Notebook in hand, camera at the ready and eyes sufficiently peeled, I scour the bustling street that isBrick Lane, looking for something inspirational.
I need something to jump out and scream “look at me”, and yet look effortless and attainable (ish).
My ‘guide’, 27-year-old Jennifer, embodies this style that I can never quite achieve, with Alexa hair, a vintage dress and black boots.
This is my first day as a fashion blogger in East London, which started roughly twenty minutes ago at Shoreditch High Street station.
It’s a far cry from the pleasantly leafy Surrey town I’ve travelled up from – just an hour on public transport and I’ve left conservatism and labels behind for vintage, scruff and Mark Ronson lookalikes – and it’s great.
MyBrick Lane experience thus far only spans to a couple of nights out and Monica Ali’s novel – it’s one of those places that is just too cool for a girl fromEsher.
Yet here I am, camera at the ready, notebook poised and recorder switched on in case my shorthand misses a brilliant quote.
Brick Lane could have been designed by Danny Boyle – it’s dirty, a bit smelly and buzzing – almost how I imagine a Sunday afternoon in Soho during its heyday.
Today it’s buzzing with shoppers and tourists. The street isn’t pedestrianised but everyone treats it as if it is, meaning there is an occasional toot of a car horn as a taxi crawls along narrowly avoiding the amblers.
The area was once associated with poor slums and the Jack the Ripper murders, but is now home to galleries, restaurants, markets and festivals, and attracts London’s edgy and artistic crowd.
It’s also home to a large Bangladeshi community, and is well known for its authentic curry restaurants.
Jennifer, in her spare time, scours the area for great examples of street style – think kooky, eclectic, Paloma Faith, any decade bar the 80s (what happened there?).
She started her blog, Style East, on East London streetstyle just over a year ago, and has since amassed hundreds of followers.
Following blogs such as Street Style Polka Dot made her realise how many fashion blogs there were around.
“I just started thinking, this is a really good way of having your own little say about things.
“I just knew I wanted it to be an east London based style blog, and within two months of starting it I knew I wanted to focus on street style.”
Jennifer’s colleagues at her corporate day job have no idea about her double life as a creative-type – I must admit the anonymity of her hobby and the mystery surrounding her Style East blog appealed to me.
“I quite like having my job and having this as an escape from it – I like balance,” she said.
I spotted her on Twitter whilst researching stories from this side ofLondon, and upon discovering her blog, decided this could be the kick I needed to consider starting my own fashion blog on the mean streets ofEsher.
Fortunately Jennifer didn’t object to me shadowing her all day, and here I am, mixing with the cool alternative types and spotting one or two fashionistas myself.
We head to Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair in Spitalfields, which is literally teeming with rich pickings for us.
First up is one of my favourite spots of the day – the confident Hannah, with 1950s rockabilly styling and red shorts.
“She really stands out. She’s colourful but she isn’t just wearing interesting clothes, her whole look is really nice.”
Of course she’s also a fashion blogger at French Kiss Vintage, and sells vintage clothing on ASOS, so insists on snapping Jennifer for her own vintage style.
As I start to get into it, Jennifer spots a girl dressed mostly in black with great accessories… followed by a beautifully statuesque black woman with a blonde afro, white maxi, Moschino belt and Converse.
My spot is Jessica from a stall called Smoking Gun, who has lovely matching hair and shoes, and Jennifer immediately snaps her up – result!
Leaving Spitalfields in search of refreshment, we have two more spots – one girl who up close we realise must only be about 16 – complete with braces on her teeth and a patch shaved off the side of her head, a la Alice Dellal.
She looks great with red high-waisted trousers, and makes me wonder how she gets away with the shaved head at school, and also why I wasn’t more adventurous in my teenage, skater jeans-and-hoodie-wearing days.
Top spot for me is a girl in an all-in-one 1950s style pink jumpsuit, not the type you would find in H&M.
More than happy to pose for us, she is more worried about her flat shoes, having changed out of her painful (but amazing) high heels.
Back on Brick Lane, we head to the Hookah Lounge for a debrief and Japanese Cherry Tea, where Jennifer tells me I was her lucky charm today, which was a bit of an ego boost.
Work done, we head to Beyond Retro – a shop I’m not unfamiliar with but tend to avoid as going in there for me is a bit like food shopping when you’re hungry.
Predictably, I come away with a vintage checked blazer with slightly too-short sleeves – very preppy – and leave Jennifer happily immersed in a mountain of high-waisted jeans and vintage playsuits.
My sojourn in the East comes to an end with a bit of rain and a wander back around to Spitalfields, discovering a Lomography camera shop on the way and bringing out my slight inner camera geek.
Mission accomplished: My day as a fashion blogger was inspiring, intriguing and eye-opening. Watch this space.
Jennifer’s blog can be found at http://www.styleeast.blogspot.com/.
Details on Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair traders and events are at http://www.vintagefair.co.uk/.