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‘The Vow’ Star Mark Vicente on the “Horror” of NXIVM

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“I want him to be unable to hurt people,” says the former member of cult leader Keith Raniere’s upcoming sentencing.

The Vow, currently airing on HBO, offers a compelling inside glimpse at the world of NXIVM — on the surface a self-improvement program that recruited a good number of film and TV actors; but in actuality a front for an insidious sex-cult revolving around one man, Keith Raniere. A former Amway salesman, Raniere, 60, employed Smallville star Alison Mack to recruit him female sex partners — who famously branded his initials into their pubic regions with a cauterizing wand.

After fleeing to Mexico in March 2018, Raniere was arrested by authorities and extradited to the U.S. On June 19, 2019, after five hours of deliberation, a jury found him guilty of all charges laid out against him, including sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography; sex trafficking and identify theft. He is currently awaiting his Oct. 27 sentencing date, where he could get anywhere from 15 years to life. Raniere’s followers still number in the dozens, and a group of them calling themselves We Are As You gather every Friday evening outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he is being held, for dance gatherings meant to bring “joy to those inside,” according to the group’s Instagram account.

One of the prosecution’s key witnesses, and a central figure in The Vow, is Mark Vicente. The 55-year-old, South Africa-born director of the 2004 sleeper documentary hit What the Bleep do We Know!?, Vicente met his wife Bonnie Piesse, 37, an Australia-born musician and actress who had small roles in George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, inside NXIVM. (The controlling Raniere penned their vows.) Both advanced to high standing inside the organization when alarm bells started going off — first in Piesse, who grew concerned that the women around her had become obsessed with their weight and were counting calories until they had grown “zombie-like” in behavior and appearance. Piesse eventually convinced Vicente that something nefarious was afoot, and both fled the organization in 2017. They have spent their energies ever since trying to help other members do the same and bringing Raniere to justice.

Vicente spoke recently with The Hollywood Reporter about Raniere’s seductive allure, NXIVM’s obsession with surveillance and documentation and the theories that Raniere may have poisoned or even killed some of his followers. 

How is The Vow being received? What have you heard?

People are generally blown away, and hopefully it’s because they’re realizing there was more to the story than was originally published in 2017, 2018. That these things are far more complex than they’re initially represented in the press. I’m also seeing that a lot of people that have been in similar situations, be it in the cults or abusive relationships or different religions, who are saying, “Oh my god, I know what this is like. I’ve been through this.” I actually think it’s being pretty cathartic for a number of people. More than I maybe realized.

I think it does a good job of explaining how a regular, smart person might fall into something like this.

Exactly. And I think that’s been done very well. Because one of the things that both [The Vow directors] Jehane [Noujaim] and Karim [Amer] spoke about at great length was this idea that, in order to have people understand how this works, they have to understand the dream — what was the thing that people fell in love with and felt attached to that had them stick around as long as they did?

So what was the lure of NXIVM? What was it doing for you?

I think one of the things is because I’d been a seeker for so long. It was a more scientific way to understand the human behavior equation. When I finally experienced the intensive, there were some pretty mind-blowing experiences I had. And I thought, “Oh, I think this is it.” I think for some people, it was community. I think for some people it was purpose. What I was looking for was a way to understand myself and other people. And that’s what I believe at the time it offered me. Of course, later I realized that wasn’t the case, but certainly when I went in I thought, “I think this actually explains humanity in an extraordinary way.”

Why didn’t you make The Vow yourself? Or alternately, how much of it started as your own project before you handed over the reins?

Look, at the very beginning, yes, we were documenting everything that was going on. But it became apparent that you can’t really make a film about your own meltdown and journey to try to expose things. I mean, maybe you can, I don’t think that I could have. There was so much that I went through that in the end, having people that I trusted, Jehane and Karim, able to guide this was such a better idea. 2017 was horror, and then it was like, “Oh shit — now we need to do something and there’s all these people that are stuck in there.” Then in 2019 there’s a trial. And understand: While we were rescuing people, while we were trying to expose things, while I was preparing to go on the stand, my focus was so much on the case and trial and rescuing people, that I don’t believe that I could have kept the filmmaker hat on at the same time.

As a filmmaker, I imagine it must have been hard to let go of this and trust it to somebody else.

It was very challenging. I spent a lot of time behind the camera, so being in front of the camera is a very strange experience. It’s a very vulnerable experience. But the camera starts to become invisible after a while, because it’s there so much. And as you can see, especially as the later episodes go, you know, we’re in a battle, all of the characters. We’re in this battle and the cameras are just rolling and you just eventually forget that they’re there. But yes, it’s a very challenging thing as a filmmaker to relinquish that control and just accept, “OK, I’m now a subject.” It’s a pretty bizarre experience. 

You were recording before you gathered that Keith was a bad guy, right? Was that to make a movie in NXIVM’s favor and then it morphed into more of an expose?

Earlier on, when I first came on board, there was talk about making a project or projects to exonerate him. But there was a general culture of recording everything: Every phone call, every meeting, every time he spoke, there was this general culture of everything being recorded. Which was always presented as, he wants all the stuff documented because future generations, blah, blah, blah. Everything was recorded. The idea was to memorialize as much as possible.

But it speaks to his paranoia. It’s kind of strange to enter this society where everything’s recorded. In California, at least, you need two-party consent to record phone calls. Did none of that raise red flags?

You know, it’s strange. I mean, I just remember when I first went in, every meeting being recorded. And in the case of Raniere and myself, it was him constantly, I suppose, trying to teach me or educate me about ideas. And I remember, sometimes I would forget, and he would say, “Did you record it?” And I’d go, “No.” And I’d start recording and then he’d go over everything we’d just spoken about for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the conversation, going over it again to make sure that it was memorialized. I mean, certainly when I look back at it now I go, that is pretty odd. Maybe it speaks to a certain kind of messianic delusion, that every word was that important that it had to be recorded. Of course now, in retrospect, it’s utterly weird.

Now that you’re completely extracted from it, did Keith Raniere have anything of value to offer or were they just the ramblings of a madman?

I believe now, as I’ve studied more, the ideas were all borrowed from somewhere else. I’ve had people who studied [Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)] and studied Scientology and studied hypnosis say, “Yeah, that’s all there.” And psychology. It’s all there. In the end, I don’t believe that he really advanced any of those things that are already out there. But he certainly charted codified gaslighting. He literally codified gaslighting. You know, where every time you had a thought, you would then question your thought and think, “How am I responsible, how am I perhaps wrong in this situation?” I think there’s maybe 50 to 60 people that are still very loyal to Raniere and “the teachings,” and I think they still believe it’s very unique probably because they haven’t studied a lot of other things.

What do you feel about Raniere’s NXIVM lieutenant Nancy Salzman? [Salzman took a plea deal, confessing to racketeering, and awaits sentencing.] Watching The Vow, I’m left wondering, was she complicit or not?

I’m going to have to pass on that question.

I watched the Discovery ID documentary, The Missing Women of NXIVM, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that. It posits that Raniere may have poisoned several women who eventually died of cancer. It also suggests two of his followers who allegedly committed suicide may have died by more nefarious means.

Here’s the thing that’s interesting: I don’t remember when exactly, what the year was, but it was around the time that a number of the women closest to him were getting sick. You know, cancers and different things. And I remember saying to him at one point, “What is going on? Why are the women closest to you getting sick? Is it something in the building, is it something in the water?” And he would say to me, “Yeah, it’s a mystery.” And I’m like, “Yeah, it is a mystery. Like, how come them, of all people?” I don’t know if I know, but I do find it incredibly strange and statistically staggering that the people closest to him were getting sick in that fashion. Now, you could say he used hypnosis. You’ve heard of a placebo, right? People that get well with a placebo? Well, there’s a thing called a “nocebo.” And a nocebo is literally planting the idea in a person’s mind that instead of getting well, they might get sick. That’s a theory; maybe it’s that. But I do find it really, really strange that everybody close to him had some kind of sickness and some kind of cancer. It’s truly bizarre. It makes zero sense.

In the doc, Frank Parlato, who runs The Frank Report and broke the NXIVM branding story in 2017, has a hair sample from one of the victims tested, and it comes back with a high level of barium in it, a toxic substance found in rat poison, among other places.

Right. I hear you. All I can say for sure is, as I said, it’s statistically staggering that it’s this random. It’s weird.

Didn’t Raniere once boast of having “killed” for his beliefs? Is he capable of murder?

Is he capable? I have no idea. I mean, there’s conjecture. One thing I know about leaders like this, and there are many, is that they usually have other people do the dirty work.

A big tactic of Raniere’s was breaking up healthy relationships. What did he do to get between you and Bonnie?

They tried to separate people by saying things like, “You have an attachment to this person and that’s going to get in the way of your growth.” And they did that from the very beginning when people came in. There were a great many relationships, I believe, that did get destroyed, and also there are a whole bunch that they maintained their integrity and their love. In the end, maybe I didn’t express it as clearly yet in The Vow, but Bonnie saved my life. They couldn’t break us, but they certainly tried.

It reminds me of classic Scientology disconnection tactics. Did you ever hear Keith talk about L. Ron Hubbard or express that he was using the same blueprint?

I actually heard him talk negatively about Scientology. He would say that the auditing process actually disassociates people, which I thought was actually very funny, because in essence, a lot of the processes that were used in NXIVM did exactly that. They disassociated people from different things that they were reacting to. But no, he never sort of spoke about how he got ideas from there. Now, there are people that knew him that said that he had actually studied Scientology extensively. But I’d certainly never seen any L. Ron Hubbard books, and mostly what he said about Scientology was that it was not as effective as what he was doing in NXIVM and wasn’t very good for people. That was his basic story.

Do you hope Keith Raniere gets a lifetime sentence?

Here’s what I’m going to say: Whatever happens to him, I want him to be unable to hurt people anymore, however it pans out, whatever the judge decides. Whether it’s a short sentence or a long sentence, I just want him to no longer have the ability to hurt people, because he’s hurt many, many, many people in a very, very deep way.


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Cold play: how to enjoy UK outdoor activities – even in winter | Travel

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I wish I could say that every autumn I carefully wash and hang up my wetsuit, then check that all my camping and other outdoor kit is clean and dry before meticulously storing it away for the winter. In fact, after the first frost, I usually shove all that gear under the bed where it can be forgotten until next spring.

But this year feels different: with travel opportunities severely curtailed, the outdoor season in the UK needs to continue, perhaps right through winter. And I’m not the only one who feels this way – James Warner Smith, editor at Cool Camping, said bookings were up 300% for October and that the trend would probably continue into November and December. So how does one carry on outdoors in the colder months – and where?





man in hiking boots reading book overlooking hilly view



A good book can inspire you to get out in the cold

Lockdown summer brought an explosion in UK sales of outdoor equipment, but now the seasons are changing, are all those purchases going to be useful? Winter kit is certainly thicker and warmer, but this is not only about the gear. Tim Frenneaux from online book club Adventurous Ink reminds me that inspiration is also vital: “A good book can really do the trick: after reading John Wright’s Foragers Calendar, and Simon Barnes’ Rewild Yourself, I’ve started spending far more time outdoors, despite the colder weather.”

I also recall the effortless capability of people in Nordic countries, where, far out in the wilderness, it’s normal to encounter older folk, young mothers and children among those revelling in sub-zero temperatures. They are demonstrating what the Finns call sisu, a resilient, positive attitude salted with large dollops of grit and equanimity. It’s the spirit that notices cold hard rain splattering against the double glazing, but still heads outside. If, like me, you aspire to such a noble state, here is some practical advice, some inspiration and – let’s not be too high-minded – a few ideas on kit from the experts.

Camping





Sykeside campsite, in the Lake District



Sykeside campsite, in the Lake District

With its sensible rules on wild camping, Scotland has to be the UK’s premier winter camping location, but it’s also its most demanding. One grizzled old-timer I met on a winter walk in Glen Affric near Loch Ness swore that his solution to sleeping out on snow and ice was to insert a west highland terrier down his sleeping bag. While this may appeal to some, I prefer the advice of Sara Lundy, a brilliant guide I hiked with in Idaho’s Sawtooth mountains.

The trip was in June, but we endured sub-zero temperatures and camped in heavy snow. “I always carry metal water bottles,” Lundy says. “Fill them up with hot water at bedtime, pop inside a sock or woolly hat, then you have warm feet inside the sleeping bag and non-frozen water to drink in the morning.”

When it comes to sleeping bags, Nick Smith, co-founder of Alpkit and a winter camping fanatic, has some clear advice. “Get decent insulation under you,” he says. “Then layer up inside your sleeping bag with a silk liner, thermals and a woolly hat.” His preferred bag is the Pipedream 600 (£279.99). “Use the baffles to seal it then, when you move during the night, you’re not pumping cold air in.” Less expensive but heavier if you’re backpacking is the SkyeHigh500 at £154.99 (pictured).

Any tent is going to need to withstand wind, rain and possibly snow, so a mountain tent with geodesic poles and a snow skirt is good. Sweden’s Hilleberg tents are legendary, but expensive; as a reasonably priced, non geodesic alternative, I’ve always found Vango’s Force Ten range totally dependable (from £290). I used one in the Sawtooths and it withstood a serious ice storm. Inflatable sleeping mats have come on in leaps and bounds too: OEX makes a good lightweight one for £45, but don’t let the kids use it as trampoline: they do puncture.

Frennaux is a seasoned wild camper who prefers ethical kit manufacturers such as Wawwa, Patagonia and Finisterre, an outfit that helped bring merino sheep to Devon in order to knit their jumpers and base layers in Manchester. When he does come down from his summit wild camps, Frennaux’s favourite winter campsites include Humble Bee Farm on the North Yorkshire coast and Castle Rigg in Keswick (both open all year). Cool Camping’s Warner Smith suggests Skyside in the Lakes (open fires and a good pub nearby); Stud Farm in Sussex (on the South Downs Way); and North Leas in the Peak District (bang on Stanage Edge for climbers).

Outdoor cooking





Chef Chris Bax: ‘A cooking fire doesn’t just add heat; it adds flavour’.



Chef Chris Bax: ‘A cooking fire doesn’t just add heat; it adds flavour’. Photograph: Joanne Crawford

Sitting around a campfire is always a joy, but never more so than with winter stars twinkling overhead, a nip of frost in the air and some decent food to eat. A sea kayak, foraging and cookery trip with Do The North in Sweden shortly before lockdown was made memorable by apple crumble and custard cooked on a campfire, but in the UK it was Taste The Wild chef Chris Bax who raised my game.

“A cooking fire doesn’t just add heat; it adds flavour,” says Bax. “Try roasting leeks: you get a charred outer that has slight bitterness and a centre that is meltingly soft, smokey and juicy … sheer bliss.”

Bax recommends cast iron pots and pans from Shropshire-based Netherton Foundry. “A Dutch oven [£190] from them will last a lifetime and is the most versatile piece for cooking on a real fire. It’s just a solid flat-bottomed cast iron pot with a lid, but you can use it for everything from frying and roasting to slow cooking and baking bread.”

Bax uses hardwood logs like oak, beech and birch, and avoids anything that’s been treated. “The hardest part of cooking over fire is gauging the temperature. In time, you will get a feeling for what the fire is doing and what cooking times are needed.”

Even in winter there are herbs to forage, and Bax is deeply knowledgable – a skill he puts to good use creating alcohol-free cocktails. “Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) will bring bright citrus and tart apple flavours to fatty foods, and silver fir (Abies alba) needles are a substitute for juniper in meat dishes.” He encourages everyone to try outdoor cooking, even in a back yard or garden, but it’s best out in the wilds.

Hill and mountain walking





Two hikers looking down to Great Langdale in winter conditions.



Winter hiking above Great Langdale in the Lake District. Photograph: Richard Nicholls/Alamy

My own, rather brutal, initiation into winter hillwalking was in the 1980s on Kinder Scout, a Peak District hill I thought I knew well. I soon discovered that a metre of snow and a windchill factor can radically change your experience. Climbing and mountaineering instructor Henry Castle says: “Mountains are never ‘safe’ landscapes. They are hostile, with numerous hazards that can easily trip up the inexperienced adventurer.” But crisp, cold days with blue skies can, he adds, be the most memorable you will have.

Nick Owen, who leads the Langdale/Ambleside mountain rescue team in the Lake District, has some sound advice gleaned from over 1,600 rescues in three decades: “Allow extra time for wind, rain, snow and ice. Check sunset times and remember that mountain dark is very different to city dark.” His choice of locations starts with Langdale, “of course”, but he also loves the less well-known fells like Loughrigg, and the Howgill hills further east.

Castle runs winter training courses in the Scottish Highlands, which, he says, “is a different beast from the Lakes or Snowdonia, where you can have summer conditions in winter.” He recommends Garry Smith’s book North Wales Scrambles as a starting point – and for when restrictions are lifted again in Wales.

Owen carries a synthetic duvet jacket, spare batteries and torch alongside all-year essentials such as bivvy bag, map, compass, whistle, food and water. I would personally add a small gas cooker like the lightweight Vango folding stove, plus teabags, sugar, powdered milk and biscuits – a brilliant morale booster. If scrambles are involved, Castle adds several pairs of spare gloves. “If your hands don’t work, you’re pretty much screwed.”

On ice, Owen says, crampons are essential: “What is soft slush in the afternoon can become rock-hard by nightfall,” he points out. When it comes to clothing, his advice is: “Avoid natural down as it’s useless when wet. Go for synthetic, like Primaloft.”

Owen and Castle emphasise the importance of good preparation, learning to navigate and not being overambitious. For weather forecasts both recommend the Mountain Weather Information Service. The British Mountaineering Council runs winter skills courses that include navigation.

With boots, make sure you get a size large enough to accommodate thicker socks and with room for your feet to expand on long days. I prefer the width you get with brands like Meindl and Aku. Note that most boots are not sufficiently rigid to take full crampons: you need to buy mountain boots for that, and would probably want to do a mountaineering course on their use.

Kayaking





a kayaker reflected in the still water of Loch Lubnaig



Kayaking on Loch Lubnaig, near Stirling. Photograph: Kay Roxby/Alamy

A quick glance at UK sea temperatures reveals something rather surprising: November is often warmer than June, and December the equal of May. Swedish kayak guide Patrik Forsling kitted me out once in the Bohuslän archipelago and is a big fan of winter trips: “For tranquility and exposure to nature, winter is best.”

Jethro Moore at Adventure Beyond in Cardigan Bay agrees. His own favourite locations are north Pembrokeshire and Scotland. “The Great Glen is perfect for canoe touring.” For river paddles, he likes the Wye and the Usk. “We have so much good canoeing in the UK. There is something for all abilities.” Websites to search include British Canoeing, UK Rivers and Go Paddling.

In true Scandi tradition, Forsling is an expert in preparation for cold weather. “If water temperatures are below about 10C, I’d recommend a dry suit. Take a dry bag with a change of clothing, plus neoprene boots, gloves, goggles and insulated cap. Synthetic material is better.”





woman in dryrobe



A dryrobe makes getting dry and changed relatively painless

Moore has a few additions too. “I used to take the mickey out of ‘dryrobes’, but they are brilliant.” These are long, zipped towels with hood and outer waterproof skin that make changing before and after a relatively painless experience; they start from around £45 and go up to around £140, from dryrobe. For warmer days, he would wear a winter wetsuit with built-in hood such as the Patagonia Yulex (around £320), a choice I can endorse as I’m always losing wetsuit hoods.

“For white water paddles,” Moore says, “I’d use a dry suit like the Typhoon (£99) with a wetsuit hood under my helmet. On calm water, I’d dress as for hill-walking: thermals, windproofs and waterproofs.” For further advice he recommends Adventure Smart.

Back in the US, Sara Lundy has recently returned from a fortnight of pack-rafting through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, an area the size of Northumberland that straddles the states of Idaho and Montana. Was there any item of kit she would recommend? “Waterproof socks” from Sealskinz (£29), she tells me. “They are a toe-saver for anyone who gets cold feet.

Surfing





Andy Ainscough from Adventure Parcs winter surfing in Pembrokeshire.



Andy Ainscough: ‘Winter is when we get our best waves in the UK’

Hitting the waves in winter is arguably the most extreme form of winter madness, but is incredibly rewarding. Andy Ainscough, managing director at Adventure Parcs Snowdonia, has found himself searching for locations now that the artificial wave at the “inland surf lagoon” has closed until next spring. “Winter is when we get our best waves in the UK and it’s never crowded. The obvious places to head are Cornwall and Pembrokeshire, but the north-east of England and Scottish coasts are also worth exploring. If you’re brave and like the big stuff, Ireland usually has the most consistent and biggest waves throughout the winter.”

Luke Hutchinson, an experienced surfer and beach lifeguard, recommends Saltburn, Whitby and Scarborough’s North and South Bays for beginners, Sandsend for the more advanced: “It is quite uneven and does have some rip currents.”

One thing Ainscough is sure of is the necessity of buying thick neoprene. He favours having two wetsuits, “s you never need to put on a cold wet one”. When driving to a surf spot in winter, he says, “I always get my boots and gloves on the dashboard near the heater to make them toasty before I put them on.”

He adds: “Round-toe wetsuit boots will help to keep your toes together and slightly warmer, and for the same reason I would choose wetsuit mittens over wetsuit gloves for warmth.” His choice is O’Neill’s Psycho Tech wetsuit (around £329). “You’ll need 5mm, maybe even 6mm in places.” Any wetsuit, he says, will improve if you wear a rash vest underneath and if it has a built-in hood. And finally, he is also a convert to the dryrobe – “a godsend”, especially if it comes with a surfer van.

Hutchinson adds another small, but vital, tip: “Use earplugs in very cold water. I like SurfEars 3.”

Most surf shops are open all year. A day’s hire of all the kit, including board, usually costs around £25-£35.

Wild swimming





Daniel Start wild swimming in a River.



Daniel Start: ‘Keep your swimming going into autumn and beyond’. Photograph: Daniel Start

The human body is truly a capricious contraption to be wandering around in, no more so than in its reaction to cold water dips. Do it a few times and, instead of learning to avoid chilly lakes and rivers at all costs, you may start to find it enjoyable, even addictive. There are physical and mental benefits: I say this as a wild swimmer who has learned that getting out of a freezing cold pond lifts your mood and also justifies a generous tot of brandy afterwards. Daniel Start, author of several Wild Swimming guides, has some practical advice for winter. “First, decide whether you’re going to be a bare-skin plunger or a neoprene swimmer – both are cold, but the former means much quicker, sharper immersions, while the latter means you can stay in longer and therefore swim further.”

Sensibly, Start recommends choosing a simple, easy place where you are safe, taking a companion, being warm before getting in, not staying in too long and warming up afterwards with clothing and hot drinks. “Be prepared for a significant temperature drop about 10 minutes after leaving the water,” (it’s known as afterdrop). He also warns against starting up in January. “Keep your swimming going into autumn and beyond. Don’t take a big break in autumn.”

His winter favourites are on the Thames: the first at Port Meadow near the Trout Inn in Wolvercote on the edge of Oxford. “Two miles of river have beaches and grassy meadow on both banks. There’s a popular pool and rope swing under the bridge.” Warm up in the pub afterwards. Another spot is downstream from the Barley Mow pub at Clifton Hampden further south. “You need to watch out for boats, but there are some lovely sandy bays.”

Start likes mesh shoes. “You can get them for around £15 or go upmarket with Vivobarefoot Bloom (£75), partly made from algae. They are amazing.” Like the surfers and kayakers, he is also a fan of the dryrobe.

Fell running





Ruth Pickvance in winter fell running gear.



Ruth Pickvance: ‘Fell running in winter is exciting and unpredictable, with stunning light’. Photograph: Adam Fradgley

Running up hills in winter is a very different enterprise from doing it in summer, but Ruth Pickvance, former British fell champion and founder of Element Active, loves the cold season. “It’s exciting and unpredictable, with stunning light. Getting out in the winter makes me feel so alive.” She knows, however, that getting out of the door can be the hard part. “Sometimes even doing the ironing can suddenly look more urgent!” For that reason she doesn’t check weather reports for low-level routes. “It can just put me off.” She suggests running at the same time every day, and finding a friend to go with.

Pickvance’s favourite locations outside Wales, which is currently in lockdown, are Shropshire’s Long Mynd and the Lakeland’s southern fells.

One of the joys of running is that it requires little equipment, but Pickvance has some tips. “My number one item for the winter is waterproof socks with a merino lining.” To that she adds a thin merino hat, a buff neck warmer, mittens and a waterproof jacket. “If it’s wet, but not too cold, I use a lightweight one which has taped seams. If I want more protection I use a Paramo Women’s Mirada jacket (£250).” (Men’s equivalent is the Quito jacket, £217.)

If starting out from her car, she takes a flask of hot drink and a complete change of clothes. “I always change immediately on returning to the car as I know I’ll be damp and will cool off very quickly.”

Pickvance runs a beginners’ fell running course for women. Needless to say, she also likes dryrobes. I’m beginning to wonder how I ever managed life without one.

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Matthew McConaughey Explains How 20-Month Hiatus From Hollywood Led to “McConaissance”

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“Being gone, not seeing me shirtless on the beach, not seeing me in your living room, or in your theater in a rom-com, I became a new good idea,” the new memoir author said.

Much ink has been spilled on the topic of the “McConaissance,” or actor Matthew McConaughey’s transformation in the early- to mid-aughts from romantic-comedy lead of films like Fool’s Gold and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days to flawed antihero in dramatic awards contenders such as True Detective and Dallas Buyer’s Club.

Now, some of that ink is coming from McConaughey himself, who addresses his career turn in his new memoir, Greenlights, and discussed it while promoting the book on Real Time With Bill Maher on Friday. When Maher asked how McConaughey managed the one of the trickest of Hollywood business pivots — the shift in perception of an actor — on Friday’s show, McConaughey responded with some humor: “What happened was I was the rom-com guy, I was the shirtless guy on the beach. That was fine,” he said. “Yes, I said it then and I’ll say it now, those rom-coms I was in were paying for the house on the beach where I was shirtless. Guilty.”

He added, “I did notice that that’s all I was in the public eye and that’s all I was to studio financiers in Hollywood. Other roles I wanted to do, dramatic roles, they were not being offered. They were not an option for me.”

McConaughey says he took a 20-month sabbatical from Hollywood as a result, even turning down a $14.5 million offer for a romantic-comedy role (when Maher asked, McConaughey would not reveal the name of the project, although he did say it was never made). After that time and a period of “14 months” when he said no offers came in, he said, “Being gone, not seeing me shirtless on the beach, not seeing me in your living room, or in your theater in a rom-com, I became a new good idea. Where’s McConaughey been? We forgot about him. Well guess who’s now a good idea for Lincoln Lawyer, Paperboy, Killer Joe, Mud, True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club, Magic Mike?” (Maher suggested that one reason he was able to make the change was his “innate likeability.”)

Earlier during the interview, Maher compared McConaughey’s memoir to a former Dos Equis commercial series: “So many of the passages are like copy for the next ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ [commercial],” he joked.

The next stop in the McConaissance journey? McConaughey will be producing and lending his voice to a Hank the Cowdog podcast series with his Mud director, Jeff Nichols.

Watch his appearance on Real Time below.


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What is ‘cosycore’? | Vogue India

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As New York, London, Milan and Paris wrapped up in what can only be called a uniquely different September, we scanned the runways for clues on what’s to come. How will the world be dressing in the age of a pandemic? 

In the beginning, designers and editors spoke of an industry on the precipice of change—more considered collections, a slower pace, less rigidity. But as on-ground reporting kicked off from the far flung fashion cities, things seemed incredibly faster. 

Screen space, where audiences watched collections unveil, was a spot brands had to fight for. That mixed with physical presentations (albeit social distancing rules), seemed like the new reality. At Prada’s latest outing with Raf Simmons as co-creative director for the collection, cameras zoomed in and out, following models like paparazzi as they walked a circular catwalk. It felt like the behind the scenes footage of a fashion film. A director’s cut, if you like. Gucci went the same way for its Resort showcase, when Alessandro Michele turned the fashion show inside-out, to make those intimate, messy moments the main show. 

Intimacy was the overarching theme at the spring/summer 2021 shows. Whether it was in the minimised front rows or the sheer inserts added in the actual clothes, cosy, intimate, and meaningful will be the way of the world, going forward. In my interview with director at the The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology, Valerie Steele, in the September issue of Vogue India, she said, “A crisis does not cause fashions to change. But rather it amplifies that which was already brewing. The Christian Dior New Look was already being seen in films before the war broke out.” 

Taking this nugget of wisdom and applying it to our world right, you will find that while browsing culture may have reached maximum capacity (reminder to put your phone away today), we will hold onto that in which we find security (looking at you, blankets over dresses at Fendi). As things open up, and it’s finally time to step out in our pandemic reality, sweats may not be socially acceptable, but crafty cardigans with crochet that remind us of our grandmother’s knits, and cashmere dresses that are flattering for bodies that have been at rest, will surely take up wardrobe space. 

Cosycore, the hygge of clothes, will match the comfort we’ve created inside our homes. That welcoming candle scent in the corner, a fluffy overthrow on the couch, a blanket that keeps us warm and safe. Scroll through to see how our clothes will embody this feeling, even as temperatures soar summer high come June 2021:

The knit dress

Hello stretch cotton and cashmere that mixes loungewear with lush wear. 

The blanket

At Prada, models walked out clutching onto their coats as if running from danger, securing themselves in a blanket-meets-coat. Plus, following the mood, although not showing at the spring/summer 2021 runways, Bottega Veneta launched its pouch in fluffy blanket versions—one Cookie Monster inspired and the other more quilted and puffy. 

The sweater

Indoor AC temperature is officially considered sweater weather. Thank you very much.

The bralet

These midriff-baring items came in the wool and knit variety.

The cardigan

What Katie (Holmes) did with the cardigan will continue for generations to come. 

Crochet

These crafty pieces show that the human hand creates our greatest luxury, no matter our virtual reality. 

The tracksuit

The shape-shifting waistline of the sweatsuit has been the stay-home-stay-cool wardrobe of our times. And nothing can stop us from taking it into the summer.

Also read: 

How will we dress when the pandemic is over?

Indian designers on the challenges of keeping brands afloat amidst the coronavirus pandemic

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