Sunday, June 29, 2014

do you wash your denim?

I once heard a story about someone who put their denim into the freezer overnight instead of washing them. I've had people tell me to hang them in the bathroom while I have a shower to steam them. I've been told to spray them with vinegar and hang them outside. These are, of course, all methods to avoid washing your jeans for as long as possible, which is apparently better for the denim and the environment.

The debate, and yes it is a debate, about washing versus not-washing has always sat uneasily with me. I am, quite clearly, a fan of the fabric - in all its guises. But the idea of just not washing my denim seems a little odd.

I get that it's all about preserving the integrity of the fabric and I support that. Really, I do. But it's the other reason for not washing that has me sidling up to the washing machine after a half a dozen or so wears. And that is dye.

Preserving the dye in the denim is heralded as a significant reason to not wash your jeans, but there is something about an old, faded and nearly falling apart pair of jeans that appeals to me on so many levels. I want my denim to fade. I want my dark washes to smooth into pale, I want my black to border on grey. I want my torn denim to shred and almost fall apart. I want lived in denim.

A pair of jeans that are faded and a little frayed around the edges will always be my choice over slick and sparkly new. I love denim that has a history, that tells a story. I love denim that changes over time and becomes something else.

And while it would be nice for that to happen organically with time and sun exposure and enthusiastic use, the reality is that I probably won't live for a hundred years to enjoy the results; and there's a good chance my waist line won't stay the same size either. Plus I'm impatient. So I wash. Not after every wear, sometimes after three or four or even half a dozen. But I do wash. And my denim fades and frays and the tears and rips get bigger and the buttons loose their sheen and I couldn't be happier.

And you know what, I reckon there is a fair amount of integrity in lived in denim. In denim with a story. In my washed denim.

kb xx

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


“’Tomorrow they’ll be so far,’ she said. ‘And we’ll just be here, isn’t that weird?’ ― always with a wistfulness that betrayed her envy of passengers traveling through the night at high speed. It was a mystery to Phoebe, her sister’s envy; why, when she and Faith were so clearly the winners, curled in warm beds, with Grandma’s rough starched sheets pulled tight across their chests? Given a choice, who wouldn’t choose home?”

The Invisible Circus

By Jennifer Egan

I’ve never read The Invisible Circus. I stumbled upon this quote while scrolling through blogposts last night and it hit me fair in the chest. Like right in the heart. I mean, who wouldn’t choose home? Right?

Well, me.

When Dorothy clicked her glittery red shoes and said there was no place like home, she was right. But she was right because home is less about a physical place and more about the people that make up your home - at least for me anyway. Home is where my family is, where my friends are. Home is where you feel comfortable and safe and happy (sometimes - you can be sad at home too). Home is where you don’t have to be anything but who you are. But sometimes, you need more than home. Or, perhaps more accurately, you need something different from home.

Many people are credited with scribing the adage home is where the heart is. It’s not one I particularly like, save for the obvious literal implications of home being where your heart is and your heart having to stay firmly inside your chest at all times regardless of geographic location. But also because it lends itself to the notion that home is a singular. I much prefer to think of it as a plural. For my own benefit, of course.

The thing is when you’re planning to leave home behind, and I’m not talking about the four walls and the roof kind so much as the country kind, suddenly the notion of home shifts and changes and expands to incorporate more than just a place of comfort and somewhere you can be you. It starts to be places and sounds and smells and tastes and things that can’t be boxed into anything.

Home becomes a subjective term when you leave it and set out to discover if it could mean something else.

I read a piece in The New Yorker last week about a man dealing with his mother moving - of her own volition I might add - into a retirement village of sorts. There was one line that captured quite succinctly what the notion of home in Australia means to me right now.

‘…the place I’ll always have to go back to in case adulthood falls through’

Kind of perfect, right?

Despite my preference for a plural, my idea that home becomes subjective and my willingness to leave it far behind, the truth is home for me is exactly that - somewhere I can go if being a grown up just doesn't work out.

kb xx

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

fashion or clothes?

Odd how a simple line in a comment on a blog can start you on a train of thought and have you arrive at an intersection you'd never considered before.

Susie Bubble of the imitable Style Bubble dealt with some interesting criticism on a recent post about the Louis Vuitton cruise show, something along the lines of a focus on 'unattainable and inaccessible fashion', but while Susie eloquently responded to her critic, is was the further defence of Susie by British fashion journalist, Alex Fury that contained the line that has now resulted in this post.

'...if you love fashion and not just clothes.'

At first, it seems difficult to divorce the two, what is fashion without clothes? And conversely what are clothes without fashion? But, are they actually two distinct spheres; two very different kettles of fish. Because while fashion generally results in garments - or clothes, clothes do not necessarily possess an element of fashion.

Does that make any sense at all?

Alex was pointing out that it is exactly the high fashion that seems so unattainable and inaccessible to many of us that is fashion, '...high street clothes *aren't* fashion. They're imitations. This is fashion. This is what gets picked over, masticated, reproduced for the masses. These are the people producing the new ideas and pushing us to places that are brave and new.'

And there is certainly truth to the charge of imitation and reproduction, but it's the separation of what is fashion and what are clothes that is most interesting. To me at least.

Consider it this way, you can love clothes and have no idea who Nicolas Ghesquiere is. You could own a thousand pairs of shoes and have a wardrobe that takes up half your house and not have a clue who Phoebe Philo is. The difference seems to be that loving fashion means those names do mean something. Because loving fashion isn't just about the clothes.

It's about so much more. On a purely aesthetic level, it's about fabric and cut and silhouette and shape and the way garments move as they saunter down the runway. But it's also about history and making references to that history and breaking free from it; it's about experimentation and pushing boundaries and forcing people to think about fashion in an unexpected way. It's about asking people to consider their relationship with their body, with fabric, with something as benign as seasons.

No, fashion isn't just about the clothes. And you can have the clothes without the fashion. But you can also have the clothes and the fashion. I don't believe it's an either or situation. I think it's about appreciating what each is about and taking from both what matters to you. Whether that be the actual garments themselves, or simply an appreciation for an aesthetic as imagined by Miuccia Prada or Sarah Burton. 

The democratisation of fashion doesn't mean that everything has to be attainable and accessible, let's be honest it never has been and never will, but it does mean that you get to choose what works for you. You can take a bit from high fashion, some high street, maybe some vintage or thrifted gems, some eco-design, one offs from exciting new designers - or even your own homemade threads, and you get to make it your own version of fashion.

And, really isn't that what it's all about?

kb xx

Sunday, June 08, 2014

an evolutionary concept

an evolutionary concept personal style the kirby bee

‘Fashion condemns us to many follies: the greatest is to make oneself its slave’

A few hundred years ago when Napoleon Bonaparte said that he had no idea I’d be using it as the basis for a discourse on personal style. Poor guy. As if being exiled wasn’t enough.

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal style lately. About what is means, how you figure it out and if it is absolutely necessary to have. And I’ve probably raised more questions than answers. But I think that’s kind of the point - I will explain that, stick with me here.

I'd like to be all positive and say that there are no regrets or mistakes in my sartorial life; that I’ve somehow managed to hone a style that is without error. But in reality, sometimes I look at something I wore two weeks ago and wonder what I was thinking.

With that in mind, what does personal style actually mean? Like one of those fashion terms that gets bandied around often, it appears like it has some deep meaning but when you really consider it, isn’t it just a subjective term? And given the definition of subjective - being based on or influenced by personal opinions, tastes and feelings - isn’t the notion of style (personal or otherwise) not deeply rooted in opinion?

That being the opinion that is intrinsically attached to the idea we have of ourselves. Surely how I feel about my life, my body or my bank balance has some impact on my opinion of style? And furthermore, surely my opinions on a plethora of sartorial questions, like prints, bold colours or pastels, double denim, vintage - the list is endless - impact my personal style? Which brings us back to subjectivity, again.

an evolutionary concept personal style the kirby bee two

So if so much of our personal style if made up of our personal opinions, it should be easy to figure out, right? As simple as ticking the box that best describes you and then making yourself comfortable inside that box - whether it be high-fashion, grunge or minimalism. If only it were that easy. How many of us could tick two or three or a dozen boxes?

And now it becomes clear that figuring out your personal style is about a lot more than identifying with a predetermined style of dress. And that’s where I discovered that, for me, personal style is an evolutionary concept - not a static one.

It’s evolutionary because so am I. In the sense that I am always growing (mainly older) and having new experiences and discovering new things, all of which impact my opinions on the world and consequently on my idea of style. Which kind of means that within any attempt at personal style, there must be trial and error; there must be change and experimentation and regrets and mistakes.

Perhaps because of the idea of personal style being evolutionary, I’m not convinced it should be something we should chase, that it should be something we should desire over anything else, sartorially speaking. Not that I’m adverse to the idea, I’m just increasingly reluctant to give it the weight it has historically been given.

Which ties in nicely (almost as if I’d planned it) with Napoleon and his talk of follies and fashion. Because in placing ourselves on the seemingly never-ending road that is the path to personal style are we not committing a great folly, by making ourselves a slave to the idea of personal style?

an evolutionary concept personal style the kirby bee three

More questions than answers, I know. But as I said above, I think that might be the point. In the sense that by posing and attempting to answer questions we are evolving, we are learning and growing and moving and circling around the idea of style in a wholly organic way. Which might just be the best way.

kb xx