Fashion Book List

Despite Winter Quarter being the busiest quarter of my entire 4 year college career, I’ve taken a step to flourish my leisure reading as a de-stress mechanism. Also, partly due to the fact that I recently started an online course with Parsons, I thought it may be a good cue to expand my knowledge in fashion history/business/people etc.

This is a list of my all time favorite and recently acquired infatuations of fashion books. Some had given me a very throughough understanding of fashion concepts, others are just good for a laugh. Better still, they all shaped me into the person I am today.

  1. Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls. — Leandra Medine

Founder and editor in chief of the Man Repeller site: a humorous site for serious fashion, Medine reveals hilarious life episodes and her passions for fashion in this autobiography. Having read and followed MR for a few years, I really grew to appreciate Medine’s mix of humor and culture with fashion. In her book, she reveals that Man Repeller stemmed from a shopping trip with her friend after a bad break up, where they found items in a Forever 21 that will instinctively shun the opposite sex. From then on, Medine launched her site and encouraged women to embrace their true selves, to follow their love for fashion despite all.

Medine also highlighted her relationship status from middle school till marriage. Her bad break up with the love of her life to casual dating to finally marrying the same guy that had broken her heart.

This was an excellent read when you are feeling dull with life. Medine’s self-deprecating and brutally honest humor never fails to make me burst out laughing on the bus.

2. Fashion Design research — Ezinma Mbonu

This was a great resource for me prior to my study abroad at Central Saint Martins. Inspired by my fellow classmate from a draping class in Shanghai a few summers ago, I started to explore fashion research. At that time, I couldn’t really comprehend what it meant to do creative research. From a scientific standpoint, (I was well versed in researching peer-review articles through my psychology training) does that mean I find everything I can and read about them?

So yes, without much clue about creative research, I bought this book from Amazon. Here, CSM graduate Ezinma Mbonu, introduced an array of research methods: from primary research to color palette to fabric research to collaging methods. It was truly a gateway for me to initially understand research in the fashion context.

Then of course came CSM, and everything just fell into place.

3. The Teen Vogue Handbook

This is basically my textbook. As required reading material for my online Parsons course, it introduces the different sectors of the fashion industry.

Featuring designers, photographers, the Teen Vogue team, digital pioneers, the Handbook is an essential guide of how to make it. Though every one has different paths and experiences, one thing is certain: it is not always glamorous, and talent is nothing compared to years of hard work, dedication and underrating positivity.

My favorite part of the book was from Karl Lagerfeld’s interview:

“Be informed, not only about fashion but also about art, history, and music. […] In the days of the internet, it is easy to be informed. Also, speak other languages. Show that you are interested in things, that you want to learn. And never look bored. It can be boring sometimes in the world of fashion.”

I guess my love of ‘different things’ is putting me on the right track.

4. Girl Boss — Sophia Amoruso

Founder and former CEO of the online fashion retailer, Nasty Gal, Amoruso is not your typical boss. In this biography, she shares her journey to success from being a penniless, high school grad with no formal experience in business.

Tired of her receptionist job at the Art Institute in Cali, she started scouring vintage stores and reselling items on eBay, launching the Nasty Gal brand. Today, the brand carries new clothing, shoes, accessories under their original label along with a couple other designers.

Amoruso’s book was a powerful message to all girls: You can be your own boss if you work very very very hard.

 

This is it for now. The list is ought to grow! Stay tuned.

 

The Truth Behind that 10 Dollars Dress

For some reason, the issue of sustainability in fashion has been popping up everywhere in my life lately. Not that I was completely unaware or unconscientious about the issue previously, but for some unseen force of attraction, I have been gravitating towards the topic through multiple informational interviews and fashion podcasts.

Sustainability: To keep a ecosystem or an industry working in such a way that the environment is not depleted in natural resources for the long run.

The conversation sparked in a coffee chat between me and an Art school grad, Peter, who went to NYC to pursue fashion design. My lovely art adviser connected us via email, and the click was almost instant. Peter shared his intern experience in NYC and touched upon the amount of waste produced in the fashion industry and how it has been corrupting the entire ecosystem. He reflected that although clearly he is passionate about fashion, merely designing for the sake of producing collections to sell is not his calling. He suggested me to listen to the American Fashion Podcast during my downtime to learn more.

Listening to his advice, I tuned in the podcast while working over night alone in my studio. An episode featuring Simon Collins, the former Dean of Fashion Design at Parsons, pointed arrows at the vicious cycle of fast fashion.

While Collins is a fan of H&M and a consultant for their sustainability strategies, he reflected that the brand is in no means a savior to the problem. He also mentioned the undeniable convenience of fast fashion for people with lower income (aka. college students).

Fast fashion and cheap clothes has been so ingrained in our daily lives that it is extremely difficult to change our shopping habits at once. Being constantly broke college students, most of us can only fuel our passion for fashion and style through shopping at H&M, Forever 21, Zara and maybe occasionally sale at Aritzia and Nordstrom Rack. We are glad that these stores exist to offer that $10 party dress when we are in need, while we throw the issue of sustainability behind the back of our heads.

So we can’t just blame it on the factories or the designers. We as customers hold responsibility. Bloggers and Influencers who encourage a completely different outfit every 3 hours hold responsibility. We as millennials shopping online excessively just because shipping was free hold responsibility.

So, what can we do?

  1. Well, first thing is the dilemma between NEED vs. WANT.

Ask yourself candidly do you really need a new $20 dress for this party tonight? Or can you move your creative juices and assemble an outfit. Are there at least 3 occasions you can think of wearing this particular garment? Are you impulse buying after work because you spilled coffee all over your MacBook? Are you blindly following trends?

2. Then, while trying the dress at the fitting, ask yourself again.

Does this satin navy mid-calf dress really look that much different from the midnight blue velvet skater dress you bought 2 weeks ago? How is the fit? Are you lying to yourself that maybe after losing 10 pounds, it will fit just right? Does the material even feel nice or does it just look nice and won’t even last 2 machine washes?

3. Lastly as you approach the cashier, think about your depleting savings and poor children.

Your bank account is bleeding. How much you will save by refraining to buy a $20 dress in a year (say, twice a month, then it’s $480! That’s enough for enrolling in a online course at Parsons). Then think one last time about all the crying children in Bangladesh trying to sew up this dress late at night…

Thinking about our shopping habits is just as important as spreading the knowledge about sustainability. After all, every social change start with ourselves. Not everyone is an outspoken activist, not everyone has the platform to express our views, but the littlest thing like not buying a dress can spark unexpected ripple effects in your community and beyond.

Why Comparing Yourself to Others is Death

I am very much guilty to this.

Today at staff meeting, we did an evaluation on our top 5 strengths from the StrengthQuest test. Being a group of college seniors, working as peer advisers in an advising office, professional development was integral to our job. Only when we hone our personal and professional skills can we better help others, DUH.

So, as we each share our 5 strengths, what they are and if anything odd stood out to us, we realized that the strength ‘achiever’ was the top strength for half of our team.

“Achiever” meaning always overarching and working hard. Meaning always striving for the best quality and staying on top of shit.

I didn’t get “Achiever”.

Well, I can say I am no expert in waking up in the morning and definitely not good at studying math. But, am I not an achiever? Not getting the label, although it is something so minimal, has kept me awake at night, meaning now.

Yes, mind us, we should note that this is only a test. Not of my life, not even a wholesome evaluation of me as a person, but something more like an upgraded version of horoscope. But why the heck is this keeping me awake?

Then, I realized, I’m doing it again. Comparing myself to others. The taboo. The detrimental and all the evil.

It is funny. Just earlier that afternoon, I was chatting with my colleague about not to compare ourselves with other people despite our college senior fears and anxiety. Somehow, my words are not reaching myself in this very evening and it’s causing more fuzz than I am hoping.

So why should we never compare ourselves with others? Based on personal experience, here are 3 things.

1.You are never satisfied. In an unhealthy desperate kinda insane way.

Chances are you lie awake at night, wondering where will you be in 5 years when all your peers got managerial roles. Chances are you work so hard that you play the busy card on people that actually matter to you (like your mom and dad). Chances are you got that 90% on the bio exam but still feels that you did very poorly because you didn’t reach the 75th percentile. This is a little sick.

2. You are unhappy.

You may feel achievements are never truly achievements unless you are doing better than other people. You don’t find enough joy in doing the tasks, you see results. Yes, results and numbers are important, for your company. What will those actually mean to you?

3. You reek negativity. 

Because you are dissatisfied, you are unhappy, you probably won’t be a very happy to be around with. You see, it’s all a vicious cycle.

So, why do this to yourself? TRANSLATION: Don’t do it! Don’t fall into the trap of over competitiveness over the most minimal things! Don’t fall into the blackhole of self-deprecation. Don’t reek a negative aura that will shun your bright future and opportunities away.

Writing this for myself tonight, nobody has to read this. But if you happen to, then tell me what is the most ridiculous thing you compared others to.