Saturday, March 21, 2015

Froot for Thought

       Marina Diamandis is a real gem. The singer-songwriter behind Marina and the Diamonds just released her third album, Froot, a harmonious blend of emotional ballads and tongue-in-cheek chants. Throughout the album, Marina marries her soulful brand of heartache with eccentric takes on human psychology and millennial culture, and the result hits a real sweet spot in me. But before even listening to a note, I was struck by the vivid album art that seems to blend the haunting mood of Dutch and Flemish still life vanitas with the exuberance of famed performer Carmen Miranda. 
       The Froot cover features Marina against a black background that allows her multi-colored hair to pop. She dons a subtle plum earring in place of Miranda's tutti frutti hat, and incorporates the pink-to-purple gradient into her wavy mane. In another promo image, she angles her shoulders, tilts her head, and raises her arm in a way that channels Carmen Miranda's flamboyant flair, which is also reflected in the large bell sleeves of her dress. 
       The vanitas influence comes through in Marina's solemn expression, as these 18th century works by painters like van Utrecht (featured above) and were meant to symbolize the ephemerality of life through slightly rotten and decaying fruits. The title track, and others such as Immortal and Weeds, play with this theme of fatality, but all with the quirky sass that is Marina's signature. If at first these two reference points seem disparate, the connection becomes clear when Marina sings lines like "Leave it too long I'll go rot, like an apple you forgot, Birds and words will come for me, the cycle of life is compete," over a upbeat, symphonic tempo. Overall, this record is truly golden delicious. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Into the Woods

Rodarte s/s 2011, Tarte Cosmetic's Amazonian clay foundation, Maison Martin Margiela line 22 cylindrical heel cut-out booties, Aurélie Bidermann "Connie Island" collier necklace, Alexander McQueen "Britannia" wooden skull clutch, Charlotte Olympia gold "Pandora" Rio wooden clutch, LSTN "Troubadour" headphones

       Exciting news: I just became a college ambassador for LSTN headphones! These babies are the real deal. Not only is the sound quality unparalleled (beats Beats, trust me), but each set purchased helps fund the Starkey Hearing Foundation, restoring hearing to people in need from the U.S. to Uganda. Good for the ears, and not too bad on the eyes either. I love how the polished wood recalls an acoustic guitar, lending a warm and rustic touch an otherwise sleek design. I've been slipping my Beechwood Troubadours over a beanie while walking around the city and riding the subway. Of course, LSTN's materials are also completely authentic and eco-friendly, so they win my seal of approval. 
        I recently got to thinking, what other accessories would look cool in wood? Rodarte's wood grain dresses in rich mahogany hues come to mind, but I've rounded up some pieces that are a little more wearable. There's Margiela's cut-out booties and McQueen's classic clutch, plus Tarte Cosmetics's bamboo packaging and Charlotte Olympia's chic interpretation of Pandora's box. When style and sustainability cross paths, it's easy to get lost in the woods. 

Playlist: Head in the Trees

Arctic Monkeys - Arabella

Broods - Evergreen

Marina and the Diamonds - Froot

Glass Animals - Psylla

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Why I Can't Read Vogue

Not quite a year ago, I was walking down West 4th Street with a friend after class. We were discussing the hot topic du jour, the April Vogue cover featuring Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. I remember what I was wearing: an oxblood leather skirt with a chunky cowl-neck sweater, ribbed tights and ankle boots. We strode passed the park as I said something to the effect of, “They had to BEG for it! There are photos of Kanye having lunch with Anna Wintour and literally begging for it. I don’t care if she acts like it was her brilliant idea. I do not want to see Kim Kardashian in Vogue. That’s what People Magazine is for. C’mon Anna, where are your standards.” In retrospect, my argument seems pretty obvious. The same rationale was used in countless articles reacting to the controversy, but none quite pinpointed the frustration I was feeling. I couldn't really articulate why the cover bothered me so deeply. "Like it or not, she's relevant," my friend said. "Think about how many women with that body type feel beautiful because of her. If you're not a fan I guess just don't buy the issue." "But... I get that... It's just..." I didn’t yet grasp how Vogue's aesthetic was affecting my own self image. 

My sister and I used to play a game in which we tried to predict who will cover the next issues of Vogue and TeenVogue. Too often we rooted for the Hailee Steinfelds and Kerry Washingtons, up-and-coming musicians like HAIM or quitely brilliant actors like Elizabeth Moss, but were greeted by The Jenner girls and Kate Upton. We heard the rumors about Kim and Kanye’s imminent feature, but we dismissed them as mere wishful thinking on the part of mindlessly devoted fans. Below is my immediate reaction to April cover release, as recorded on Twitter:  
I wasn’t just shocked or outraged. I was threatened. There few publications that align with my personal model of genuinely interesting culture. I picture them as gated suburban communities, where a select group of like-minded people are granted access, and only those who “get it” see the appeal. These beacons operate independently of mainstream media, setting their own expectations for quality arts and entertainment. Kim and Kanye were like bandits breaking into Vogueworthy Manor. Oh look! There’s Kim, clad in black bandage skirt, dragging her stilettos through the immaculate landscaping. And there! It’s Kanye, in his infamous jewel-encrusted Marigela mask, robbing others of their rightful place on this idyllic tree-lined street. 

Gigi Hadid in Vogue 

In my formative years, I had felt secure knowing that faux-lebrities were vocally blacklisted from Vogue. I delighted in Kim’s public banishment from the MET Gala. The Kardashians symbolized the type of “popular” girls I knew in high school, the ones who went to Sweet 16’s in neon body-con dresses and whose self-confidence relied on how many commenters used a synonym of “hot” to describe their latest profile picture. I reveled in my inferior social status knowing they were US Weekly and I was TeenVogue. They were conventionally pretty and traditionally cool while I thought weird-looking models were beautiful and harem pants were pleasing. In other words, they idolized hypersexualized reality stars while I sought the quirkiness of Lindsey Wixson. 

Still clinging to this belief in my first year post-highschool, I quickly dismissed the Kimye cover as a fluke. Fine, feature Kanye, I thought. I won’t argue that he isn’t talented. But at least feature him as an artist, not as Kim Kardashian’s husband. Nonetheless, I understood that Kim’s presence was necessary to garner the sky-rocking sales Wintour hoped for. Magazines are a business, I know that. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Vogue had succumbed to some blinding disease that makes the Kardashians seem like admirable people. I had considered Vogue almost an extension of myself, part of my identity. Now, my sense of self was shaken, and I questioned the validity of my own beliefs. I used to think of myself as smarter, better, more mature than my aforementioned peers. I compensated for lack of social-climbing abilities by carving out a place online while asserting my worth through a Vogue-inspired wardrobe. Sure, I didn’t have a seat in the school cafeteria (cliché, I know) but I was a regular feature on and pictured a front row seat at fashion week in my future. 

Kendall Jenner on

The flaw with this paradigm is that for every one of me, there are 20 girls who’ve never heard of Patrick Demarchelier. In the business of selling magazines, appealing to the masses is crucial, and the masses love and relate to Kim Kardashian. As I said, I dealt with the Kimye coup (koup?) by calling it a fluke, but I was hopelessly wrong. In the 10 months since the April cover, Kardashian and her ilk have become inescapable in fashion magazines and social media channels. In its attempt to stay relevant, Vogue has alienated readers like me who had cherished its exclusive roster of talents. I had to click unfollow after the 6th consecutive Kendal Jenner selfie I flip through the magazine now and see the matted skin, straightened hair, and glazed expressions of Kendall and Gigi Hadid, both daughters of reality stars who Vogue is determined to reinvent as fashion darlings. I, for one, am not convinced. The appeal of the recent cover girls Sienna Miller and Dakota Johnson are similarly lost on me. Is it any coincidence that both come from privileged families, have model-esque looks, and star in high-grossing movie franchises?

Earlier this week, Vogue won Magazine of the Year at the National Magazine Awards. That scares me. 

I don’t have rich or famous parents. I wasn't born with perfect cheekbones and I don't have surfboard abs. I have better things to do with my time than amass millions of instagram and twitter followersNone of my friends, all of them smart, beautiful, and uniquely talented, posses these characteristics either, and yet we make up the millennial demographic that Vogue is trying to appeal to by featuring these women. If we listened and strove to obtain their qualities, what would that lead to? Would we long for plastic surgery? Lose touch with reality? Develop severe eating disorders? Or would we define ourselves by the parties we attend and the people we date? There's more to aspire to than fame and looks. Where Vogue once encouraged me to cultivate a unique eye for beauty and personal style, it now promotes the "popular" girl image as a faster route to success. I find myself without a seat again in a cafeteria filled with Kendalls, and that is why I can't read Vogue. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Set wide the window, Let me drink the day

Babaton cardigan from Aritzia, hand-knit scarf using yarn from PurlSoHo, photos by Ella of ella et cetera

       I've always considered myself an old soul, but some of my hobbies actually sound like the itinerary of an old age home. Take knitting for example. I'd be content sitting in bed all day with a plush ball of yarn, a set of bamboo needles, and an endless list of people to make scarves for, and maybe some smooth jazz in the background. I'd be drinking a mug of tea, too, because my old lady alter-ego is quite the tea connoisseur. I vowed to live out this description over my winter break, and the result was a chunky black circle scarf that I wore for a lunch outing yesterday afternoon. I find knitting my own things to be extremely freeing. I love transforming a pile of string into finished garment, one that I value more than anything I'd buy in a store. It's also comforting to know exactly how my scarf came into existence, without passing through a factory or sweatshop and never touching a crowded sales floor. One day I'd like to collect the wool myself from a sheep, so there's a personal and authentic touch to every step of the process. 
       My affinity for scarves in general is pretty well documented. I've always thought they were just the chicest accessory, and I've been known to douse mine in perfume and burrow inside them on chilly days. Something I've taken note of lately is the way different women arrange their hair within a scarf. I like tucking my long curls underneath and letting a few tendrils escape in front. It looks stylish but effortless, even if it takes a good 5 minutes to arrange.