There is a speech given by Jeremy Irons that sums up perfectly why finance and fashion are fundamentally in the same business.
What have I told you since the first day you stepped into my office? There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first; be smarter; or cheat. Now, I don’t cheat. And although I like to think we have some pretty smart people in this building, it sure is a hell of a lot easier to just be first.
Being first is my game. I’ve taken it from a career in luxury fashion to a career to a career in venture capital. It’s the same fucking job.
Just remember that being first is the key to both. And your ability to be first is almost entirely a function of cool. And being cool means not giving a fuck. And if you don’t give a fuck its generally for one of two reasons. Its either because you have the status to do and can get away with it or or you genuinely don’t care.
Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.
I had the good fortune of attending a dinner last night with a group of very interesting people. I particularly enjoy dinner parties as a cultural gathering as I enjoy conversation.
It was a misty atmospheric evening with on-and-off rain in Amsterdam so I decided to take a long walk before the dinner to work up an appetite.
Normally I’d dress for a dinner party with heels and a cocktail dress but wet cobblestone streets made required boots with traction. Styling clunky flat walking boots with a flowing long black witchy dress felt right for Halloween. I had a piece of art deco costume jewelry to add a bit more formality to the whole affair.
I’ve got no idea if I pulled off the styling of challenge of an outfit for a Lindy walk and a dinner party but I enjoyed the challenge. There is a satisfaction in combining utility and social decorum in styling.
I wasn’t entirely prepared for the dinner to go till almost midnight or I might have passed on a long meandering walk beforehand. The conversation flowed until the restaurant begged us to let them close.
I gather most of the group continued on into the wee hours afterwards but my energy was flagging so I said my goodbyes and walked back to my hotel. It was long past my bedtime.
I’ve got a Notion document that has a list of all the various medicines, supplements, and other necessities for keeping me healthy & functional on the road. I also maintain a packing list in my daily note book by hand to double check. Then I lay it all out on a towel and double check against both lists. Each separate bag & cascade of needs goes through this process.
Because you can’t rely on checked bags arriving at the same time as you (or sometimes at all) I separate out what I need for the first 3 days in my Aer backpack, the first week in my carryon roller bag from Muji, and the remainder of the trip in a checked bag. That’s the three bag cascade system.
Being detail oriented is crucial to the packing coming together. I go so far as to label my packing cubes so I know what pajamas to grab for the overnight versus the more formal clothing which can be safely checked. A separate set of casual outfits goes in the carry on so no matter what happens I’m comfortable and have what I need.
I’ve got some travel coming up that I’m excited about. I’ll be headed to Europe and more specifically the Baltics. I’ve got plans for both Tallinn and Helsinki. If you are based there and want to hang out drop me a line and let’s get together.
It’s funny how longer trips act as a focus on what’s really crucial to get done. The care that goes into making sure your life (and the items in it) functional is constant.
I often put off errands and services with a “maybe next week” mentality. One week becomes one month and then suddenly I haven’t had my haircut since May and it’s October. So I’m packing a bunch of “to do” appointments to make care the care and maintenance of myself, my body and my belongings.
Even as I place orders for vitamins and find myself reorganizing the toiletries cabinet, I am reminded that the list of care and maintenance never gets any shorter.
There is always a dentist appointment or a salon visit. I’ve got a pile of clothes that need mending and tailoring that hasn’t been addressed since before the pandemic. Yes, I’m one of those types that thinks a tailor and a cobbler are crucial services for civilized living. I like to take care of what I own. That includes everything from my body to my boots.
I was doing some fall shopping today. I’ve got upcoming trips for work in the next two months for which I am excited to dress.
In my past life I worked in fashion. While I mostly worked with luxury brands, I did a stint in-house at one of the heritage American sportswear brands Ann Taylor.
American Sportswear or the American Look doesn’t refer to athletic or athleisure wear. Rather it’s specific historical movement in which American fashion designers freed themselves from British and Parisian norms of Saville Row custom suiting and haute couture
Sportswear is an American fashion term originally used to describe separates, but which since the 1930s demonstrates a specific relaxed approach to design, while remaining appropriate for a wide range of social occasions. The American Look included garments whose modesty, comparative simplicity, and wearability treated fashion as a “pragmatic art” which was lived in.
Sportswear was designed to be easy to look after and an expression of various aspects of American culture, including health ideals, democracy, comfort and function, and innovative design.
You probably think isn’t this just how clothing is made? Not until the Americans democratized fashion. Easy to wear and simple to look after separates (as opposed to matched suits & evening gowns) which could be mixed and matched into many outfits was it’s hallmark. It includes items like dresses designed to be easy to put on and wear in many social situations
American Sportswear was a unique style born out of burgeoning middle class wealth and a desire for more active independent lifestyles that included leisure time, a concept previously reserved for the upper classes. No ladies maids or butlers are required for a Claire McCardell popover dress.
Ann Taylor become a dominant best selling brand in the American Sportswear style beginning in 1954 and rose to prominence in the 70s and 80s. Unlike other designer who went for a slightly pricier market like Donna Karen, Calvin Klein, or Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor stayed true to the history of The American look by serving the aspiring middle class throughout.
It began by offering tailored dresses in its first store in New Haven. It’s name comes from the Ann dress which was its best seller. It eventually grew to become the choice for women balancing office jobs and home life.
When I worked there in house, Ann prided itself on quality fabrics in quality cuts. You could get fully lined wool suit jackets and silk blouses for under $250. A leather kitten heel could be had for $150. Those prices now recall fast fashion brands likes Zara and certainly wouldn’t involve cashmere or Italian leather.
But the great bifurcation of American classes had already begun. In 2010 when I was there a dwindling vestige of working girls and upward mobility demanded versatile clothing that still put quality fabric, pattern work, and cuts at the forefront.
There was demand for looking professional and not simply just being “trendy” as there were still professional women & financially secure housewives looking for polish over flash and seasonal novelty. Instagram was only just stirring and yes I was the one who put the brand on Facebook, Instagram and blogs.
I left for greener pastures. The pioneering brand president dedicated to revitalizing the brand was fired . Eventually Ann Taylor was bought by a private equity firm which just a few years later went bankrupt. The middle market of middle class women was dwindling. And hollowing out the margins for PE didn’t help much.
Now if you are looking for clothing in that price point of $150-$350 you will struggle. A suit jacket from other middle market brands like Theory now $850 for something with poor fit and no lining. You can pull off something that looks like a suit jacket from a fast fashion retailer but if you want natural fabrics like cotton, silk or cashmere the chances are good you have to trade up into the luxury market.
Fashion has bifurcated in the social media fast fashion age. And what constitutes a luxury brand isn’t particularly luxurious in its fabrics or patterns. Just it’s price points. You can go cheap or you can go for pricey but the struggle to find something that is actually a decent garment meant to last has become much worse.
I’d tell you where I did my shopping but I’m afraid the brand might not be long for this world just like Ann Taylor. It’s eponymous designer is in her seventies. And she prefers a technical fabric to a natural fabric so has been able to maintains her price points. If you DM in private I’ll tell you. If I needed a decent suit jacket I don’t think I could find one at a middle class price point anymore. The bifurcation is here with us to stay.
I’m enjoying watching the fall social season kick into high gear. It’s much more enjoyable to take some many events remotely as so much signaling is done in real time. Between actual live feeds and television coverage and social media feeds you can take a lot in without exhausting yourself.
Burning Man and the U.S Open are the end of summer staples in Yuppieland though very different types of yuppies. And both events are showing us a lot about the current moment.
I’m sure Burners would insist that the experience is about the in person but so many social media influencers burn for content that you’ve got more visibility on the aesthetics and the vibes than ever before.
Tennis is more about strictly about the sport than Burning Man is about the art. But you learn as much from player style, who is sitting where, and what is being covered in the media. The stories behind the event are as important as the event. An outfit can dominate headlines for years becoming iconic.
And then of course we have New York fashion week. It’s an event that used to dominate my life. There was a time before social media at the tents. Women’s Wear Daily claims I’m the first person to have live-blogged a show. I’m skeptical it’s true but I do have the receipts. I snuck in with a photographer and made a whole business of making fashion shows a live social media spectacle before some of these influencers were out of Gap Kids.
So naturally as I age and race to exit my thirties into middle age I’m thrilled I don’t need to be at the shows to know what’s happening in fashion. We may no longer pour of Style.com shots the next day but we’ve got an infinite complex that has emerged to show you every kind of style that’s been imagined.
I’m grateful I didn’t need to go to any of these events. I keep my one on one time for founders and my investors. If I had the spare energy for any of these events I’d probably prefer to use it on one one time with folks. In the past I’d be missing out on all of it. Now there is no fear of missing out. Only deciding what signals you want to separate from the noise.
I have led a complicated life. I didn’t really know as a child that being raised by syncretic vaguely nomadic hippies looking for utopias wasn’t really all that relatable. Aside from the general revivalism ethos of America, most folks tend to ride middle of the herd.
There I was not realizing I had a nose for powerful evangelism. I missed that boarding schools and colleges were meant to put you in a certain place in society. Then I didn’t know that spending time inside cultural institutions like fashion was an aspiration. I didn’t really clock that startups, or venture capital, or fucking around online would be a nexus of power either. I just thought all those places looked cool so I showed up.
Maybe I was simple. Maybe I just flowed like water towards the chaos before it became the big show for everyone. I am someone who understands the Thursday Styles problem of timing and I like to get there a little bit ahead of time. Get good seats and sell picks and shovels. From there it’s just a matter of having the stomach for the ride.
But knowing where the boundaries on consensus are is what keeps you from being swept up in the madness, as a movement meant for small mysteries and initiates suddenly sees the harsh glare of vox populi.
And so I am called to remember it is a gift to be simple. It’s a Shaker tune if you recall. Speaking of religious revivalism. The internet’s second brain tells me they were a millenarianrestorationistChristiansect with a dualist view of God and equality between the sexes. Quakers and Shakers clearly impressed American’s hippies with this catchy tune. I know I learned it by heart as a child’s.
Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ‘Tis the gift to come down where I ought to be; And when we find ourselves in the place just right, ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight. When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed; to turn, turn, will be my delight. Till by turning, turning we come round right.
Maybe you also live a complicated life. Or maybe you are working to simplify your life. Whatever you do remember you can have more agency than you think. I’m sending you that message from the valley of love and delight that is Gallatin Valley.
It’s a holiday in America and Germany today, so this morning I went out to do some semiotic spotting like an elder millennial Cayce Pollard.
Just kidding (not kidding). I went to have breakfast at an outdoor cafe and went for a long walk. All imagery shown in this post was captured in service of a stroll. That stroll had a smoked salmon & horseradish cream on toast in the middle of it. I was walking a trendy mixed use neighborhood that was just on the line between hipster and yuppie.
I felt like I got in as I was wearing entirely unbranded minimalist garments. I was eyeing “out of home” advertising design elements during a stint a digital nomad in a major culture & financial hub. Yes, I enjoy my own main character energy when I’m pretending I’m a Gibsonian heroine.
The pollen was killing me after two hours. Cayce is the protagonist of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and makes her living in advertising by having an extreme sensitivity to corporate logos and mascots. My eyes were itchy, red and swollen and my own aesthetic attention felt equally uncomfortable. Everywhere I looked was mass market diffusion “direct to consumer” aesthetics. Including on an Ann Frank day poster.
The poster’s design included multiple 2016 style Pantone shades of blue including teal with geometric blocking. It gave the impression it was a cookware brand being advertised on the New York City subway somewhere in the middle of the DTC design boom.
Other design elements also brought to mind the DTC rush for me. Flat lay citrus with a reusable shopping bag? A pensive woman on a simple prop like a stair case? I can’t tell if it was Everlane circa 2014 or Bon Appetite from before their woke crisis.
Thankfully weirdness did eventually prevail over the seamless sameness of flattened consumption messaging. A Linkin Park tribute band and something labeled “Heavy Pysch Stoner Kraut” gave me some faith that weird shit was alive and well. Sanded down Silicon Valley by way Baudrillard consumer aesthetics may be soothing in their sameness.
But I was searching for friction. If only to distract myself from being itchy. Pollen and boutique design agency products make me break out.
I’ve developed a system for travel crisis management that has seen me through many a storm, workers strike, airport security involuntary cosmetics tosses, gate check “full overhead” confiscation, and other ways you might become involuntarily separated from your luggage. Perhaps even permanently at the rate you hear of luggage getting lost on transcontinental flights.
My system is pretty simple and a bit sad yet it’s crucial but I cannot be without certain items. I have a medical condition (ankylosing spondylitis) that requires delicate management. I carry a anti-inflammatory that is an injection pen that must be kept refrigerated. I carry a full travel pharmacy including solutions for all major issue from from digestive troubles to anaphylaxis, and analgesics or “forcing function drugs” for emergencies. Most are stored in labeled plastic bags but a few few controlled substances have to remain in their bottles or they can be confiscated by customs unless I can prove the prescription. In other, words. I can’t let the airline ever get their hands on it and it has to be provably mine.
My backpack is my hand luggage under the seat item. In it I keep my travel pharmacy, a basic quart bag of grooming & cosmetic basics, all my electronics & their chargers, and a BagSmart packing cube with a change of pajamas (including under wear, bra, & extra socks). This functions as my purse for the duration of travel so includes wallet, phone, passport, chapstick, hand sanitizer, extra warmth layer, and other essentials. Even if my carry on bag gets checked against my will and lost in transport, I can still survive on what’s in this bag no matter where I end up.
Grey Muji Roller
Alas this bag isn’t sold anymore but it’s a soft top 4 wheel overhead. It’s my typical one week trip companion. It will go overhead unless something happens so this contains a week’s worth of basic clothing, shoes, and purse that could function for an entire trip if necessary. It is all organized and labeled in BagSmart compression cubes. I keep the majority of my secondary cosmetics here as well so I can shave, shower, do some hair and makeup. If I have a checked luggage failure (it’s lost forever) I’d be alright. I also keep a week’s worth of supplements while a month would go into the checked bag. I also keep 2 detergent tablets in this and the remaining in checked. Yes, I bring my own detergent because allergies.
For longer trips like say a month in Europe I do a checked bag. I pack stuff that I’d prefer to have larger sizes of like toothpaste & body lotions and my preferred shampoo, conditioner and styling products. Still 3 oz but no sense in lugging if you have the luxury. I also pack all my professional and going out clothing in here if it’s not absolutely necessary on landing in which case it would go into the grey carry on. I have dresses and separates that can handle anything from cocktail to family office for a month.
How It Works
I have every item listed in a packing template in Notion but I also do a ritual where I write it all out on a note pad and note the placement of each item in the cascade failure packing stage as either backpack, carry on or checked so I always know where everything is at all times. I’ve never been separated from anything critical like medicine or an electronic. Every time I travel I refine the lists and procedures.
It’s been a beautiful week in the Gallatin Valley. Every single morning on my daily constitutional walk I notice new growth. Very suddenly we went from of melting & assessing snow damage to bright and sunny spring green.
The more northern latitudes get a shorter growing season (in fact we will get more snow) but the season is one of magnified intensity as our evenings stretch towards 10pm before the light is gone. And so on this first weekend of May we’ve begun taking action on spring. Hobby farmers spring into action.
My husband and I have no idea what we are doing but with the true spirit of fuck around and find out we began anyway. Our running joke is that Alex is a #ManofAction as there is just simply so much more practically to do when you live on land for which you are ultimately responsible. It’s a lot of fun and very grounding.
And as you might guess the most liberating feeling in the world is being held accountable for yourself and your choices. So even knowing full well you are basically that dog typing on a computer subtitled “I’ve got no ideal what I’m doing” you carry on anyway.
While I did a few laps around the pasture and helped with a bit of the lighter work my role was mostly to capture the fun and excitement of trying something new. We picked two apple, two plum and one cherry from Starks Brothers to add in after a fall planting of a number of apple trees. We’ve got no idea if any of this is going to take. We’ve read some books but that barely counts.
Meanwhile inside the homestead I’ve been doing some spring cleaning. I’ve been appropriately assigned gender formative roles as I actually enjoy keeping things attractive and beautiful. The closests need turning over from the wool and layering over to tee-shirts, sundresses, and linens. Alex mostly goes from button downs to tee shirts. Jeans are swapped for cargo shorts. Being a man is simpler.
Winter boots need to be put away and flats, sneakers and sandals brought to the front. Alex had more work gear and footwear as he does more of the outdoors work than I do so shoes are more Alex than me.
Heavy winter oil and moisture rich cosmetics will give way to lighter water creams and ceramides. I don’t change retinols but I may add in more C and lactic acid for turnover in the heat. Alex meanwhile gets away with a basic vitamin C moisturizer and SPF.
I alas have not dealt with getting my hair trimmed in sometime but the reminder that it’s time to cut off dead ends is ultimately a spring time ambition. Hopefully you had the good sense to prune in the winter. My husband is lucky enough to simply buzz his head. Happy spring everyone and may your rituals enjoyable to you.