There was never any way I was going to be in the fashion industry.
That's what my 18 year old self made very clear to my then- stepfather Michael. Back in 1988, Michael suggested that instead of becoming yet another wanna-be actress in Hollywood, I take my model-esque body, love for clothing and mind for creativity, and go do. Either that or become a TV news anchor, he suggested. Because not only was I extremely easy on the eyes, according to Michael, but very smart and supremely charismatic. (He was an avid and vocal fan of me back in those days. A kind quality in him I will never forget until my dying day- especially since his arrived very sadly earlier this spring in the form of pancreatic cancer.)
The news anchor idea at least titillated my nubile actor brain a bit more than did a career in fashion. Mainly because it involved my face being displayed on a screen of some sort. And because it simultaneously dealt with a very serious industry, which is the News. But- Fashion. Come on. No one takes anyone seriously in the fashion industry. My thoroughly-inexperienced-with-said-terrain teenage self threw this tidbit of ignorance back mockingly at my well meaning stepdad. Which I think mainly meant- I don't take anyone seriously in fashion. Fashion was not a serious world of creative expression, I suppose I had decided. Though stealing away in my mother's closet and poring through her Vogues and Glamours and Bazaars had been a monthly habit for me back in my elementary school days. Until of course, I was gifted a subscription to Seventeen somewhere in middle school. And then I proceeded to wear those dogeared pages down from overuse. Studying the line of a skirt or the color of a silk jacket as if to memorize these features, as I was doing less surreptitiously with my actual homework.
And that eventually morphed into paying the same kind of attention to the jacket covers of all my records. I wanted the verbal information provided, surely- who played what where. Who wrote what. Lyrics. Credits. But I also loved soaking in the visual vibe of each record- the colors and choices of photos, hairstyles and CLOTHING of all my favorite rock stars.
Oh, and oh my god, let's not forget the hours spent creating mini fashion magazines out of white construction paper and staples using my Hasbro Fashion Plates toy circa 1982. If I ever land upon these gems of my childhood again, I will either burn them or frame them- depending on how I want to approach my vague shame of these memories.
"You too can be a Truly Modern Woman in this Delectable Ensemble from designer Horatio Langley! Just flip on that sexy beret- toss your high leather boots on and you're good to go anywhere in town, ladies!"
The above is an attempt to provide copy of the scripts I wrote in sprawling cursive alongside each colored-pencil Fashion Plate creation. Horatio Langely being my best version of a made-up designer's name. Sounded foreign and classy and a little esoteric all at once. This is the sort of thing I was doing holed up in my room after the middle school homework was completed, piano practiced, and the hours of phone time were concluded. (Those endless conversations with my bestest friend Sarah which primarily focused on boys who didn't know we existed.) I was making my fashion plates. I was writing my copy.
However, this was clearly not something I was going to DO as an adult. To actually spend my LIFE'S WORK in this industry! I have so much BETTER, more LASTING things to accomplish as an artist! (I also humbly recall the misguided interaction with stepdad Michael at the outset of acquiring my Theater degree from UCLA about how I would never, not ever audition for a commercial. What a lowly existence that would comprise. Being a COMMERCIAL actor. Y-UCK... Fast forward to five years later when I'm actually living in the world of Hollywood- struggling desperately for any sort of paying gig. The rare commercial audition was like manna from Heaven for me.)
What the hell does anyone know at 18. OK, I suppose some of you out there had a significant amount of your shit together by 18- I do know a few of those unlikely types. But I certainly was not one of them, and so I had all kinds of room to look up and down on all sorts of things I knew absolutely nothing about. Which led to a flimsy-at-best career in acting in my twenties. Followed by an only slightly less flimsy career in music, where clearly I belonged all along.
But it did NOT lead to a career in fashion. And I suppose that's ok- because the music found me and has not let go, and that seems to be as it should. BUT. My relationship with fashion magazines and clothing and thrifting and buying and putting outfits together and spending a fairly significant amount of time basically thinking about fashion has only grown and flourished. So, I was not destined to be a pro- but I am one hell of an amateur, not wheeling and dealing in the realm of fashion, but sort of parked off to the side. I think rather I'm a pro in the magic fantasy world of fashion as it relates to other things, less tangible. More related maybe to the tie between rock music, say, and fashion. More related to how fashion makes me FEEL.
And as I sat down with my lovely friend Maggie the other day downing some Provence Rose at a local joint- somehow this subject got brought up. And Maggie insisted that I blog about it- that fashion needed to hear from me about me and this so-called subverting of the value within. And I guess I agree with her, because here I am typing away at you, my readers. What I have uncovered over these last few years that has afforded me growing older, wiser, and more humble, is that I do truly value fashion. And it's not a worthless endeavor or a flimsy industry at all. I mean, sure- there may be some shallow souls inhabiting that world, but who the hell am I to blithely dismiss the realm that birthed Dior and Armani and Prada....Calvin Klein and Chanel- Lagerfeld and Von Furstenberg--the list goes on and on. These are true artists, each in their own way. Working their craft in the physical realm, but also of course, as artists must do- tapping into the spirit world on a regular basis to bring back inspiration based in primal concepts and ethereal energies much of the time. They are constantly going on their own inner journey year after year to bring forth something simultaneously authentic to themselves, and universal. Anyone who knows anything about the world of the fashion designer knows this.
But more importantly to me- and closer to home- is that as a consumer of fashion, as my own personal stylist, I too am working my artist self. Each time I put an outfit together (well- maybe not EVERY time, sometimes just that trusty old Tshirt and jeans are all I've got energy for), but most times I'm looking to channel something. And what that means is I'm trying to bring forth whatever facet of the multi-dimensional Holly wants to shine that day. Meaning, I'm trying to physically clothe and accurately reflect that which wants to come out and play.
If you walked through my closet you'd immediately be struck by how schizophrenic my wardrobe is. (Most of my friends posit that I do have some sort of personal style that according to them coalesces these many forces and many influences together into something of a whole cohesive thing. I hope that's true. I can't really comment on that- too close to the source.)
But what I can say is that some days I'm attempting to channel the French me. The coquettish, classic, pixie Audrey Hepburn me who has only 14 pieces of clothing in her closet, and they're all impeccably tailored and they all go with each other. Each piece is rakishly elegant and beautifully easy at the same time. Like I just threw myself together last minute, and instantly became accidentally the height of style. And then, there's the Stevie Nicks-70's-siren, rock-star me. The sexy vixen- powerful mistress to the druggy, free-loving, Topanga Canyon lifestyle. These pieces are flowy Indian dresses, feathers, leather, vintage lace, high heeled boots. Hats with floppy brims and cape-like jackets. Some days are Chrissie Hynde. Tight leather pants. Mens shoes, tailored jackets. Ripped up rock concert Tshirts. Black eyeliner. Red lips. Then there's Faye Dunaway...plaid wool A-line skirts. Brown, camel, soft salmon leather boots. Tight button down 70's silk Cacharel shirts only buttoned up half way. (If I was really adventurous, I'd go braless too I suppose.)
And those are just the obvious iconic female energies. Sometimes I'm channeling something smaller-- a feeling or a memory. One particularly productive trip to a thrift store two years ago resulted in a pair of tapered flower jeans as well as a shrunken crochet jacket. I put them together and became "Pretty In Pink's" Molly Ringwald the day that Lane asks her out at the record store where she works. A couple months ago I found an old satin bowling jacket. When I wear it I am Michelle Pfieffer in "Grease 2." Lookin for my coo-oo-oo-ool rider.
The comforting thing about my conversation with Maggie is that as I spewed all of this to her at the 1.5 glass of Rose mark, she was nodding her head in understanding. Yes, Holly- she says. I get you. Especially about the French thing. Who doesn't want to wake up one day and be French? To throw on the perfect navy striped Tshirt and silk scarf over your exquisitely tailored trousers and flats...wander down the St Germaine in the brisk fall...under a cobalt blue sky...smoking your first Gauloise of the day...on the way to meet your starving artist lover...10 years your junior...at the smoky cafe?
Because sometimes the most fun thing about fashion is the story you are telling yourself. The piece of the person you maybe aren't on a regular basis but want to at least echo now and again becomes that much more manifest when you put on her outfit. Like a costume. And I love that. It's like holding on to a tiny bit of my real childhood. The one where my friends and I would meet half way in between our houses after school and assign the roles we would play in our mutual game of imagination that would last until we were all called home for dinner.
Play. Imagine. Fun. That's what fashion has been for me. That's what it continues to be.
So no- dear Michael. I'm still not, nor likely to be, destined for a job in the fashion industry. That's not where my real talent lies. I am a creator of songs and poetry- words and music strung together in lines, as opposed to thread and fabric. And though I am someone who likes to look and ponder over the images- to soak them in like wine and see what pieces I can incorporate into my living breathing life or work-- that's where it ends for me. I think I'd ruin it if I had to put a real-life, every day mercantile construct upon my love for fashion.
At least now I know it has nothing to do with devaluation. Because I do hold the fashion industry in high regard, having spent scads of time reading magazines and catalogues. I've also had the pleasure to meet up and coming young visionary designers over my years here in LA. I just know it's not the world I am meant to inhabit. I am an avid visitor- though I don't live there.
After all, if I did move in, I might have to change my name to Horatio Langely.