Friday, September 17, 2010

Fashion Week pt 1: El Dominicano

I will begin my contemplations on fashion week with one name: Oscar de la Renta. Es dominicano si si si. Holler at my dominicanos!

And in honor of the success of this man, I quote from the In the Heights Musical, because his collection reminded me of a renewed faith in the" pursuit of happiness":
"We came to work and to live and we got a lot in common,
DR, PR, we are not stoppin.
In the heights, every day, paciencia y fe. "

I hope this quote makes sense to you; it makes sense to me because I've heard it a million times, and I have the beat down. But essentially, the quote exemplifies the immigrant struggle in the pursuit of a dream, whatever that dream may be. It can be as simple as life, and it can be as dreamy as an amazing collection at the NY Fall Fashion week of 2010. Today I chose to carefully romanticize Oscar's adventure in becoming a fashion icon. After a decade of dressing the likes of Laura Bush, he still has it. Coño! he really does.

It's a strange time in our country. The anti-immigrant sentiment has risen to levels that make me feel depressed, confused, and subliminally isolated. Granted, there are other things in my life that make me feel more "unique" than my immigrant background (i.e. I am a chicana doing a transportation engineering degree). Further, as one who holds an American citizenship, I am safe here; unless Ron Paul Jr. manages to change the constitution and takes away my birth right. The point is, I am not in the shadows, and I am supposed to be free.

But these times do question my memory, the validity of my experience, and the direction that I am going. I am supposed to be upwardly mobile. Am I? I'm supposed to be free to decide my destiny and legacy. Am I? I spent 10 years of my life speaking mostly spanish. I learned to read, multiply, and the names of the planets in our solar system in spanish (including el Pluton). But there's an ever present national narrative that is constantly at work here, erasing this possibility. I feel like Alice when that dog erases the path behind her and in front of her while lost in Wonderland. But luckily, every so often, I experience something  that puts me at ease of where I am going, by reminding me of where I am coming from.

This week it was Oscar de La Renta's Collection. While I have yet to complete my review of the week's collections (very, very busy week) I took minor breaks from studying last night to see Oscar's. I instantly felt renewed! El arte de Oscar is fresh, de colores, and I love it. One day, when I have a little money, I'm going to buy a piece by OLR (along with a pair of Manolos). Yes, I love my bf Omar, but I would love Oscar de la Renta on me =)! The weight of his collection gets magnified when I think about the struggle behind it all.  The man  was born in the DR with a hybrid PR/DR experience. Then after studying art and falling into fashion, he came to New York (that concrete jungle, where dreams are made of), and started his own line, and then, wabam, el immigrante took the fashion industry by storm. He is now an icon.

(One of his Dresses, soooooo pretty)

While NY Fashion Week is full of glamour and things way beyond my price range, there are stories to be told there. Although Oscar de La Renta has reached iconic status, we all remember the shock last January when Michelle Obama chose Jason Wu's dress, another immigrant from Taiwan. While OLR shows what has been done, Jason Wu has renewed our promise.The immigrant push to renew America's creative expression and re-invent the American story is ever present. Their collections make me excited and provide a visual representation of what immigrants achieve in making America better, even if its just clothes. I have still to see immigrant Designers in the Paris Fashion Week achieve the same level of success as Designers like OLR, Carolina Herrera, Narcizco Rodriguez, Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, etc. etc. etc.. This is American Fashion.

Here is the link to their collections:
I'll try to post more pictures on my next post, but now, I'm off to the museum.

To be continued....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

La Chicana en Paris (follow up on style)

After finishing my last post, a sweet memory crept in to remind me that part of my blog is to contarles historias that are relevant. While we all have to be cautious not to over-credit Europe with ideas, I must acknowledge that Paris was where I first began understanding the concept of style....And it makes sense.  France has had a long time to evolve ideas about fashion without a lot of constraints, and so it has arrived at the point where everyone has afforded themselves individual styles. On the other hand, I think in America we are still trying to distinguish style and fashion while at the same time fighting the dichotomies that exist in our own society. Well, back to my story.

In the summer of 2005, I was in Europe working for a German firm where every other weekend I hopped on a cheap plane flight to another city; and one weekend I landed in Paris. Imagine me, a little engineering Chicana with pretty beat-up glasses, walking through the streets of Paris, in shorts and sneakers, and just being amazed at what I saw (and ate). Besides the beautiful architecture, the art (yes, I saw Mona Lisa), and the unfortunate undertones of french nationalism, I saw Style. Literally, no two women (or men, for that matter) looked alike; and maybe there was some "trend" going on, but I definitely did not see it. Every style was represented in the subway; there were the Chanel type ladies with those classic black bags, and there was the alternative ladies with red hair, and combat inspired boots. Even the minority mujer (mostly from former french colonies, and the Caribbean) had a style. In fact, I was blessed with the opportunity to stumble into the ghetto (porque you know me, I like seeing the real deal), and indeed I saw a microcosm of style, and of course the classic salon, where all the ladies straightened their hair (another topic of conversation to be discussed later). The funniest thing I remember, is trying to get directions from the salon lady, and suddenly I discovered she spoke English; she was from Jamaica!

After my first day in Paris, I stopped wearing my shorts, and wore the one skirt I had brought with me. Unfortunately, when I came back to the states, I forgot all about what I learned, and focused on the weighty issues of undergraduate education. But, I leave you all with a picture of me in Paris (with awful style, hair-do, everything! BUT, I was happy now, wasn't I):
 This outfit was highly improved by the time I landed in Madrid:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fashion vs. Style

Before I write about anything else, I wanted to write about this very important topic. From my relatively short and recent romance with “fashion”, I’ve come to understand a very important distinction that I wish more people understood. That is, there is a very big difference between "fashion" and "style”. Let me elaborate.
  • The key terms I associate with fashion are: industry, trends, labels, designers, models, capitalism, expensive art, inspiration
  • The key terms I associate with style are: individual, art and crafts, fun, emotional, within
Of course, “style” and “fashion” intersect. People who are “fashionable” can be very "stylish". But I think the motivation is different.  To be “stylish” is to want to express yourself outwardly, and have the clothes that you have (or are about to buy) express something about yourself, whether it’s that you’re eco-friendly with an organic cotton shirt, or that you feel sexy with a leopard print scarf. You are essentially the "Editor" of fashion. Breaking it down, ya know what i mean?

On the other hand, to want to be “fashionable” is to want to be part of the trend. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this of course, in fact, I read a lot on fashion, and I find it very interesting. For example, I love looking at the runway collections and seeing what designers come up with like new shapes, new fabrics, and new “styles” (next week is fashion week so I’ll talk more about this later). But how it translates onto an individual, can lead to a very superficial interpretation of fashion.  Example: "A Prada bag is fashionable."

Pero, the bigger problem is that people often reject fashion because they feel it doesn’t fit their own need, their own body, their own sense of self, and most importantly their wallets.  They say “I’m toooooo old or ugly, short, dark, white, brown, disfigured…etc. etc. etc.  This  I find depressing. It really is people not fitting into the fashion world, when really, people should find ways of fitting fashion into their own style. And of course, style doesn’t have to be static. I have many “styles” that I’m still working on (student style, work style, leisure style).

To develop style/s requires an investment of your time, emotions (most articles will not fit you right and its VERY emotional), and money (a little or a lot); but I find it’s an investment well worth it. For some people it improves their confidence because how they feel and how they look are synchronized. For me, styling myself fulfills a creative need that has been missing for a while. And I'll definitely acknowledge that for some people, their "style" is simply to not think about clothes at all, and they are perfectly happy with that.

Concluding thought: You don’t have to have a Louis Vutton bag to feel fashionable. You can be very stylish if you edit fashion and put together an ensemble of shorts and a t-shirt (I would add a hat, but that’s me), as long as it’s your creation, your process, and your style. And that's all that matters.

FYI, here is the official definition of style: The combination of distinctive features of literary or artistic expression, execution, or performance characterizing a particular person, group, school, or era.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Summer con Flores

I had been anxious to wear my floral dress for a third time this summer, but the bay area weather had not permitted any form of inspiration or indication that I would be safe in it (its windy here). But opportunity arose, and I wore my flores this week, and immediately felt so empowered that I decided to write a blog about two of my favorite subjects, fashion and transportation, in my context. And while quisas this endeavor might flop, and I might get busy and never blog again, I figured I should write something. I don't know how well these two subjects will blend but lets give it a try.

Las flores have always been part of my attire, and I get a sense of pleasure that is both peaceful and optimistic. I remember when my brother graduated from elementary school, mi mom bought me a really cute flowery outfit, complete with a flappy hat that had a big flower on it. And lets not forget mi camisa mexicana nativa, embroidered in colorful patterns of flowers. While flowery can often seem cliche and either too much of an indication of femininity that may be perceived as highly superficial and simple, I've gained a greater appreciation of it. Flowers are a sharp contrast to the hard industrial textures that surround us. As an active pedestrian and transit rider, it gives me the power to walk on concrete and transcend the sliding doors of a bus. Flowers are also dynamic, and although a flower print is composed of a multitude of flowers, they remain a community of individuals, and each one must be beautiful and an entity on its own. While I am sure my dress was made for mass consumption and there's probably thousands if not millions of these dresses in the world, as I continue to wear it, the curves of my body will stretch each flower out in different ways, and become individuals. But before I go too far with this ramble here is my simple conclusion: flower power.

Here's my outfit: