I work in the archive of a fashion designer-I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to 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 arguably the most recognized name in the industry. He helped customers see the transformative power of clothes-that with a smart blue blazer or alligator bag, you could feel that whatever you station was in life, you could aim even higher.
He’s put his name on nearly every American closet staple. The bomber, the trucker, the camel coat, the Polo shirt, blue jeans-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 alike all beg 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 shirts and ties and saw that women wanted to power-dress too. He assigned social status where it wasn’t yet there-and then watched his muses find their place in a man’s world through dress.
Know who I’m talking about yet? If you don’t, I encourage you to google “91st richest person in the world.”
Which brings me to what I love most about him: He is a true manifestor. Knowing nothing about fashion design, he became THE Great American Designer with simply the unwavering belief that he could be. 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. And I can’t help but buy his story because what he is selling us is what he has sold to himself-the process of creating the life we want from nothing but a seed of inspiration/creation.
His goal in his high school yearbook reads, “Millionaire.” I am tickled by this. Even at 18, he understood the power of intention and laws of attraction. 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 took a few quiet minutes to visualize in my minds eye 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 ask, “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 and catalogued sufficient information on me and it was my cue to walk away-which I did, enormously pleased with myself. Later, his head designer (who got hired when he noticed her outfit in an elevator years ago-she’s another master manifestor but that’s another post for another day), witnessed the interaction and declared, “He loves you!” I was over the moon.
The words we exchanged were just a few but I walked away understanding what he has been practicing all his 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 co-creator, a new friend, 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 and today that is enough for me. But I can’t wait to see what I create tomorrow.
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 recognizable brand the worldover had a little help from the universe.
Born an orphan wishing for more luck in this life, her magical leanings were always there. She lived in a time where you were forced to do whatever you could to change your lot. So when it came time to create her aspirational and mythological fashion 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, an ever-present language embedded in the DNA of the brand.
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’s creation of her brand was really an 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 the double “C.”
Mythologically speaking, the necklace is a mark of the Goddess, enhancing her beauty and broadcasting her fertility in so many chiming 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.
To lose her necklace is to lose 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 many. The breaking of a necklace may be a separation from the self and a psychic sense of primordial chaos.
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 its 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.
I believe the act of creating is a two-part process. It is one part our doing while the other half gets handed over to the universe. We initiate the process by creating the kernel. It could be in the small form of having a vision for something and declaring your intentions. Or having an image in your head and picking up a brush or pen and materializing it. And if that action is in congruence with your authentic self-which is to say it really brings you joy or some sort of creative fulfillment (as opposed to doing it because you’re realizing someone else’s fantasies for you), then the universe responds to your action. It gives what you put in; reaps for you what you sow. If you are in an honest act of creation, you are in alignment with a sort of cosmic plane where events and people conspire to get you closer to your goal.
It was a few years ago that I had a sort of existential riddle to solve. I was leaving my job as an ESL teacher and back in school, trying to figure out what was next. I needed to upset the system, my system. I needed to start again and make sure it was what I wanted and not some idea I wrongly got from somewhere. But I didn’t know what I actually wanted. I had only scattered ideas of things I loved/loved to do…clothes, writing, organizing information…It was hard to think of a way for all those things to add up to a job title but it at least felt good to begin to know what brought me joy.
I kept my dreams alive in various and sometimes silly ways like fantasy-shopping for the bag I would have when I would get to my next level. The Proenza Schouler PS II bag, a very “pro” (professional and prohibitively expensive) but cool shoulder bag that maybe I would carry to my pro but cool job.
One day I decided that if I was lost, the only solution would be to do something, any action that took me out of my state of inertia. Thinking about bags was nice but what did that bag really mean? I needed to explore that wanting and see that it represented a more evolved, fulfilled version of myself that was living out her creative impulses and desires. So I bought The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion and started memorizing fashion terms (words for clothing silhouette, print and pattern, etc.). I read Suzy Menkes’ runway analysis in the International Herald Tribune and kept notes on all the evocative expressions she used (Calvin Klein Collection represented a “pared down elegance” while Prada’s oversized paillettes were “an innovative proposition”). I had no idea why I did these things other than it made me feel happy and productive. I was just following my inspiration.
I also approached a friend of a friend for career advice. She proposed I get into fashion forecasting. She mentioned a few firms but one stuck with me: Stylesight. The hugely influential trend-maker and predictor that seemed to sense what bubbled up years before Ms. Menkes referred to it as “an innovative proposition.” For some reason this idea of a firm that told the future resonated with me. Like a fortune-teller for fashion.
So I consumed my dictionary and the International Herald Tribune and Stylesight reports and told people-just to feel I had a real-life tangible goal-that I wanted to work for Stylesight. I didn’t know how I would go about doing it, only that it felt satisfying to profess an endgame. I said it so much that I just started believing it.
One rather uninspired day at home, I found myself hitting a wall. Studying with Suzy and Fairchild just wasn’t doing it for me. I decided, again, that I had to do something aside from staying home in my self-made prison of discontent. So I went in to work a shift at my vintage/designer buying job, where I buy clothing outright from the public at a shop in New York.
I was at the buying counter doing a buy for a client who seemed to know everything ever about the designer pieces she brought in to sell. “Oh that’s a sample from Manish Arora Spring 2011-they ended up doing that in a floral” or “I love it when JPG does Andalusian gypsy.” Her pieces were utter treasures, each one more special than the last. And that’s when I pulled out…gasp…the Proenza Schouler PS II bag. I was in disbelief. No one had ever known a PS II to come through the shop. It was like seeing an apparition, to see this holy grail of “it” bags grace the buying counter. I priced it and discretely threw it on our employee holds shelf (sorry, shoppers – we get first dibs), unable to contain the thrill of knowing I could soon be living my cool girl dream, or at least look the part.
It might have been due to the confidence of my shopping buzz but I also got curious about this well-heeled, fashion-fluent woman who was selling her amazing closet and asked, “What is it that you do, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I was in fashion but I’m thinking of leaving it to become an ESL teacher.” The Twilight Zone theme played in my head. I felt I had to confess my same-but-opposite story and did, ending it with the bold declaration, “I really want to work at Stylesight.” She looked at me, raised an eyebrow, and responded with a casually amused interest characteristic of a fashion power, “I have close contacts at Stylesight. We should meet for coffee sometime and chat.”
We met for coffee, shared stories and traded contacts. I gave her pointers on how to get into teaching. She gave me the name of a VP from Stylesight, which I was to use surreptitiously. I did, which got me an interview and finally a job at the Stylesight offices where I proudly entered every day with my Proenza Schouler PS II bag, feeling enormously self-satisfied and also aware of the power of our word and intentions. And grateful to the universe for meeting me halfway to co-create my dreams.
And what do you think my two tasks at this new position were but to a.) catalog the runways according to silhouette, print and pattern, etc. and b.) write runway analysis.
It’s up to us to create the life we want. And when we’re lost, we only have to plant little seeds that make us happy, and watch with awe as they bear fruit.
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 vintage Versace jeans in a New York City shop feels over. The good stuff has become so marked up/exclusive and the cheaper fast fashion 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!