Dream Jobs – the Fashion Designer: Tanya Maxwell of THIRtEEN

A few months ago, Dale Street in Liverpool (home to the gorgeous Moose café and the inimitable Peaches and Cream salon) welcomed a new house guest… Tanya Maxwell, the flame-haired Irish beauty behind THIRtEEN Fashion. She took her flair for fashion design and built an impressive empire, starting by making Irish dancing costumes for her sister at the tender age of 13 and going on to dress the likes of Chloe Sims from The Only Way is Essex.

Tanya launched THIRtEEN fashion 6 years ago alongside her degree in Clothing, Design and Technology at Manchester Metropolitan University. The line has been stocked in the likes of Liverpool’s famous Cricket boutique and her intimate team of four offers a bespoke dressmaking service as well as ready-to-wear garments. Although her services can usually be booked with a 3 week notice period, busier times such as Ladies Day at Aintree Racecourse can result in high demand periods where as much as 2 months notice is necessary! Telling me all about the brand, Tanya talks sewing machines and NME with me in her usual eclectic style…

For the readers that weren’t fortunate enough to have joined us for cocktails as we celebrated Christmas 2011, remind me about the significance of the name THIRtEEN…
The name THIRtEEN was chosen for a few reasons. My birthday is the 13th, my mum is the 13th child and I got my sewing machine on my 13th birthday!

Do you think THIRtEEN has a signature look or vibe, and, if so, what would you say that is?
I wouldn’t say that we have a signature look as we like to be as wide-ranging as possible, but throughout our collections the signature THIRtEEN dress has consisted of a fitted upper bodice, a synched in waist and skater style skirt with huge underskirt.

Where does your inspiration come from for new collections?
I’m always looking high and low for inspiration for THIRtEEN, whether it be in magazines like Vogue or NME or on TV shows such as the X Factor, The Voice… anywhere! For my collections I like to keep up with what Liverpool girls want but, at the same time, try to put my own twist on it.

Recently your designs have attracted so much press attention from being featured on television stars such as the cast members of Desperate Scousewives and The Only Way is Essex. What does that feel like?
Of course it makes me feel proud when I see my designs in newspapers and televisions, but truth be told I feel equally as proud when one of my girls tags my dress in a Facebook photo before going on a night out with her friends. The publicity has been really good for business as it has projected the brand to a wider audience, especially through the mediums of Twitter and Facebook. We have never had so many customers from Essex, ha-ha!

You used to have a boutique in Quiggins (which houses lots of fashion designers/boutiques) and recently you’ve moved to a shop on Dale St. What are the best and worst things about both locations?
The best thing about being in Quiggins was the community spirit of all the shops in there, but the worst thing for myself was not having the space or environment that I needed to create the boutique I would have liked. The great thing about Dale Street is having the location I’ve always dreamed of (a shop) and, of course, being next door to the most supportive neighbours in the world – Peaches and Cream. The worst thing about being in Dale street is that I have 24 hour access to the shop (unlike Quiggins which would shut at a set time) meaning that I never know when to go home!

As well as stocking your own things, your Dale Street is also home to Minnie Bee, a children’s clothing boutique. What do you look for when sourcing other collections or designers?
The main thing we look for when sourcing our Minnie Bee labels is that we want to be different. Anyone can go to a big chain store and buy designer labels for their little ones; most of the children’s labels we stock are exclusive to us in Liverpool which makes us stand out all the more.

Tanya’s top tips for a successful career in dressmaking:

  • Be true to your own style and influences.
  • Perfect your pattern cutting skills; if your pattern is wrong, the garment will never be right.

Are you inspired by Tanya’s story or a huge fan of her brand? If so, let her know. She happened to mention that her small team are hoping to expand and suggested that they will do so when they “find the right person”. Who knows, could you be a lucky addition to the number that is unlucky for some – THIRtEEN?

Make sure you check out Tanya’s amazing designs by following her on Twitter and using the link below to visit her Facebook page.


If you feel inspired to go for your dream job after hearing Tanya’s story, remember to read my ‘How to Land Your Dream Internship or Job‘ feature.

More in the Dream Jobs series:

Scouse Bird Problems – Liverpool’s Favourite New Twitter Feed

The city of Liverpool is one that has an undeniable personality all of it’s own. As someone from Birmingham living in the city, I’ve had to decipher all sorts of sayings and trends that are alien to me since I’ve been working here! Although Liverpool has come to be a second home to me, the quirks and mannerisms of its inhabitants still amuse me and I love soaking up the culture from an outside perspective.

Sometimes it’s as simple as understanding a phrase – for example, I was always wondering what people were going on about when they ‘felt sly’ on someone, when actually they just meant that they felt bad for them. Initially I was amazed by some of the beauty trends that a huge amount of girls in Liverpool, or ‘scouse birds’, tend to follow. Things such as doing your shopping with your rollers in, drawing on your eyebrows or going out for a pint of milk looking immaculate just wouldn’t have occurred to me before I lived here. Some instantly recognisable ‘scouse’ qualities were even photo shopped onto this image of the Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacular that came to Liverpool this weekend, lightly teasing the event and transforming the mechanical giant into a typical local.

A couple of weeks ago, a girl who has dubbed herself the ‘Scouse Bridget Jones’ set up a hilarious Twitter account to poke fun at the expense of herself and fellow ‘scouse birds’, and the reaction has been amazing. She’s attracted thousands of followers because she is highlighting all of these quirks that make people from Liverpool, especially girls, stand out from the crowd. Here are a few of my favourite tweets from her…

  • Having a mental breakdown when you can’t stick your eyelashes on straight
  • Living a champagne lifestyle on Lambrini wages
  • Suddenly turning into a contortionist when you’re single an’ need to fake tan your back
  • Havin’ a mate who does makeup an’ havin’ to endure her takin’ 1000 close ups every time she does you a smoky eye
  • Not bein’ able to get a foundation which a) matches your neck but b) makes you look tanned

Here, she talks to me about how she founded Scouse Bird Problems, a satirical Twitter account based on the hardship of keeping up a high-maintenance Liverpool lifestyle.

Tell me about the beginning of Scouse Bird Problems.
On my personal Twitter account @boobleyboo I had been tweeting Scouse Bird Problems for a few months. It came about one morning not long after Christmas (2011) when I only had about 100-150 followers and I drew my scouse brows on wonky when I was late for work.

(For anyone wondering what a ‘scouse brow’ is, it is a term that was coined by Desperate Scousewives actress Jodie Lundstram to describe the popular Liverpool beauty trend of sporting very defined eyebrows.)

It was during the height of Desperate Scousewives and I tagged Jodie Lundstrum – the original scouse brow guru – and she was good enough to retweet it. After that I just tweeted them every so often and they always seemed to be popular with my followers. The new @ScouseBirdProbs Twitter account was started on 7th April 2012.

What inspired you to make the Twitter feed?
To be honest my hand was really forced on this one. After tweeting a Scouse Bird Problem one night, a follower of mine was good enough to ‘scouse’ the idea from me and set up a Twitter account based on it. To say I was livid would be an understatement. After a few hours of raging – and a stiff vodka – I decided that if I could come up with the original concept then I could certainly be original enough to compete.

How long was it before the Twitter started to attract so many followers?
It started straight away – the mass retweeting was instant. I was sat in the nail shop at the time and my phone was just blowing up.

How important do you think it is that it was founded by a ‘Scouse Bird’ so to speak?
It’s so important. Scousers have a great sense of humour, it’s really dry and cutting, and I just don’t think other parts of the country manage that. I think the way my tweets are written mean that girls everywhere can relate to them but I think a girl from outside Liverpool wouldn’t quite know how to phrase them. Scouse is like a completely different sub-language.

How have men reacted to the feed?
I’ve had lads tweet in Scouse Bird Problems! I think a lot of lads who go out with scouse birds can also relate and laugh ‘cos they’ve seen their bird do the same thing, but I’d say at least 75% of my followers are girls.

Your blog, Scouse Bird Problems Twitter and personal Twitter feeds don’t include your name. How do you think that this contributes to the account?
I think the anonymity adds to the appeal and the enigma of the account. It makes me laugh when people tag me in their tweets to friends saying, “is this you?”, or speculate that I’m a gay man or a lad having a laugh. I think it’s part of the fun and coming clean would just spoil all of that.

Whether you’re from Liverpool or know of the city, I guarantee there will be something on this Twitter feed that you’ll have come across or will relate to. Be sure to keep up with the Scouse Bridget Jones by reading her blog and following her on Twitter…

www.twitter.com/ScouseBirdProbs – hashtag #ScouseBirdProblems

Dream Jobs – the Permanent Makeup Artist: Hayley McCaughran of Blushious Contour

Through working at Peaches and Cream during my time in Liverpool, I’ve met some real characters. One girl who really captures the spirit and passion for the beauty industry that Liverpool ladies all seem to have is Hayley McCaughran. Hayley works in the beauty industry as a semi-permanent makeup artist. She launched her own business, Blushious Contour, in May of 2011 and specialises in micro pigmentation.

Micro pigmentation involves using needles to apply pigment to the dermal layer of the skin. It is a permanent makeup procedure, meaning that the pigments applied will remain there forever; however, it is often described as a semi-permanent procedure because skin regeneration can cause the pigments to appear to have faded, and so clients often choose to top up their procedures. Hayley caught up with me to discuss her job, her business ethic and to tell me all about why this beauty craze has taken off so well in Liverpool.

When did you first realise that you wanted to pursue permanent makeup?
My mum was a permanent makeup artist and watching her carry out such excellent work with her clients inspired me to pursue a career in the beauty industry. Before I trained in permanent makeup I went to college and gained an NVQ Level 3 in Beauty. This gave me additional knowledge in normal makeup application.

If you could choose your favourite permanent makeup procedure, what would it be and why?
My favourite procedure to carry out is an eyebrow enhancement, especially if a client has no hair or very little.  Being able to design an eyebrow shape for an individual requires you to understand them as a person. I believe that an eyebrow shape can tell you a lot about a person through the shape, thickness, colour and boldness.

You’re based in Liverpool, a city famous for it’s immaculately groomed girls and beauty lovers! Do you think that this has given you a stronger platform to pursue a career in beauty?
Most definitely!  I have worked in the likes of London, Marbella, India and Dubai, and there is no-one like our Liverpool ladies. We are all about the big hair, those luscious pouts, the smoky eyes and the eyeliner flicks that accompany it all. Permanent makeup is now the way forward for those who love waking up looking perfect; they don’t have to worry about taking an extra 20 minutes to draw on their eyebrows or eyeliner. We are a nation of ladies that know how to look good and feel good, and being from this city has certainly made me want to put my own personal flair into the beauty industry.

What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?
I’d say every day is a challenge but an enjoyable one I may add. The reason for this is that every client is different. Some people desire the bold, brass look of make up; some desire that soft, subtle look. My job requires me to listen to my clients on a one-to-one basis and talk with them about what they want to achieve from having permanent makeup. I’m dedicated to helping those who wish to boost their confidence, and so this is a challenge that I take on every day and thoroughly enjoy.

What is the most enjoyable part of the job?
I love seeing the end result of my work. The before and after images I collate for my portfolio make my job worthwhile. I love seeing people’s reactions to how their whole facial structure can change; I can make them look younger or give them an instant face lift. I have worked with clients who have alopecia, or those who are in remission of cancer and have lost all of their hair through chemotherapy; tattooing an eyebrow or eyelash enhancement on for them and seeing the joy in their face is the best feeling in the world. I just love making someone feel like themselves again.

You’ve recently launched a new website with lots of information about you, your family and your background in business. Do you think you’ve learned a lot from your parents?
My mum and dad are my idols. Growing up, I wasn’t your typical girly girl. I was my dad’s right hand man so to say. I helped my dad with his business of selling quads and even helped out on market stalls my dad had around the country. This was the best form of business advice that anyone could gain as it involved direct contact with members of the public. I learned how to sell, how to pull the crowds in during auctions, make sure that stock take was right, pay wages… everything someone in business should know. He and my mom have always pushed me to follow my dreams and always told me to believe that anything was possible if I was to put my mind to it.

As well as demonstrating a passion for the beauty industry, I think Hayley is a great person to show just how easily business skills can be transferred from one profession to another. If you’re unhappy in your current line of work, why not try something new? Maybe you’ll find your own dream job.

To contact Hayley for more information about Blushious Contour and her services, you can find all of the relevant information by visiting her website below.


If you feel inspired to go for your dream job after hearing Hayley’s story, remember to read my ‘How to Land Your Dream Internship or Job‘ feature.

More in the Dream Jobs series:

Indian Princess Inspired Makeup

This evening I had my friend Jade over for a creative makeup session. Over the weekend I was working in Peaches and Cream for the first time in a while, and seeing all of the amazing makeup that the girls were creating really got me itching to do something colourful.

Earlier this week, my friend Lucy who owns a vintage boutique called Preserved Vintage asked me if I’d do the makeup for a photo shoot of hers this weekend. She asked me if I had any ideas for makeup and I thought back to the time Kate did me an Indian inspired makeup look, as pictured below. When I suggested it to her she loved the idea, so I thought it would be wise to refresh my memory and try it again on Jade before the big shoot.

First of all I chose a selection of bright colours to use within the makeup. Here was my colour kit list:

  • Illamasqua blusher in Excite (coral)
  • Illamasqua powder eye shadow in Sex (white)
  • Lime Crime magic dust in Lime Criminal (green)
  • Lime Crime magic dust in Troubadour (turquoise)
  • Peaches and Cream glitter in Lizzie (white with gold reflects)
  • MAC Pigment in Melon (peachy bronze)
  • Lime Crime magic dust in Circus Girl (yellow)
  • Lime Crime magic dust in Cupcake Thief (pearly pink)
  • Peaches and Cream pigment in Strawberry Shrimp (pink)

To start with I used the Illamasqua pure white shadow as a dramatic highlighter on Jade’s brow bone and inner eye. Then, I took the Melon pigment across her lid. I used the green Lime Crime pigment to blend Jade’s socket and the turquoise to line under her eye. To give the look extra shape, I added some contouring to the side of her nose by putting some Peaches and Cream pigment under her brows and adjacent to the bridge of her nose. I also made sure that I filled Jade’s brows in so that the darkness of them would contrast the brightness of her eye colours.

Next, to really add an Asian inspired twist, I applied Jade’s eyeliner. I took the liquid liner above her lash line and spilling over onto her inner eye, and I started her liner further back from the socket underneath her eye. Jade’s own lashes were so thick that I didn’t apply any false lashes.

Once her eyes were finished, it was time to get started on Jade’s base. I used a new purchase on Jade’s cheeks, an Illamasqua blusher in a bright coral colour, and it looked stunning. The blusher is highly pigmented and I only needed to dust her with a small amount for a real colour pop. Then, I used a creamy highlighter along her cheekbones to give myself an outline, and topped this up with the bright yellow Lime Crime pigment to give her contouring an extra pop. This, to me, was what really made the makeup feel asian inspired.

To finish Jade off I used a subtle pearly pigment from Lime Crime on her lips. I mixed it with a clear gloss so that we could use it as her lip colour. I think that these colours made Jade look very doll-like, and I am excited to see their brightness when contrasted with the darker skins of the models I will be working with this weekend.

Although I was happy with this look, I think there was one thing that really made it shine… the beautiful Mareband that I put on Jade! Big Mare had made it for me this weekend and the bright colours in the band seemed to compliment this look perfectly. She makes all sorts of amazing bands and can make custom orders, too. See more from her collection by clicking here.

Be sure to pay Jade a visit and tell her what you thought of her makeup – she has a terrific blog called A Little Lipstick.

Ladies Day at the Grand National 2012 – the Most Fashionable Guest


Over the weekend, I was working at Peaches and Cream to help out during one of the busiest times of year – the Aintree Grand National. With three days of races, girls flock to Peaches for amazing makeup to accompany their new dresses, killer heels and flamboyant accessories.

On this occasion I undertook front of house duties and worked the desk with Big Mare. It was a really lovely position to see the weekend in because I saw every single girl that came in and out and made sure I took photographs of every transformation. In between answering the phone, selling false eyelashes and cornering everyone with the camera, I found the time to do one very special makeover… a Chanel chic for Big Mare!


Those of you that have read my previous posts about Peaches will know that Big Mare is co-owner Kate’s mom and is a mother figure to everyone in the shop (some clients included, ha ha). She was off to the races on Friday with her beloved Paul and she wanted a nice makeover to suit her lovely outfit. Kitted in a monochrome Chanel attire, I decided that it would be nice to keep her makeup classic and chic just like Coco herself!


Big Mare has got lovely skin, but just to be safe and ensure that I created a look that would bring out her features in the nicest way I used these tips from Kate about doing makeup for more mature skin:

  • Apply foundation with your hands. By avoiding my foundation brush, I felt that I gave Mare’s foundation a softer finish and managed to really work it into her skin.
  • Avoid too much highlighter. I used MAC Strobe Cream under Mare’s foundation to give her a dewy glow, and then I avoided using highlighter on her cheekbones in case it accentuated any fine lines. I still used it under her brow bone because her skin was great there.
  • Go for a soft, blended eyeshadow. Rather than attempting to add any contouring to Mare’s eyes or go for a lighter to darker look, I blended some brown shades to give her a full smokey look. This meant that any fine lines around her eyes were less visible.

I’m sure a lot of you have seen photographs from Aintree (if you haven’t, you can read these pieces from the Daily Mail on Thursday and Friday) but to me the most fashionable lady at Aintree would have to be Big Mare. It was Coco Chanel that once said, ‘a girl should be two things: classy and fabulous’, and I think it is fair to say that she is flying the flag for both!


Thanks for a brilliant weekend Mare xxx

Women and jealousy: why I disagree with Samantha Brick

People have taken to Twitter today to poke fun at Samantha Brick, a journalist who has just published a piece on the Daily Mail entitled ‘Why Women Hate Me For Being Beautiful’. In an elaborate piece regarding the ‘downsides’ of being pretty, Samantha goes on to discuss the terrible repercussions of women being jealous of one another, and more especially her own experiences of jealousy.

This piece has really startled me because of how little credit Samantha has given women to be happy for one another. When discussing job opportunities she has missed or people that haven’t wanted to speak to her, she’s automatically come to the conclusion that the reason behind this was her looks. Could it not have been possible that she wasn’t qualified enough, or that she’d said something rude? No. Sometimes it’s because another woman felt jealous that they were, “shorter, heavier and older” than her.

People do get jealous of one another – that’s life. But this piece appears to insinuate that all women will react in a certain way toward someone that is more attractive than them, and that really isn’t the case.

I feel as though I’m in a strong position to dispel this myth because I’ve got plenty of experience of being around women that are more attractive than me. As a former makeup artist at Peaches and Cream in Liverpool, my job involved being surrounded by gorgeous women. If you’re familiar with the city of Liverpool then you’ll be aware that the women there take care of themselves in a way that is unlike any other city in the UK – they love having their makeup done, spend lots of time on their hair, and invest in beautiful clothes. Whatever their budget, a Liverpool girl will look immaculate.

As a makeup artist, it was my job to ensure that each client looked the prettiest that they could as a result of some specially tailored makeup. For example, I may slightly change my technique of creating a smokey eye look to compliment their eye shape. During this time, I’d notice a client’s nice features and perhaps compliment them on something. Why? Because I meant it, and it is a nice thing to do. My client may have been prettier, taller or more tanned than me (and believe me, that was a regular occurrence, ha ha!), but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t be happy for them. Jealousy is not a default reaction for a woman to have toward a beautiful woman, and I think it’s unfair for Samantha to have suggested that it is.

Here's me and Polly getting ready for the LMFAO and Ke$ha gig!

Peaches and Cream, in particular, pride themselves on being an amazing place for women to support one another and working there really enhanced my confidence despite the fact that I was admittedly surrounded by gorgeous girls. We were all too busy having fun to be jealous of one another; if anything it’s quite self-indulgent of Samantha to think that women have nothing better to do than be envious of her.

If you haven’t read Samantha’s piece yet, I suggest you take a look at it by clicking here. Complete with a detailed section of how many men have footed her bills and accounts of women that resent her looks, it is really quite stunning.

Part of me wonders whether Samantha has been encouraged to write this piece as yet another one of the Daily Mail’s shock tactics. Do you remember that controversial piece that Liz Jones wrote a while ago about stealing her partner’s sperm to try and conceive? Whether it was or it wasn’t a cry for attention, it has certainly worked. Samantha’s post has been the most popular on the Daily Mail today.

Be sure to browse the #samanthabrick hashtag on Twitter for a multitude of opinions on the matter. Needless to say I’m not a fan of Samantha’s piece, but I am shorter and heavier than her so it’s obviously because I’m just jealous.

World Autism Awareness Day 2012

This morning when browsing my Twitter feed it was brought to my attention that today is World Autism Day. One of my brothers is autistic so I have a lot of knowledge on the subject of autism and thought it might be nice to share this in a bid to create awareness.

Rather than speak about my brother, I thought I would talk about autism from the perspective of someone who has an autistic family member. Every case of autism is different and the severity of each case ranges, so my personal experiences with my brother (who happens to be quite severely autistic) may be different to somebody else’s.

Firstly, I’d like to bring to attention the fact that people sometimes feel bad for asking questions about my brother. When I meet new people and talk about him, they often feel guilty or embarrassed to enquire further. If you know someone with an autistic family member then feel free to ask questions! I know that living with my brother all of my life means that his behaviour is second nature to me, but that isn’t necessarily the case for someone who has never met an autistic person before. Bringing friends round, for instance, may require giving a little bit of background. For example, my brother can not verbally communicate so I need to explain that he isn’t being rude if he doesn’t reply when someone says ‘hello’ to him – that’s just a part of his autism. Don’t be shy to ask questions; if anything, it shows a level of support and understanding that you’re willing to learn more about the situation.

Another thing I’d like to point out is that my brother, for example, has no physical disabilities. If you were to see him walking down the street, you wouldn’t have a clue that anything was different about him. For this reason, I’d like to ask you to think twice before poking fun at someone for doing something seemingly unusual. Maybe someone talking to themselves, or wearing something that isn’t necessarily Prada, or eating in a strange manner isn’t just someone worth laughing at – they might just be a bit different to you. I doubt that you would tease someone with a visible disability, so other conditions should be treated with the same respect.

Finally I would like to say a big hello to anyone who lives with or cares for an autistic family member. Things that other people take for granted, like popping to the cinema, going on holiday or doing a bit of shopping, might not be as simple for those who have to consider an autistic family member. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t love that family member just as much. A really infuriating thing for me to experience is when people find out about my brother’s autism and say, ‘oh, what a shame’. If you’re ever considering saying that to someone, I would ask you to consider the following – what grounds do you have, or even what right, to insinuate that an autistic family member is someone to be pitied? Everyone in the world is different, and for someone to have a condition such as autism is just another one of those differences. Don’t condescend by offering ‘sympathy’ – if the recipient is anything like me, you’ll most likely offend them.

I hope my words may have contributed to giving someone a deeper awareness of living with autism, and perhaps that anyone in a similar position to me might have related to something I said.

Happy World Autism Awareness Day!