Minority Report

June 10, 2009

Hey there loyal blog readers, if you’re still out there…

SWBA is back! We’ve been on quite a hiatus as our respective extra-curriculars have consumed all and any free time. Excuses, excuses. But I come to you now with more material than ever from this side of the world, having gathered images of patterns and colors and people and cultures everywhere between Buenos Aires and Bangkok.

What prompted the revival of this blog were some fantastic photos (because of the subject, as opposed to the photographer) I took whilst traveling around the ethnic minority villages of Northern Vietnam- the most inspiring ethnic-minority-tribal-dressing I have encountered thus far:


Indigo clad in layers upon layers of geometrically-cut vests, shawls and skirts, adorned with engraved silver earrings, necklaces and hairpieces, accessorized with flourescent graphically woven patterns paying homage to tribal heritage in the form of arm bands and waist belts, the H’Mong ethnic minority women are a sight to see, dressed impeccably from head to toe.

a gathering of woven H'mong patterns

a gathering of woven H'mong patterns

It’s a wonder that they take the time and energy every morning to dress themselves to the nines. For them, I suppose, it’s not so much a fashion statement (as such effort is only put forth in the western world to dress to impress) but a traditional way of life.


It’s really incredible to see people dress this way in this modern day and age; these women look fabulous and always will, economic crisis or not. Once in awe of designers such as Dries Van Noten and Matthew Williamson, who love incorporating ethnic influences into their shows, I now almost feel like they are ripping off the designs of these small ethnic tribes.

And now let’s hope to hear from my cohort across the Pacific about the summa day and summa night styles in the Big Apple…

Hello you bizarre, beautiful land of sea creature lore and pirate ship legend…of worn, weathered churches and wooden steeples…of rainbow hermitages decorated with doily curtains and overgrown rosebushes…what have we here?


cecilia-0021cecilia-003Ever since I landed on Isla Grande de Chiloe, I have been entranced with the peculiar characters that inhabit this Patagonian Island. Fatty-pants papas with coarse black ´staches and silver ear wigs in homespun argyle sweaters, leather-skinned ship captains with pipes stuck in black gaps between snaggled teeth, hunch-backed baldies in oversized suits of clashing houndstooths and glenplaids… Whatever the look, the bottom portion is most often tucked into a pair of fishermans wellies- a matter of necessity here, but most recently proclaimed by Prada as the latest fashion footwear when paired with outfits that err on the austere. Have the Chilotean fisherman been onto something all along?


Their female counterparts rock out in their own versions of seaside practicality meets 1940s Eastern Europe. They paint their faces in garish clown colors and dye their hair in equally freakmonster shades; evidence for my fantasy that they are the ex-wenches that once entertained pirates aboard the ships and in the lantern-lit fishing dens on this island.


Their attire ranges on the opposite side of the spectrum, however, as post-war conservative. Elsewhere, this garb could be found in bargain bins and backracks in Goodwill basements, reeking of mothballs and formaldehyde, and the ensembles could easily be slaphappy layers of protection against the seafront. But here, these grannies have an inherent restraint, successfully pairing mixed patterns in bold colors- still, nothing too obtrusive to the eye. I like the un-matching matching. It is not so easy to pull off and I am always so pleased when it works out; a smorgasbord of patterns that entertain the eye instead of offending it. I spotted a woman by the fish market and stalked her to capture her shoes and dress, the bold plaid and floral combination reminding me of the hodgepodge looks in some of Milan´s recent shows.

vintage florals and in-your-face plaids

vintage florals and in-your-face plaids

And below…she works hard for her money…so hard for it honey: A Chilotean on the seafront village of Dacalhue hawks her wares of seashells and sheep spun yarn, choosing to wear the same shades of muted mauve with deep navy as above, seemingly the uniform colors of many women here.  I am in awe of her bright red knit dome piece. It´s unexpected and eye-cathing…that extra punch of color and the look is just right.



February 23, 2009

This Valentines Day, the distant sun gave some love to New York City.

sweet and gritty

eye candy

We crossed the bridge to take a vacation in Soho, where crowds with scarves and shades blossom on the narrow sidewalks. Boutiques announce ridiculous sales without ceremony, trinket mongers chew straws and perch in unseasonable lawn chairs, the people look most anywhere but ahead. Suddenly, a dark formation cuts through the contented droves.


The silver sneaks catch my wandering attention at a crosswalk, and I am pleasantly surprised as my eyes travel upwards: an apron of baggy leather cutoffs hangs over straight-legged pants and a structured yet relaxed peacoat a la regal downtown gramps – now we’ve got something! But the piece de resistance are the trousers of their leader…

leaderManeuvering through the crowds on able grasshopper legs shod in elongated booties, this one also layers homespun elegance into a slick, urban uniform. That band of mossy fisherman sweater connects his perfectly twisted and bellowed dandy pants and sporty jacket, it’s curled, chunky neck lends pensiveness and a little vulnerability to his shaved noggin. Fashion is about taking risks, after all.

Slicing aloofly through the crowd, this flock in knit and leather reminds me of ravens, who in late winter are the small lords of the pinon forests of Arizona. Riding the sharp air solo, they convene in glossy cliques against the snow. They strut with their shoulders raised, at once majestic and scrappy, serene but watchful, and aware of being watched.


Tapped into their own soundtrack, this wayward formation injects some original style into the thawing streets of Soho.

tough and hard to find

With love from New York!