When I was a little girl beginning to explore my little corner of the world, I found a time machine in the room above the garage. Just off of my parent’s bedroom, past the ink prints of Japanese cherry blossom trees and the sleigh bed, was a sunlight-dappled room filled with old books, photographs, and most importantly- my mother’s extra closets and her wooden vanity. It was in this hidden treasure chest 70s dresses with their elaborate embroidery and vibrant hues, velvet numbers trimmed with lace promising a cinematic entrance, and blazers with their shoulder-pads and air of New York City authority resided. At the center of all these wonders was the vanity, a misleadingly simple piece in light brown wood that opened to reveal French perfumes, Chanel lipsticks, diamond hair clips, and a leather makeup bag.
In retrospect, the room was likely intended to be my mother’s private oasis, her passageway back to a world where glittering parties, brushing shoulders with Condé Nast advertisers, and corporate triumphs defined her. At age six, I would sift through the boxes of old photographs and search for the stars of each show in the closet. I would pull out the red velvet stool for the vanity and cover myself in Chanel no. 2 and maroon lipstick (my mother was never an avid lover of Hollywood starlet red, which simultaneously devastated me and solidified my deep admiration for her as a secret beauty anarchist). When she eventually caught on to my afternoon rendezvous, she began to encourage them, though I cannot say she ever truly accepted or appreciated my makeup smuggling. As I grew I would try on my favorite pieces for her, with promises of modifications and seamstresses filling my head with dreams of future glamour.
Ever since I could pry, pose, and pout, fashion has always served as both a portal to the past of the people I have loved and admired and to a future where I may be among their ranks. As a now 22-year-old navigating an uncertain world where big dreams battle big obstacles, it has often been a fantasy and an escape, a no-limits frontier where anything and everything is accepted, as long as it’s not a repeated outfit. Nowadays, however, I find deeper meaning in its ability to reflect reality, to call us back to the present and speak to the pain, joy, success and failure of the times. I truly believe that it is an art form, and the ultimate champion of and outlet for our biggest dreams, but dreams, much like people, are incredibly amorphous. When I used to see a beautiful dress, I would picture where I would and could be, who I would be with, and what I would be doing if it were mine. Scenes of European villas, grand marble staircases, laughter and drinks with interesting people from all walks of life at a table draped with flowers would flash across my mind like an old projector at a theater. Luxury presented me with the vision of what I believed was my highest form- a life where beautiful things would happen to and for me if I only wore Valentino and had fittings at ateliers in Paris.
Today if I were to see a beautiful dress in a magazine, another fleeting wonder from my childhood, I would look first to the story. What was the message the creator was trying to send? How did their life, their own room off the garage, give further meaning to the piece? The dreams I now see proliferating into and defining the future of fashion reflect a world that is filled with vastly different rooms above a garage. Rooms where all kinds of music plays, and different smells permeate from the house below, and outside the windows there may be trees and gardens, but there could be fire, debris, water, violence, love, and hate. There is space for all of these layered rooms in the house of fashion because its foundation is beauty, and true beauty is experience.
I hope to continue to see anyone and everyone interested or involved in fashion contributing to the creation of a world where an unapologetic sense of self, an embrace of the miracle that is the spectrum of cultures we are blessed to witness every day if we only look, and a refusal to be another voice in the void is the norm.