Jewels Beyond The Look: Protection And Healing

Miles Franklin, August 27th, 2021

In life, we encounter moments in which something that we know intellectually becomes something that we know in a much more personal, even visceral, manner. In many instances, this experience of transforming passive knowledge into that which is known in every fiber of one’s being can be positive, as when one experiences romantic love for the first time. Equally true, however, is the fact that these transformative experiences can occur as a result of a negative experience, the kind of experience which shakes your confidence and can even result in physical illness for a period of time.

For example, until just a few days ago, I knew, intellectually, that jewelry quite often functions as a sort of second skin, a protective barrier between one and the outside world, a barrier which has the additional edge of being beautiful and desirable, but a functional one nonetheless. Of course, as a prolific and avid jewelry wearer, I’ve had moments in which I’ve realized the watchful role my jewelry plays (as when a friend once began psychoanalyzing me over dinner, then began to comment on how much I play with my jewelry when I’m uncomfortable), and I’ve even consciously commented on the matter in a previous interview with MODA Chicago.

( My understanding of jewels as protective objects or even as objects which attract good fortune rests on the knowledge that jewelry has, since the beginning of human history, been worn for talismanic and protective purposes, and humans seem to have an intuitive understanding that these practically useless adornments are affixed to boundless metaphysical meanings (for more on this, I direct you to: On this point, my colleague Christian Noojin from Sotheby’s Jewels had this to say:

Wearing jewelry to catch the vibe is nothing new. In fact we are repeating the actions of our ancestors. For thousands of years, humans have worn jewelry for protection. Whether for battle or for protection from bad luck, this tradition spans cultures and generations. 

If you have studied crystals, you may know that in general, different colors are assigned to different chakras: blue for throat, green for heart, yellow/orange for solar plexus. Wearing a sodalite on the throat may help you communicate calmly and clearly. A malachite on the chest near your heart may soothe emotional woes, and encourage healing. I must express though, there is no right way to wear any particular stone. 

A rule of thumb is to wear what feels good. If you are drawn to a green tourmaline necklace that sits right on your throat, it may be a call to speak your heart. If a citrine piece feels right on an earring, your solar plexus may want more influence on your ego. 

My tip for people who are beginning their metaphysical journey with jewelry and stones: start with one item. Really learn the energy of the piece, ie. can you feel the vibration of the maker in a handmade piece? Did the previous owner leave their energy in this piece? (Should I sage it?) Do I harness my highest vibrations when I wear this? 

From this stage, add on pieces little by little. Before you know it, you will have a whole tool belt of talismans and jewelry for personal growth and maintenance.

The romantic armchair conception of jewels as amulets is a heady thing worthy of one’s Gamay induced contemplation, but this idea became all too real for me in a split second on my recent trip to Florida.

Here, a Van Cleef & Arpels gold and carnelian Vintage Alhambra bracelet, Cartier Love bracelet, and a Cartier gold, mother-of-pearl, and Lapis Lazuli pendant conjure a vision of noble defense and impenetrability.

Each time I make my annual trip to Florida to see my father’s side of the family, I not-so-carefully throw on as much jewelry as is humanly possible because I know that I will need a buffer between me and the homophobic, racist, sexist, and proudly politically incorrect world of the southern United States. Between dinners where sexist sentiments are levied directly at my younger female cousins, the unabashed, simultaneously angry and aroused stares of drunk white homophobic men, and comments from anyone and everyone about the shape, size, and weight of my body, I have boundless occasions to lose my fingers nervously in long necklaces, mountains of bracelets, and fists full of rings. 

A Hammerman Brothers diamond bracelet of over 42 carats of diamonds functions as chainmail.

Somehow I was able to avoid direct contact with Florida’s fabulously homophobic hillbillies until I came into contact with one particularly *southern* TSA agent at the Southwest Florida “International” Airport in Fort Myers. As is the case in any airport in the United States, I walked through the metal detector which immediately beeped due to the ridiculous amount of jewelry that I was wearing. Because every other TSA agent at literally every other airport would simply perform a quick, painless pat-down, I was slightly confused when this particular TSA agent (M. Dew, shall we call him) gruffly instructed me to go through the detector again. As anyone with a middle school education might guess, the detector went off, again. After putting me through a third time (just to be really sure, you know), M. Dew told me to step out of line and remove all of my jewelry, making a cupping gesture with his sweaty hands to suggest that he would hold on to my most precious belongings for the moment. Of course, after removing every one of my pieces except for my Cartier Love bracelet, I had to explain to M. Dew and the quickly gathering gaggle of TSA agents that the Love bracelet could not be removed on account of the two screws which fasten it to my wrist. Naturally, M. Dew and crew did not believe me and instead thought that my idea of a good time was to hold up traffic at a regional Florida airport at 5 in the morning, so M. Dew threw in a stern, “well, if you don’t take off the bracelet, I’m gonna have to pat you down…”. “Finally! We’re getting somewhere!” I thought to myself, knowing that, at any other airport in the country, they would have seen the bracelet and started with a pat-down. So, after Dew and Dewier issued their foreboding warning, I told them that I’d be fine with a pat-down. Dew replied loudly and for the benefit of the many Waffle House fueled white men in Bass Pro Shops gear in line behind me, after looking me up and down and up again, “well I wouldn’t be fine with it!”, in a tone and gesture meant to suggest that I wanted to be patted down because of my sexual orientation (and, therefore, my inherent perverted tendencies) and that he would be unwilling to fulfill my burning desire for a 5 a.m. airport pat down from a sweaty Floridian whose underwear surely had more skid marks than either of the airport’s two runways. At this, the gaggle of TSA agents and the aforementioned fish enthusiasts in line began to loudly laugh at me, and I realized that this incident had less to do with airport security and more to do with identifying and humiliating an “other” who so clearly did not look like a single other soul in the airport. Humiliated and feeling naked because my precious jewels were still under the watchful eye of M. Dew, even as he mocked me, I wanted to scream, cry, yell, or maybe just burst into flames. Covering my Love bracelet with my hand as later instructed, I walked through the detector without setting it off, and cautiously picked my beloved objects out of Dew’s surely unwashed hands. My mother tried making light of the situation to me in private, but I found this yet more infuriating because M. Dew’s transgression against me, performed only after the conscious removal of my armor, then and now felt serious and left me with an indelible sense of having been violated. Through this incident, my understanding of my jewels as my protectors moved, with devastating pain, from my brain to my bones, from my seat of knowledge to the very core of my being.

A star sapphire and diamond ring stands sentry against evil intentions.

In the days immediately following my incident in hillbilly hell, I resigned the violated jewels to their respective spots in my jewelry box, completely switching over to pieces that I had not travelled with. I could scarcely even look upon the pieces I’d worn without feeling again, viscerally, the pain, embarrassment, and fear that I’d experienced in the moment of violation. It was only after several long walks in silence and solitude in Princeton following the incident that I was able to arrive at a powerful revelation; the pieces that were stripped from my body by M. Dew should not elicit painful recollections of illiterate TSA agents, because said agents knew that in removing my jewels, they were removing a layer of myself, stripping me down and rendering me all the more assailable. I recall that my intention in wearing so much jewelry to Florida was to offer myself refuge, and it is now clear that this is exactly what my jewels did for me. By both positively and negatively confirming the protective nature of my second skin, I now find myself on the other side of a harrowing incident, a much more confident individual, and one who leans even more heavily into the intangible virtues of jewels.

A Cartier Crash watch (or two) and a personalized stack of jewelry can offer relief in uncomfortable situations.

If you’re looking to begin a purpose-built talismanic jewelry collection, you might start here:

David Webb Zodiac Collection

Evil Eye Pendant Necklace — Harwell Godfrey

Jacquie Aiche Onyx Crescent Moon Necklace

Mateo Healing Crystal Necklace

Amulette de Cartier collection – luxury jewelry

Vintage Alhambra pendant 

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Jan 14

Cover Image (Arthur Kar of L’ART visiting the Porsche Museum) Via

Miles Franklin

Arthur Kar driving a Rolls Royce Dawn with Kendall Jenner in shotgun and Tyler, The Creator seated directly behind. Image  Via
Arthur Kar driving a Rolls Royce Dawn with Kendall Jenner in shotgun and Tyler, The Creator seated directly behind. Image Via

Every now and again I have the opportunity to pour onto paper an idea that I think is truly new to the fashion industry. I love covering trends, art exhibits, and the ins and outs of high end fashion, but when something that is truly new emerges, my giddy excitement for the world of clothing is ignited anew. Having deep passion for both clothing and rare cars, L’ART DE L’AUTOMOBILE is a particularly exciting addition to the high end streetwear market, the automobile collector’s market, and to car/fashion culture more generally.

A man wears a L’ART logo tee featuring the Volkswagen Golf for Notre. Image  Via
A man wears a L’ART logo tee featuring the Volkswagen Golf for Notre. Image Via

Given my disposition toward couture and high end ready-to-wear collections from established designers, it is surprising even to myself that I would be writing about a streetwear brand that, in addition to selling million dollar vehicles, produces t-shirts, hoodies, and stickers emblazoned with pop-art and brand logos. Yet L’ART is appealing to me and to many other people who would not classify themselves as streetwear lovers at least in part because the company has tapped into a genuine sense of community grounded in their deep roots in Parisian automotive culture, and this community makes itself known both online and in the streets (cars from Paris to Manhattan can be seen brandishing L’ART insignia).

Having crafted for itself an image of carefree yet glamorous youth through an Instagram page boasting more than 125k followers, among them Kendall Jenner, Tyler, The Creator, and automotive royalty Ted Gushue, L’ART DE L’AUTOMOBILE has secured its rightful position in the garment industry and in the car scene.

A model wears a L’ART tee depicting the exact scene she is standing in, featuring a Porsche 911 GT2RS and Ferrari 812 Superfast. Image  Via
A model wears a L’ART tee depicting the exact scene she is standing in, featuring a Porsche 911 GT2RS and Ferrari 812 Superfast. Image Via

The level of success that L’ART has attained as a purveyor of apparel is impressive when one considers that its first collection of clothing became available only in 2016. Certainly, having a pre-existing loyal customer base and a cult following among celebrities, as is the case for the brand’s founder, the legendary Arthur Kar, can help get a project off the ground, but the leader of such an idiosyncratic endeavor would have to offer something that was properly unique to the fashion industry, and Kar found his niche.

Our current moment of fashion is one of ascetic minimalism; from Loewe to Bottega Veneta to Celine, our culture is awash in tones of beige, gold, white and black, and subdued prints and patterns. While there are many things to be gained from minimalism in fashion, especially for older buyers, it is certainly the case that younger people want to lead a more laid back, rebellious and emotional existence, and eye catching, highly contemporary streetwear that appeals to younger and freer sensibilities can offer that. 

A $1 million Ferrari F40 that burnt to the ground in Monaco earlier this year is immortalized on a L’ART tee shirt and sticker. Image  Via
A $1 million Ferrari F40 that burnt to the ground in Monaco earlier this year is immortalized on a L’ART tee shirt and sticker. Image Via

Following from its highly stylized Instagram account, L’ART’s apparel designs are cheeky, outrageous, and profoundly in tune with the mix of grunge and glamour that so appeals to teens and twenty-somethings. A quick browse of their apparel site reveals t-shirts featuring burning cars (an unmistakable reference to a million dollar Ferrari F40 which burned to the ground in Monaco just this year), stickers depicting a Mercedes Benz G-Class on cinder blocks after having its wheels stolen, and even Vans sneakers that the famous footwear company produced in collaboration with L’ART.

The brand has become so popular that it is now regularly available at Dover Street Market, Slam Jam, Notre, and The Broken Arm in Paris. A testament to the brand’s overwhelming success, and my personal frustration, can also be gleaned from the fact that the apparel website is frequently sold out. 

L’ART DE L’AUTOMOBILE collaboration with VANS is laden with delightful details, such as “GAS” and “BRAKE” printed on the bottom of the shoes, and a tag which reads “LA-777-RT”, alluding to a French number plate. Image  Via
L’ART DE L’AUTOMOBILE collaboration with VANS is laden with delightful details, such as “GAS” and “BRAKE” printed on the bottom of the shoes, and a tag which reads “LA-777-RT”, alluding to a French number plate. Image Via

Launching a streetwear brand is a rather precarious endeavor in a time when the market for logo tees and shockingly priced basics is more than saturated, but L’ART DE L’AUTOMOBILE proves that one can still succeed in the space if one’s brand is authentic, savvy, and hyper aware of the condition of young people around the world. In this sense, L’ART is a refreshing take on a recent yet already tired tradition, and it is also a sign of things to come.

The easy breezy aesthetic of L’ART DE L’AUTOMOBILE. Image  Via
The easy breezy aesthetic of L’ART DE L’AUTOMOBILE. Image Via

Cover Image (Arthur Kar of L’ART visiting the Porsche Museum)

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Chicago’s Love Letter to Claude Monet: “Monet and Chicago”

By Miles Franklin  

The Art Institute brings to light the rich history between Claude Monet and the city of Chicago in a dazzling exhibition.

Miles Franklin / The Chicago Maroon

Claude Monet casts such a grand shadow in the history of European art that the very mention of Impressionism invariably conjures images of Monet’s water lilies, garden scenes, and landscapes before it brings to mind any other artist. In fact, the very term “Impressionism” comes from a Monet work titled, Impressionism, soleil lavant. Impressionism as an art form dominated Europe in the latter decades of the 19th century, and it has found its footing in the 21st century in large part thanks to Monet who, above other equally talented Impressionists such as Pierre-August Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and Paul Cézanne, seems to have captured the imagination of young art enthusiasts. Despite all of the credit due to Monet, one must wonder how he, a fiercely European artist, can be so implicated in the history of Chicago’s art scene that The Art Institute of Chicago would name their current Monet Exhibition Monet and Chicago.

Figure 1 Detail of The Banks of The Fjord at Christiania, 1895.

In actuality, Claude Monet owes much to Chicago and The Art Institute owes much to Monet. This notion is quite curious when one considers that Monet purposely avoided ever traveling to the United States, disliked Americans, and believed that Paris was “the only place where there is still a little taste.” However, French Impressionist artworks landed in Chicago through Thurber’s Art Gallery as early as 1888—among the works on display, Monet’s were noted to be the best. Of this event, an 1888 Chicago Daily Tribune quote that hangs prominently in the new exhibition states, “Why go to Paris when Paris has to come to Chicago?” Perhaps it was this brash American self-importance that kept Monet from ever setting foot in the United States; fortunately, our Americanisms were not enough to keep his paintings out of North America. In 1891, after another showing of Monet’s work in Chicago, prominent local collectors Bertha and Potter Palmer acquired 20 of Monet’s works in a move that would start Chicago’s insatiable appetite for Monet and eventually lead to The Art Institute’s outsized collection of Monet paintings and drawings, the largest in the world outside of Paris. Following the Palmer’s acquisitions, The Art Institute hosted Monet’s first-ever solo show in America in 1895, titled 20 Works by Claude Monet. Later in 1903, The Art Institute became the first American museum to purchase work by Monet which only furthered donations and acquisitions. The mutually beneficial, if partially reluctant, relationship between Claude Monet and Chicago’s art scene is surprisingly profound, and this historical context is not lost on Monet and Chicago.

Figure 2 Detail of Landscape With Figures, Giverny, 1888.

Without giving away too much information, as I think this show must be seen in person to be fully appreciated, I must say that Monet and Chicago is a landmark exhibition. With over 70 paintings and drawings by Monet, spanning some of his most famous series as well as much of his lesser-known work, the exhibit is a true tour de force, and the difficulty in coming by tickets attests to this fact. What is particularly remarkable about this exhibition is the broad sampling of Monet’s subjects and artistic eras, a luxury afforded by the sheer number of works on display. Visitors are charmed into the countryside, streetscapes, and gardens of France, elevated to the sublime in masterful depictions of the Italian Riviera, sunk deep into contemplation in Norwegian snowscapes, and placed in the middle of a train station bustling with life in Paris.

Yet, even as viewers gaze with deep admiration at the layers of seemingly haphazard brushstrokes that define the works of Monet and many other Impressionists, the tumultuous nature of Monet’s personal life cannot be ignored.

Figure 3 Water Lily Pond, 1900.

 Literature such as A Day With Claude Monet in Giverny by Adrien Goetz suggests that Monet exhibited manipulative tendencies towards his children and his wives, viewing them more as accessories to his life and less as autonomous human beings, but he was plagued by other issues as well. Monet wanted to live an aristocratic lifestyle marked by extensive travels, grand homes, and impressive gardens, but his financial reality throughout much of his life prohibited this. Among the cities he was forced to abandon on account of insufficient funds are Paris and the popular haute bourgeoisie resort town of Trouville on the English Channel, both places in which he lived for work but also for the opportunity to interact with the fashionable and wealthy elite.

Figure 4 An entire room in Monet and Chicago is dedicated to several works from Monet’s Haystacks series.

But one’s luck sometimes changes. After the tragic deaths of his first two wives, Monet and his family set down roots in a rented house in the French countryside town of Giverny in 1883, then known for its small but growing arts scene. At just this time, Monet’s Impressionist masterpieces began to gain commercial traction, and Monet was able, after seven years of renting, to purchase his house in Giverny along with its gardens. It was here that, after endless manual and intellectual labor, Monet was able to construct and paint his famous water lily pond and its surrounding gardens. Beginning in the late 1890s and ending in 1926 with his death, Monet painted more than 300 scenes from his garden, including his essential Water Lilies series and the Les Grandes décorations series.

Figure 5 The Tent, Giverny, about 1883-1886.

By the time he died aged 86 in 1926, Monet was both well-known and financially secure, forever altering the course of European art production and American art consumption. Despite his best efforts, Monet became a perennial hit with Americans, who continue to flock to exhibitions of his work with marked excitement, and of these exhibitions, Monet and Chicago is inarguably one of the best. Monet and Chicago is on display at The Art Institute of Chicago until June 14, 2021, with separate exhibition tickets being sold in addition to general admission tickets online at

Figure 6 Irises, 1914/1917.

Five Male Celebrities Who Rocked Jewelry On The Red Carpet

Nov 1

Miles Franklin

Billy Porter being fitted in Oscar Heyman jewels for the 2019 Golden Globe Awards. Image  Via
Billy Porter being fitted in Oscar Heyman jewels for the 2019 Golden Globe Awards. Image Via

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” goes the perennial 20th century proclamation of the innately feminine love for precious jewels. At the same time that this phrase was coined, the late 1940s, De Beers, which once controlled over 80% of the world’s diamond supply, launched its enduring “A diamond is forever” campaign, which spawned the modern practice of sealing a marital engagement with a diamond. Though it is true that both of the above turns of phrase continue to drive the purchase of high volumes of diamonds and other precious stones for women, it is also true that male celebrities are stylishly pushing for more inclusive conceptions of the ways in which men can interact with jewels.

One might rightly scoff at the idea that men wearing jewelry is new, and it is at this point that I must refine my focus. Of course men have historically worn jewelry, but it has been men’s jewelry as opposed to women’s jewelry; a frail yet highly enforced dichotomy that is acutely representative of the broader Western proclivity for dividing all facets of life along gender lines. While the 20th century and part of the 21st century narrowly defined men’s jewelry as bulky, relatively dull, and gemless pieces such as cufflinks and timepieces, the last five years have seen some of the most aggressive de-gendering of even the most traditionally feminine jewelry styles, such as the brooch and lapel pin. In an effort to both celebrate and amplify the democratization of high jewelry that has unfolded in fabulous style on red carpets for the past several years, I share with you five times male celebrities have shined in ethereal jewels.

5. Pharrell Williams, 2017 Academy Awards

Image  Via
Image Via

Pharrell seems to appear frequently in my writing, and this is no mistake. As one of the only people alive to have collaborated with Chanel as an individual, and as the inspiration for a million dollar Richard Mille timepiece, it is perhaps no surprise that Pharrell comes up frequently when discussing celebrities who push the boundaries in fashion and jewelry. In 2017, Pharrell walked the red carpet in a predominantly black Chanel suit, offset by a dazzling broach of white diamonds which appear to be set in either white gold or platinum with pearls.

4. John Legend, Vanity Fair Oscar Party 2019

Image  Via
Image Via

In 2019, John Legend wore a Dennis Tsui brooch of diamonds, blue sapphires, and a large yellow sapphire set in white gold. The brooch, named the Galaxy Pin, is notable for three reasons. The first notable facet of the Galaxy Pin is its designer, Dennis Tsui, who is a rising star in the world of high jewelry. Having only recently entered the high jewelry space, it is a testament to Tsui’s creative genius that he would so quickly be tapped to provide John Legend’s red carpet flash. The second noteworthy aspect of this brooch is its movement; rather than simply being a static piece of jewelry pinned to a lapel, there is also a gracefully proportioned chain which is accented with a yellow stone (probably a sapphire, possibly a yellow diamond) which is itself set in a magnificent halo of white diamonds. Finally, the presence of colored jewels in the Galaxy Pin sets it apart from equally beautiful yet less interesting pieces produced purely of monochromatic stones.

3. Timothée Chalamet, 2020 Academy Awards

Image  Via
Image Via

Though I cannot in good conscience rank Timothée Chalamet’s Academy lapel pin as the best example of men’s brooch/lapel pin wearing on the red carpet, I must admit that it is my personal favorite. Having a deep sweet spot in my heart for Cartier jewels, colored stones, and vintage pieces, this 1955 ruby, diamond, and platinum lapel pin sweeps me off of my feet. As a piece viewed in a vacuum and devoid of context, it is already magnificent; large, clear, and creatively arranged diamonds set off by Burmese rubies (a distinction that is important to draw as rubies from Burma are of the highest clarity, and the deepest blood red) in several different cuts makes this piece exemplary of Cartier’s jewelry design language during the first sixty years of the 20th century. Pairing this sumptuous lapel pin with a characteristically restrained Prada ensemble guaranteed Chalamet’s outfit a spot in the best looks of 2020.

2. Chadwick Boseman, 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards

Image  Via
Image Via

The late and great Chadwick Boseman, in addition to being a guiding light and source of inspiration for countless young people, was also a confident wearer of fine jewels. At the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards, Boseman donned three Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger clips of white gold, yellow gold, and diamonds. It is not often that men are seen wearing jewelry inspired by delicate flora, and the simple daring of this choice makes it all the more stunning to see on the red carpet.

1. Billy Porter, 2019 Golden Globes

Image  Via
Image Via

The trifecta of Oscar Heyman flower brooches which cascaded down Billy Porter’s lapel at the 2019 Golden Globes were sadly overshadowed by the rest of his exceptional ensemble, itself a piece of art designed by Randi Rahm. The brooches, awash in vivid colors and sprays of vibrant diamonds, partially utilize a setting technique pioneered by the legendary house of Van Cleef & Arpels in the 1930s, known as the invisible setting. This technique is one in which the stones are set such that the mountings are not visible, thus allowing the stones to shine ever more brilliantly in the absence of prongs. The top brooch appears to be of white diamonds and green enamel flower petals, the middle of white diamonds and yellow sapphires (or possibly yellow diamonds), and the bottom brooch of white diamonds and invisibly set rubies.

At a moment in the near future, life will return to normal and we will once again inevitably find ourselves passively taking in the glamour of celebrities on red carpet events. When that moment comes, I hope you will not look only at the garments with awe and wonder, but also the jewels.

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Fake/Not Is The Ultimate Expression of Alessandro Michele’s Vision

Oct 22

Miles Franklin

A hard suitcase from the Fake/Not capsule collection, first unveiled in Gucci’s AW20 show, prominently displaying ‘FAKE’ against Gucci’s iconic bicolor striped motif. Image  Via
A hard suitcase from the Fake/Not capsule collection, first unveiled in Gucci’s AW20 show, prominently displaying ‘FAKE’ against Gucci’s iconic bicolor striped motif. Image Via

To fashionphiles around the globe who take interest in all things luxury, Gucci’s recent capsule, titled ‘Fake/Not,’ probably comes as a surprise. But, to those who have followed Gucci and Alessandro Michele since 2015, a capsule collection that deliberately brands each of its items as fakes seems like a most authentic and intoxicating culmination of Michele’s aesthetics. 

Before Michele, Gucci had been in a decade long creative rut. With the departure of Tom Ford in 2005, the brand went from a cutting edge fixture of the fashion world that celebrated and embraced eroticism to one that struggled to find its creative niche and, as such, also struggled to find clients. From 2006 to 2014, Gucci languished under the creative direction of Frida Giannini, who left the brand just after its CEO, and Giannini’s romantic partner Patrizio di Marco, did. Giannini’s departure, setting aside the personal drama that surrounded it, left Gucci with the problem of appointing a creative director who would reinvigorate the glamorous but boring brand, yet Michele was far from the obvious choice. In fact, it is quite the testament to Mr. Michele that, in 2020, he is a well recognized name in fashion considering that he rose to the position of creative director only five years earlier, after having led Gucci’s accessories department since 2003. But, when one totally redirects the creative vision of a name as influential as Gucci, changing its clientele and more than doubling its annual revenue in the process, one is guaranteed to rise to prominence.

A campaign photo from Gucci’s collaboration with Dapper Dan, the man who is arguably responsible for setting Michele on the path toward Fake/Not. Image  Via
A campaign photo from Gucci’s collaboration with Dapper Dan, the man who is arguably responsible for setting Michele on the path toward Fake/Not. Image Via

Though a person can see the pronounced visual departure in Gucci’s collections since that fortuitous unveiling of the Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear collection, Michele’s more meaningful contribution to Gucci, and to the worlds of fashion and expensive living in general, has been a sort of liberation. Breaking ranks with its contemporaries at Prada, Fendi, Balenciaga, Christian Dior, and more, Gucci has become the rosy voice of reason that finally popped the bubble which separated the worlds of high fashion and contemporary politics/ideologies. Alessandro Michele’s Gucci does away with constructions of gender, value, belonging, and conservatism, and radically re-asserts that designer clothing should be cutting edge, of the moment, and accepting of a wide audience of people, regardless of their ability to monetarily support the brand; Michele’s Gucci is one of ideas, and radical ones. 

Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci since 2015, and Harry Styles at the Met Gala in 2019. Image  Via
Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci since 2015, and Harry Styles at the Met Gala in 2019. Image Via

From runway shows that feature models gingerly clutching replications of their own heads in their palms, to trousers with large tags which read “Gucci Orgasmique”, nothing is sacred in the land of the new Gucci. By working to dismantle the artificial barriers of gender, economic status, and “good taste” in his work, Michele has been steadily moving towards the ultimate dichotomy which is present in all of his work, that of real vs. fake, since 2015. And, especially in light of the collaboration with Dapper Dan which began in 2017, making the fake real and the real fake has been perpetually on Gucci’s radar.

The capsule collection ‘Fake/Not’ takes the final step in freeing Gucci from the classed and WASPy grips of the world of high fashion. Taking one of the most readily copied designer motifs in the world, the interlocking double G on brown canvas, and covering it gaudily in Gucci’s signature bicolor stripes and the words ‘FAKE’ on one side of each piece and ‘NOT’ on the other, Michele seems to ideologically erase the final barrier separating authentic Gucci products from those uncanny fakes which can commonly be found littering New York’s Canal Street or Hong Kong’s famous counterfeit markets.

While brands like Chanel frantically prosecute producers of counterfeit items and even actively dissuade customers from buying their products secondhand, Gucci is leaping headfirst into the richness of creativity and passion which exist within the world of Gucci inspired garments. Here lies Michele’s final frontier, Gucci’s complete awakening, and the most dazzling flowering of both yet; Gucci is for neither binary gender, it is for neither rich nor poor, it is for no particular kind of person at all. Gucci, and specifically its iconic print, is for anyone who wants it, because ultimately, real Gucci is fake, and fake Gucci is real. 

Images from the Fake/Not release. Image  Via
Images from the Fake/Not release. Image Via

Featured image via

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Why Your Next Pair of Trainers Should Be VEJA

Oct 13

Miles Franklin

VEJA founders Sebastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion with VEJA running shoes. Image  Via
VEJA founders Sebastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion with VEJA running shoes. Image Via

In the world of day to day shoes, few trends have been louder in recent years than that of the designer trainer. From Balenciaga, to Gucci, to Louis Vuitton and even Chanel, $1,000 trainers have gone from fringe to norm. And, while this not so subtle trend of balkingly expensive shoes has recently taken up much of the conversational space in the footwear world, fashionable sneakers have once again been steadily gaining a loyal following in the background.

The world of luxury sneakers, a world of slim fitting, minimalist and often white profiles, was once a small one with only a few players. But, for at least the past six years, luxury sneakers have been on the rise as the young get older and dress codes both at work and in social circles consequently relax. The market for these (nearly) all occasion shoes has also been bolstered by celebrity endorsements, as the likes of Meghan Markle, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the entire cast of The Politician are consistently photographed in the high-end, low effort style. But, if you’re reading this article to decide if you’re a fan of luxury sneakers or to decide from whom to buy, you likely already know everything I’ve just laid out. However, the question must be asked; which of these beautifully simple shoes will you buy? I think the answer should be VEJA.

Tyler Hobart, played by Ben Platt, donning VEJA sneakers in  The Politician.  Image  Via
Tyler Hobart, played by Ben Platt, donning VEJA sneakers in The Politician. Image Via

As it stands, the consumer is spoiled for choice when shopping for an upscale, everyday white sneaker, but the France-based VEJA sets itself apart through its frankly unprecedented standards for transparency and environmental sustainability. VEJA, in Portuguese, means “look”, and the brand actively encourages the consumer to look more deeply into not just the final product on the foot, but exactly how that product came to be. Because VEJA itself exhaustively details its ethical/sustainable practices (  in addition to publishing its as yet unresolved shortcomings (, I will simply hit the highlights. VEJA’s materials are sourced in Brazil, where wild rubber is farmed responsibly by locals in the Amazon Rainforest and pesticide/fertilizer free cotton is farmed in the NorthEast, and these materials are then crafted into sneakers in a factory in Porto Alegre in humane conditions. Since producing its first shoe in 2005, VEJA has sold more than two million pairs of sneakers worldwide, all while avoiding advertising. VEJA says that foregoing advertising and its attendant costs has allowed it to invest significantly more of its resources in its employees, raw materials, and innovation, which has led most notably to vegetal tanned leather and B-mesh, a revolutionary new material made solely from recycled plastic bottles. 

The wildly popular VEJA V-10 is available in a lovely array of materials and color ways, and is perfect for everyday wear. Image  Via
The wildly popular VEJA V-10 is available in a lovely array of materials and color ways, and is perfect for everyday wear. Image Via

Now having had all of this information thrown at you, you may still be unsure that VEJA is the sneaker for you, considering the fact that I’ve only extolled the company’s ethics and said nothing of how the product actually feels. But, having owned the V-10 sneaker and the brand’s new, 53% recycled Condor running shoe for a few months, I’d love nothing more than to furnish you with yet another reason to spend your money here. 

The primary concerns I hear raised with the V-10 sneaker are that they are uncomfortable, too expensive, and do not always fit true to size. As pertains to the comfort of the shoe, it is important to note that any sneaker with a slim profile and a tight fit over the foot will be uncomfortable, but the V-10s were only so initially; after a few days of wear, I experienced no discomfort. As concerns price, I counter with the fact that many luxury sneakers cost four or five times the price of a V-10, while offering little more in the way of comfort or durability, and certainly offering less in the way of social responsibility. Finally, I must note that my pair of V-10s fit true to size, though I have friends who have had to go through the simple process of switching sizes. Truthfully, it’s a wonderful sneaker that feels good and goes with any outfit. 

Having praised and defended the V-10, I now take up the task of drawing your attention to the Condor. I feel that doing so is especially important since the world of running shoes is rather new to VEJA, and I have to say that the Condor is a phenomenal first effort; superbly cushioned, well insulated from the havoc that Chicago streets can wreak on less well protected feet, and pretty! Though my Condors show all of the signs of intense running (copious amounts of dry mud, grass stains, and the occasional bloodstain), I still find them pretty enough to wear on occasions outside of exercise.

The VEJA Condor running shoe is a refreshingly beautiful shoe in a market dominated by intentionally ugly options. Image  Via
The VEJA Condor running shoe is a refreshingly beautiful shoe in a market dominated by intentionally ugly options. Image Via

Ultimately, you have to follow your heart when choosing a pair of sneakers; choosing incorrectly can have catastrophic consequences for your instagram feed or for your chances at working in Silicon Valley. But, at any chance I get, I steer people toward VEJA. Your wardrobe needs them, and so does the world.

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We asked four young Black people to address the problem and offer guidance for the future.By: Miles Franklin

If you’ve been following fashion for the past several years, chances are you’ve noticed that brands at all price points have been gradually making concerted efforts to represent Black bodies. While the increased presence of Black bodies in fashion has generally constituted a positive change, it is evident that there are still a few glaring issues with both the quality and quantity of Black representation in fashion. For example, it seems that the world of high fashion has taken to casting dark-skinned Black models—and dark-skinned Black models only—which has ironically flipped the bias traditionally referred to as colorism. In fact, one needs only to perform a perfunctory browse through Vogue Runway to find that the world of high fashion does cast Black models, so long as their skin is dark and they are thin. While brands like Fashion Nova and Uniqlo do a much better job casting Black models all along the spectrum of skin tone, they often choose to represent either Black women who are thin and have white features or Black women who embody the “Mammy” archetype, which reduces plus-size Black women to an identity tied only to their physicality. And though it is true that there are Black people who are thin and have “white” features, and Black people who are overweight, it is also true that there are Black bodies which exist everywhere in between—and beyond—this dichotomy.

Since the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement have catalyzed meaningful introspection concerning the inequitable treatment of Black Americans across all industries, it is obvious that the time for fashion to further its commitment to the genuine representation of Black bodies is now. With that in mind, we asked four young Black people to address the problem and offer guidance on how fashion brands, and the culture of fashion as a whole, can most genuinely move forward.

Nadaya Davis, an arts, culture, and fashion writer and student at the University of Chicago, thinks that issues with the representation of Black bodies in fashion start with the very pretext upon which the fashion industry is based. “There are key issues with how Black folks are represented in fashion. How does one push true representation on an industry that doesn’t represent reality at all? It’s a system that’s inherently flawed. The thing about the modeling and fashion industry is that everything needs to be exceptional. Beautiful. Ethereal. Untouchable! When brands use bodies that they deem exceptional as the face of their ads, it comes off as ‘Hey, look at us! We can be beautiful, too!’ It’s not ‘Hey, we’re people. This is what different people look like.’ I think that’s why marketing tactics in the fashion industry so often fail at their attempts of body positivity or come off as insincere; these models are still hand-picked by a staff of people who deem them ‘worthy enough,’ and there will always be people who won’t be. It’s especially true with Black bodies, because there are much more sinister factors involved. You have the white woman who, when her body is deemed ‘acceptable’ by the brand, is definitely in. Then you have the Black woman; you think about her skin (is she too dark? is she too light?), her hair (is it too kinky? is it too loose?), her features (are they too Euro-centric? are they Euro-centric enough?), her body (is she too thick? does she have a waist?).”

And complicating matters even beyond the fact that the fashion industry is one in which exceptionality is, well, not exceptional, it is clear that Black bodies are seen as “representable,” particularly when they fall under a few distinct categories. Model Kendra Austin says, “I find that the depiction of Black bodies in fashion media is largely rooted in exoticism and fetish—and is, frankly, lazy. There are a few ‘acceptable’ versions of Blackness, notably all thin, that are welcome—the visibly mixed, the dark-skinned African model, the freckled model. These are all gorgeous forms that Blackness can take, but are not reflective of what the average Black American looks like. Are we not interesting enough? Further, I find that the exoticism of these casting choices lends itself to lazy art direction. Black models with fetishized features get fewer options for wardrobe, hair, and makeup because ‘they’re perfect enough already,’ which is actually another way to say ‘we cast them so we wouldn’t have to do the work to present them in imaginative ways like everyone else,’ and this mentality shows. As a fat Black woman with small breasts and an average hip-to-waist ratio, I seldom see other models with my shape. Most curvy models exemplify ‘the Birth of Venus’ type—tan to brown, tall, huge chests and hips, and an itty-bitty waist. This is what Black women are to many. I rarely see size 14 dark-skin models unless we’re talking about the exception or the exotic. Editorial/high fashion loves to use a singular size 8 racially ambiguous Black person on their runway and call it an inclusive show. It’s incredibly disordered—size 8 folks at home shouldn’t be told they’re abnormal when they can find almost all clothing in their size and aren’t systematically oppressed, but what are the rest of us size 14 folks supposed to think of ourselves if THAT is inclusive?”

The reluctance to equitably cast a realistic range of Black models has real consequences for the countless Black people who do not fit into the strict confines of fashion’s ideas of Blackness. Ashe Turner, a dancer, model, and influencer, says, “As an alternative Black girl, I don’t see myself represented in the fashion industry. There’s almost no Black representation in alternative fashion. I am definitely privileged because I am skinny and have light skin, but having locs definitely makes some people see me as ‘too Black.’ I don’t fit neatly into any Black stereotype, so growing up I had to find my own path due to lack of representation.”

Then there are the nearly insurmountable obstacles that gender-nonconforming Black models face—obstacles which come in addition to, and not instead of, the barriers that cisgender Black models already grapple with. Kendra Austin continues, “I’m seeing a shift in the industry to include nonbinary and gender fluidity, which is a [millennium] overdue, but it seems that queerness is only allowed when it’s thin and white or racially ambiguous. I want to see more fat, Black, queer, and gender-defying folks in these campaigns. They exist, and erasure is no longer acceptable. Black Coke-bottle-shaped femmes, like your caretaker and favorite best friend on TV, are just a slice of the Blackness pie.”

Being a firm believer in the idea that one should only offer criticism if one can also offer solutions, I asked the young creatives I interviewed to suggest next steps for the fashion world. And because these solutions come directly from young Black creatives who have firsthand experience navigating the challenging landscape of being Black in fashion, you can be sure that they are not idealistic or unreasonable.

Cameron Reed, a burgeoning fashion and conceptual art photographer, offers a broad invitation for industry-wide change, saying, “As a photographer, influencer, and creative, the best advice I could give to them is to be more open to letting Black creatives in. There is a lot of gatekeeping in these industries that keeps them exclusive. That’s my best advice; be more open-minded to looking past skin color and stereotypes. At the end of the day, it’s up to them if they want to change. We just need to have people that look like us that are in high places already to help push for even greater change since they have influential voices.”

Austin says, “The most pressing issue is not the diversity, but the equity. Inclusion is not just casting a Black body, or a fat body, or a queer body, but providing equitable resources for that person to do their job well, factoring in the leaps and bounds they made to get into the room. We need stylists who can fit our bodies, we need hairstylists who can handle our textures, we need makeup artists who work with our complexions. There are too many talented creatives in this industry to be hiring folks who refuse to do their jobs. To be clear, it is refusal to learn and evolve, and we shouldn’t be supporting laziness. I walk on set and depend on these people to do my job as the lowest on the totem pole. I’m sick of having to correct ‘experts’ in their craft when fairer and thinner models don’t have to. Now I’m doing three to four jobs without their day rate.”

And to any company working in the fashion arena, Austin lays out six concrete steps that can be taken to create a less hostile and more genuinely inclusive space for Black models: “Prioritize Black talent in the immediate future; vet clients for racist and colorist casting processes; make sure that Black models are being paid appropriately; make sure that there are makeup artists, hair teams, and stylists who are capable of working with Black bodies, tones, and textures on set prior to sending a model to set; launch an internal task force to prioritize the hiring of Black people in leadership and booker roles; and partner with a greater number of small Black businesses and clients.”

It is true that the landscape of the fashion/modeling industries has changed dramatically in the past few decades, but of course, there will always be room for improvement in a line of work that is founded on fantasy instead of reality.

Photo: Getty

Originally published in The Coveteur, link: