As I write this blog post, I am waiting for the internal European borders to re-open to fly to Italy. While we wait for life to become normal again, it is getting harder and harder for those which normal life is associated to regular cross-border airport trips – whether it is to hop on a plane for business or personal purposes. The bubble I live in at the moment (Brussels) is quite international, and it is an issue for many non-Belgian people here. At the same time, not everyone sees a problem in delaying the opening of borders when we are fighting off a pandemic. And fairly so: we are talking about one of the worst public health crises our generation has had to face.

For the first time since 1945, our freedom has been dramatically limited. At some point, France made you carry a certificate specifying the reason why you were out every time you would leave your house – even to fetch a baguette at the baker’s located 200m away. Our daily freedom was materialising into a simple piece of paper. While according to the country we live in, we have experienced different restrictions and different timelines, according to our financial, familial and mental situation we have lived the confinement in many ways. We joked that introverts were coping better than extroverts as we were strongly encouraged to stay home at all times. As health workers still fight to protect all of us, some might say our only job is to sit and wait, and that we shouldn't complain; which is to a certain extent understandable. The reality is, a couple of months in, everyone seeks freedom of movement and the possibility to gather with their family and friends – more than ever.

The world as an open border

Focusing on the European case, what strikes me is the extent to which I took the benefits offered by the Schengen area for granted, up to the closure of borders. In total, 26 European states belong to this European Union zone, where all passports, visas and other types of border controls have been abolished since 1995. As a matter of fact, I was born in France in 1992 and never got to know how the world was without open intra-European borders. 
 
I came to wonder: to what extent has the freedom to travel from one country to another shaped our lives
And in particular, mine?

I am particularly addressing how easy it is for you to live in any of the EU countries if you wish to do so. Through Erasmus+ (the programme allowing students and professionals to study and work anywhere in the EU), the European Union has enabled millions of people to discover what life looks like in another country. It has led to the full realisation that the language you learn at school can lead you to communicate with another culture, and to enrich you up to an unexpected level (in-between parties). In particular, many have become accustomed to the idea of living abroad, finding themselves asking for foreign residency. Or found love and more: according to European Commission’s estimates, we’re talking roughly one million babies born to Erasmus couples since 1987.

The sky's your limit

Since my first year at uni, I became curious of a life abroad. I remember I was dying to spend a year in the US but as it didn’t pan out, I chose to go and live in England during a gap year as a French language assistant. Soon after I would live in Scotland for 6 months. Then, I went to Italy and fell in love with the Eternal City. And while I desperately wanted to stay, work opportunities were scarce; I reluctantly chose to move to Belgium to build myself a career in public relations.

But despite hard times, I was holding on. After all, Ryanair flights could get as low as 20€ over the winter period. From the Belgian capital, to catch a flight to Rome was cheaper than to hop on a train to Lille. It looked like the whole air ecosystem adapted to the shrinking of territory – caused by the pushing out of its own limits. The only reason why I was living in Belgium – if not to benefit from a top-notch professional environment – was because I could get out of it quick and easy. The possibility to move to Rome exists within periphery of my twenties, a permanent asterisk attached to the city I live in at the moment.

Back to essentials

But to put a halt to a deadly health hazard, governments closed down the borders. I no longer had this possibility. Just like many people, I was stuck in my flat alone for a few months with no possibility to meet my family, boyfriend, friends. FaceTime and WhatsApp video were the way to go. For my pro-European generation, seeing this freedom taken away is traumatising. Would we live abroad if we couldn’t go back to the people we love without hurdle? Could long-distance relationships even work?

Looking forward, we may be facing a one-in-a-lifetime pandemic that will turn 2020 into an exceptional year. Maybe we will not be confronted with the issue again. However, it does give me - and for sure many others - food for thought. Taking into account the expected rocketing of flight rates and the sustainability element, are we getting back to a more traditional way of thinking, to an “out of sight out of mind” mindset? Is it the time to end a “transition period”? Can’t we just overcome the complexity and just be where we belong instead of travelling non-stop? At the end of the day there’s no right or wrong answer – just a choice.

One thing is certain: as I am incredibly fortunate to be living in a democracy which grants me the power to go wherever I fancy, I can spend more time gauging the freedom we benefit from. With such power comes great responsibility, the one to shape the future we truly wish to have. There’s no such thing as having too much freedom if we make the right decisions. 

I feel I could go on and on on the topic and write a whole chapter on it. But instead I'll leave you with these questions: would you be working and living where you are if there was no freedom of movement (in which case, you got it sorted already)? Did the confinement change your perspective or encouraged you to take a step towards the life/job/etc. you wish to have?

Copyright: Pinterest (here)


We Were Free Until We Weren’t

Sunday, 24 May 2020

,

As I write this blog post, I am waiting for the internal European borders to re-open to fly to Italy. While we wait for life to become normal again, it is getting harder and harder for those which normal life is associated to regular cross-border airport trips – whether it is to hop on a plane for business or personal purposes. The bubble I live in at the moment (Brussels) is quite international, and it is an issue for many non-Belgian people here. At the same time, not everyone sees a problem in delaying the opening of borders when we are fighting off a pandemic. And fairly so: we are talking about one of the worst public health crises our generation has had to face.

For the first time since 1945, our freedom has been dramatically limited. At some point, France made you carry a certificate specifying the reason why you were out every time you would leave your house – even to fetch a baguette at the baker’s located 200m away. Our daily freedom was materialising into a simple piece of paper. While according to the country we live in, we have experienced different restrictions and different timelines, according to our financial, familial and mental situation we have lived the confinement in many ways. We joked that introverts were coping better than extroverts as we were strongly encouraged to stay home at all times. As health workers still fight to protect all of us, some might say our only job is to sit and wait, and that we shouldn't complain; which is to a certain extent understandable. The reality is, a couple of months in, everyone seeks freedom of movement and the possibility to gather with their family and friends – more than ever.

The world as an open border

Focusing on the European case, what strikes me is the extent to which I took the benefits offered by the Schengen area for granted, up to the closure of borders. In total, 26 European states belong to this European Union zone, where all passports, visas and other types of border controls have been abolished since 1995. As a matter of fact, I was born in France in 1992 and never got to know how the world was without open intra-European borders. 
 
I came to wonder: to what extent has the freedom to travel from one country to another shaped our lives
And in particular, mine?

I am particularly addressing how easy it is for you to live in any of the EU countries if you wish to do so. Through Erasmus+ (the programme allowing students and professionals to study and work anywhere in the EU), the European Union has enabled millions of people to discover what life looks like in another country. It has led to the full realisation that the language you learn at school can lead you to communicate with another culture, and to enrich you up to an unexpected level (in-between parties). In particular, many have become accustomed to the idea of living abroad, finding themselves asking for foreign residency. Or found love and more: according to European Commission’s estimates, we’re talking roughly one million babies born to Erasmus couples since 1987.

The sky's your limit

Since my first year at uni, I became curious of a life abroad. I remember I was dying to spend a year in the US but as it didn’t pan out, I chose to go and live in England during a gap year as a French language assistant. Soon after I would live in Scotland for 6 months. Then, I went to Italy and fell in love with the Eternal City. And while I desperately wanted to stay, work opportunities were scarce; I reluctantly chose to move to Belgium to build myself a career in public relations.

But despite hard times, I was holding on. After all, Ryanair flights could get as low as 20€ over the winter period. From the Belgian capital, to catch a flight to Rome was cheaper than to hop on a train to Lille. It looked like the whole air ecosystem adapted to the shrinking of territory – caused by the pushing out of its own limits. The only reason why I was living in Belgium – if not to benefit from a top-notch professional environment – was because I could get out of it quick and easy. The possibility to move to Rome exists within periphery of my twenties, a permanent asterisk attached to the city I live in at the moment.

Back to essentials

But to put a halt to a deadly health hazard, governments closed down the borders. I no longer had this possibility. Just like many people, I was stuck in my flat alone for a few months with no possibility to meet my family, boyfriend, friends. FaceTime and WhatsApp video were the way to go. For my pro-European generation, seeing this freedom taken away is traumatising. Would we live abroad if we couldn’t go back to the people we love without hurdle? Could long-distance relationships even work?

Looking forward, we may be facing a one-in-a-lifetime pandemic that will turn 2020 into an exceptional year. Maybe we will not be confronted with the issue again. However, it does give me - and for sure many others - food for thought. Taking into account the expected rocketing of flight rates and the sustainability element, are we getting back to a more traditional way of thinking, to an “out of sight out of mind” mindset? Is it the time to end a “transition period”? Can’t we just overcome the complexity and just be where we belong instead of travelling non-stop? At the end of the day there’s no right or wrong answer – just a choice.

One thing is certain: as I am incredibly fortunate to be living in a democracy which grants me the power to go wherever I fancy, I can spend more time gauging the freedom we benefit from. With such power comes great responsibility, the one to shape the future we truly wish to have. There’s no such thing as having too much freedom if we make the right decisions. 

I feel I could go on and on on the topic and write a whole chapter on it. But instead I'll leave you with these questions: would you be working and living where you are if there was no freedom of movement (in which case, you got it sorted already)? Did the confinement change your perspective or encouraged you to take a step towards the life/job/etc. you wish to have?

Copyright: Pinterest (here)


Copyright: Vogue Portugal, April 2020

I don’t know if this is your case but I have become hungry for many podcasts lately, and even more during this self-isolation time. But some have started to discuss the global pandemic we are in, and I tend not to listen to them as I’m trying to limit the amount of negative information I come across. However, I made an exception for the one by the Business of Fashion (BoF), which is always a pleasure to listen to – and for the first time a special Covid-19 podcast edition was incredibly compelling to me. It discussed the impact and responsibilities of fashion media companies during the crisis we are going through. So, as you can see, it inspired a blog post on the matter.

An unexpected response

I’ve spent quite some time getting extra insight on what the crisis meant for the fashion and luxury industries lately. Because contrary to one might think, they have been exemplary in their reaction as to the pandemic by getting involved. Who would honestly have thought that, among others, names such as Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy would step up and produce hydroalcoholic gel to be distributed to hospitals, Burberry would produce chirurgical masks and Gucci would donate over 2 million euros to fundraising campaigns to slow down the spread of the virus?

Whether it regards medical equipment production (e.g. masks and medical suits), substantial donations or promises to maintain 100% of their employees’ salaries, so many brands are participating (to have a view at the full picture, this article by Vogue Paris is a great directory of what fashion labels are doing). For a sector that is sometimes perceived as frivolous, which products are deemed unnecessary and general attitude way too pompous, I guess we’re all happy labels are stepping in. On the economic side, the impact of the industry is not to be underestimated – for example, the Italian fashion industry weighs 90 billion euros and employ over 600,000 people across the country (if you’re interested in the topic, you can read more here) – so shutting down manufactures is to have heavy consequences.

Displaying your value

Nonetheless, the reason I particularly admire how the industry deals with the crisis is the approach with which everything kicked off. Of course, at some point getting involved became necessary for some as so many were doing so already. But I don’t recall anybody incentivising LVMH to start donating or making hydroalcoholic gel to help hospital staff stay healthy, or maisons such as Chanel to embrace the social perspective by avoiding layoffs and maintaining salaries. For all that, did the industry have a role to play, in essence? The question is open. In my opinion, they didn’t have to. Such a response was issued early in the crisis and reflects a genuine human standpoint. Closing down manufactures and cutting off your perfume production to help is not just a marketing technique aiming to improve your reputation, but a genuine decision to help.

If the fashion and luxury industries took action, it is only normal that it would reflect in the media disseminating their news. According to Dazed Media founder Jefferson Hack, the pandemic is also an ‘infodemic’: it is easy to get sucked in by fear. As we know, the media influence people’s mood. This is why so many, including me, stay away from any sort of non-necessary information. It can also change the way people feel through the tone of a story, in a positive or negative way.

Copyright: Vogue Italia, April 2020
A striking blank page as no words are sufficient to describe the drama.


In sync with the audience

The Milan fashion week (18-24 February 2020) is where the acknowledgment of the issue among fashion circles started to rise. At the heart of Lombardy, Italian fashion people started to inform one another and foreigners of what was happening in the region and rumours spread until it all became real. That’s why fashion media companies actually reacted before governments. I recall Condé Nast sent their employees based in Milan at home to work from there before it became mandatory by governmental decree.

Traditional fashion media should always bring value for their audiences, otherwise they grow out of sync. They used real time feedback in terms of understanding where their audience was at and kept the world of fashion informed of what was happening (e.g. Vogue Business, which I peruse 24/7). Speed of adaptation is indeed key for media, and outlets have taken up the challenge. They also highlighted cultural programming, as an effect as culture being cancelled IRL.

When social media ramp up positivity

When it comes to social media, the clarity of purpose had to be redefined in times of crisis – one of them being to adapt the content and disseminate content accordingly to the mood of the audience. The Covid-19 crisis seems to have triggered a reset that allows a new set of values to come forth. Times are evolving quickly on social media platforms since it started. Twitter, which is known to be quite a place for haters, is bringing a large amount of positivity and support forward. The initiative and hashtag #AloneTogether is an example.

All in all, most say that they don’t expect business to be back to normal as usual – whether it is in terms of business, advertising or media. Or even fashion trends, as some expect a return to a more minimalistic fashion for the following seasons going along the humility brought by a crisis. Most importantly, I hope that the change brought by the crisis will directly target sustainability and bring it closer to the centre of fashion creation.

Art as a necessity

Although people might reckon art and fashion unnecessary, I think we need them more than ever every time such a challenge emerges. Fortunately, if you didn’t think that culture thrived in time of crisis, I would suggest downloading Tik Tok and scrolling up and down for a few minutes to realise how creative people can be. (Yes, I’m using Tik Tok as a reference for culture because it is!)

Do you think the fashion world reacted accordingly and in a timely manner, according to you?

Listen to the BoF podcast here.

Copyright: Vanity Fair Italia, 11-18 March 2020

What Role do the Fashion Industry & Media play in the Covid-19 crisis?

Sunday, 19 April 2020

,
Copyright: Vogue Portugal, April 2020

I don’t know if this is your case but I have become hungry for many podcasts lately, and even more during this self-isolation time. But some have started to discuss the global pandemic we are in, and I tend not to listen to them as I’m trying to limit the amount of negative information I come across. However, I made an exception for the one by the Business of Fashion (BoF), which is always a pleasure to listen to – and for the first time a special Covid-19 podcast edition was incredibly compelling to me. It discussed the impact and responsibilities of fashion media companies during the crisis we are going through. So, as you can see, it inspired a blog post on the matter.

An unexpected response

I’ve spent quite some time getting extra insight on what the crisis meant for the fashion and luxury industries lately. Because contrary to one might think, they have been exemplary in their reaction as to the pandemic by getting involved. Who would honestly have thought that, among others, names such as Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy would step up and produce hydroalcoholic gel to be distributed to hospitals, Burberry would produce chirurgical masks and Gucci would donate over 2 million euros to fundraising campaigns to slow down the spread of the virus?

Whether it regards medical equipment production (e.g. masks and medical suits), substantial donations or promises to maintain 100% of their employees’ salaries, so many brands are participating (to have a view at the full picture, this article by Vogue Paris is a great directory of what fashion labels are doing). For a sector that is sometimes perceived as frivolous, which products are deemed unnecessary and general attitude way too pompous, I guess we’re all happy labels are stepping in. On the economic side, the impact of the industry is not to be underestimated – for example, the Italian fashion industry weighs 90 billion euros and employ over 600,000 people across the country (if you’re interested in the topic, you can read more here) – so shutting down manufactures is to have heavy consequences.

Displaying your value

Nonetheless, the reason I particularly admire how the industry deals with the crisis is the approach with which everything kicked off. Of course, at some point getting involved became necessary for some as so many were doing so already. But I don’t recall anybody incentivising LVMH to start donating or making hydroalcoholic gel to help hospital staff stay healthy, or maisons such as Chanel to embrace the social perspective by avoiding layoffs and maintaining salaries. For all that, did the industry have a role to play, in essence? The question is open. In my opinion, they didn’t have to. Such a response was issued early in the crisis and reflects a genuine human standpoint. Closing down manufactures and cutting off your perfume production to help is not just a marketing technique aiming to improve your reputation, but a genuine decision to help.

If the fashion and luxury industries took action, it is only normal that it would reflect in the media disseminating their news. According to Dazed Media founder Jefferson Hack, the pandemic is also an ‘infodemic’: it is easy to get sucked in by fear. As we know, the media influence people’s mood. This is why so many, including me, stay away from any sort of non-necessary information. It can also change the way people feel through the tone of a story, in a positive or negative way.

Copyright: Vogue Italia, April 2020
A striking blank page as no words are sufficient to describe the drama.


In sync with the audience

The Milan fashion week (18-24 February 2020) is where the acknowledgment of the issue among fashion circles started to rise. At the heart of Lombardy, Italian fashion people started to inform one another and foreigners of what was happening in the region and rumours spread until it all became real. That’s why fashion media companies actually reacted before governments. I recall Condé Nast sent their employees based in Milan at home to work from there before it became mandatory by governmental decree.

Traditional fashion media should always bring value for their audiences, otherwise they grow out of sync. They used real time feedback in terms of understanding where their audience was at and kept the world of fashion informed of what was happening (e.g. Vogue Business, which I peruse 24/7). Speed of adaptation is indeed key for media, and outlets have taken up the challenge. They also highlighted cultural programming, as an effect as culture being cancelled IRL.

When social media ramp up positivity

When it comes to social media, the clarity of purpose had to be redefined in times of crisis – one of them being to adapt the content and disseminate content accordingly to the mood of the audience. The Covid-19 crisis seems to have triggered a reset that allows a new set of values to come forth. Times are evolving quickly on social media platforms since it started. Twitter, which is known to be quite a place for haters, is bringing a large amount of positivity and support forward. The initiative and hashtag #AloneTogether is an example.

All in all, most say that they don’t expect business to be back to normal as usual – whether it is in terms of business, advertising or media. Or even fashion trends, as some expect a return to a more minimalistic fashion for the following seasons going along the humility brought by a crisis. Most importantly, I hope that the change brought by the crisis will directly target sustainability and bring it closer to the centre of fashion creation.

Art as a necessity

Although people might reckon art and fashion unnecessary, I think we need them more than ever every time such a challenge emerges. Fortunately, if you didn’t think that culture thrived in time of crisis, I would suggest downloading Tik Tok and scrolling up and down for a few minutes to realise how creative people can be. (Yes, I’m using Tik Tok as a reference for culture because it is!)

Do you think the fashion world reacted accordingly and in a timely manner, according to you?

Listen to the BoF podcast here.

Copyright: Vanity Fair Italia, 11-18 March 2020

In my previous blog post on how you can make the most of your time when stuck at home, I forgot to add that one of the options would be to cook a nice traditional pasta alla carbonara. Note the presence of the word traditional, as my people - the French - took the liberty of re-interpreting it in a more creative way by adding cream in (and making the Italians scream).

The carbonara is a typical Roman dish, which alongside the cacio e pepe and amatriciana may well be one of my favourite pasta recipes of all times. When in Rome, one restaurant, the trattoria Da Enzo in the Trastevere neighbourhood (Via dei Vascellari 29) if you want to live a great life experience. In the meantime, you can replicate the recipe in your own kitchen :)



- INGREDIENTS - 


Here is what you need (the portions are for two people): 

  • 250 g of spaghetti or rigatoni 
  • 30 g of pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 yolks 
  • 70 g of guanciale meat
  • salt and pepper

Now, I know that the cheese or meat might be difficult to find in your local supermarket if you don’t live in Italy but strive to find these exact ingredients (e.g. pancetta is not the same as guanciale, grana padano is different from the roman pecorino). The secret is to only use the eggs yolks without the whites, and not add any additional ingredient (no cream or onion).


PREPARATION

1.

Put some water to boil and pour the pasta in a saucepan. I personally prefer rigatoni to spaghetti for this recipe, but you do you. Keep in mind how long the pasta will cook for, as it should be ready at the same time as the guanciale. (My favourite is Rummo’s rigatoni, which cook 13-14 minutes al dente).

2.

Cut the guanciale in small lardons and start cooking them in a pan on a low heat. No need to add oil or butter to cook it in; it will free its own fat as it gets crunchy (around 7-8 minutes).

3.

In the meantime, mix the yolks with the pecorino cheese in a bowl. Then, add up to 40 g of water (I would recommend taking the water from the saucepan in which your pasta is cooking). It should now have a creamy consistency – add salt and pepper.

4.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and toss it back into the warm saucepan (but out of the heat). Add the guanciale in (and its fat, important. Sorry not sorry for your diet) and mix it to the pasta. Then, add in the egg-based preparation into the saucepan so that it mixes up nicely with the rest. 

5.

Serve your pasta onto your plate and add – if you like it – a bit of parmesan cheese and extra pepper. Now close your eyes, imagine a warm summer evening breeze and picture the Colosseum in the background. I think you’re practically in paradise.

Buon appetito :)

Recipe: Pasta alla Carbonara

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

,

In my previous blog post on how you can make the most of your time when stuck at home, I forgot to add that one of the options would be to cook a nice traditional pasta alla carbonara. Note the presence of the word traditional, as my people - the French - took the liberty of re-interpreting it in a more creative way by adding cream in (and making the Italians scream).

The carbonara is a typical Roman dish, which alongside the cacio e pepe and amatriciana may well be one of my favourite pasta recipes of all times. When in Rome, one restaurant, the trattoria Da Enzo in the Trastevere neighbourhood (Via dei Vascellari 29) if you want to live a great life experience. In the meantime, you can replicate the recipe in your own kitchen :)



- INGREDIENTS - 


Here is what you need (the portions are for two people): 

  • 250 g of spaghetti or rigatoni 
  • 30 g of pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 yolks 
  • 70 g of guanciale meat
  • salt and pepper

Now, I know that the cheese or meat might be difficult to find in your local supermarket if you don’t live in Italy but strive to find these exact ingredients (e.g. pancetta is not the same as guanciale, grana padano is different from the roman pecorino). The secret is to only use the eggs yolks without the whites, and not add any additional ingredient (no cream or onion).


PREPARATION

1.

Put some water to boil and pour the pasta in a saucepan. I personally prefer rigatoni to spaghetti for this recipe, but you do you. Keep in mind how long the pasta will cook for, as it should be ready at the same time as the guanciale. (My favourite is Rummo’s rigatoni, which cook 13-14 minutes al dente).

2.

Cut the guanciale in small lardons and start cooking them in a pan on a low heat. No need to add oil or butter to cook it in; it will free its own fat as it gets crunchy (around 7-8 minutes).

3.

In the meantime, mix the yolks with the pecorino cheese in a bowl. Then, add up to 40 g of water (I would recommend taking the water from the saucepan in which your pasta is cooking). It should now have a creamy consistency – add salt and pepper.

4.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and toss it back into the warm saucepan (but out of the heat). Add the guanciale in (and its fat, important. Sorry not sorry for your diet) and mix it to the pasta. Then, add in the egg-based preparation into the saucepan so that it mixes up nicely with the rest. 

5.

Serve your pasta onto your plate and add – if you like it – a bit of parmesan cheese and extra pepper. Now close your eyes, imagine a warm summer evening breeze and picture the Colosseum in the background. I think you’re practically in paradise.

Buon appetito :)
bonjour white