Superficiality, the pursuit of fashion, and coming to terms with myself.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 Jonette 2 Comments

(Taken from my Tumblr)
I think this is going to be the first time I've written a Tumblr text post. If not the first, this will be a first in a really long while. Allow me to thresh out a thought I've been carrying in me for quite a while. Perhaps, you could say this is my way of exorcising demons, coming to terms with myself and my art, and seeing things through a fresh perspective.

Let's begin.

The entirety of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 has not been easy for me. I've been sick, broke, disappointed, shot down in a number of aspects of my life for all kinds of reasons. I'm truly thankful for the piece-a-piece triumphs the year gave me, and they didn't come easy. I'd like to think of them as little shards of hope that made the dark 2010 meaningful.

I also realized that 2010 saw a great decline in my crafting and sewing productivity.

I could think of a number of reasons right now that contributed to this plummet. After Ondoy, the house badly needed attention. My weekly housekeeper walked out on me, and I had to buck up and learn how to run a house and keep it clean on my own pronto. The tools I prized and used for my art had been washed away, muddied, and muddled in the typhoon's aftermath. Help did come from many and unexpected quarters, and so did expenses and responsibilities. There was also mending my own spirit to attend to.

Imagine, a whole year.

As of right now, I'm glad and thankful 2011 sees me in a much better state and disposition compared to last year. It's good to cultivate the feeling of hopefulness and the can-do, positive attitude that once fueled me to constantly be inspired and create again, albeit little by little. I find myself sometimes starting from Square One, taking permission from the Universe that "it's okay to be confident, it;s okay to spread your wings and shine again, it's okay to let your brain come out and play and run amok in glee". I find myself taking baby steps, from Square One to Square 1.2, to 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, and so on. Baby steps.

A part of me wants to chide myself that I should've had this straightened out right away, I should've willed myself back to being an instant lighthouse of positivity and radiance, I should've snapped my fingers, and be all I'm sickeningly fabulous, yo, work it hunty! since I preach the gospel of loving yourself and self-worth. But maybe it's best I really don't need to pressure myself to change overnight. Change is a slow-painful process, but perhaps the slower the change, the more meaningful and lasting it is.

I won't limit myself, and I'm through putting myself down, but I won't pressure myself to rise too quickly either. All growth is worth waiting for.

So... now, what does this have to do with fashion?

Let me introduce you to a great colleague of mine, Mezarc Buslon. (hi, dear.)

One afternoon, a simple conversation with Mezarc opened the floodgates of possibility for me again. After a very, very long time of creative silence and abstinence for me, he lit a fire under me and encouraged me to come back and start creating again. "You can do this, just keep being creative!"

It is thanks to him that I started looking at the creations of Carolina Herrera, Betsey Johnson, Karl Lagerfeld, Chloe Dao, and other designers. I could feel the gears shifting and clicking in my mind, seeing how they expressed a particular inspiration in a collection, the many many ways they were interpreted, how colors, shape, silhouette, cut, and material helped create so many unique looks, but were still unified as a whole.

It's a good feeling, allowing yourself to feel inspired again. Telling yourself it's okay to light a fire and set it on a high place again so I can caper and cavort in this glorious feeling again. It's a great feeling, owning the thought that I am a creative person, and I have marvelous, fantastic, mind-blowing ideas that are just waiting to be let out and brought to life.

A lot of Real Life happened, and I had to focus on that aspect of my life first. I wouldn't go as far as to say it was a very bad thing, and I don't think it was. It was an essential part of life, and there some things I had to set aside for the time being. Now, I do realize Real Life will continue to happen whether we want it to or not, and it's really up to us -- up to me -- to make the best of the time I'm given at the place or situation I'm in.

If the situation is crappy, make the best of it; even if people say the end result is slightly better than crappy, what's important is you know made the best of it and gave it your 100%. Be kind to yourself. Don't compare your own achievements to what others have achieved, regardless of age, financial standing, or other factors. In the wise words of the song Baz Luhrmann's Sunscreen: "the race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself."

 If the situation is fine to great, then good for you! There still so much opportunity and possibilities to make the best of it. Be thankful Life gave you a very generous initiative roll, and make the best of it.

I'm writing this down so that when I find myself beating myself up and limiting myself, I can go back and read this and tell myself It's Okay.

My friends and family who have been constantly supportive -- Clair, Arman, Anna, Mik, AJ, my dad, and so many more -- are constant reminders that the world is a good place to thrive in.

So... what does all this have to do with fashion, again?


I recall reading somewhere that fashion designers needed to get in touch with what was essential in life, that they were superficial. The word stung, and gave me faint flashbacks of unsavory high school memories. Superficial? How so? Fashion is a good thing, right? It's also a form of art in its own way...

I pondered, and pondered, and pondered some more, how could people say such a thing of fashion?

Days gave way to weeks and months, and Real Life caught up with me. I started creating travel plans for myself and the boyfriend to make this 2011 count, and this meant staying on my toes constantly at work for me. this also meant becoming wiser with money matters, and being firmer with my budget priorities. I started feeling that work was a demanding mistress, and that I barely had time to dress up and be pretty.

The words "frumpy" and "dowdy" come to mind, and these are not very pleasant words to be, or to see oneself in. I went home to Cainta, and had to muster as much discipline I had to pull things together. Life in the Philippines is tough, but I'm tougher -- that was the biggest motto in my mind. So big, in fact, that it decided fashion didn't have a space in my mind at the time.

I didn't help that I started feeling negative feelings creeping up my throat whenever I saw my local contemporaries or people younger than I was(!) making it big or striking it out in the industry. Jealousy will kill your art and creativity; never a pleasant feeling to have. It will kill your self-worth, and make room for other horrible feelings and actions -- sour-graping ("Oh, it's just because they're rich; or they have more time on their hands"), destructive criticism ("what the hell is this? this is such an ugly/run-of-the-mill/copy-cat garment/ accessory, I wouldn't buy it"), claiming things that haven't happened yet ("I could probably make something better than this, pfeh!"), and in the end, leaving yourself with a very negative feeling about everything in general and giving up on it -- including yourself.

I stop and think about everything I wrote in the last paragraph, and I realize when I slip into these sourpuss moments, I really haven't been fair to these artists. This is the exact same kind of attitude Sir Dong Ampil De Los Reyes warn me against -- if you take it upon yourself to criticize everything, to constantly say "this is crap! what an ugly thing", you just proved to the world you're only good at destroying things. It would certainly be a lot better to instead take inspiration from these and to go out and make something yourself.

In hindsight, whenever I looked at other people's work, like Mich Dulce's, Happy F*art, Shop Soporifique, and other local artists I've discovered, I should have been more positive about about the experience.

Even now, I do feel that widening gap between myself and fashion (which I have now come to equate with creativity). Sad, sad. This has got to stop!

This, however, doesn't mean I need to start being superficial.

I've been doing some reading around the Internet. It helps me, really. I read Mr.Karl Lagerfeld's twitter, and while some may seem eccentric and slightly demanding, I see a person who has utmost devotion and love for his craft.  I also read Ms. Chloe Dao's blog and it warms my heart to see that despite all the success she has been through, she is still a really cheerful, hard-working lady who appreciates and is thankful for good things in whatever form they take in her life.

In short, these artists are not superficial. There's a deeper side to them, so much deeper than what most of the public knows. Perhaps I can take courage there.

There were three blog posts that also helped -- posts one, two, three.  

Here, I would like to highlight particular statements in the blog posts that have struck a chord with me. {pic source}
  • So although we can argue that fashion is part of a crazed consumerism and attempts to mass-market happiness, is  indulgent, and ego-driven, I much prefer to see dressing oneself in the things that one loves as a form of self-care.... we can go forth in a way that explores, reinforces, and radiates our true self,  our inner beauty and unique sense of style.  In the vein of self care and  grounded in the service of helping others learn to practice such  loving kindness toward themselves in  daily lives, I am adding  personal stylist  to my bag of tricks, if you will.  
  •  (fashion as likened to writing as an art form): When I’m in a bad mood, a self-absorbed, self-flagellating bad mood, it seems almost embarrassing to me that I should be trying to foist my creations on the world. Sometimes I feel like I should be doing something more useful. Chris is the one who argues with me when I’m feeling like this. This, he says, is where Communism comes from. (He’s no McCarthy, but he gets very defensive about literature.) We need art, he says. It’s not all steel mills and blacksmiths. We need art.
  • Fashion only gets superficial when the wearer follows fashion without thinking and copies exactly what is dictated by the fashion houses. 
  • "Fashion to me is a way of expressing myself and communicating how I feel." --Carina van der Kloet
So, there. Times may be tough, true, but fashion need not be thought of as something "I need to put away for a while". It is, in essence, an art form. It is a way of saying, "Hello world, this is who I am at the moment." It is not so much a game of fit-the-stereotype paperdoll, as it is more of a being a box of crayons/ craypas/ watercolors/ what-have-you to paint the canvas that is you. you don't even have to be a Rembrandt about it; just be honest with yourself, be yourself, be brave, and celebrate that You on the canvas. (The canvas is still essentially you.)

Writing this rather long post made me feel a lot better, really. I now realize I need to be gentler with myself, to pressure myself less, be less critical with myself. I am only racing against myself, and that's all I need to know. Life is a celebration, and that in itself must be expressed; I find I cannot truly celebrate whenever I am harsh or overly critical of myself.

I must remind myself to be fearless in experimentation.

All is right with the world. The Universe is a grand, playful, creative place to be alive in, and it manifests every single aspect of it in me and you. I'm thankful for that, and I want to celebrate that as much as I can, as much as this life will allow. 


  1. I am giving you a huge virtual hug right now. Just because. :)

  2. Thanks, girl. I'm going to take this one step at a time. :)


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