Commentary

The Return of Paco Rabanne

It’s funny how things work out. I made a note on my iPhone of things I wanted to talk about on my blog at some point and one of them said, I quote, “Paco Rabanne is so cool to me and they have been making cool, futuristic clothes since the 1960s”. This thought was initially spurred by seeing Emily Ratajkowski in one of the dresses from the most recent runway collection and thinking she looked incredible. I knew instantly from the chainmail design that it was Paco Rabanne and I proceeded to look up the entire collection on Vogue Runway. As I said before, I really didn’t manage to keep up with things this fashion month so I had only noticed sporadic updates on Instagram, depending on what outlet showed up at the top of my feed. This train of thought then developed further after I chanced upon a vintage design by Paco Rabanne himself during a tour of the Museum at FIT’s “Paris Refashioned, 1957 – 1968” exhibition. The exhibition highlights the revolution that occurred in Parisian fashion, starting from Dior’s New Look and moving into the 60s with designers like Yves Saint Laurent bringing out ready-to-wear, and Andre Courreges and Pierre Cardin rising to prominence. It is easy to associate the sixties with London as normally when that decade is discussed, it is London based designers that are mentioned like Mary Quant and icons like Twiggy. However, Paris was in the same period of change. The exhibition ends in 1968, the year of the student protests and when Balenciaga closed his house. How ironic is it that the current creative director of Balenciaga is most definitely a streetwear designer when Balenciaga himself shuttered his business after feeling that he was unable to create couture due to the increasingly casual and ready-to-wear aspect of fashion. I encourage you to visit the exhibition if you can before it closes (April 15th) if you’re in New York City. Finally, the day I made this note on my phone I looked at Vogue.com, as I often do, and seen that on their homepage there was an article about Paco Rabanne and how the brand was having a comeback. After spotting that headline I knew I was onto something.

 

What I’ve always found most fascinating about Paco Rabanne are the various futuristic, radical styles that would’ve been oh-so-relevant during the space race of the 1960s. The concept of space exploration was so crazy at the time and the breakthroughs in science to make it possible were incredible and a real achievement that we tend to gloss over today (especially due to conspiracy theories about the moon landing). Fashion was inspired by the otherworldly and interpreted this through lots of metallics. Paco Rabanne was mainly known for his use of unconventional materials to make his pieces. I attended a lecture at FIT on the aforementioned exhibition and found out that Rabanne’s pieces were actually made of metal and some had real diamonds. They were very heavy, very expensive, and very unwearable. You see many iconic images of the looks but they were just images. Performers used to wear them on stage to make a statement.

Costumes from the unofficial Casino Royale

Nowadays, Paco Rabanne is overseen by Julien Dossena. I’d say this is his biggest collection for the brand yet in terms of buzz. Dossena’s work first came onto my radar a couple of seasons ago (after I’d heard that he was dating Nicolas Ghesquiere) but he has actually been working in the industry for quite some time, previously working under Ghesquiere’s direction at Balenciaga for many years. He commenced his role at Paco Rabanne back in 2013 so this collection has been a long time coming. Dossena began exploring the iconic chainmail designs last season but in this season’s collections it stood out greatly. It helps that the pieces were worn off the runway by models and influencers, and also that the timing was right in terms of giving the public what they need. We are at such a shitty time in the world that we need outrageous fashion, we need over the top impractical designs to serve as a distraction from reality. This wasn’t outrageous, per se, but it does mark a real shift away from the minimalist aesthetic that reigned supreme until perhaps two years ago. What made this collection distinctly different from Paco Rabanne in the 60s was that Dossena found a way to make the chainmail look fluid. It looked lightweight and almost liquid as it draped over the model’s body. The asymmetric cut was flattering both on the runway and on @emrata as featured below. These looks coupled with the high shine, reflective silver shoes hammered home the new trend. You know that chainmail is back. You know that silver is the color. Zara already makes little silver booties.

I’m excited to see the Paco Rabanne brand being discussed again in such a mainstream way instead of confined to discussions about wacky fashion from decades long past. I think the Fall 2017 collection has given the brand the much needed injection of press and I’d like to see it in the spotlight for seasons to come, especially if the collections continue to be of the same quality as this one.

 

Further reading

“The Space Age Designer Making a Comeback Over All The Fall Runways” – Vogue.com | the article mentioned at the beginning of this post which reflects on Paco Rabanne’s influence on modern day fashion and how the Fall 2017 collection contributes to this

“Paco Rabanne Fall 2017” – Vogue.com | the review of this season’s show by Sarah Mower, click through to see the full collection too

“I prefer fast girls to cute girls” – The Telegraph | an interview with Julien Dossena about the house and his goals and inspirations (also the source of the Casino Royale image)

Coachella Capsule Wardrobe – 2017

COACHELLA WARDROBE

 

On the back of my previous post about Coachella and the influence that the festival is having on retailers, I decided to style a set of what, in my mind, would be a perfect Coachella wardrobe. I tried to have as few pieces as possible, especially ones that I thought were interchangeable but still looked good as when you’re at a festival you don’t want to take your entire wardrobe. Some of the items I included were high-end (which is not uncommon at festivals nowadays) but they are also substitutable for fast-fashion pieces as well.
The first look is a lace bralet with lightweight flowly culottes and Puma sneakers. I could actually wear this look as I have most of the elements at home (besides these exact sneakers). My reasoning behind this was that you could wear the sneakers on all three days so your feet stay covered (no open-toe sandals at festivals), and the other elements were so you didn’t get too warm. Coachella is held in the desert and it seemingly gets crazy hot. I added bangles and a watch to this look because your arms would be on display so it added something fun. Finally, the crossbody bag is so you can be handsfree. The second look consists of the same shoes and accessories (minus the bangle) but this time with a mesh top and denim cut-offs. The same denim cut-offs would be worn the following day, this time with a spaghetti strap bodysuit (or tank). The final look has the matching kimono for the culottes from the first look.
Let me know what you think? Who could you picture in these looks?
Looks I liked from previous years

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo as a style icon is funny to me. I’ve never thought of her as fashionable. She was, however, known for being unapologetic about her heritage at a time when Mexicans were unpopular in America. In fact, it is not much different now than it was then. Ever since Donald Trump suggested building a wall, anti-Mexican sentiment that was often hushed has once again being exposed. The issue of race is so complicated in America, something that has become increasingly apparent in recent years with the abundance of murders and attacks on, basically, anyone who isn’t white.

Frida Kahlo, besides being a talented artist, was known for not liking white people. Despite this, she speaks to a lot of women, including white women, for her uncompromising nature. She painted herself in natural dress when women were shunning that look. She let her eyebrows grow into a monobrow, even though that is thought of extremely unfeminine. Was she a feminist because she did what she wanted or have we painted her as a feminist hero without her making any true statements? This is something I’ve wanted to explore.

My Grandparents, My Parents, and me (this is my favourite painting)
My Grandparents, My Parents, and me (this is my favourite painting)

I have always been drawn to her artwork because I find it visually appealing. On top of that, everyone knows Frida Kahlo as her image is iconic. I can understand why she is hailed as a style icon because her look is unique. However, there is more to the woman than that. For example, a famous painting of hers at the MoMA in New York explores her familial background. It has two sets of grandparents on each side, one white and German and the others Mexican, then her parents, then her. It is important that she chose to identify with her Mexican roots instead of the white side of her family. There is another self portrait that she did with her two selves, connected by veins. It shows the duality of her, as like many women she had an image that she presented to the public and an image of her true self. The painting is believed to represent two sides of her after her break-up from her husband who cheated on her. One side is broken-hearted and rejected whilst the other side is well-presented and still appealing to her husband.

The Two Fridas
The Two Fridas

Maybe it’s Kahlo’s spirit that makes her an icon. It’s nothing to do with clothes or appearance. It’s about attitude. A nonchalant way of living that many people strive to achieve, and often never quite manage to reach. One thing is for certain, Frida Kahlo stayed true to who she was and didn’t change herself to suit the male gaze or the typical white beauty standards. That is a true skill that all women should learn. Be yourself, not who someone else may want you to be.

Further reading on the artist & the cultural appropriation of her work (and her as a person)

“Quit Appropriating Frida Kahlo” – Resistance Always, WordPress (lots of good photos on this post too)

“Stop Bastardising Frida Kahlo” – a popular post that went around Tumblr

“Frida Kahlo would hate your Frida Kahlo shirt” – Golden Gate Xpress

Tom Ford is moving to Los Angeles

A look from Tom Ford’s Spring 2017 collection, the last “see now, buy now” offering

Newsflash: Tom Ford is relocating his offices to Los Angeles. Why does this matter to you? Honestly, it represents the shift in the fashion industry from a highly structured, regimented machine to a more free-flowing, space-for-everyone kind of place that it is today. Think about it, nobody is sticking to a strict timetable now. Some brands are doing “see now, buy now”, some brands are doing “see now, preorder now” and some brands are just sticking to the regular old timetable. Then it comes down to fashion week scheduling. The official calendar, in New York at least, doesn’t mean much given that brands are choosing to show outside of the city (often in LA). Some are taking it even further than that and showing on a calendar entirely of their own (Vetements and Public School are the two most prominent examples). We are at a period of change in the fashion industry and who knows what things will look like in five years time.

Tom Ford moving to LA is exciting to me, because hopefully others will follow suit. LA began to have its moment when Hedi Slimane relocated the YSL offices there a few years back. Now that he has left his role there and creative control has been handed back to Paris, there was a slight void in the newfound high fashion spot. Tom Ford has filled it, quite literally, by taking over the old office space that the Saint Laurent team previously occupied. Off Highland, on Santa Monica Boulevard, the space is below Hollywood yet close enough to remember you’re in La La Land.

In the past, collectively people have associated LA fashion with surfers and beaches and maybe even denim. However, it is becoming so much more than that. Whilst it is true that celebrity reigns supreme in Los Angeles, the art scene is growing and the fashion scene is becoming a lot more legitimate. Other brands that have design offices here, or are entirely based in the city, include & Other Stories, the Swedish “atelier-based” chain under the H&M umbrella, Elizabeth & James (Mary-Kate and Ashley’s second line) and Rodarte. FarFetch, the e-commerce giant, has an office with 120 employees Downtown. I’d like to see a shift in the industry to more brands relocating to LA, or at least opening smaller satellite offices.

Personally, I’d like to move to LA one day. Sometime after I graduate I hope to live in California and enjoy the weather. However, a career is also insanely important to me and I wouldn’t like to think that I’d be forfeiting it by leaving New York. With more brands starting to make the switch to the West Coast, that looks less and less likely. Currently the Los Angeles fashion industry is very much celebrity driven. Most fashion stylists working out there are in celebrity styling/event dressing. Think of the Hollywood Reporter’s annual list of the Most Powerful Stylists. Everyone on there does red carpet dressing. PR companies based there are in the same field. It makes sense given that Hollywood is the center of the entertainment industry. I’d like the option of doing e-commerce or editorial styling, alongside celebrity styling too. It’s interesting to see what the future holds.

Vogue Italia's e-Commerce cover reflects the future of fashion

Vogue Italia’s first cover under their new editor-in-chief, Emanuele Farneti, is here and it focuses on e-commerce. It’s almost satire, bringing to light the rise of the internet and the decline of brick and mortar stores in today’s modern world. It’s interesting and I appreciate the social commentary, even if it’s put forward in a humorous, light way. Shot by Steven Meisel and styled by Karl Templer, the issue is on sale now.

Vogue Italia as a magazine is always at the forefront of what is happening culturally, sometimes in an insensitive way (as critics said after the cover alluding to the BP oil spill in August 2010). The aforementioned cover featured Kristen McMenamy lying on a dirty beach, covered in oil and surrounded by rocks and sea-debris. At the time, the magazine and the photographer, Steven Meisel, caught heat for what was interpreted as mocking the Gulf Sea spill which devastated marine wildlife. The current cover, whilst not controversial in the same way, could still be interpreted as social commentary.

Almost once a week an email pops up in my inbox, telling me about the latest retailer to go into administration. The profile is generally this: American, mall-brand, no longer in favor with millennials, poor e-commerce. Think about it, staple stores where Americans went throughout their childhoods are now disappearing rapidly. Analysts speculate that Sears and K-Mart will be gone by the end of this year as well. Why is it happening? To bring it down to the most basic of levels, the rise of e-commerce and the decline of mall culture.

Quite simply, kids don’t hang out in shopping malls anymore. That’s not a cool thing to do. Teen movies of the 80s and 90s almost always featured a scene in a shopping mall – Mallrats, Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High – yet nowadays they’re not so prominent. Teens don’t want to all dress the same anymore. Individuality, or perceived individuality more so, is key. Thrifting is cool, fast-fashion is cool (although there is a sub-set of teens who are ethically opposed to fast-fashion retailers and its harmful effect, but they still make up the minority of consumers); mall brands are not cool. Abercrombie & Fitch, perhaps the king of teen clothing throughout the noughties, has undertaken an entire repositioning approach in order to recapture the millennial customer that was once their core shopper but has defected to other brands. In an attempt to do this they have changed their product offering (removed visible branding, used higher quality materials, gone with more design-led basics) and tried to overhaul their stores. While the brand is still struggling, they are managing. Many teen retailers have met a different fate. In the past year, stores closing down entirely include American Apparel (unrelated to the rise of e-commerce, internal politics killed this brand), BCBG, Wet Seal, and The Limited. Other huge stores like JC Penney and Macy’s are closing doors around the country. To summarize, brick and mortar stores are not doing well.

E-commerce, on the other hand, is only getting stronger. We may think that e-commerce sales make up the majority of revenue for brands as it can certainly seem that way, but really it is only around 10% of sales in the US. However, the e-commerce sector as a whole is growing, around 6% in 2016. E-commerce is a sector that I would prefer to work in, purely because the growth is exciting. E-commerce is the future. Some companies that do it perfectly are Moda Operandi and FarFetch.

Moda Operandi is a New York-based e-tailer, launched in 2010, that allows customers to order looks straight from the runway. It works on a pre-order basis, with customers buying their items straight after the runway shows and receiving them at the beginning of the delivery season. It is a way to guarantee that you get the piece you’ve seen before it sells out and also gives the customer that adrenaline rush that fuels fashion purchases. You have it, it is yours, but you have to wait. The company also holds online trunk shows which run for a limited time only where you pay a deposit on the item and pay the rest later. When I first came across the site I was immediately intrigued and honestly I still think it is one of the most exciting companies in fashion today. They have since expanded into having personal shopping consultants where you can try on pieces in person before pre-ordering. They also offer a “Boutique” service which has current season items as well, for those who simply cannot wait. There was talk about what would happen to them given the whole see-now, buy-now culture of fashion and the new system which is currently being trialled, but honestly I think they will succeed.

FarFetch is a wholly different enterprise. Started in 2008, the brand is now valued at over $1 billion USD. They began as a way to bring different fashion boutiques from around the world together under one united e-commerce site, giving benefits to both the boutiques and the consumers: consumers have greater choice, boutiques have greater distribution. It was another cool concept. The site has almost every designer brand you can think of, from luxury brands like Givenchy and Saint Laurent (categorized under Luxe) to younger, emerging designers like Protagonist and Sally Lapointe (classed as Lab). If you can’t find something on FarFetch, you’re probably not going to find it anywhere. Saying this, you’d think the site would be overwhelming due to the volume of products but you can filter things down so much that you can find anything you’re looking for. To make things better, in my opinion, the company has just been joined by Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter, as their non-executive chairman. I personally think Natalie Massenet is one of the most interesting figures in the fashion industry, purely because her business acumen is incredible. She built one of the first huge, and still leading, luxury e-commerce sites in a time where e-commerce was a no-go for high end brands, and now every designer has their own e-commerce site or at least some outlet for online distribution. I’m interested to see what her role will consist of at FarFetch, given that she used to lead one of their competitors, but left her own company in 2015, shortly before it was bought by Yoox.

Finally, an honorable mention in the e-commerce category goes to Matches Fashion, a London based retailer which began as a small boutique in Wimbledon and grew into one of the most prominent luxury e-commerce sites. British Vogue did a great profile on the owners, Ruth and Tom Chapman, in their most recent issue that I encourage you to read if you get the chance.

Fashion Month – Fall 2017

I’ve been really terrible at blogging for the entire month of February. I have a zillion drafts saved with various titles about events that happened throughout the month, yet I have no desire to write about them now because it’s just too late. Like, aren’t we all over New York Fashion Week? Hasn’t the shock of Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy departure worn off? I feel like instead of typing out my thoughts on these events, I’ve discussed them in person, either with my friends or in school. That being said, I’ve kept a long-running note on my Macbook with various observations that I’ve made throughout fashion month so instead of breaking my posts up by city, I’m just going to put it all in one post in a rambling post. I hope you enjoy!

NEW YORK

Ok, so the exciting thing about New York Fashion Week was the fact that Raf Simons was back. Even though he had only been gone for such a small period of time, it seemed like an eternity in fashion when everything moves so quickly and a few seasons feels like 4 years. I personally liked his debut ready-to-wear collection for Calvin Klein, especially the transparent plastic over the trench coats (reminded me of the Doom Generation which I was obsessed with when I was fifteen) and the heavy focus on outerwear. However, I can see that the #mycalvins will be a thing of the past and that sucks but the Moonlight cast underwear ads are incredible so we’re all good. Alexander Wang was another show that I really liked, especially these two looks (a and b), and the venue was cool. The long leather coats at The Row were super cool. I loved this suit at Jason Wu. A theme I noticed throughout NYFW was grey blazers, in some form of check. This made me mad at myself because I used to own the most perfect vintage Ralph Lauren one a few years ago but I gave it to charity because I rarely wore it. Big mistake. I normally love Area’s lookbooks but they moved to a show format this season which was kind of sad actually but it does show growth for the brand. I’m obsessed with this coat from Proenza Schouler. Anything that combines vinyl-looking leather and fur/shearing, I’m onboard with. Narciso Rodriguez’s collection was very much how I wish I dressed on a day-to-day basis.

Alexander Wang

LONDON

By the time London Fashion Week rolled around, I was in LA. During that time I barely touched my phone for social media or email purposes. I just used the Maps app for directions.

MILAN

I didn’t like the runway at Gucci because I think it was too distracting for the actual showgoers, plus there were too many looks. The standout ones were a, b, and c – I’m so happy about the return of snakeskin boots. The colors at Max Mara were perfect. Honestly everything about that show just looked so good. The styling was sublime. I was so into the red boots at Fendi. I want a pair already, it was an instant sale (if only I could afford them). This coat at Prada is to die for. The dry-cleaning theme at Moschino was hilarious, they even put a wire hanger in the model’s hair.

Prada

PARIS

This dress at Jacquemus is so beautiful, it reminded me of vintage Chanel with a twist. This brand has the best IG. I love the new Saint Laurent, even if it’s just 80s redone. I’m so desperate for a pair of the logo earrings. From this collection I loved the sparkling mini dresses (a and b), the latter of the pair being a better version of the one I wore on New Years. Surprisingly I found myself liking a lot of looks at Off-White. I say surprisingly because although I like Virgil Abloh and admire his work ethic, I have never been the biggest fan of his clothes. However, this collection was interesting to me, even though it was entitled “Nothing New” I thought it was different for him. I want to wear this look, but I also like a, b, and c. This coat at Mugler was 80s power shoulders to the max and I thought it was so fun. Balenciaga was actually interesting to me. Normally I’m not a big fan of Demna Gvasalia but this collection was great, particularly a, b, and c. It was sad to see a Givenchy collection without Riccardo Tisci (I wasn’t ready for his departure to be a real thing) but I do like how they directly referenced pieces from his tenure. It was a nice tribute. Louis Vuitton rented out the Louvre for the show and honestly this is an instance where the design standard matched the location. I loved it. In particular, a and b.

Off-White

LA – February 2017

I took a trip to LA this past week. It was unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. From what I’d heard over the past few years, California was experiencing a drought. Rich people were getting derided for using sprinklers to keep their lawns green when most vegetation was turning brown. However, when I went we were hit by a storm so bad that we spent the entire Friday inside, lying on the sofa watching the rain pour down. The infinity pool in the back yard rippled and began to overflow. One minute you could see the mountains in the distance, the next they were obscured by a wall of cloud. I was in the Valley.

I stayed in LA for four full days, but 5 nights in total. In that time I seen almost everything I wanted to see. I seen the Valley, I seen the mountains, I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, through some canyons, down Sunset at sunset and various other times throughout the day, I ate the best food, I browsed in many stores, I seen the ocean, I put my toe on the sand, I drove to the top of a hill and observed the entire city below me, looking to Downtown and across to the sea. I really loved it. I cannot fault the trip.

The differences between New York and LA were so striking to me. It’s a completely different way of life. I’ve thought about moving there after graduation a few times and it appeals to me in some ways but not in others. Now that I’ve visited I’m more sure of the positives of the city and what it has to offer. I still have my concerns though. In my mind, LA is rather isolating. Everyone drives. I worry that it would be difficult to meet people because it’s not the same as New York where you just walk around everywhere and bump into new people. I think socializing would require more effort and making new friends and trying to build relationships would take a lot of work. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable making the switch to the west coast until I knew a couple of people out there, at least as acquaintances to meet up with initially. Overall, everything just felt more chill. Less rushed. Even when we were backed up in traffic on the 405 I didn’t feel stressed out. Normally if I stop for a minute in New York I’m antsy. I can’t even wait at a traffic light for the walk sign without pacing halfway into the flow of oncoming cars. I think the pace of life would take some adjusting to, especially coming from New York. However, thousands of people move from New York to LA and vice versa every single year and manage so it must be doable.

The best element of my trip was the food. I feel like I ate so damn well. We went to Spago on Saturday evening for a meal and it was the best thing that’s ever passed my lips. The portions were perfectly sized and the pasta I had was so full of flavor that I finished it all and ate slowly to savor every piece. The steak was also perfect. Brunch at Chateau Marmont was another experience as the food was tasty (and gluten free for some reason), the surroundings were iconic, and the fellow diners were somebodies. I feel like I could look the part and somehow make people think I was a somebody too. It would’ve been funny. Johnny Depp’s daughter was two tables away from me and just as beautiful in person as the Chanel ads, but she has fantastic genetics. Mel’s Drive-In on Sunset was a good lunch option too. I ate a lot of lamb on the trip. A random snippet of information but strange if you know me as you’d know that I order bolognese at every restaurant I go to, yet nowhere I went had traditional bolognese and this was always my closest option. I had a wonderful pasta dish with lamb sausage and red peppers which tasted like Hungarian goulash to me. It was also delicious. Oh, and of course I had an In-N-Out burger. Of course.

I went to almost every store in LA and, whilst I enjoyed browsing, all I bought on the entire trip was a black zip-up hoodie from the men’s section of H&M (it got cold in the house), a new Beauty Blender sponge, and a bunch of random supplies from CVS (e.g. Intensive moisturizer as my skin just dies after travel, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition for $10…). Disappointing really when you consider some of the stores LA has to offer. There were certainly a few experiences to be had. Fred Segal was interesting because it’s such an iconic store but I found the merchandise carried different than what I’d imagined. Nasty Gal in Santa Monica was strange as the entire store was on sale, literally. You could buy the fixtures, plants, mirrors, everything. Wasteland (the vintage store) was disappointing. I’d first heard of it a few years ago, randomly stumbling across their website one time when looking for high-end vintage clothing and I remember being so amazed by it. Going into the store was a slightly disappointing experience as I found everything to be so overpriced. I think they grew too big perhaps. I went to Rodeo Drive and Abbot Kinney (but didn’t shop) and I went to the Grove (where I almost did) and I went to the Beverly Center (where I actually did). I didn’t yet make it to Decades or Elyse Walker; I’m saving them for next time.

The most interesting store to me out of all of these places was Maxfield. I loved Maxfield. It’s somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit for years now and I’ve been interested in potentially working for in the future. I just loved it. The store was so conceptual but not in an annoying and pretentious way. The merchandise selection was spot-on, a mix of high fashion, uber luxury (like vintage Hermes) with young brands like Off-White and Enfants Riches Deprimes, the visuals were cool, and the assortment of art books and coffee table books was cool – like a perfectly curated gift section really. Cool. Everything was cool. The staff, the customers, everything. If I had the funds I could’ve done some serious damage there. To make things even cooler, the Vetements pop-up was still outside. I wish I could’ve gone inside but it was closed when I was there. If you haven’t already seen images online, the Vetements pop-up was like a dry cleaners. It was so funny. To see it in person was a really cool experience for me because normally I’m an outsider to these things, just seeing it via Instagram. Across the street in the gallery space was the Daft Punk pop-up exhibition. It was the first thing like this that I’ve ever waited in line for. It was also really cool, but I think I may write about it in more detail in a separate post so I shall leave that for that.

Besides shopping, I spent most of the time on this trip as the passenger in the car. I was just chauffeured around, being the human GPS system and occasionally taking a nap but more often than not just taking in everything around me. It was really fascinating to me. My fondest memories from the trip are from places I seen whilst in the car and conversations I had on the journey. I love the palm trees too. Really, I think I would like LA. It has a lot to offer. Plus, 9 times out of 10 the weather is perfect. I look forward to my return, whenever that will be.

MR Writers Club: Describe Your Personal Style

See below the response I submitted to last month’s prompt.


Black & minimalist. Words that I’d previously use to describe my personal style. Note: previously. I worked in an office for a year at 17 and quickly adapted to the corporate dress code. Somehow it spilled over into my casualwear. Neither jeans nor sneakers existed. I wore a uniform of pencil skirts, wide leg pants, and black tops of some variant. I’d say I dressed twenty years older than my chronological age. Sometimes I still do.

I went back to school this summer. Starting college after two years out of the system was daunting to me, especially coming from Scotland where things are rather different. Not only were the classes going to be unfamiliar, but the people too. I’ve discovered that although we are two English speaking countries, culturally, we are worlds apart. I learned that teenagers in America are really teenagers. Like, actual kids still, not mini-adults like we are at home. I soon realized that I had to adapt or I would stick out. During orientation people were already asking me why I dressed up so much, so I made a conscious decision to change. It was time. Micro-miniskirts in various materials (vinyl, pleather, scuba), colorful fur coats, t-shirts, and jeans have made it into the rotation. I literally hadn’t worn denim since I was 14 years old.

I enjoy getting dressed nowadays. I often think of a #look (yes, the hashtag really elevates it) and strive to realize it. I love when I plan an outfit mentally and execute it perfectly. Going to a fashion school helps too, allowing the freedom to push the boundaries of what would be considered acceptable in a regular college. Sometimes I will wear the most ridiculous outfits just because I can. It’s fun. Fashion should be fun.

The Man Repeller ethos was ingrained in me before I even heard about this website. I’ve never dressed for guys. Ever. I don’t want to. Case in point, I wore a typical “club” outfit yesterday but paired it with black leather Converse and a plaid blazer. “Geography professor” vibes, yet I think it looked cool. The week before I wore Acne Studios leopard print tights with a leopard print fur coat – you’ve got to fully commit to that kind of thing. I got many puzzled faces looking back at me on the streets (and I thought New York would be ready for that look).

My style has changed over the past few months, but so have I as a person. I’ve matured and my style has too. I’d say the biggest sign of maturity is not caring what people think, knowing that you are enough without requiring the validation of others. That’s what I’ve come to achieve in my outfit choices and, almost, in daily life. So, to summarize my new, improved, and ever-evolving style in the simplest way possible: a series of #looks. (Say the hashtag.)

Personal Style, again

I was on the Village Voice website earlier today and I came across an article in their fashion section from 2015. In it the writer chronicles her trip on the train in New York where she seen a whole bunch of people wearing the same items (Herschel backpack, flannel shirts, Shrimps fur coats etc.). The article ended up being an exploration into personal style and whether we, as New Yorkers, still have it.

There used to be a perception of a big city style. New York was black, polished, and streamlined. Now it’s a mix of everything. Furthermore, the big city style has reached the suburbs. I remember watching Working Girl for the first time and being hit by the makeover that Tess had in order to work her way up the corporate ladder – and she was already a New Yorker. Nowadays that kind of thing doesn’t need to happen. You don’t need to spend a small fortune to look professional. You don’t need to go to fashion shows to know what’s cool. The internet has democratised fashion to a level never before reached. It’s for the masses now. Fast fashion helps too, knowing that a look on the Gucci runway will be replicated in Zara often before the original hits the stores. We can all be a part of it.

This then made me think of quotes from Raf Simons’ recent interview in GQ:

I was actually someone who was very often saying that fashion keeps thinking that it can serve everybody, that it can be there for everybody, high fashion. I’m sorry, but high fashion was always for a small environment. High fashion by nature used to be extreme. Right now we define a lot of things as high fashion, but they’re not high fashion. They’re clothes. They’re clothes on the runway with a nice little twist of styling and coloration. Everybody thinks it’s high fashion. Bullshit. There is very little high fashion.

He thinks that fashion isn’t elite anymore, which is definitely true. Anyone can be a designer. Anyone can make it big, whether that be as a creator or an influencer. Your clothes are merely clothes, and put them on the right people and they can become a trend and you can solidify yourself a place on the must-see fashion show list on every fashion news outlet out there. Look at Vetements and the constant stream of coverage the brand gets. Raf’s interview is actually a good read in terms of gauging his opinion on the current state of fashion and the brands that are at the top. He is unafraid to share his views because he knows he is in an almost untouchable position and that without him and his archive, many brands would struggle to produce collections. He is arguably one of the most influential designers of the century thus far.

But going back to the point of the original article, the writer was saying that in the pursuit of personal style, we all end up dressing the same. Maybe it’s because we are all exposed to similar influencers or maybe it’s an attempt to be different and just ending up the same, accidentally. Either way, there is little truly original personal style left out there. The conclusion that the writer came to, after interviewing various subjects, was that although we all wear the same items, we wear them in different ways or with different things, hence making them individual once again.

Honestly, I’d argue otherwise. Sometimes I will buy something then six months later when I encounter a lot of other people wearing it, I’m put off. I feel like something is less my style, more just mass acceptance fashion once it becomes a trendy item. Trends have the ability to ruin an item, to make it unwearable. I’m not someone who is super out-there with my dress sense or someone who cares too much about being totally individual, but sometimes it bothers me when I end up having something that turns into a trend. In a way its embarrassing as you feel a little bit like a clone, or like you can’t make decisions for yourself so you copy others. Conversely, that’s just fashion. If it doesn’t hit the masses, was it ever fashion in its true definition? Or was it just clothes?

Another aspect of personal style that actually upsets me is seeing celebrities being lauded for their style and originality and trend setting abilities when their looks have all been picked for them by stylists. Literally nothing that many of the bigger influencers wear (Kardashians, Hadids, Selena Gomez etc.) has been picked by them. They pay a stylist to curate a wardrobe for them to wear. It’s very strange to me to see these people being called style icons and entire websites and Instagram accounts dedicated to chronicling their sartorial choices. I’ve touched on this before previously but it is something that is truly baffling to me. Then on top of that, said influencers undertake collaborations with brands to “design” collections. It’s odd. But it’s fashion. As Raf said, fashion thinks it can cater to the masses and this is exactly what that phenomenon demonstrates. Fashion is pop culture. 100%.

 

Further reading

“Is Personal Style Dead?” – Village Voice, November 2015

“Raf Simons on life in New York, designing under Trump, and the New Generation of Designers who look up to him” – GQ, January 2017

“Personal Style/Celebrity Stylists” – from my website, June 2016

“What the Hell Happened to Personal Style?” – Vogue.com, April 2016

Spend More, Buy Less – Part 4

As I said in my first post on this topic, I plan to investigate the matter further. The first step that I planned to take was watching The True Cost, the documentary that has been talked about in every fast-fashion criticism of the past few years. I have also read a book on the topic Where Am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman, a writer who chronicled his travels around the world to find out exactly where his clothes were made: Levi’s, the all-American icon were made in Cambodia, his flip-flops made in China. I also went to a talk by the author during my orientation week at school. I found it very interesting and it also brought up further ethical dilemmas. It so happened that I went to a talk about sustainability in Edinburgh in July which sparked another post, so here is part 4 in the Spend More, Buy Less series; a series that I hope to continue for as long as I can keep thinking up ideas on the matter.

I did actually watch The True Cost and I found it rather saddening. I hate to think that people would be dying just so I can buy a pair of jeans for £20 or a t-shirt for £3. Obviously these items should cost more but I think we have become so accustomed to paying these prices that we think nothing of it. Especially when you’re a teenager and you have a small monthly allowance, you’re unlikely to save up to get an expensive, ethically made pair of jeans or a t-shirt. For the past year I have been working full time and therefore have had a little bit more money than I did before (but I was saving for college so I didn’t have quite as much spending money as I wish I did!) so I did buy more expensive, hopefully more ethical purchases than I did before. Now I’m back to being a student without a job and therefore no income. So the small amount of money that I do have I am likely to spend on clothes from Zara. I feel slightly ashamed to even think like that now that I am fully aware of what goes into the making of these clothes but I will also not be able to afford anything better so it’s a bit of a catch-22 that I’m sure many other people are in.

On one hand, I could shop locally made. For example, since I’ll be in the USA I could buy items from American Apparel, a now-flailing brand, but they don’t have the selection that I’m looking for. They’re just basics. I could also shop vintage. I do enjoy this actually but it is definitely more difficult if you’re looking for something super specific. Since arriving in New York I’ve found a bunch of great vintage/second hand stores, although I find that they can be a little bit expensive for used clothing. Really I’m broke as hell so I’m not doing much shopping at all right now.

Since attending fashion school I’m experiencing further disdain for the fast-fashion industry and even private label brands who are ripping off the work of other designers. Yet I feel stuck because I can’t afford any better, and being at a fashion school it almost feels necessary to keep refreshing your style. It is very difficult to be around people who are constantly wearing new looks and trying new things and not wanting to be involved. It’s rather disappointing to me because when I started researching this I thought that by the end of the year I might have stopped shopping fast fashion altogether, and now here is me buying multiple pieces from Zara a month. I’ve even shopped at Forever 21 a couple of times. It’s kind of embarrassing to me, especially because I’m now ultra aware of the effects of my consumption.

It is funny reading this post from beginning to end for me because I started it in August with the best intentions and as time has passed and I’ve got less and less money and more and more urges and desires to have new things, I seem to have just lost everything that I had found over the summer. I can see my viewpoint changing throughout the post. From before I got to New York (I could shop at American Apparel) to after I’d been there a few weeks (I could go thrifting) to now (Zara, Forever 21). It is shameful and I am sorry. I really need to sit down and reevaluate things because I know that fast fashion isn’t worth it, not to me or to the people (and the environment) that are being harmed as a result of it.

To anyone out there who is reading this and wants to remain stylish but on a (very small) budget, what’s your advice? How do you will yourself away from fast fashion? And honestly, how do you shop vintage? (The experience is just stressful to me.)