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.
Our hair is our “crowning glory,” as it springs forth from our highest chakra and most sacred part of the body. Its meanings are many and spiritual significance as deep as our roots.
We lose and reproduce 100,000 strands at a time. Therefore the very nature of hair is cyclical. The spiritual process of reincarnation plays out in each strand.
Our hair may be a link between the spiritual and physical worlds. A Sikh does not cut his hair, which he considers a gift from God. Strict orthodox Judaism forbids men from cutting their sidelocks. According to some Islamic hadiths, women are to grow enough hair to conceal breasts or any other awrah part of the body that may be naked in burial.
Expressions referencing hair reveal attitudes about ourselves and the world around us. To “let down your hair” is to surrender to the playfulness that life has to offer. Something that inspires fear is “hair-raising.” Hair can pose a threat to society when long or dirty or when “unruly curls” break social rules. To go natural, to show your kinks and waves, is taking a radical stand in defense of your authentic self. Or with treatments and tonics you choose to “tame” the wildness within. Chinese Communist soldiers dubbed their bob haircut as the “liberation hairdo.” The pixie cut evokes elfin innocence.
Through fairytales, we are cautioned at an early age of the power and potency of hair. Rapunzel sits in her tower, sequestered away, with any creative potential she has to offer the world thwarted by the evil sorceress who confines her. Her hair, “as fine as spun gold,” is her only crime. Humanity begs her for access to her hair and thus herself, but her spirit remains cloistered. When the witch finally releases her, and cuts off her lustrous locks, she is banished to the woods to live out existence in hairless unglory.
Hair reveals our soul selves, which we are sometimes punished for. The so-called red-headed stepchild is marginalized. “Black is beautiful” reminds us to love ourselves against a hateful social agenda. Age dare not show itself on a woman’s greying head whereas a man is considered distinguished. The noble chignon of a ballerina is planted, unmoving, atop her head, signaling her discipline and supporting her delicate but powerful precision.
Hair displays our psychic life. It may “stand on end” to signal danger. We lose it or go grey from stress. Dionysis’ dark, wild waves signify a chaotic inner world, ruled by wild passions. In Native American cultures, it is believed that hair acts as an antennae or extension of our nervous system, supplying us with the power of intuition and sixth sense. Only in period of mourning is it cut short.
What lives on after our physical death is only our hair and our souls. A corpse will show spooky vitality as hair continues to sprout from the head. We also live on in the hair of our children, which contains our DNA, or narrative of our ancestry.
To lose one’s hair can mean degradation. After the Battle of France in 1940, French women’s heads were shaved as punishment for their sexual relationships with German soldiers. A balding man is losing his virility. Soldiers with shaved heads are reminded of their loss of personal identity and now machine-like nature.
To shave one’s head as a personal choice can symbolize spiritual rebirth or transformation. The shaving ritual for religious purposes denotes an intentional sacrifice or renunciation. Monks and nuns in Hindu, Buddhist and Christian orders wear their baldness to show fidelity to God as they eschew worldly pleasures.
Or hair may tempt us. Lady Godiva rides horseback through the streets of Coventry, naked and shrouded in her long, wild locks. Peeping Tom who watches on from a window is discovered and made blind, reminding us of the punishment we may endure if we lust too longingly.
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!
Chaos magic-if you believe in that sort of thing-is a highly individualistic form of magic where you create your own belief system. It doesn’t matter if your magic works. What matters is you think your magic works. If you decide to believe in a power, and earnestly hold in your heart that belief, you get the very effects of what you intend. You create the system. You mix the potion. You decide the ingredients, who to pray to, what moon to howl at.
You can call it an expression of the supernatural or self-fullfilled prophesy or coincidence or just a bunch of baloney. But the result remains. There’s positive feedback between thinking and behavior. You are self-creating.
Chaos magic can be an individual or group effort. If you have a belief of your own, you can affect change. And if there’s a belief on a collective level, there is a sea of this change.
There’s a Witches’ market in Mexico City. With spells and potions, powders and candles. You can see there’s a system promoted by a whole culture. A subconscious consensus. Make a honey jar to keep your man from straying. Drink bird saliva for impotence. And there’s the strength of the belief of millions of other Mexicans that will support your desired results. There’s power in group energy.
Among the aboriginal Australians, the ritual of pointing a kangaroo bone at your victim results in death. You can call it “bone-pointing syndrome” or “self-willed death” but death happens regardless.
But you don’t have to join the group. You can walk your own path. That’s the point. Just pick your belief, choose your prophet, draw a sigil, do whatever you want that you feel works for you. This is a feeling-based system so just do what feels right.