I just processed new Phoebe
Plus the case for giving the gift of what you love, a fashion-green feather boa, berets, sequined caps and a few more thoughts on resilience, god, and faith.
The ironic thing: It’s not about the clothes
I finally processed new Phoebe Philo, which didn’t do much for me at its initial opening. I’m not sure if that was because the launch date was so close to the start of the war but there’s also the thing that I’ve never quite been a Philo-stan because of the actual clothes so much as I have been obsessed with her influence and the way she has impacted so much of how fashion gets made, interpreted, and worn.
On second view, I am more bought in. The imagery feels like a relieving combination of simple and risky to the extent that it feels fresh and new, but is not hard, or too much to process at once.
Even though within the nuanced details on the pictures — the ivory brocade shams on the couch, how it perfectly reflects off the sequins without diluting their wow; her hair, the stance: it seems obvious that a lot of time and care went into getting the image (and product) right. This kind of thoughtfulness rarely goes unnoticed even if it’s not always understood as such.
Is this the secret sauce that facilitates Philo’s power? That provokes so much loyalty among her fans?
I’ve broken it down at length before, citing the emotional aspect of it all: the way it has always seemed like she makes clothes not to reflect the times but to arm her customers with the strength to confront them. It’s a similarly easy nuance to overlook.
The drop was nice. A great mini skirt, cool sequined pieces, “Mum” jewels that are going viral already.
The knitwear looks like it will last and now that I’ve gone back in for, let’s call it a digital re-see, I can’t unsee this triple silk tube thing on a sold out cape top.
Subtle whimsy to be sure.
And then, you know, because Phoebe Philo has a way of lifting the cover on previously deemed ugly things (or resurrecting dead trends), I’m scared for myself (and for you all) with what will probably become the return of this platform boot cone heel thing:
Per this price tag, the prices were also really high, which immediately creates a sort of barrier that separates you from transacting within world of the clothes, even when you consider yourself likeminded (this has its own important value).
But last week, I saw a picture of Staud on Instagram wearing a dress she got from the launch and something else totally clicked for me:
Maybe the Philo thing is that it starts to resonate way more deeply after you’ve seen it in the wild. In the last leg of her career, she used a runway to convey her ideas but I do think on reflection that even then, it was mostly when she was being worn out of her own context that the clothes could really resonate.
Because they are emotional. I’m starting to wonder if that’s because they are made from a place of so much pain that she works to transmute into beauty. They do something that possesses the wearer, makes her feel a bit more almighty. And nothing like confronting a challenge or demon does this so poignantly.
You can kind of just tell when a woman’s dressed in Phoebe because, ironic as it sounds, it’s not about the clothes. Is this the inimitable magic?
What have you seen in the wild, and has it reframed what you think about the collection?
Meanwhile, are you thinking about holiday gifts yet?
I have a theory that some of the best gifts to get are ones you did not know you want. They give you a chance to be surprised by how far you can push the boundaries of your taste or unlock a dormant preference that’s been there.
There’s something empowering about learning yourself in this low-stakes-but-still-new way. Just when you think you have the complete handle on what is and is not you, a feather boa steps in to surprise you as starring role with your everyday clothes. Or maybe it’s a shrimp candle (olives?) plopped down to warm up your most austere room. To give it some levity too.
It’s empowering when you’re the giver too: to assume full agency over the choice you make of what to give to a person you love, never minding the guessing game so often played to get it right and into their hearts. You’re already in there! When we’re talking about the gift of fashion, why not give something you like for them as opposed to a thing you think they’ll like — something that could yield a two-fold giving effect, affording the recipient a chance to accept the thing they never knew they wanted and to learn themselves differently within the crease of this page in their book that you decided to fold, you know?
Three fashion artifacts I’m looking at now because they deliver on personality and look like ideal ways to continue on wearing the whole of last season’s clothes without looking exactly the same:
This hat, from The Row ($990, but in store only).
So often lately after I’ve gotten dressed, I have thought to myself this is missing something. It’s taking the shape in my head of like, a pompom at the top of my head. But not a knit one! It’s an important distinction. Thinking of it more like the felt tip in cap.
This scarf, from JW Anderson (on sale for $414).
The inclination is inspired almost entirely by oft-referenced-here style icon, Jalil Johnson, who wore a similar one to a dinner I hosted with Loretta Caponi about a month ago.
I’m seriously considering the green one further above. I’m pretty sure that after we part ways with red we’re going to green, and not just any green — that slimy shade of charmeuse-y, Prada, fashion green. The scarf is also exactly the right dose of whimsy to augment the properties of any old outfit, per my earlier about last season’s clothes. No?
A much more intentional pass at seashells at waist length.
This is the kind of belt that is meant to hang off your look, not hold it together and there’s an air of frivolous delight about that. It feels so right for now.
I actually already bought this one off a collage from a recent recap in Laura Reilly’s, where sale season is the Super Bowl.
Here’s all the other stuff I’ve been looking at, which is more like a moodboard that reflects all the holiday fumes I’m inhaling:
The noteworthy common denominator among most of what’s exciting me is that with the exception of the 3 tank tops, most of what’s in here is not clothing.
Do you think we reach closet standstills as our lives settle into the mold of their permanent shapes wherein we start to experience wardrobe nirvana: the feeling of absolute completeness? Or is this more like the calm before a seismic storm that challenges everything you think you know?
Two other good finds, unrelated to fashion. One is to look at and one is to listen to.
To look at: Studio Hayat’s array of floral arrangements.
I received an arrangement contained in a small silver cup last week as a thank-you-for-hosting gesture. It reminded me of how these small gestures of etiquette can serve as a portal of discovery and a reflection of someone else’s great taste to help sophisticate one’s own.
The studio is in Brooklyn, so if you’re local, have a look.
To listen to: Resilience by Amanda Knox from Waking Up
I have been using Sam Harris’ mindfulness app, Waking Up, to help keep me to a meditation practice but there are all these interviews and reflections and monologue series in the app too, which are hosted by different thinkers.
Recently he released a new series on resilience narrated by Amanda Knox. Have you heard of her? She spent years in an Italian prison in the early 2000’s after being wrongfully accused of murdering her roommate while studying abroad.
I started listening to it while making dinner last week.
It lays down a lot of perspective-shifting wisdom on how to stop buying into the stories other people have about you. I’m reminded of something my friend Alana used to tell me when I was still writhing about the public perception of why Man Repeller ended: “Their opinion of you is none of your business.”
What a freeing prospect.
I’m transcribing one passage that particularly resonated with me from episode 2 of the series (“Who Are You?”) here:
“I became more conscious of the fact that I was immersed in these overlapping stories, stories of my own and those of others. This is the position we’re all in, almost all of the time. Unless you’ve achieved enlightenment and can see the world of things and events with pure non-attachment, a sensory danced unladen with expectation and emotional investment, then there are always stories surrounding the circumstances you find yourself in.
I invite you to try to ask yourself who you think you are. Where you’re going, what qualities you have and what role you play. What is your story about? Are you the protagonist? The villain? The victim? How would your parents, your spouse, your friends and co-workers answer those questions about you? Who do they expect you to be and who does society expect you to be?
The real point of asking these questions is to help us realize that these stories, no matter how close and defining they feel to us, are not us but roles we choose to play. Who you are is something prior to these, prior even to experience itself. But these stories still matter…
…You are not the story of yourself, the role you play in your family, your career or in society. But actively shaping that story to be in accord with your own values can make the role you are inhabiting a lot more joyful to play. This was an essential insight of the stoics and you can employ it with the tool of narrative framing. Actively choosing what story we’re telling ourselves is the first step towards developing resilience.”
This is Water
I guess the other last thing, which seems to me tangentially related but I guess only because we’re approaching the holidays, a time that often invites soulful reflection, is that I recently revisited David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement speech, This is Water.
I’ve been thinking so much about god and faith and when it became so uncool to have faith and it reminded me of a section of the speech that I return to mentally all the time. He says,
Here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
It had been a while since I actually read it but the thing about evergreen wisdom like this is that it meets you in different places depending on where you’re at in life.
I think the conversation I had with my daughter last week articulated a shift I had not consciously noted but have been experiencing with my understanding of spiritual faith and what it means to believe.
I feel more convicted these days that the current task order at hand is to keep my eat-you-alive beliefs and the defining traits I fold into them small. To stay focused on growing my faith in the possibility that in the kernel of truth at the center of us all, there is a vast and inherent, interconnected goodness. And the first step, I think, at connecting to it, is having faith in its presence where we can see it: with our families and friends and the familiar faces we encounter day after day within each of our own tiny universes.
The thing that is greater than us is us — it’s just us at scale, en masse, all together, you know?
That’s all I have this week.
Have a great holiday break.
I’m signing off yours,