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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

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

A Bit of A Non-Paradox: Bitter Words Between Bloggers and Editors

Whether we like it or not, fashion bloggers and influencers are here to stay—or, at the very least, here to usher in the impending changes of the fashion industry. And if they be only the winds of change here for their moment of glory, bloggers have made an awfully large wave.

Vogue published a roundtable discussion after Milan fashion week with some choice words slipped in regarding the industry’s newcomers. After lauding Marni’s “intelligent and elegant” collection for it’s refusal to exist for clicks, Vogue.com’s chief critic Sarah Mower said: “…the professional blogger bit, with the added aggression of the street photographer swarm who attend them, is horrible, but most of all, pathetic for these girls, when you watch how many times the desperate troll up and down outside shows, in traffic, risking accidents even, in hopes of being snapped.” (Vogue.)

Other Vogue editors, chiming in with the critique, went on to despair over the blogger and brand love affair in triumphant tones, wherein Vogue.com fashion news editor Alessandra Codinha said “Am I allowed to admit that I did a little fist pump when Sally broached the blogger paradox?”

Clearly the politics of power here are shifting because, as always, money talks. Meaning, of course, that the influencers brands choose to spend money on are in possession of a fair amount of power and have a loud enough voice to be chosen, whether they be fashion bloggers or fashion industry royalty.

 

“…if they be only the winds of change here for their moment of glory, bloggers have made an awfully large wave.”

 

And, regarding this labeling of the industry-wide panic due to sprinting technological change and globalization as the “blogger paradox” one has to ask: what is paradoxical about the power of the blogger?

male-blogger-on-phone

Certainly the idea of advertising for a brand in exchange for money is nothing new. In fact, Vogue’s March 2016 issue had the highest number of advertisement pages with a staggering 405 pages, according to WWD. And, with a quick search online, one can see the cost of an advertisement that appears once on 1/6th of the page is $44,206. In comparison to Vogue’s primary competitor, Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar, 1/3 page advertisement goes for $79,025 while the same ad space goes for $88,481 at Vogue. How can a publication under Condé Nast that charges staggering rates for their advertisements have the right to judge sponsored clothing?

Whether or not the bloggers are maliciously grasping at whatever money comes their way is difficult to judge or discover, but a recent study by Fashion Monitor and Econsultancy dove into the scope of bloggers and influencers’ effect on the fashion industry. Despite the popular and assumed idea that bloggers are attention-starved Internet stars without regard for the soul of the industry, about 56 percent of them consider a brand’s values and priorities (sustainability, charity, etc) before working with them. A similar percentage consider their personal development as high in priority, even over money, a consideration that came in around 12 percent.

Further debunking the myth that bloggers care about their follower count above all else, around 54 percent feel judged and valued by their follower count over their other qualities. Certainly many of these bloggers would rather their value be placed in their work and goals than what number digitally rises and falls on an Instagram account. Brands seem to be the ones running the show in terms of industry morals; after all, a blogger can only do so much to be valuable without the baseline follower count, which is chosen by a brand in most cases. Perhaps Vogue editors should be worried about the ruthlessness of the brands that hand out money by a chosen digital hierarchy rather than those who are influential enough to attract the money.

female-fashion-standing

What then, is this “blogger paradox”? Is it the frustration of traditional fashion editors as they face the overwhelming popularity and presence of fashion bloggers? After investigation, there doesn’t appear to be a clear conclusion.

This so-called “paradox” could be a scapegoat for deeper concerns, concerns hidden behind an ambiguous vocabulary term to lessen their surface level importance. There is a real fear in jeopardizing the quality of work and the nature of the change that bloggers usher in. After all, the other half of those bloggers who don’t consider the values and issues surrounding the brands that sponsor them may be the very people who are trouncing around in borrowed style.

And, ultimately, how can one be a style icon without having style oneself? Do these blogger’s have any background or knowledge in the fashion industry, and do they know what they’re looking at? Certainly, the army of phones facing runways (in lieu of actual eyes) is alarming. These concerns that Vogue editors brazenly expresses aren’t unfounded.

The plight of newspaper journalists comes to mind, as they fight against increased online competition, with blogs and Snapchat and Instagram beating them out despite their professional training. Fashion journalists are no different; they’re threatened and unsure of the future.

One thing is for certain: the relationship between these groups of influencers ought to be cooperative if either group prioritizes the good of the fashion industry. They might be able to shape the tides of fashion’s future, should bloggers contribute their mass appeal and editors share their industry wisdom. Whether or not they’ll play nice is an entirely different story.

Bisous,

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