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Fashion

We’re All Just Copycats: Style Icons

Style is as unique as it is a total sham. We copy, we remix, and we take from those in the spotlight, people otherwise known as style icons.

There are the staples, women that all women love and want to be like: Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, Rihanna, Beyoncé, or whatever supermodel of the year is being indulged by Vogue Magazine…Karlie Kloss for some time, now one or both of the Hadids and so on.

If you speak with those entrenched in style you might find some cult favorites: Carine Roitfeld or Leandra Medine, for example. And as for men, I’m afraid I’ve not heard many of them claim to be inspired by anyone (dirty liars, they’ve got to have eyes on someone.)

Personally, I’ve got more than a few and I’m certain some of them are obvious, but today I want to tell a story about one of my icons. She keeps coming up in my mind and I suppose these days she’s emerging as my inspiration more than others.

caroline in menswear

Caroline de Maigret, Wanda Nylon, and my first Fashion Week

It was the year 2016. The month of March, early March. Still chilly in Paris, but with some bright sunshine attempting to filter through the city’s characteristic gray, especially beautiful during what the English call “the gloaming” and what the french refer to as “le crépescule.”

My first fashion show ever. I had popped into a presentation for a brand called Sixth June, but it was hardly fashion week caliber—this was the real deal. My friend Hannah and I, invitations late to our mailboxes, shouted our names and our publication at the bouncer amidst the beautiful people.

Inside the drafty and unfinished building I wondered how this was a venue just as much as Grand Palais, but I liked the grittiness.

hannah walking through show venue
Location of the Wanda Nylon show.

The show was Wanda Nylon. I had done very cursory preliminary research on her. Apparently she made some very interesting outerwear.

When we climbed the dark stairs we stumbled upon a makeshift runway, the lights necessary for good photos were all that seemed important. There was hardly anything else save for two or three rows of white benches for guests. I would be standing room, of course.

clear invitation on the floor
An invitation on the floor.

I huddled close to my friend, my only comfort. There might have been champagne, seemed to always be free champagne at these things. And then I gasped quietly and jabbed Hannah in the side. There she was.

Caroline de Maigret right here at the same show I was at. In the flesh. Wearing her typical look: the leather jacket, messy hair, and excellent jeans. She looked so casual, like she had just come in off of the streets to grace us at this show, hardly Chanel or Dries Van Noten. (That’s a thing to like at Paris Fashion Week, it’s not all about status.)

cdm street style
Caroline de Maigret—iconic Parisian model, music producer, and admirable person.

In my fervent excitement, I wondered if I should get a photo or video for our publication, but I thought no, that’d be exploiting this moment. And I couldn’t annoy her in this way, film her like a wild animal. I was jiggling with joy, my legs jittering and I think maybe she noticed because she looked up and smiled at me.

Looked straight at me and smiled. I’ll never forget it. That’s a kindness many who’ve made it in the industry wouldn’t bestow on a nobody.

Eye-skimming bangs, unbrushed hair, and je ne sais quoi

Caroline de Maigret is not your typical fashionista, nor your typical model. She’s not full glam and she has plenty of physical flaws on view. She does not work out, in fact she quite detests it. And, as a New York Times interview so aptly puts it:

“Ms. de Maigret…is a count’s daughter who left the Sorbonne to model, left modeling to produce rock music, and left music to return to modeling.”

Not your run-of-the-mill indeed.

More and more, I find I am reaching for the kind of style she represents, a look that says I don’t have to wash my hair or perfectly blend an eyeshadow. I’ve always loved the unstructured look of loose menswear—clothes that allow you to eat while you’re out.

cdm reading

I should mention too, that’s she’s written a book with her parisian friends, Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, and Sophie Mas, titled How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits.

And of course it’s one of my bibles, since my day to day lifestyle is attempting to be as parisian as possible.

cdm with wallpaper

To me Caroline de Maigret represents not only a style, but a lifestyle and her decision to write a book about being parisian shows me she understands this concept and is consciously considering her style as more than outward appearance.

There is a sort of preoccupation with the “je ne sais quoi” (the “I don’t know what”) of French women by American women. We’re obsessed with trying to find ways to be them, even if our lives and our culture make that almost impossible. This was made more obvious when I couldn’t even find a copy of the book in France, in french bookstores, that were written in french.

Caroline de Maigret wryly understands this and finds ways to pinpoint the paradoxical, complex, and hypocritical nature of French, specifically parisian women. I especially like her features in YouTube videos on the subject.

Light reading au café

It only makes sense that when I mentally return to de Maigret that I return to the book in question.

A lot of the blathering fashion and life advice I often give (unsolicited most likely…I send warm gratitude to friends who have amused me) is along the same vein of this book. The truth is out. I had to let you think it was all me for as long as possible.

illustrated page

The kind of particular advice in here is enough to make you consider your every move and I’d be confident in claiming that every style icon you follow or genuflect to follows the same kind of meticulous consideration, even if that attitude is to be seemingly carefree. After all, appearing to be careless takes a lot of work.

Parisian women, and I would venture to say this book as well, give us the sort of insight that can lessen the insecurities we may have about our lack of “Riri-ness” or “Chung-ness”, that all of us have a practiced look and attitude. After all, an entire city has a famous practiced attitude, why shouldn’t everyone else?

Pretenders pretending

The above quote caught my eye and its ironic appearance in a book telling me exactly how to be something I may not actually be is the essence of the parisian. She’s just grasping at her passions and trying to pretend she’s doing so casually. It’s exactly why I subscribe to my own blend of stolen icons. The reason we all pretend what we’re doing is natural.

And I think, much with any sort of art, that the art of being a person is rooted in this balancing act. It will be paradoxical, hypocritical, and fickle. It will change from full-glam to au naturel in mere months, days, or seconds.

Much like the constant minute changes in our personalities and philosophies, we have icons to look to, to find inspiration in and to formulate, at the very least, our outward appearance, our armor.

Because you can go to battle with the best ideology, but you’re nothing without some really excellent armor.

Bisous,

 

 

 

 

Who is your current style icon? Or icon in general?

Fashion

Work Wear

Labor day was yesterday and it struck me that I did not remotely know what Labor day was for and why we had it off.

So of course I googled it and scored through a few sources to bust that mystery open (if it’s still a mystery to you.)

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it’s always the first Monday in September and it is in recognition of “the social and economic achievements of American workers.” (Source.)

Can you believe I didn’t know that? Especially given the name of the day! It got me thinking about how we take a lot of those achievements for granted, along with the day itself (I mean, some people ironically still work.) But this is a blog that concerns itself with clothing, among other things, and I thought about how a lot of our favorite styles come straight from the bodies of workers. So without further ado, here are some fantastic fashions that came from laborers themselves.

(And maybe next time you wear any of them, you can spare some silent gratitude their way.)

Boiler Suits

I know, I know. You have no idea what that is. Let me enlighten you.

Now clearly not all of these are vintage workwear, but the inspiration is clearly working class. The boiler suit’s origins are quite similar to their namesake: the men who maintained coal-fired boilers wore these to protect themselves. They are, after all, perfect for protection: rough materials, no gaps in the garment, long pocket in the front for tool storage, etc.

They are also fantastic one-piece fashion statements. Of course, like other borrowed pieces, you have to be willing to work with the lack of fit (or, if you’re very attached, tailor it to you) and to roll up your sleeves quite literally.

Mechanic Shirts

You’ve seen these. Likely on the backs of rebel teens from movies set in the 60s. Or in your local vintage store, waiting for someone to take up the name Earl once more.

The fun in these shirts is imagining who these people once were and taking up their name as a badge of legitimacy. Oh you have a cool tee? I have Earl’s shirt.

julian casablancas garbage collector shirt
Source: https://www.last.fm/music/Julian+Casablancas/+images/b04a1e6bc8914913b5e3b23f86b39057

The photo above is, if you’re a huge Strokes fan, a classic Julian Casablancas look. It’s unforgettable, this garbage collector shirt. You don’t even know.

The origins of these shirts are rather obvious as well: automobile workers wore these, embroidered with their company logo and name and the style spread to other professions with uniforms. It’s a classic look that bled into the rebellious counter-culture and then, of course, into fashion.

The Flat Cap

(You may be more familiar with its popular name, the Newsboy Cap.)

This headwear goes as far back as 14th century England and it really hit the ground running when parliament passed a law in 1571 to protect their oh-so-precious wool trade, decreeing that all non-noble men over six wear wool caps on Sundays and on holidays, lest they pay a fine.

You can imagine it became a popular look and the flat cap became The Look of all non-nobles and, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the working-class signifier.

With the working class in decline since the mid-20th century, the cap has found its home in the middle-class and sometimes the upper class, despite its peasant origins.

 

I do hope you enjoyed your day off and all the work that people in the past put in to get you that day off, as well as all of the fabulous clothing they brought us because of their jobs.

Try not to feel too guilty while you’re wearing a flat cap and thinking about how it was the signature look of the plebeian types! Eek.

Bisous,

 

Fashion

Your Mama’s Closet

bunch of clothes

If you’re a lover of old things and vintage finds (or thrift ones, at that) then you might know that your mother’s closet is golden.

Or your dad’s.

I want to show you what my mother gave me and not the kind usually referred to in songs okay? 

Belts are better from the past.

claire in striped red shirt and red bow belt

Belt plus shirt is very 2000s.

I still shudder at the memories. But this combination can work! (And everyone is still wearing this. It’s classic and now the trend is corsets which I almost think is worse. Read why here.)

layout collage of corset belts
source: http://www.instyle.co.uk/fashion/street-style/best-corset-belts

The red one I’m very seriously posing for you above is something my mom got just shy of the Orwellian year.

“The red bow was purchased to be a pop of color for a navy dress in 1984. Loved the bow.”

The bow is good. How can one not love the bow? It does what all of these trends do, except for Kelly Clarkson’s example, defines the waist. An essential move. Plus red is basically a neutral now.

Shoes from the good old days.

The first picture says “lol finger guns” and the second one says “god what am I doing with my life?”

My mom is very good with money—she knows how to budget and spend wisely which is way harder than it ever sounds.

…I bought the boots in my senior year of high school. I was working at The May Company and used my discount. I wore them with longer length dresses.”

Part of my is very mad I never thought to wear them with a longer dress, but they do look chic peeking out under wide-leg pants. Very 70s. I will have to take the tip from her.

I think the best things to filch from your mother, if you can, size permitting, are shoes. If you should see your mom dragging old footwear out to the trash or donation bin, STOP HER IMMEDIATELY and take everything.

Chaotic Neutral.

confused claire bending to show nude pumps and creme bag

Okay so there’s a lot going on here that I couldn’t quite get pictorially. The navy sweater is my mom’s, it has a small paint stain but I really like that for some reason and it’s just absolutely classic and comfortable. Alexa Chung, one of my style icons, often sings the praises of a “navy jumper” and she’s not wrong: you need one.

alexa chung in blue jumper
Lovely Alexa. I mean honestly she’s not trying and it’s perfect.

The skirt you see barely peeking through is HAND-KNITTED by my mother. I mean, not only does she bestow fantastic relics of decades gone by upon me, but she makes me unique pieces by hand.

The pumps are hers from….well I don’t actually know. They showed up in my room and I accepted it.

Last but hardly the least, that purse is one of my favorites ever. It’s unique, well-made, and neutral so—you guessed it—it goes with everything. Mother dearest says it “was purchased for a wedding in the mid 80s.”

Way to show up the bride, mom.

A Round of Applause.

Let’s all collectively thank my mother for instilling an appreciation for excellent clothing in me. Despite it making me absolutely unbearable to shop with since I remark on “terrible stitching” or “a cheap knit” on the regular, loudly, in front of retail employees who are just sweet angels trying to do their job.

Do any of you wear your parent’s treasures from the past, be it jewelry, bags, jackets, what have you? Sometimes I sit back and realize some of my favorite pieces are from them.

Bisous et à bientôt,

Fashion

Away in Marblehead

When I travel somewhere I have the opposite sort of social media presence that most people do. This is not to say that one trumps the other, but that in the midst of being in another place I notice I don’t keep up with my phone as normal.

This is tremendous for my personal goals, which is always to minimize moments on my phone or computer. I dislike being distracted from the day to day occurrences happening around me.

It’s been many years since my family has been gathered together, so we rented a house up in Marblehead right near the water with Cedar Point in view. It is a beautiful place with the uncanny quality of being so very close to home and feeling so far at the same time.

Views from our porch.

I documented some of what I wore, because the clothing I adopt in relaxation is a different monster than the day to day. So without further ado, here is my suitcase (and other special guests’ suitcases) in action.

I’m bikin, I’m bikin, slow-mo

There’s an art to bike-ready clothing. It has a lot to do with ratios of material that look nice in the wind and reducing that material to a safe amount that won’t get caught up in your wheels. This is a dress I bought back when I was obsessed with clearing out aisles of H&M. It was $10 and it shows that even the cheapest sundresses can be miracle workers for more than 5 years.

Will is featured here. When asked to comment on his bike ensemble he said they were “Just what I was wearing earlier in the day. They fit nicely into my backpack that I brought to work.”

Sometimes fashion is as practical as it is aesthetic.

Bike views.

We biked a lot at Marblehead. The wind there has the kind of freshness that makes you wave your head around like a dog in a car.

Secret sandbars

My aunt and uncle brought their kayaks with them, so my arms got a well-needed workout on the regular when we embarked on early morning or mid-afternoon kayaking adventures. Will and I swung around a point in the bay towards the lake and discovered a small sandbar rife with birds and with a really interesting view of Cedar Point.

We watched the rides go up and down from very far away and, because he works there and because he is an enthusiast, Will knows all the goings-on even if I couldn’t tell.

Here he is; enraptured. I’m sure he’d wrap up his swimwear in similar terms as his bike-wear. But don’t be fooled by his flippancy, the boy has style.

Scarf in hair

There is a particular charm to tying a scarf or a ribbon around your head. It’s childish and innocent, it’s the action of a little girl in a field of flowers, or at least that’s the way I think of it. I love the colors in these photos and their delicacy—beachside color palettes are pastel and soft on the eyes and I like the way they look like breeze might.

My cousin Kathryn is featured here. She was rightfully excited about her mustard yellow crop tee here and I think it couldn’t have been a better accent to the colors I was vibing about in these photos. I went with a classic button down I bought in Galleries Lafayette (same with the scarf in my hair) that I remember trying on in a dressing room while this song played. It’s such a random, dated song but I was struck by it at the time.

The jeans are Ann Taylor Loft, which has excellent options for itsy, bitsy petit girls like me (not too long, not to loose on the hips). My eyes are colored by the Marzia Bisognin’s Natura palette from Winky Lux, which is a New York based cruelty free brand that features fun colors.

It felt wonderful to play, swim, and take time to breathe in Marblehead. I know everyone always tells you to take time and pause, so I will just say “same” and hope you listen.

Toujours bisous,

Fashion

Working With My Hands

First, it must be said, that the prospect of posing for photos can be difficult for me. You’ll have to bear with me as I try to come to terms with that bizarre bashfulness. I don’t know what I’m doing.

I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art with Will to catch the Alex Katz exhibit right before it was over and, thankfully, I could squeeze it in.

My knowledge of the art world lies mainly in 20th century french art, so an American artist of the pop art movement wasn’t exactly in my repertoire. I’m beyond happy that I went, as his pieces are beautiful and the exhibit flowed to best show his work as it evolved.

paper flowers
Wildflowers in Vase c.1954-55 Collage with cut and watercolored paper  27.9 x 21.3 inches

I saw Matisse in him (some flatter looking portraits of his muse Ada in colorful palettes, some paper collages of bright coloring) and some strange elements of Pollock (dripping paint, Katz is said to have studied Pollock intently despite rejecting abstractism), among others. At one point, a man who came up to me and Will said “that one on the right reminds me of Renoir when they eat in the grass” and then he pointed to a farther portrait saying “she’s the new Mona Lisa.” It was strange having someone ignite a conversation like that and it reminded me how rare and, bizarrely, how nice it is.

Alex Katz, Black Suit (Ada) 1958 Oil on linen 48 x 32 inches

We were particularly drawn to a portrait of Ada (again, his wife and muse) that seemed to be burning from within. The portraits had a strange quality of existing and not existing, of feeling real but uncannily void.

Knowing little to nothing about Katz beforehand made me a little apprehensive at first (I’m the kind of person who dives into research before I do anything) but it proved to be rewarding. There was enough context for me to suddenly see the conversation Katz was having with other moments in art and that is, in my opinion, really ridiculously amazing.

 


 

If you have a sort of specialized disdain for artspeak, this is the section that you would probably enjoy more.

This is where Claire tells you about clothing choices.

I made a dress in my last semester of college, as I had suddenly decided sewing was something I needed to know (I had a stinging guilt about writing about clothing and knowing squat about why it was couture.) This dress, however ill-fitting or rudimentarily produced, is a point of pride for me and I finally got the guts to wear it when I went to see Katz. Seemed vintage pop-art enough.

lime green paisley dress

And here it is, in all its bright green glory. I wanted to make something interesting out of the choices I was given in class, so I went with the 60s shift complete with a tie belt. It’s a simple cotton with a cool slit in the back and a boat neck.

You should know it took me weeks to produce this. And don’t even get me started on that zipper. But it sure felt good to finish, to claim that I had made it with my own hands.

At the end of college, I needed a skill that required my hands and a tangible result.

I want to make more things and I’ve found that I have plenty of ideas now for cutting up, repurposing, and stitching up things I would have disregarded. I hope to show you more of these projects in the future, as I try to figure out how to further personalize what I own. We’re all obsessed with self-expression anyway, might as well tailor it (literally) to you.

Claire laughing with green dress on
Laughing off the fear at Cleveland Museum of Art.

 

I am glad you all enjoyed the last post so much, even if you simply glanced (it’s why I add so many pictures) and I hope you like this one too. Please comment what you want to see or maybe something you’ve always wanted to know, should a suggestion come to you.

I’m figuring this whole style blogging thing out and honestly it took me a long time to do it because I never felt ready or that I knew what I was doing, but after researching Katz I found this quote which is as much an encouragement as it is an affirmation that we’re all okay.

“If you know what you’re doing, you’re doing dull stuff.” 

 

Bisous,

Fashion

The Case for Predictability

In high school I had a rather astonishing promise that I made to myself: I would never wear the same outfit twice. I did not and, even when I wore the same clothing combination, I would switch up accessories or shoes or the little tucks and folds here and there. Below is a horrifying example of my “style”.

scary diagram of my high school style

People thought I possessed a monster collection of clothing and they weren’t totally wrong about that, but they also weren’t exactly right, as I played with my clothes in unexpected ways. A skirt was a dress, a dress was a shirt, etc. Some of it worked quite well, while a good number of these creative ideas went as well as they went above.

Fast forward to my days abroad and the decidedly less lucrative years in college and I find myself in a different conundrum.  I hardly like buying the clothing I used to, as much of it was the sort of chemically-stenched polyester nightmare popular for a teen on a budget with a thirst for trends, and I hardly have the income to spend as much as I used to.

In the spirit of Parisian dressing and of the unsavory knowledge one learns about the fashion industry (see the documentary “The True Cost”, the book “Overdressed” by Elizabeth Cline, etc) plus the increased appreciation I have for a good quality piece of clothing, I am wearing the same things over and over. Thus I present to you my newest philosophy: wear the same good stuff again and again.

The White Shirt (preferably a man’s)

white-shirt

It’s true that everyone always talks about the unlimited potential and joy that comes from a good, old Hanes undershirt. They’re not wrong and I can’t stop wearing the thing. It looks cool under dresses, it works well with skirts, and it’s an absolute victory when paired with denim. It’s amazing ability to drape casually on the body it wasn’t meant for is what makes this shirt the overlord of everything. I’m having issues not wearing it daily.

The Black Turtleneck

black-turtleneck

You should know that I wear this thing at every possible chance. I wore it in June. I’ll wear it the second we hit fall weather. I don’t know of a moment where a black turtleneck isn’t the most elegant and attractive item to wear. I don’t have much else to say other than that owning one of these is essential to feeling classy with literally no effort. Also it goes with everything.

Overalls

overalls

Finding amazing, blog quality photos of my clothing is weirdly harder than it would seem, but I’m fresh in the style blogging world, so you’ll need to forgive me immediately. I bought this strange, 90s-style pair of overalls about three years ago and I never looked back. They’re incredibly wide-legged, with ripped off pockets and other rip details—the back is entirely torn to pieces save for the connecting pieces. They come from an excellent woman in Cleveland who tears apart and bleaches old denim to make really cool pieces—she’s one of my older secret sources. These are SO comfy, very cool and unique, and they go with—you guessed it—pretty much anything.

A Good Pair of Cutoffs

cutoffs

Get on the cut-off train, you hipster. You purchaser of pre-cut shorts. The best thing I ever did was take scissors to my jeans and it would be the best thing you do too, if you’d just take the leap. Shorts are impossible to buy, in my opinion. I have stupid short legs and I’m quite petite, so everything in the store finds a way to fail me. When I do score, it’s usually with jeans and when my jeans have too many rips in the knee, the only logical move forward is to amputate their legs and let the fraying gradually become excellent with washes and wear.

 

That’s all folks. I hope you enjoyed my foray into more “style-related” things. If you want more of this, please tell me and if you want me to do something in particular, again, please tell me.

Bisous à vous,

Fashion

ALEXACHUNG, Alexa Chung, and It

alexa chung confetti

Last evening Alexa Chung did as Alexa does, meaning she created a vintage-chic line, showed at a Danish church in London (I don’t think the heavens mind much) and then partied with all of her so-cool-it-burns friends.

In the past, when I caught wind of this collection and subsequently began imagining the thrift shopper’s dream look à la Alexa, I wrote up a list of predictions for the line in anticipation. She delivered on the loafers, the dungarees, some well-tailored ruffles, the perfect white shirt, and that statement top. Still no sign of a purely navy “jumper”, but I suppose we’ll have to date a rockstar for that.

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I adore this collection and not because I’m a bandwagon Alexa fan, not because I think her book looks excellent in instagram posts, and certainly not because she and I love the same Beatle (George Harrison), but because she is the epitome of authenticity to me.

After spending some time among those in the fashion industry, seeing bloggers pose for street style, all of us eyeing each other back-and-forth, she’s a style icon that I can count on.

There are a lot of style gurus out there in head-to-toe Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, you name it. That’s not the discouraging thing for me, instead it’s composing of these ensembles. I am not convinced by the style of those in a pre-assembled outfit by some large house; they’re just wearing it really well. They have the body, the money, the whatever. Alexa’s clothing doesn’t feel that way. It feels found and tailored by her own eye. I’m not looking for a ghostwriter when I look at what she’s wearing.

That’s why this show, this line, and this vein of fashion heartens me. It’s wearable and it has Chung’s “It”, the name of her book and of the je ne sais quoi of something really, really quite good.

Alexa logo
                      The line’s new logo.

I may be partial to a vintage look, to the gender-flipping menswear, and to the unmistakable hand of the person behind the label, but this is a good sign not just for lovers of Chung, but for the fashion world.

The way of the fashion icon is perhaps not lost in a world of sameness (said the bitter cynic) and far be it from me in this industry of self-expression to poo-poo someone’s look, but Chung’s insistent It is a stake in heart of trend-mongering and of monkey see monkey do.

Are there imitators, ironically, of this vibe? Certainly. The business of self-expression is not unhindered by paradoxes, much less complexity. Is your head to toe, from runway stylists to your body, any less lovely on you? Is your trendy ensemble any less stylish? No. Is Alexa Chung a god among humans because of her style? No.

She talks the talk and I’m glad to hear the words match their meaning.

Bisous,

To see the collection and buy pieces if you’re so inclined, visit here.

Fashion

Victoria’s Secret to Explosive Marketing

vancouver-vs-store

You know about it, I know about it, everybody knows about the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

I’m not certain it can be called a fashion show at this point, it’s more like a production? A blockbuster? In comparison to normal fashion shows, it’s a hundred times different. For starters, musicians perform on the stage and the venue seats thousands of spectators. Really, it’s a sort of sports event, but for lingerie that teens buy in droves at the mall.

But all of that hardly matters when the widely-buzzed about and highly marketed VS Fashion Show rolls around. There are viewing parties and social media conversations. Have you ever seen that kind of conversation for NYFW? PFW?

On my campus there was a viewing party at a local Buffalo Wild Wings and it made me laugh when I thought about livestreaming PFW at a sports bar with a bucket of wings in front of every viewer. Quelle classe!

WHO’S WATCHING?

I began to wonder, seeing the buzz come in, who was really watching the show? For if the viewers were fashion connoisseurs, up on the latest trends and just as excited for Chanel’s pre-fall collection the day after, then wouldn’t it be the same excitement for any other kind of show?

But no, the men are watching too. Without a doubt there are men involved in the typical fashion cycles, but those who don’t pay attention otherwise are rapt and wide-eyed, watching Adriana Lima strut down the VS runway. Women seem to care a significant amount, as would be expected, but again these aren’t the same demographics for fashion’s usual audience.

Why would it be? This is the superbowl of fashion shows.

It has the kind of showmanship of the Superbowl as well, that propels into the mainstream, not to mention that the commodity itself is one that is far more accessible than designer goods. When it’s presented with the same kind of authority and luxury, well, the sales are nearly confirmed on the spot.

adriana-lima

WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?

According to quantitative research done on the 2013 VS Fashion Show, men and women both speak on the physical aspects of the models. The difference being that the women spoke on the model’s and their feelings towards them while the men noted both the unrealistic body types on the runway as well as the “hottest victoria’s secret models” as shown by the conversational breakdown diagrams.

Outside of those differences, much was the same for men and women who seemed to watch more for the show and the models themselves than for the underwear being shown.

That’s the point and it’s the genius of the event as well—sell the look, the lifestyle, and the excitement of the brand and you’ve sold the underwear.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

A lot. Much more than your average fashion show that prices in at least 1 million dollars. The VS Fashion has been projected to cost 20 million in 2014 at London. That’s more than a pretty penny, it’s a serious effort to create conversation and sales around this now annual event.

As for the bras themselves, the versions on the runways are not available on the website (they’re reported to be worth millions after all) while the core basics of the collection shown are available. What’s seen on the catwalk is usually bedazzled with precious stones, for example in 2015 Lily Aldridge wore the “Fireworks Fantasy Bra” which cost around 2 million dollars, covered with “over 6,500 precious gems, including diamonds, blue topaz, yellow sapphires and pink quartz, all set in 18-karat gold.”

Such extravagances are fantastic for showbiz, but not much for selling in stores to middle-class customers. It’s just further evidence that this show is hardly about the underwear itself, but about the lifestyle being shown, what kind of woman you’ll be when you buy a bra or some underwear.

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I ALREADY KNEW IT WASN’T ABOUT THE UNDIES

Of course you did. If you’re reading this as a man, perhaps you enjoy watching for the women or for your favorite models or maybe because you love Lady Gaga. As a woman, perhaps you follow Alessandro Ambrosia religiously among the other social media stars featured. It’s on par with the award show crowds; the dresses, the performances, the glitz, and the glamour.

It really is the perfect marketing move. Maybe Victoria’s Secret is a book full of ways to draw in the largest crowd of coed viewers possible for average to low quality lingerie.

But it really is one hell of a show.

Bisous,

Fashion

Fur’s Back And It’s A Hairy Situation

brown-fur

Though most people would be quick to point out the difference between fur and hair, I hope you’ll forgive the title (I couldn’t resist a semi-relevant pun.)

Ever since Fendi’s FW15 collection last year and its “haute fourrure” theme, the fashion world has met with its familiar fur debate yet again. And, as we’ve seen this past season, it’s not like fur is going anywhere anytime soon, fueled by an army of celebrities and instagram influencers.

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Fendi FW15, fur coat and scarf.

The trend is luxurious and wealthy both in appearance and feel, which due to the new-age celebrities and their exorbitant displays of wealth, plays well into the desires of fashionistas everywhere. Despite the attraction of the high-fashion look, there are a lot of ethical questions that come with wearing fur.

For that reason, organizations like PETA have always fought against haute couture’s fur love affair. It’s a rocky history, filled with fiery protests and snide comments back and forth in the media. Yet recently, PETA and other such anti-fur protestors have remained uncharacteristically silent about fur’s comeback.

As a consumer, it’s difficult to know what to do. The valid protestations of anti-fur organizations is on our minds and the allure of fur is a powerful one (as well as warm!) Without knowing much about either options, the best route seems to be the research one.

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THE FUR INDUSTRY

As a luxury good, it’s not as if everyone has their hands on furs or in deep enough pockets to even have to make their minds up on the subject. But many people default on the idea of a ban or trade sanctions against the fur industry.

The fur industry however, is just that: an industry. It employs thousands among many sectors and cannot be deleted overnight due to animal welfare, which is a valid concern, but not one that can overshadow the livelihoods at stake. One look at the International Fur Federation’s website shows me that the industry is fully aware of its shaky ethics, featuring sections on sustainability, population control, farming in multiple countries, trade regulations, dying practices, and many more that I never dreamed would be explained so extensively regarding such a controversial topic. And from the IFF itself!

Many countries allow trapping and killing (the way in which trappers are supposed to kill animals is also regulated) for environmental control. For example, in the Netherlands muskrats damage dikes (which keep water from flooding out of dams), so the government allows the trapping of muskrats. The fur trade can help with situations like these by using parts of the animal: fur, leather, etc rather than disposing of the animal completely. The meat of these animals is also regularly sold in these situations rather than being discarded.

An easy analogy is in relation to your hometown—I’m from the Midwest—and what animal is constantly overpopulated—for me, it’s deer. Oftentimes hunters are allowed to kill more of that animal to control the abundance of them, as they damage plant life and make some resources dangerously scarce. Plus, the overwhelming fear of hitting a deer on the road and spinning out is all-encompassing for Midwesterners like me!

How is all of this enforced? How are we to know that the fur we purchase, if we do, comes from a place of humane-trapping and pest control?

Fortunately, the EU, Russia, Canada, and the US have all signed on to the Agreement on International Humane Trapping in the late 90s, which among other things, agrees on international standards for trapping, no trade restrictions on signatory countries, testing of traps, and conventions for trapping that extends to conservation of species as well.

Is fur ethical then? Hard to say. Whether or not these standards are held is an entirely different question and the concerns that anti-fur organizations bring forth are not unfounded. Certainly, a large demand for fur is as dangerous as any other obsession of a consumer population—many times these demands can spin ethical practices out of control into less humane practices, despite efforts to regulate the industry.

FUR, THE ETHICAL WAY

If you decide that fur is, in fact, a material that you’re fine with wearing, but you want to make sure that it’s done ethically, there are options out there. Some brands have chosen to use sustainable fur practices and are incredibly transparent in their usage of fur and animal products.

Brother Vellies, for example, is one such label. Aurora James, the label’s designer, has an impressive resumé and since traveling to Africa in her earlier years, saw a need to protect African artisans and their production. Her leather and fur usage is sustainable, working with governmental sanctions on wildlife removal instead of unabated trapping methods.

Even in light of these efforts, PETA has remained uncharacteristically silent. Back in 2015, they were certainly vocal about Fendi, but a quick look at their website doesn’t appear to show a sense of urgency. Perhaps the constant presence of PETA has somehow lessened their shock value or, perhaps, there is something bigger planned for the future—a campaign to address the fur-crazy trend of these years. Maybe, though it seems unlikely, they’ll ride out the lifetime of a trend—five years or so.

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FABULOUS FAUX-SURE

What of the options for those who wish to look trendy and avoid fur? There’s plenty available with new technology in textile production. Earlier imitation furs were poorly-made, the feel of the fabric tacky and false, and the look of it easy to distinguish from the real deal.

But when Shrimps founder, Hannah Weiland, stumbled upon a fantastic imitation fur at a fabric fair and hasn’t looked back since. Her coats and clutches are whimsical and light; sort of the opposite of what one thinks of with fur (dark, alluring, and glamorous). It’s the kind of clothing you’ll think about far too often and calculate your monthly bills while considering if peanut butter is sufficient food for a month. Or maybe that’s the collegiate in me.

A couple other good options are PelushNYC and Unreal Fur. Faux-fur isn’t horribly hard to find, it’s the matter of finding quality pieces, since the process of producing synthetics isn’t fabulous for the environment either (think chemicals and polyester).

And, finally, thrift store finds and vintage options are great for those wanting to extend the lives of fur coats that may have been less ethically sourced. Recycling is helpful in a world diluted by clothing options.

As always, choose wisely and having done a bit of research. It’s good for your wallet, your style, and those who make meticulously well-made garments.

Bisous,

 

Fashion

Made In The USA…And In Sweatshops

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Due to increased global awareness of textile worker’s conditions abroad in Thailand, China, and a collective of other developing nations, most Americans think the clothing that they purchase in the US is above such conditions.

They would be incorrect to assume a “Made in the USA” label meant guaranteed ethics. After all, the Federal Trade Commission’s requirement for adding such labels as “Made in the USA” includes determining the “last country in which a ‘substantial transformation’ took place” (FTC, 1997.), meaning the processes or manufacturing that create a different good than the one existing before these processes. As for advertisement and marketing materials, implications can be made as no origin country is required to be mentioned. Essentially, it’s a very gray area indeed.

The US garment industry can’t possibly be that archaic or third-world, can it?

In fact, it can be. Reminiscent of the 19th century conditions, to make a comparison. The US Department of Labor found a continuation of wage violations in a February 2016 News Release, saying that in the previous five years that they’ve paid workers over 11.7 million dollars back after over 1,000 investigations.

Not that any of these violations are news, this is an old narrative for the garment industry, an industry rife with historically exploited employees. In 2012, a sweep of one building in LA’s garment district garnered a shocking amount of wage violations against the Fair Labor Standards Act. The companies that employed this factory included: “…Aldo Group Inc., Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., Charlotte Russe Holding Inc., Dillard’s Inc., Forever 21 Inc., Fraisier Clothing Co. (Susan Lawrence), HSN Inc. (Home Shopping Network), Rainbow Apparel Inc., Ross Stores Inc., TJX Cos. Inc. (TJ Maxx and Marshall’s), Urban Outfitters Inc. and Wet Seal Inc.” (WHD News Release, 2012.) The investigators went as far to describe the conditions and violations as “sweatshop-like employment conditions.”

woman-sewing

WAGE VIOLATIONS

But what does the Wage and Hour Division mean by wage violations? What is the extent of the issue? According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers must be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour with time and a half for overtime (over the weekly maximum of 40 hours). Employers must keep detailed records and time cards for their employees.

The minimum wage in the state of California is, as of January 2016, $10 per hour. What the Wage and Hour Division discovered in 2012 was a piece rate system, meaning that workers are paid for garments that they cut or sew without following minimum wage requirement. According to the 2012 News Release, workers made less than $6.50 per hour on average. At the time the minimum wage was $8 per hour. Since the WHD has continued to find violations and continues their investigations, it’s safe to assume such piece rate systems are still in place.

Federal investigators also discovered tampered time cards and “under-reporting” of the hours that employees worked. None of the workers received overtime pay, according to this 2012 investigation report.

In the next two years, another News Release  revealed yet another slew of violations. That year, 2014, saw 221 investigations of garment industry employers in LA, finding “$3,004,085 in unpaid wages for 1,549 workers.” Coming to about $1,900 per employee, the pay back equalled five times the usual paycheck of sewing machine operator in one week.

WORKERS FIGHTING BACK

Outside of the work that the Wage and Hour Division has and is conducting, the Garment Worker Center focuses on exposing the conditions of garment workers in the LA area, releasing reports  and gathering information from the workers themselves.

In their 2016 Health and Safety report, they report that 80% of garment industry workers never received training for their health and safety in the workplace before beginning work. They also report workers were unable to locate first aid services should an accident occur. Garment machinery, hardly safe and complex at times, needs to be well-understood to be operated properly. However, due to the large amount of immigrant workers in this industry, communication is poor and employers fail to communicate training effectively.

Exits are blocked with items or unknown to workers, with poorly lit working spaces. Should an emergency occur, many workers are at a loss for what to do. As for rest breaks or water, there is a shocking deficiency of both.

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MOVING FORWARD

Both federal organizations along with worker-led groups are making progress in just pay and conditions, but the existence of the continued exploitation of garment workers in the 21st century is shameful in of itself. The fact that it’s a topic of note in the year 2016 in America is one that continues to jar readers, despite all of the information that is available to consumers.

Thankfully it’s the spreading of such information that aids in smart purchasing decisions, with the hands behind the clothing in mind. The issue of immigrant discrimination and exploitation, however complex and deep-rooted, can be abated with the money that we spend on clothing and where we choose to buy. It’s up to consumers to remain informed and use their money as their voice, especially as the holiday buying season ramps up.

Bisous,

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