I think a lot of us are struggling with how to make art under the current political climate, especially when it’s not overtly political. I was in the middle of getting this writing project off the ground when Trump won. And I felt like I had to change the direction of it, or just not do it altogether. I had this feeling that everything but screaming in the streets was futile. I felt so useless. Chaos was all around and I did not know what to do with it.
Then I understood that there is nothing wrong with chaos. It’s just a way of conceiving things. You can decide things don’t look right or make sense and call it chaos. And that’s a judgement we make to express discomfort with what we consider to be randomness. Or you can recognize that sense can be made from it if you just expand. Because chaos is actually just many opposing forces all happening at the same time – good and evil, destruction and creation, darkness and light. And that allows for a lot of potential. Anything can be born in these conditions and that is kind of thrilling. If we take the sixties-those were chaotic times. There was a lot of darkness and I think in that moment, people mostly saw darkness. So many assassinations and wars and -isms. But when we now look back on that decade, we see it more as a time for paradigm-changing and rebirth and revolution and love.
So I came out of my haze and returned to writing about clothes. Because I think that this is the stuff we are here for. If we aren’t free to create and think about beauty in the world then what is this thing of life all about? And what can I say-this is my moment on this earth. And it happens to coincide with Trump’s moment. But fuck it-I think I can still feel inspired in his world. So after a few weeks of crying and suffering and dreading what comes next, I just felt that I’d already given him enough power over my personal happiness and it was time to return to working on self-creation and love. Maybe now more than ever.
Clothes tell the story of human history. They express culture and subculture and our own personal or ancestral narrative. I think about Syria and what tragedies are taking place in that beautiful part of the world and the incredible cost of human lives. And among all that, when I view it through this clothing/textiles/cultural heritage prism, I think about the loss and destruction of all those weaving mills and centuries-old souks and the personal belongings…the stuff that stands for a people who live in the cradle of civilization. It’s a huge loss of history and culture.
Clothes are an extension and reflection of our psychic interior and our communal exterior. Trump’s regime is divisive and destructive to personal identity and there is no time like now to assert who we are creatively, ancestrally, culturally, politically, etc under what looks like a New World Order. Because if we continue to live for love and beauty, and remember and practice who we are, there really isn’t actually a New World Order. It’s just a failed attempt. Meanwhile, we can still grow flowers in the dark. That is an expression of resistance.
I work in the archive of a designer-I’m afraid I can’t say who. Let’s just say he’s the arbiter of classic American style, starting 50 years ago when he got into the tie business and sold his designs from a drawer in the Empire State Building. He pioneered the concept of aspirational fashion and lifestyle branding and went on to build his own empire that would be one of the most recognized names in the industry. He helped customers see the transformative power of clothes-that with a smart blue blazer or crystal Dof glass, you could feel aristocratic.
He’s put his name on nearly every American closet staple. The bomber, the trucker, blue jeans, the camel coat, the Polo shirt, to name just a few. He co-opted the uniform of both the cowboy and British aristocrat and revitalized them to perennial status, making them wardrobe classics for almost every demographic. Hipsters, prepsters, and gangsters all permit to be branded by his name.
My favorite of his icons are his menswear-inspired looks. In the 70s he put his wife in tuxedos and Diane Keaton in suits and saw that women wanted to power-dress too. He assigned status where it wasn’t yet there-and then watched his muses find their place in a man’s world through dress.
What I love about his story is that this was his own process. What he is selling is what he has sold to himself. This scrappy Bronx-born son of immigrant Jews would one day outfit high society by understanding how to dress for success. He always knew that eventually make-believe becomes make-your-reality.
His goal in his high school yearbook reads, “Millionaire.” I am tickled by this. Even at 18, he understood the power of intention. At 78, he still does. He has never stopped believing in what he built, and continues to work on his dream with precision and passion.
A few weeks ago, I went to help dress models who would be presented to him in the latest collection. I dressed for intention that morning-to be noticed by my hero. I wore a flight suit (yet another one of his staples) and a headscarf-very 1940s workwear-and I imagined him seeing me from across the room, beckoning me over, asking who I was.
On set, I manipulated an opportunity to be in the same room with him, about 20 feet away. I felt his eyes on me and heard him say, “Hold on, hold on-who are you?” and wave me over. He asked me if we had met and where in his company I worked. He wanted to know what I thought of the collection. He then nodded, as if to signal that he’d gathered sufficient information on me and it was my queue to walk away-which I did, enormously pleased with myself. Later, his head designer, a friend of mine (who got hired when he noticed her outfit in an elevator years ago), witnessed the interaction and hugged me. “He loves you!”
The words we exchanged were just a few but I walked away understanding what he has been practicing all this life. That we can dress for the moment, the conversation, the life that we want. And maybe something as small as a drawer of ties can become an Empire. Just as a brief conversation might lead to…a new job, a new boss or maybe simply it’s an end in and of itself. I just got noticed by one of the biggest style influencers in the world. Anyway, I can’t wait to see what I create next.
Like so many designers, Chanel had a penchant for the occult. If you look at this under the lense of her unmatched legacy, it comes as no surprise that a woman responsible for the most powerful and recognized brand the worldover had a little help from universe.
Born an orphan wishing for more luck in this life, her magical leanings were always there. She was born into world where you knew you had to use anything you could to change your lot. So when it came time to create her aspirational and mythological world, she made creative decisions aligned with her beliefs in the power of a symbol, sign system or insignia. Details that conferred social power imbued her products with magic that would support the success of her brand: royal insignia or emblems such as the lions’ heads (also her zodiac sign); medals, imperial jewels and pearls, which would go on to become her signature; sacred geometry, like the octagonal shape of her perfume bottle stopper (the Place Vendome shares the same shape); She also famously employed lucky talisman like the four leaf clover, the wheat motif (a symbol for prosperity) and number five in her designs.
But it was her double CC’s that guaranteed her name as the most cached symbol in fashion and arguably contemporary society. The hypnotic effect of the this logo is intentional and steeped in mystical tradition. The ancient symbol of the vesica piscis, or “vulva of the goddess,” (the interlocking of two circles creating a middle section to resemble a fish, or vulva) is another example of sacred geometry that Chanel utilized in such a powerful and aesthetic way.
Chanel the brand was really the act of a single great spell. As a loner who wove her own destiny, she should be an inspiration to all of us manifesters. And maybe to wear a Chanel piece, we are not only dressing aspirationally for the luxury that it stands for, but for the magic behind double “C.”
Mythologically speaking, the necklace is a mark of the Goddess, enhancing her beauty and signifying her fertility in so many beads, shells, or coins. It encircles her as if to assert her station in the universe and dominion over man. Its shine and shimmer holds special attraction to the beholder, as anything illuminated suggests magic.
For her to lose her necklace is to lose the safeguard of her power and beauty. In Game of Thrones, Melisandre takes hers off to reveal her aged and ugly true form.
Shamans, priests and priestesses of the ancient world would take on attributes of a totem animal by wearing its teeth, bones or feathers. Shiva the Destroyer’s garland of skulls points to his authority over the cycle of life.
A necklace contains divine unity or wholeness. Its many components strung together as one denote unification of multiplicity. When a necklace is broken, there can be a loss of order, identity or protection.
A necklace connects the head and the heart, suggesting a balance of the faculties. It is associated with the parts of the body it covers and signs of the zodiac that correspond. Cancer rules the chest and Taurus the neck – which also has astrological associations with sex. To play with one’s necklace can suggest sexual invitation or foreplay.
In dream symbolism, to find a necklace is to tap into your higher self while to misplace one is to lose sight of who you are in this world, adrift in the sea of the subconscious.
The Aran fisherman sweater-a deceptively simple piece of clothing that is actually steeped in Irish lore and symbolism. Named after the Aran Islands, it was knit for local fishermen primarily to keep them warm at sea. But it’s complex patterning performed a deeper purpose, as knitters stitched designs that functioned as charms and spells as well as an indicator of local clan. The Tree of Life is one of the original patterns, and is unique to the earliest examples of the Aran knitwear. It reflects the importance of the clan, with branches to represent long-lived parents and strong children. The honeycomb is a symbol of the hardworking bee, the lattice or basket stitch symbolizes a bountiful catch, and the diamond pattern is a symbol of wealth. The cable stitch, resembling a rope, represents safety at sea or the fisherman’s life itself-something always in jeopardy, as he often lost his life to the waters. The unique design in his sweater helped identify his body.
The sweater has since then become a perennial staple and has seen many classic moments since its birth on the British Isles so long ago.
In color symbolism, gold is steeped in powerful associations and meanings. While silver stands for the hidden, subconscious energies of the moon, gold has solar qualities that support active, worldly power and drive. It’s extraverted and conscious. We wear gold to show wealth. It’s an intentional display of our wish to dominate. It’s not about private, personal power but about worldly.
So after so many years of doing self-work/consciousness work, I recently decided to get a gold tooth. It was time to let the world know I was ready to reveal the person that I had become. This was not an ego-driven exercise-this ornament was meant to signal to the universe that I was now relating my personal power to the outside world in a way that served mankind. To carve out a place in humanity. It was no longer about sitting at home alone with my meditations and books and mantras but finally applying those tools I had been accumulating to connecting with others.
A funny thing happened when I got it-I’ve entered an energy of attraction. People have started picking up what I’m putting out creatively and energetically. Without even really trying, I’m beginning to draw. My art has started selling. My professional/creative hero has started calling on me. Dreams are getting fulfilled. The tooth gets noticed, at least once a day, among both strangers and friends/acquaintances alike. There’s usually an element of surprise. Why would this relatively innocent-looking girl (I’m small, usually in braids) be making this sort of fashion statement? What is this fashion statement? People usually can’t figure it out but interest is peaked.
Of course it I can’t say for sure if my new tooth has attracting power or if it subconsciously causes me to behave as if it does. Maybe it gives me more confidence. But I like to think it supports my dreams and intentions with a little magic. And at the end of the day, that’s what we hope dress and adornment does. When worn with intention, it helps take us to where we want to go.
My dreamy necklace by Alexis Bitter. The tilted moon and school of fish are steeped in associations with the subconscious (The Book of Symbols refers to fish as “the unconscious psyche” and our “invisible nature”). The moon is so large it doubles as a breastplate- I can see maybe a High Priestess wearing this (also connected to the moon and subconscious) while the fish relate to the astrological sign of Pisces (that’s me!). And are those bones or something dangling from the bottom? Making it all the more witchy! I bought this second-hand and don’t know what would have hooked to the top. Maybe I will add my own magical charm someday.
James Veloria, a vintage clothing treasure trove in Chinatown, New York, is a shop that feeds my soul. The emphasis swings from either black, parred-down Japanese and Belgian avant garde to wildly colorful, print-heavy European designs (think 90s Moschino and Gaultier). But everything on the racks gives me that transformative feeling that I seek in good vintage.
I stumbled on the pop-up version of JV at the vintage show A Current Affair (their kimono print Versace Jeans Couture trousers were the only thing I brought home from the show). But when I began chatting up owners Collin James Weber and Brandon Veloria, I saw that my connection went beyond the clothes. There is something special that they are doing here. I think the vintage market has become so corrupted-the days of happening upon 80 dollar vintage Versace jeans in a New York City shop feels over. The good stuff has become so marked up/exclusive and the cheap crap so prevalent among the vintage racks. But the offerings of James Veloria are intentional, artful and affordable. You have that long-ago feeling of having found something.
I spoke with Brandon and Collin about what they are doing here with JV and why it’s important. I love these guys and you will love them too when you read their words on the power of dress.
We’re here because we talk so much about the spiritual and emotional connection we have to clothes. What is it about clothing that elevates you?
Brandon: Well, take these ’70s 6-7 inch platform heels I’m wearing today – they literally elevate me! I can really feel like absolute shit and it can be 11 pm and I don’t want to get out of bed and friends want me to go out…but I put these on and I just feel super fierce and no longer give a shit and it’s totally empowering. I can be wearing my bedtime clothes like a big t-shirt and track shorts and go out in those and feel amazing and ready to dance all night.
Collin: He got me a pair of heels for Christmas last year. He can fit into the biggest size of women’s heels so he has options but my size-11.5 – is a little harder to find. He found some company that makes men’s heels and I was very excited about those. I finally got to be a little bit taller and it changed the proportion of everything and I could wear all these different things. But I think I kind of learned that from you (to Brandon). Like when you’re kind of feeling down, you’ll put some heels on and do the dishes. That’s your go-to: “I don’t feel good today, I think I’ll put some heels on.”
Brandon: That’s so funny – I never thought about that! I have a weird thing with shoes. I have a pair of Biba heels that are velvet with patent leather that spirals around the heel..they’re so beautiful…they’re like my “thinking heels.” Like if I want to re-do the shop or pick out clothes to bring to a show or if I’m styling something, I put those on and feel like a boss, immediately.
Collin: They’re like your house slippers.
Do you guys find you influence each other a lot?
Collin (to Brandon): I feel like when I met you…I always wore vintage but I didn’t feel like I had an identity that made sense with it. Just seeing you dress and the way you put things together…I learned to buy nice things, not just polyster stuff that I thought was funny. You had some Issey Miyake or Comme des Garçons that was nothing I’d ever seen before and changed my whole idea of how you could dress and how it can make you feel.
Brandon: Aw, that’s really cool.
Collin: You taught me a lot.
Brandon: Well that’s sweet! Fashion…bringing couples together (laughs).
Julia: Tell me more about what you’re wearing today and why you gravitated to it for this project.
Collin: Something that always catches my eye is prints and color. These Gaultier pants have that two-fold appeal for me. There’s the bright colors plus they have a great print that is kind of an illusion effect – you have to look twice to even figure out what’s going on. The eyeball sweatshirt and the bright-colored shoes and pants…I think I always have a strange attraction to clownish things. Even things with prints of clowns on it…and I have big feet so most shoes look clownish on me, especially if they’re re bright purple and have a giant round toe. I’m not sure where that comes from but it’s where I always go.
Julia: It’s like you are conjuring the jokester from within. And the eye is very Psychic Life!
Brandon: Anything with faces or eyes or body parts I feel like… Collin: Yeah I just have to have.
Brandon: Yeah I think that’s a very you-thing.
Brandon: For me, I feel like it’s all about characters. Like I’m becoming someone different. Every single day it’s someone new. I don’t know what that says about me but it’s empowering. Being in a silver space suit that is sort of disco cowboy …it just feels like I’ve put on armor.
Julia: I don’t know what that says about us either but I just think that’s part of the appeal of fashion. That you can decide who you want to be today or how you want to feel.
Collin: Yeah, you think about what you’re going to do and who you’re going to be and what the best version of yourself you’re going to present that day is.
Julia: That’s such a good way of putting it – “The best version of yourself.” Because we are all so multi-faceted. There are so many different personalities and characters within all of us and maybe it’s about who you choose to bring forward that day. Who comes forth. Who has the loudest voice.
Brandon: Who you are channeling.
Julia: I think what you’re doing really resonates with people. I wonder if you had any thoughts as to what it is about your collection that is hitting home with people?
Brandon: I think people love seeing other people living their lives exactly how they want to and having so much fun while doing it. Fashion is a great way to visualize that or show that.
Collin: People get so caught up in the serious side of it and all the rules on what you are supposed to do and what you can and can’t do and that’s something that we try to get away from.
Brandon: Yeah, what is trending or what Hadid is wearing.
Collin: Yeah, instead of like, “How do I feel today?” What draws my attention, even if I don’t know why? And giving it a try and having a safe space to come in and experiment with something you would never normally pick up…maybe you’ll like it.
Brandon: Hopefully we’re helping people find that powerful person that doesn’t give a fuck and is ready to take on New York. People come here for the fantasy of being freaks and weirdos. You don’t come here to blend in. But I feel like there has been a lot of that crazy homogenization. A lot of those really cool downtown stores have closed so we’re just really trying to push that feeling again of…
Collin: Self-expression. Fearlessness in the way you dress. And it is scary. Sometimes you put something on and you know you’re going to stick out, you’re going to get looks. But when it’s right and you feel right you don’t care. And you’re like, “they’re looking because it looks so good, not because they think i’m a freak.”
Brandon: Exactly. They’re curious. They want to know where you got it.
Everybody: JAMES VELORIA!
James Veloria will be having a special Margiela Archive sale on October 1st.
There is a Venus/Jupiter sextile this week-a time to edit your life and state your goals/intentions-so I am cleaning out my closet. As I assess the project, I consider what my goals/intentions have been up to now. For starters, I am a collector. I save so much for it’s beauty-but don’t wear much of it more than a handful of times. Stuff like a fuchsia velvet robe from the twenties (mint condition), a 50+ Hermès scarf collection, a 1960s Courrèges dress suit that maybe I’ll wear one day to a wedding or worst case, have at hand if my retirement were to ever run out. I don’t know what my end game is with collecting. Only to possess and be surrounded by beautiful things that may serve me later in life. Like Carrie on SiTC says, “I like to keep my money where I can see it-hanging in my closet.”
What I do wear is pared down, easy-to-throw-on work/sports/leisurewear. Vintage jumpsuits and Acne sweatshirts. Converse. Nothing fussy or flamboyant or screams that I must get noticed. It says I have shit to do. The goal here is to be comfortable and feel cute enough doing it.
I think if you live in New York, so much of what you wear or collect or eat is all out there to see, even in the privacy of your own home. I live in a studio that can barely contain my wardrobe so I have to find a way to incorporate it into my decor. I just have to let it all hang out.
It’s amusing when a new person comes over, particularly if it’s a suitor. He sees your belongings, your closet, the antique purses hanging from the walls and sometimes gets up close to inspect it. Like it’s a clue or a riddle that reveals who you really are. Are the secrets to my deeper self hidden in my clothes? What am I saying with all this stuff? That I am worldly? Sensitive? The handmade tulle prom dress from the 50s that hangs from my closet door says I’m romantic, right? Do I want him to know I’m romantic? I feel exposed. What kind of intelligence is he gathering about me here? I have a Louis Vuitton weekender that I spent about 20 bucks on-will he think he doesn’t have to pay for dinner?
Your clothes send a message about who you are-your insecurities, your weirdness, your desires, which side of yourself you want to project that day or season. If you want to know the result of this exercise, the stuff I’ve edited out falls neither into the category of “everyday wearable” or “museum worthy.” They were some nice things that I don’t wear anymore simply because I don’t identify with the person who used to wear them. They feel like yesterday’s news, an old energy that I no longer occupy. I think that it’s a message to myself that I have moved on.
What does a 37-year-old need with a 1950s homemade prom dress? A feeling of whimsy in her sometimes over-adult world. The glitter-embellished tulle literally lifts me and the mauve makes my skin glow. Contrary to all logic, I feel younger and lighter. You can’t see pictured but I wore this with what else-my Chuck Taylors. Fashion elevates!
Today’s haul from my vintage buying job-not one but three brass antique bags. I couldn’t decide which one to bring home – the mini, lined in a deep purple velvet, the peacock, or the floral-embellished, 70s-style one – until I realized they all need each other! I can’t say for sure what era they each come from but I am guessing 1970s, turn-of-the-century (judging by the lining), and 1920s, counter-clockwise. In which case-a perennial classic!