London was everything I could have hoped for from a big city: high fashion and street fashion, diversity in people and places, rich history and culture, expansive options for art and music, and an endless supply of new areas to explore. Because of my interests and preferences, I tended to notice three areas; those being fashion, architecture, and personal expression.

Fashion

My mom loved and worked in retail, so you could say it’s in my blood to have a passion for fashion. Prior to this trip, I spent hours researching and preparing for the fashion scene in London. To me, fashion is the ultimate form of self-expression. You get to choose whether to embrace trends, make trends your own by blending it with your signature style, or go against trends altogether and exclusively wear what you feel embodies your true self. The options and combinations are endless. While we were there, I noticed a prominent style of a hybrid between work attire and relaxed fashion. While we would walk to class with the work rush, I would pay special attention to the outfits of those commuting to work. It was not uncommon to see a pair of light wash jeans dressed up with a flowy top and a blazer, or if the vibe of their workplace was casual it was common to wear ripped jeans, a neutral color top, trench coat, and stylish running shoes. I also loved the prevalence of pops of color throughout people’s wardrobes. The most common color I saw was orange, whether it was in the form of a fitted top or a blazer. There was also a large presence of out-of-the-ordinary pants throughout the stores and streets: wide legged flowy pants, pants with floral or geometric patterns, pants with fringe around the ankle, pants with peplum style on the bottom, and pants in pastel colors. The beauty of London is its rather consistently moderate climate. This crucially versatile temperature allowed for a much larger range in outfit options. And finally, I noticed a presence of structured crop tops with a formal twist—whether it be in the sleeves or ties in the back. Upon this observation, I realized I had the exact same style top in my suit case as a gift from my mom from when she visited New York months before. Initially I was in awe, and then I remembered who my mom was. She has and always will have an eye for style.

Architecture

A city’s buildings and architecture illustrates its history. Walking through the various parts of London, the past purpose of the area was apparent through its building styles and structures. For example, the area in which our flat was situated was scattered with old industrial buildings turned apartments or office space. Just down the street from us was a historic building being renovated so it would be able to function as apartments advertised for young professionals and students. In Camden, we walked past collections of Victorian style houses adapted to today’s style. Buildings help to preserve the history of the area, and London was full of repurposed areas and structures. Following are some of my favorite finds throughout the city.

My home town is seen as an upcoming and growing city, and there is starting to be more projects following this same style. Right now, downtown Grand Rapids is a mix of repurposed houses in historic areas and new modern houses in industrial areas. I would love for Grand Rapids to implement more projects working to preserve the history of the area through repurposed structures. By no means is the same scale of living spaces attainable since the city is much smaller, but it would help to uphold the authenticity of the area as well as attract buyers to the unique area.

Self-Expression

Everywhere you looked in London, there were tattoos. Quite frankly, everywhere you looked in Europe, there were tattoos. I always think of Europe as being a few steps ahead of the United States, and as far as fashion and trends, this has usually proved to be true. There could be numerous reasons for this region to accept body art more readily, and all of them point to a more open-minded and accepting future back home. One of the reasons could be because as their version of the millennial generation solidifies itself in the workforce, their more relaxed and inclusive mindset has had a chance to make a tangible difference in the workplace. Again, back to the Europe being a few years ahead observation, this applies to the advancement of generations as well. Another reason could be because the area is used to a more diverse group of people, and have adapted to the fact that some people choose to express themselves through body art. Cities have always been known as melting pots, and especially one as big as London and with a strong history of immigration, it isn’t a new concept for them to adapt to different ways of thinking. However, whilst in my time in big cities like Chicago and New York, I did not notice the same level of saturation as I did in London. In big cities back home, there were noticeably more people with tattoos than a smaller area like my home town. In London, at least half of the people were tattooed. This collective state of mind was refreshing to say the least, and it made me appreciate the art of tattooing more. Each person consciously decided to put something on their body for the rest of their lives. Each person had stories behind their choices, whether they were as big as commemorations to their families or simply because they liked the design. These people recognized the significance of this type of art, and they embraced and celebrated it as a society.