Category Archives: Interviews

Create Your World

See those hands?  That’s how I feel about asking someone if I can take their photo. I have always been drawn to street fashion photography ever since I used to peruse  magazines at a local Japanese bookstore. That’s where I first became aware of it. I was excited by the curated windows into everyday people’s style on the street. Eventually, in the mid-00’s I would see these street style blogs popping up, not to mention Bill Cunningham’s work in newspapers and magazines prior to that.The blogs brought it more to my attention and they were INTERNATIONAL. Stockholm, Helskinki, Mexico City, Kingston. It became a merry-go-round of looks unique to those hoods.  So, why the hesitation to participate in such a happening trend? Maybe it’s shyness. Maybe I think people will feel like I’m stealing their souls — or, that I just won’t take a good photo of them! I mean, I have more confidence taking photos of objects. My first attempt was when I met a particularly stylish woman at a friend’s party. Vintage 60’s hostess dress. Jewelry she made herself. Her makeup was so Elizabeth Taylor from Cleopatra days. Oh, man. Anyway, the photos came out dark and her dress was all wrinkled — not in a good way. So, I didn’t try again. I blamed it on not having business cards to give out. I did start taking photos of family members which served as a warm up. I was comfortable with them; they would even take direction.  Friends were a different story, though. You know, “I’m coming over to take your picture. No, don’t worry about your outfit (But of course, you’ll look stunning because you always do, but no pressure, really).”  In my coffee post I got some practice with strangers. “Can I take a picture of you doing latte art? I mean I’m advertising the café and everything!” No problem, they replied. It was easier than I thought.  This post is yet another baby step. I could totally try to trick you and say, “Oh, yeah. I came across this really striking woman in a parking lot. I don’t know anything about her, but doesn’t she look amazing??” But then, enough friends read this blog that know her and would ask me, “What are you trying to pull, Laura? Isn’t that our friend? ”  Did you see what just happened there? She turned around and there was THAT. The outfit that slays as it walks away. I personally need more bustles in my life. Thanks, for letting me practice my street photography on you, Kai. I did just run into her on the street, but in all telepathic honesty I did wish upon a morning star that she would be at the meeting I was attending. Here, I was leaving the meeting and she was arriving. And in all skill-crutch honesty, I took none of these photos. Evan was with me and he has a DEGREE in photography. And lastly, in all historical honesty, one time Kai and I made an elaborate plan to meet at the art museum and do a whole photo shoot relating a great piece of art to an outfit she would wear. But she was like, “Ah, I realized I don’t work that way. Too much thinking.”  I do a lot of thinking with my outfits, OBVIOUSLY. I really enjoy it. Kai says she just goes into her closet every morning and is like a painter with a palette. If it doesn’t work right away she just adds more. I love the description of that process. I love it’s honest simplicity. Ha.I could go on and on about Kai’s style. Every time I see her it’s a treat. It’s not just her vibrant personality, humor, intellect, and childlike curiosity (she’s always learning something new)… it’s her excellent outfits! Yes, they make me think of poetic mystery and romantic epic adventures, but also they are a reminder to be myself in every aspect of my life. Yes, an outfit can do that. While she is in the intuitive moment every morning as she faces her “palette”, she is always true to herself. She wears her spirit on the outside. More of that.   

Jacket by TBA. Skirt vintage, by Penelope. Under t no label. Bag by Fatface. Boots by Florentini + Baker.

All photos by Evan Hartzell.

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A Steady Glow

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Me and my friends are turning 50.

Well, I have a few more years, but I have this weird thing where I tend to embrace my future age and think I am that age already. I know I should live in the present, but 50 sounds REALLY COOL. It sounds like silver, chandeliers, and the best champagne. It sounds like Italian masquerade balls, leather jackets paired with feathered skirts. Am I the only one thinking this? I’ve been going to girlfriends’ fiftieth birthday parties lately, and I feel like we are all the same age. So, the conversation about women and age continues. It evolves.

50. I can feel it calling me. All that stuff people say about, “Well, then you don’t care about what people think. You finally do what you were afraid to do before. You just don’t give a f%@#*&!” must be true because I can feel that attitude seeping into my brain already. Yay.

So, my friend Anne-Marie was getting ready to celebrate this magic year and she decided to clean out her closet in honor of this birthday. Excellent. I may have mentioned before that luckily people think of me when they decide to clean out their closets. The fact that I benefit so much from people’s closet clean outs is just encouragement to everyone to broadcast your passion. Your enthusiasm for what you love just makes people want to throw whatever that is at you. Be ready to catch!

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The loot.

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The sad emptiness. You know, when you’re moving, and eventually it has to look like this.

Just to add drama to the birthday closet clean out, Anne-Marie and her family were also moving out of their beautiful old Spanish style house by the sea. It was a happy move, really, but you know how moves always bring up the past. You have to actually look at each object you own, consider it, see if it’s going to make the cut to the future, as the house gets emptier and emptier, all the life going out of it with each box that’s packed.

The house had an in between feel the day I arrived. It wasn’t packed with life, art, textures and color like it had been in the past. Now it had some of the family’s stuff left mixed in with some items that weren’t theirs, but belonged to the stagers.

The morning light was still beautiful though, coming through the old rounded iron paned windows. The elegant bones of the house could not be denied. Anne-Marie greeted me with her welcoming smile at the door. Her warm brown eyes, graceful ease always reminded me of a deer – quietly contemplating as she glides through a forest. We climbed up to her and her husband’s bedroom on the second floor. There was already a pile of inviting clothes on the bed for me to look at. Every time I went through one pile, she brought out more from the closet. I actually dream this exact situation regularly. Literally. While I’m sleeping. That kind of dream. All the while, as I sifted through clothes, making a stack for yes, a stack for no, and a stack for my friend Lissa because it turned out they had VERY similar taste in clothes, we talked.

The sunny poet in a blouse she kept.

The sunny poet in a blouse she kept.

We talked about why she bought that dress that she never wore. “Because I was in the shop and I just felt like I needed something new. I don’t shop a lot. So I picked that. And it was never right on me.” We talked about why she didn’t relate to certain items. “Too girlish, you know?” And we talked about turning 50. “I realized I’m not the young girl anymore,” referring to a pale pink skirt. Of course, we were looking at all the items she was done with. We were not looking at what she was now embracing. So, the conversation, the process was about letting go. Letting go so one can embrace what’s next.

I love what came next.

“And so, my birthday was approaching and I was really thinking about it, and dealing with this moment. Around that time, I decided to go through and read all the poems I had written since my first daughter was born. I read all of them. And you know, reading them really made me feel good. I love my life. I have a great husband. Great girls. Good friends. My life is good.” She said all of this with a measured, reflective tone. I could tell she had really thought about it. I felt like we were in a very important scene in a movie, where all is being resolved.

It was then that I knew that I had to do a Clothes Story about Anne-Marie. I loved that she had already been writing poetry about being a woman, a mother, about aging. I loved that her closet clean out was one way to eventually accept and celebrate who she was now.

In the weeks that followed I sent Lissa her loot (What great fun for her to come home from her HONEYMOON to) and had fun integrating my new items into my outfits. The sweater below is on constant rotation. As is this skirt.

Me, having fun at my kid's school sport extravagalooza. No, I was really having fun. There was an In n' Out Truck and my outfit was so Russian Fairytale thanks to Anne-Marie.

Me, having fun at my kid’s school sport extravagalooza. No, I was really having fun. There was an In n’ Out Truck and my outfit was so Russian Fairytale thanks to Anne-Marie.

Oh, yeah and I really lucked out with this dress from Anne-Marie’s closet. Here, I am a Spanish actress who has dreams of having a spiritual transformation in northern New Mexico. Very High Heels without the high heels because I can’t really wear high heels.

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And so I ask you this: Have you ever had to let go of some past version of yourself in a closet clean out? Tell us now. Who was she, and why were you finished with her?

Sweater by Love 21. Cardigan by matty m. Dress by Bailey 44. Thunderbird necklace is from the dreamland. Earrings are vintage (Taxco, Mexico).

All photos of me by Evan Hartzell.

Wear Your Art Collection

 

         

If you know me, you know that I am a non stop celebration of the Hundred Languages. Why just last night I was celebrating the language of food. I invented a Dutch goat cheese, peach, and honey quesadilla. Yes, corn tortilla. I know you were wondering. I was speaking food, and the invention perfectly fit my mood of wanting a dessert, but wanting a bit of savory as well. My family was very receptive to this spontaneous expression. It sounds like I am digressing from the above photos, but it is just that I think my synesthesia is breaking down the walls in my brain between food and fashion.

Both the artist, Copious Harvey Smith and I enjoy breaking down the walls between languages. We also both understand that each language has it’s own qualities that bring out a different aspect of the same idea. For me, my characters and stories have outfits, soundtracks and painted “storyboards”. For Copious I see how her messages of healing cross into her music, paintings, writing, and now fashion. With Lucid Designs, Copious allows art collectors to wear what they would usually collect as one of her canvases or sculptures. Artists collaborating with fashion designers has become common, but usually it is a highly literal application of the artist’s “visual quotes” onto a textile design. Instead, Copious is using the human body as a canvas for her messages. Each piece involves the thoughtful placement of symbols and words in meaningful colors. More than a message t shirt, each shirt or hoodie becomes a talisman, a healing stone, or a power animal when someone chooses the piece they need.

Gaining a quality from what you are wearing? Now we’re talking my language. Let’s just look at this one hoodie. Copious says the actual hood with the words “light” and “dark” is about “the recovery of self through claiming all parts of us in ourselves and in turn offering a reflection of either our dark or light shadows.” On the front pocket, “The bird flying represents the freedom of claiming our whole selves, and no longer being triggered by the parts of ourselves that we reject or suppress.” Oh my goodness. I’m feeling this! Reminds me of my talks with Lissa about Persephone. Seriously happy Copious speaks so many languages.

Collect one of these pieces now and benefit a great cause. See the full gallery of wearable art here!

Lora Norton

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Ooh, I’m so excited. I’m making my dreams come true. After the warm up post about the Artist, I am so thrilled to finally be that Clothes Story reporter about town I’ve always wanted to be AND to finally be turning the camera on my many stylish friends across the globe. Yay! First up is my treasured friend of many years, artist, Lora Norton. Lora is my kind of artist because she encourages me to continue to break the boundaries between the many languages of art… while raising a family. Yes, she not only expresses herself through her dynamic outfits (which include some pieces made by herself), but she also paints, draws, writes, designs t shirts, flyers, and sings in a band.  Stories and characters also seem to drive her many art forms. See why I am so inspired? And her house? Oh, vibrant house plants, tropical wall colors, chunky textiles, and fascinating collections create a home that reminds me more than a little bit of some of my favorite houses in Mexico. In Lora’s house, however, the epic record collection and baby doll still lives make it her own.. and her musical family’s own.

When I visited with Lora, we never discussed her outfit which was partly the reason for my visit, but in a way we were discussing her outfit the whole entire time through our many topics of conversationHere are seven topics that I think were secretly really about her outfit.

1.  Her enthusiasm for Youtube videos of older Japanese women folding laundry.

2.  Her Pinterest dreams for her garden (The outdoor one. The indoor one is obviously thriving.).

3.  The wonders of Moroccan oil.

5.  Her ability to attract people with the most fascinating diets. Ha. Um, she has a good sense of humor, by the way.

6.  Her anticipation of seeing the Samurai show at LACMA.

7.  The tempting, oh so tempting lushly printed fabrics found on Etsy that would make more great pillows for her couch.

No, but seriously, here is some solid background on her outfit… straight from Lora. (Once I showed her the list above a few days after our visit, she was forced to give me this top secret info! ;)) Her top is made of a Japanese fabric called shibori. Shibori is a kind of tie dye often done with indigo. (If I could count the number of times different people have said “shibori” to me in the last six months! What is going on??)  Lora says she loves historical clothes and clothes of different cultures. Her “Clothes and Hair” Pinterest board shows a lot of the styles that influence her. For example,  her amber necklace is similar to Tibetan and Nepalese traditional styles and her kimono style top is sort of Japanese. 

 

“Tibetan Losar 2014” by Mr. Sith, from Lora’s Pinterest board

Example of Shibori from Dharma Trading Co.

Check out more of Lora’s unbelievable art here. Check out her transcendent music here. I have barely begun to unearth the wonders of Lora in this post. I have a feeling there will be more of her on Clothes Stories in the months to come.. maybe even a guest blogging post? Wink, wink.

Poster for Chuck Dukowski SEXTET by Lora Norton

London, Waiting for the Night Bus.

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 photos by Laura E. Alvarez
Lucky. Lucky, I tell you.

The quest for the coat had spanned thirteen months (at least I think that is when we started watching Sherlock), and several continents (via Ebay). I had little hope of finding it, to be quite honest. Little hope. First of all, it needed to be wool, but not too heavy. This is Los Angeles after all. Second of all, it needed to fit a lean, but not short 13 year old. “Ha!” you laugh, “It could never be done.” And lastly, it had to have attitude. “Oh, no. Now that’s really, really, really asking too, too much.” Yes, it is. I agree… but the Artist, he persisted in his quest. He entered giant Good Wills, and not-nice-smelling Salvation Armies, he withstood Ebay after Ebay disappointment across the Atlantic and back, he fingered impossibly large coats everywhere, and scoffed at sad cotton coats I tried to persuade him to be happy with. He even considered moving to a colder climate where he might have more of a chance to come across said coat.

It was on one of those searching days that we ended up at a National Council of Jewish Women Thrift Shop. The moment we walked in, the Artist expressed that he felt aligned with this establishment. On top of the love we felt, the expert curation, the aesthetically pleasing gray walls, and organization by color, the prices were wonderful. But still, after a time the expansiveness of the store made our eyes grow tired. Our arms could not pull another coat off a rack. Ready to abandon the site, suddenly, it appeared… the perfect coat… and, one hundred percent finest Merino wool, no less. Here, I ask the Artist some questions about his purchase.

Clothes Stories:  Can you tell me what drove you to embark on a search for such a coat? What are you inspired by?

The Artist:  I was inspired by the BBC show, Sherlock, and the coat Sherlock Holmes wears in the show. It represents him.

CS:  What are you capable of while wearing this coat?

The Artist: I am capable of being very warm… obviously. Look at it. I’m in L.A. for goodness sake.  I am capable of trying to act like Sherlock Holmes, trying to do the Matrix, being very serious, being a wizard, being an OP wizard, and uh, being a time lord.

CS:  What do these photographs evoke for you?

The Artist: It makes me feel like the person in the picture is waiting for something like the Night Bus or perhaps the Tardis to take him away on an adventure. Also, it makes me feel like the pocket watch is magic. I mean it’s got all that bloody writing on it. It must be special. Also, it makes it feel like the character is very serious when he needs to be. He’s an OP wizard.

CS:  Does this outfit have any special powers?

The Artist: Ah, yes, yes. Um, uh, let’s see. It’s bullet proof. It’s spell proof, too just in case I get hit by any of them. It makes my invisibility spells more powerful when I magic them at myself. The cane is like a light saber. It blocks spells and can perform spells. The pocket watch can tell me the time in any time zone I want it to tell me, and also I can store my powers in it and become mortal if I want to. When I throw my top hat it can cut unfriendly demon’s heads off. The top of it flattens and the brim lets out blades, so I can throw it like a frisbee.

CS:  What is your favorite detail of this outfit?

The Artist: I like the pocket watch because it has that amazing Gallifreyan writing on it, and also because it lights up in the dark when you need to tell the time. And also because the photograph of it is my favorite shot in this post. I really like it.

CS:  If this coat belonged in a particular city, which city would it live in?

The Artist: Ah, let me think. Ah, somewhere in England. Yes, London.

Look out for two more posts about the two other coats purchased by the Artist on that same day at the NCJW Thrift Shop.
Coat by Calvin Klein, belt by Levi’s, pocket watch by Dr. Who, cane & top hat – EBay.