Archive: May 2015

Blush-ing beauty Louise is the new Face of Blush

01 May 2015

Premium bridal boutique, Blush, situated on the trendy Lisburn Road in Belfast, has unveiled the winner in the search to find the face for its latest advertising campaign. Lucky bride-to-be Louise McIvor, from Kilrea, fought off fierce competition from across Ireland to be crowned this year’s Face of Blush 2015 winner.


Stunning Brand Manager Louise captivated the judges at a finalists’ day earlier this month and is a young woman who truly represents the essence of the Blush brand according to boutique owner Aileen Wilson. The bubbly brunette now walks away with an incredible prize to enjoy on the run-up to her big day, including the choice of her dream wedding dress and accessories.


Boutique owner Aileen said: “As the new Face of Blush, Louise will be featured on Blush’s advertising campaign for the next twelve months following a one-on-one photo shoot with renowned fashion photographer Khara Pringle. On the day of her own wedding, when she will tie the knot withher fiancé James Donaghy, Louise will be pampered like a princess by the Face of Blush partners, with hair professionally styled by Lynette Murray from Blue Hairdressing and make-up applied by award-winning make-up artist Caoimhe Curran, adding to the experience of Louise’s fairy-tale wedding in Galgorm Resort.”


Speaking about her win she said: “I am in complete shock but totally on cloud nine. I did not think in a million years I would ever win, especially after meeting all of the gorgeous finalists. It is a dream come true and a real honour to represent Blush Boutique. The 'Blush' girls have been amazing at advising and helping me choose my dream wedding dress for the most important day of my life. Winning Face of Blush is just the icing on the cake for me and will no doubt make the day even more special for us and I can't thank the judges enough for picking me as their winner.”



The judging panel faced with the difficult task of choosing from the 20 finalists at The Merchant Hotel, included Belfast FASHIONWEEK Director Cathy Martin, make- up artist Caoimhe Curran and celebrated photographer Khara Pringle. However, when they heard Louise’s heartfelt poem, it made the decision of their overall winner that little bit easier.


Director of Blush, Aileen Wilson said of the winner: “We are absolutely thrilled that Louise will be the face of our advertising campaign for the next 12 months. Not only is Louise a tall, beautiful girl, she has all the characteristics of a true Blush bride and I am so excited about working closely with her this year.

A Blush bride can be a woman of any age, height or size, so as always we love to see entries from all brides-to-be.  However, Louise just blew everyone away with her bubbly personality, her energetic approach and her elegant poise. We believe that Khara will capture this spirit in her forthcoming shoot.”


In the beautiful setting of the Roof Top Garden at the Merchant Hotel, Judge Cathy Martin added: “We were really astounded with the standard of finalists this year and the judges were really pushed when deliberating to crown their overall winner.


“I cried listening to many of the girls’ stories, but meeting Louise and listening to her presentation really blew me away with the thought she put into her poem and how joyful she was on the day to everyone around her.”


The application process kicked off last summer and saw hundreds of hopeful fiancées from all over Northern Ireland vie for the prestigious title for this sought-after store which sees women travel hundreds of miles to view their exclusive collections.

TEDxWOMEN: Momentum. Moving Forward. Gaining Speed. Building Traction

29 May 2015
CMPR's Cathy Martin took to the presitigious TED stage today to talk on Momentum, Moving Forward, Gaining Speed and Building Traction. In this address, she gives some very personal insights into how she has moved forward in her own personal and business life.

Six years ago today I got married. And, six months ago, almost to the day, I walked out on that marriage with my (then) two year old daughter, leaving our home and setting up elsewhere to move forward with our lives.


It was my own kind of ‘momentum and moving forward’ moment and, as anyone who’s been separated will no doubt agree, it’s not an overnight decision, nor one to be taken lightly.


And yet so many people stay in marriages which make them unhappy and unfulfilled. In maintaining their marriage vows, they break potential promises to themselves to live a love-filled life and enjoy a life full of living. We women are more often guilty of that than men. But although this is a TED Women event, I’m not here to give you ten minutes of men bashing. On the contrary, I believe in loving and fulfilling  relationships and I love men(!). I grew up with five boisterous, protective brothers and a dad who shared loving cuddles even as I became a grown up, and much later as he became a dying man. At home I was taught to run just as fast as my brothers, to study hard and achieve like my brothers and to speak up like my brothers - but not everyone has the luxury of such a good launch pad. Aside from my family, I have been lucky in my life to have had many respectful, supportive, inspirational and hard working men around me. Likewise, the women in my family and those I choose to have in my life are the same.


There are many contradictions and juxtapositions that speaking at a TED Women event can bring. I mean, I want to talk about things that happen to women, stuff that affects women and things that women are great at, but I also want to avoid seeing women as a special interest group. As Gayle Tzemach Lemmon said in her TED talk in 2011 – ‘Women can no longer be half the population AND a special interest group’.


The only real special interest that we have, is the fact that we are physiologically built and genetically programmed to be able to foster unborn life and give birth - something that, so far, a man cannot do. We've made strides (in the Western world anyway) to be able to show that we can achieve pretty much anything that men can achieve. And, despite what we might sometimes feel, we ARE equal.


And yet there are constant expectations and obligations placed on women - as mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and bosses or employees. Women constantly struggle and hustle to get through a life that many men breeze through. It's all relative, but even for an outwardly successful businesswoman, there is a daily juggle with childcare, employee care and partner care.  And this juggle isn't just physical it's emotional.


Women often want to be simultaneously strong yet sympathetic, relatable but real, feminine and feminist. We are a whole bundle of contradictions.  I for one constantly suffer from Imposter Syndrome, where we don’t feel we’re good enough, or worthy enough of our place, wherever that might be.


Reconciling the contradictions of being a woman is easier when you understand that you're human & not just a woman. I’ve seen strong characters - who just happen to be female - who are frustrated by not being so easily understood. They go so far as to call themselves crazy (we’re very good at negative self-labelling) but they need reminded that people in general are crazy and women just happen to be people too.


And with so many contradictions, it is easy to retract into ourselves, to self-criticise and to harbour low self-esteem and self-worth.


From the moment we are born - we begin to die. You could see this as a negative and melancholy journey, (and I’d argue that some people seem to retire almost at birth), or you could grasp life and live it to the full. Safety seekers create havens where no harm can come. But you come to realise that the place where no harm can come is a place where nothing can come. And that’s a very lonely place.


Sometimes we are forced in life to stop and take stock. Personal illness or that of a loved one can stop you in your tracks. A death of someone close to you or, in my case, a baby that was part of me, stopped me in my tracks on Easter Sunday in 2011.


Still birth - it's still birth you know – happens to thousands of women in the UK and Ireland each year. And yet for me, despite the grief and the insurmountable pain at the time, it ended up giving me a great gift of life. Another ‘momentum and moving forward moment’ for me; this horrible tragedy taught me more than anything to love life - and indeed to live life with gusto. What if death – like many other events - were perceived as one of life's great changers? The ultimate spur to embrace a life better lived? Isn’t it time we stopped and appreciated death for its power to put the focus back on the living?




After Rosie’s birth and death I had a heightened sense of mortality and couldn’t wait to get out there and grab life again. But I joined a rat race and I was existing in a bit of a high speed fast lane, without enjoying the ride. My rolling stone life was gathering no moss and I quickly became aware that there was more to life. Or rather, that there was more to living. 


We live in a time of instant gratification.  So many things are just a click away now. No waiting, no anticipation. And very little time for savouring anything. We rattle towards the future and towards short and medium term goals, ticking boxes on to-do lists as we build traction and speed, moving on to the next item on life’s agenda. 


But beauty, happiness and contentment come from the finer details which we must slow down – or stop - in order to see and feel; in family, in work and even in our personal relationships. I mean, there’s nothing nicer than embracing someone (a partner, a parent, a friend or a child) and feeling their touch, hearing their breathing and sensing their heart beat or a faint scent.


As Ekhart Tolle said in his book ‘The Power of Now’: “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is not found in finishing the activity, but in doing it”.


Our souls know our destination; they act as our inner GPS, but in order to hear the instruction, we must still our minds. Stop, even.  Making your train stop at the station is an amazingly simple trick for reflecting on life, and making sure you're right – or content - before pushing onwards or changing direction. It allows you to enjoy life’s journey and be ‘IN’ the moment with those you’re spending it with. It will allow a stronger build up of traction than hurtling along at rocket speeds.


There’s a great Latin expression that I love which is ‘Festina lente’ – an oxymoron which was a motto of Augustus. It means ‘hurry slowly’ and encourages proceeding quickly, but with calm and caution. It’s similar to the modern day 'More haste, less speed', or, as my mum always said, ‘Less haste, more speed’. (I think my mum’s version is best.)  There’s also a fantastic, but similar, Swahili expression Pole Pole, which is often used by Kenyan guides taking Westerners up Mount Kilimanjaro, so that they get used to the thinner air little by little.

So I’m not all for “Momentum, Moving Forward. Building Traction and Gaining Speed” at all. In fact I’m all for stopping, slowing down and reflecting on life. These days, I’m so much more Pole Pole. And I think I’m better for it too.


Anyone who’s lucky enough to have eaten at a Michelin star restaurant will know that it is not an experience to be rushed. Every mouthful should be savoured with Pole Pole in mind; and each ingredient or flavour combination explored and enjoyed.Wine of course, is optional.


And while we’re on the subject of savouring food, let’s talk about our tummies. Or more specifically our guts.


Gut instinct, gut feeling, sick to the stomach, fire in your belly – all these expressions are centered around our tummies and our solar plexus, where we carry most of our stress. Gut instinct is one of the single most important factors in decision-making according to most business owners and senior executives that I know. So when you’re pulling your train into the station, check your ego at the door and use your gut instinct as your guidance system.



Gut instinct is a great marker for knowing if we’re making a mistake or if we’re doing the right thing; or just knowing if we’re in the right place in life. But gut instinct can also guide you through life’s mistakes and allow you to place them under your feet and use them as stepping stones towards progress.

In business, some of the most successful women are those who succeed in harnessing their power to their passion and their expertise to their emotions.  They harness the left hand side of their brain with the right – the logic with the creative. To assess any situation you need both the heart and the smart. Follow your feelings, trust your heart and you'll move forward and evolve.


Failures can teach you great lessons. Struggles and mistakes give you strength & carve you into a new person. So should we navigate and avoid challenge, conflict and adversity? No! We should deal with it. Let it change us, adapt us and shape us into the people we are.


That negative, draining friend or abusive partner or jealous boss who chips away at you? Let that chipping carve your character, make you stronger and give you the strength to retain your self-respect and walk away from other people’s issues.


Adversity can make us bitter or better. It can break us or make us – and we can become the victim or victor. It’s our choice. Only you can decide what to make of your own adversity.


There is a story in German mythology about three stone cutters in the Middle Ages in which a future employer asks each of the three what they are doing. One of the stonecutters says, "I'm breaking rocks."  The second one says, "I am earning my living." and the third one says, "I'm building a cathedral." The third one gets my vote. The lesson here is that confidence is perceived. Sometimes you just have to act like you know what you're doing and just fake it till you make it.



But even those who make it are not always sure. Looking at Momentum as a law of physics, it comes from mass and speed. So why is it so rare that we, as women, help and support each other? At both micro and macro levels. We’re getting better, but we need to speak more often with a collective and collaborative voice. Promote our peers. Share stories to support; and connect to consolidate.


Connections & real social interaction bring us away from the brink of a lonely world. I mean I’m not denying that many people have gained so much interaction from the internet, but I’d argue that almost a whole generation of our young people have lost connectivity with the cost being a loss of hugely important family and friendship interaction. Our kids text more than they talk. Some days I text and email more than I talk.

I’m not against innovation though. In fact I’m excited for what technology will bring to my daughter in her lifetime – and what I might see while I’m still around.  For women, technology has opened up many doors in businesses around the world. From working mums selling all sorts via laptops on their kitchen tables, to flexible working hours for female CEOs breaking glass ceilings around the world.


I’m inspired by lots of women in my industry, but I particularly like Victoria Beckham’s story. She struggled to be respected as a popstar, and, let’s face it, she didn’t do much to prove us wrong there, but I’m mostly inspired by her struggle to be recognised as a serious fashion designer when she launched her own label in 2008 to much scepticism – and some would say scorn - to becoming the head of one of the world’s most respected fashion houses of today.


In the first quarter of 2012, her business was worth in excess of £60 million. Today, her handbags sell for as much as £18,000.00 & she has retail outlets and a massive customer base all over the world.


You could say she wasn’t an underdog starting out – as she had the wealth and the celebrity to help kick start any career – but the great story here is that Victoria Beckham has successfully made the transition from laughing stock, to a sometimes tolerated novelty designer to a globally respected designer, and her recent guest editorship of French Vogue is a real coup for the British businesswoman. The brand's sales are down to the appeal of the designs themselves, not the celebrity association. She did all this with grace and, despite the criticsm, scorn and discrimination, she ploughed on, worked hard and proved them wrong. Succedding in the end.  So the girl who couldn't dance, couldn't sing and never smiled did good, eh?

Like Victoria, I work in the world of fashion and fashion events. Not at her level of course, but all the same, it's a fast-changing world where new is good, and where fashion and fads come and go. The concept of 'so last season' is constantly evolving. I mean, look at all the freaks and geeks and the beards and weirds of the 1980s and 1990s in movies like Clueless and Mean Girls. They were the nerds then, but these guys are the cool guys today. Hipsters are at the forefront of modern culture and a massive part of their collective ethos is about being ‘in’ the moment. They have a bit of Pole Pole in them too.

But for all their desire for newness, the global leaders in fashion are often seen to look back at history and heritage, embracing the past to move forward with their own design futures. There is little to no copyright law in fashion design per se, so quite often the top design houses will create a look which will filter down to the masses in a top-down manner.  Fast Fashion giants like H&M, Zara and Topshop do well from this, but more and more, leading designers are visiting vintage stores and rebooting street style with a modern twist. They’re engaging in some Festina Lente of their own. Making their futures and moving forward with momentum that recognises and accumulates experiences from the past.  Many other industries are doing the same. And my lesson today is that we all need to do this too.


So my takeaway today is that when you do what you're meant to do – in business or in your personal life - it feels right. Your gut will tell you so. Keep looking and don't settle until you find it, but as with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you have got it.  But be sure to SLOW DOWN or STOP every now and again to check in with yourself. There’s no reason not to follow your heart - the cost of not following your heart, is spending your life wishing you had. So do what you love and you'll do great things – you’ll never work a day in your life… Every day will be a bonus, regardless of your salary. Share things. Your happiness, your passions, your success, your feelings, your love. And in giving, feel the moment and live in the now.



PANI breakfast with Danske Bank's Chief Economist Angela McGowan

15 May 2015

In the third of a series of business breakfasts this year, the Publicity Association of Northern Ireland (PANI) is set to welcome Danske Bank UK’s Chief Economist Angela McGowan to present on the advertising and publicity industry’s economic prospects for the year 2015 and beyond.


The event, which takes place on 23 June in Belfast, is open to everyone working in the wider media and publicity industries, and will see Angela outline the top performing sectors of industry here as well as those predicted to excel in the next five year period.


PANI Chair Nuala Meenehan said “Last year’s seminar from Angela proved to be most useful to our members and the feedback was great. It’s important for us as an industry to see how well certain sectors of the economy are performing – and to educate ourselves on key areas to focus future business on. We are delighted Angela agreed to come back and work with us again.”

Angela McGowan, Chief Economist said "Danske Bank is honoured to be invited back again to speak at one of PANI’s hugely popular business breakfasts.  This is one of the most dynamic sectors in Northern Ireland with firms continually demonstrating high levels of creativity and innovation.  I am delighted to be providing an update on the wider economic environment, especially at a time when the economy is really improving and opportunities for NI Plc are mounting".

For further information, or to book a place on the seminar, please log on to

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