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Academia enthusiasm Fashion Fashionista first years of PhD Photoshoot research Researchista

fashionista #3: Maaspuntweg & Stenenwal.

So, we went to see the Maas from the other side. Please meet our guest, miss Laurien Nagels-Coune who is also the first intern at Researchista, you probably heard¬†about her before ūüėČ This story is not so much about a Research topic, since Laurien is in her first year of PhD. This story is a personal story about the start of a junior Researcher.¬†

For those who are unfamiliar with Researchista-fashionista project, this aims to bring Researchers to model on the streets of Maastricht to bring some light on both, the Researcher and a¬†street (or two) of this serene medieval city. On top of that, Researchista-fashionista is concerned with some aspects of the fashion industry and wishes to promote eco-healthy clothing. So, in this shoot we wear 100% biological and organic materials produced 100% in Europe and provided by the shop, called ‘EcoLinea’¬†from Platielstraat 10 (Vrijthof), where honestly, ¬†everything you find in that shop, like.. every-single-wool/cotton/allmaterials-thing is organic (and they still have sales on!).

First, a little something about the location of the shoot. Tadam! This is the center of Maastricht. You see on the left, the central train station and then few central locations. I marked with a red and orange line the streets and place of our 3rd shoot at this idyllic river bench. Taking pictures with Mr. Mullenberg Peter and his assistant is always a lot of joy, the atmosphere is relaxed and the jokes are funny. This helps everyone to get in the mood to shoot the story.

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It was December, it was winter and it was cold on Maaspuntweg (from ‘Maas’-the river, ‘punt’ – the point, ‘weg’ – the way, now you also know some Dutch!). We went directly to the back of the Bonnenfanten Museum, in the yard of the cafeteria ‘Ipanema’, where we plan to shelter ourselves¬†for tea. Wrong day, the place was closed ūüėÄ I leave it to yourselves to admire¬†how Laurien is being impervious to cold! She was on the table for almost an hour pretending that winter never happened and here is her story…

PhD life in Maastricht: a first impression.

Dear readers, join me at this delightful location. During my master, I would often bike via this path after crossing the Sint Servaas bridge. Biking to the Randwyck campus was always quite a journey because I lived on Maastricht’s Belgian side, almost close enough to the border to receive the Belgian network on my phone.

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Don’t get me wrong though, I did not mind the bike ride at all. My favorite part was this path. I am fond of watching the water from the Maas. When thinking about it, it might be all the fun times at the Belgian seaside that installed this love of water in me. Nevertheless, three years ago I started riding my bike via this path all the way to Randwyck. I was over the moon with getting accepted in one of the neuroscience programs at the faculty of psychology and neuroscience.

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The courses were immensely interesting and intense, resulting in a flow like state most of the time. Admittedly, there were also some times that it got too intense for me. I had to get used to problem-based learning (PBL) for starters. Coming from the University of Leuven, PBL was quite the opposite of what I was used to. A wonderful advantage was that I had to keep up with the material. The perfectionistic procrastinator in me had to get on with it. A downside – that was especially hard to adjust to – was the compulsory attendance. I used to travel a lot during my studies in Leuven, as I was in a long-distance relationship. During those trips, I studied the manuals and the course materials. Sometimes I would ask friends to record an important lecture. This more introverted type of learning also worked for me.

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Nevertheless, PBL made me keep up with the work, and perhaps that was just what I needed to push me into a flow state. When left on my own, I often want to fully understand all the material that is given to me. That might sound like a positive trait, but in all fairness, dissecting an entire methods section meticulously is not very efficient in every course. Maastricht’s educational system forced me to step back regularly and look at the big picture…… and then step back in and read another article.

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After this Master my cravings for neuroscience grew stronger and I decided to apply for a PhD grant together with my mentor. At the time of the grant application I was doing an internship in California, so I had to fly back to defend my project. I felt like a million dollars when getting on that plane. The mere thought that someone else thought I was important enough to fly me back to Europe was thrilling. Even more thrilling was actually getting this grant of course.

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What makes neuroscience such a good match for me is its interdisciplinary nature. Neuroscience is the biology of psychology, the biology behind our mind‚Ķ In cognitive neuroscience we often measure the brain activity during specific tasks or mental activities. These psychological experiments are elegantly designed and intensely piloted to answer very complex ‚Äď and sometimes even philosophical ‚Äď questions that touch the core of our human mind. As a neuroscientist, you can delve into psychology, biology, mathematics and computer science all at the same time.

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The first year of my PhD has passed now.¬† I am sure that many other PhD students would agree with this statement: time flies by so fast. The past year has been a small success for me as I got to experience the thrill of data collection in living human beings and I presented a poster at my first conference. I often ruminate about what I could have done better or about slow progress, but I force myself to ban those thoughts and be content. I learned a lot and developed quite some skills, and that is all that really matters in the end. In addition, I am trying this mantra ‚ÄėI did my best and that is good enough‚Äô.

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One personal tendency that helped me in the past year is systematic organization. My need for agenda’s, planning and to do lists is never satisfied. Notebooks and cute folders clutter my desk. I note everything down and I date every note. Paper beats not only rock but also technology. A fountain pen and a blank page do the trick infinitely better than an empty word document in my world. When it comes to creative experimental design or writing that is, of course. I could not miss my computer when it comes to data analysis.

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But hej, I am for sure not the archetype boring office mouse. Next to my OCD-like organization attempts, I also enjoy socializing with my colleagues. I feel blessed to have a few of my former classmates as colleagues because it made the transition from student to PhD-er so much easier.

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I have always been a talkative person over a good coffee. Time spent enjoying lunch or coffee with my colleagues is an energy boost for me. Also it is time spent exchanging ideas, supporting each other and having a good laugh.

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In conclusion, the past few years here in Maastricht have been wonderful, a challenging but also quite a rewarding adventure. I am looking forward to the next few years of my PhD …..

Laurien

When we went to EcoLinea to choose the clothes for the shoot, we got this combination…. it felt like we were mirroring each other, myself as a graduated PhD and Laurien as a first year PhD who is really in her very first months of a hopefully not very long journey. I felt very inspired and wrote these verses that do not rhyme ūüôā but who cares, I just wanted to pass on a message. It is for you, Laurien! and all other starters in the PhD/Research world.

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Photo credit: Photostique, Peter Mullenberg

Models: Laurien and Researchista

Clothing: Ecolinea, Maastricht.

With love for Research,

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“Bonefun!

So, here we are sister,
Passing on the (PhD) flag with care,
In the little heaven of Maastrich.

Not much rhymes with what you are about to face.
And I do not mean to dramatize,
Neither to remind you of the sleepless nights,
But no matter how smart and strong you are,
Get ready to face it.
Hard work, discipline, dissapointment and again.

It might brake you down,
But you have passion and compassion to glue yourself back.
It might cover you in that extra layer of glorious pride,
But you have kindness to remind yourself of who you are.

It might take you down to unvisited inside depressive places,
It might take you up to ego heavens,
It might be the biggest dissapointment,
It might be the best thing you have done in your life,
It might be your worse decision.
One thing is certain, in time all struggles remain aloof,
The skills you will acquired, your hard work and the Dr. in front of your surname,
will undust your memory from time to time,
and will remain with you for(ever?) a long time.

It will stay part of you, Research & you.
Even if you change the colour of your hair,
The surname in your passport.

And one day,
When you are done,
The world is yours.
Till you become unemployed.

Ah, Maastricht, you keep on surprising us all,
You little bubble of heaven,
Placed at the river bench,
Embracing us at the Bonnenfanten wander place.

White verses,
Researchista’s muse”

Categories
Fashion Fashionista Photoshoot research Researcher Researchista

fashionista# 2: Maasboulevard.

This photoshoot is part of Researchista_fashionista story. The location of our second¬†photoshoot is one of the main streets in Maastricht: Maasboulevard. It is main because it runs through the junction between¬†Stationstraat, a street that takes you from the train station directly¬†to the city centre… and with thee mmm, street itself. Basically, it’s at the cross-road of things. And also! not least important, it flows next to the river¬†bank of the Maas. This is where you can have a¬†promenade and buy a¬†ticket for a boat ride to Belgium..voila! or should I better say, gezellig!

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Say hello to Carolin!

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This story is about how the body‚Äôs immune system could attack the brain in a way that leads to a ‚Äúwrong‚ÄĚ diagnosis of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Let‚Äôs start at the beginning:

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A self-destructing body

Put simply, autoimmunity is when your body‚Äôs immune system attacks your own body. The ‘normal’ healthy function of the immune system is, of course, to recognise and ‚Äúclean up‚ÄĚ foreign structures that do not belong to the inside of the body, such as microbes. The system consists of several components, including white blood cells, some of which are specialised cells (B-cells). These cells produce antibodies that are responsible for recognising the foreign invader – the antigen. Those antibodies can be imagined as red flags with two arms holding on to the antigen and signaling the rest of the crew that what they have found here has to be cleaned up. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for those antibodies to make a mistake and hold on to something that is actually a (healthy) part of the body. This leads to an immunity attack, possibly inflammation, without any foreign aggressor. This can happen in any part of the body, leading to many different complications. You may have heard of rheumatoid arthritis, a disease where the immune system attacks proteins in the joint. This is caused by such a ‘mistake’, and it leads to the destruction and inflammation of insulin dependent diabetes (Type 1 Diabetes), where the insulin producing beta-cells in the pancreas are destroyed by an autoimmune attack.

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The brain on fire

For me, the most fascinating cases are when auto-antibodies are targeting the brain. In particular, I am interested in those autoimmune reactions which lead to psychiatric symptoms. The connection might not be very obvious, but I am studying the role of autoimmunity in psychotic disorders (e.g. schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) and also the pathologic mechanism of the so-called autoimmune encephalitis (brain inflammation).

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 A different view on psychotic disorders

Perhaps I should mention that I am coming from a biomedical background, so I have a ‚Äúspecial‚ÄĚ approach to psychiatric/mental disorders. To me, everything in the body has a biological explanation and what is projected externally (behaviour, personality, indicators of mental state, etc.) has an internal origin in the organs, in this case the brain. I am aware that not everyone might agree with this theory, but the study of the mind (psychology and psychiatry) and the brain/nervous system (neurology) is definitely starting to fuse, and diseases are starting to be called ‚Äúneuropsychiatric‚ÄĚ. In the future, I think that all mental diseases will be explained by neuronal changes and the discipline of (neuro-)psychiatry will be a subspecialty of neurology. This will, therefore, also include psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Currently, we know very little about the underlying mechanisms of these diseases or, shall I say, ‚Äúdisorders‚ÄĚ, ‚Äúsyndromes‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúcollection of patients with similar symptoms‚ÄĚ. Likely, these cohorts of patients do not all suffer from the same disease. Instead, there are different groups of patients with a different set of genetic and environmental factors leading to neuronal changes via different ways. One mechanism, in a subset of these patients, could be an autoimmune disease, for example.

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Latest research on immune factors in psychotic disorders 

This hypothesis of an autoimmune cause in psychosis is not as absurd as it may first seem. It is well accepted that a unsregulated immune system and genes, important for immune regulation, are linked to developing psychotic disorders. A big game-changer was the discovery, within the last 10 years, of several autoimmune diseases, which target neurotransmitter receptors and ion-channels, crucial for functioning and communication of cells in the brain (neurons). This autoimmune inflammation of the brain also leads to symptoms that look very similar to schizophrenia, but commonly co-occur with ‚Äúneurological‚ÄĚ symptoms, such as movement disorders, epileptic seizures, and loss of consciousness. Interestingly, some research groups are starting to find auto-antibodies in blood and cerebrospinal fluid (the liquid around the brain) that potentially bind the brain. My research builds on these findings. Via a ¬†collaboration with many different hospitals all over Europe, I received a large cohort of blood/serum samples from psychotic patients (around 600 samples) and healthy controls (250 samples). These large samples provided me the opportunity to test for the presence of auto-antibodies that attack the brain. It seems that these auto-antibodies are more common in diseased individuals than in the¬† controls. However, these results are preliminary and I don‚Äôt want to give away too much at this point ‚Ķ

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Finding signs of inflammation in brains of schizophrenic patients

Another study, that I started recently, may further help us understand the link between autoimmunity and psychotic disorders, this time using brain tissue from post-mortem schizophrenia patients. In this project, we are using methods to ‘colour’ certain cells or structures in the brain. We expect to find markers that point towards a presence of the immune system, such as immune cells and antibodies, and to make a distinction between brains of healthy individuals and individuals with psychotic disorders. Overall, we hope to find ways to identify those patients that might be ‚Äúmisdiagnosed‚ÄĚ with a psychotic disorder and be able to treat the biological cause of their disease.

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 Treating the cause and not the symptoms

Why we think this is important? Well, it might make a big difference for the patients because they could get a very different treatment. For autoimmune disorders, there are already several possible treatments out there which might also be successful in ‚Äúautoimmune psychosis‚ÄĚ. So, I hope that one day the diagnosis of schizophrenia & co. will be altered, and instead, we can use a diagnosis of diseases so that we can treat the cause and maybe even cure it (let‚Äôs dream big)!

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So, after the Researchista part, here’s another note on the Fashionista:

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If I was at risk for any addiction, it would probably be shopping. I can spend the whole day checking clothes and at times buying many more things than my closet can handle.

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This year, I made the resolution to buy less and focus on sustainable, high quality materials. I am making an effort, but there is definitely room for improvement…

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photostique-04976I also like sewing my own clothes or recycling old things. For example, the dress I am wearing in the photo-shoot I created from a cotton fabric that my mother brought me from a holiday in Malaysia. Unfortunately, I usually don’t have the time to sew my own clothes… However, in the end, these unique pieces are always worth the effort.

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by Carolin Hoffman, PhD student at Department of Neuroscience, School for Mental Health and Neuroscience (FHML), Maastricht University,  Early-Experienced Researcher.

This street was inviting and a good place for exploration and reflection along the river. Here is a little poetic touch out of this reflection on Research developments on body’s immune system on Maasboulevard.

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Who is next to share a story on Researchista fashionista? ūüėČ

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With love for Research,

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Jumping pose, Researcher style

Photo credits: Photostique, Peter Mullenberg (A beautiful vespa scooter was provided with the courtesy of Photostique, bedankt!). Editing Credits: Rose Education Consultancy, Claire Willis. Outfits: happy people in a self-made dress by Carolin and Vanilia dress on Researchista.

Categories
Fashion Fashionista Photoshoot Researcher Researchista

fashionista #1. Lage Barakken.

This photoshoot is part of Researchista_fashionista story.

# 1: Lage Barakken street.

p.s. Before anything, this is not how Researchers dress for¬†work. I do not want to make Research sexy, neither do I want to promote a distorted image of people doing Research. I just want to make sure to remind that Researchers are creative people ūüôā About the Research story of Researchista you will hear in that last photo-shoot of this project, till then… get to know my other peers and their Research quests and findings.

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This is¬†Maastricht¬†(by summer)¬†Wyck district,¬†Lage Barakken street, which in English translates as “low barracks“. Here is what the “Dutch Review” says about it.¬†photostique-05556.png

So, here I was out of my place, walking through one of the shortest streets in Maastricht, Lage Barakken, in search for some history… to find it right at the corner.¬†Few minutes away from the train station,¬†hundreds of people pass daily¬†by this exquisite hotel¬†behind my back, disguised in¬†a¬†white fortress.

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It’s facade is still¬†echoing the “Belle Epoque“…

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Source: Facebook page of Hotel Beaumont

… can you hear the music?

Every day, people enjoy peacefully their meal at these wide opened windows, while observing the passers by or gather loudly in group meetings in conference rooms. Buses and taxes are crowding in at the main entrance when things are happening in Maastricht.

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Wearing: Louboutin, classic black… the most sexy shoes in the world.

It is a family business that started in 1912 and is currently carried out by the 4th generation of family, a very creative family probably :).   I could not not share with you this Christmas wish, how great to preserve the sense of humour at all times :).

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“Turn that frown, upside down” (Facebook page of “Hotel Beaumont”).

It probably hosted many notorious people that visit Maastricht with various occasions until now. The polite waiters and room organizers take a break to inhale some fresh air or fresh cigarette on the Lage Barakken side to restart their work briefly after, and this what others were doing for years and years since 1912.

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Ten years after, at¬†its opposite corner, which at the moment happened to be a shoe shop (really nice one), one of the first cinemas in Maastricht, Cinema “Palace” opened.

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cinematreasures.org

I only know from two friends of mine who went there when they were small that the cinema was very big at that time. photostique-05620.pngphotostique-05628.png

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At the moment, Maastricht is having almost 4 cinema houses.

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That was a little tour for you on¬†the short¬†street of Lage Barakken.¬†Well, I also missed on telling you that this street is cut in half¬†by the Stationstraat, that as the name suggest, it is the street of the station (main train&bus station) that leads you directly into the city center. I missed on capturing¬†it’s clock in the middle, it’s postal office where cheerful people work, the bar opposite to the old cinema and the new student building arising that will probably bring even more dynamics to the area.

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Now that we are done with the tour of the street, and since¬†we are on the street where I live, I would like to invite you at the terrace of the building house where I reside, for a final little chat. Wearing these Sergio Rossi shoes, it all feels a bit different ūüėÄ

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Wearing: Stijl Fashion Group (Danish designers),  Shoes: Sergio Rossi from Kymyka, Maastricht

Ok, I have to admit that the most difficult thing for me since I launched Researchista is to keep my excitement down!!! ūüôā I have met so many interesting people and did things that I have never done before, that sometimes it makes it difficult for me to stay calm.

I am a Researcher, but above all, I am a woman, who feels comfortable in her own element. I am a feminist since I was in my first university year in an environment where feminism is still a very fearful word. In some villages of my home country the expression “an unbeaten wife is like an uncleaned¬†house”¬†still holds, if you know what I mean. With these pictures, I do not aim to promote beauty through expensive shoes, although, I have to admit these are the most fancy shoes I probably ever wore. I do not aim to objectify the image of¬†women or promote a false image of the¬†Research community.

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Shoes & bag: Louboutin PINK from Kymyka, Maastricht

I simply do not need excuses to wear red lipstick or enjoy a beautiful dress with a pair of high heels. It is a choice. It is my self-expression.

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Louboutin pink purse and heels from Kymyka Shoes and Bags, Maastricht

This week, we are opening up an important topic and that is Fashion in Research. It must be difficult to avoid buying clothes from big chain brands (e.g. H&M, Zara), this became so habitual, but at the same time, we are also in charge for nurturing the dangerous treatment of workers in clothing industry and there must be an alternative! See what is the solution proposed by our Special Guest, Hasmik Matevosyan, a specialist in this area. By the way, the shoes and the bag I wear here are not part of retail fashion industry.

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Call:¬†Are you a Researcher? Do you live in Maastricht? If you¬†want to join me next time, leave me your letter at researchista@researchista.com.¬†Let’s expand the horizons together! ūüôā

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With my partners in crime:

Photographer, Peter Mullenberg from Photostique.

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Ms. Ecaterina Onica, usually an interior designer, but this time, my make-up artist.

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And since it’s fashion month, and you got to have a statement bag or a pair of earrings-statement, I picked a statement pose¬†instead. Now waiting for my invitation to the Vogue Netherlands ūüôā and I am not joking ūüôā

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Photography by: Photostique. All the pictures here were painted by the master in picturing, Mr. Peter Mullenberg. Thank you!*****

Credits: I would like to personally thank very much Nadja van der Borgh from Kymyka Shoes and Bags, who is the official distributor Louboutin unforgettable shoes that I am wearing. Also, to thank Sanne Pieters and Bart Kramp from Stijl Fashion Group, who are in charge of these wonderful outwears from Danish designers.

Categories
Environment Fashion health passion Photoshoot research Researcher Special Guest stereotype struggle

(24) Fashion & Research: intro.

Browsing¬†through the¬†Fashion Bible¬†–¬†“VOGUE”¬†¬†just like I would do with a book, I was¬†looking for its¬†introduction. It took me ¬†12 pages of¬†pictures with clothes and¬†accessories to find the compass through a book: the introduction. Ah, fashion, are you only about selling? I don’t believe you! ūüėČ

By the way, before the introduction, in a fashion magazine you will always find an Editor’s Note. Yes, just like in a scientific journal (for example,¬†“Science” or “Elsevier“), fashion magazines have an Editor that is in charge of it all. But, who reads a fashion magazine anyway, if you see so many colourful pictures in it? Only joking, the fashionistas will probably prove me wrong. As of today,¬†Researchista¬†invites you to her Fashion ¬†& Research Month!

New Picture

Why fashion?¬†To some, fashion is an art form. To others, it is almost like a religion.¬†For most people though, fashion is a method of utilizing clothing, accessories and grooming to show or hide something about yourself. Fashion can be an extension of your personality, allowing you to introduce parts of your personality to the world without saying a word“…¬†Fashion is not only about clothing in ourdays, it’s about lifestyle in general. The ads in fashion magazine advice you what bags to wear with what accessories and make-up to match, what events to go and¬†¬†what places to¬†visit.

Yet, clothing is the backbone still of the entire fashion industry. Designers create, ¬†we buy and we buy, because we want to look and feel good/or to transmit a signal to the rest about ourselves. Ah, finally I understood the¬†“statement bag” expression that I would hear sometimes in Russian, it’s probably¬†about the¬†intention of someone wearing a specific bag to communicate a message to the public about their personality (their character, their seriousness, their coolness, etc.).

Fashion Industry:¬†Behind the fashion curtains, you will find the designers and tailors, who work very hard to create that perfect piece of thing that will match everyone’s¬†tastes.

The Story of Gabriel Chanel, Coco Chanel

Just like in academia and policy, fashion industry has a certain life-cycle (see Figure 1) or more phases from the moment when the clothing exists only as a piece of material (raw material), till the moment the costumer wears it and hopefully takes care of it after it has been used to either reuse or recycling it.

It looks like a perfect cycle, but we are not living during the time of Coco Chanel, now it is much faster to produce and buy more pieces of clothes that look the same. Mass-production of clothes became a norm.

Figure 1. Fashion cycle

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Source: modevlinder.com

Fashion retailers, otherwise known as “fast fashion” or big brands of clothing where most of us go shopping, unfortunately not always respect ethical conditions for their workers and nor do they always create¬†a healthy environment for the clothing production.

Special Guest:¬†This is the¬†Fashion Month on Researchista. Our¬†Special Guest¬†Hasmik Matevosyan, whom I had the pleasure to meet at TEDxMaastricht,¬†will¬†enlighten us about the ‘dark sides’ of fashion cycle and how you and me and each of us can individually contribute towards a healthy clothing production, good for our environment, for our skin and for our wallet.¬†Here she is flesh and bones¬†(video)¬†giving useful tips on how to wash your clothes to avoid pollution.

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Photo by Kevin Kwee

Hasmik did a lot Research during her masters studies and as a result of it, she published a book in which she came up with a business model by which she aims to change the way fashion industry currently works.

“The first time I got in touch with fashion was when I was a little girl. We were living in Armenia and after the Soviet Union feel apart, mom was earning money by knitting clothes. I saw all the hard work and creativity that went into designing and making a garment. I also saw how the clothes made her clients feel happy and confident. Mom taught me how to knit at the age of six and from that point on I wanted to become a fashion designer so that I could design clothes that contribute to people‚Äôs lives, make them happy”.¬†Get to know better Hasmik as of next Monday. See how she could help us to help others to us all in reducing the harm caused to nature and people treated unfair in this area.

Researchista goes Fashionista:¬†Instead of conclusion, I want to share with you a¬†sneaky little story.¬†Now, that it’s summer and nobody’s¬†watching, Researchista is doing a little fashion experiment.¬†Oh no, no, I did not start to sew, unfortunately. Neither I want to mass-produce something for you to wear. Instead…¬†I decided to wear some fancy clothes on the street of this fancy town where I live to feel what is like to be someone doing fashion. Internet went viral recently in number of fashion bloggers, so¬†I came up with my own¬†little fashionista experiment….¬†voila! Are you a Researcher living in Maastricht? Do you want to join me next time? Leave me your letter at researchistas@gmail.com ūüôā

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With love for Research,

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