Monday, December 26, 2011

Lanvin & Claridge's Christmas tree

I hope you've had a lovely Christmas Day. To continue the festive joy, I thought I'd share this video of one of the most fashionable Christmas trees this year: at Claridge's hotel in London, as decorated by Lanvin. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas, love Bargainista Fashionista!

And here it is… my magic tree has turned into a Christmas tree!

I hope this year's Advent-calendar countdown to Christmas has inspired you. And I hope my 'look good, spend less' philosophy has helped you dress stylishly on a shoestring.

Thank you so much for your support and, most of all, for reading my blog. Happy, happy Christmas x x x

Saturday, December 24, 2011

V&A's crafty Christmas


Remember the Christmas decorations I made (below) for the V&A's very own 12 days of Christmas? (Click here to read Monday's blog post on how to make them.) Well, here they are on a virtual Christmas tree on the V&A Shop's Facebook page, along with the fabulous creations from everyone else who took part in the 12 Days of Blogger Crafty Christmas.


I love how a small selection of Liberty Art Fabrics have resulted in such diverse results, from the pretty parcels by Coco's Tea Party and the exquisite patchwork 'fortune cookies' by Style Slicker to Kingdom of Style's magnificent wreath.

What's your favourite piece? And, more importantly, have they inspired you to get crafty? I hope so.

In the meantime, take a look at this magic tree (below) that was given to me by The Style Traveller.

It started life as a press day invitation from Whistles, but water it (with magic liquid) and see what happens! Come back tomorrow for the results…

Friday, December 23, 2011

Make your own Miu Miu glitter boots

If you've been inspired by Miu Miu's glitter boots this season, here's how to make your own and revive an old piece of footwear into the bargain.

All you need is:
A pair of ankle boots

Pick a pair of ankle boots with a good chunky heel you that you fancy updating. If haven't got any, these suede ones are a bargain £14.99 in New Look, reduced from £29.99.

Next, decide on the colour of glitter. Gold and silver look best. And, for texture, mix different sized glitters together. I used a fine silver glitter dust but added a handful of bigger glitter particles, too.

Carefully apply a thin layer of glue to the heel and sprinkle over a layer of glitter. Shake off the excess and leave to dry.

Now how simple is that? This simple DIY project means you'll have some party shoes ready for New Year's Eve in no time at all. And, if I do say so myself, they look awesome.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Create a Christmas tradition

Every year, my friend Em and I buy each other a Christmas tree decoration. It's a tradition we started a number of years ago and have continued to do as it's inexpensive but meaningful.

I love it when the Christmas tree is up and the decorations are out of the attic, because unpacking the baubles and festive ornaments I've collected and received over the years brings back happy memories.

So, why don't you create your own Christmas tradition this year? It could be something simple like swapping an item from your wardrobe with a friend instead of buying each other presents.

Or how about doing a post-Christmas secret Santa with a small group of friends where you're not allowed to spend any money? It's the perfect opportunity to re-gift any excess or unwanted Christmas presents to someone who might appreciate them more.

Take note, these aren't thrifty ideas to be a cheapskate. They're simply suggestions to inspire. Who knows, you could create a cool tradition that people look forward to each year. Let me know what you come up with.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Make your own fashion art

Ever wondered what to do with the pretty prints in your wardrobe that you no longer wear? How about framing them?

Above is the beach-scene print from the Primark dress below. A summer piece I'd worn to death (and which I'd definitely got my £9-worth out of), I still liked the pattern so I decided to recycle the fabric in a new form.

Simply cut the material to the size required, leaving a little excess all round. Then press with an iron. Wrap the fabric around a piece of thin card cut to the size of the frame. Slot into place and display. Finito.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Win Burt's Bees beauty products!

How about another Christmas giveaway? If you're after a little TLC, I've got just the thing as the fabulous people at Burt's Bees have donated some gorgeous goodies for me to give away, which includes some of the products pictured above.

My favourite is the Bee Pampered Spa Set, worth £19.99, which comprises a rather festive Cranberry & Pomegranate Sugar Scrub and Body Butter.

Check out the Burt's Bees website for the whole range – it's pretty extensive! I love this beauty brand because not only is it made with natural ingredients, it's affordable, too. And, in my ever-continuing quest to find the perfect tinted lip balm, Burt's Bees are the ones I'll be trying next. I'll keep you posted on my verdict.

Meanwhile, to enter the competition, become a fan of my Facebook page and leave a comment about this story on my wall, telling me what you like about my blog and what you'd like to see more of. I'll be sharing the Burt's Bees products around, so you've got more chances of scooping a prize, and the winners will be chosen on 15th January 2012. Click here to go to my Facebook page now. Good luck!

Oh, and don't forget to enter my other two competitions to win Eclectic Eccentricity jewellery and a Bare Minerals Get Started Kit, too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Make your own V&A Christmas decorations

When the V&A asked me to create a Christmas decoration for a special festive countdown, I was thrilled. After last year's Seasalt-inspired mussel wreath, I was well up for getting crafty. The only stipulation? To use limited-edition Liberty Art Fabrics.

The selection I received (below) was pretty but not particularly festive, so I took on the challenge to make them look Christmasy. Maybe a traditional Christmas decoration is the answer, I thought. A star perhaps? Or a fairy? I finally chose the humble paperchain and some simple hanging decorations as I wanted something others could easily make, too.

So, what's it all for? Well, as a crafty countdown to Christmas Day, the V&A invited a dozen bloggers to take part in its 12 Days of Blogger Crafty Christmas. Running from 12th to 23rd December, a decoration created by each blogger adorns the V&A's virtual Christmas tree every day in the run-up to Christmas. Click here and here to see everyone's creations on the V&A Shop's Facebook page (mine are day six).

So, here's Bargainista Fashionista's step-by-step guide to making your own V&A fabric paperchain (below):
1. Using the V&A's cotton quilting fabric (above), cut a strip about 4.5cm wide.
2. Fold it in half lengthways, with the printed side of the fabric facing inwards. Pin the edge and press with an iron.
3. Sew a seam using a sewing machine (or by hand using a running stitch). Then trim off the excess material.
4. Attach a safety pin to one end of the fabric strip and push it through the fabric tunnel to turn it inside out so that the printed side is now on the outside. Press again with an iron.
5. Cut a strip of thick paper to slip inside the fabric strip. This will help it to hold shape.
7. Cut the fabric strip into 12cm lengths using pinking shears (this will stop the ends from fraying).
8. Loop one of the 12cm lengths to create a ring and handstitch the ends together. Repeat to create your fabric paperchain.

As I had extra strips left over, I used them for the heart and onion-shaped decorations (top). Here's how to make those:
1. Follow steps 1 to 5 above.
2. Cut the following number of fabric strips using pinking shears: 2 x 12cm, 2 x 15cm, 2 x 18cm. The central strip is approx 8-10cm, but allow excess at the top to create a hanging loop.
3.Handstitch both ends of the 12cm, 15cm and 18cm strips together to create one half of the decoration. It should bow out in an arc. Repeat for the second half of the decoration.
4. Handstitch each half to the central strip, one on either side. Do this top and bottom. For the heart, curve the arc inwards at the top and sew into position.
5. Double over the top end of the central strip to make a hanging loop and thread through with twine to finish off your decorations.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Zara, lace and that Kate Middleton dress


When I first spotted this Zara lace pencil skirt on my friend Alice, I knew I had to have it. I like that it's navy instead of black. And the heavy and intricate weave looks so luxurious and expensive.

Then there's the similarity to the lacework in Prada's a/w 2008 collection. So much so, you wouldn't think it were a piece of high-street lace. And that's what I love about it most, because inferior lace looks cheap. And this most definitely doesn't, even at the very agreeable price of just £39.99.

My lace skirt got its first outing this week, where I dressed down its ladylike credentials with the following:
Uniqlo navy merino-wool jumper

The skirt comes in navy, brown and black. I love it so much I would actually like the black version, too. So, if anyone sees one, please let me know. I've looked everywhere and it's sold out online!

Meanwhile, for more workwear ideas, see's What ELLE Wears blog. Also check out What ELLE Wears Best of 2011. Both my New Look skirt and 2nd Day cape are featured!

And, for more lace inspiration, clock the nude lace pieces below. All from Zara, all with Prada influences.

The £69.99 lace tulip dress was worn by the Duchess of Cambridge earlier this month. After Kate was snapped wearing it to the Prince's Trust concert, the dress became a sell out (although there are a few left in stores on the mannequins).

However, the same fabric comes in a more versatile skirt and trousers, too, and they're a steal at £39.99 each. Which piece would you buy?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Make your own fashion notebook

For another thrifty fashion gift this Christmas, how making about these designer-inspired notebooks? They take minutes to make but look really impressive.

I used notebooks from Muji and covered them with pages from ELLE Collections, featuring photocopies of garments by Stella McCartney, Erdem and Miu Miu. But you don't have to use magazines, there's wrapping paper, too.

Simply cut the paper to size leaving a little excess at each end so that you can fold it around the notebook like a dust jacket. Then glue those edges to hold the paper in place inside the notebook.

For a more personal touch, get creative and do a little bit of colour photocopying yourself. A little while ago, I photocopied some vintage fabric that my friend Em had used as napkins at her wedding and made the notebooks (below) for her birthday. Who needs Smythson, eh?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fashion fairy tales

Coffee-table books take a twist this season with the trend for fashion fairy tales.

First up was Christian Lacroix's offering. He may have closed his couture house in 2009, but earlier this year we saw his collaboration with fashion writer Camilla Morton.

His creation? A book. But not any old book. In Christian Lacroix and the Tale of Sleeping Beauty, Morton weaves Lacroix's memoir into the story of the fairy-tale character (who ends up as his catwalk model).

But it's not just the designer's life that is committed to page. His illustrations are, too. 'As a child I dreamed of being able to make a living by drawing,' says Lacroix. 'Sketching is like therapy for me. So that book was a way of escaping.'

'I want this book to remind people of all the joy and magic that Lacroix brings to fashion,' says Morton, who has gone on to publish the second in her series of designer biographies-cum-fairy-tales, penned by her and illustrated by the designer. Manolo Blahnik and the Tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker is now out and a third title with Dian von Furstenberg is to follow.

Viktor & Rolf have also published their own tome, Fairy Tales. Like Lacroix and Blahnik, the Dutch designers have illustrated the book themselves, but the point of different is they've also invented a surreal collection of tales which feature a lonely disco hedgehog, a magical golden dress, and a little girl with bright red hair, among others.

These modern fairy-tale books are fashion escapism at its best. And far cheaper than the designers' catwalk creations! Get them now on Amazon and they're all easily under a tenner each. The perfect stocking filler, I say.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wish upon a star

I've been meaning to tell you about Orelia jewellery for ages now, so let these pieces inspire you.

I got the star necklace from ASOS earlier this year and, the very same week, I was given the heart chain by a friend. Both are admired every time I wear them – so much so, that friends and strangers alike end up discovering the label for themselves (which I love). So, now it's your turn.

Why is Orelia so special? Delicate pieces mixed with great craftsmanship result in beautiful costume jewellery that looks more expensive than it actually is. Refined and exquisite, would you be surprised if I said that it's stocked alongside Topshop's own-brand jewellery? Because it is – Topshop and ASOS are two of Orelia's key stockists.

Which means you'll be even more surprised by the prices. The star necklace was just £15. Visit Orelia's website and check out the bargains. On my Christmas wish list is the miniature horseshoe earrings and necklace. What's on yours?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

River Island industry insider: part 4

As River Island's industry insider this month, my fourth and final guest blog covers the dilemma of what to wear on Christmas Day. Want to know the solution? Click here to see the full story, along with my suggestions of Christmas Day dresses. Let me know what you'll be wearing on the big day itself.

Oh, and do let me know if you've enjoyed my industry insider columns. I've really enjoyed working with River Island and I'm especially pleased with the pictures the Stickman has taken. I think these are my favourites (although it was very cold!).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guess makes it a white Christmas

I've been wanting a Chanel white ceramic watch forever. I'm not sure Santa's received my letters (or even if his budget stretches that far), so I've found a more affordable alternative instead.

Enter the Guess Mini Spectrum watch. It shares similar traits to the coveted Chanel piece: its sporty, masculine design; its crisp, clean elegance, and the chunky enamelled plastic bracelet. But, at £129, it won't break the bank.

You're still getting a great brand for your money though. Guess started life as a denim label, but it's now one of the largest and most successful fashion brands in the world, incorporating the hugely popular Guess Watches range.

I like the fact that the Mini Spectrum is a refreshing antidote to the metal watch – perfect for days when you want to be more understated. Plus, it's more luxurious than a plastic Swatch or Casio while still being lightweight to wear.

High-street stalwart H Samuel is actually a great place to look for watches (it doesn't just do jewellery, you know). Stocking the full range by Guess, you can shop both in store and online. Click here to view the whole collection. As for the Mini Spectrum, it also comes in black, gold and pastel pink. Which colour are you going to ask Santa for?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Win Eclectic Eccentricity jewellery!

As it's Christmas, I've got a second giveaway up my sleeve: a whole collection of Eclectic Eccentricity jewellery up for grabs. (For the first giveaway, a Bare Minerals Get Started Kit worth £48, click here now.)

I discovered Eclectic Eccentricity last year and love it for its vintage-y pieces. My favourite is the For Your Eyes Only envelope locket necklace, £14 – a brass necklace with the cutest of love notes.

The prizes you could win, courtesy of the lovely people at Eclectic Eccentricity, are:
Follow the Leader necklace (above), £17.50
Only Ever You, Dear necklace (below), £14.50
Make a Song and Dance harmonica necklace, £16
Her Birds Fill the Skies cameo necklace, £16.50
Leave a Good Impression fern bracelet, £15, and haircomb, £10.75
Tweet on You bird and bead necklace, £15.50
Coming Up Rosey earrings, £13.50

To enter the competition, become a fan of my Facebook page and leave a comment about this story on my wall, telling me which pieces you love best. I'll split the prizes to share the love, with the winners being chosen on 15th January 2012. Click here to go to my Facebook page now. Good luck!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Make your own Giles hangers

This coat hanger is inspired by fashion designer Giles, who loves a pair of googly eyes, be it on his own studio hangers, on his catwalk designs or even on the nails of his runway models. (Click here to read my blog post about his googly-eyed T-shirt for Gap's Product RED collection.)

It's been a little while since I did a DIY feature, but this one couldn't be easier – or quicker. All you need is a coat hanger, a packet of googly eyes (available from most haberdashery departments and from eBay) and a tiny bit of glue (I used UHU).

Choose a set of luxe-looking hangers (I like black velvet ones; try John Lewis for similar) and glue a pair of eyes to the neck of the coat hanger. It makes for a thrifty yet fun Christmas present, don't you think? Make a pack of three and just tie them up with ribbon for a stylish gift.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Look's bird-print tea dress – at last!

When I said that New Look's bird-print tea dress was top of my autumn/winter wish list back in August, I didn't expect the frenzy it would cause.

Modelling a press sample in ELLE's September issue, this was the first piece of coverage the dress received. More followed from the likes of Grazia, The Mail on Sunday's You magazine and Channel 4's Gok's Fashion Fix.

Now, I know many of you have been anticipating this dress hitting stores as much as I have. You've told me in your comments, on Twitter, by email and even by letter. So, when the supposed launch in late October came and went without said dress appearing, I felt your disappointment.

Having spoken to New Look, it said delivery dates had, unfortunately, been delayed. But, to placate customers (and to cater for demand), its buyers placed an order for an additional 3,000 dresses. These hit flagship stores at the end of November, with a further 182 shops receiving them at the beginning of December. Plus, the dress is now available online at £24.99.

However, the tea dress that has gone into production isn't quite the same as the sample I wore. The fabric is more satin-shiny and the miniature sequin embellishment is absent. Short capped sleeves replace the longer original, while the ruched front looks less elegant without the tiny bow details. The demure below-the-knee length has risen a few inches, too.

That said, the dress's strongest detail, the cut-out back that reveals a sexy triangle of flesh, remains. As does the front keyhole slit. And it's still a stand-out high-street piece that captures the mood of Miu Miu's designer collection this season.

So, while this isn't the exact dress I'd set my heart on, the silver lining is that with party season on our doorsteps, it's very, very now. Wear it for work drinks or cocktails with friends or more family-orientated gatherings. Just go from sheer to thick tights, faux-fur capes to cable-knit cardies and heels to smart ankle boots to match the occasion.

Another bonus is, with less sparkle and glitz than the usual party dresses at this time of year, you're sure to get further wear out of it in 2012. So, was the dress worth the wait for you? Have I convinced you of its merits? Let me know.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Zara's sell-out tote bag

This Zara leather tote bag is my Christmas present from the Stickman. (I was allowed to shoot it for the blog, but now it's gone away until Christmas Day!) I know it spoils the surprise somewhat, but after a whole page was dedicated to this very bag in Grazia a few weeks back, I instructed the Stickman to snap it up immediately for fear of it selling out. It has online already.

I first spotted this bucket bag with it's plaited handles and stiff, pristine leather back in the summer. Torn between cherry red and tan, I never made a decision, so I was pleased Zara continued to stock this tote into autumn/winter. Sadly, cherry red was no more, but teal blue replaced it, while classic tan and black continued, joined by a mock-croc version.

Obviously, I shouldn't know the price of my gift, but I have to share it with you as it's bargainous for a bag of this calibre: a very reasonable £79.99, and £89.99 for mock-croc.

So, Zara tote, how much do I love thee? Let me count the ways… 1. You're roomy enough for everything I care to carry around with me. 2. You look good doing it, being so minimal and chic. 3. I appreciate your detachable zipped cotton inner bag – it'll deter those pickpockets. 4. And thanks, too, for the shoulder strap – it gives me a hands-free option. 5. The gorgeous Olivia Palermo is one of your many fans. 6. You're proof that you don't have to pay a fortune for a classic bag. 7. I know you're going to serve me well over the years, ageing to a beautiful patina. 8. Oh, and you're mine, all mine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

River Island industry insider: part 3

As River Island's industry insider this month, my third guest blog focuses on what to wear for party season. In particular, how to get more looks for your money. To find out how, click here to see the full story.

I hope this flapper skirt and gold leather wrist bag, £27, inspire you to think differently about your Christmas party outfit (in my book, a dress is not de rigueur), especially as this skirt currently has £20 off online, making it a mere twenty quid. Bargain.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Design your own trainers with NIKEiD

Fancy designing your own trainers? Well, with NIKEiD you can. You can customise all manner of footwear from football boots to running shoes, as well as sports kit, too. And the good thing is, it doesn't actually cost that much more than an off-the-shelf pair of Nike trainers; customised shoe options start from £70.

Earlier this year, I decided to custom-build a pair of Nike running trainers (in the hope I might exercise more). You can mix and match colours to your heart's content, determining every component from midsole to base, overlay to lining, laces and, of course, the all-important swoosh.

Then, there's the tongue iD, where you can personalise your shoes with up to five characters. I thought of a few options such as fat/thin, fast/slow, fish/chips and gin/tonic. You can have the same word on both shoes, too, but I decided to go for full-on personalisation with my name.

I have to admit, the myriad choices for every detail was a little overwhelming, so much so I can't really take much credit for designing my own shoe. But that's the beauty of visiting a NIKEiD Studio, you have the expertise of Nike's design consultants at your disposal – as well as exclusive styles, materials and colours not available online.

I'd recommend trying NIKEiD online first however. (Call it prep for your studio visit.) It's easy to get started and you can even order your finished design without setting foot instore if you wish. Check out the Nike Dunks – I think that's what I'd design next. There may not be Liberty-print fabrics on offer, but I love the choices of denim twill and corduroy.

Know anyone else who would love to design their own shoes? Well, I think a NIKEiD session would make a jolly good Christmas present, don't you?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chanel shade parade

Every woman needs a bit of Chanel in her life. So, even if you can't afford the wardrobe, you can buy the nail colour. At £17.50 a pot, it's that little indulgence that makes life brighter and better.

These are my favourite shades (above, from left): Rouge Noir, Peridot and Particulière. The first and last have become cult classics that I can't bear to be without, while Péridot is my latest foray into metallic nails.

One of Chanel's limited-edition a/w 2011 shades, Péridot is a gold polish that shimmers with green undertones. It's more than just bling though, it's innovative and futuristic and so very, very cool.

For more molten metal shades, try Chanel's Quartz and Graphite polishes, too. And, for more colour inspiration, watch this video, Chanel Shade Parade. A nail cabaret starring Le Vernis de Chanel, it's genius! Oh, and let me know what Chanel colours you'd recommend.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The cult Michael Kors watch

Compiling your Christmas wish list? Add an oversized men's watch to it (if you haven't got one already).

'A great watch can update any outfit and be sporty, luxurious and utilitarian all at the same time,' say Michael Kors, the American designer who does a timepiece very well. Take my word for it. His rose-gold ladies chronograph watch is the best and most constant accessory I wear each day. It just completes every – and any – outfit effortlessly.

Ella Gregory of Coco's Tea Party, who has the same watch in gold, agrees. 'It goes with everything and pulls the most simple/boring outfits together. It's always the first thing people compliment me on,' she says. 'It doesn't even bother me that it's become such a trend piece. Because it's not overly bling-y it feels like it will last a long time.'

That's the appeal of the oversized men's watch: it's become a classic. And, what makes Michael Kors the go-to brand is the fact his watches are well made and affordable, yet look luxurious and expensive.

It's partly down to the metals. I spent ages in Time² watches trying on designs in gold, rose-gold and silver (the shop assistants were ever so helpful – and patient!). In the end, I think my decision was secretly influenced by David Beckham, who bought wife Victoria a rose-gold Daytona Rolex for her 36th birthday last year (which, in turn, inspired the gorgeous Brian Atwood rose-gold platform pumps she used in her s/s 2011 collection).

So there you have it, my Michael Kors watch is the bargainista version of Posh's Rolex! Sure, £199 may not sound cheap, but this isn't a piece of throwaway fashion we're talking about here. On style and quality alone, it's great value for money – even more so given it looks far more expensive than it is. And, as it's something I'll wear for years to come, the cost per wear argument is easily won.

Which Michael Kors watch would you choose? Gold, rose-gold or silver? Let me know.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Win a Bare Minerals Get Started Kit!

Last year I blogged about my new beauty discovery, Bare Minerals cosmetics (see here). A mineral make-up range – which now includes skincare – its easy to apply and gives you flawless-looking skin. I love it.

Want to try it for yourself? Well, as it's Christmas, I've got a great giveaway, courtesy of the lovely people at Bare Minerals.

Win a Get Started Kit, worth £48, and you'll find out just how good Bare Minerals is. The kit comprises two foundation shades, concealer, warmth (like a bronzer), mineral veil (like a setting powder), three brushes and an instructional DVD. So, everything you need to get started.

To enter the competition, become a fan of my Facebook page and leave a comment about this story on my wall. The winner will be chosen on 15th January 2012. Click here to go to my Facebook page now. Good luck!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Alex Monroe's sample sales

As you may know, Alex Monroe is one of my favourite jewellery designers. So you can picture the excitement when I unwrapped this posy heart necklace, a gift from the Stickman for our wedding anniversary earlier this year.

There's plenty of inspiration for Christmas on Alex Monroe's website, from his latest chrysanthemum designs (of which an exclusive black chrysanthemum collection launches at Liberty on Friday 9th December) to his 12 Days of Christmas extravaganza.

For the second year running, Alex has created limited-edition pieces based on the 12 Days of Christmas song, making one available on the first day, two on the second, and so forth. As well as the highly covetable jewellery, you'll love the Advent calendar-style winter woodland scene (below).

Meanwhile, for Alex Monroe at bargain prices, head to Pullens Yards open studio this weekend where Alex will be selling seconds of his jewellery. From 11am to 6pm this Saturday and Sunday, at Iliffe Street and Crampton Street, London SE17 3LH, designers open up their studios, selling jewellery, ceramics, art, photography, fashion and more. It's a great event.

And, if you can't make it to south-east London, Alex is selling seconds at Primrose Hill designer sale on Saturday 10th December at St Mary-the-Virgin Church, Elsworthy Road, London NW3 3DJ, from 10am to 6pm. Two opportunities to snap up some beautiful jewellery for a steal, I say.


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