and practicals throughout the day interspersed with lunch and an afternoon drink. Everyone leaves feeling glam and confident and with a bag of make up treats. That’s my goal!

NakedPRGirl: What’s your personal style? Have you had to look at marketing yourself as a brand?

Erika Swinn: My personal make up style is quite natural, especially compared to the current heavy make up trends on young girls. I’m all about enhancing natural features, seeing the face not just the make up. I probably could do with marketing myself more, but I will have had 3 children in 5 years by this summer so I do as best I can.

NakedPRGirl: Do you think our hair and makeup can make a huge impact in how we feel about ourselves?

Erika Swinn: Definitely! I know personally I feel so much better when I have a bit of tan on, or I’ve had my hair done. Even as a busy mummy to young children, just having 30 mins to get ready rather than a mad rush makes me feels more confident.

NakedPRGirl: I’ve been on shoots where small things have gone wrong and big things have gone wrong, how do you deal with that?

Erika Swinn: I just try to take everything in my stride, I’m not perfect, luckily so far I haven’t had any big mistakes. I’m always well ahead of time for a shoot or TV commercial, I plan my journey, turn up with a really well organised kit so that I can get going straight away. I think trying to remain positive and being a generally happy person to be around has a knock on affect on everyone’s mood. I want my model to feel happy and relaxed knowing that I’m enjoying working on them every single time.

NakedPRGirl: How do you use social media as a makeup artist? Do you have a strategy?

Erika Swinn: I don’t really, I probably should have more of a strategy, although I do have separate accounts for my industry work and my weddings. This allows me to target my audience better and connect with them more effectively. I just try to let people see what I’m up to as people usually find my kind of job interesting, I’m always really careful though as so much of my work is confidential, or I wait until the brand has released an image before I do, always!!

NakedPRGirl: What is your favourite social channel?

Erika Swinn: Definitely Instagram, I love visuals, when I’m relaxing in the bath I’m always scrolling and watching videos, it’s my guilty pleasure. I find it easy to connect with people as well on there, I’m really not a Twitter person, no matter how hard I try.

NakedPRGirl: Do you think social media has impacted the beauty industry? How do you feel about all the filters, smoothing and retouching apps?

Erika Swinn: I think it’s had a huge impact, in most ways that’s amazing but I also fear for my daughter (she’s current only four) growing up in this crazy image obsessed world. I’m personally terrible at editing, unless it’s a bit of fun on Snapchat I don’t edit my pictures, and I just take them on my phone. I certainly would never edit a picture and mention the make up I’m wearing as I think that sets unrealistic goals to anyone seeing it. I know most people useFacetune and that is their choice, personally I want to keep it as real as possible.

NakedPRGirl: What makeup tips can you give us to be camera ready? Or just in general (eg – should you do a makeup Spring Clean/clean brushes etc etc)

Erika Swinn: Keep on top on your makeup brushes, just a bit of fairy liquid to clean and left to dry is enough for your personal set. Go through your make up bag and check the shelf life, you’d be surprised how much of your make up has a shelf life of 12 months. My advice is, less is always more, wearing too much make up can clog your pores and actually make you look older.

NakedPRGirl: And what about guys, what’s male grooming?

Erika Swinn: I work with so many men for TV and photoshoots, mainly professional athletes, these men wouldn’t use make up their everyday life but it is essential when infront of the camera. Again, less is more, I often see shoots where I can see the make up on a guy, this isn’t good! They should just look flawless, like they are not wearing any make up. I think most men nowadays make some effort in the grooming department, chest waxing, brow shaping and a good moisturiser is enough I think.

NakedPRGirl: How important is networking for you? Do you have a gang you love working with and socialising with?

Erika Swinn: My husband jokes that I can go anywhere and I will meet someone I know. I’m a total chatterbox and never forget a face. Socialising is so important to me. Whether it’s a job or a mum’s group I always end up meeting and connecting with people.

NakedPRGirl: What’s are the next big trends in makeup?

Erika Swinn: I think blue eyeliner will be everywhere this spring. I think this summer, skin will be dewier than ever. I just don’t think we can all get enough of the glow.

NakedPRGirl: What advice would you give to others just starting out in the industry?

Erika Swinn: My advice would be to take absolutely every opportunity you can, never say no to a job, be passionate and work hard. Let your personality show but don’t be overpowering. Always have a super clean, well organised make up kit and immaculate make up brushes!!!

NakedPRGirl: Do you have a motto or a mantra that you live by?

Erika Swinn: Always be kind, and love what you do! It’s a long working life to not enjoy going to work every day.

NakedPRGirl: What’s next?

Erika Swinn: Personally, our family will become a family of five this summer, our third baby to complete our family, which is a very exciting time for all of us. Professionally I want to continue building and expanding these courses, strengthening my personal brand. I don’t quite know my direction yet but I do know my passion for this industry and my drive to succeed, I get so excited thinking about all the possibilities that the future holds. I was 30 in summer, the next 10 years are going to be the biggest in my career, I just know it.

Visit Erika Swinn for bookings http://www.erikaswinn.com
Visit Erika Swinn Wedding for bridal – http://www.erikaswinnweddings.com
Find out more on Erika Swinn’s Masterclass – http://www.erikaswinn.com/masterclass/
Follow Erika on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/erikaswinn/

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Erika Swinn Weddings

London's Best Spots to Instagram 2018

Around five years ago, I went to a conference that looked at the rise of online and confidently predicted that shops would essentially become ‘showrooms’ in the future. It made me think that we would be throwing out all the merchandise and creating art galleries where about 3 handbags would be displayed in a glass case with a security guard.

The decline of retail is well-documented with stores closing or condensing their offering to instead have one or a few flagship stores (instead of stacks of smaller ones) and using online to be their global shopfront. The ‘showroom’ idea has become so much more than it even intended to be, and in the age of Instagram, everything has become so ‘EXTRA’, retail has embraced the idea of treating their store or cafe as a living, breathing, art installation to maximise social media reach and give people a reason to visit. Big department stores (with department store size budgets) have long used their windows as a key part of their marketing calendar, but now we’re seeing everyone from independent designers to old fashioned pubs carving out a PR story and point of difference using visual merchandising to max out their place on the High Street.  London is the perfect place to experiment with pink cafes, floral shop fronts and artwork ensuring more footfall and therefore more cash in the till. Here I’ve rounded up my favourite retail Instagrammable hot spots for 2018.

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Dalloway Terrace

Getting Naked With Stylist SulkyDoll Donna McCulloch

Getting Naked With Stylist SulkyDoll Donna McCulloch

Donna McCulloch is better known to her followers as stylist SulkyDoll who shares her daily fashion choices, London events and styling updates on Instagram. Life is glossy on the outside with stints at Fashion Week, press days and parties, but don’t mistake that for an easy life. Donna is a hard working stylist; building enticing wardrobes for clients, dressing red carpet events, writing for Riddle Magazine, attending back to back events for her job, and she does it all with a smile on her face! Donna also recently hit the styling jackpot by flying to the Oscar’s to style the cast and crew of the Silent Child film for the red carpet…which actually won the Oscar…so that pretty makes her award-winning right?! Let’s find out how she got there and meet

NAKEDPRGIRL: Where are you from originally? How did you come to be in London and what do you like about the city?

Donna McCulloch aka SulkyDoll: I’m originally from the Wirral in the North West and came to London to study

NakedPRGirl: How did you get your job as a stylist? What did you study?

Donna SulkyDoll: I studied at London School of Styling and once I qualified I just worked VERY hard, often unpaid and slowly but surely the work came in.

NAKEDPRGIRL: What was your big break?

Donna SulkyDoll: Bare Minerals was my biggest campaign but lots of people along the way have been good to me, DONNA IDA was a dream to work with, plus Jaeger and Riddle offering me the Fashion Editor post were all key moments but the Oscars was the biggest gig of my career.

Donna SulkyDoll

NakedPRGirl: You recently styled the Oscar winning Silent Child film and travelled to LA to style the attendees at the ceremony – what was that like?

Donna SulkyDoll: It was the experience of a lifetime – I’ll never forget it – I was so proud to be a teeny part of what was such an incredible project and I’ll continue to work with the team on their next project.

Current mood ☝🏼🏆🤩🏆I cannot tell you how proud I am to be a teeny part of @silent_child_film – it was, is and always will be, a winner in every sense. I must say a HUGE thank you to all the PRs & brands that generously gifted or loaned pieces, this was a small budget film with a BIG heart & you all paid it forward, believing in me when I told you this film would win big and win big it did. Here’s to the ones who dream…🙏🏼🤩🤸🏻♀ . . . #oscars #la #potd #redcarpet #style #stylist #styleinspiration #look #california #mywork #mylife #lovemyjob #happy #grateful #academyawards #winners #thesilentchildfilm #sulkydoll #theuniversehasyourback #dreambig #workhard #payitforward #dogood #monday #awardceremony

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NakedPRGirl: Where did the name come from and who did your logo/branding?

Donna SulkyDoll: It was my nickname as a child and I spoke to a friend in branding and she said the name had to be memorable and mean something to me so SulkyDoll was born.

NakedPRGirl: What’s your USP?

Donna SulkyDoll: Good question. That I can Style any man or woman of any age, shape or size.

NAKEDPRGIRL: What’s your personal style? Have you had to look at marketing yourself as a brand?

Donna SulkyDoll: Edgy glam, I’m very influenced by the 70s as a child of that decade but I like to mix it up. I haven’t taken any advice re: marketing myself – maybe I should? But it’s been clear from the outset that on social media people are more interested in what I wear than my work…

NAKEDPRGIRL: How can styling build an image and how does that impact on our work and personal life?

Donna SulkyDoll: You are judged on the way you look the minute you enter a room so make it a good one. I think about looks for clients all the time…

NAKEDPRGIRL: What helps you to be creative? Is it magazines, books, art, a favourite cafe?

Donna SulkyDoll: I’m a big fan of print journalism and still get a thrill when I get my magazines through the door. I like to do mood boards old school style with cutting up images and putting them together.

NakedPRGirl: Do you have a favourite shoot that stands out?

Donna SulkyDoll: Bare minerals, I felt like I’d finally made it.

NakedPRGirl: I’ve been on shoots where small things have gone wrong and big things have gone wrong, how do you deal with that?

Donna SulkyDoll: Me too! To an extent it’s all part of the creative process and these things are often organic so sometimes you end up with something better, but it’s frustrating if it doesn’t go as well as you’ve put your heart and soul into it.

NakedPRGirl: How do you use social media as a stylist? Do you have a strategy?

Donna SulkyDoll: Er no! I just post daily if I have the content and engage with my followers! If someone has bothered to comment (in a nice way) I will always respond.

NAKEDPRGIRL: What is your favourite social channel?

Donna SulkyDoll: Insta!

NAKEDPRGIRL: What photography tips would you have for others?

Donna SulkyDoll: Portrait on my iPhone has changed my life!!!

NAKEDPRGIRL: How important is networking for you? Do you have a gang you love working with and socialising with?

Donna SulkyDoll: It is important but the whole going to 55 press days a week is tedious and if you have an actual job, not even possible but I try to prioritise the brands I work with as much as possible. I do have a lovely bunch of Insta buds that I hang out with who champion me and tell me when I’m being daft but that whole “girl gang” thing can feel very mean girls and “you can’t sit with us” and isn’t very inclusive so I try to hang out with genuine folk who are my actual mates. My main crew are a mix of stylists, bloggers, mua & models Pascale Banks aka Style Mum  Emma Carr @thefashioncraver @_s.a.s.h_  @ashlingrosehttps://www.instagram.com/ashlingrose/ – @bohemianevergreen https://www.instagram.com/bohemianevergreen/- @mercer7 https://www.instagram.com/mercer7official/?hl=en – @mamastillgotit https://www.instagram.com/mamastillgotit_/?hl=en – @sjfroommakeuphttps://www.instagram.com/sjfroommakeup/ – @helenwilsonbeevers https://www.instagram.com/helenwilsonbeevers/

NAKEDPRGIRL: In your career what changes have you seen between print and digital media?
Donna SulkyDoll: Sadly, print is dying but I still love it. Riddle magazine is online and it’s easier to get the content out quickly but I do love an actual magazine.

NAKEDPRGIRL: You must have a jam packed diary for Fashion Week for both men and women – what changes have you seen over the years? Which shows do you most look forward to and what’s your failsafe fashion tips for the week?
Donna SulkyDoll: I still love it but It’s much more of a circus than it used to be and it’s got harder to get tickets from PRs to shows, as unless you have a good relationship with them -they focus on Instagram following (regardless of if it’s real and organic or not) & this is disheartening when those with zero fashion credentials get access to shows you want to write about.

NAKEDPRGIRL: What advice would you give to others just starting out in the industry?
Donna SulkyDoll: Work hard, be nice and pay it forward.

NakedPRGirl: What’s next?
Donna SulkyDoll: I’m working closely with the Silent Child team and I’ve got an actor client who needs a restyle so I’ll keep you posted…

Find out more – http://sulkydoll.co.uk
Read Donna’s articles on Riddle
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Stylist Sulkydoll Donna McCulloch

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“Claire was my PR and Marketing Manager for four years at Donna Ida so we worked closely together to build a marketing strategy for the Ultimate Denim Destination. Claire’s PR experience led to an increase in press coverage 30% year-on-year with a focus on luxury titles and targeting key editors"

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Claire was very well liked by the press and they felt very happy and comfortable with her, so much so that they were just as happy going to Claire as they were coming to me. We developed a press strategy of one-to-one appointments and special evening press dinners to encourage exclusivity with exceptional results.

She worked closely with our in-house creative team to build the brand and my personal profile within the fashion and business sectors, managing photo shoots and Look Books. Claire is loyal, entrepreneurial and strategic so when presented with a challenge she sees it as an opportunity.

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