December 27, 2010


Earlier this month, I wrote about unsubscribing from Elle. In the meantime, I have wondered why I don't just subscribe to something consistently amazing like Encens instead.

With magazines like Elle, I had to ignore so much bullshit to isolate those few kernels of goodness that are wholesome and nutritious for my mind. Encens, on the other hand, is so near to perfection. And yet...

I suppose this ambivalence is related to how I negotiate conventionality versus that something-like-originality that many who strive for something else strive toward. I guess that might be one way to think about "style." I am OK with the fact that's it's all process and nothing so totalizing as Achieving Good Style will ever be realized (at least not by me). I quite enjoy the process and learning new things along the way. But the question of what I am becoming never leaves my mind. Not that the future is a thing in whose names we should all shape our lives,* but I cannot resist wondering if I should work to become the type of matured woman who one day decides that from some specific moment on I'll mark myself a permanent outsider, possibly with, oh, I don't know, a gigantic avant-garde all black beehive and veil.

Ms. Diane Pernet is a remarkable woman who I respect and admire, but is this "not me"? Most likely, it is not. I can't imagine, for example, spending my time with a prepubescent boy who wears Rick Owens.

In some book I have because I went to college, Peter Bürger writes:

"The avant-garde not only negates the category of individual production but also that of individual reception. The reactions of the public during a dada manifestation where it has been mobilized by provocation, and which can range from shouting to fisticuffs, are certainly collective in nature. True, these remain reactions, responses to a preceding provocation. Producer and recipient remain clearly distinct, however active the public may become. Given the avant-gardiste intention to do away with art as a sphere that is separate from the praxis of life, it is logical to eliminate the antithesis between producer and recipient."

Bürger characterizes the avant-garde as interested in a couple of things: challenging bourgeois culture's premises and ideologies, and creating the space of a liberating life praxis in which a producer-recipient dichotomy is overcome... Only, this leads him to point out that this dangerously leads toward individualist solipsism.

His warning is important because those "couple of things" can easily translate into the basic formula for becoming every art school douchebag ever.

But the big long quote above is still really interesting for thinking about avant-garde-ism in fashion-as-consumer-product. And I think the tension in this book relates to my ambivalence of both loving such fashion and being resistant to a wholesale embrace of it as my lifestyle brand.

What is the fashion avant-garde when such creations become objects of fetishistic desire? And what do people really mean when they use the avant-word to talk about such unattainable designer creations? If there is an interest in something more than tapping consumer desire, if designers might also be reaching for that space where creativity broaches bourgeois norms, what do we as active recipients do to close the gap between the designers as producers and our life praxis, to move toward that space in between art and reality? And is this even a worthy goal?

I sometimes wonder if challenging "norms" just for the sake of it makes you an asshole if you are over the age of 21, and also think that believing in Individuality is foolish. I'm just really interested in this bit about collective reactions to things and sublating the producer-recipient relationship. In Bürger's book, he echoes most critical thought of the late 20th century by making sure to distinguish between a "real" sublation, and a "false" one. The false one happens when things become commodities. According to that definition, fashion would be cast aside immediately. But I don't think that's right.

 I think there are a couple ways around this. First, we can say that it doesn't actually matter whether or not things are commodities. Things are things, all things are seen to have certain values, or not. It's not just the economy, stupid! (A Clinton joke should really not be allowed.) Or, we can say that the creations in this case are never "real" to us anyhow, since like, no one can afford that shit. So it's just a fantasy image through which we hatch our own plans.

That way, we are imagining for ourselves, placing ourselves on the same platform of creative possibility as our favorite art star designers.

John and Yoko asked us to "Imagine." That resonated with so many, even moreso than George Michael's "Freedom." Our politics in the West is obsessed with this notion of freedom, which is different than imagination. What if our politics were premised on imagination? Thinking and doing differently? Is this what we can embody in dress?

All the way back in 1984, a year before I was born and long before I was forced to buy this particular book for my college class, Peter Bürger asked "whether the distance between art and the praxis of life is not requisite for that free space within which alternatives to what exists become conceivable." 

Maybe they were onto something with that Comme des Garcons for H&M, afterall. Any maybe I should just order myself a few back issues of Encens.

*Seriously, that link is a pretty good read. The recent "Declaration on the Notion of "The Future" is basically where my thinking is at right now regard "time" ("temporality" when I'm being an asshole).

Book quotes from Theory of the Avant-Garde by Peter Bürger.

Note: The images after Diane were top results in a google search for "avant-garde fashion."

Ugh, I'm sorry for how gross this looks in google reader. It's prettier on the actual site... 

December 23, 2010

I'm living in the future so the present is my past

Michael in 20 years?
I hope so. 
(photo via Jak & Jil)

December 18, 2010


As noted over on the list to the right, I'm a big fan of the anywho blog. I'm also happy that blogging has opened up a space for people to create the kinds of products they want to see in the world, with Tavi planning some sort of Sassy-esque mag with its original founder Jane Pratt, and Zana's great successes in leatherworks of recent note.

Another blogger enterprising endeavor that I am already primed to favor is the recently created anywho shop with a few their own designs. While these are basically big sizeless and shapeless drapings to give yourself some top-layer drama, they are perfectly done with wide lapels, what appear to be sack-like pockets, and raw edged sleeves for self-altering. The colors are excellent, and the blanket shape just seems to be the garment ideal for the winter season. I'm not joking when I say that I both lust for one of these jackets, and think it's barely not a Snuggie.

Let's roll those images, shall we?

My favorite:

Sure, it seems that with the right scissor work, or even just the right draping technique, you could achieve the look for only $14.95. Of course everything looks better on a tall Scandinavian model wearing platforms and a bodysuit.

HOWEVER, that would be like when people look at modern art and say, "My kid could do that." Yes, it's true. You or even your child could create a modern masterpiece, but did they? No, they did not. They probably watched TV, and now wear a Snuggie while watching TV.

The women of anywho, like so many Americas, simply wanted to wear a blanket with sleeves. The desire to do so is undeniable. In fact, I'm draped in a blanket right now, wishing it had sleeves. The logic is sound. But I, unlike most Americans, would prefer to spend a couple hundred dollars on a fashion blanket made out of wool than to buy a $14.95 -- or even a $24.95 microplush zebra print -- Snuggie. And that is one reason why I write this blog.

December 15, 2010


As you may be aware, the gift giving holiday season is upon us. If you are Jewish, it has already concluded and I'm sorry I didn't think to do this sooner. Honestly, this post is probably too late to help most people, but since it's the season for giving, I thought I would share some excellent gift choices with you.

I would never make a list just to encourage rampant consumption. But after a few recent etsy purchases, I remembered just how special its community of members can be. So many etsy purchases come with an extra free gift, a handwritten thank you note, beautiful packaging, discount codes, etc. I appreciate that these independent artisans and vintage hunters put such care into every step from creating to marketing their work. So, as a strong supporter of what etsy offers, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite shops with handmade things as a seasonal shopping list thing. Or, you can just bookmark for special present giving occasions in the future.


I stumbled upon this bag recently. I don't have a need that would justify it, since I got my ClareVivier handmade leather number this year, and it's been all I need in a daily bag. But perhaps you or someone you like enough to spend a lot of money on needs a new bag? A beautiful hand crafted one in this perfect color and shape?

Rennes hails from Boston, MA and describes the label as a small operation run out of a home studio. There are many more bags and small pouches in the shop, but this one is close to perfection. 

I am very intrigued by this particular garment, which is upcycled from vintage trousers and incorporates a harness. I can't deny that I'm also pretty into this woman's neck tattoo. 

Peeko is from Calgary, Canada and focuses on sustainability in her designs. As with Rennes above, this is hands down the highlight of the shop from my perspective, though you should go look and decide for yourself.

This 'Storm Cloak' seems to me a practical and necessary basic. 

Audrey Cantwell is probably on my radar due to cross-blogger promoting. Her items are made by hand in Montreal, and she offers something pretty special amidst all that twee vintage.

4. Element Clay Studio  
These sea urchin and scallop bowls are among my favorite things in the etsysphere. They are made by Heather Knight, working form Asheville, NC. I would like to have one of each thing from her entire store. They would fit perfectly into my home decor. 

I have browsed this shop for the beautiful images on so many occasions. I appreciate those shops that make for good computer-window shopping. This one is at the top of my list. 

5. Sycamore Street Press 
Basically, I'm a sucker for all the components of this shop's brand. They heavily feature French bulldogs, pugs, and other adorable creatures, and the cards are made on a vintage letterpress. I am pretty sure I need to place an order now. 

Most of their products are printed with soy based ink on 100% recycled paper, and come to you from Heber City, UT, wherever that is. 

That concludes today's broadcast. For those of you out there with etsy accounts, I think you should share some of your favorite shops as well. What am I missing out on? 

December 12, 2010

Blanket Shapes

This is from a few months back, and has been on my mind since. I don't follow models very closely, but am familiar with those that get constant mention in magazines. Freja Beha Erichsen falls into that category. I see her face and read her name a lot lately. And, I do quite like her hair.

The whole feel of this is just so right. She poses in interesting configurations without jumping up in the air even once. Why, in American Vogue, do the models need to be airborne so often with a ponytail that is in a zero gravity levitation behind their heads? I should look into that.

There is a noteworthy lack of bullshit here. Just complex dark draping and rich fabrics accessorized with odd braided dangling bits and deep red foliage. Not to mention this cover with a huge black hat. All things point toward this speaking to my deep and innermost personal brand.

I'm in love with these trousers.

This, for me, is a highlight.

What is this garment? I need it.

Saved my favorite for last.

All photos via Paper Mode

December 10, 2010

Winter Weight (Switcheroo number 2)

Is there a prize for writing the worst title ever in the history of blogging? Do I win?

Everything about this sweater is so appropriate for our world. This is the best sweater ever. I love it. Mike loves it. It's chunky and heavy weight, just like the two of us right now as we watch the sunset together from behind a frosty window at 4pm and commence eating chili, bread, and potato products for the rest of the evening. Our lives rule so much. Sometimes, I wonder if I'll ever leave this great state. That's a joke; we will certainly leave.

But you came here for clothes, not my neurotic inability to handle winter. And this sweater will be with us no matter where this crazy world takes us. It will remain. It's just that versatile. It's so right for our lifestyle. How appropriate that Mike always refers to its color as "oatmeal." That's what I'll be eating for breakfast soon, because oatmeal is hot. Hot breakfast. Disgusting. I prefer all my meals room temperature and 90% fruit or vegetable. That's not what's up right now, in Minnesota.

Both of the items featured on Mike's body are amazing for us both. The warm double breasted sweater cardigan combined with the soft thick flannel charcoal gray shirt is a perfect winter pairing. I like these colors. Mike is stealing my palette lately, and our world is getting more and more gray, taupe, and neutral. I like to wear both of these pieces, and I like it when he wears them, too. That dark gray shirt is really the best.

So much wonderful texture. This was a secondhand purchase, and probably ranks among the all time greatest hits. 

I now resolve not to write about 1) myself,  2) the fact of winter, or 3) Minnesota for the rest of the month. I have other content in store for you that doesn't involve any of the above 3 things. Thank you for your continued support and patience.

December 8, 2010

Reasons why I won't be resubscribing to Elle

Elle magazine wants my continued business.

And yours.

And I truly want to support print publications. But when I open that desperate plea of a cover to the actual cover only to see the "Bombshell in Bloom" starring in: "The ACCESSORIES," you can imagine my disappointment.

I have decided not to resubscribe. Here is a short list of reasons why.

1. Irrelevant celebrities (cont. from above) ad nauseam:

2. Dated trends presented as the "new" ideas:

3. Content not suited to my lifestyle, to say the least:

Apparently there is a poppin "nightlife" at the ski resort, to which you should wear a gown and fur?

Or, if you're more into spending lavish amounts of money being catered to by brown people in their natural habitat rather that Aspen, there is this.

But wait, there's more.

4. Finally, um, "Arm yourself for murder on the Orient Express"?

This on the following page does not fix it:

I'm not trying to hate, really. This is obviously a culling together of what were, in my opinion, some notable lows of the last few issues. To be fair, during my year as a subscriber, I enjoyed numerous well-done profiles and editorials. But at best, it was "spot on," at worst:

Shit, I couldn't choose between these two to make my point!

I just think that it's time to be a bit more selective on the glossy paper publications I let into my home. I hate dragging a big heavy pile of these things out to the recycling bin. I would like to try to just buy especially good issues from a variety of sources, including Elle, on those occasions when it's worth the paper it's printed on.