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We Wear Our Clothes In Order To Tell A Story

Posted by on August 29, 2015

What is your story?

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“We are always asking for something when we get dressed. Asking to be loved, . . . to be admired, to be left alone, to make people laugh, to scare people, to look wealthy, to say I’m poor, I love myself.”–interviewee.

My friend tipped me off to a thoughtful, multimedia book called Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, which could also be titled We Wear Our Clothes In Order To Tell A Story. It’s pretty thick so I’m taking my time reading it. I love learning about the intimate history of my friends’ wardrobes and how the act of dressing is their way of becoming into character. Women in Clothes reads loosely as a melange of confessional stories from a diverse pool of women on the discourse of clothing and identity but is also very “meta”: there are also transcripts of loopy Skype conversations as the editors discuss how they want the book to turn out just as we try to assemble ourselves everyday for self-presentation. You’ll even read interviews with Lena Dunham, Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, Molly Ringwald, and many other women. As much as I enjoyed reading others’ experiences, I was particular drawn to the survey at the very beginning of the book which covered every question I could have of fashion possible. Apparently 639 women responded to this survey but their website also has an ongoing survey where women can still post their answers to their favorite questions. I’m posting the full survey here of the 50+ questions as a jumpstart to see what IGIGI women have to say on their own personal stories with clothing. Please share your story! We would love to learn more about you.

 

* What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had with someone on the subject of fashion or style?

* With whom do you talk about clothes?

* Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
* Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
* Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
* Would you say you “know what you like” in the area of fashion and clothing? If so, do you also know what you like in other areas of life, that is, are you generally good at discernment? What would you say you like in other areas of life, that is, are you generally good at discernment? If you’re not so sure about your clothing choices, would you say you’re better in other areas, or the same? Can you say where your discernment comes from, if you have it (or where the lack comes from, if you don’t have it), and why?
* Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style have been passed down to you or not?
* What is your cultural background, and how has that influenced how you dress?
* Did your parents teach you about clothing, care for your clothing, dressing, or style? What lessons do you remember? Did they tell you things directly, or did you just pick things up?
* What sorts of things do you do, clothing-or make-up or hair-wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
* What are some of the things you admire about how other women present themselves?
* Many people say they want to feel “comfortable,” or that they admire people who seem “confident.” What do these words really mean to you?
* Do you care about lingerie?
* Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice? What sort do you tend to admire? If not admiration, what is the feeling that a compelling woman on the street gives you?
* If dressing were the only thing you did, and you were considered an expert and asked to explain your style philosophy, what would you say?
* What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
* What do you consider very ugly?
* Are you generally a good judge of whether what you buy will end up being worn? Have you figured out how to know in advance?
* When you look at yourself before going out, and you are trying to see yourself from the outside, what is this “other person” like? What does she like, dislike, what sorts of judgments does she have? Is this “outer eye” based on someone you know or knew once?
* What’s your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
* What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
* What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
* If you had to wear a “uniform,” what would it look like?
* What would you say is “you,” and what would you say is “not you”?
* Do you remember a time in your life when you dressed quite differently from how you do now? Can you describe it and what it was all about for you?
* What sorts of things do you do, clothing-, make-up, or hair-wise, to feel professional?
* How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?
* How do institutions affect the way you dress?
* Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?
* Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms?
* Is it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?
* Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or makeup or hair? What was it? Why did it happen then, do you think?
* Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
* What are some dressing rules that you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but that you follow?
* Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?
* What is an archetypal outfit for you, one that you could have happily worn at any point in your life? What do you like about it?
* Do you ever wish you were a man or could dress like a man or had a man’s body? Was there ever a time in the past?
* If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
* Do you consider yourself photogenic?
* When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
* Send a photograph of your mother from the time before she had children, and tell us what you see.
* Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
* Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?
* What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try to achieve?
* Have you stolen, borrowed, or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
* Have you ever successfully given someone a present or jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
* Were you ever given a present or clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
* If you were totally comfortable with your body, or your body were a bit closer to what you wish it was like, what would you wear?
* When do you feel at your most attractive?
* Is there anyone you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
* Do you like to smell a certain way?
* What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
* What’s the situation with your hair?
* Please describe your body.
* Please describe your mind.
* Please describe your emotions.
* What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
* How does makeup fit into all this for you?
* What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
* Is there a certain look you feel you’re expected to like that you have absolutely no interest in? What is it? Why aren’t you interested?
* What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc.?
* Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing- and jewelry-wise?
* What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
* Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear. What is it, why don’t you wear it, and why do you keep it?
* Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in, and if so, why?
* Looking back at your purchases over the past five to fifteen years, can you generalize about what sorts of things were the most valuable to buy?
* Is there an item of clothing that you once owned but no longer own and still think about or wish you had? What was it and what happened to it and why do you want it back?
* If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
* If you were building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
* What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?
* Was there ever an important or paradigm shifting purchase in your life?
* What item or clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
* Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
* Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
* Do you address anything political in the way you dress?
* Did you ever buy an article of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on? What was the item, and what happened?
* Did you ever buy an item of clothing or jewelry certain that it would be meaningful to you, but it wasn’t at all? What was it, and what happened?
* How and when do you shop for clothes?
* Do you have any shopping rules you follow?
* How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?
* How does money fit into all this?
* Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
* Is there an article of clothing, some makeup, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
* Can you recall some times when you have dressed a particular way to calm yourself or gain a sense of control over a situation that scared you?
* Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about?
* Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?
* In what way is this stuff important, if at all?

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Review: “The True Cost” of Fast-fashion

Posted by on August 23, 2015

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I watched “The True Cost” this weekend after a recommendation from a fashion industry leader who wants to leave her job. It was a documentary on a topic I’ve grown to know a lot about as it also intersects with globalism, sustainabiity, and economics. “The True Cost” is a transparent reminder of the fast-fashion industry’s collective damage and toll on humanity and the earth. It was difficult to emotionally process, especially since I have also participated in this cycle, whether purchasing clothes from H&M or Forever21 once upon time until I learned how to make my own clothes. My friends who pride themselves on being eco-friendly and compost diligently every week still purchase clothes for bargain prices and throw away shoes after a visit to Las Vegas just because “the shoes are so cheap.” We should be with the life cycle of a garment from where it starts to where it ends.

Slavery still exists, and a lot of these factories overseas are treating their workers like cattle. Clothing factory workers in India and Bangladesh make $10/month on average. The whole system is a vicious cycle. There is the counterargument that we are helping build the infrastructure of these third-world countries from essentially nothing, but that doesn’t justify how harmful and dehumanizing these conditions are as well as the social impact they are having on our planet. We all live on Earth. We all wear clothes. Clothes matter.

I’ve heard anecdotes about people in first-world countries who leave their jobs the day they walk in. Their quitting is reasonable since the situation was that bad: the employer was exploitative, the working condition was highly questionable, etc. But what about laborers who have no choice? Privilege exists along a continuum and as people who are empowered to choose the jobs they want, we should also examine the clothing we purchase and why the $ sign can be so low. If the cost is that low, then that means the company made a huge profit off of exploiting their factory workers. Not to mention, the quality of the materials was also sacrificed to produce such a high volume of clothing quickly and cheaply. Earth is not respected as land and a gift we should thoughtfully cherish; to the corporations the Earth has become a factory to abuse and reap benefits from at its expense.

As a consumer, you have power. You don’t have to enable this cycle and buy into this cycle of mass production, consumption, blood, and disposal.

Did you know that IGIGI makes all of its clothing in San Francisco? I’m very proud to work for a brand that gives back to its local economy and pays its workers a living wage in ethical work conditions. An IGIGI purchase is an investment because the clothes are built to last. Stand behind your clothing and the hands it took to make them. Know the true price.

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Everything In Its Right Place with Marie Kondo

Posted by on August 19, 2015

Forget The Container Store and the file cabinets that promise to partition the administrative tasks on your desk. In the very hectic world we live in at the moment, you need only one simple guide book to walk you through the steps of organizing your space. Space, as it turns out, is both a physical and mental place, and leaving the contours of either forgotten curtails your potential for balance and success. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo has a whimsical, fairy-tale element to the title but the spell she casts has deliverable, practical results. Methodically and meticulously in classic #KonMari fashion, she goes through the dusty nooks and neglected shadows we leave behind when we hastily close the door for a quick-fix, acceptable exterior. Google has mastered the art of knowing what we search for sometimes better than ourselves and Kondo, through a high-minded approach of dutiful and joyful cleaning, knows the pitfalls people are wont to when tidying with a closed mindset. She advocates that if you follow her steps, you will be able to manage your place very easily instead of starting all over like a yo-yo diet. But wait — how can tidying hold spiritual value? There are karmic lints floating around and Kondo wants to dust them into redemptive matter. Don’t just throw your socks in the drawer. Thank them for putting up with your weary feet. Don’t leave loose change lying around the house; it’s a sign of disrespect.

Since Kondo has addressed the variations of every single domestic grooming task imaginable, I piled together some of the best tips to tip you over into the right track. Try any of these and join the cult of #KonMari.

1. Stack your clothes vertically.

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Normally, when you stack clothes, you pile them up in layers, one on top of the other. Kondo has cleverly taught us to fold your clothes so that they are stacked vertically in your dresser (like books). You can see your collection all at once and not forget about the ones at the bottom. Just make sure to allow them to breathe. They are clothes, after all. Clothes have feelings.

2. Throw away anything that you don’t love or doesn’t bring you joy.

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This has to do with energy (and can actually be applied to people you know). It is about keeping your life lean with only the main ingredients that are crucial for keeping your mental and emotional engine running at its best.

3. Hang your darker, heavier clothes on the left and gradually input the lightest ones on the right so that you have heavy-to-light spectrum, from left to right.

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Kondo says that the eye is soothed as it travels from left to right, with clothes lightening in color and weight in succession. Only hang clothes that will be wrinkled in a drawer or are difficult to fold.

4. Keep all your papers in one file.

As aforementioned, papers never bring you any joy so you should only keep the ones that you absolutely must deal with or save to eventually deal with. Keep them in one pile to prevent them from snowballing.

5. Clean by category, not location.

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You don’t want four different sections for one category throughout your house. Think like a librarian. Taxonomy keeps us from sliding into entropy.

–Jane Yu, staff at IGIGI

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Keeping up with our fashion publicist: PR Girl Camille Schmidt

Posted by on August 7, 2015

CAMILLE SCHMIDT

[FASHION PUBLICIST]

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“I THINK THAT IF YOU TRY TO GO OUTSIDE WHO YOU ARE, THEN IT’S DEFINITELY NOT COHESIVE.”

Get to know our PR girl, Camille.

When Camille isn’t volleyballing to a litany of body positive queries via our social media channels or scouting out fashion brands to add to her arsenal of outreach, you can find her cherry-picking from her wide selection of trendy juices, armed with a delicious cranberry chocolate power bar for sustenance. If you happen to catch her before she zips away to her next meeting, you also might hear the guttural sermons of 2Pac and Biggie Smalls a la “Gangsta Party” blasting from her speakers. Hey, they’re (2Pac) both from Marin county. Camille always knows her affiliations but she keeps up with dressing the part. Her clothing suggests a high appreciation for femininity but her level of conversation outside of her profession is often cheeky, thoughtful, and discerning. Camille was kind enough to allow us some time to let us chew in on what she does in her highly coveted role as a Fashion Publicist.

Jane Yu: What are some of the challenges of being a PR consultant? Why did you decide to branch off into your own business instead of working with an agency?

Camille Schmidt: One challenge is that many brands don’t have a cohesive vision so it’s my job to really implement a cohesive vision, especially a vision that people will enjoy and that will get the attention of press because those are two very separate things but those are critical to my being good at what I do. I prefer to be called a publicist over PR consultant because I’m like the sixth man in the company. I’m usually pretty integral like an employee but I like to have independence as a consultant.

JY: What are the deciding factors you consider before working with the brand?

CS: For me, it’s really important to be successful. First, it’s for a brand to be open to making changes. And also I need to see the potential for success available. They need to have a good product.

JY: Have you had a lot of clients approach you?

CS: I have. I have multiple clients. I have about six or seven clients at a time and sometimes I’ll see a client and I’ll consider working with them but I just don’t see their model working out. For me, it’s important to have a steady paycheck. If I don’t think the brand’s going to be successful then I can’t work with it.

JY: Your profile mentions that you’re a fourth-generation fashion industry veteran. How has your family tree been involved in the fashion business?

CS: My mother’s grandfather came to New York in the early 1900s and created a dress business. He started out selling apples in Manhattan and then he moved to having a high-end women’s dress business.

JY: What kind of dresses?

CS: Formal women’s dresses. Things that you could wear. My grandfather and his brother ran the business for about fifty years and then my mom started her lingerie and sleepwear business thirty-five years ago. She was one of the first importers from China at the time.

JY: What are the steps that led you into becoming a fashion publicist?

CS: I always had a love of fashion and I grew up in my mom’s office and trade shows. I always designed my own clothes. My aunt would make me clothes and I would design them.

JY: By drawing?

CS: Drawing them, yeah. That’s what I did when I was in my mom’s office—draw clothes. So I always thought that I’d have some position in the fashion industry. I actually went into public relations, hoping to be in politics. But my mom said that I was always so concerned with what I was going to wear that I should probably use my skills in fashion as well.

JY: What made you not go into fashion design, then?

CS: You know, fashion is a hard business in terms of making money. I’d love to do that in the future but I don’t sew and I don’t plan to learn. Also, it’s really just about development and the costs of development are really expensive so for me, it made a lot more sense to use my skills in writing and people and influence design from my perspective with the press.

JY: What makes your expertise very rare and sought out?

CS: I think I have an understanding of social media especially that people of an older generation don’t understand. I really try to take things from a personal perspective and try to see things from other people’s eyes. That’s what makes me good at PR and social media—it’s ‘cause I know what people want. I try and make personal relationships with either my social media community or the editors I’m pitching to.

JY: How do you flex your business and creative skills synergistically?

CS: In terms of creativity, sometimes I take over. I’m a Virgo and I’m very detail-oriented. Sometimes I care about a project and take more time than I need to which isn’t necessarily great for my business. But I always get my work done—that’s what’s most important. Getting my work done and getting it done right. I think that having both creative and business skills and not letting one take over is really important ‘cause a lot of PR people are just in it for the paycheck and for me it’s really about the creative methodology and making sure that the brand is the best that it can possibly be.

JY: How would you describe your own personal style?

CS: I would say feminine. I like classic things but I also like a little flair. I tend to feel like I’m a kindergartener as an adult so if I can have things with bows and sparkles or pink, then I will. But obviously I have to be a little bit more professional in the working environment and stuff because I’m a very young consultant or publicist in my field. I’m also in a high level for my position so I have to be taken seriously. Sometimes I have to dress up and be a little more mature ‘cause of that.

JY: But in your personal life you prefer pastels.

CS: Absolutely. When I’m bigger I don’t want to necessarily do that all the time but you know, I like things that are quality. I look at textiles and I look at fabrics. Full cuts. I like things that have a classic appeal.

JY: If you could have a clothing business, would you design it like what you just described?

CS: Absolutely. I think that if you try to go outside who you are, then it’s definitely not cohesive. I think that the best brands have a vision and a creative director that have a similar style to what they’re creating. I think that’s why things are changing here at IGIGI. Erena is really adding her sense of style into things.

JY: What’s your alternative career?

CS: My alternative career would be to be a reality star ‘cause I would love to just talk shit on TV for a living.

JY: All your observatons?

CS: Absolutely. I would love to be a host on “Best Week Ever,” when that still existed. I would just like to comment on things in my own ironic sense. I think that I have good points to make about things and that I’m observant. That would be really fun for me.

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IGIGI: Books We Love

Posted by on July 27, 2015

I’m a bookworm at heart and forever will be one. A large part of my childhood was spent sitting against the dizzying stack of shelves at my local library and traveling to worlds, lives and centuries beyond me and my little body at the time. Reading defined so much of who I was that I actually needed to take a break from it (I was reading about one or two novels once a week, according to my updates on Goodreads! My friends almost didn’t believe me but that’s how engrossed I was) in my early adulthood. There is a thing called balance, right?

I’ve taken up other hobbies since moving to San Francisco and emerging from my bat cave. Seeing other people read, happily, and not checking their phones makes me a bit wistful for those simpler bygone days. I did have a (regular) cell phone back then but the incessant interruptions were only nascent.

I actually finished a novel this past weekend that I took a nibble through, slowly, for the past few months. I loved it so much that I want to now share it with everyone, but I also thought I would round up some selected favorites from others at the IGIGI office. Summer (or any season) is a perfect excuse to read and improve our perception, well-being, and empathy. Here goes:

1. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

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Elena Ferrante continues to be a mystery (her name is a pseudonym) yet she’s managed to become Italy’s most highly discussed and prized novelist. She’s written several books, all to much acclaim. I was tipped to My Brilliant Friend since the literary scene has become obsessed with the intrigue shrouding Ferrante. There’s even a hashtag called #FerranteFever. Her writing is blunt, passionate, and very personal. The setting of this novel is set in 1950s Naples as two females oscillate between growing together and apart in a war-torn city. I’m so glad I read this book and can’t wait to continue the rest of the series.

2. In Praise of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe

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What do spectators have in common? The awe of watching others, larger than life, spill over into messy self-destruction or quirks. Katie Roiphe has written an amazing collection of essays that cover topics ranging from the “enormous popularity” of the MadMen TV show to personal revelations on being divorced and a single mother. Her cultural critiques are pretty perfect.

3. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

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Lena Dunham also happened to recommend this book somewhere (I forget), but I did really enjoy reading this book about all the creative minds out there, past and present, who have/had their quirky rituals and daily tasks that they needed to do to ground themselves.

4. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

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This book was excellent. There’s a motley of characters who tell their perspectives or interweave throughout the non-linear story from different tenses. Egan is a skillful writer who understands the psychoses of her characters as they deal with the trappings of success, the inevitability of time passing, and the desire for renewal. I also really liked being able to peek into the music industry, which is very parallel to that of fashion.

 

–Jane Yu, staff at IGIGI

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