The Good Closet

The Good Closet

There are less than 5 weeks left in 2014, and there’s nothing like a deadline to get you moving. I thought about a few concrete things I want to cross off he list before the ball drops at midnight on December 31, and among them is a push on The Good Closet.

Some brief backstory: In August, I moved the brand profiles that had previously been featured on The Distillerist over to a new home online that I built and launched in a day called The Good Closet, a side project within a side project. I left the thing sitting for a while, not sure what to do with it. But as I took a bit of a break from blogging the last few months, I recognized that one of the reasons I even started The Distillerist in the first place was to spotlight brands pushing the sustainability pendulum that maybe weren’t so obviously eco – I call them the next tastemakers in fashion and beauty.

So every day from December 1 to December 31, I’m setting a personal challenge to find, curate, and share 31 brands over at www.thegoodcloset.co. You can follow along on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

While I do have a few off the top of my head, it’ll be fun and interesting to find and curate 31 new brands that represent the next wave of tastemaking style.

After that, I won’t be updating The Good Closet as often (who knows – this might become a seasonal thing), but it will remain up so that you can browse it whenever you like. I’ll also be adding a Shop by Price feature sometime before the challenge ends, so that it’ll be easier to differentiate mass market from designer, and you can browse accordingly.

I’m working on a few other things (like I said, getting back to art, getting down to business), quieting down otherwise to gear up for 2015, when I’m putting up my freelance shingle after taking a 2 year hiatus.

Happy last stretch of 2014! Makin’ it count.

From left: Citizens of Humanity, Clare Vivier, Emerson Fry, Everlane, Farrell and Co., Frame Denim, Araks, Calder, California Tailor

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A “Nasty” Treat for Fancy, Sustainable Ladies

A “Nasty” Treat for Fancy, Sustainable Ladies

I might not be Nasty Gal’s target demographic (age-wise, probably – but I don’t think I own anything in fringe, cut-out or a single pair of 8-inch platforms). And yet, I’ve always been drawn to their independent, fearless spirit, which they translate very well into fashion. I remember Nasty Gal being one of the first companies to do e-commerce really well, opening up the possibilities of style for Millennial women who perhaps were disenchanted with the mall. So yeah, I’ve always been a sideline fan.

One thing I could always shop for was vintage. I love a lot of things about old clothes: the thrill of the hunt, the waste-not mentality, and the charm of rarity, which is hard to get otherwise in today’s mass market driven world.

Vintage is how Nasty Gal got started. But for a while, their focus seemed to shift just slightly away from vintage to independent designers to private label as the business grew and the necessary growing pains pulled back and forth between vision, customer and profit – why sell one piece of vintage when it’s probably much more profitable to put in the same amount of work to sell multiple pieces? But, I’m so glad to see that they haven’t lost the thing that makes them the original cool e-shop in fashion, and the thing I always come back for. Also: the thing that makes them a more sustainable company than most other mainstream e-commerce stops targeted toward women and girls my age. (I’ve also noticed that quite a bit of their private label pieces are made in USA, including their more accessibly-priced reworked vintage collection, After Party.)

From the looks of it, they buying team must have come across some sort of Chanel/Moschino goldmine, because that’s exactly what’s going on right now. I’m in love with that lavender pantsuit (the satin navy blue one too), that landscape print skirt, and the (take a breath) $3800 Chanel trench. Mind you, these items come with a big “buyer beware” label – as vintage treasures, they’re priced for fancy ladies.

It is some pretty great fancy, though.

Nasty Gal Vintage | The Distillerist

Nasty Gal Vintage | The Distillerist

Nasty Gal Vintage | The Distillerist

Nasty Gal Vintage | The Distillerist

Nasty Gal Vintage | The Distillerist

Nasty Gal Vintage | The Distillerist

Nasty Gal Vintage | The Distillerist

Shop Nasty Gal Vintage: Vintage Moschino Trapani Skirt, $495, Vintage Chanel Yvelines Trench Coat, $3,800, Vintage Chanel Gironde High-Waisted Trousers, $925, Vintage Chanel Colmar Satin Pant Suit, $2,200, Vintage Chanel Mérignac Button Down Blouse, $825, Vintage Chanel Manosque Suit, $1,850, Vintage Chanel Étampes Sequin Dress, $2,200, Vintage Chanel Laval Layered Dress, $2,200

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The next beauty standard

The next beauty standard

Body types go in and out of style, as fashion trends do. Today, it has become easier and therefore a more seemingly popular activity to criticize the fashion industry and media for its part in predominantly showcasing one singular vision of body perfection. Thing is, ideals change. During my relatively short lifetime, I’ve come to understand through what has been presented to me in the media that the prevalent desired body shape is thin (to be brief about it), but things are happening that make me feel like the next body type to come into vogue is healthy and strong, with irreverence toward size. More than ever, we’re seeing women and men stand up for a new “normal” (apparently it has something to do with butts, biologically associated with fertility and health), and on the other end, we’re seeing women and companies being bashed to a pulp for showcasing a perhaps now “passé” body ideal, one that would have been acceptable and idolized 10 years ago. Since when does it makes sense that a pop star who has what is otherwise considered a supermodel’s figure is chastised for it? Oh yeah, 2014.

It’s about the right timing, if we’re measuring: the 1980s and 1940s were waves where strength and athleticism in the female physical form were considered beautiful and desirable. Vogue just did this editorial that I quite like, showcasing models (this is Vogue after all) who do not fit the conventional model stereotype of today, except that they may just be onto something. Between that and the gorgeous Myla Dalbesio for Calvin Klein ad (let it be known that Calvin Klein the company never declared the model or ad as “plus size” – the media did), I think the pendulum is finally starting to shift and the people are finally getting what they’re asking for at this particular historical moment in time.

This just might be the next beauty standard. Or, maybe, as I hope in fashion, we’re closer to moving toward a standard where there is no standard, like fashion trends. Except based on historical cycles, that seems unlikely to be true. Then again, historically we’ve never experienced media in the way that it can be experienced today: defined by the people. (Also worth pointing out: historically, we’ve never been as big as we are today.)

Now, can we stop bashing body types, period, and move on with it?

Image Credit: Cass Bird, Vogue

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When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people’s, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment – once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in – what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception.
― Zadie Smith

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I’m no editor-in-chief

Today: the reasons for my unexplained 3 month blogging absence, to which I have now returned, ready for “more”. If you remember what The Distillerist used to look like, you will undoubtedly first notice the feeling of “less”, contradicting my going for “more”. (Where did all the stuff go? The sidebar? The related posts? The slideshows?)

Let me explain. Or rather, why explain when someone else can do it for you? Danielle Meder takes it away:

“All media is mortal. Newspapers have been around for a few centuries, but they may be gone one day. Blogging was vital for a decade until social media superseded it. The social-media sites we post on now will also likely be obsolete in a digital minute. Defining your work by the technology that displays it is futile. It’s analogous to how many artists abandoned painting in the 20th century after Duchamp showed how art is made of ideas, not materials….We all agreed that being a blogger isn’t a big enough dream for us. Now we are more ambitious. It’s time to make art.”

I decided that trying to succeed at the medium was getting in the way of exploring my art. The time spent formatting posts so I made my weekly 5 post quota exercised my time management skills, but it did not make me a better thinker, artist, or advocate for sustainability.

I used to write pieces that forced me to think a bit – like when I wondered out loud as a fashion student why Alexander McQueen had seemed to capture the hearts of people worldwide, many of whom were not fans of fashion otherwise? (It was the heart, I concluded.) That was the beginning of my art. It pushed me to share things I thought were interesting. Meaningful. And I gave it up to aspire towards becoming a master of a fleeting medium.

Well, when you put it that way it’s clear I’m no editor in chief. I’m chief here, period. Chief here wants to write about sustainable style in a way that does not ignore the rest of what it means to live a meaningful life: the striving, the struggle, the moments of fleeting yet permanently ingrained inspiration. I want to capture it all. Not because it makes for a great blog, but because documenting progress is a sure way to achieve hindsight and growth towards whatever it is we are documenting.

I couldn’t reach for more when it was all about the traffic, the likes, the affiliate income. I had to get rid of that all-consuming struggle to see that I had for myself a bigger dream than to “become a blogger”.

Read the rest of Why I pulled the plug on my fashion blog (especially if you are a blogger, or aspire to be one).

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A Woman’s Touch: Unis New York Varsity Jacket

A Woman’s Touch: Unis New York Varsity Jacket

Brad keeps writing. I keep looking. But Brad writes a blog about men’s fashion (if I were a boy…) – and the problem with most men’s brands who do women’s clothes is that the translation doesn’t always come across in a desirable way – all’s fine and good but it ain’t love without the heartbeat. We can borrow steal from the men in our lives, anyway.

Then Brad introduced me to Unis, a men’s brand that does a few women’s pieces. I adore varsity jackets. These ones are made in the USA and represent the perfect balance between understated and luxurious, made for the wives and girlfriends of Unis wearers who requested their own versions of this American sportswear staple.

Unis, I wondered, for unisex? Not so: Unis’ designer, Eunice Lee, is in fact a woman.

No more borrowing, this one’s all ours.

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Designer to Watch: ALIX

One thing we all recognize when we’re alive long enough is just how cyclical fashion is. In that way, nothing is ever really new, but when things are brought around again, they somehow seem fresh – because every time, a subtle change happens with how the piece or shape or colour or trend is worn, styled, and fabricated that allows for it to feel new and delightful to the young, whilst remaining an awkward memory for those who have lived through the pain once. A bruise that never really gets noticed until you pick at it.

The term “essential” is used most often in fashion to describe items that are necessary – things that still perhaps follow this cycle, but have longer staying power than fads, and provide more versatility than a mere mortal fashion item. They’re usually simple, practical and real-life applicable.

Companies that make essentials represent a model of sustainable business centred around creating one item and doing it really well. Part of the problem with fashion is that companies practically fall over themselves creating ridiculous fashion timelines to concede to the idea that people always more stuff, and that to succeed, one must do everything. It’s this big wacky game that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the game is really good at making people get in on it. (People even cry over the fact that they can’t look good without a lot of cheap stuff. I’d cry about not getting the last slice of cheese, but I’m not going to cry about a made-up game.)

Alix follows this do-one-thing-really-well model, creating only bodysuits and claiming them as a modern essential. Years ago, they could never have taken that title. But today, with advances in fabric technology and women designing for women creating better fit, these NYC-made bodysuits pack power and versatility.

Fashion’s current cycle is seeing the reign of pants and separates, the 2014 fresh choice for day or night. Alix solves the what-to-wear-on-top conundrum with their bodysuits designed to complement the maxi skirt for the black tie event, the pencil skirt for a day at work, a pair of skinny trousers for a take-on-the-world-in-a-faux-catsuit kind of day, and a pair of culottes for weekend chic.

Don’t you just love it when you can rely on someone/something to do one thing really, really well? Maybe time to slow down the cycles and appreciate the things that just work.

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For some reason, and this just boggles my imagination, there are still just huge swaths of women who never got the memo that their lives belong to them.
– Elizabeth Gilbert

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What You Might Not Know About Gwyneth, Blake and Emma

Gwyneth Paltrow makes a reported $16 million per film, Blake made roughly the average American wage for one episode of her role as wealthy socialite Serena Van Der Woodsen in Gossip Girl, and in 2009 at age 19, Emma Watson was named Hollywood’s highest paying actress.

These women are privileged, beautiful, wealthy, white, movie stars.

They’ve also been picked apart, criticized and poked fun at in the media for the desire and ambition to do something beyond making movies. (Hey, if most of us change careers 6 times in our lives, why can’t the most privileged of us do the same?)

The media often glosses over the facts, and the things women are actually doing, instead often focusing on things like appearances, pitting one woman against another, or family life (“What’s it like balancing career with family?” say they to Jen but not to Ben).

A few years ago, I googled Gwyneth Paltrow and was taken aback by all the internet hate I saw. So taken aback in fact, that I remain fixated on it for hours. (Clearly, I’m still fixated on it.) I didn’t quite understand what it was that people could so openly hate about a woman they most likely have never met, even if she did say a few odd, condescending, ignorant things once in a while, as I’m sure most people do. And then I got it: these people couldn’t handle a clearly privileged woman telling them to buy things they couldn’t afford. She was often noted as being “out of touch” – and that’s the nicest thing people were saying. In reality, all she is doing is sharing things that her privileged upbringing and movie star status could afford. It makes sense to me: she is, after all, not really like the rest of us at all. But that makes her the internet’s favorite person to poke fun of.

When Blake Lively unleashed Preserve unto the world, I prepared myself (no, I am not Blake – but I prepared myself) for the jabs – sure enough we heard it all: she was called out as another Gwyneth wannabe, a privileged woman who thinks she knows what people want. I secretly hoped that she would prove them wrong, that a girl could follow her desires to build something meaningful without being judged for a privilege that is ironically the result of either something she was born with or something she has worked for. In every interview I’ve read post-Preserve launch, the interviewer comes in with one main operative: to either prove or disprove the notion that Blake Lively is the next Gwyneth Paltrow. Blake sure enough, knows this and has a wealth of stories at her beck and call to demonstrate that she is indeed just like the rest of us, as best as a charismatic, blonde, movie star with a penchant for homemaking can be.

If you can’t tell whether or not I’m a Blake fan, I will straight up tell you: I am. I like that she’s doing something different. I like that she’s carving her own path. I don’t think she’s trying to tell any of us how to live, as many who denounce goop and Preserve are suggesting – she’s just, probably like the rest of us, trying to make her way in the world. With a little bit of money and time on her hands, why not start something she really wants to start?

Emma Watson recently gave a talk supporting the He for She campaign, putting herself out there to speak on a still controversial subject. A few days later, I happened upon an article that claimed her speech wasn’t groundbreaking at all – the obvious undercurrent behind that notion? That Emma doesn’t deserve to be recognized for her work because she is white, rich and privileged. A better spokesperson, in the eyes of the writer, would’ve been someone who was perhaps transgendered, lesbian, of an ethnic minority, and not a celebrity – then, the speech would be worth applauding.

It seems pretty clear: being privileged draws quick judgements, often negative, about one’s ability to empathize, understand, struggle, and pretty fundamentally, to work.

Recognizing this is what gave me pause to think about these women of privilege and applaud their efforts to grow and do meaningful work, rather than fall victim to the lull of the public’s watch to keep them perfect caricatures whose only service is to portray fantasy characters for the rest of us to judge and criticize. In reality, they are multi-dimensional, real, ambitious women with talent, interests, and most importantly, as a byproduct of their fame and privilege, a voice.

And then I discovered, these women are doing things worth talking about: they are building companies that support people, causes and the environment, unbeknownst to most of the public because the media doesn’t think these stories and facts are as interesting to tell as the myriad of stories you’ve undoubtedly been hearing. A wasted opportunity, if you ask me.

Among those on goop’s roster are many of the sustainable designers I know and love: Amour Vert, Ecoalf, Chinti and Parker, Stella McCartney, Araks, Banjo and Matilda, Clare Vivier, Vapour Beauty, TROA, and Beautycounter. Whether Gwyneth’s knack for selecting sustainable design is a conscious effort due to her interests or simply a byproduct of sustainable design really becoming more mainstream in certain segments of the market, goop is one of the few mainstream e-commerce ventures that features such a high percentage of eco-friendly, ethical, locally made and non-toxic brands, without it being blatantly obvious.

Blake Lively’s Preserve has hardwired to its ethos a focus on celebrating makers of Main Street America. When Blake recently stepped out wearing everything Preserve, I couldn’t believe that one writer focused on the blatant self promotion. Why shouldn’t she promote her own company? Her own company, by the way, that supports the efforts of makers and designers across America. It’s not often that a celebrity with such style caliber and influence steps out dressed head to toe in the wares of independent designers. In the age of social media and celebrity culture, Blake is offering an unparalleled voice and platform to the indie design community, many of whom produce using sustainable materials, craft handmade items, or manufacture locally. This is the indie design community that I believe has, for the most part, missed out on the support of style bloggers who tend to reach for fast fashion or designer. Well, Blake’s here, sauntering around town for the media, wearing Amour Vert, Kristinit, and Korovilas.

No one is going to call Gwyneth Paltrow or Blake Lively pioneers for bringing ethical and sustainable fashion to the mainstream, but they are doing it anyway, quietly, while the rest of us fixate on what Gwyneth thinks about her ex’s new girlfriend, or Blake’s pregnant belly.

Emma Watson is bringing feminism to the forefront for many young women (and men) who had previously written off the subject thinking it was a moot topic in today’s day and age (it’s not). Emma is also very involved in the sustainable fashion movement: she was the face of the Green Carpet Challenge, and has co-designed fashion collections for two ethical labels, People Tree and PureThread.

Gwyneth, Blake and Emma are movie stars, yes – but they’re out there doing meaningful work, if not for anyone else, than at the very least for themselves. They prove that there is never a better time to aim for more than always.

Look beneath the surface: there is always more than what we like to hear. Maybe beneath is exactly what the world needs, more than gossip, criticism and privilege-shaming. More than that, these women are spreading love – whether for profit or not, it’s a shame we’re not recognizing the things they’re actually doing.

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