This Beautiful Movement

A meditation on culture, behavior, and beautiful things.

Sustainability in Fashion: A Forgotten Conversation?

“Second to oil, fashion and textiles is the most polluting industry in the world.” – Dr Linda Greer in her article Remove Toxic Chemicals and Fabrics from Fashion’s Supply Chain.

Here is something we should all be thinking about a little more than we do as consumers, but certainly this sums up one of my own moral quandaries with the industry in which I work. I think about the way our collective awareness of the food industry has slowly, but significantly, changed what we want to put in our bodies and also how many (not all, I know) responsible food industry folks from farmers to chefs have shifted their processes to a better standard. Why not in fashion?

There really hasn’t been as much success with clothing and textiles. A few years ago everything was being marketed as sustainable or green fashion – these days not so much. Did industry folks move on to chase higher profit margins or did they realize they would have to put more work into changing their business-as-usual standards than they were willing to give?

While I’m at it, isn’t it time we get over the fast fashion, fashionista, bargainista, trend (all words that make me cringe) thing? Let’s move on from acquiring things to acquire things.


Jim Hodges

I recently ventured to the Gladstone Gallery at 530 West 21st, NYC to see the work of Jim Hodges. Four mammoth rocks partially coated in a metallic-like enamel are configured so that the “adultered” surfaces face one another.

Jim Hodges exhibit photos by Sylvia Chen

While each rock on its own has the ability to make me feel the impact of awe – I really have no betters words for this – I really enjoyed seeing how the reflection and interaction of the proximity of the other rocks effected the surface of each color. The rippling movement of the high gloss surfaces appear electrically charged. What struck me the most was the contrast in surfaces. The intersection of the natural rock surface and the applied coating really gave me the impression that the same form in a different surface treatment can have radically different effects.

Runway photos from
Jim Hodges
exhibit photos by Sylvia Chen

I can see the mixture synthetic and natural, matte and shiny materials pairing together in a cohesive piece. Can’t you imagine a wooly textured coat lined in a shock of lustrous satin?

Red, Revised

Note: This post is a revision of a prior post from September 14, 2011.

Red, bold as ever. Last week in the Meat Packing District, I met two lovely ladies who wore red in different but similarly striking ways. Below is Hannah of vintage style blog Style.Spot.Run pairing red with pink in what very well might be inspired by the classic YSL color blocking of the 70′s.

Clockwise from Left: Original street shot // Sylvia Chen; The Complete Guide to Disco Dancing;

Gabrielle was looking so radiant as she was rushing down the sidewalk, that I had to stop her mid-stride to catch her. She still manages to look together even with flip flops on as she totes her “real” shoes. I enjoy how the black sash functions as additional color blocking as it separates her red top from her trousers. To me, her silhouettes – the sash and the ballooning legs of her pants – incorporate a spirit of the mysterious Morocco or even gypsies. I like the balance of the old-world shapes with the modern, clean separation of color.

Clockwise from Left: Original street shot // Sylvia Chen;; David Hewson

Biophilia – a Personal Inspiration

All photos above by Sylvia Chen

Biophilia – a term coined by Professor Edward O. Wilson – refers to the innate human love of nature. I first heard Biophilia mentioned while watching the BBC Planet Earth series.

It is also a recently released album by Björk.

I look back at my photos over the past several years, and I notice that I, too, am in love and inspired by all things of nature.

Inspired by WGSN

Retail Trend: Nature from Nostalgia

Left Column: Rag & Bone // Huffington Post; In God We Trust //; A Détacher, Elizabeth St. storefront, Spring St. storefront // Sylvia Chen
Right Image: Love, Adorned // Sylvia Chen

Retail stores are telling a story of the old times. Not only is the merchandise inspired by the heavy vintage influence of these last few years, but stores are dressed up to bring out our nostalgia. They tug at our fascination with the charming “old days,” and as we surround ourselves with the safety of the past, we can’t help but to seek comfort in another longtime friend – nature. Compare this to the futuristic minimalism of our injection-molded retail pasts – remember when we couldn’t get enough of that bubbly euro club look?

I look forward to seeing more connection to nature and the natural materials that have surfaced from the trend of nostalgia, but moved forwards into more innovated applications.

Pink and Blushes – Washed Out

Spring/Summer 2013 will feature a combination of washed out color combined with the vitality of the surprisingly vivid. I am inspired by the sun washed, almost sanded or dusty, pinks, corals, and blushes. I imagine sea corals, usually seen as brilliant colors, worn down by years of light and rough waters. The pinks and blushes waver somewhere in between the flesh tone and a grey – it is almost illusive. The coral is more obvious, but less brash than corals of years prior. Pink is historically one of my least favorite colors – so I think it is interesting that it has captured my attention.

Blue & Black

Original street photos// Sylvia Chen; Runway images //

A standout trend seen this fall is the prevalence of the pairing of blue and black. The intensely saturated blue is emphasized even more against a black background. Georgia, pictured on the left, also mixed surface texture and layering for a multidimensional effect. On the Fall 2011 runway shows it was seen at ADAM, Alibino, and 3.1 Philip Lim among others. Designers have also continued this trend for their Spring/Summer 2012 looks – seen at Lacoste, T by Alexander Wang, and Hermes. It is interesting to see how the effect of the blue/black contrast is given a seasonal treatment as the climate will get warmer. In the Lacoste show, there appeared an interchanging of black with the trendy blue of the recent – Yves Klein Blue. The intensity of contrast is taken down a notch.

1930’s American Street Wear

For most, 1930’s American style evokes the elegant, womanly figure synonymous with Hollywood glamour. We imagine floor length gowns in lustrous silks, deep cut back reveals, and trains swishing behind the foots steps of the most glitzy woman. I gravitate towards another school of fashion that was occurring in this uncertain post-Depression era – that is the casual street wear of the day. Unlike the sumptuous frocks reflected on the silver screens that were meant to allow us a moment to dream of a better life and richer times, the day wear of the 1930’s was, in contrast, actually quite restrained.

The Painted Woman blog

We can observe, even in current times, that the more uncertain the times the longer the hemline. As a drastic change to the flapper girl’s leg-baring look, Skirts often hit at the calf and remained closer to the body. Jackets were tailored with strong shoulders and often hit right at the natural waist. The de rigeur attitude of the times was to refrain from overdressing for any occasion – thus, it was widely acceptable for the woman to wear the same dress that was appropriate for the morning or afternoon to an occasion in the evening or to dinner.  Here it would make sense that the accessories would help change the look of a dress throughout the day. The woman could change her jacket for a capelet or a fur collar, adorn herself with gold jewelry or put on a fancy hat.

The Painted Woman blog

The 1930’s woman has served as the precursor to the active, modern woman’s  manner of dressing. Today there is even more of a need for a clothing piece to function throughout the entire day.  While, it is perhaps only in smaller references, that we have seen the elongated suit or dress  of the 1930’s in modern day times, certainly we have seen the accessories such as the shoes , hats, gloves, and jewelry serve as an inspiration to style today.

Paint it Black.

Black has, for quite some time, been the official uniform of New Yorkers. Here, however, it is not so synonymous with boredom. Recently spotted on the street, these ladies, more trend movers than mass consumers, wear black well by throwing in an additional element of playful texture. By mixing potent patent or matte leather with light weight chiffon, voile, and sheers, they avoid the monotony of basic black, and carry off an essence of chicness even in a casual look. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that their hair is made to match!

click to zoom
Original street photos // Sylvia Chen

There are many pragmatic motivations that I can think of for this method of dress. New York is a dirty place. It’s grimy and hot in the summer and a mess to navigate the crowded streets when it rains – as it has been the past couple weeks. There is safety in black – the terror of errant dribble from fire escapes, awnings, and air conditioners is ever-so-slightly less than when we are walking around in white. Let us not forget the fearful attitude towards the not-quite-steady climate of the economy. Who can constantly invest in clothes with unique prints or colors, when that can put more expectation on that person to keep things “fresh?”

Black simplifies. In its own special way it equalizes the players involved. The routine challenge of coordination is scaled down to a simple and seemingly effortless strategy: start with black, mix textures, and you’re done.

I suspect that black is not the only execution of textural mixing that we will see more of in the future. I intensely enjoy the idea of monochromatic or tonal dressing in other colors, but especially with the combination of tactile qualities – shearlings, knits, tweeds, beading and the like. The trick is if it can be done while avoiding the look of a super hero in an armored costume or like one big zoot suit.