Fashion, Inspiration, Subculture

Things to Read #12

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This week has been a bonanza of utterly terrible, heart-wrenching, soul-doubting stuff. A plane shot out of the sky, soldiers on several continents killing children and calling it justice, and all the rest of us screaming our outrage and helplessness into the ether.

An obsessive nature and insane fear of flying has led to days of pure MH17 research, tallying nationalities, cataloguing coincidences and fears. There are many links to share, but I think my heart would explode if I shared everything here. Sabrina Tavernese of the New York Times was one of the first journalists on the scene of the crash in the Ukraine. This is what she saw.

Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe, bottle blondes and why there’s no good writing on fashion. A collection of articles by the late, great fashion writer Anne Hollander.

The New Inquiry did a supplement on Lana del Rey and FINALLY I get it now.

“I have chosen to focus on girls, not (that) the boys (where present) were any less stylish, but because girls in “subcultures” have been largely ignored or when referred to, only as male appendages.” Anita Corbin’s Visible Girls: Pictures of Women from British Subcultures.

They blame the lack of political education in schools. Whether they like or dislike Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair, they distrust both the political industry and the related media. ‘Intellectual people chatting in bathrooms,’ comments Mel B.’We are society,’ exclaims Geri, ‘so really …’ ‘We should be running it,’ Mel B finishes the statement. From the Vogue Archives – Kathy Acker interviews the Spice Girls.

I would like everything from this Bonham’s jewellery auction please and thank you.

An encounter with the late Elaine Stritch in Central Park. Note – Jack Donaghy’s mother is the elderly lady I aspire to be.

The real Larry from Orange is the New Black tells his side of the story.

Alyssa Mastromonaco was deputy White House chief of staff for operations from 2011 to 2014. And then, she took a job at Marie ClaireHere, she argues that being stylish and being smart are not mutually exclusive things for women.

Documentary series This is Modern Art is up on Youtube in its entirety.

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Fashion, Photography, Subculture, The Reading List

Things to Read #9

Yesterday, I had to go see a man about a Springer Spaniel and, to edit a very boring story into a mildly entertaining footnote, I thought that it was Monday. Term only ended last week and already freelance work is messing with my brain. I’m going to have to start walking around with my name and address pinned to my sleeve. So, no Sunday post.

It’s doubtful that many people noticed – after all, Sunday is now the day for relaxed reading and there are a lot of websites posting up Sunday links (this particular series being a blatant rip-off loving homage to Ana Kinsella’s Week’s Clicks.

This Richardson shoot for Vogue Paris in 2010 was that first that made me think that something was not quite right. I also might have suppressed a vomit. *burrrp*

This Richardson shoot for Vogue Paris in 2010 was that first that made me think that something was not quite right. I also might have suppressed a vomit. *burrrp*

One of my all-time favourite magazine editors recently  justified (no names, unfortunately; ‘off the record’ is still very much a thing) using creepy-as-hell photographer Terry Richardson  by saying that his work should be separated from his wrongdoings. Which is bullshit, really, as his work is what makes his behaviour acceptable. New York Magazine have released their much-anticipated  feature ofnRichardson, asking if he’s an artist or a predator, perhaps conveniently forgetting that you can be both. The piece itself is … weird. Read it for yourselves and make up your mind.

Speaking of creepy sexual predators, this story of an online romance gone horribly wrong will make most sentient women never use their phones for anything other than Angry/Flappy/Zombie Birds ever again.

This is by no means new, but for people who are curious about what cultural appropriation is (note: eating sushi is NOT cultural appropriation and not just because I ate my weight in mackerel sashimi this weekend) please read this.

Drunk texts from famous authors. Much better than getting the following phone call from Barcelona. “I’m at a beach bar! Do you want to hear my Spanish accent? Ola! Olé… *ridiculously deep voice* OLÉEEEEE (trails off).”

James Franco wrote a weird short story about how he definitely absolutely no way didn’t but maybe he did  kinda sorta have sex with Lindsay Lohan.

Long long loooooooong read about Donna Tartt and why critics are pooh-poohing her latest literary blockbuster, The Goldfinch.

Britney Spears went to Vegas and this is what happened.

The anatomy of school dress codes.

Them Victorian fashions will kill ya.

This Style Bubble post on fashion houses and rebranding is interesting. Typeface love.

 

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Fashion, Subculture, The Reading List

Things to Read #7

One hundred (!) longreads here. Very, very America-centric, but something for everyone to enjoy.

Nellie Bly, one of the first notable female journalists, had something to say about writing what you want.

Just who is a feminist now?  I’m confused. Curtis Sittenfeld has a separate, personal take on the topic.

I Wanna Marry Harry has the be the most takedown-able reality show ever, starring possibly the world’s worst Prince Harry lookalike.

Fashion’s fascination with the childlike body.

In praise of the bad girls of Young Adult literature.

An oldie, but still relevant. Joan Didion on the “faux-adult” characters of Woody Allen films.

I want to go to there. 27 Incredible Airbnb locations in Europe.

 

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Fashion, Photography, Subculture, The Reading List

The Reading List: Seven Sisters Style

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Well, I read Rebecca Tuite’s new book on the female variant of prep, Seven Sisters Style, and it is just delightful. Really and truly delightful.

I’ve written more on the subject for today’s Irish Times. If you can’t pick up a copy, you can read it right here.

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Fashion, Subculture

Against Normcore

This is Vogue's idea of normcore, which I think is pretty nice. Photo by Jason Lloyd Evans

This is Vogue’s idea of normcore, which I think is pretty nice. Photo by Jason Lloyd Evans

It’s very nearly May, and summer is creeping up on us in a clumpy, unstealthy way. The days are getting longer and my memory is getting shorter. Hopefully, someday soon, I’ll blink and it’ll be July. I’ll have somehow fixed the wonky nose bit on my Ray Bans and all my friends will be in the park, drinking cans of cider and laughing merrily because everyone will have forgotten that normcore ever existed.

If one so-called trend could be a conformation of the grey, sludgy in-between times of not-quite-winter, not-quite-spring, it’s normcore. Nondescript, boring, the sandbank on which the ship of creativity has run adrift.

If you don’t know what normcore is, then bless you. You most likely have a real life, probably full of incidental things like responsibilities and dependents.

Fiona Duncan, the New York-based journalist who brought normcore to the masses (her article is a great introduction to the trend), categorises it thusly:

…not to describe a particular look but a general attitude: embracing sameness deliberately as a new way of being cool, rather than striving for “difference” or “authenticity.” In fashion, though, this manifests itself in ardently ordinary clothes. Mall clothes. Blank clothes. The kind of dad-brand non-style you might have once associated with Jerry Seinfeld, but transposed on a Cooper Union student with William Gibson glasses.*

The idea of normcore ballooned from there. It crossed continents. Suddenly, entirely black, grey and soft faded denim outfits with classic kicks underwent some sort of profound cultural transformation. Wearing American Apparel mom jeans and New Balance trainers were no longer the epitome of the easy, clean-lined uniform that many young women aspired to own. These outfits were now some sort of postmodern statement about the mutability of identity and the chameleonic nature of the social media age woman. What was once a logical addition to a wardrobe (those Nike Free Runs feel like I’m wearing socks!) is now proof that hipsters have overstretched themselves. They’re trying to be so hip, they’re square. Huey Lewis would be spinning in his grave if we wasn’t still alive and, presumably, too busy counting his royalty money from Sesame Street.**

 

Anyway, it’s bullshit. Normcore is nothing but fertiliser. It somehow got so big that even I couldn’t escape it. I pitched and wrote an article all about it for the Irish Times (that I 100% stand behind, by the way), because much as I hate the theory behind it, I love the clothes.

What we think of as ‘normcore’ isn’t actually normcore.

According to the trend forecasting agency that coined the term, K-Hole, what has just been described is not actually normcore.  Rather, it is ‘Acting Basic’, another term ingeniously devised by the company to describe dressing in as nondescript a way as humanly possible without just staying at home forever and ever, where no-one will ever look at what you’re wearing. Apparently, normcore is really about a person’s ability to adapt to any situation, much in the way a KISS devotee will slap on a few layers of face paint before heading to see Gene Simmons lick his bass.

It’s an unfortunate irony that the terms were coined by a company possibly named after the dissociative, out-of-body effects of large amounts of the anaesthetic (and recreational drug) ketamine. Normcore (or, indeed, Acting Basic) is fashion on too much K; emotionally narcotised, involuntarily motionless and, ultimately, not really worth it. It’s fashion that’s too sluggish to get a hard-on. That being said, too much normcore won’t result in having a tube put through your bladder.

What we understand as normcore is redefining something that never needed a definition in the first place

While there is a generally accepted theory that clothing is a language of its own, with many, many, many interesting books on the subject, trying to tack a whole underlying theory on what is essentially dressing in the most boring way possible seems a little bit revisionist. It’s like being in a poetry class where the lecturer is convinced that an image in a poem (a deer, for example) is some deeply convoluted metaphor for the fluidity of female sexuality in a post-post-postmodern, patriarchal society. However, the poem was written in 1693 and the poet himself would only have understood about two in five words coming out of the lecturers mouth.

It’s just a deer. That’s the beauty of poetry – and dressing up. It is however you read it. This goes for jumpers as well as metaphors. It’s just a black jumper. Many people wear simple clothing for all sorts of reasons. They did it before the theory of normcore ever existed. They don’t need to be defined as normcore now, or for the brief few minutes we have left on this hemisphere where the term has any sort of real relevance.

Normcore is generally bullshit whatever way you look at it

Constantly dressing to fit in, whether its a catch-all look that fits all situations or dressing specifically for every specific occasion, is the surrender of personal identity to banal, boring groupspeak. Uniformity is not always a good thing.

A confession. I dress in an accidentally normcore way about 90% of the time.

I do it because it’s easy. I don’t feel as if I have to make some kind of ironic statement on the pressure to be a sartorial stand out. I’m ok being me. Most of the time, Me is me in a big black jumper and a white shirt. It’s not about adaptability, it’s not about being ‘on-trend’ (that phrase should be burned at the stake, by the way) and although it implies uniformity, it’s definitely, DEFINITELY not about dressing just to fit in with all your normcore pals. Dressing the way I do and squeezing it into this little box called ‘normcore’ is a betrayal to the other 10% of me who enjoys wearing green and blue sequinned skirts during the day and being sniffed at by a totally uncool little old lady in the chemist.***

Be you. But be sure of this; whatever you are, it’s definitely not normcore.

FURTHER READING

Meet Norma Normcore (Vogue). Even Kate Phelan isn’t really a fan.

A brief history of normcore and other things that weren’t things before they became things (Quartz). Normcore is a blip and I probably shouldn’t have written so much about it.

Courtney Love Interview (The Quietus). Courtney Love learns about normcore and is totally into it.

*For ‘Cooper Union’, replace with ‘Central Saint Martins’ (London) or NCAD (Dublin)

**Though, as Sesame Street is a PBS show, we’d hope there wouldn’t be too much in royalties to count. Also, I threw the Sesame Street thing in there because I like the video.

***This happened last week and I did not particularly enjoy that bit, to be perfectly honest.

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Fashion, Photography, Subculture

The Wild Girl Gangs of Marrakech

Kesh Angels, the work of Moroccan-born, UK-based photographer Hassan Hajjaj is a hallucinatory look into a young subculture that most people aren’t privy to – the Moroccan motorcycle girl gang. Women on scooters with Nike djellabas, knockoff designer slippers, heart-shaped shades and a flagrant disregard for perceived speed limits. They’re got the attitude and unblinking, unwavering stares of Russ Meyer film heroines, but the only killing these ladies are doing are with their threads.

It’s only a matter of time before this gets co-opted into an M.I.A music video – or maybe that’s kinda happened already

P.S – If you like this, you might like this old post on the Hell’s Angels and the women who rode with them.

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Kesh Angels is running at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in New York until March 8th

More photos at The Guardian.

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Fashion, Subculture

Punk, or a Facsimile of

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- From Vogue Russia, October 2013

Punk has become very glossy, hasn’t it?  It’s been appropriated and bastardised and distorted and machine-gunned and laquered beyond all comprehension.  And yet…

I rather like this editorial.  It pulls together as-yet unmined aspects of punk (like how feminine it could be – in an intrusive, slightly threatening way) and is still incredibly high-end and glossy, albeit with a slightly slimy edge.  It might be the massive Mint Aero that I’ve just eaten, but I feel a little queasy looking at it.

It reminds me a little of this don’t-care photo of two punks on the Kings Road, as shot by Steve Johnston.

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Johnston also talks to Nick Knight of Showstudio about shooting these particular punks (with a camera, I assume).


If that floats your boat, Showstudio have much more up online as part of their Punk: Photography Exhibition.

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column 10/10/13:Big Bad Branding

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Kids love the darndest things. They love selfies, they love Molly and they love Alexander Wang. I’m far too much of a snob (or too terrified of criticism) to post selfies and I don’t know who or what Molly is but I’m sure one of my friends will tell me eventually (I hear that Miley Cyrus loves dancing with her).

Alexander Wang, though. That’s a different proposition altogether.

Alexander Wang is by far the coolest designer out there – and by ‘cool’ I mean ‘very, very popular’. His clothes are easy to wear and for the most part, easy to produce. He has invented or popularised several major trends, is in his second season as designer for legendary fashion house Balenciaga and is a major contributor to the global takeover of the ‘leggings as trousers’ look. From this we can at least glean that while Alexander Wang is incredibly talented, productive and well able to tap into the zeitgeist, he is not Fashion Infallible.

Alexander Wang’s most recent collection for his eponymous label was roundly hailed as a tour de force – yet again. The clothes fit his usual remit; slouchy sportswear with unexpected details in tones of black, white and grey. The most striking of his pieces was a white sweatshirt bearing the Parental Advisory logo. It was an interesting addition. Now that CDs have disappeared, surely the Parental Advisory logo should have disappeared too?

Without delving too deeply into the possibilities, the Parental Advisory logo worn on a woman’s chest is at best, a heavy-handed nod to truly awful, cliched logo t-shirts and 90’s ladette-style coy double entendres. At worst, it’s the micro-trend that’s going to annoy the bejaysus out of people like me – that is, people who are very easily annoyed – for at least four months.

This collection was presented about three weeks ago. Already, I have spotted three or four lost-looking waifs bearing the Advisory logo on their very PG selves.
There’s no way that I could possibly guarantee this, but I absolutely, 100% guarantee that at least fifty such designer copycat sweatshop sweatshirts are winging their way from China to Cork at this very second. It’s cool, it’s fresh, it’s young. It’s whatever word of the moment that you want it to be.

However, one has to examine the mechanisms of a youth culture where a twenty-six year old (that me then) can remember the trend quite vividly the first time around. Does anyone else remember Limp Bizkit and balding frontman Fred Durst’s predilection for red baseball caps and t-shirt bearing a very familiar logo? Nu-metal was the subculture that spawned the trends of today.

As a fashion statement, nu-metal clothing needs to be popped on a compost heap and literally recycled, not shorn of a few details and repackaged as a brand new trend. Youth culture (and come to think of it, Alexander Wang’s designs) tend to look forward, not back. Hindsight is 20/20 – and logos are embarrassing on par to leggings worn as trousers.

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Art, Fashion, Inspiration, Subculture, The Reading List

Nonconformist Fashion Tips, with a Personal Introduction

Hi everyone.  Hi there.

For a little while back there, I fell out of love with blogging.  What happened was this:  I applied for (and got into) the MA in Fashion course at Central Saint Martins, which I had been working towards for… Hmm.  About two years.  That two years was punctuated with a lot of frustration, hard work and heartbreak in both my personal and professional life.  A lot.

One thing kept me going when I split up with my long-term boyfriend, quit a job that was not quite what it advertised itself to be and moved back in with my parents in a small town that was, and is, slowly dying due mostly to drugs and emigration.  It was the thought of getting out, moving to London and doing my dream course that stopped me from melting into a big fat puddle of self-pity, Ovaltine and Take A Break magazines.

In May, I found out that I was moving to London.  I had the course.

In May, I lost the urge to work altogether.  Everything seemed entirely pointless.

So, from May to September, I had what can tastefully be termed a lost summer.  I made so many brilliant new friends, who I miss immensely now that I’ve moved over, had some brand new experiences and learned a lot of valuable things (not least how to throw a successful club night, but that’s a different post altogether).

I stopped blogging.  In fact, I stopped writing altogether bar what was required of me for work.  My attention span was shot.  I barely read more than ten pages at a time.  I finished approximately zero books over the summer.  I did however, for the first time in almost twenty years, get a tan – the evidence of which is still fading around my shoulders.

Over the course of a few months, I became a different person. I joined a band of amazing artists and renegades and explored the Irish countryside – and if you’re imagining this through a Sofia Coppola-ish, slightly twee filter, that’s EXACTLY how it was.  It was the very best summer of my life, though not untouched by spots of drama.

But here I am.  I live in London now, a city so rich with people and ideas and beautiful things that I feel that my brain might burst if I don’t type everything out through my fingers.  At the very least, I can start writing posts again, instead of just putting up my weekly Cork Independent columns.

This isn’t a particularly personal blog.  But this is a personal post.  Being personal makes me uncomfortable – slightly ironic as in real life I have a definite tendency to overshare.  The short version is this – I’m back to blog another day.

Ahem.

And now for something completely different.

London is full of nonconformists.  In fact, it’s so full of nonconformists that they all sort of blend into each other.  A massive nonconforming mass. I love it. I fall in love on the Tube at least twice a day.

London style is such that this 1968 gem, How to be a Nonconformist, by Elissa Jane Karg, still holds some very relevant fashion tips, not least the one about not wearing socks.

You can see the rest of this book over on Brainpickings.

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