Commentary

Reselling Gifts

Famous people get free shit. It has been that way for a long time. Nowadays, it has evolved from merely gifting (e.g. swag bags at events) to paying them to promote the product. The notion of fame has expanded too. Anyone with internet access can be famous now, which means that regular people with followers online are being paid large sums of money to talk about things. It seems that we all have a price and, in fact, are all just walking billboards. People are now more aware of this than before and take what they see and read online with a pinch of salt, so perhaps paid promotions will be less effective for brands than before (although I did read that FashionNova was one of the top Google searches of the year and they are known for paying influencers and celebrities to promote the brand).

Obsessed with my @fashionnova dress 💎 Get it at FashionNova.com ✨ #ad @fashionnova

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The lesser discussed side of things is what happens to pieces that people are gifted. As an influencer, you receive PR packages from brands on a daily basis. I used to watch a Beauty YouTuber who would receive an entire collection from a brand and only actually like say 2 out of 30 shades of lipstick sent. The rest of the collection would either be hoarded or donated to women’s shelters. With beauty products, the resale market is small. Only the most collectible items can be sold, and only if they are unopened for sanitary reasons. If a YouTuber opens a product to swatch it, the value is gone. Fashion, on the other hand, is a booming resale market and shows no sign of slowing down.

Influencers are donated pieces, or buy them at a super steep discount (80-90% off), and sell them after they’ve worn them once or twice. After all, once they’ve posted it on their Instagram they have to get rid of it (or not rewear it publicly…). The same thing happens at fashion magazines: editors are gifted pieces for promotional consideration, whether they choose to write about them or not is up to them, and they can do whatever they want with the pieces afterwards. The sheer volume of stuff is why people sell it on and make some money in the process. I have sold items on Depop in the past. The app tends to focus on items with a lower price point, mainly vintage pieces that you could find in a thrift store (often what Depop sellers do, hauling items from Goodwill and comparable stores and selling them for a small profit) or gently worn fast-fashion pieces. You don’t tend to see too many brands on there. The sites that are used for selling designer pieces are TheRealReal, Tradesy, Vestiaire Collective, and sometimes eBay.

The ethics of selling things that you didn’t actually pay for are a little bit murky. On one hand, it is how many young editors in fashion sustain their lifestyles. On the other, you are profiting 100% off of things you did not purchase and are likely not declaring that income on your tax forms so it is pretty shady. Fashion editors tend to be on a very low salary yet seem to all be wearing designer pieces and living in New York City. Something’s gotta give.

Racked did a wonderful project, called The Swag Project, where they kept all of the pieces that the editors were given over a 6 month period and totaled its value, plus added a few articles digging deeper into the ethics behind it all. In the 6 months, the site received close to $100k worth of items for free yet only wrote about 3% of the products sent to them. The best article to come out of this project is an article entitled “The Secret Swag Resale Economy” which delves into the rife reselling that goes on at magazines. For example, a Conde Nast staffer initially felt guilty after selling a laser hair removal package that she was gifted and keeping the proceeds then quickly realized that that is just how things operate there. Much of the fashion industry runs on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, in all facets of the industry. I follow a YouTuber who was involved in a mini-scandal when a follower on Depop called her out for reselling an item gifted to her that was an exclusive piece not originally for sale. This happens all the time so it was interesting to see her response which was, of course, very defensive. Also interesting was the fact that fashion editors do this all the time and get no response. Perhaps it is just because it is less known or less public.

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With the rise of social media, fashion editors have fast become celebrities with followings in their own right. It used to be that only the top tier of magazine editors were known, but now even a fashion assistant at a publication can garner a following in the tens of thousands. Of course, once you hit around 5000 followers on Instagram, the paid promotions come-a-knocking. The FTC has cracked down on paid promotions online though, releasing guidelines that say you must clearly state at the beginning of the caption that it is an ad. They have also been investigating people and issuing fines for influencers and celebrities who do not abide by the guidelines. Paid promotions in the fashion industry, however, are not as clear as #ad. Editors get free clothes, discounts, attend parties, get sent on trips, and have dinners. They often attend the same events as influencers who are vocal about their payment / partnership, but don’t post about them in the same way: Fashionista did a good post about the “tricky ethical territory” that editors verge into as a result of this. The discussion on this topic is promising because it means that consumer awareness is high. I don’t have a problem with people attending the events or reselling their free stuff, as long as people know that it is happening. Instagram tends to portray a false reality and people are often fooled into seeing the world in a way that simply does not exist. I would like to see that change and people be a lot more transparent about things.

Recommended reading:

The Secret Swag Resale Economy” – Racked

Arguably the most interesting article in The Swag Project, this article delves deep into the practice of gifting at magazines and the ethical guidelines in which staff are told to follow.

“We Received $95,000 Worth of Free Stuff in 6 Months” – Racked

The first article in The Swag Project with a lot of information on what was received and what happened to it all. Amazing infographics!

“As Editors Transition to Influencers, They Enter Tricky Ethical Territory” – Fashionista

Further delves into the discussion started by Racked and mentions some key items that were suspected to be gifted to editors and influencers alike. 

Spend More, Buy Less – over one year later

Last summer I found myself falling down the sustainability rabbit hole. I vowed to change my ways of consumption and be a more respectful consumer. I can 100% admit that I have failed. Here I will tell you exactly why. I know these are excuses (literally exactly what they are) but I know that there are other people in the same situation as me who came in with good intentions and have strayed.

1 – Sustainability can be expensive

The first thing that I thought I would do would be cut out fast fashion. I wouldn’t shop at Zara. I wouldn’t shop at H&M. I wouldn’t shop online in e-stores like Missguided and Pretty Little Thing. This lasted for about 6-8 weeks then I crumbled. Terrible, I know, but it’s really hard to not buy anything when you constantly want something new. The sustainability principle of buying less is very hard when you’re into fashion and want to keep up with the latest trends or even start your own. Quite often the only way to execute certain looks is by buying cheap pieces to get the aesthetic we desire. I want Gucci but I can’t afford it, so I buy the Zara alternative. Most of the time, the people who I have seen online preaching about sustainability and not shopping fast fashion are wealthy. Like go into Gucci and buy the fur slides for the hell of it wealthy. They aren’t living like regular college students are living.

2 – I suck at thrifting

On the other end of the spectrum, the people who talk about sustainability thrift exclusively. They buy used, secondhand clothes, shoes, accessories, regardless of the condition. They manage to find things that fit. I never do. In fact, I am perhaps the world’s worst thrifter. I rarely find anything that I find semi-passable. I’ve been to Goodwill, Buffalo Exchange, Housing Works, Beacon’s Closet (I do like that place), and 9 times out of 10 I leave empty-handed. Thrifting in New York is not what I expected it to be. I thought that it would be so easy and that I’d find cool things ever single weekend. What I have come to learn is that in order to get cool things you need to spend a lot of money. For example, I was at a store on Saint Marks a couple of weeks ago and I tried on the coolest hat you have ever seen. When I looked at the price tag it was $75. That’s insane for a secondhand, non-designer item. I have had similar experiences in other thrift stores where I have spotted cool items then been taken aback by the price. I’m not willing to spend more on an old, used, slightly roughed up item than I would on something new.

3 – I’m a college student

Living in New York is hard. Everything here is so damn expensive. When I began writing the Spend More, Buy Less posts I was working full-time. I had an income which meant I was able to buy more expensive clothes but now I can’t.

I do fully agree with a lot of the principles I spoke about in these posts and after going back and reading them again I want to start making a more conscious decision to keep an eye on my consumption again. In the meantime, here are some suggestions which I think could help towards reducing your individual footprint.

 – Donate or recycle old clothes

Whether it be by literally taking the clothes to be recycled for textiles or recycling by someone else wearing them, don’t put your clothes in the trash and send them to a landfill because that is simply a waste. Not all clothing is biodegradable so it can sit in the landfill and pollute for years to come. Either donate clothes to a charity (in the US I’ve donated to Goodwill but in the UK there’s more of a selection), sell it back to a store in exchange for cash or store credit (either Beacon’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange would work), or give it to a friend. You could also try selling on Depop. It looks like Instagram but it’s shoppable.

 – Build a capsule wardrobe

I know a capsule wardrobe sounds so dated but bear with me. Build up a collection of basics which you can mix and match on a daily basis and splurge on fun, trendy items every once in a while. If you have good jeans (black, grey, and maybe blue if you’re into that), various t-shirts in different cuts, silky cami tops, button downs, a couple of cute skirts, and a pair of black pants you can build lots of different outfits. Try making the look more exciting via your choice of outerwear or by adding accessories. I know that throughout the winter I dress boring as hell underneath my coat but because I always wear interesting outerwear or furry accessories I look pulled together.

I know that my current rate of consumption is unnecessary and I know that purchasing from fast fashion stores on the regular is not admirable so I would like to reign in my spending. However, I don’t like it when people are extremely judgmental of others for their consumption because you don’t know their personal circumstances. Also, lots of people remain ignorant of the issues at hand, often through no fault of their own. It’s definitely a personal journey and I think one that we have to make the decision to make on our own.

Movie Costumes as Wedding Attire

Up until about two or three years ago, the whole concept of a wedding was just not interesting to me. I was never a little girl who fantasised about the big white wedding with cake and 200+ guests. To be fair, I’m still not.

Things changed when I became hooked on Say Yes to the Dress, the TLC wedding dress show set in Kleinfeld Bridal in New York. The whole idea of finding this beautiful gown that makes the woman wearing it feel like a trillion bucks became so appealing to me. I decided I too wanted to say yes to the dress, or say I found the gown (there’s so many spin-offs now). However, a traditional big poufy dress doesn’t call out to me, nor does a sleek little mermaid silhouette with the embellished belt that seems to be oh-so-common nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, these often look amazing on people but I just can’t imagine myself ever having a wedding where a dress like this would be appropriate. If I ever get married, I want it to be a small affair and I need an outfit to suit. In 2014 I made a post about “non-traditional” bridal outfits and I still stand by what I said in that. (Olivia Palermo was the coolest bride of the past 10 years.)

I often find myself watching movies and seeing dresses that I think would look great on a wedding day, especially a low-key event. For that reason, I’ve decided to compile a list of some movie looks that I think could be modified or recreated for a wedding outfit. I do prefer the traditional white and neutral tones for a wedding look so if there’s anything in colour I’d more than likely modify it.

See some picks below:

This dress is one of my favourite Marilyn costumes of all time. I think the fabric is so sleek and the train adds such glamour. For a wedding, I can envision this dress recreated in a white silk, or even champagne.
One of Elizabeth Taylor’s most iconic costumes, this pleated white dress from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof would be perfect for a summer wedding. The dress swings as she walks meaning that it would look so good if you’re dancing.

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Rita Hayworth in Gilda is a dangerously sexy look. However, for a wedding I’d suggest closing up the leg slit a little (it is Angelina Jolie at the Oscars big) and of course, changing the color. I can imagine you’d walk with a wiggle wearing this.
Grace Kelly’s casual outfit (although nothing was casual about the way she dressed) in Rear Window could work if you substituted the green skirt for a white.
Michelle Pheiffer’s white skirt suit in Scarface would look fabulous, especially if you added a short veil under the hat.

Reading about Rent the Runway

I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about Rent the Runway recently. They are in the midst of a new marketing campaign promoting their new, lower priced subscription, and, as a result, coverage of the service has been myriad, from sites like Fashionista all the way to AdWeek. For $89 a month, you can rent four pieces per monthly cycle. This is in comparison to their unlimited subscription which costs $139 to have any three pieces at once (which can be traded for another item at any time) instead. Rent the Runway is an interesting concept to me, because you are paying either a monthly fee or a single-time fee for the actual item (depending on how often you think you’ll use the service) to essentially borrow clothes and return them. You spend all of this money and don’t actually keep anything at home.

Rent the Runway was founded in 2009 by two Harvard Business School graduates. The initial concept was to provide occasionwear. You could rent a dress for a formal event like prom, a wedding, a gala, anything. The idea was that instead of spending $200 on a dress that you will wear one time and then banish to the back of your closet, you could spend under that dollar amount to rent a dress and return it afterwards (no questions asked, different than what would happen if you tried to do the same thing to a store). You could also rent a designer style which you may not be able to afford in a regular store like Barneys but you could wear one-time for a manageable price-point. Since then, the service has expanded into all categories of clothing and accessories. They want to be the go-to source for a woman’s everyday wardrobe, not just for the once-a-season event that she may have to attend.

In one of the articles linked below, a representative from Rent the Runway mentioned that under the new subscription plan, each item only costs around $20. The point being made with this figure was that the service was intending to compete with fast-fashion stores in capturing the women’s dollars. Instead of buying a cheap shirt from Zara, rent an expensive one from Rent the Runway. You get the quality you can’t normal afford for a price that you can. However, I wonder how many women would be comfortable with not actually owning their clothes. What if someone compliments your cute sweater and then you can never wear it again? That’s what seems weird to me because I can’t imagine having something I love and then not owning it, then not being able to afford it if I actually did want to add it into my closet.

Currently, Rent the Runway operates across the US with physical stores where you can try on the clothes in a select few cities (New York and Los Angeles included). They also ship all across the US. With the new round of marketing campaigns they are targeting the US in its entirety. They’re putting adverts on national tv. Besides the lower cost subscription, a huge thing that the brand is pushing is the sustainability factor. According to representatives from Rent the Runway, the brand is entirely sustainable as it uses reusable garment bags and 100% ‘green’ dry cleaning practices. Furthermore, because the customers aren’t actually purchasing the clothes and are sending them back after use, clothes that are unwanted are going back to Rent the Runway, not ending up in the landfill.

I think that Rent the Runway is a great concept but I’m not sure how I would feel about having my entire closet “in the cloud”, as they put it. I like to own my pieces and wear them again and again and again. I think that is a pretty sustainable option. I would consider Rent the Runway for an occasion if I needed to rent a gown. However, for everyday use I’m not quite there yet.

Further Reading

“How Rent The Runway’s “Closet In The Cloud” Is Changing The Face Of Sustainability” – Fashionista

“Rent the Runway’s National Campaign Wants You to Convert Your Closet Into Anything You Want” – AdWeek

Flappers Didn't Wear Fringe

A vital historical inaccuracy which we continue to perpetrate is the premise of flappers wearing fringe. I didn’t actually know this was the case until I read an article on Racked detailing the history of the infamous flapper dress. Think about every flapper costume you’ve ever seen on Halloween, any photoshoot in a magazine, any movie set in the jazz age – the dresses all look the same. Short and flirty with lots of fringing. Only when Hollywood tried to portray the 1920s party girls on the big screen did the extra fringing, filled with embellishments, become part of the look – and it was done for that reason, the look. Hollywood costume designers embellished the dresses so they were striking on screen, catching the light and sparking for the cameras. Real flappers didn’t wear heavy fringe. Nor did they wear super short dresses. The hemlines of their dresses were much longer than the above-the-knee styles that we wear today, and although that length seems “long” for modern standards it would’ve been too risque, too scandalous for the 1920s.

On the back of this inaccuracy, I began to think about other periods in fashion. When we think of each decade, we tend to be able to give a vague description of the styles. For example, the 1950s conjure up the full-skirted prom style dresses and Americana – blue jeans and white t-shirts like what James Dean wore. The 1960s are mini skirts and go-go boots. The 1970s are hippy-chic with flares. The 1980s are all about big, big, big with shoulder pads and power suits. The 1990s are minimalist. The 2000s were tacky-chic. But what is the present day? And what will they get wrong about us in the future?

The 2010s have been strange. Nothing new has come out of this time period in terms of fashion. Everything is instead a look back to the past. That can even be seen in the styles of denim we wear. Something as small as jeans can show a lot about culture. We started the 2010s off in skinny jeans, a run over from the 2000s when bootcut jeans disappeared to be replaced by skinny jeans, originally called drainpipes. Even these were a hark back to the past, popularized by the likes of the Rolling Stones in the 60s or even Elvis Presley in the 50s. Acid wash was a popular style in 2011 – 2012, and this was a reach back to the 80s. High waisted styles of skinnies were popular too, always with lots of elastane inside.

The silhouette got a little bit more relaxed for some people starting in (I think) 2013 when Topshop introduced the Mom jeans. Originally intended as a little bit of a joke, Mom jeans are meant to be like the jeans worn by mothers in the 1980s and 90s. High-waisted, rigid denim in an often unflattering shape, they tend to flatten and elongate your butt. I never got into these. Early adopters started wearing these towards the beginning of the decade but by 2015 onwards they were as commonplace as skinny jeans. It has now gotten to the stage where people have proclaimed skinny jeans to be dead (but we all know they will never be gone fully).

In 2017, the most coveted jean style is a pair of vintage light blue Levi’s that make your butt look amazing. Some people DIY the hems to be raw edge too. If buying vintage isn’t looking back to the past, I don’t know what is. We are in a phase where anything goes now. Denim is embellished, ripped, slashed, frayed, patched. Anything you can do to jeans, we now do. I think the increasingly casual way of dress and the impact of denim is what the 2010s will be remembered for.

Danielle Bernstein from WeWoreWhat in vintage Levi’s

What about denim will they be able to get wrong in the future? In 2050, when they are making a movie set in the 2010s how can they really go wrong when we have everything all at once? I just hope people keep their old Topshop jeans because, genuinely, I use the new Topshop styles as an indicator of where things are going with denim -100%.

Clear-Outs

I’ve spent a lot of time this summer watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians. I don’t know why but for some reason I got the urge to start on the very first episode and work my way through. I’ve made it to season 8 where Kim is pregnant with little North. Because I’ve dedicated so many hours of my life to watching the family and their transition from typical Hollywood princesses with little true class and/or knowledge of actual runway fashion to fashion industry fixtures, I’ve been paying more attention to Kim in the episodes and her style. What she wears chronicles her place in the world. As soon as she met Kanye West, she became a real star in the fashion sense. Out with the old, tacky outfits and in came Kanye’s high fashion makeover. That’s not to say all of the looks work for her, but it is an improvement on her old style, even though it doesn’t seem entirely true to her character. Of course, 2013 Kim Kardashian is a very different person than the 2017 edition – stylistically and characteristically. What struck me the hardest was when, in one season 7 episode, Kanye brought in his stylist Renelou Padora  to clean out Kim’s closet. They were ruthless, going through all of Kim’s possessions and leaving her with very little (according to the show anyway). Rows of shoes lined up her hallways and piles and piles of clothes were donated to charity. In comes Kanye with racks of designer clothing in various shades of neutrals. This marks the new era for Kim. Of course, it wouldn’t be KUWTK without a little drama so Khloe comes round and gets upset by what Kim is getting rid of, taking it as an insult to her style as she has so many similar items too. Looking back at this episode in 2017, it’s funny because all of the sisters dress so differently now and have definitely had the Kanye West makeover. Kim’s submissiveness throughout the closet ravaging was strange to me. She allowed herself to be completely changed by Kanye. She was like his little Barbie doll to play dress-up with, a new project. In losing her typical mid-2000s Hollywood style, she lost a bit of herself.

Clearing out your closet doesn’t have to herald a change of identity for a person though. I find myself scouring through my belongings on a trimonthly basis. During my clear-outs I tend to get rid of anything that I haven’t worn for a while or that doesn’t fit me any longer. I think doing the process continuously and gradually means you won’t wake up one morning and start with a whole new wardrobe. You can introduce new styles without it seeming so dramatic and you can phase out things you no longer like without feeling like you are changing yourself.

I’ve had a couple of clear-outs over the past few months for various reasons. Firstly, I am moving so I am trying to make it that I have as little stuff as possible to take with me. I wear very similar things on a daily basis anyway so there is no point in me hanging onto items that I haven’t worn once since landing in the United States. The new rule is if it hasn’t been worn since coming here, it isn’t staying. I think that is pretty fair. I don’t think my style has changed too much in the past year besides the fact that I wear black skinny jeans on a near daily basis in the winter – something that I didn’t do before. I also don’t wear long skirts as frequently nowadays. I used to work in a corporate-style office where pencil skirts were the norm. Now that I’m working in a fashion office the dress code is nowhere near as strict and I fortunately can dress in a way that feels more true to me. Besides work, I’m a college student which means I have had to force myself to dress more casual. Whilst you will never catch me in leggings or sweatpants outside of the house, mini-skirts and slip dresses are back in my regular rotation.

I have started to think of inventive ways to get rid of my things. I have listed a few items on Depop – @evegardiner – but have ended up doing more buying than selling. I have donated some stuff to Goodwill. I have sold things at Buffalo Exchange (although not a lot because their buyers tend to be kind of rude) and Beacon’s Closet (which is my favorite because their staff are great and they give you fair prices for your items). Finally, I sent a bag to Thred-Up. Basically, with Thred-Up they send you a huge postage paid bag for you to fill with clothes and you mail it back to them. Anything that they can sell, they will list on their website and you will get a percentage of the sale price. Anything that is not in sellable condition will be recycled for you. It makes clearing out so easy and gives you the chance to earn a little cash on top of it all. The only downside to this service is the processing time. I sent my items back in mid-July and received an email saying that they wouldn’t get to going through my bag until August 8th. I waited until August 28th before I got any word from them and the payout was rather tiny, but I’m  I’m just happy that my unwanted items aren’t in my apartment anymore. I’d say that Thred-Up is a great service because it is totally hassle free, but if you want to make cash quickly I’d gravitate towards Beacon’s Closet or a similar store where you can get money same-day.

As I have been clearing out, I’ve found myself adding more things to my closet too. I have been a sucker for a good sale recently and have topped up my wardrobe with some summer pieces. This is my first real summer in the city and I didn’t realize how underprepared I was for the heat. I quickly realized that my regular summer attire wouldn’t cut it in 30 degree celsius temperatures. Going forward into the Fall season, I already have a rough idea of a few pieces I’d like to pick up. I want a new black overcoat, quite a masculine style perhaps with some military inspired trims. I’d also like some flat black leather boots with lots of buckles. Topshop already have a great pair but they’re eye-wateringly expensive in USD. Finally, I’m looking for a really cool hat. I can see a great look already so I’m trying to figure out how to execute it. It’s likely that I have until at least October until the temperatures drop low enough to try it out. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the summer heat and the newfound style it has afforded me.

The KarJen Fashion Empire

I hate to admit it but I’ve fallen into the Kardashian’s trap. It started off innocently, watching their show whilst eating breakfast in the morning if I had nowhere to rush off to and now I’ve found myself invested in their external businesses, purely because of what I’ve seen on the show.

I’ve been vocal in the past about my distaste for the Kardashian/Jenners in the fashion industry and I still stand by that partially. I don’t think Kendall should be booking all of the modelling jobs she is but you also can’t knock her for getting a paycheck and taking advantage of the awesome opportunities that come her way. You can’t knock Kim for sitting front row at fashion shows or wearing vintage Galliano or Vivienne Westwood (as she has been favoring recently). If she gets invited to the shows and has the resources to wear these clothes, of course she would. And finally, I can’t knock Kanye for his Adidas line because that truly is his passion and you can see that clearly.

The things that I refused to give the Kardashians a pass for in the past were their clothing lines. I’m not a huge fan of the celebrity designer trend and the fact that just because they have a well known name they can easily find financial backers and launch a line like its nothing. However, since watching the show and learning a little bit more about the brands coming out of the KarJen klan currently, I’ve become slightly more intrigued.

First off, there is Kendall + Kylie, a contemporary line sold in stores like Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom. They sell clothing, shoes, and accessories. It was a full-on brand from its very first season. On an episode that I just watched (a late repeat), Kendall and Kylie are at their showroom in New York with Nicole Phelps from Vogue Runway. Phelps is there to review the collection. When the pair are taking her around the showroom, they pick up some of their favorite pieces and describe them as cool and simple and can’t say much more than that. They can’t describe their customer besides the fact that she used to be a California girl but is now more than that. Phelps doesn’t seem too impressed. I know that the show is scripted to some extent but I do feel like Kendall and Kylie’s lack of descriptive adjectives to really explain to Phelps what their collection meant and stood for was genuine. They aren’t really involved in the creation of the line besides giving final approval and being the face of the brand and that is evident. Their role aside, the merchandise is actually cute and if you were to see it on the floor in a Nordstrom store you would probably buy it. The only downside to the brand is the price-point. They wanted to differentiate the line from others they have done in the past, like the PacSun collection or the Topshop collaboration. This was meant to be more high-end and the prices reflect that, although I don’t think there is that much of an evolution in the styles shown. In the end, Nicole Phelps wrote a very fair review for Vogue. 

Screenshot of the Kendall + Kylie Instagram account which boasts 4.4m followers

The next KarJen brand that I was interested in is the Kids Supply, Kim and Kanye’s childrenswear capsule collection. Because of the size, I instantly find childrenswear adorable. It helps that North West is the best dressed child in the world (besides the extremely age-inappropriate lace and mesh shirts that they used to dress her in) so I feel like the couple know how to dress kids. The collection featured an embroidered bomber with “Calabasas” motifs (which was reversible too), mini slip dresses, caps with “kids” embroidered across the front, and t-shirts. There was a small product selection but it sold out within the weekend. Some items are on pre-order. I liked this line and I’m honestly not mad at the couple for trying to enter the childrenswear market. The pricing was high but you also cannot criticize someone for that. It’s like when people laugh at Gwyneth Paltrow and her exorbitantly priced gift guides on Goop. It’s not for everybody and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that it is an invalid market to target just because you don’t fit into their income demographic.

Screenshot of the Kids Supply e-store

Finally, the brand which I was actually the most impressed with and would love to see in person is Khloe’s denim line. Launched in October last year and entitled Good American, the line features jeans, skirts, and jackets in sizes 00 – 24. It is meant to cater to every body shape and fit and flatter all. I think that’s a bold statement to make yet everybody who I’ve seen wearing the jeans looks amazing. Khloe and her partner have done a good job on the fits, with the Good Cuts with the released hem being my personal favorite style. The premium denim market is pretty full, with brands like Paige, Frame, and J Brand being longstanding stars. However, Khloe’s line managed to disrupt the norm and proved to be Nordstrom’s second biggest launch ever. The line itself was the biggest denim launch of all time. It made $1 million on its first day. Pretty impressive for a reality tv star, huh. I think that figure alone just shows the bankability of the KarJen family. It makes sense that they want to capitalize on the fashion industry while they can. Their looks are some of the most influential.

Kylie in Good American

I have softened on the KarJen family. I used to think of them as representing the decline in culture (and I guess that argument still could be made) and everything that was wrong with modern society, but now I can appreciate their hustle. This family is damn good at business and knows how to build brands. It will be interesting to see how long each of their brands continue for. In the past, there has been Kardashian Kollection (a collaboration between Kourtney, Kim and Khloe) which was sold at Sears. This line was unsuccessful. They have the DASH boutiques which are more of a tourist destination than a fashion spot. Then Kendall and Kylie have their previous collections and brands. As with everything, the brands will live as long as they continue to be popular. Judging by social media and sales figures, they’ll be here to stay for a while.

The Importance of Creative Directors to Musicians

I came across an interesting article on Billboard recently about how in the digital age, a musician or an artist having a creative director in charge of their branding is more important than ever. This makes sense, especially because being in the social media spotlight can be highly beneficial to an artist and the key to gaining this kudos is by having a clearly defined and well managed brand – something cool for people to look at and aspire to. Branding is everything nowadays whether you like it or not. We all even have a personal brand, even if it is not monetized. If we all have a brand, are we all creative directors? Maybe on a micro-level. An artist needs to hire somebody to direct their brand because it is the most important thing they have, arguably. Songs can blow up and become a summer jam but are easily forgotten about a year later. A brand leads to longevity – something that is vital, and often missing, for musicians today.

So what does a creative director do exactly? To my understanding, a creative director is in charge of how things look overall. A wide, encompassing statement, I know, but I think it all comes down to imagery. Creative directors control the vibe, the style, the look of everything. Whether that be the clothing worn by the artists (acting as a wardrobe stylist, deciding not only tour outfits for on stage but everyday looks in case of candid paparazzi shots or the all-important Instagrams), the style of photography used in Instagram shots or album covers, or the color schemes, products, and locations used in music videos. Anything that you see can be, and is likely, conceptualized by the creative director and brought forward to the artist. That’s not to say that the artist is not in charge of their own style in any way. It is more so that the creative director comes up with ideas and then work with the artist to make something that feels authentic and right for the artist instead of a singleminded vision: a collaboration.

Virgil Abloh and Kanye West

I think the importance of a creative director can be best demonstrated via Kanye West and his longtime collaborator Virgil Abloh, who has become a star in his own right in the past year. Abloh has his own brand (Off-White, formerly operating another brand called Pyrex Vision), he DJs, he hosts events and parties all around the world, and he has degrees in Architecture and Engineering. He’s a smart guy. He’s also partially responsible for keeping Kanye West so relevant as he knows exactly what people want. Abloh has his finger on the pulse and has no problem telling people that he listens to the kids on Tumblr and realizes their spending power and also their knowledge of fashion. No bullshit passes by Tumblr kids, especially the fashion ones (myself included) as we have been given the resource to learn everything online. Abloh understands this and uses it to his advantage. He has taken things that he has found on Tumblr and presented it to West in the past, as mentioned in one of the interviews linked below. It’s no secret that West loves fashion and has tried various times to break into the industry, with his Yeezy line for Adidas being extremely commercially successful but other ventures failing or floundering. West has also found great success in the merch game, perhaps solely starting the trend of people wearing concert merch as fashion items, beginning back on the Yeezus tour in 2013. We hit peak merch in 2016 with the Saint Pablo tour and the trickle-down effect with merch-inspired pieces being sold in fast-fashion stores like Forever 21 (who were accused of copying West multiple times) and Zara. H&M currently sell a range of “band t-shirts” with various rock bands’ graphics printed on them. Everyone jumped onboard – retailers and other artists alike. Now everyone needs to have merch, and to have merch that sells you need a brand. That’s where your creative director comes in.

West is not the only musician with a creative director. In fact, most of the biggest stars in the music world have one right now. The Weeknd has La Mar Taylor, a friend from Toronto who created the now iconic mixtape trilogy covers and continues to manage the artistic outputs. The XO brand, the collective of individuals associated with The Weeknd, has gone from being an underground icon, big on Tumblr with a cult-like following but not yet mainstream, to being an easily recognized symbol that is even tattooed on loyal fans. The Weeknd recently done a collaboration with H&M, featuring shirts with the XO logo prominently posted. That wouldn’t’ve been possible if he didn’t have the brand. Some other stars just have stylists. There’s a difference. A creative director’s role is much bigger, and arguably much more important. I could go on for days and days about this topic because one of the things I love the most in life is seeing how fashion intersects with other industries. In this sense, fashion and music and art all collide into one, and everything, in turn, becomes one commercial product. That’s not to say that art for art’s sake doesn’t remain, it’s just that everything nowadays is monetized. Pure artistic endeavors still exist, but creative direction takes something from that level and makes it something bigger. Something that can help you pay the bills for years to come.

The Weeknd’s brand is XO

Further Reading

“The Secret to Being A Modern Pop Star? A Creative Director Pulling The Strings” – W Magazine, September 2016

“Virgil Abloh: From Pyrex to Paris” – Dazed Digital, 2016

“The Life of (Virgil) Abloh” – GQ, August 2016

“From Kanye to Kings of Leon, Why Artists Need Creative Directors in the Age of Instagram” – Billboard, April 2017

 

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garcons exhibition at the Met

I. don’t. get. Comme. des. Garcons. 

Really, I don’t. I went to the summer costume exhibition at the Met to check it out and, like almost everyone else who was visiting, I didn’t know what to think. It feels almost blasphemous to say that I didn’t like it or didn’t get it because there is this unwritten rule that if you are seriously into fashion (or claim to be) you must love Comme. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things from the brand I like. Dover Street Market is an amazing store with great merchandising techniques. The diffusion line with the little heart logo is branded perfectly. I can appreciate a really cool avant garde piece. I think they photograph brilliantly and I think they look really insane on the body (think Caroline Kennedy at this year’s Met Gala, or even Rihanna) but I don’t understand them and I know that the majority of people in my company at the museum felt the same way.

The exhibition was in a different gallery than the Manus x Machina one was last year and I didn’t like the space as much. It was lit very brightly with everything on stark white pedestals and some pieces were displayed well above eye-level, meaning it was easy to miss things if you didn’t realize you had to look up. The pieces featured spanned decades of Rei’s work. The exhibition was split up into various different segments, each representing a different aesthetic expression (e.g Clothes/Not Clothes) and there was no text explaining anything on the walls, nor credits for the clothing’s season etc – all of this information was to be found in a paper exhibition guide that was available at the entrance. Because of this, I found myself going around the exhibition faster than I normally would when I stop to read things because I didn’t actually read the guide until I sat down at the end and compared the guide with photographs I took. I still feel like I need further clarification though because I don’t understand the meanings of the pieces. I am a very imaginative person but I cannot immediately see the meaning of these clothes.

Ever since I got into fashion as a young teen, Comme des Garcons was a name I’d seen thrown about always in extremely high regard. On Tumblr, nobody dared disrespect Rei, thinking of her as the high priestess of fashion. I guess this mentality was ingrained into me without realizing it and for years I’ve always thought that I liked Comme, without actually thinking too much about it. Now I realize that I don’t like Comme, not because I think the clothes are bad but because I just don’t understand it at all and I can’t see the depth that others do. That includes most of the designers in the Japanese conceptualist movement, like Yohji Yamamoto, too. This year at the Met Gala, I was hoping for more out-there pieces because what I’ve seen from Comme des Garcons in the past and I do stand by my criticism of that red carpet. It was boring and could’ve been so much more if people were willing to push the boat out and not worry about looking hot for one evening.

I have compiled a little video, linked below, which is a get ready with me where I do my makeup, then once I have finished that I have included a lot of shots from the exhibition. I actually got a new camera recently and I’ve been playing with it, trying to work out its capabilities. The makeup video was actually just shot for fun, hence the unprofessional set-up, but once it was done I actually quite liked it so I decided to make something of it. The shots from inside the museum are taken on the same camera. I’m impressed with the quality.

Overall, if you’re in New York I think you should check out the exhibition and see what you think for yourself. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It didn’t help me gain any further understanding of or appreciation for the designer, but I did enjoy seeing it. I’m a huge advocate for fashion exhibitions and preserving garments like art pieces, because I do think of fashion as a form of commercial art, so I will always go along and see things even if I’m not a huge fan as I will always find it somewhat interesting.

Why Do People Think That Fashion is Frivolous?

As I discussed in a previous post, I went to a talk about sexuality in fashion that turned out to be a little bit more focused on sexuality in general. However, I’d like to bring it back to fashion as I think it is an equally interesting issue. I thought about more than sexuality but about gender. Men and women, and our differences. More specifically, I’m thinking about the dominance of female fashion and the trivialisation of it. When did fashion become thought of as frivolous? Was it when women got involved?

Fashion, like most businesses, is a male dominated world. In fact, merely a few hundred years ago fashion was more important for men. They wore high heels and elaborate outfits (just think of old paintings of kings and the get ups that they wore), and red heels were associated with a position of power. I found a parallel between this and the infamous Christian Louboutin red bottoms, and the level of luxury which they connote. They convey status, exactly how the red heels used to back in the time of Louis XIV. Male fashion is making a return in a major way, especially because more and more famous men, especially musicians, are embracing a strong look and are willing to experiment more. However, when you think of people working in fashion, going to fashion school, you think women.

There was a historical shift at some point in time between men and women and who had to dress up. At some point, male fashion dropped out of the psyche and utilitarian clothes became the norm. But maybe it was always like that in the lower classes who typically weren’t painted in portraits? When we look at history we almost always hear about the upper class and royalty. In the past hundred years or so, female fashion has triumphed. Look at a photography book and the changing styles of womenswear is always exciting. From the straight waisted dresses of the flappers, playing down the female form and creating a boyish figure, to the wasp waists of Dior’s New Look and everything that has come since then, the major changes in female fashion always relate to the body. We either look super feminine, with emphasised curves, or young and waif-like with no hips or waists. Fashion doesn’t often have inbetweens, especially not groundbreaking, memorable looks. It is all about extremes, whether that is hem lengths or silhouettes. And who decides on these changes? More often than not it is men.

Dior’s New Look (1947)

Even though fashion is typically associated with females, the people in the positions of power are typically male. Dior got its first female designer in Maria Grazia Chiuri, before that it was all men. Chanel is headed by a man. Calvin Klein, a man. Almost all of the biggest fashion houses, especially the historical ones, are headed by men who design clothes that doesn’t even work for their bodies. They design clothes for women, to be worn by women, to make women look good. However, there is a very different treatment of the female body by homosexual men than heterosexual men, and the large majority of male fashion designers are homosexual. The straight male designers can be counted on one hand – Rick Owens, Christophe Lemaire, Christian Louboutin and a few others.

Mr Louboutin has stated that he doesn’t care if his shoes hurt to walk in, as long as they make the wearer look good. I think a female designer wouldn’t have the same attitude. Women designing for women often make a point of creating clothes that they know others could feel comfortable in, and look good. It is possible to do both but sometimes males don’t understand the female body in the same way. This may be a rather ridiculous example but I was watching an old series of Project Runway a few days ago and one of the designers didn’t know how to create a look for a woman with D cup breasts. Women would understand that.

Josephine Baker in a typical flapper look (1920s)

The homosexual male designer’s relationship with the female form is often different than a heterosexual male designer’s. They look at it with adoration rather than lust. They often idealise it too. That is not to say that they cannot partake in the objectification of women though. They can still create ultra sexualised looks. I personally think, as long as their is no ill intent, that this is ok. It is important that people remember that runway fashion is fantasy, not real life. I am aware of this but I know that others are not. Often people don’t understand that what they are seeing is an ideal to aspire to, not an order to replicate. Honestly, even the models don’t look like that on a daily basis.

The point that I wanted to explore was the seemingly frivolous nature of fashion. I don’t think it is fair that people have to constantly justify the validity of fashion as a career, as an industry. It is more than clothes when it comes down to it. It is a business that employs millions of people worldwide. It is a large portion of many counties economies – imports and exports are important. It is an industry that makes billions per year.

Jennifer Aniston in a slip dress (1990s)

Was fashion always thought of as frivolous it is this a new thing? Was it always just women playing dress up or was it previously thought of something else? All throughout WW2, British Vogue was published, never missing an issue, as a way to keep up morale in the country. That is significant. In a time of great struggle and pain, fashion helped to keep people going. Sometimes you need a distraction.

However, for people like me and many others, fashion is not just a distraction. In fact, it is my life. I don’t know any other world because it has always been my primary interest since I was a young child. I’d almost say I’ve been known as the one who “likes fashion”, but sometimes that is just reduced to “likes clothes”, and I don’t think it is fair to have to justify the industry as more than clothes and shopping, because when you think about it, the fashion industry has so many complex issues just like other industries that are perceived to hold more weight intellectually.

Another issue that I think is important, and related, is that if fashion is thought of as for women and gay men, what happens to all the straight men who are interested? I often wonder if there are any young straight men, who would like to be involved in fashion (either work in it or go to fashion school) but are too afraid to jump in for fear of being called gay or stupid? After all, people consistently make jokes about fashion schools being filled of girls and gay men. What about all the straight male designers that want to design for men? Or even that want to design for women? Virgil Abloh is straight. The Gvasalia brothers are straight.

Grace Jones in shoulder pads (1980s)

I think sexuality is perhaps the most complex of issues relating to the fashion industry and I have really just scratched the surface of this issue, mostly relating to the difference between the male and female treatment of the female body. It goes much deeper than that. I want to explore that further too. There are subcultures that shouldn’t be ignored yet I haven’t even touched on that today.

I also think that a major problem relating to the public perception of fashion and its frivolity is that women are the main focus. That’s what it boils down to. It is like people almost don’t want women to succeed and have an area to thrive in. It has to be diminished, to be lessened, when really it is as valid a business as banking, for example, and being a fashion buyer is just as important as being in procurement for a construction company. All roles are essential, all industries are essential, and all of the sectors are important, regardless of what people may think fashion is like.