Fashion and Music
In a time when everything becomes undone the wisest investment strategy is to diversify. Whether it is in relation to the economy, the political landscape, the future of retail, see now/buy now or even investing in your wardrobe, the conventional wisdom is to spread the risk (and reap the benefits) across as many options as you can. I once again marvel at what an incredible though scary (for some) time we are in for fashion. The more I read, the more I see that those who seem to be garnering the most success are diversifying. There is the development of transitory but interesting real time brick and mortar experiences, there is e-commerce, social media (you can even make purchases from Pinterest now) and content is being consumed and acted upon more eagerly when it is developed thoughtfully by influencers rather than slick advertisers and marketers. As an example, rather than ask me to run a banner, Vestaire Collective gave me a budget to pull together some items from their giant closet to create a look that I could make uniquely mine and tell my own story about.
I currently find myself running into the thick of it and working with other women (and men) on some of the most exciting events and projects. They span collaborating on capsule collections, thinking about book proposals, creating videos and editorials and participating in live performance like events. Yesterday I sat at a jeweler's bench and hammered a piece that will become a mold to make part of a an exclusive piece of jewelry. These projects pull on every creative bone in my body and animate the sense of aliveness you see in my photo.
I have been diversifying my wardrobe for Fall, adding color (blue), texture (velvet) and mixing new items (my Frye boots) with old (a recycled Givenchy blouse). I am mixing high end (YSL belt) with a bit of high street (leather jacket) and wearing more sculptural and precious jewelry. I have made a few vintage purchases that are romantic and baroque and have been given brand new, beautifully crafted pieces from some of the emerging designers I have been working and having relationships with. Thinking about what I am wearing this Fall has become a full-time adventure!
How can you make what you wear this Fall a full time adventure and what pet project could make you feel alive?
In the fashion bibliography this weekend I included a link to Nick Knight's Show Studio feature on the designer Faustine Steinmetz. One could conceivably spend hours with the feature as it included films of her sitting at her loom making denim, a shorter film where she is discussing her process and photos of the finished creation. It is a meditation on the intersection of fashion and art and her story of how she developed as a designer. She is notable for how in her designs she has elevated such an everyday fabric as denim. Her inspiration for this piece is the iconic denim jacket, invented by Levi Strauss and is a quintessential American symbol of change, spirit, ruggedness and rebellion. Since the 1950's women rebels have rocked denim and I continue that long tradition with my very distressed Levi's pictured above.
Inspired by art that transforms simple objects into something new, Steinmetz weaves copper and silk threads into the denim jacket she is making so that it is able to be sculpted on a particular woman's body in a way that allows her to make the piece uniquely and solely her own. This is the designer's approach to how one thinks about clothes: collectible pieces that can be worn again and again. Pieces that can elevate the more mundane everyday garments we wear for living and working. The designer talks about an epiphany she had when she was a young woman buying fast fashion and throwing it out; that it was far better to save your money, buy something unique and wear it forever even if you had to mend it one or two times. She is not talking about simulated marks of distress now all the rage in fashion, but rather real marks of age and wear. Her work shows that simple, humble and authentic can be elevated with some thoughtful creativity applied to the process.
So when I want the feeling of comfort as I did this past weekend, these soft raggedy jeans and low heeled Frye boots get that job done. A recycled Givenchy shirt, a beautifully crafted belt and some sculptural earrings and ring elevates the look just enough to show that distress that is not simulated but comes from authentic age and a life lived is actually rather beautiful. Perhaps that is why everyone today wants to wear clothes that are made to look old.
What do you wear when you want to elevate an everyday garment?
There is a story behind how I got to wear this jacket and it has to do with being behind the technology curve. For the entire period I have been involved with using Instagram, I never took the time to sit down and really explore how all of the features actually worked. Perhaps to not be so hard on myself, I did not have the time to sit down and really engage with the app aside from posting my pictures and mastering the finer art of tagging and hash tags. Now there is a new feature called Stories and I am going to use the structure of this blog post to find out more about it.
First back to the jacket story. The talented designer of the garment I am wearing, YaJun Lin, is a recent grad at Parson s and through the direct message function of Instagram had invited me to be the model for her thesis collection. She did not like it when her professor asked what age group her collection was targeted for and so wanted to enlist me in helping to show that good design and style is ageless. Because I did not figure out how to accept direct messages, I missed the opportunity and when I did figure it out and saw her garments I wanted to cry. They are unique, inspired and constructed cleverly and with intelligence. Her clothes have such range they can be worn by someone like Bad Girl RiRi (and they have) and well… like me. The photographer she had chosen was brilliant, edgy and would clearly push me to do something new. So when I figured out direct messaging, I reached out to her as I was distressed and so disappointed that I had missed an opportunity that would surely push my creative limits. The good news is we did get to collaborate (hopefully coming soon) and in the meantime Calvin got to take some photos of this gorgeous jacket.
Stories for Instagram is a new feature that is really much like Snapchat which I attempted to use and gave up on as I felt it was overly complicated and the thought of building new followers on yet another platform was daunting. Since brands and folks such as myself like to curate their Instagram photos, Stories allows you to post less composed content like a picture of a bag you saw that took your breath away, a perfect cinnamon bun you were served for breakfast, or a quick video explaining why you choose the shade of lipstick you did. The benefit of Stories in relation to what we have been talking about this week is that whatever you post through the Stories function disappears after 24 hours and does not clutter up your main Instagram page.
Stories from people you follow will appear at the top of your Instagram feed and you can choose to view them or not. The feature allows for photos and videos, the use of filters and the inclusion of text or drawings. There are no likes or public comments but you can send a direct message if you wish. The best part is that unlike Snapchat you do not have to develop a whole new set of followers. It also allows your followers to have the choice about how much content they want to view or not. Based on Monday’s comments, having this kind of choice and control is important to folks who have discriminating content palates. There is some potential here to think creatively about how to use this feature in a way that might enhance not detract from my curated feed.
Sheer shirt: Ann Demeulemeester, Black denim jeans: Paige, Earrings: Monies
As I quickly skimmed through the now extensive collection of photographs I have amassed to find one for my blog post today I began to wonder why Calvin and I were taking so many pictures. Out of the hundreds of images taken of me at this point in time there are probably a handful that are well...iconic. Only a very small number are memorable, ones I return to, that are signifiers, that represent. As a massive consumer of text since a very young age, I am now becoming a massive consumer of visuals. At what point does something become too much and actually blur into nothingness? And is there ever something that remains like a ghost? As a purveyor of visual images how can I produce something that lingers in someone’s memory long after the photo disappears from the now almost infinite number of feeds?
This week in my fashion bibliography I shared a link to a story about a recent performance piece, Sur-exposition, the product of the on-going collaboration between the director Olivier Saillard and the actress Tilda Swinton. This time joined by Charlotte Rampling, the show is part of the Festival d’Automne à Paris, an annual event around the time of Fashion Week, that Saillard and Swinton have supported for years with such pieces as Cloakroom – Vestiaire Obligatoire and Eternity Dress. Sur-exposition translates to “overexposure,” and takes on the questions I am posing.
As I make decisions about where I want to take my project, I have been told frequently by “experts” in marketing, the world of digital business and social media that I need to post much more frequently than I do. They advocate a blog post everyday and new photos going out on Instagram and Facebook at least 4-5 times a day. The actresses and Saillard remind us in this piece that good curation is never about quantity. I post every three days and that seems to work for me. I don't just mean pragmatically, I mean artistically as well. I like to see how long a photo can sit on Instagram and still be visited and get a comment or a like. If someone misses a day or two they can come to my feed and not have ten subsequent meaningless posts and miss the one I really want them to see.
As I think through questions like re-designing my blog visually, how often to post on all my platforms and how to work with brands, I am once again inspired by my favorite style icon Tilda Swinton, performance art and emerging fashion designers. The jacket I am wearing offers for me a compelling visual of what it means for a design to contain the opposition of overexposure and underexposure.
What makes a blog post and/or a photograph something that stays with you?
In the photo above (does this not look like a paparazzi shot?) I have on a mashup of vintage, old, new, consignment and a range of price points. My jeans, although they look old are new Levi 501 distressed boyfriend jeans (my favorite cut). The shirt also new is from Uniqlo, costs $30.00, drapes gorgeously, is soft, super light, comfortable and I own four of them: two white, 1 black and 1 in burgundy. The robe is from a quirky little boutique in Williamsburg, Think Closet NYC, that has one of a kind pieces. The earrings are vintage tortoise shell, one of my scores from the fabulous Dawn's Vintage Jewelry. The bag is my very own vintage Coach bucket from the early 80's. The brown belt is a Johnny Farrah gotten for a steal at the IF Basement Sale and the brown mules are Dior, found deep in the pages of the RealReal on-line consignment. The finishing touch are my Illesteva tortoise frame sunnies. Oh and the man on my arm is a vintage hipster wearing a Paul Smith T-shirt and some jeans from Japan.
I thought it also might be fun to share some resources for your mashup pleasure.
Do you have any resources for mashingup that you might want to share?
Much of the coverage on Paris Fashion Week, including some of the articles I shared with you last weekend, suggest themes of protest, rebellion and new definitions of womanhood. In review, there are those that make literal interpretations, like rejoicing about a $700 T-shirt that states, “We should all be feminists” to the more nuanced views that make sure to note the distinctions between feminism as a design aesthetic for which there is much capital and celebrity gain attached, rather than the inspiration that helps to create fashion for how a woman truly lives today.
Women’s lives today are lives that are often chaotic, busy, messy and glorious. They are living, working, loving and caring both in private and increasingly more in public thanks to social media and for much longer than before. The true rebellion and protest is coming not from the designers as suggested but rather from the women themselves who no longer bow to the high priest of trends and are dressing how they want to dress. If this woman does decide to give a trend a nod it is no longer recognizable as itself because of the artful and yes, sometimes messy and unbalanced, way it is mashed up with something or everything else they choose to wear. Designers in touch with women understand the elevated reality we live in today and offer us choices rather than clichés.
One of my favorite links from the weekend bibliography was the one from CR Fashion Book that showed photos of looks, ironically labeled trends, on the streets during Paris Fashion Week. Interspersed among the photos of trends, like the patent leather coats, are creative renditions of what women want to wear. The very first look is a long white dress styled over wide pants topped by a trapeze style raincoat. The next is a pink lace trimmed slip with black socks, combat boots and a very bulky sweater tied around the waist. Look three is a cotton shirt and velvet pants with sleeve and pant lengths that make hands and feet disappear. Women are wearing key rings, skirt pins and shower curtain rings in their ears and parts of white shirts in various permutations (see the Ann Demeulemeester show for the endless possibilities when you decide cut up a white shirt). Women who are on the street and living their lives are mixing prints, textures, history and possibilities to meet the needs of a woman’s life today at this crazy moment in history.
This urge to mashup, I love this word, it comes from music and technology and means to splice together and re-arrange previously existing content and make it something new, something it never was before. From all this disparity one creates a unique yet single and coherent narrative. As my life has become more complex and consequently more chaotic I find this sensibility being reflected in the clothes I am being drawn to and how I might want to put them together. On days when I am exhausted I am drawn to silk pajama tops and jeans especially historic and distressed ones like the new Levi 501’s I purchased last week. These garments reflect what I am feeling so precisely there is no need for words.
I know I am on the brink of a rebellion and on the cusp of change when yesterday at a vintage show I was drawn only to prints, pastels, velvet opulence and had no attraction to the rows of black as usual. So I am in the process of splicing together old with new, opulent with minimalist, color with black and white, prints and solids and maybe even cutting up a few of my white shirts. Let’s see what I can mashup this coming season.
What are you thinking about "mashingup" this season?
Always a little late on the uptake because I can’t keep pace with the flurry of haphazardly curated clips of clothes and shows streaming from all my devices I always need to go back. With some of the more innovative designers I always have to return and spend time with their shows, I need time to have them settle into my imagination. I finally take notice that there seems to be a focus on the feminist. Not in any literal or overt sense like last year’s Chanel show but more diffuse almost like the invisible presence of perfume. I find myself hard pressed to come up with a conceptual definition of feminist for 2017 because like so many other boundaries in fashion the one that used to signify gender is blurring as well. The good news is that you can be anyone you want.
I think what I have been writing about lately is different and feminism does not quite describe it. I have been alluding to a circle of relationships, a world where women and girls are giving other women and girls (and men) the confidence to go out there and do things. It is women encouraging other women to be the stars of their own shows. Women who respect the past and collectivity yet want to be modern and allow for individuality. To not just be designers but to be businesswomen as well, to strive to understand commerciality and creativity as things not in opposition to each other. I am in the throes of holding these tensions and trying to work out the best way to move forward. I am having to hold both pleasure and pragmatism in the palm of my hand because there is a reality to accept if I want to achieve my desire.
In this world the female is the protagonist not the system. It is about women being in motion which is why I have probably been obsessed with the last two Prada collections because they seem to be about travelling women. Although Prada is innovative in their design, they have struggles with their business being late to the on-line game and not diversifying when it comes to accessibility. Art and intellectualism have prevailed but one still has to be viable in order to have an amplified voice. Another tension to be explored. Notice you can now get Prada bags on-line. But on the same platform you can also be treated to plays and stories, films and beautiful photography of details. It has been an interesting case study.
This world is about dressing brave and heroically and looking strong even when we feel vulnerable. It is about dressing how we feel, following our instincts and taking risks. It is using clothes to tell our personal stories. I think it could be very interesting to explore where in the world are creative spaces for women. Where are these tensions being explored? I recently posted an article about London being the best city for women designers. What makes it so?
What would make a great space for you to be a female protagonist in and why?
After a whirlwind of a non-stop six weeks, there is finally a break in the action. In my writing last week and with benefit of the reflection evidenced in your wise comments, I have been finding out more about what aspects of this adventure give me pleasure, which aspects give me stress and which aspects make me not feel so good about what I am doing.
I was reading an article over the weekend called, "The Ten Commandments of the New Consumerism". It optimistically states that consumers are becoming more thoughtful about sustainability, transparency and appreciating authenticity. The research is coming out of Europe and resonates for me as I feel I sometimes have more in common with European sensibilities. Most of the professional journals I read are from outside of the U.S. where I seem to find a different level of discourse happening. Interestingly as you may note from my fashion bibliography it also extends to the fashion news and commentary I most like to consume. For someone like me, and I might add, like us, the notion that people are re-assessing their priorities and really figuring out what they value seems like old news. However, I like where this is going and especially like the drive towards transparency in companies providing information on how our clothes are made and who or what gets helped or hurt in the process.
Authenticity is another word that seems to have great currency right now and as applied to this world it means that brands have to offer products in keeping with their history and culture. I think right now two brands I have had recent experience with, Coach and Frye, are good examples of what this means. Both were quite mired in their history and lost my interest for quite a few years. Both have surprised me of late at their modern take on what I loved about them from the past. That's the sweet spot I want to hit too.
In this digital world people still seem to want experiences and not just walk into a store to shop. This is also a wonderfully creative niche to explore. I was recently part of a photo shoot for a young designer that included women of all ages and diversities. Part of signing on is that this was not just a one lookbook deal. This lookbook tells a story about the women inhabiting the clothes, not just the clothes. This was going to become an experience, there will be interviews, events and an on-going relationship not just with a brand but with the people that are the life, the breath and the bones of the brand. This harkening back to collectivity is with the caveat that there must be ways for us to personalize and to individualize at the same time How can I make this garment uniquely mine? How do I put my stamp on a product? Giving people the opportunity to collaborate with you to co-create is a very exciting prospect and is inspiring me right now when it comes to some future content and features.
So this is all a long way of saying how much I appreciated the time and space to think and reflect this week. Inviting inspiration to come creeping into your workspace means you need to make room for it. I need to become a more thoughtful consumer of opportunities.
Another treat this week was leisurely looking through the Italian collections from Milan Fashion Week. Fendi was so lovely it almost made me cry. For some of my favorite looks see my Pinterest board, Milan Edition Fashion Week.
Do you think I favor the Italians because their more recent collections have been featuring librarian types and studious girls with glasses?
So I earlier reported on some of my more "public" adventures during NYFW week. While I was having the experience of attending more of the "mainstream" events and widely publicized shows, I was continuing to simultaneously experience the world I have been welcomed into right from the start: that of the emerging designers. Unlike the world I had a brief glimpse into which was more about who you are, or who you are seen with rather than the clothes, the small events, market shows and showrooms scattered around the city that are often invisible in the press or coverage of fashion week, are where real conversations happened for me. And most importantly where I saw some of the most unique and exciting clothes.
I have been finding much to my chagrin, in both the world of fashion and in my own school a kind of resentment of the young or the new. The old guard seems threatened by their digital savvy and fresh and different ways to look at problems, whether that be related to design and production of garments, or the development of not-for-profits to address a social problem in a unique way. Their confidence and wish for change seems somehow threatening. Despite engaging in all of the same behaviors that they accuse fashion influencers of having, an elite group of a magazine's editors launched a snarky attack on let's face it, young fashion bloggers, which was intelligently and swiftly responded to by Susie Lau (Susie Bubble), one of my favorite young intellects. So as you know I do not do dichotomies so this is not about old v. young. This is about being open to new ideas, sharing your space, supporting and collaborating with other women (and men). It is also not about rejecting mainstream fashion that calls your name. It is more about changing the conversation and changing how we interact with each other.
In the world of the emerging designer I have found that you collaborate and share. That when you meet someone it is not for a three second photo op but that it results in an on-going relationship where you start thinking together about new and different ways to show your talents. Like thinking about a fashion show that is also a conference. It gets you an invite to a carefully curated event like the one pictured above, where you get to meet someone's parents who are proud of them and where you can feel, touch and look at beautiful garments for more than a fleeting flash as they whisk by you in a big time show. Where there are lots of creative people who want to talk about the clothes, about you, about the exciting project they are working on. It's a place where you meet other smart women (and men) who want to reinvent, to express their creativity and to "do" fashion differently. These are folks who share opportunities and get as much pleasure from promoting and supporting you as they do from their own work. So after a brief visitation into another sphere I think I know where Accidental Icon really belongs. It is here in the less visible but infinitely more welcoming and creative world of the underground. Somehow I have always known this but for me fashion week confirmed it once again.
This week I am participating in perhaps my biggest public event yet: a panel discussion and Fashion Show sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Eileen Fisher at Saks Fifth Avenue here in New York City. The leather leggings shown above and given to me by Eileen Fisher will be the signature I will style my outfit around for the event. Most exciting is that my partner in crime for all the festivities is fellow blogger, Leandra Medine AKA Man Repeller. I have long been a fan of her intellect, wit and writing so when I met her it was a little like a teenager having a girl crush.
A few years ago, I was attracted to Man Repeller because it was clear that although this was a site about fashion there was some real intellect in the mix and an unashamed attitude about being very smart, very funny and a little nerdy. I would frequently, in the course of catching up on posts, have several belly laughs. Leandra is what is what my mother would call a "smart ass", a sobriquet also given to me. This is a site where you can put Susan Sontag in the search terms and up comes an article about what she says about love. It is also a site where you can find out what young, intellectual and socially engaged women are up to and what they think about careers, love, culture, politics and of course many wonderful examples of asserting yourself when it comes to fashion.
Reading Man Repeller was what made me long for some space for women who were at my stage of life who were also smart, funny, ironic and personally stylish and who wanted to think and talk about fashion and culture and so influenced me to think about starting a blog. Thanks Leandra for providing me with inspiration yesterday and today and perhaps even more astounding... getting me to crack a smile on camera.
Since I did not do my usual Wednesday post I decided to add a postscript to my Friday Fashion Bibliography which focused on London Fashion Week. Amid the blur of streaming images there were some looks that really caught my eye and I had that quick intake of breath you have when something moves you emotionally. From the simple yet stunning minimalism seen at Margaret Howell, to the sassy stripes at Mulberry, the graphic pop of Christopher Kane's nostalgic looks and the pure unadulterated romance of Simone Rocha, the London Fashion designers always show their intellect and wit and never disappoint me.
I thought I might share some of my favorites and would so love to hear which ones were yours!
See my Pinterest Board, "London Edition Friday Fashion Bibliography"
One of the most wonderful outcomes of starting Accidental Icon has been the opportunity to meet other creative, diverse and smart women (and men) of all ages. A common denominator is that each one is involved in creating a modern and unique version of their self in the ever-shifting world of fashion. They are starting new businesses, taking risks to start a new spin or simply chasing a long cherished dream. They are changing the same tired conversations about fashion. Within this boundary breaking world of fashion people support and enjoy each other and generosity is the coin of the realm.
I had the good fortune to meet Cindy Weber-Cleary and Stephanie Stahl, the co-founders of the digital shopping destination, Apprécier, over coffee at Bouchon Bakery. Both women come to the enterprise with successful careers in the fashion industry. Apprécier is a French verb, meaning to appreciate, to enjoy, and to grow in value over time. Perhaps the best way to describe the site is that it is for women of any age who appreciates fashion and wants to evolve their style. The Apprécier women are living a life where although they love the aspirational looks they see on the runway, need to be more pragmatic about what they actually purchase and wear. The site includes lovely illustrations, interesting profiles and styling articles that make the site more like a magazine that coincidentally makes life easier and more fun by including shopping.
Hearing that I was a neophyte when it comes to the fashion scene, Cindy graciously offered to invite me as her guest to some shows and events during NYFW. Cindy was generous with her time, her attention and her introductions. I have to say she provided me with several “pinch me I’m dreaming” moments such as the one pictured above. During the course of our time together I learned about her successful career as a magazine editor and what it is like to start a business that requires you to translate what you already know into a venture that also includes many aspects you do not know! I learned about investors and affiliate marketing. I had a lesson in fashion magazine history and the current challenges faced by print magazines. I listened to what an editor thinks about and looks at while attending a fashion show and got to meet the two designers behind TOME, a brand I am in love with. I also got to bump “silver” heads with Linda Fargo from Bergdorf’s and the beautiful and gracious model Maye Musk.
Thanks Cindy and Apprécier for an inspiring NYFW experience!
Wednesday in the world of social media is known as "Hump Day". Apparently if you can get over the "hump" of this day, the weekend is in sight and you are given a burst of new energy. I must confess I feel as though I am still climbing the hump a day later. I have two days of work that are full of university responsibilities to get through before I am far enough up the hump to look up and see the sky. As you might have surmised from my earlier post about hurricanes (which has now been upgraded to tornado status) it has been an exciting whirlwind this year of fashion week activities: photo shoots, fashion shows, new people and events. I will write about some of these experiences in the weeks ahead when the dust has settled and I have time to reflect. In the meantime I am taking a breath and looking ahead to the weekend when I can respond to your comments and most importantly have some thinking time. I envision wearing something old and comfy and turning off my phone. My very worn out but now soft jeans are calling my name. Today I need to select an outfit that will pull me up and give me a little lift to get over the "hump". Any thoughts?
Jeans: Levi, Sheer Cardigan: Yohji Yamamoto, Silk Shirt: From Japan, Brown Leather Belt: Johnny Farrah, Brown Leather Mules: Dior (by way of of RealReal).
What do you wear when you need a "lift"?