What’s happening in the fashion world?

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It’s easy to claim that one is in love with fashion and clothing. Everyone has experienced that feel-good moment when purchasing that one new outfit which then, in my opinion, easily subsides as soon as another event comes along (and as materialistic consumers we claim we’ve got nothing to wear).

Fashion is part and parcel of our everyday lives and I am one who notes and gives extra attention, not only to the way I look, but also to what’s happening around me. I still have to figure out whether the fact that the fashion industry in Malta is not taken seriously and is only, for the large part, considered as a part-time or as a hobby, is a good thing or not. I’d like to pursue this career and I know I’ve got a lot of ladders to climb (and be knocked off from), but I am hoping it will be worth it.

Personally, what I love about fashion is the combination of arts and fashion all together – with the right amount of creativity and inspiration, none of the pieces would be considered as junk. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and that’s the beauty of it. Through fashion, as in art, one can easily express his or her ideas and it’s also an exchange of ideas. Ideas are built from other ideas; adding, removing, twisting and turning to best fit one’s personal taste/style.

There are two kinds of fashion, the kind that we get to admire and appreciate like, for instance, the Alexander McQueen (and I mention him because in my eye he was the one who created the unimaginable) which I refer to as the ‘untouchable’, and the fashion for consumers – the type we afford. The rise of interest in fashion throughout the years has made certain brands establish themselves and they have also established the social statuses.

The industry, along with the media, is powerful enough to influence people to purchase and wear the latest trends. Adverts and the online shopping booms have indeed created fashion-hungry consumers, always on the lookout for what’s ‘in’ and for what’s no longer considered fashionable. God forbid we’re seen in the same dress twice or in a dress we bought last year!

Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel


But I of course beg to differ. In my opinion, nothing ever goes out of fashion, given that one feels comfortable enough in it and it is one’s style. I am not one that really follows trends, as I dress in what I feel most comfortable and what fits me best. For this reason, my greatest inspiration of all would be Coco Chanel- what a woman! I am not one who dresses as elegantly as that but she most definitely changed the course of women’s clothing and left a huge impact on a lot of people and designers. She herself stated “fashion fades, only style remains” and this is very, very true. The course of fashion is very vast and by the time you afford to get that one item which is so ‘in’ this season, it has already become yesterday’s news. Trying to keep up with all this can be very exhausting (and expensive) whereas keeping up your personal style and adding to it is very liberating and well, unique.

I can’t mention Chanel without mentioning my other icon, who is closer to my age and whom I simply adore: Alexa Chung. She is the prime example of what a simple classic vintage style should be, and it’s no coincidence that we get to see a lot of Chanel on Chung. The laid-back and effortless look that Chung carries goes hand in hand with the exquisite Chanel designs.

Alexa Chung

Alexa Chung

In my opinion, we should all stick to what we genuinely like and admire, and yet appreciate that which isn’t for us but is still considered as beautiful. Clothes should fall into place, just like anything else in life. Why stress and fuss about something which is just so beautiful?


Posted in Health & Beauty

Interview with a Survivor

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Victoria Melita Zammit recently managed to sit down and talk to Gertrude Abela and Anna Zammit, both survivors of breast cancer, and both active members of Europa Donna Malta, which is part of the European Breast Cancer Coalition. Gertrude Abela, the President of Europa Donna, has been a survivor for fourteen years, and Anna Zammit has been an active member since 2004.


How long have you been a survivor for?

Gertrude: Fourteen years.

Anna: Nine years.


Can you walk me through what it was like finding out? Who did you tell first, what were your first thoughts?

Gertrude: I used to have regular mammograms. In August of 1999, I found a lump. I told a friend first because I didn’t want to shock my husband. My friend’s husband was a doctor, and he checked me and told me that the best thing to do was an ultrasound. The radiologist later told me that there was something there. It was a shock, and I didn’t tell my husband until the pre-op.

Anna: The first person I told was my husband, Vince. And to be honest, the only thing I can remember was that I felt incredibly distraught and crushed.


We all know cancer is a difficult thing to get through, but how did you find the strength to stay strong and make it past?

Gertrude: And the time I had just become a grandmother for the first time, so I was looking forward to looking after my granddaughter. My youngest child was 11 years old and I wanted to be strong for my family so I carried on. I did all the treatment. The worst thing was actually losing my hair! I went to the first support group meeting which was very good for me because it was an outlet for my anger.

Anna: My daughter was nine years old at the time, so it was mainly wanting to see her grow up, and also the support from my family gave me strength.


How did your family help through all this? What about your friends?

Gertrude: My family were very supportive and still are. At the time, though, it was much more because it came out of the blue and no one expected it. Even my friends were very supportive.

Anna: My family was always there for me and would come with me to the clinic and treatments and doctor’s appointments. My friends would call to check up on me and take me out to get my mind off of it. When I couldn’t drive, they drove me to work. Family would come and help out around the house, and my friends would involve me in activities to take my mind off of it, like volunteering with the Malta Girl Guides.


Do you think it’s true that positivity is fifty percent of the recovery process?

Gertrude: Definitely.

Anna: Yes.


Do you think more awareness should be raised for breast cancer?

Gertrude: There is a lot of awareness, but I think we have to work more among the younger people. Young people, say from 18 onwards, never think it will happen to them. Recently a 21 year old was diagnosed, so breast cancer can happen to everybody.

Anna: Yes, definitely.


How did you find out about EuropaDonna?

Gertrude: At the time, when I was part of the support group and the committee, a member found a link to their website, and in 2004 we applied to be part of the coalition.

Anna: I found out through friends in the Malta Girl Guides, who directed me to my first meeting with them.


What exactly is EuropaDonna?

Gertrude: EuropaDonna is the European breast cancer coalition.


How does the organization raise awareness in its own way?

Gertrude: By organizing events. Besides walks we have talks, fairs like the one at Baystreet recently. We print a lot of awareness material about self-examination and health which we give out free at our events. We have printed a book for school children in Forms 4 and 5 about the environment, teenage pregnancy, tattooing, skin cancer, and health issues in general.


Do you think that support groups – for any type of situation – are beneficial in the long run?

Gertrude: Yes, because when you join a support group you know that those people there have passed through the same experience you have, and you can talk to them and you know that they can understand you and you can say anything which you wouldn’t say to your family to alarm them. It’s helpful for every kind of situation and very important.

Anna: Yes they are, of course. You can talk to people who know what it’s like and you know that these people can understand you better and you can be of help to somebody else who is going through the situation and doesn’t know anything about it.


While breast cancer is the main concern of women, men can also be affected by it. Does EuropaDonna help male survivors as well?

Gertrude: Every country is autonomous, so if we – as Malta – want to support men with breast cancer, we can. They do not come to our meetings, but we can have men on the committee. However they are not allowed to apply for delegate and representative. The organization is not strictly women but it mostly is, obviously, made up of women.


Can you tell us what you know about Make A Pink Difference?

Gertrude: Make a Pink Difference are five young lads who wanted to raise awareness because they have been affected by breast cancer in their family, and they did so by climbing a mountain in September.


Do you have any advice for any people currently suffering from an illness or a difficult situation in their life?

Gertrude: Speak out about your illness, because if you do, treatment might not be so aggressive. Also, to go to the national free breast screening when it is available because it can save your life and pick up your cancer at least two years before.

Anna: Seek support and advice immediately, and never give up.


For women who are concerned with breast cancer, what do you think is the best prevention?

Gertrude: Women should take care of their health by not smoking, not drinking excessively, exercise -  even a thirty minute walk will do, eating well by avoiding fats, eating fruit and vegetables, and limiting red meat to once a week.


Most of the people reading this will be University students, so relatively young at the age of 18. What is the best age to start screening for breast cancer? 

Gertrude: Eighteen is too young and the breast of an eighteen year old is very dense and very difficult for it to get ‘sick’. It depends on family history. However the best thing to do is self examination and in a few years time, to start with an ultrasound.

Anna: Eighteen is too early. The best thing to do at that age is self-examination.


What’s the advice you would give to people who have a member of the family currently ill?

Gertrude: Listen, be positive. If possible, don’t talk about the trauma to that person unless they initiate the conversation because sometimes they like to be left alone with their troubles and some people who don’t understand will sometimes make a fuss over nothing. The person would like to know that she can make it through and not hear about other people ‘like her’. Her family should also tell her about us and she can call us, because as a support group we cannot reach out, but can be reached out to.

Anna: Try to understand, especially when the person is emotionally vulnerable.

Posted in Features, Health & Beauty, Interviews

A Beginner’s Guide to Scoliosis

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In November 2011, I went through one of the most terrifying yet life-changing experiences in my life so far. I had been diagnosed with scoliosis for several months, and the time had finally come to undergo surgery to correct it. Scoliosis refers to rotation in one’s spine, resulting in the back not being straight. It could possibly lead to complications in posture and breathing, thus an operation may be necessary if the spine’s rotation is grave, usually when it is above 30°.

As an ex-scoliosis patient myself, I can understand why probably most of you reading this have never even heard of scoliosis, or you may be aware of it but you do not essentially know anything about it. Firstly, scoliosis is only physically visible when the rotation becomes grave and literally causes one’s back to bend and no longer remain straight.

When it is not as serious, as in the majority of cases, scoliosis can rarely be detected by the naked human eye, and thus requires the use of an instrument known as the scoliometer. Most recently, this instrument has also been made into an app, by which one can measure the degree of scoliosis on someone’s back in a few minutes, by simply placing the scoliometer on the person’s back while the latter crouches down and touches their toes.

Supposedly, most family doctors and general practitioners are aware of the condition and the uncomplicated use of the scoliometer to detect it. But unfortunately, especially in Malta, numerous doctors have failed to diagnose scoliosis successfully, if not mistaking it for another back condition. As mentioned, if the degree of rotation is more than 30°, the person in question should be transferred to a specialist, in order to confirm whether surgery is crucial or not.

Other than undergoing an operation, one suffering from scoliosis can commit to physical exercises tailor-made for his or her particular degree of gravity. It is therefore also imperative to mention that scoliosisis different in every affected individual, and it is almost impossible to apply certain treatment to everyone.

Another reason why scoliosis is practically unknown to a large portion of the general public, is due to the fact that there is not yet a universal scientific agreement upon the core cause of scoliosis. What is scientifically proven so far is that scoliosis can be of two main types; congenital in newborns and idiopathic in children or adolescents, typically between the ages of 10 and 16. Many, including locally, blame heavy school bags as the key explanation for scoliosis being so common. Scientifically though, the only proven cause of scoliosis is it being hereditary.

Since there are no Maltese surgeons who have been trained to carry out the scoliosis operation, foreign surgeons visit Mater Dei Hospital twice a year operate on all the patients gathered since the last series of surgeries. It would prove to be much more practical to have at least one Maltese surgeon knowledgeable enough to perform this operation. On the other hand, it has been considered inefficient as yet to have surgeons specialize solely in scoliosis, since the demand of operations in Malta is too high compared to the amount of available surgeons.

An extremely essential solution towards making scoliosis more widely known to the public, as well as detecting rotation in its early stages in order to prevent more people from having to be operated would bescoliosis checks in all Maltese primary and secondary schools. These types of checks have become much more of a normality in recent years, but in reality they are mostly limited to state schools. In addition, checks should be carried out by experienced specialists and not Physical Education teachers, as sometimes occurs in Maltese schools.

Just like any other medical condition, scoliosis deserves to be given attention by the media and public alike. But the latter often depends on the former; so more information about scoliosis should be transmitted through television, radio and internet among other means of communication, as well as talks and meetings in schools and other institutions. Heads of the medical sector should also take on the responsibility of creating widespread awareness for purposes of public interest and well-being.

Posted in Features, Health & Beauty

Europa Donna Malta pro

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Despite the somewhat dreary weather, members and supporters of Europa Donna Malta, the European breast cancer coalition, still came out and resolutely pitched their tents in the name of raising awareness about breast cancer in the square of St. Julian’s Baystreet complex on October 3rd. The sea of baby pink shirts, objects for sale and tent covers contrasted with the otherwise grey demeanour of the morning; a good metaphor that reflects what Europa Donna does for so many women and, let us not forget, men on a daily basis – gives courage to those who are in the midst of adversity.

The organisation has been diligently working throughout the years to disseminate information about breast cancer in the form of leaflets, talks, and events like the one happening in Baystreet. Information is always key; and it the case of breast cancer, it can greatly help to reduce the risk of not only catching the cancer at an early stage, but also it can help prevent having breast cancer altogether. “Women must start checking their breasts for lumps since an early an age as sixteen. They must also lead a healthy lifestyle by eating plenty of fruit and veg, trying to eat red meat only once a week, and doing exercise – even if it’s just going for a walk,” commented Europa Donna President, Gertrude Abela.

Events such as these also help in negating the idea that breast cancer is an insurmountable obstacle which can only lead to one possible, fatal, conclusion. “On the contrary”, Mrs. Abela claimed, “if breast cancer is caught at its beginning, there is an extremely high chance of survival”. In addition, the main objective of these events is to provide a space where people who have in some way experienced what it is like to have breast cancer, and who are still experiencing it, can find each other and relate to one another in a way only they can. The existence of organisations such as Europa Donna is crucial to both breast cancer patients and to survivors for this very reason.

Europa Donna has always tried to be as present as it could within Malta, and October, the international month for breast cancer awareness, is loaded with their events; these include the annual Hilda Schembri Memorial lecture on the 15th, the also annual Silhouette Walk on the 13th, and an innovative ‘Awareness through Art’ exhibition which is going to be held at Cittadella, Gozo starting 19th October amongst others.

For further information about Europa Donna and about any of their upcoming events, check out their website

Posted in Health & Beauty, News

Seasonal Skin

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Just as our wardrobe changes during each season, so does our skin. Right after Summer, the skin starts to recover from dehydration. Prolonged sun exposure from tanning evaporates our face from its natural oils while chlorine from pools and salt from sea also contribute to dryness. One moment we are carefree basking in the sun; the next we are cursing ourselves at the sight of fine lines.

Despite this dehydration, our hot and humid summers in Malta make our skin feel oilier. A light moisturiser is key to combat such feeling. An organic product that has earned its own shelf place this Summer is the Geranium & Thistle Combination Skin Cream, from the newly discovered brand Pai. There are various other brands that produce light moisturisers, suiting to your budget and preferences.

A new concept this Summer has been that of beauty elixirs. Being a religious follower of beauty YouTubers and bloggers, I have come across the Caudalíe Beauty Elixir multiple times. This could either be used as a make up base, or to freshen up during the day.

As Autumn approaches, our skin starts craving hydration. Richer products make their way into our skincare collection to build up on the shortage of natural oils. Sulfate–free cleansers avoid stripping of the skin. I swear by organic skincare, and I have recently come across Pai and Michael Todd. From the latter, I have been using the Honey and Oat Gentle Deep–Pore Cleanser recurrently. To keep the hydration going strong, a serum is a must. Containing antioxidants, serums nourish and hydrate the skin, preventing fine lines and wrinkles. In case of extremely oily skin, limit use to three or four times a week.

Us sufferers of sensitive skin often receive mixed views on certain products, particularly exfoliators, or as they are more commonly known, scrubs. Some experts say they should be banned due to being harsh on sensitive skin. But would someone please tell us how are we going to remove the build up of dead skin cells? After three months of chlorine and sun, our skin is left looking dull and ho–hum. The answer is to find the right exfoliator, preferably organic with very fine grains. Thalgo and Michael Todd produce ones suitable for all skin types.

Moisture absorption tends to happen faster in Winter, which is why moisturising may be required more than twice a day. However, if you are at work or school all day this may be not be possible. But no worries – this is where beauty elixirs come in handy during the Winter months.

One might say we are deceived either way – dehydration in Summer and in Winter! The solution is to feed your skin with the right products. Speaking of feeding, diet also plays a major role in radiant–looking skin. But let’s leave that for another time, shall we?

Posted in Health & Beauty, News