First and foremost, my blog turns SIX YEARS OLD!
Hello darlings, I hope you’ve all been well. You may be reading this, wondering why I’m speaking to you more directly than usual. Well, this April marks a whole other year for Killer Fashion and I. Yup, my blog has turned six years old this month and so much has happened in those years. April has been the busiest month this year; crammed with all of the events, all of the fashion & beauty invites, all of the lovely fans & followers and I am just so grateful. I can’t believe this little blog of mine, which I started in college to talk about shoes & jewellery, is now in its sixth year! I’m so appreciative for all of you readers, especially those fans & followers who’ve kept with me from the first day back in 2010. However, I feel like today and for one day only (only because I’m not a dedicated lifestyle or health blogger), I want to really talk to you about mental health and the journey fashion & style has helped me on.
Four years ago on a Monday I received the worst voicemail one could imagine: I was in Munich, on college for my Erasmus when my Dad tried calling me but had to leave me a voicemail instead – (my classroom was in the basement hence the lack of phone reception, if you’re wondering.) My Dad asked me to fly home, because my Mam was very sick and he feared it would be her last week with us… I went back to my apartment immediately. I packed up my laptop & rucksack and left a note on the kitchen table for my housemate. I got a train to the airport and I got on a plane, thankfully with no hassle. I flew back home to Ireland that evening. Everything became a blur when I boarded that one-way flight back to Dublin. It was the most horrendous and nerve-wrecking flight ever, because I was not prepared for what I know now was to occur. I was fidgety, there was turbulence, and I just wanted to be back on the Emerald Isle already.
I was collected at the airport and drove straight to Tallaght Hospital. When I walked through the doors of the hospital, was directed to the ward my family were in and came into the room… I was just in shock. My Mam had a brain hemorrhage, which is a type of stroke caused when an artery bursts in the brain that causes localized bleeding in the surrounding tissue, and was now in a coma. Even writing that sentence brings me back into the room. I cried and hugged my Dad, my Brother and my Mam. I needed her to know that I was there, that I came home as quickly as possible, that I was not leaving her side. What really hurt, was that I’d never get to hear her speak again. We had just Skype’d the night before, and gawd am I thankful I did. I stayed in hospital overnight, and we took shifts sleeping in the room with Mam & heading home, though I really didn’t want to leave the hospital. Family and friends came by to sit with us, some brought photos and there were a lot of stories told. We reflected on everything Mam had done, for herself and for us. We played her favourite music for her, ABBA, and shed a lot of tears as well as shared a lot of laughs. It’s important to try to laugh during a time like that, to celebrate & remember.
On Thursday, April 26th 2012 my Mam passed away. Writing and reading that sentence every time brings tears to my eyes.
My Mam was the most amazing mother, and I loved her. And I still miss her.
She left Madagascar at age 18 to move to France and then Germany, where she met my Dad, fell in love and had two kids in Munich. She worked hard and was a valuable employee. She took up Irish dancing and alongside me, and we danced in the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Munich. She did silk paintings which were some of the most beautiful artworks I’ve seen. We moved to Ireland in 1997, where she stayed at home until she found a job and my Malagasy cousin came to live with us to help out with myself & my brother. She went on business to Mauritius and worked in Westport, Co. Mayo for months. My Mam worked hard for the next 10 years until in 2007 she was diagnosed with cancer. She battled breast & liver cancer for five long years, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, more surgery and more chemotherapy. The day before I was to fly off to Munich for my Erasmus year, she suffered a stroke which I witnessed, that resulted in her becoming paralyzed in her left leg. It was the worst feeling ever, because I did not want to leave her knowing she’d just had a stroke & was now paralyzed, but she convinced me to still get on the plane to college. She wanted me to have an amazing college year abroad. She wanted me to experience all that she experienced when she was at college at LMU. She didn’t want me to regret not going, and I knew she was right. Mams are always right. I did go to Germany the next day, but I flew home a few times and in March 2012, I surprised her by flying home out of the blue. I’m so glad I did because that was the last time I hugged my Mam and the last time she would give me kisses. The last time we played Scrabble together and she totally beat me, and laughed about it. And the last time I would make her cups of tea.
We said our final goodbyes to my Mam at Mount Jerome, Harold’s Cross beside Our Lady’s Hospice where my Mam attended for palliative care the last few years. I opened her eulogy, with my Dad and Brother beside me and my gosh…that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say. To this day, nothing is as hard as that eulogy was. I looked out at the sea of people who attended her funeral, all I saw were blurred faces, but I know it was of those who came to pay their respects & kindness and show their support. I stayed in Dublin for two weeks from that Monday, returning to Munich to finish my Erasmus year and deal with the strangeness of college knowing I wouldn’t be Skype-ing Mam anymore, or reading her funny emails, or seeing the photos she uploads to Facebook.
To say it gets easier is honestly such a false statement. It doesn’t.
Today, it’s been four years since my Mam passed away. And it’s still hard, and I still miss her every day. BUT I want to share with you what has made life easier: my family, my friends, and fashion. As I had started Killer Fashion back in 2010, at the time of Mam’s passing it was in its second year to the month when I returned to Munich. I was writing about style guides, and brands I liked or came across while on my Erasmus. Becoming more confident in my fashion, in my body and in my makeup skills kept my head up while I was getting used to life without a mother. I was engrossed with fashion shows and watching them online, seeing what worldwide designers were coming up and how I could replicate the looks or styles without overspending. I wrote up a lot of Best Dressed celebrity pieces, one of my favourite type of blog posts to publish for you. I returned to Ireland and finished up Final Year of college at NUI Maynooth, and graduated in September 2013. It was that summer when my blog and I really took off; attending events, interviewing key people & being interviewed, spotting big brands & celebrity collaborations, and using social media for the blog too. I also landed my first job post-college, with my blog being a big part of why I was hired. I was writing a lot, I was working Monday to Friday, I was socializing & networking, and I found a group of girls who, to this day are four of my bestest best friends and my blog squad. Meeting Filomena, Lorna, Kassi and Mei Ling has been one of the best things to come out of blogging. They understand my love for fashion, beauty and the blog, and our mixed cultures, of different ethnicity and lifestyles are what makes us lifelong friends. I also became part of the Dublin Fashion team, reporting & blogging for them during the Dublin Fashion Festival, which really opened a lot of doors for me. On my blogging journey I’ve met other fantastic people who are all inspiring in their own way. Timi Ogunyemi is one of the coolest, smartest and most-driven people I know. He encourages me, he believes in me, I look up to him and take in all of his criticism. So I was honoured to accept his award for Best Group Blog at the Blog Awards Ireland 2014 and give it to him a week later at lunch. I could name a whole load of people who inspire me daily, but then you’d be here all day reading. To those who have helped me, on my blog in any way, who have invited me to events & parties, who have given creative criticism, and who have genuinely been there for me, thank you.
In the last few years, my style has evolved. I dress to my body shape, as my Curvylicious blog post shows, and am happy with how I look. Sure, my hair could be thicker and my stomach could be thinner but I love myself the way I am – and fashion plays a big part in that. From wearing jeans that hug my bum to heels that make my legs appear longer, to dresses that adhere to my curves perfectly and wearing my favourite shade of red lipstick, fashion has helped me feel powerful, beautiful & sexy. When I’m picking an outfit for work, an event or if I’m going on a date, I always have my Mam in mind, and how I wish she were there to say “yes” or “no”, because sometimes I just don’t know. I wonder what she would think of my journey in the past four years. Would she be proud? Would she want to come to some of these events? Would she have liked to sit front row with me? Would she be reading my blog while I’m at the office or out partying? Mam was my role model, and she introduced me to fashion but I only realized that after she was gone. I always admired her Chanel red lipstick & nails. I loved when she was going to office parties and would dress to the nines. She loved monochrome but also red & pink. She wore Chanel Nº5 and had great taste in jewellery. See – totally fabulous! I’ve worn her necklace & ring every day since she passed away, and this encourages me daily because I always have a little bit of her with me no matter the situation. So without really realizing, I have been truly influenced by Mam; my go-to lipstick is red, I always dress for the occasion, my constant colour combination is black, white & red and I’m a lover of all things pink. She taught me so much about fashion & beauty before I even began to express it.
“How do you do it all?”
My mental health has been a rollercoaster since my teenage years, and after losing a parent the way I did, I sometimes surprise myself by getting up and going to work, and going to the blog events and networking and still having a healthy social & family life. “I don’t know how you do it!” or “How do you keep going?” is something I hear every day from friends and colleagues, and the answer to the latter is always “…I don’t know, I just do.” And that is the honest truth, because a lot of the time I just go-go-go! On a typical weekday, I get up at 6am and get read for work, hop on the 7.30am bus to get into the office for 8am and have breakfast with colleagues. My work hours are 9am-6pm, and often I have lunchtime events around the city, as well as events after work. Sometimes I only get home between 10pm and midnight, and then do it all again the very next day! That’s just normal for me, I work off adrenaline and push myself to step out of my comfort box. I attend events solo or with the girls & guys, and make new friends, then get home and write up drafts posts to publish the next day. The blog encourages me to keep going, because every day the stats are high and there is traffic to my biggest posts even when they’re two years old. My mentality towards blogging is that it gives me the creative outlet I need, without the pressure of it being my full-time job. And that is not to say that full-time bloggers aren’t doing it right, it’s just not for me. I enjoy my job, I like having my work routine and working with my team in an office building among other amazing people, in the heart of Dublin City. And I’m lucky my company and I have worked with bloggers so they understand all of my event-hopping! (FYI: I work as the Head of Dublin, Editor-in-Chief and Office Manager at Brennan & Fox.)
I think what I’m trying to say, is that after six years of blogging and four years of reflecting, I am still strong in my passion for fashion, for writing and for blogging. I do give myself days off, when I realize my mental health or my body just can’t take anymore. I go on big walks, I work out, I watch movies or go shopping. There’s a reason we call it retail therapy! I’ll continue to run Killer Fashion for as long as I can and for as long you’ll read it. If you ever have requests of what you’d like me to write about, never hesitate to drop me a line! My email address is there for you to ask questions regarding anything fashion, beauty, skincare, menswear or blog-related, or if you work for a brand or an agency and would like me to discover your brand, if it’s a new product you’d like me to test & review, events you want me to attend, etc. Just like my office policy, “my door is always open.” And if, you’ve been in a similar situation to mine, where you’ve lost someone very near & dear and want to talk to me about it – DO! I don’t bite, I listen. I will always try to help in whichever way I can. If you follow me on Snapchat (@NirinaXX), you’ll know I’ve named my lovely followers “love bugs”, and this is because we all flutter around in life and we should all feel the love from one another. I hope this post wasn’t too random and that it may have helped some of you.
So, on a final note, Happy 6th Birthday Killer Fashion and thank you all for reading & supporting me!
Images © Nirina Plunkett