social climbing

Over a freshly baked scone at tea-time on Sunday, I was asked YET AGAIN whether there is much point to social media. I wouldn’t have minded, except that the scone was warm and half way into my already salivating mouth. And I wouldn’t have minded so much either if I had some brilliant answer to this question I’m (too) often asked.

You see, none of us really honestly know. We hope and pray that a link through from Facebook will drive a sale (or 40). We absolutely wonder whether that last carefully crafted tweet was read by many (or any). And we more than presume that an instagram feed full of painstakingly edited images will make some sort of difference to engagement. But we’re honestly not entirely sure about any of it.


Why am I asked? I hear you cry. Well, I suppose because these enquirers are already thinking that I spend far too much of my time observing all this social communication, let alone posting words and pictures.

Polly Vernon – one of my all-time biggest girl-crush columnists – has, in the past, pleaded for us all to down tools and donate to charity instead – or simply to stop living our lives by these nonsense streams of unconsciousness.  And off she popped to live in the ‘real world’.

But… oh… hang on… a tweet just rolled onto my screen: @SimplyMeasured‘s latest social report is declaring that 63% of social marketers have seen a positive ROI (return on investment) from their social media activity. Bring back the scones, add jam AND cream. This is a huge relief to all who tweet. Someone somewhere is actually listening.

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weep weep. PRINCE

‘What a loss…’


‘absolutely crushed’

And, like a pack of cards, we folded into social media with devastating words of mourning. The purple man had been confirmed: No Longer.

I was part of that pack of cards.   Honestly, it felt weird to think that (our) Prince had left our lives.

But, by the time I woke up the next morning – despite Absolute Radio emotively blaring out Sign O’ the Times – I was a little concerned at my sense of loss. Yes, I saw him in concert, yes I obsessed  over his every word, tune and high-heeled boot… but because I didn’t actually know him. At all.

What I have now worked out is that feeling of loss is called nostalgia. And I was heavily indulging in that nostalgic mood. Diamonds and Pearls isn’t just a song. There are properly personal images (in my very own image bank) which go with that sound track. For example, those ridiculous teenage parties where we were all growing up and becoming us. Larking when we should have been sleeping. Making those unsuitably brilliant friends. Being young.

And the point is that Prince’s passing is reminding us all (that is, if you too feel this way, ) of what we are now no longer. His tunes were such a huge part of our lives back then that the only way we can mourn him is to mourn our past. He had symbolised for us hope, emotion, escapism, friendships and probably so much more.

Some say that a sudden death announcement can remind you of your own mortality. But that’s not the point here. It’s about a universal human connection via music to a moment in time. You see, that time has passed but that doesn’t mean we don’t still want to be that girl/boy dancing around their best friend’s living room singing your heart out… at 4am. And that’s what we’re really saying goodbye to.

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vinyl LOVE day

I’m pretty much putting up my hand for everything at the moment.  If something needs shooting/writing/drawing/filming… you need it… I’m there. Mostly because I’m not sure exactly where I’m going next with my work – but also it feels like a good way of getting much more experience.

I’ve shot live music before but it’s hard.  The lighting, (often) extreme movement and accessibility to the subject can all make things tricky.  So I headed off yesterday to cover Shoreditch for Record Store Day 2016 and give vinyl that extra bit of love.






Record Store Day 2016 Life of yablonRecord Store Day 2016 Life of yablonRecord Store Day 2016 Life of yablon

Record Store Day 2016 Life of yablonthanks to Lynn Li /Entertainment Retailers Association



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Filed under Exclusive to website, life, music, photography

MEET: Cameron Saul + his bags of BOTTLETOP

Back in the Old Days, when I was writing this blog multiple times a week, I was regularly asked by friends (and friends of friends) if it might be possible for me to write about their recently launched widget or daughter in law’s (unexceptional) art or even a neighbour’s recently opened (kebab) restaurant. It was a curious position to be in but, after quite a bit of practice, I became a dab hand at editorially ducking-out.

Cameron Saul of  Bottletop at One Marylebone

Cameron Saul of Bottletop at One Marylebone

On this occasion, there was no ducking out to be done. I was all YES-YES-YES.   This particular friend was offering an interview with Cameron Saul.  Cameron launched The Bottletop Foundation back in 2002 with his father, Roger, through a design collaboration with Mulberry and these aluminum pop art handbags, made from recycled ring pulls, have been on my shopping radar for a while. But the retailer isn’t just pulling at purse strings because my head and heart are desperately impressed by how his business is also generating local employment and raising vital funds for grass roots education in Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Brazil and here in London.

bottletop purse

So I wasn’t just intrigued to meet Cameron, I really wanted to properly check out his latest range –designed by Vincent Du Sartel, former Creative Director at Loewe – while also hear in more detail where this positively ethical brand is moving…

did you always feel a career in handbags was on the cards?  Not handbags as such but I’ve been really interested in the design process. Growing up, Mulberry was very much a family business and my father often included us all in business decisions with lots of discussion around the kitchen table.

Cameron Saul of Bottletops

how has your father supported your business? Well, he co-founded the Bottletop Foundation with me by kick starting a fundraising campaign around Mulberry – after he visited me during my 9 month stint teaching heath education in rural Africa. We raised £150k to support the health campaign in Uganda.

which bag has been the best seller to date? Without doubt, the Bellani.   This is the classic style that we named in honour of Oliver’s (Cameron’s business partner Oliver Wayman) mother who taught us this crucial crochet technique.

bottletops bags

what are the limitations on making bags with Zero Deforestation leather?  Actually, there aren’t any limitations – fundamentally it’s simply a super high quality leather which has been ethically sourced. But the crucial point is that awareness of destruction of Amazonian Rainforest due to cattle ranching for beef and leather is disappointingly low. An area the size of New Mexico has been wiped out due to ranching for the beef and leather industry. Do you know where the leather of your handbag comes from? We need the consumer to want and need to know…

what is your day-to-day role in the company? I touch on all the key areas of the business, product development with our atelier in Salvador, digital marketing, how social media is reflecting our brand essence, PR, fundraising for our foundation…

where is Bottletop currently retailed? Selfridges, all Conran shops, online and soon to be in the Edition hotels.

bottletop bags

where would you love your products to be stocked? I’ve always been a massive fan of the retailer Matches so that would make a great partnership. Darkroom is also very high on my list…

what have been the biggest obstacles bringing an ethical bag brand to market? Simply those obstacles any brand trying to enter the premium fashion world would find themselves up against … ie those other brands with very different budgets… but our mission helps out here.

where would we find you taking some time out? I love skateboarding and surfing.

who would you love to be seen carrying one of your bags or wearing one of your belts? We are huge fans of Emma Watson and everything she stands for.

how much do ambition and connections come into play when working in fashion? Undoubtedly they come into play a lot. You need to reach out to anyone and everyone in order to survive. The larger piece of the jigsaw is achieving the rest.

is your business your life or your life your business? Most of the time it’s a healthy balance – maybe because I’m deeply passionate about what I do.

what’s next for Bottletop? This weekend we are launching our first pop up shop on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch.

I cheekily asked Cameron if he could pass a 15% discount onto my readers until 16th May if they dropped into this pop up. He said yes. Nip down and quote Life of Yablon at the till. You’ll LOVE these bags and feel a whole load better about how they came to be.

 bottletops belts



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