The True Cost Of Fashionable Dogs

*This was originally submitted as an academic dissertation for Goldsmiths, University of London – average read time, 36 minutes

Doug has achieved a lot more than your average six year-old. 
He’s a published author, global style icon and humanitarian, with over 3.2 million fans and Instagram followers. He hangs out with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Ryan Seacrest and Justin Bieber to name a few, and has had countless sponsorship deals with huge brands, making himself a respectable sum of circa $450,000 per year.

Oh, and he’s a Pug. 

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“‪Can I make u an omelette?” -Doug

A post shared by Doug The Pug (@itsdougthepug) on

But Doug isn’t alone. He’s part of fast growing internet culture, where posting regular content of your furry friend on fast-growing social media platforms such as Instagram could earn you a lot of followers- and more so, a lot of money.

Created via Infogram

Increasingly, more unusual-looking dogs such as Pugs and Bulldogs have become somewhat of an internet sensation, with viral videos and celebrity owners becoming  part of everyday life and an extreme demand for the regular consumer to get a taste of the high life. French bulldogs in particular have seen a whopping 3000% rise in Kennel Club registrations over the past ten years alone, which is set to see them overtake Labradors as the UK’s most popular dog in over 30 years.

What’s more, Kennel Club registrations only account for around 30 percent of the total population of UK dogs, so there are growing concerns that there are far more of these dogs in reality than accounted for- including dogs that have been brought in illegally from Europe.

According to the EU Pet Travel Regulation, puppies must be vaccinated and 12 weeks old with a 21-day cooling-off period to travel overseas, so while they have free movement much like humans, they’ll need to be around 15 weeks old in total to travel.

Unfortunately, due to this rising demand for certain more fashionable breeds, puppies overseas are being farmed cheaper, more intensely and smuggled younger than ever before, causing trauma, injury, and suffering before they’ve even arrived to their new owners.

With social media and celebrity culture being the hotbed for these animals, breeders are also setting up camp online, to entice new customers, launch influencer campaigns (offering discounts on puppies in return for content), and create an army of fans unbeknownst to the dark side of the cruel system being fuelled. While they may claim to be UK-based, it’s often found that these so-called puppy pimps are merely doing the work for overseas puppy farmers in countries such as Russia and Lithuania, taking a cut of the money for every puppy sold.

But popularity has its problems. Pugs, French bulldogs, Boxers, and Chihuahuas to name a few, are all known for suffering serious health complications that particularly affect breathing, as they are part of a group of short-snouted dogs known as brachycephalic breeds. The high demand for these dogs has led to an epidemic of irresponsible breeding, only worsening their existing diseases, and hiking vet bills by thousands of pounds for their new owners, as well as heartbreak when the worst happens out of their hands.

It’s said that humans are drawn to these breeds because their large eyes and brachycephaly (flat, wrinkly faces) resemble the faces of our own infants, and American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould has previously said this is why Disney cartoonists drew characters the way they did. For example, Mickey and Minnie Mouse would both be considered ‘cute’ due to their accentuated features- although in reality, neither of them resemble real mice.

This all links to the very malleable medium of dog DNA. The genetic structure of domesticated dogs is so flexible, because in all of the 15 to 30 thousand years fossil records show dogs have been around, humans have been picking and choosing which individuals to breed together to get their desired outcome. Even as near as 130 years ago, up to 80% of breeds we own today didn’t exist – and particularly in these dogs, there are only three recognised breed-standard colours (fawn, brindle, and pied), which has been extended over the past twenty years or so to around ten different variations, including the highly desirable blue and merle shades.

Because we know what attracts us to these dogs, breeders are actually very highly skilled sculptors that are able to breed litters to look a certain way. This includes puppies being smaller, their ears and eyes being bigger, and their faces flatter- the opposite of how they looked 200 years ago.

Credit: S.S, 1887

A Whole lot of History

Imagine that small, wrinkly lap dog that spends 90% of it’s time asleep, hunting lions. You can’t. But ancient Chinese legends say that Pugs were originally bred to kill ferocious jungle cats.

However, there isn’t much factual evidence to back this up, and was actually initiated by travellers, who believed Pugs resembled Chinese guardian lion statues. Pugs, along with other similar breeds such as ChowChows and Pekingese, were then named by these travellers as “Foo Dogs” or “Lion Dogs”.

But paintings prove that Pugs were a huge part of art history, featuring in many famous artworks during the 1700s. In particular, they were painted a lot by artist, William Hogarth, who showed a totally different Pug from the one we know today. In these works, Hogarth paints a dog with long legs, a straight tail, and a lengthy muzzle- almost unrecognisable, and bearing the resemblance of a hound.

Before the 19th Century, there was no real answer to “What is a Pug?”. Paintings show us so many different dogs all under the name of ‘Pugs’ that all coexisted, way before they started being modified to standards that resemble the Pug we know today.

The Painter and his Pug 1745 William Hogarth 1697-1764

Until the 1800s, French bulldogs didn’t exist. Despite their name, they actually originated from Nottingham- so definitely wouldn’t have that enchanting, French, nouveau riche accent you would imagine – if they could talk, obviously. 

They were bred to be smaller versions of British bulldogs, and got their names after many Nottingham lace workers emigrated to France for better opportunities, and took their dogs with them, and they played a huge part in both world wars, acting as trench workers, delivering supplies to soldiers.

Emeritus Professor, Michael Worboy, from Manchester University, has previously conducted a £500,000 study into the controversial role humans have played in altering the way dogs look through science and medicine. 

“How Pugs and  Bulldogs look has changed mostly as a result of morphology and Victorian Britain, when canines were first manufactured into specific, standardised conformation types.” he says.

“It’s because fanciers have decided how they want these dogs to look. The Kennel Club are reluctant to do anything about health and other consequences because the people who set breed standards and judge the shows will leave the jurisdiction of The Kennel Club.

“Problems are long standing- in the 1930s Hollywood folk and the Queen took Sealyham terriers, and now they’re on The Kennel Club’s threatened list.”

As so many new breeds were discovered after the American civil war, the popularity of Pugs quickly died down, and didn’t start to rise again until the late 2000’s, when the boom in social media saw pages dedicated to animals and humans began profiting from their pets.

Image: Sophie Thompson

The New Generation

Today we see something very different. The Pug has become a wrinkly, bulging-eyed, curly-tailed creature- popular for being so ugly that it’s almost cute.

If you’re having a bad day- you only have to go onto your Facebook feed, and within seconds you’ll be greeted by viral videos of French Bulldogs on skateboards, or litters of adorable Pug puppies surprising children as their birthday gift.

Even huge corporate newspapers such as The Daily Mail, the least likely of dog fans, have jumped on the bandwagon, putting news aside, and posting user generated clips, garnering over 15 million views per video.

James Parker, Social Media Expert and Content Creator, says videos of dogs are so successful because engagement is the key to getting your video on people’s home pages- and doesn’t everybody tag their friends in these posts?

“Facebook changed their algorithm to prioritise videos over everything else on your feed” he says.

“What do a lot of people have access to? Dogs. Which animals are always cute or hilarious? Dogs. So when the video revolution came, everyone grabbed their phone and used their dogs to produce the content everyone is addicted to.”

The trend originally stemmed from celebrity owners such as Reese Witherspoon, Carrie Fisher and Hugh Jackman, all taking something that in reality, would be perceived as quite ugly- and making it fashionable.

Pugs and French Bulldogs also come with a hefty price tag ranging from £1,000-£10,000, and would likely have been seen as a status symbol for wealthier people owning such an exclusive dog, when the average price of most dogs is around £500. 

No two Frenchies look the same- they come in a variety of colours and markings, and it’s the unique appeal that makes owners fall in love with them. 

Obviously the exclusivity of having the same dog as your favourite celebrities makes them Instagram-worthy in anyone’s eyes, and as they’ve become more popular, people have learnt more about them and just how many laughs they bring.

Over the past few years it’s almost become the norm to set up an Instagram account for your new pooch, with Instagram usernames containing the word “bulldog” rising 60% over the past 2 years, and even accumulating a couple of thousand followers can bring in sponsorship deals from pet brands. It’s so easy to snap photos from the comfort of your home that building online personalities for your pets is now accessible to everyone, and Instagram has seen an average of 17 million posts every month with the term ‘dog’ since 2016. 

Created with Infogram

Dog fanatic, Sian Marshall, set up an Instagram account for her Pug, Bowser, alongside being a student, which has brought in well-needed extra income through working with pet food and toy brands, promoting them on her dogs account. 

“I started documenting Bowser because he’s just so funny, and putting it online was a way that I could keep it forever and other people could enjoy it too.” she says.

“I had no idea it would take off the way it did and it all happened so quickly.

“Now we have companies sending him leads and collars and toys…I know Bowser loves it”

Other particularly successful pets include Manny, a six year-old French bulldog from Chicago. Manny’s career began when his owners, Amber Chavez and Jon Huang, posted a video of him making a bed out of their bathroom sink. The video went viral, earning him a number of celebrity followers and a place on Steve Harvey’s talk show. 

Since then, the pampered pup’s career has gone nowhere but up, with the average price tag of a sponsored Instagram post by Manny being $17,000. But…brands aren’t put off by this, because apparently there’s nothing cuter than a French bulldog posed next to a bottle of Turtle Wax.

It probably helps that pet spending in the UK has more than doubled to £4.9million a year since 2006. Since then, brands have used this to their advantage, incorporating fashionable dogs into their campaigns.

In 2016 John Lewis created one of the most memorable Christmas adverts of the decade, featuring ‘Buster the Boxer’ jumping on a trampoline. Boxers too, are brachycephalic dogs, so a lot of dog owners found it particularly interesting that the use of a dog with known breathing problems on a trampoline caused no backlash whatsoever, in comparison to pugs and bulldogs, who often get the opposite reaction when it comes to advertisers using them in branding.

But, in true Frenchie owner style, dog-mums of the internet have hit back out, claiming that it’s nonsense and that every dog breed has its set backs – it’s just a matter of choosing which issue you can afford to take on.

“People are only outraged about Frenchies because they’re more aware of their problems than other breeds” argues French Bulldog owner, Pagan Fleming. 

“When dogs develop health problems it’s usually due to the way the owner has looked after it, and I don’t think advertisers are stupid enough to put a sick dog on TV for millions of people to see.”

HSBC released an advert earlier this year involving a number of brachycephalic dogs including a Chihuahua and a French bulldog. However, they say when coming up with the idea, they took into account what the potential response could be. 

A spokesperson for HSBC said: “We undertook the necessary measures to ensure animal welfare during the production, with a vet attending the shoot. All the dogs featured in the commercial were healthy, and we made sure that we didn’t feature any dogs that were impaired versions of the brachycephalic breeds.

“Since the launch of the campaign, we have become aware of the #BreedToBreathe campaign and the BVA’s recommendations against featuring  brachycephalic breeds in advertising. We understand and fully support this intention and for future campaigns will look to BVA for guidance on the responsible use of all animals in advertising.”

One Click Away

There are also concerns that teenagers are being easily influenced into buying fashionable breeds of dog from seeing them frequently in the media, without doing the proper research. 

Teenagers spend an average of nine hours per day on social media, so there’s no argument that being glued to screens, along with their vulnerability, influences their decision making.

Abbie White, 17, recently got a Pug after seeing her favourite YouTube stars creating videos featuring their pets: “I’ve always loved the dogs of Zoella and Danielle Mansutti. 

“Obviously there was an element of it making me closer to being like them, and the fact Pugs don’t need much exercise and sleep a lot fit into our family routine. 

She added; “I bought my dog online. But we went to the breeders house and did proper background checks, as I had heard about people breeding them to make them look designer.

“There were six puppies and I made sure I chose the one I thought looked healthiest. I don’t see a problem with wanting something because someone else has it.”

The ease of buying a dog online has proven to be a contributing factor to the lack of thought that now goes into buying a dog. Bulldogs and Pugs are expensive to buy, plus a lifetime of medical bills to pay for, proving difficult for people who buy them unknowingly. This has seen a huge rise in the number of Pugs and Bulldogs left abandoned- which has had a detrimental effect on animal rescue charities such as the RSPCA. 

The average cost of the RSPCA rescuing a dog to the day it is rehomed is £632, not including any medical treatment it may need before it goes to it’s new home.

Amy Ockelford, from the RSPCA, says that French bulldogs and Pugs are easier to rehome than other dogs because of how popular they are- however, many people are put off when they realise the level of medical attention they need: “We have to be very upfront with people when rehoming about potential underlying medical problems, and this makes the process trickier.

“Our adoption fee is around £170 so people do get over the medical factor, because they’re saving thousands of pounds than if they were going out and buying a Pug puppy from a breeder.”

She says the process of buying a dog has gone from being a life changing decision, to something that can be done in a day. Research concluded that people now spend more time thinking about whether to buy a pair of shoes, than if they should get a dog. 

“It all comes down to a combination of irresponsible breeding, and people just not doing enough research before they get a dog. 

“The reality is, looking after a dog is very difficult- it takes a lot of time and money, and people just aren’t stopping to give it enough thought, and ending up with a dog that they don’t really know how to look after.”

Image: Sophie Thompson

Some selling sites, including New Zealand’s largest online marketplace ‘Trade Me’ have banned the sale of brachycephalic dogs as they do not want the responsibility of contributing to a ‘wider global problem’.

Trade Me’s policy and compliance leader, James Ryan, said: “We’ve seen research that 90-95 percent of these dogs have breathing obstructions to varying degrees.”

We didn’t take this decision lightly. We know how loved and popular these breeds are, but after consultation with a range of animal experts and veterinary associations, we felt we couldn’t, in good conscience, continue the sale of animals who suffer lifelong health issues.”

Trade Me are now encouraging other selling sites to take similar action against the third party sales of dogs.

What the Health?

But for now, behind those adorable, wrinkly faces we’ve tagged our friends in with a heart eyes emoji countless times- science suggests there’s a dog struggling to breathe. 

The launch of the British Veterinary Associations #BreedToBreathe campaign has won the vote of vets around the country, when it was discovered that 75% of brachycephalic dog owners were unaware of the problems that this type of dog faces. 

The campaign involves a 10-step action plan for vets to promote the welfare of brachycephalic dogs to new owners, and offer advice and education on the potential problems they face.

The most common problem encountered by pugs and bulldogs is to do with their breathing. Flat wrinkly faces, small nostrils and a large soft palette makes panting from the simplest of movements extremely common, with over 50% of pugs and bulldogs affected. Experiments have also shown pugs cannot even pass a basic walking test- and over exercising can even cause sudden death.

They also snore to the extremes, which although makes a great viral video when they’re perfecting the noise of a helicopter, it is caused by sleep apnoea, a disorder that interrupts breathing during sleep- meaning the body, and the brain, is not getting enough oxygen.

Breeding can be a complicated process for these breeds which contributes to why they’re so expensive. They are mostly bred using artificial insemination due to their unusual body shape, and only end up having around two puppies per litter. 

With demand being so high, there’s no doubt that major strain is put on breeders as well as dogs themselves to churn out puppies like they’re a factory. However, most bitches will have to undergo a caesarean to give birth, as the large heads and broad shoulders of the dogs make them unable to give birth naturally.

Vets are calling on people to avoid buying the breeds to not only avoid unnecessary suffering, but lower the number of cowboy breeders selling unhealthy puppies. 

Emma Milner spent her career as a vet before founding Vets Against Brachycephalics– an organisation of practitioners from around the world uniting against the selling and reproduction of these breeds. 

“I wanted the website to be an open letter to politicians” she says.

“In four months we’ve gained over 700 members. There’s also whole organisations that have signed up, including the BVA. 

“We now have vets from 40 different countries on the list. It hasn’t even  been publicised that much, so I think it’s quite a prominent show of how the profession feels about it.”

She added: One of the things for me is that you would never find a brachy in nature. They’re just incompatible with life and breeding.”

Emma and her colleagues are now campaigning to have laws in place that prevent the breeding of future pugs and bulldogs, but not every expert feels this way.

Vet of over 30 years, Marianne Spencer, agrees that a flat-faced dog may not be the best choice for a family looking for an easy ride, but opposes that if people are truly adamant on getting a pug or bulldog, they should either adopt, or go to a reputable breeder and conduct all of the necessary background checks, including health and DNA testing.

Now dog shows such as Crufts have come under major fire for letting brachycephalic breeds into their competition, and have called upon the judges not to let ‘fat french bulldogs win’. 

Pugs with longer snouts are also not allowed to enter, as it doesn’t match the current standards of the breed. Naturally, this has caused outrage amongst campaigners, as pugs may actually be a lot healthier if they were bred to look this way.

In 2008 the BBC dropped Crufts from their schedule, due to the dispute of ‘unhealthy’ pedigree dogs being allowed in the competition. This came after The Kennel Club complained to OFCOM that the BBC had launched an investigation into the genetic diseases caused by years of inbreeding, and said they would not continue their contract with Crufts if they couldn’t exclude certain breeds of dog from broadcast – although it has been found that 1 in 5 people disagree with the show anyway.

Crufts has previously attracted negative press from incidents including a German Shepherd with obvious hip dysplasia winning best of breed, and now people are worried incidents like this are going to become all too common, with no medical checks conducted on the dogs before they compete.

The Kennel Club has defended its decision, with secretary and head of communications, Caroline Kisko saying: “It isn’t within the area of The Kennel Club or Crufts that the problems exist.

“You only have to look online to see there are large numbers of dogs out there that are being bred by people that just don’t care, and are being sold to unsuspecting members of the public who don’t know the difference between a healthy and unhealthy version of the breed”.

Campaigners are now calling for stricter laws and breed standards- with some believing we should follow Switzerlands lead and put an end to brachycephalic dogs all together.

Qualzucht and Beyond

It’s 2016 in a Swiss court, also known as ‘The Palace of Justice’. Two people are waiting nervously in the dock ready for sentencing, after being the first to be convicted under the new ‘Qualzucht’ legislation, for the breeding of munchkin kittens.

‘Qualzucht’ is a German word translating to ‘torture breeding’, and Switzerland were the first to implement this new ruling, that has been branded as the next step towards owning a healthier generation of cats and dogs. 

The law states that you can be prosecuted for breeding animals whose offspring is likely to suffer, and many UK animal welfare activists have already began to question if Qualzucht legislation could be the answer to preventing suffering endured by poorly-bred animals in this country. 

Rachel Cox, zoologist and animal welfare specialist believes that the answer lies not only in the implementing of a similar law to Qualzucht, but to reverse the already-done damage by breeding the ‘unhealthiest’ breeds of dog with those that are deemed to be healthy. 

“People should be educated when looking at buying a dog- whether that’s through it being mandatory for breeders to tell people problems their new puppy could have, or essential education organised by an animal charity before you’re allowed to purchase a dog. 

“If people realised how damaged inbred breeds were, then popularity would decrease and so many dogs wouldn’t suffer for human gain. If short-nosed dogs were bred with dogs that have longer snouts, it is possible to reverse the damage to an extent.”

Even if convictions were rare, it seems cowboy breeders would be more cautious to produce healthy animals if they knew they could be held accountable for the future health of their puppies.

Created via DataWrapper

Public opinion on a potential ban is still very much divided with 43% of 1,000 people polled saying they would be in favour of it.

However it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a ban any time soon as The Kennel Club is currently looking at ways to improve current health of the dogs, including a registered-breeder-only policy on being able to sell.

No owner is in denial that laws on breeding standards and health of these dogs need to be taken more seriously, and short-lived joy will keep being replaced by devastating death in the puppy world with no surprise until we all change our attitudes.

Adopt, don’t shop.

Meet the feminist group campaigning to save a Whitechapel hostel

Tower Hamlets Council plan to close the hostel leaving a number of vulnerable women homeless.


*This article originally appeared on EastLondonLines

Campaigners are fighting to save a women-only hostel in Whitechapel from closure, warning vulnerable victims could end up homeless. 

The group, East End Sisters Uncut, went to Brick Lane market on Sunday (October 29), handing out leaflets about the feared impact of the closure of Hopetown Hostel in Whitechapel. 

A 40-foot banner was also dropped to disrupt the Sunday market which read: “Tower Hamlets cuts hope for survivors”.  

The hostel, based on Old Montague Street, is being returned to The Salvation Army by Tower Hamlets Council after 10 years. 

The charity said they needed the building to create a new men’s hostel in addition to their current one at Booth House on Whitechapel Road.  

The women at the hostel were given notice in July and have already begun moving their belongings- however East End Sisters Uncut have since started online petitions and street action to prevent the closure.  

Sara, a long-serving member of the group, told me: “Because of areas such as Shoreditch being gentrified, the women are being moved out of the area and out of sight. 

 “This means they’re losing vital networks and support services- a lot of them have health workers in the borough. 

 “All of the women are being treated very differently. Some are even being victimised by the council.  

 “Women are being offered private rental (homes) that are miles away from where they work, but if they refuse these, they are told they’re making themselves intentionally homeless. 

 “The problem is the issue isn’t really being discussed- a lot of the public don’t even know it’s going on.” 


East End Sisters claims that the council is also demonising the hostel and branding it a place full of anti-social behaviour. However, according to the group, when they spoke to residents whose homes backed onto the hostel, many didn’t even know that it was a hostel.  

 A resident of the hostel, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “The council is treating me and the other women like we’re nothing. They just want to save money at our expense.  

“They are threatening to find us ‘intentionally homeless’ if we turn down housing that is completely inappropriate for us. I’m scared I will have nowhere to go.” 

The women protested to Tower Hamlets Mayor, John Biggs, in July after receiving the letters telling them they had to leave.  

According to campaigners, those with complex health needs are being sent away from East London all together. 

The issue was first uncovered by Councillor Rabina Khan, who found one mother and her seven year-old daughter had been sent to Gillingham, Kent. 

She said they had no means of support there and forced to live on bread and chips for a week.  

Others are said to have been moved to Romford, Enfield and Heathrow.  

Tower Hamlets Council already have a programme where the homeless are assessed for their housing status, and many people, like the women in the hostel, are not legally entitled to be rehoused by the council at public expensive- and are instead referred to the private rental sector. 

The council have said that they have made considerable progress in improving services and reducing homelessness in the borough since the previous Homelessness plan was launched in 2008. Their figures show that they prevented over 3,700 households from becoming homeless through case work. 

But according to East End Sister’s, this is not the whole picture, and they claim that the council have cut women-only beds in the borough by one third. 

Now they are calling for the council to keep Hopetown Hostel open and retain all of its women-only beds, as well as invest in social housing and support services for women and non-binary people.  

Hopetown is one of the last women-only hostels in East London, and most homeless women are survivors of violence or abuse.  

It is described on the Tower Hamlets Council website as: ‘providing 24-hour support for homeless women of all ages, including 16 and 17 year olds on a case-by-case basis.’  

 ‘The hostel supports customers with a large range of support needs, including women involved in sex work and those with alcohol or substance misuse issues. 

The overall aim of the service is to prepare people for independent living and a move to independent accommodation”. 

The importance of keeping the hostel open came to light when East End Sisters were contacted by residents themselves about the upcoming closure of the hostel- and they weren’t sure where or when they would be moved. 

East End Sisters Uncut was started in 2014 by a group of survivors of domestic abuse, and support workers.  

Originally it began as one London group, then split into sub-groups as more people wanted to join the movement. There’s now three groups in London alone, and they are slowly growing around the UK- with bases now in Scotland, Brighton, Doncaster and Newcastle.  


Last summer they reclaimed a council flat in Hackney, by occupying the property for 10 weeks, hosting kids clubs and talks there.  

The link for the group was the lack of safe housing for women fleeing domestic violence, as well as the lack of social housing in general, as many of the council properties are lying empty.  

 Over recent weeks they’ve been campaigning for Hopetown in particular. They believe that because of the gentrification of a lot of East London areas and the fact that some of the women at the hostel being sex workers, the council are using this as an excuse for social cleansing.  

 Housing need is historically high in Tower Hamlets. Homelessness and overcrowding are part of the many challenges faced by the borough’s residents.  

It has always been linked to poverty – including child poverty, worklessness and health inequalities.  

Whilst there are pockets of wealth, with the average annual earnings of those working in the borough at £64,000, over 40% of households are living in income poverty, the highest in the country.  

 Tower Hamlets also has the highest rates of child and pensioner poverty nationally, making the borough one of the most deprived areas in the country.  

Tower Hamlets Council were contacted for a comment but they had yet to respond at the time of publication.

Influential Croydon women feature in exhibition

The Ladies First exhibition in Croydon offers an insight into some of the most empowering women in the borough.

*This article was originally featured on EastLondonLines.co.uk


Offering a unique glimpse into the lives of some of Croydon’s most empowering women, Ladies First – which features photographs of a range of women living in the borough – opened in the town centre yesterday (March 8) on International Women’s Day.

Photographer Jackie King said the women she featured – who range from community activists to Olympians – really inspired her. She told Eastlondonlines: “All of their stories were incredible. After things I’ve previously done for International Women’s Day, the fact that this is happening again is amazing.”

Pictures of Olympian Donna Fraser and one of the boroughs first female firefighters, sit those of alongside Lara Richardson and the Deputy Mayor of London for transport, Val Shawcross (CBE).

Local resident Leona Hunte, 42, moved to Croydon with her daughter after a divorce, and got involved with community groups after seeing the exhibition organisers painting outside the library. Since then, she’s been involved with many projects, including Ladies First, and has a photograph of herself featured at the exhibition.

She told Eastlondonlines: “It’s important women are seen as significant individuals. Women are as much in union with man in helping the world go round, so it’s important we are seen as big contributors.”

At the opening of the exhibition, a welcome speech was given by deputy councillor, Alison Butler. She spoke of empowering women throughout history who fought for women’s rights, and ended with: “No matter where you are in life, inspire and empower the women around you.”

King, who is based in Croydon, has won awards and has had her work exhibited all over the world. She rose through the ranks of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) and sat on the board of directors whilst studying for her MA- the first female and youngest photographer to hold this position- whilst also running her own photography business.

In celebration of a previous International Women’s Day, King photographed 100 women in science and technology for Imperial College, London, which was also exhibited at City Hall.

Some of her main inspirations are the women she met whilst working on the exhibition.

She told Eastlondonlines: “I was most inspired by the women we photographed- all of their stories were incredible. I think this is important because it inspires younger generations- they get to see what’s achievable.”

“It’s important for men and women to celebrate International Women’s Day – it’s not men bashing, it’s just celebrating women’s achievements.”

The exhibition’s images will also be broadcast on a big screen at Boxpark Croydon, which is working alongside groups in the local community to help celebrate the achievements of women both internationally and close to home.

Throughout the week, they’ll be showcasing a selection of events aimed at inspiring the women of Croydon, including Badass Women’s Hour x Girls Talk and panel conversations with women from the music industry.

Alongside this unique glimpse into the lives of some of Croydon’s most empowering women is another pin-up exhibition run entirely by the public. People are invited to bring and display a photograph of the most important and influential women in their lives.

The Ladies First exhibition runs from March 8 to March 15 at Bernard Weatherill House in Croydon.

How Supreme is making teens thousands every month

Credit: Mau Lencinas

It’s 9am on a Thursday morning in Soho, London- it’s raining, but outside the Supreme store that’s nothing to be phased by for the teens that have been lining up here for hours already, the same as they do every week.

One guy, Josh, has been here since 5am, and is skipping school to ‘cop’ the latest drop- which includes a branded snow sled retailing for a massive £250, although England shows no promise of snow this year whatsoever.

Josh is dressed head to toe in a blue and red panel tracksuit evidently inspired by the post-Soviet era, created by Russian designer, Gosha Rubchinskiy, and totalling at a price of around £600. It’s also probably now worth noting that Josh is only 16 years old.

Hailing from a rural village in Surrey, Josh travels to London every week in the hope of finding something that not only looks good to his 30,000 Supreme-hungry Instagram followers, but something that he can then resell on apps such as Depop for profit.

“I can easily double my money in a day….I buy a hoodie for £150, I sell it for about £750..people will pay anything when they really want something.

“I’ve been in this about a year and already made enough to send myself to uni when I wanna go.”

Cred: Flickr

Over the last five years, the street wear scene has developed from being a sub-culture niche for the kids daring enough to wear it, to a symbol of wealth and fashion identity.

Between July 2016 and July 2017, leading brand Supreme grew by 801%, rocketing its value from $2billion to a whopping $21billion- and it comes as no surprise judging by the lengthy queues of teenagers that have camped out to get their hands on the latest rare finds.

Streetwear was originally created in America during the 70s, by disadvantaged kids who couldn’t afford branded clothing. They curated an image that represented recognition and identity, somewhere between informality and sophistication, that turned the concept of streetwear into a form of urban art- much like skateboarding or graffiti.

It began gaining popularity in the late 80s, as East Coast hip hop giants such as Wu-Tang Clan started becoming closely linked with large brands such as Champion and Stüssy.

It’s no surprise that from there, the market has rocketed, and with items released in extremely limited quantities, no one can blame the teenagers with enough spare time and enough spare cash for saving for their futures through reselling.

After speaking to fashion analyst, Hikmat Mohammed, it becomes apparent that the trend started when celebrity icons started wearing the clothes and appearing in campaigns, and that these super rich kids are just trying to find a way to be accepted into ‘normal’ society.

The uprising all stems from “street credibility”-  having these clothes that everyone wants makes these kids feel more accepted. It’s kind of the reverse of kids in the ghetto wearing Hermes belts and Gucci monogram polo shirts. They just wanna look like everyone else.

“Diversity has a massive role in this industry — these private school teenagers are getting exposed to musicians beyond Mozart and Elton John at school, and there is a cultural shift happening that everyone wants to be a part of.”

But while the concept of buying these big name brands just to resell them for four times the price seems unfair for genuine collectors, Mohammed says it’s just part of fashion culture and always has been. “Fashion is never fair.  Fashion always starts with something very small, a collective of people, which is then mainstreamed by private school goers.  You can compare to this cultural appropriation, but in a business-standpoint, these are the people bringing in the money for the company.

My opinion is that we live in such a health conscious environment, and fashion houses are capitalising on this, but at the same time, we are constantly nostalgic — nostalgia sells.”

Fashion experts say the reason for drops being sold in such limited releases is partly due to resellers- if they released things in large quantities the way high street brands do, there’d be no hype or interest in the brand as it wouldn’t feel as though people were spending money on something one-off and unique.

Cred: LaSkateboarderie

Simon Beckerman, founder of the youth-targeted selling platform Depop, says there are around 400,000 active users on the app every day and with the majority of users being between the ages of 16 and 26, it’s the perfect place for youngsters to market their finds.

But getting your hands on this stuff isn’t always easy. Josh says before he heads to the Soho store, every week he has to go to a different location in East London that gets announced on the day to collect a ticket, that then transcribes to his place in the queue, and if he’s not one of the first 500 people there- well, then he just has to go home. “Even if you’re like 129th [in the queue] it can take you up to five hours to actually get inside…it’s crazy, but, we do what we have to do and if we get something we can sell, or something no one else has, it’s all worth it”

Josh regularly posts photos in his new clothes which has attracted over 30,000 Instagram followers- which he says is the reason he enjoys it so much. “If you’re walking around Soho or you post on Instagram and someone looks at you or says something good about what you’re wearing…that makes you feel good, that’s the buzz.

“There’s also like Facebook groups…Supreme Talk…The Basement…where people show off stuff they’ve bought or big profits they’ve made…it’s a real community”

Physical growth of Supreme has been purposely slow: the brand has only opened two new stores in the past six years. But if Supreme continues to grow at the rate it has, it could become harder to maintain the sense of exclusivity the brand has so far been successful at trading on.

Where once middle-class school kids once spent their parents money on gaming and big-screen TVs, they’re now paying “proxies” big money to queue for them on drop days and buy them £200 pullovers- and it shows no sign of ending anytime soon. Josh has funded his future education ‘flipping’ trainers for the price of a plane ticket to Australia, and if Supreme’s growth over the past 12 months is anything to go by, it would seem they’ve got a fair few years left at the top of the streetwear game.


Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Croydon battle to become London’s first borough of culture

News and updates from London Borough of Culture 2018.

*This article originally appeared on EastLondonLines.co.uk


Lewisham, Croydon and Tower Hamlets are all bidding to become London’s first borough of culture, battling it out for a grand £1m prize.

The competition, introduced earlier this year by the mayor of London Sadiq Khan as part of a strategy to support the arts in the capital, hopes to bring “people and ideas together”.

Six runner-up boroughs will receive £600,000 to deliver bespoke cultural projects.

City Hall said the winning boroughs will be “chosen based on their artistic vision and ambition to deliver outstanding cultural initiatives in their local area, putting communities at the centre of the programme’s design and delivery”.

Several cultural institutions will be providing help to the winning boroughs, including the Museum of London, the Roundhouse, Film London and the National Trust.

Croydon has already begun preparations for the bid, with a new website and campaign, setting out five key aims they hope will help them secure the title – one being the improvement of young people’s lives.

Croydon has the largest and fastest youth population of any London borough- with 63,000 people between the ages of 10 and 23 living there.

If Croydon were to secure the bid, they hope to increase opportunities for young people in the area and provide more routes into employment, through new internship and apprenticeship schemes.

They also hope to create more workspaces for artists, as well as making nightlife in Croydon safer for everyone.

Similarly, Lewisham Council’s #LoveitLewisham campaign has already received a strong backing, with the council asking the public to submit their own ideas of what they would like to see happen in Lewisham.

With two months left to go, 170 ideas have already been submitted it to the ‘Love it Lewisham’ site. Ideas so far include a street food market, historical walking tours, a street festival and the building of a community pavilion.

Tower Hamlets have already received over 540 supporters on their bid to become the winning borough– and public support is vital to success in the competition.

Kate Bloomer, 32, an accounts manager from Poplar, told EastLondonLines: “It’s got to be Tower Hamlets. We live in one of the most diverse areas in London, there’s people on both ends of the wealth scale, and this could really help a lot of people.”

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs added: “When it comes to culture, Tower Hamlets offers the best of London in one borough.

“We have a unique story to tell and this is our opportunity to show our rich heritage, where we are now and where we want to be as a borough.

“From the Tower of London to Victoria Park, taking in the Boishakhi Mela in Weaver’s Fields and major London festivals such as the new All Points East, we have one of the most diverse cultural offers anywhere in the UK.”

Hackney has confirmed it will not be competing, with councillor Guy Nicholson, the culture lead at Hackney Council, telling the website Arts Professional that the authority was instead “developing its own arts and cultural sector” through a new audience participation and engagement programme.

The bids will close on December 1 and will then be submitted to the Mayor of London for the final decision. The winning bid will be announced in February next year.

How Hackney housing boom is pricing renters on benefits out of the market

*This article originally appeared on EastLondonLines.co.uk

Pic: David Holt

Less than 3 per cent of privately rented properties in Hackney are affordable for those reliant on housing benefits, according to Hackney Council.

This is compared to the affordability of 50 per cent of Hackney’s homes before 2011, with increasingly unsustainable shortfalls between market prices and benefits becoming the leading cause of homelessness in the borough.

While housing benefits currently pay out a maximum of £1310.09 per month for a two-bedroom property, the average rent  per calendar month in Hackney comes at £1,820- or £117 a week more than the allowance.

A spokesperson for Hackney Council told EastLondonLines: “Essentially the change is the result of increased housing demand, leading to house prices and rent increasing significantly above housing benefit levels.

“There are currently have over 13,000 on a waiting list and over 500 more are added each month.”

Since the rise in house prices, Hackney Council has taken action in the form of a ‘Better Renting’ campaign- which aims to introduce new regulations for private landlords, and hopefully make lives a little easier for those who find themselves on the receiving end of these shortfalls.

Since the campaign was launched two years ago, the government has met many of the recommendations, including making fire and carbon monoxides a legal requirement, working towards banning rogue landlords and taking action on revenge evictions.

Jamie Dudley, 36, lives in Hackney with his two children and has claimed housing benefit for a number of years. He told EastLondonLines: “There’s so much uncertainty about where our money’s going to come from. I’m a single parent with three mouths to feed- it’s definitely a difficult situation to be in.

“I’ve lived in Hackney my entire life but as the city grows and grows everything is quickly getting more expensive, and even with my job and the help we get, it’s just not enough in comparison to the prices we’re paying.

“Thinking I might have to move out of where I’ve grown up and where my children are growing up … it’s a scary thought.”

It is said up to one third of private rented homes in England don’t meet the Decent Homes Standard, meaning they don’t meet minimum safety levels, are in a poor state of repair, lack modern facilities or don’t have efficient heating and insulation. On top of this, the Better Renting campaign has found that 20,000 private renters in Hackney say their repairs aren’t done when needed.

It is feared the rollout of universal credit could make matters worse. The new policy combines living and housing costs into a single payment- including a six-week wait for recipients receiving their first payment. This could cause up to 85 per cent of tenants to fall behind on rent.

Why it’s time to get real about your mental health


*This article originally appeared on ink.loot.io

It’s often described as some of the best years of our lives- but beneath the boozy nights out and takeaway-fuelled all-nighters in the library, university can soon become a really daunting place.

We’re taught that university is a place in which by the end of your first year you will have eaten beans on toast and dry pasta approx 250 times, got with someone from your course and then had to face them the next day, slept in for every 9am lecture and still somehow managed to come out with a 2:1 at the end of the year.

Realistically for some of us, among floors littered with unwashed clothes and curtains that haven’t been opened for days, this isn’t always the case. Statistically, 1 in 4 of us will live with a mental health problem every year, and with student suicide rates at their highest level since 2007, 32% of ambulance call-outs to universities are self-harm or suicide related. According to the National Union of students, 78% of students surveyed in 2015 reported having a mental health problem. That’s a LOT of students cooped up indoors all day.


Anyone living with a mental health issue of any kind will understand the frustration of not always being able to access the services you need straight away (thanks Theresa May). However, there are plenty of effective self-help techniques you can use to pick yourself up on those shitty days where you find yourself watching 1440 YouTube videos of old Simpsons episodes and scoffing endless tubes of Pringles.

Make lists. Lots of lists. Things you like, your favourite movies to watch, things you need to do- just endless lists. This is something that most therapists suggest (besides the classic “healthy eating and lots of exercise”), and it can actually help with keeping you busy and adding more structure to your day. Even if your list tells you to watch season 4 of F.R.I.E.N.D.S at 2pm and eat a whole pizza to yourself at 5pm, you’re technically still becoming a more organised person- it’s a win/win.

Stay social. Especially with friends you can speak with about your problems casually, even if it’s down the pub. It’ll make everything seem more normal, and having friends you can relate to makes you feel less lonely. If you don’t feel like going out, you can even just ring an old pal for a chat or tag each other in stupid Facebook memes, so at least you’re not staring blankly at the wall for the 50th time that day.


Most importantly, pace yourself. Don’t feel forced into doing something you know will push you into a bad place. It takes time to recover and be ready to do something you’re not comfortable with, so don’t think that to overcome fear you have to jump into it. For example, if night clubs give you bad vibes, don’t pay £20 entry when you know full well you’re gonna have a bad time (and who on Earth can be arsed with that price?), and more importantly, don’t come out with a stinking hangover for no reason.

Tanya Woolf, Clinical Lead at the Efficacy Cognitive Behavioural Therapy branches, believes a lot of the issues students face today stem from financial worries and the ever-increasing pressure to do well.

She told INK: “Going to university can be a great experience for a person as an opportunity to pursue studies in subjects that they love and maybe want to turn into a career. However, it can also be a source of huge pressure with the combination of continual performance assessment in exams and written assignments, financial worries and comparing ourselves perhaps negatively with other people.”


“Some of the things we can do to help us manage these pressures include setting realistic goals and schedules. How much work can you really fit into the time available that will be productive?”

“Remember to include activities that give you a sense of achievement (e.g studying) and pleasure (e.g social events, reading for pleasure, exercise or whatever you enjoy). Physical exercise, even just walking, helps us manage our moods, so it’s good to include it in our regular routine. Keep up with social contact and ask for support if you need it.”

Don’t let your grades dictate your life. University is probably going to be your first time away from home, and it’s ok to be nervous about it. Universities have a huge student and staff support network with trained councillors if you need to talk. University is not about worrying. It’s about being care-free, it’s about finding yourself, getting comfortable with becoming a “real adult” for the first time, making friends for life, wasting all of your student loan in the first week then regretting it, and mostly importantly finding your local with the best deal on Jägerbombs.

If you need some support, please check out these websites:

Student Minds


C.A.L.M (this one is just for guys)

We Need to Talk about Women in Music

Over decades, music festivals have become an annual tradition for millions of teens, young adults and millennials across the globe.

However, the much-anticipated Reading and Leeds festival lineup so far includes 57 men and one woman.

Promoter Melvin Benn is Festival Republic’s key booker. He told the Guardian in an interview in 2015:

“We’re not the tastemakers. Putting a festival on is a monstrous financial risk. The only way I balance the books is selling tickets. Why do you think we book the same male acts again and again?

“Because they sell tickets. Trust me, if there was a female act in the rock genre that sold the same amount of tickets as any one of the headline acts this year, I’d book them.”

Anyone who says there aren’t any “good” up and coming female bands is mostly talking bollocks. Especially if they’re the same person that books the same four-piece indie boy bands that we only liked mediocrely when we were 13, year on year. But whether it’s down to genuine misogyny or pure coincidence in an industry dominated by males is a different question.

Genre can no longer be put down as a factor in this. Over time, the Reading and Leeds lineups have only become more diverse in terms of genre, and it’s moved on from being a “rock festival” to having DJ’s, pop and grime- this year showcased by Wiley being announced near the top of the bill.

But the problem isn’t the fact there’s no female headliners- it’s the lineup as a whole. Bands need exposure from playing smaller stages to become headline material, but it seems festival organisers aren’t even willing to take that risk anymore.


Chrissy Costanza, singer and ultra babe of pop-punk band Against the Current is currently the only female to appear on the 2017 Reading and Leeds line up. To find out what it’s like in this huge era for females in music, I spoke to her about what she thinks the logistics are behind it:

How does it feel to be performing at Reading and Leeds for the first time in your career? Are you excited?

I’m pumped! I’m mostly excited because this will be our first real festival experience. We have actually played one other festival before but we had only been told two days before so it was super last minute, no rehearsals or anything, so I’m excited to go into this one prepared and confident.

That’s pretty impressive considering you’re near the top of the bill this year. What’s it like working alongside two guys, Dan and Will?

They’re my brothers! Like all siblings, we bicker and fight but we all have the same goal in mind so ultimately we’re a pretty good team.

People have been criticising the Reading and Leeds organisers, that currently you’re the only female on the line up so far. One Twitter user actually went as far as labelling it the “We Hate Women Festival 2017”- Do you think this is the case? or just sheer coincidence?

I highly doubt the people who book R&L acts hate women. Who knows, maybe they reached out to a handful of female acts that turned down the offer for some reason or another, so it’s hard to confidently point fingers. I think the lineup is symbolic of a much bigger issue that greatly surpasses one single festival in magnitude.

And how does it feel knowing you’re currently the only female on the line up? 51% of festival go-ers are actually female. Does it feel empowering, like you’re representing girls everywhere? Or more that you know there should be others up there with you?

It’s both. Of course it’s empowering to know that I’ve marched in there and made that stage. But of course I want that 51% to not only represent female festivals goers, but to represent female acts as well.

Have people become too conditioned to seeing males dominating the headline slots at festivals, that we often don’t notice when girls have been missed off?

Oh, absolutely. I don’t even think I realised how wickedly common it is to have a festival dominated by men, especially outside of the mainstream pop world.

Do festival organisers have a responsibility when it comes to the reputation of themselves to include a more diverse line up? The music industry itself seems to come under a lot of fire, not only for the lack of opportunity for women, but for black people, the LGBT community etc…

That’s a hard question to answer. My feelings may be a bit controversial but for me, I don’t want to be given an opportunity because I’m female, I don’t want to be put on a festival to fulfill some bullshit quota of female acts. I want to be there simply because I am good enough regardless of my race, gender or sexuality. I think the responsibility ultimately starts in the fans hands. Everyone’s fired up now because the discrepancy has been pointed out but I saw one media outlet post on Instagram, “What acts do you want to see added to the R&L lineup this year?” and aside from Paramore and PVRIS, the comments were entirely for male acts. The festivals are putting up the artists that are being demanded for the most fiercely, so let’s demand the women in music that we love.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a woman in music? Is there anything you’d change?

There are a lot of double standards. People are still threatened by the woman in charge. When a man is demanding he is a boss, when a woman is, she’s written off as a bitch. When a guy speaks out politically, he’s “woke” but when a girl does it, she’s problematic and preachy. It sucks. But you know what? I’d change the way other women perceive women in music. I’ve personally always had a harder time winning over female fans. There’s such a big girl power movement right now but I’ve been in positions many times before where fans of bands I’m friends with or toured with have said horrible things about me without even listening to my band yet.  If we want more girls in music to succeed then we need to be more supportive of women.

The industry has been described by the likes of Lady Gaga and Angel Haze as a “boy’s club” and that women feel judged more on their bodies than as a musician. Would you say women are praised more on looks or talent? Or a combination of both?

Of course it’s a boys club. Even if you move past just artists, the suits of the industry are 95% male. All I can say is that I gained like, maybe 5 pounds since I started doing this at 15, and I’ve been told I’m getting fat like crazy. And I’m like, who the fuck cares anyways? I’m not a model, you should be able to support my band the same way even if I look like a toe because the music will still be the same.

Four of the Top 10 selling artists of all time are female- including Madonna, Rihanna, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. So big names. But what they have in common is that they’re all pop and RnB artists. Have you ever considered the lack of diversity may simply come from your band’s genre of music? And that there simply aren’t that many female-orientated pop-punk bands out there right now?

The general umbrella of pop-punk/rock/pop-rock/alternative definitely has the biggest female deficit. Females dominate the pop world, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Katy Perry, etc. I think there are generally less female fronted bands trying to get in than there are female solo artists, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t change. I’d love to see way more female fronted bands break the ceiling.

In previous decades there have been some amazing female fronted bands and artists- do any of them inspire you in particular?

Growing up, I loved Pat Benatar, Joan Jett and the Wilson Sisters (Heart). These were all bad ass women who knew what they wanted and just fucking took it. And then No Doubt came into my radar and Gwen Stefani was just IT.

Imagine your dream festival. You can pick your 3 favourite female-acts to headline- who do you choose? (and yes, you can bring the Spice Girls back *heart eyes*)

Ooo damn, that’s tough. I’d do, Joan Jett and the Heartbreakers, No Doubt, and Paramore. All badass women that rose above them all.


You can see Against the Current at Reading and Leeds festival this summer. Follow them on Twitter here.

Twitter: @sophxthompson

illustration by: Joel Benjamin @_joelbenjamin_