Tag Archives: moda

Portal to Barcelona

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Looking at these photos a few days ago, I had several ideas as to what the Clothes Story is. Gluten and sugar free experimenting? Reminds me of my obsession with this Spaniard’s Pinterest board about his favorite shops and cafes? There are still artists living in Venice? (Great interview with the artist, Diana Garcia, who did the wheat pasted mural here. Check out more of her art here.) My favorite food on Abbott Kinney? Dressing for texture? Can we take a vote, here?

Okay, I’ve tallied up the votes and the winner is… Barcelona!

Wait, Barcelona wasn’t even on the list. How did that happen? 

Well, I did have the word, Spaniard on the list, so…

Yeah, but a Spaniard-made Pinterest board is very different from the city of Barcelona. I want to see the math. Who voted, anyhow?

Who am I talking to, by the way?  Hello?  Hello? Oh, I hate it when that happens. A perfectly nice inner dialogue disconnected because I asked too many questions. Again.

So… Barcelona. The city with the same Mediterranean climate as Southern California. Home of a Picasso museum and Gaudi sculptures and La Familia Sagrada. Where they speak Catalonian by the sea side and sip a cortado.  I have clearly dressed to go back to Barcelona, where I am clearly from… okay, maybe in another life. But this post is really about something deeper – acceptance.

As a Los Angeles-based artist, I have made my peace with identity and belonging. It took years, but these delicate processes always take longer in a city where there is increasingly more and more traffic, no? Growing up in the O.C., of course I wanted to fit in, but I was still wacky (insert crazy outfit here) and proud of my Mexican roots. I learned pretty quick that I was never going to look like the Miss OP Pro or whatever that was. The splits didn’t work out for drill team try outs (It was all about the outfit, and luckily I made the cut to wear a kilt on the field hockey team). Even though I was one hundred percent Mexicana, every trip to visit relatives in deep Mexico was met with people telling me I was Americana. I’d even buy my clothes there and wear them, but it didn’t matter. My cousin said it was how I did my make up and the way I walked. Fascinating.

In college I was met with “I can’t believe your Mexican.” or “What is your background?” at the Westwood ice cream shop on trips to LA. I joined MECHA, took Spanish for Spanish Speakers, and even played in a cumbia band a little bit. My “gringo” boyfriend got me in because he was the drummer and having grown up in Venice, was in some ways more Chicano than me. That’s a whole other story…

After college, the Chicano art scene was supreme in Los Angeles, and I found other wanna-be Chicano artists – gente that grew up in Mexico and were addicted to low-riders and La Virgen de Guadalupe. I met Chicano art scholars that sounded like me and didn’t speak Spanish at all. I met Jewish Mexican artists, artists that spoke Spanish, French and English, and Spanish speaking painters from the Caribbean. I learned about living in the border, where you don’t really fit in on either side. That idea right there did it for me.

Eventually, I found my tribe, and it continues to expand as I meet more amazing, diverse, and creative people. Even now, my beautiful friend of only a few years, Byron is half Hungarian/Euro mix, half Latina. She listened to a recording of me singing in Spanish, and asked, “What is that accent?” “What accent?” I replied, innocently. We finally figured it out. It was ORANGE COUNTY-accented Spanish. When we go order tacos together, Byron with her limited Spanish, has a gorgeous accent and gets all this Spanish thrown back at her. I order completely in Spanish and all I get is English back. It continues…

So, I’m good. But, Barcelona. If I ever wanted a moment where I was completely and easily accepted, if I ever wanted to know what that felt like… it was in Barcelona. I traveled with my Euro American boyfriend around Europe in college. In England, they thought he was Irish. In Germany they asked him for directions. Austria? Check. In Italy, I think he got by as Italian. France? No problem. He could swing some local conversation anywhere it seemed. Me? No directions asked. No one knew what to do with me. No one… until we got to Barcelona.

The moment we got close to Barcelona, coming from Italy on Euro Rail, something started to happen. My boyfriend said something first. “Everyone looks like you.” “They do!” I said, my eyes growing wide. It was awesome. We got off the train. “I” was everywhere. It was like a good Twilight Zone, in a way. We had the same complexion, facial features, hair, and height. We walked the same. We did our makeup the same. We had a similar STYLE. “Oh. My. Goodness,” I thought. “I’ve come home. I’m surrounded by family. We’re simpatico. I BLEND IN.” And I GOT ASKED FOR DIRECTIONS.

I still day dream about Barcelona sometimes, even though it was so many years ago. I day dream that I am walking around… and Barcelona, she envelopes me in her embrace, and I feel I am just a part of her. I am a missing piece of her puzzle that has come home. I realize that the trip happened at an important moment. I was only 21, and at that age I think some of us are still desiring to belong in that longing, urgent, adolescent way. We are still thinking, “Who am I?”, you know? Although since then I have realized I am so much more than Barcelona – and am happy with my individuality – it was an act of encouragement and acceptance. So, thanks, Barcelona.

Photos by Evan Hartzell.

Hat from Fedora Primo Hat Merchants, Skirt by J.Jill, Blouse by Marc by Marc Jacobs, Sweater by Moda, Boots by Teva, Bag vintage

 

 

Sharing is Caring

 

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Other people’s closets. As soon as I was tall enough to reach those clothes off the hangers, I was benefitting from OPC’s in my own house growing up. No closet was safe. One particular outfit in the mid 80’s involved my own new wave short boots, my mom’s mid calf electric blue wool pleated skirt, my dad’s homemade sixties’ deep red Hawaiian shirt tucked in. A wooden animal African necklace topped it. Where are those pictures? How I love camera phones. But yes, even my brother let me borrow from his closet. I would brood over 1950’s photos of my mom in her presence and exclaim, “Why isn’t THIS dress still in your closet? Why?” See, I wanted to borrow things that weren’t even there any more. A common good dream that I have is about other people’s closets. Yes, it’s true. I can wake up so happy because I have had one. Trying on clothes in some amazing closet… but, of course in my dream, I get to keep everything.

And the tradition continues… I borrowed a couple of jackets from my younger son so many times that now they just stayed with my stuff. The truth is, we fought over them in the thrift store and he “won”. I think the same is going to happen the other way around with the brown corduroy jacket above.

And now, I feel like making a list.  My favorite ways to acquire clothes are the following:

1.  Gifts. Especially gifts that were bought in other country’s outdoor markets. Countries that have cobblestone streets. And especially gifts that I asked for telepathically about two days before. For example, I’m walking along and suddenly realize I NEED a jumpsuit, and then one is handed to me straight from Paris two days later. The scarf pictured above also came from someone else’s trip to Italy, and I NEEDED it.

2. Other people’s closets. Of course. My favorite OPC story is relative to the boots above. I have three pairs of boots that came to me at once. I get asked about a couple of them all the time, and I love saying, “These came from Holly’s sister’s jet setter friend’s closet in San Francisco.” I love saying that. And you know I think about boots ALL the time, so that was super telepathic.

3. Thrift stores. Why, oh why are clothes better at a thrift store than at a regular store? Is it just the price or the eco friendliness of it? It can’t be. Well, at a regular store you run the risk of getting what everyone else is getting right now. Thrift store items are called “finds” for a reason. They are unique and secret. Then, we have the vintage aspect. I rest my case.

4.  Homemade. I walk around dreaming about clothes I would wear if I had time to design and make them. One time, for my birthday I asked for childcare when the kids were little so I could just make myself a skirt and matching bag. It’s really fun! Also, there is a lot of love in it, you get to go to the FABRIC STORE, and it’s really fun. I know I said that twice.

5.  Sales.  Crazy sales. Sale on top of one day only half off sale at some store like Patagonia at the Santa Cruz outlet sale. Betsy Johnson way out in the desert special trip sale. Paris streets in August sale when no one else is there for competition sale. Oh, spontaneous day trip to Santa Barbara boot store closing down sale. The best are surprise sale at the cash register of just what you always wanted sale.

And on top of everything, look how eco-friendly this whole Clothes Story is. Think before consuming or throwing something away. There is no “away”, anyway. How about if you re-gifted something wonderful you got from someone else’s closet, that they got on sale, and that you just customized with some exquisite homemade touches.  That would be a real Clothes Story with chapters and everything.

On Laura: Moda dress& leggings, Italian scarf & boots, jacket by Salt and Pepper. On the boy: Homemade cape (fabric from Joanne’s Fabrics), jacket by Salt and Pepper

Photos of Laura by Aristotle.