Tag Archives: op-ed

That Drum Machine Ain’t Got No Soul, and Seoul Ain’t Got No Style; Thoughts on Seoul’s Fashion Scene

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Fashion terrorists, the lot of them. They were all fashion terrorists…I was overwhelmingly told, often from people with little-to-no style, that I would be so bored in South Korea. Even at Seoul Fashion Week, I was assured I would be unbelievably and unforgivably bored.

Why?

Because, they’ve simply got no style.

I wasn’t sure how to take it, why was everyone so focused on reassuring me of my imminent boredom? Perhaps it’s because I can’t hide from my fashion persona. No matter who I met in South Korea, be they native, foreign or just passing through, made vocal assumptions about my having a fashion career. Clearly, I was one of those Fashion People. Clearly, I needed to be warned. Even some of the Korean locals I met asked me, in my professional opinion, if I thought all Koreans just tried to look the same? SeoulFashionWeekSS2017-Fashion-Needs-Jesus.gif

Even by the time Seoul Fashion Week rolled around, some of the international press (that stayed on the ground for approximately 1-2 days) made bold assumptions about how they lacked style and they have no subcultures, often comparing it to the nearby island nation which has made waves in the fashion industry (Japan, if you hadn’t caught my drift).

What was this all about? Here’s my response to the whole “They All Look Alike” Camp:

Plenty of foreigners come from countries and communities where “they all look alike too”, the difference being less noticeable because of physical differences in racial spectrum, not because the lot of them are actually dressing vastly differently. It’s that tribalism that we lean to as humans, in hyper-diverse cities, however, this tribalism may simply have more striking visual differences, but take out the varying racial features, plenty of people still look very much the same. People stick to their uniforms, whatever those uniforms may be. The Wall Streeters have their own uniform, sure one may have faded hair, one may have blonde straight hair, one may have brown wavy hair, but rest assured, there’s still a uniform that is relatively easy to spot. In other words, these self-appointed fashion critics are missing a lot of the bigger point, simply because they are looking at a more homogenous major city. Funny enough, many of these foreigners who were so quick to dismiss Seoul’s fashion, dressed eerily similar themselves, they just looked a tad bit more diverse.  *DRAMATIC EYEROLL* See?

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”

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Le sigh.

Now that I’ve managed to insert an alarmingly accurate quote from one of my favorite books/films of all time, let’s look at some street fashion from the emerging Seoul scene, shall we? :

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@Apehouse

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seoul-fashion-week-streetstyle-fashion-needs-jesus-6seoul-fashion-week-streetstyle-fashion-needs-jesus-9seoul-fashion-week-streetstyle-fashion-needs-jesus-8seoul-fashion-week-streetstyle-fashion-needs-jesus-16seoul-fashion-week-streetstyle-fashion-needs-jesus-11seoul-fashion-week-streetstyle-fashion-needs-jesus-15

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@TheSeoulChild

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So, there you have it, ending with visions from the front row. The moral of the story, Seoul is still emerging and developing a sense of who it is in fashion, but it doesn’t mean fashion doesn’t exist there, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. See even more by following the story on Instagram: @FashionNeedsJesus

XoXo,

S.

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Guest Post: Scandal, and The White Gown Few Women Really Want to Wear

 

Graphic for: www.fashionneedsjesus.com

It’s that special time of year for many reasons…Scandal returns from its predictable yet equally heart wrenching midseason finale and We the People can finally enjoy that bottle of Bordeaux bringing tears to our eyes as we take the edge off the withdrawals viewers have been experiencing since late last year.

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Notably, it is also an election year. We the  People are promised everything under the sun from moon landings to world peace during the primaries. We are reminded time and again that anything can happen, and that our voice matters. As exciting as the prospect of infinite possibilities is…there is the inevitable reality that what you want is different from the person to the left and right of you. Certain divides are small, barely noticeable to those on opposite sides of the issue. Others…well… those rifts are bigger than the Grand Canyon. The Scandal midseason finale left viewers facing a deeply divisive issue that comes up every election cycle. Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), a formidable gladiator with the uncanny ability to slay dragons in both suits and Vera Wang, wore a gown that many women may choose in their lifetime. She donned the gown few women ever feel comfortable wearing…a gown that many women will think about long after they have taken it off. Olivia had an abortion.

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“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.” – Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B.
This article is not about Pro-Choice or Pro-Life. I genuinely believe few women want to put on a white gown, march down the sterile aisle, place their feet in the stirrups, and end what could have been and would have been a beautiful thing. In this fascinating election year, I’m wondering when a candidate will be something that politicians have not been in decades, Pro-Possibility. Possibilities should be endless to everyone, America is built on the promise of a better life, on liberty, and on the pursuit of happiness. Are women excluded from those foundational promises? Access to birth control is in steady decline. Changes in income disparity are stagnant. The middle class is disappearing. This is a crucial time for half of the population to have a choice in when they begin their families. To choose education, leadership in their fields, and entrepreneurship. Only women have the ability to give birth. Choosing when she does so affords her the opportunity to be fully prepared financially and to be in a comfortable place in her career. Restricting her options for birth control and attempting to overthrow Roe v. Wade disproportionally affect women, including their education, income, and career potential. According to Sister Joan Chittister, “ your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not fed, not a child educated, not a child housed.” While removing funding for programs to prevent unplanned pregnancies, lawmakers are also reducing funding for various programs to feed, educate, and clothe children. Sure, the entire systems needs an overhaul. From state adoption laws and agencies, increasing accountability for ALL parties involved in the pregnancy, and welfare programs that give you a way out of poverty instead of keeping you there. When are our politicians and leaders going to make those bold promises? When are they going to be Pro-Possibility? Women who are fighting hard to be the first in their families to graduate college, and to push through glass ceilings are losing access to birth control. What options are left? Return to college in eighteen years? We cannot continue to perpetuate the cycle.
“We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country.” – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
It’s an election year. The year of possibilities. Rather than reducing the possibilities for women, increase their possibilities. Eliminate the need for most women who have to make a tough choice to put on that white gown and march down the sterile aisle. State funded IUDs are far less money in the long run than a child growing up in a welfare system. Colorado has seen their teen pregnancy rate drop by 40% with a privately funded program offering free long-term contraceptive devices. Their teen abortion rate dropped by 36% during the same time. Coincidence? Unlikely. Those young women now have more possibilities. The women making these decisions are unlikely to have POTUS going to war for them, the finances of owning the top crisis management firm in Washington, D.C., or people willing to follow them over a cliff to ensure the child gets the life they deserve. Being the first to finish college, or get a masters, or leaving the door open for countless other possibilities may seem less fascinating than the crises Olivia Pope & Associates deal with.
There are many ways to slay dragons, to be gladiators. Olivia Pope just happens to do so in Vera Wang. Be a gladiator. 
 Sincerely,
-Jules Zara Alexandros

Guest Post: Trump and the Politics of What You Wear

“I may disagree with what you wear, but I will defend to the death your right to wear it.” – JZA

 
It was shortly after I used my top of the line bottle opener on the only bottle of Bordeaux I could find in this forsaken area in the south that I realized I was quite upset. On the one hand, I just used the Cadillac of bottle openers on something that should be illegal, a twist top bottle of wine. On the other hand, I realized that people agreed with a man who’s toupee hasn’t been in style since the 70s. To say I was in state of overwhelming confusion as to how such events take place is the understatement of the year. The anti-Muslim rhetoric that is being applauded by many is simply baffling. Was this country not built upon religious freedoms? Is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness an ideal only for an elite demographic?
 jules alexandros zara fashion needs jesus trump and the politics of what you wear
I’m sad to see people who could hold the title of the next Commander in Chief be so callous as to selectively dismiss and demonize a group of people based on their belief and worship of a Higher Power. It is a dangerous practice. Ask the Jews. Or the Kennedys. There was a time when even Catholics were frowned upon in the nation’s highest office. It is difficult to imagine a world without President John F. Kennedy, nor would I want to.
We may or may not be believers, and that is okay. Fortunately, (at least for now) one of our founding and fundamental rights is protected by one of the greatest documents the world has ever known. The document is nothing without the people, and the people would mean little if not for the idea holding them together being so grandiose…Freedom.
Sincerely,
A Defender of Freedom,
Jules Zara Alexandros

H&M, Diversity Woes, and the ish We Aren’t Talking About in Fashion

When I first sat down to write this, I wasn’t sure where to start. The realities are that being a Black woman in America, let alone the ever exclusive Fashion Industry, means that I’ve been groomed to start out by being largely welcoming, open, and explain my disdain for recent events regarding H&M’s expression about what positive imagery looks like in a non-threatening manner. Heaven forbid the Angry Black Girl trope be placed on me for the mere expression of justified feelings, and as a means for flippant dismissal of said feelings. Because, you know, despite my years of building up my self-esteem and self-image after experiencing grief caused by going natural before the natural movement, having darker skin than presently idealized, and growing up hearing sh*t like, “You’re cute for a dark skinned girl” or “I liked you better with straight hair”, and countless other micro-agressions, having few role models or fashion icons, having my full lips and hips pointed and laughed at even though plastic surgeons make bank off of my features, I’m still supposed to “be calm” and not take things so personally. Somehow, I’m told I’ve got a chip on my shoulder and I’m overreacting should I broach the subject. What’s more, I’ve been so conditioned, as a woman, and a Black Woman, to need to explain my stance in a manner that’s apologetic so as to not hurt anyone’s privileged feelings. No longer. I shan’t be sweeping this under the carpet today.

H&M South African Ad Diversity Tweets

The world is still worse for the wear, and willfully ignorant. Apparently, when called out by the Twitterverse regarding lack of diversity (zero Black models) in their ads in South Africa, H&M had this to say:H&M’s marketing has a major impact and it is essential for us to convey a positive image. We want our marketing to show our fashion in an inspiring way, to convey a positive feeling.”. The tweet conveyed the idea that the lack of diversity in South African ads was justified in their pursuit of representing the brand in a positive image.

Wait.

What?

While I could rant on just that alone, I’ll also go here:

Diversity needed, Nykhor, Fashion Super Model

Nykhor Paul, a gorgeous Sudanese model, gives absolute life as she uses her platform to know how unprofessional make-up artists behavior towards her has been, and then proceeds to relay issues of the fashion industry at large. Well said. #AllThaSnaps

There is a serious problem with the continued lack of diversity in ads, on the runway, and throughout the fashion industry. It is the lack of diversity and willful ignorance that allows for never ending cultural appropriation while continuing to dismiss the original creators. It is the lack of diversity that allows for tropes, stereotypes, and one dimensional characters in film to run rampant as the only token representation. It is the lack of diversity that continues to repackage racism and  it’s subsequent micro-agressions, opting instead to call it advertising, branding, and positive image. It is the lack of diversity that continues to contribute to “the unconscious tendency to ignore the complex forces of history, colonization, slavery and identity” as Leslie Miley, formally of Twitter, so elegantly stated. It is the continued lack of diversity, that allows for silencing tragic realities by talking over them, such as is done with #BlackLivesMatter being combatted by #AllLivesMatter, and #BlackGirlsRock being combatted with #WhiteGirlsRock. The lack of diversity has spilled over and over, into every sector, and every industry.

As an artist, I believe, without doubt, that beauty is universal. I always have. I always will. Every single person is created in the image of the Creator. Beauty is divine. It should be a sin to see such beauty… such a diverse, incredible, and complex array of beauty, and not acknowledge that beauty. Even so, it’s 2015, and still there’s nothing new under the sun. Deeply embedded racism and micro-agressions drive on in the hearts of man, and we stay disconnected, vacant of true purpose by refusing to connect fully and empathize as humans.

I’ve had to fight to recognize my own beauty in the fog of a fallen world. I continue my fight to help others see their own beauty. I have listened and advised Black women who considered going natural, I’ve verbally combatted women of color as they dissed their God-given features and hues, I’ve stopped women of varying amounts of melanin on the street and told them how beautiful they were, in a world that continues to put Eurocentric standards of beauty on a pedestal. I’ve made it my mission to be the light, be the change and be the voice as I build my brands in the fashion industry to include every shade imaginable. Frankly, there’s so much more left to say, and I’ve only begun to unravel to complexities and brokenness, but stick with me, there’s more to come. It’s time to #TalkAboutIt and #BeAboutIt.

#BeTheLight

XoXo,

-Sphinx Rowe

Departures: Raf Simons of Dior and Alber Elbaz of Lanvin are the Latest to Leave Their Post

It’s the day before Halloween, and I keep thinking about the dramatic shift in Tha Industry known as fashion. It seems like this is one big, formal ball during the Regency period, and though you may start with well-rehearsed steps, romantically synchronous  movements, and one dashing partner, before you know it  the tempo has changed, and someone else is grabbing your hand. Perhaps you’ll upgrade to a better partner, perhaps not, either way, the constant exchange is enough to make anyone dizzy. Some partners will grow tired, and bow out, calling an end to the dance forever. Some dancers will be ill-paired by their chaperones(also known as investors). And some will be tossed of of the party altogether, left in the cold, clinging to their publicists to spin the details in their favor. How can one deal with all of the farewells?

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Ralph Lauren, the exhibitor of the uniform of the American aristocracy, stepped down as CEO. Rightfully so. Alber Elbaz has handled being booted from Lanvin after a beautiful 14 year tenure, with grace. Donna Karan created 7 Easy pieces, mastered jersey, and helped usher in the Power Woman, and has gone to focus on philanthropy. Ralph Rucci, America’s sole couturier, walked away from his namesake late last year, leaving a void in sophisticated, dynamic elegance…

Lanvin RTW Spring 2010
Lanvin RTW Spring 2010

Raf Simons stepped down from Dior after ushering in a different kind of cool. Even Alexander Wang and Balenciaga ended their short fling. There have been major and minor exits from the fashion ball room. From NYC to Paris, no fashion week city is safe from the changing tides. It’s one thing for 100+ year old fashion houses to change dance partners every so often, but when we’ve lost some of the last few iconic, American designers with their own houses, one cannot help but to feel the loss. (After all, who could’ve possibly replaced Ralph Rucci but Rucci?)

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Shock. Awe. Everything in between. It wasn’t even a week after Dior’s break up that Lanvin adds fuel to the fire! et tu Lanvin, et tu? For some, I get it, it was time to retire…It was time to focus more on family, and hobbies, to focus on travel, relaxation, and the like,  not having to be locked into a schedule or a deadline. Then again, there are other, not-so-innocent wills forcing the hands of Tha Creators and bending Tha Industry. Fashion has become a trillion dollar industry, after all…and it leaves plenty at stake for those who are now ultimately holding the purse strings. Tha Industry is fair game for portfolio diversification, and as it continues to grow, more and more non-creatives will undoubtedly have their hand in the pot.

What does this mean for luxury fashion houses?  Bad “strategic moves”. Cost cutting at the expense of the quality and creativity. Cheapening of the brand. The usual. Ugh.

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Ultimately, the creatives lose their voice. “Faster…cheaper…faster…cheaper…” Goes the chant of the investors, and the fashion bubble will have to burst some time. There’s pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear) twice a year, then there’s couture twice a year, and the increasing presence of pre-collection. Men even got their own Fashion Week in NYC.

A masterpiece by Elbaz, dramatic and feminine masterpiece for Lanvin's Spring 2008 collection
A masterpiece by Elbaz, dramatic and feminine masterpiece for Lanvin’s Spring 2008 collection

Round and round it goes, faster and faster she spins on the dance floor. Raf felt like there wasn’t enough time to really explore the creative process, or to edit. Frankly, I don’t blame him. Dizziness and light-headedness will undoubtedly ensue. The bubble will burst sometime, and the belle of the ball will ask or be asked to sit this dance out. What, with investors seeking to squeeze more and more out of the creatives and into the hands of the consumers, something has to give. I only hope that the true artists, Tha Creators, will unite in a plan of their own to reclaim Tha Industry. And I hope that, perhaps, the business of fashion will take more time to indulge Tha Creators, to listen, to match their pulse throughout every strategic decision, every investment meeting, every investor, every seamstress, every couturier, and every member of Tha Industry. We’ve lost too many icons, after all.

But who knows. Maybe I’m being overly dramatic. Perhaps Alber will turn up at Dior…none of us know for sure. Maybe America will have another couturier. Maybe Tha Creators will rise up against the tyranny and usher in a new age of le artiste.  It’s too early to tell. What I do know for sure is the shows will continue at hyper speed, and life will inevitably go on…I’ll just be over here, clutching my pearls in the meantime, bracing myself for whatever bomb drops next. Here’s to hoping for better days ahead.

XoXo,

-S

All. White. Everything.

A model walks the runway at the Academy Of Art University Spring 2016 Collections fashion show at The Arc, Skylight at Moynihan Station on September 11, 2015 in New York City.
A model walks the runway wearing Mehrzad Hemati at the Academy Of Art University Spring 2016 Collections fashion show at The Arc, Skylight at Moynihan Station on September 11, 2015 in New York City.

There’s the slightest chill in the air in New York, and after Summer’s brutal Hail Mary in her last days, Fall is finally here. And why, exactly, does that matter? Well, aside from the obvious Pumpkin Spice Fanatics trolling around The City, it also means NYFW has come, and gone. Now that endless fashion parties have jumped continents, and the countless sponsors have followed, there’s finally time to really dwell on the shows of the season.  And while there is a sea of opinion amongst mag editors, newspaper journalists and bloggers still raving about their favs from NYFW, I’d rather discuss the underdogs. Actually, the underdogs of the typical underdogs. Instead of the new kids on the block, I’d rather discuss the ones who came to the block with a little help from their friends, and generous tuition payments.

Academy of Art University celebrated it’s 10th year anniversary for their appearance at New York Fashion Week, showcasing the latest talent the college has to offer. While there were some great pieces in every capsule collection presented, I fell for the clean details, and immaculate presentation of Merzhad Hemati’s graduate collection.

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I’ve worked in fashion long enough to get bored all too easily. Hyper-commercialization has dampened the span of creativity in many an artist. However, that’s a rant for another day. Suffice it to say, that this monochrome collection offers mature structure and order, to a season typically marked by youthful frivolity. Hemati’s eye for design is evident, as captures all 3 dimensions and hangs them harmoniously on the female form. In a collection marked by lines that pull the eye away from said female form, Hemati manages to still imply femininity and movement by expertly draping and manipulating the form. Echoes of menswear bounce throughout the collection, and still, Hemati’s use of menswear elements seems to imply that, though inspired, women still do it better. The clothing is easily wearable, broken down into parts for that Wall Street Darling looking for a bit of structured badass in her wardrobe, or worn together for a woman who seeks to unapologetically draw the eye. Either way, I’m sold.

XOXO,

-S