Dear White People: Justin Simien Delivers a Smart Send-Up of College Racism

Dear White People Official Trailer

Dear White People… and black people and Asian people, Hondurans and everything in between: Dear White People is a movie. A very good movie that made me both laugh and think too hard.

Directed by newcomer Justin Simien, a former publicist/marketing specialist turned filmmaker, Dear White People is a satire exploring race relations in modern society using a posh fictional Ivy League school as a backdrop.

Don’t let my brief summation fool you, this movie is easy to chew, but harder to swallow: The genius lies in its ability deliver head-spinningly complicated issues in subtle and often funny ways. Each of the characters is sorting through their own complicated parental, social and academic issues compounded by race in the predominately white university.

Multi-protaganist, the plot launches with Sam White, a young woman who has taken a leadership role in the Black Student Union. Her response to modern racism is to launch her own podcast and booklet titled “Dear White People”.

The movie succeeds in showing how racism today often takes subtle, more subversive forms and how challenging it is for young black youth to figure out where they fit in and what stance (if any) they should take. Self and race identity don’t always fit so nicely together.

In fact, the beauty of Simien’s film is that it addresses the age old theme of identity crisis but manages to do so in a way that is entirely fresh and engaging right down to its  cinematography, stylized delivery and of-the-moment Pinterestable graphic design transitions.

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Tyler James Williams in the film’s impactful promo poster

Although the movie is not absolute and total perfection, its hard to believe its a first feature film effort with how masterful Simien is not only as a director, but writer and producer. He is helped along by a well-balanced cast, most of whom are trained and experienced, yet still relatively unexposed. No one stood out over anyone else–a good thing, but a particular favorite of mine was Teyonah Parris’ Coco or Colandrea. You may recognize Teyonah as Donald Draper’s secretary in Mad Men. Here she gets to display the full range of her talents in a complex role.

My newly liberated evenings thanks to my scary ass launch into the freelance world allowed me to attend a special Los Angeles Times Indie Focus screening of Dear White People hosted by L.A. Times staff writer Mark Olsen with a Q&A session afterward with the director and three of the cast members.

In the Q&A, Simien divulged that he was inspired by movies like Election, Fame, School Days, Ingmar Bergman’s Persona and especially Network. It was also a chance to tell his own story. Simien went onto say that he was never able to really see his own experience on the screen. “…racism is more covert now…I wanted to tell a very particular black experience…[one of the] bobbing and weaving around other people’s perceptions of you.”

Dear White People is striking a chord. It won the Special Jury Award for “Breakthrough Talent” at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and Simien was recently named among the “10 Directors to Watch” in Variety magazine.

It’s disturbing that racism is still alive–executed by the hapless, ignorant and malicious alike. But what is so unusual about Dear White People is the humorous and human way in which it is exposed: with a gentle hand, in a way it’s a love letter–gently prodding people to open their eyes.

Even in its most heightened exposure of racism: a themed party where white students are dressing up as black students– there is room for a laugh or two.

What was more disturbing were the real snapshots in the end credits of the movie of several recent racially themed parties at truer-than-fiction universities.

While across the U.S. a more diverse culture is welcomed, a subversive reaction to it dives further underground. In one deft move/movie, Justin Simien exposes a raw nerve: still pinched after all these years.

Dear White People opens in limited release to theaters on October 17th

For more information: http://www.dearwhitepeoplemovie.com/tickets

NEW BIZ ALERT: TREEHAUS IN ATWATER VILLAGE

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Saralynne Precht, co-proprietress of Treehaus

When Saralynne Precht and Michelle Pedersen first met, they developed a bond over their children. Over the years, their friendship hatched an idea: to curate locally crafted goods, becoming mobile merchants. They started out with a vintage VW bus and were soon selling at local craft fairs and outside at LACMA. I wandered into their cheery space this past weekend and was greeted by Saralynne who is herself, just as cheery.

The idea for a storefront has been in works for a year. Finally, the dream became a reality which the two women called Treehaus. It had its grand opening last week and Saralynne was excited tell me about the new space (with its incredible custom-designed tree stump desk) and crafted goods.

They looked for just the right location and found it in Atwater Village. Atwater Village is an interesting commerce hub at the tip of Glendale, hugging Los Feliz. It is one part upscale mixed with half the Valley and a dash of Eastside cool thrown in. The surrounding neighborhood is at a crossroads, even for mutt-mix L.A.; standing apart as all at once urban and achingly Andy Griffith.

But really, it comes down two friends doing what they love making a living. Always mothers, always entrepreneurs. When a large space opened up in a coveted row of small businesses along Glendale Blvd, they pounced. In an ingenious move and in something I’m seeing more businesses do in high rent areas these days, Treehaus split the larger space in two, sharing the rent with Los Angeles Funeral Service, probably the most inviting funeral services company I’ve ever encountered. Perfect for the modern Angeleno’s um…death needs. Buy a throw pillow then go next door secure your plot.

Saralynne says its just fits her and Michelle’s sometimes macabre aesthetic. Both women are visualists, photographers and it shows with a store that is clean; punctuated by brightly colored touchable things. Merchandise-wise humor abounds but doesn’t overwhelm. There is plenty of cute: vintage-inspired toys and handmade animal slippers nothing too cloying. The jewelry is tasteful with abstract geometric and delicate pieces. Some of my favorites were boldly-painted wooden pieces made by Michelle herself.

The best thing Treehaus has going for it besides locally made goodies is a decided un-pretentiousness. The products fit right into the handcrafted arts revolution taking hold over Los Angeles the last few years.

Two friends who love beautiful things and decided sell them make them.
How simple. How wonderful.

For more information:
Treehaus
3229b Glendale Blvd.
www.treehaus.biz
twitter: TreehausLA

APPSOLUTELY! INTERVIEW with UNSTUCK by SYPartners

Feeling stuck seems to be an essential component of life as a human being. Job security, aging parents, when to have a child, money and health-these are all modern day stressors that can leave us feeling well…stuck.

If your levels of anxiety are truly overwhelming or you exhibit symptoms of depression, therapy and assistance from a clinical professional is very important. The award-wining Unstuck app from SYPartners is not meant a as a replacement for therapy but as a cognitive toolbox for everyone who is experiencing a “stuck” moment. 

Winner of the 2012 Webby Award for Best Lifestyle App for Tablet, Unstuck simply seeks to find the ways you are stuck and the tools to get unstuck. It does this in a highly visually exciting, clear and dare I say-fun way. It first helps you identify the category or the way in which you are stuck, assigning it a label and then gives you an array of different tools to attack the problem. It is a multifaceted approach especially appealing to those of us who have a hard time even admitting to ourselves we are stuck. 

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Starting out a ’stuck’ 

I had a chance to speak with some of the people who had a hand in developing Unstuck. I wanted to ask them about the success of the app and insights into their process:

RD: When Unstuck came out a couple of years ago, it received several accolades including making the iTunes Best of 2012 app list. How did it feel for your team to have such a success out of the gate?

Nancy Hawley, Vice President of Content + Community, Unstuck: “Validating. And a huge relief. We had a strong hunch about Unstuck because it is based on the IP we’ve generated over the past 20 years as a consulting firm. But when you create something that’s never existed before, there is the very real possibility that people just won’t understand the premise. But people got it right away and continue to in ways we had never imagined.

RD: Have you received feedback from Unstuck users about how they have been integrating the app into their lives? Any personal story that sticks out for you?

Nancy: “Yes, and to our delight, people are using it in ways we have never conceived of. One of my favorite uses is the executive who brings it out in meetings when he and his partners hit an impasse. Together, they go through the diagnostic. The process of having to agree on the answers leads them to a greater understanding of what each of them is thinking. One of our earliest adopters uses Unstuck with her son who has ADHD. He gets stuck a lot, and by using the Unstuck app, she is better able to understand what is holding him back and then work with him on it. On the opposite end, I’ve also heard from people with OCD who find the app helpful when they need to break out of a cycle and get something else done. Creatives are also in our fan base. There is a group of script writers who use to develop character dialogue. And a composer has told me that Unstuck helped him find the motivation to finish his album, decide on the design of his album cover and even write a song.”

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In Unstuck, after describing why you are stuck you are asked to pick cards symbolizing how being stuck makes you feel. 

RD: The design is distinctive, intuitive and visually exciting. Was your design team inspired by a particular aesthetic?

Audrey Liu, Creative Director for SYProducts: “We weren’t inspired by any particular design aesthetic per se, rather, we were inspired by human interaction. We hoped to create and experience which brought to mind some common and simple analog exchanges to not only engage people in a delightful way, but to allow them to focus most on the act of getting unstuck. To complement these interactions, we chose a combination of photography, illustration and bold typography to create a visual identity that would suit both your easiest and toughest stuck moments”.

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Once you have your stuck labeled you are able to use different tools to analyze it. One is ‘Pros Vs. Pros’ where you explore the pros of two different actions you could take on your stuck. You choose which positive traits are associated with which decision under a short time frame. It allows you to “gut check” the decision. 

RD: Are there any plans for another app by SYPartners?

Nancy: “Yes, we have a web based app called Teamworks (www.teamworks.is) that is currently in beta. Its designed to help managers and their teams work better together so they can achieve their best results possible. It takes a human approach to what gets in the way of good collaboration and provides the tools to get past those obstacles.”

As apps have increasingly become more and more relevant, the ones which are useful tools helping us to live a better life or which provide a service in increasingly novel and portable ways rise to the surface. Unstuck is definitely worth checking out because of its clarity of use and intuitive navigation. Thank you to Nancy and the Unstuck team for the interview!

For more information: www.unstuck.com

IN ROTATION: STURGILL SIMPSON AND THE COSMOLOGY OF COUNTRY

Musician Sturgill Simpson was recently put forth by Rolling Stone as perhaps the savior of country music-the one who will push the strange brew of bro-pop and the Taylor Swifting of country off the stage and remind people what it was and can be. What artists like Garth Brooks and yes, Mr. Achy Breaky himself did for the genre in the early 90’s by recycling it back into the mainstream has now served to neuter it. The Nashville machine churns out catchy and acceptable tunes that people who have never seen a cow outside of their burger could latch onto. Along comes Mr. Simpson: an authentic breath of real country air. 

Sturgill Simpson is not very interested in being anyone’s musical savior but his own. His new album, his second released independently is called ‘Metamodern Sounds in Country Music’  and contains the very best of country music as a genre: that is to say it is layered and lyrically rich. 

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The cover of Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music photo courtesy of sturgillsimpson.com

Country has an incredibly diverse history. It is, in essence a music that was shaped by immigrants and slaves both European and African, brewed in the Appalachians and the southeast portion of the U.S. and then distilled through the eyes of the cowboy, the rocker and the R&B singer. 

The best of country artists understand its history and how malleable it is. One thinks of Ray Charles whose ‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music’ was mind-blowing to the segregated culture of the late fifties early 60’s and to those who forgot country music was birthed in the cauldron of black and white. 

Sturgill didn’t choose country as much as it chose him. Born and for the most part raised in Kentucky (with a stint in the Navy taking him to Japan), his music is full of “throwback” country sounds, steel strings, slide guitar and his vocal quality: often compared to Waylon Jennings, distinctly country, soft, emotive and powerful. 

 The entire album has instrumentation that is authentic to the roots of the genre but are all reflections of him as an artist and what is shaping him at this moment. 

For Simpson, this means his lyrics embrace the paradox of life: Simplicity and complexity all in one breath. ‘Turtles all the Way Down’ is a song which gets its title from a phrase in cosmology describing a metaphor for the earth. It is a nod to his interest in metaphysics, the effects of mind-altering drugs and ultimately the greatest drug of all…love. Very…far out: “…there’s a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane/where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain/…” 

‘Turtles All the Way Down’:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWx6csgGkg4&feature=kp

Sonically, the album spans the breadth of country with elements of bluegrass, roots and folk. “A Little Light” stands out with rockabilly leanings with a tinge of gospel. His cover of the 1988 ‘When in Rome’ new wave hit “The Promise” is unexpected and opens up the song the way Ray Charles opened up his covers-on his genre bending country album. At 35, Sturgill was a child of the grunge era and echoes of Vedder veer into Hendrix like psychedelia and Beck-like lyrics. His favorite band is Tool. Yet, its all country. 

‘The Promise’ When in Rome cover:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eWJmN8D820

We try to classify and herald the birth of something new whenever we are bored-but really it is honesty which is always refreshing. Honesty is a genre that never goes out of style. And ‘Meta modern Sounds in Country Music’ is honest. Seen in this light, Sturgill becomes less the savior of country music; more its channeling force. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

sturgillsimpson.com

ON THE STREET: David Flores-At the Crossroads of Art, Commercialism and Philanthropy

Last week, upon gracing the Chipotle on La Brea and Melrose with my presence, I was walking in post sofritas bliss to the parking lot when this caught my attention:

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‘Gateway’ in progress on the east wall of the new restaurant Tatsu.

 A large dragon in various shades of gray and white circles the entire length of a side of a building perpendicular to Chipotle (which itself features the work of prolific graphic artist Mike Perry.

 Curling around, the dragon hugs the figure of an Asian man who becomes his counterpoint-they both pull equal focus. The dragon, dynamic and restless, the man serene and self-composed.  I instantly think of Bruce Lee. Apparently, I needed this confirmed looked around to see if there was anyone else to expound on this matter.

I observe an unassuming man texting in a pick-up truck parked next to me, in front of the mural. “Does this look like Bruce Lee to you?” I ask. He says no, that it is supposed to be no one in particular. I go back to looking at the mural but can’t contain myself. I ask him who the artist is and says his work reminds me of a certain artist…David Flores. 

As it turns out, this man is David Flores and he was in the midst of finishing this large commissioned piece. I ask him a little about his process and tell him I like the work as is. He tells me his murals often have a calm quality before the black definition is added in, when they take on a more dynamic quality. 

David’s work is unmistakeable. A trained artist, (he has a degree in graphic design) he has perfected a mosaic technique that is particularly stirring in his large-scaled murals to be found all over southern California and especially in  L.A., even in Japan where he is rather known for his previous work as a designer in the skateboard industry. 

His work features icons from pop culture. Appropriated in his style they take on a new life, an increased gravity. He has interpreted Salvador Dali, Don Quixote (for Quixote studios on La Brea), Nelson Mandela and Basquiat

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My chance encounter with muralist David Flores

Now finished, Gateway was inspired by Flores’s trips to Tokyo and was commissioned on behalf of his friend Ryu, who is opening an authentic tonkotsu ramen restaurant called Tatsu

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David Flores with Ryu in front of the completed ‘Gateway’ .Photo courtesy of davidfloresart.com

For the past year or so, I have been opening my eyes to the street art all around me in L.A. With humor a political bent or a refreshing take on pop cutlure, there is, in effect a street artist for every Angeleno: Raw and troublesome, formally educated or paid by corporations, political, lazy appropriation, spray paint…wheatpaste and even sculpture-the community of artists is diverse but their work is meant for the unexpected eye. 

The street artist serves a purpose-jolting us out of our reality, stirring our soul when we least expect it. This vigilante of art claims territory in the spaces between where we live and work. Spaces so often glazed over-we are in transit, we are eating, we are trying to get somewhere else. 

Commercialism has invaded every aspect of our modern lives. One could argue our senses are dulled and pretty soon we won’t be able to tell the difference between where the art begins and the selling ends. An alternative view is that the consumer has become smarter and can smell a rat…we expect higher quality from our sellers-greater creativity. The carnival barkers are everywhere and our ability to tune out is heightened. 

The general trend towards the handmade, the singular, has pushed businesses in a big city like Los Angeles to commission artists to create original works for their buildings and offices. Often these artists have roots in the underground street scene, or in the case of David Flores, who stopped me in my post-lunch tracks- from the skate industry, and industry that is at once commercial and subversive.

Indeed, with all the Instagramming, Pineteresting and Tumbling graphic art, especially as it is ever important as in the midst of our subjugation to commercialism we still seek individualism. “I want to go to that Chipotle. The one with the Mike Perry art.

Flores manages to straddle three worlds. Maintaining artistic integrity, while being able to make a living. He also gifts pieces which in the case of the work he did for Found Animals in Culver City, a non-profit animal shelter- uplifts its workers and brings impact to the cause. 

His gifted mural for the Los Prietos Boys Camp in Santa Barbara will serve to inspire young men who need it most. In an aesthetic that is clear, familiar and visceral to them. 

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‘Plant the Seed’ mural gifted by David Flores to Los Prietos Boys Camp. Photo courtesy of davidfloresart.com

Flores proves that an artist can be fluid:  Can make a living, contribute works that will have a direct impact all while maintaining artistic freedom. Stepping outside of the gallery and onto the sidewalk, paying attention to what we are being sold, seeing the possibilities in every alley and wall… this is the legacy of the street artist. 

A look into the artist’s process. A David Flores mural of Johnny Cash goes up at The Viper Room: http://vimeo.com/76089297

For more information: 

http://www.davidfloresart.com

AT THE GALLERY: MALLORY MORRISON AT HALE ARTS SPACE

Water, much like the galaxy, holds sway over humans. It captivates us with its mysteries and strange properties. It allows us to see the world through transformed eyes-undulled by everyday surroundings.

Photographer Mallory Morrison made a natural progression from dance to dance photography and then to photographing dancers underwater. The result is magical, serenely beautiful and often unexpected. 

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”Pull” Limited Edition Print 1 of 25 28”x39” framed. 

Becoming fascinated with not only the forms possible underwater, but by the process itself, Ms. Morrison has continuously evolved her technique, collaborating with other artists at times and editing in photoshop to create the final vision. Although her subjects often seem suspended in air or deep within the ocean depths, all of her shots take place in pools mostly of the California backyard variety. 

Usually starting out with a concept, she allows herself to be surprised by what turns up in the editing process. Often, the vision looks one way underwater, yet unexpected nuances make themselves known in post processing.  

In speaking with Morrison about her work, she told me about a photo of hers she was inexplicably drawn to. Its an example of how the form, the movement, the process of shooting the subject resulted in an unexpected emotion. This particular image was capatured unplanned in a moment as the model was about to emerge from the pool.  “I named the image ‘Stay’ because its this in-between movement…getting to this 5-6 o’clock hour…knowing that you have to get out but knowing this is an environment we can’t stay in…not ready to let go yet” Morrison expounds. 

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Stay’ available in limited edition print through ArtCapitol

It is this delicate balance between ambiguity and form, the certainty of the technical and impreciseness of emotion which makes Morrison’s work so captivating. 

Exhibiting through June 4th at hale ARTS SPACE in Santa Monica,  Morrison’s underwater series is available at the gallery in limited edition prints, excepting ‘Stay’. 

From her artist statement: “Her use of dancers in an underwater environment allows Mallory to challenge the boundaries of people photography-utilizing weightlessness to tell stories, which explore the depths of movement and composition. Her underwater series…explores the interaction between a woman and the water’s surface. It is a dream-like journey through the confusion of the water and bubbles to find the surface where she can feel comfort in breath.” 

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”Adrift” Limited edition print 14”x22” framed 

haleARTS SPACE, founded and helmed by Michael Hale; himself an artist inspired by 1950’s prints, is a small, intimate two-story space in off trendy Main Street in Santa Monica-a beachside city with a strong devotion to the arts.

The works are contemporary with leanings towards mid-century design, abstract and pop art. Also worth seeing at the gallery is the work of sculptor Hadiya Finley, whose tiny bronze sculptures-women set afloat in driftwood canoes and chaise lounges…haunting little bodies are soul stirring. Her small exhibit is on the second floor of the gallery. 

The Mallory Morrison exhibit is presented by Fabrik, a quaterly journal dedicated to emerging artists, design and art in Los Angeles. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

hale ARTS SPACE: www.halearts.com

Mallory Morrison: www.mallorymorrison.com

Fabrik: www.fabrik.la

PHOTO CREDITS: All photos are attributed to the haleARTS Space, except for stay which is courtesy of ArtCapitol.

IN ROTATION: AURA BAKKER DESERT SEA: I write this post from the mountains and granite cliffs of Yosemite overlooking the Sierras. I love the city but when I’m able to get away to a place of such majesty and spiritual grace it feeds my soul.

The same feeling of renewal occurs when I listen to music that touches me, crafted by artists who are drawing from their well of experience, spirituality and life observations.

One such artist is Aura Bakker an eclectic songwriter with a nimble, jazz-tinged voice-one that floats and twists according to the needs of the song.

Raised in California and Holland, Aura’s music is formed from her insightful, curious nature and enhanced by her background in Indian classical music and jazz.

This year, marked the launch of her first full length album called ‘Desert Sea’, co-produced by Jonathan Greene and funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Ethereal at times, the well-crafted songs and compelling lyrics send you to another place. The full, but uncluttered production calls to mind the efficiency and beauty of the desert landscape and is so beautifully captured in the album photography.

This is the Desert Sea and like the otherworldly landscape I am writing from, it surrounds the heart and ears, reaching into the soul.

Tonight, Aura is performing selections from ‘Desert Sea’ live with a roster of talented local musicians at the famed Hotel Cafe in the heart of Hollywood. Tickets are $10 at the door.

FROM THE VAULT:  Amalia Hernández 9/1/17-11/5/00: On this Cinco de Mayo I am inspired by Amalia Hernández, founder, director and choreographer of the Ballet Folklórico de México. Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated continuously in the United States since 1863 but was not nationally popularized until the 1940’s with the ascent of the Chicano movement. It is often mistaken for Mexican Independence Day but was initially to commemorated for the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Outside of Puebla, the day has turned into a celebration of Mexican culture. Amalia Hernández through her love of dance, brought the traditions of México to life. Starting with only eight dancers in 1952, the company grew to include up to 60 dancers with pieces reflecting the traditional costumes and choreography of the differing regions of México. The company tours extensively, has recceived numerous awards, and continues to inspire and remind us, especially those of us native to the southwest, of the importance of Mexican culture to our history. Amalia Hernández brought a more detailed and nuanced portrait of Mexican culture to the forefront. Her legacy lives on in the halls of the Folkloric Ballet School in Mexico City, a school she founded and helped design. 

Photos courtesy of the Ballet Folklórico de Mexico. 

For more information: http://www.balletamalia.com/eng.html

STYLE MUSE: Akua and Lia from House of Aama

Confession: I lived part of my childhood in the nineties. I’m talking the early nineties here. While that still puts me at a fairly respectable age to still be relevant and hip-long gone are the days of crop tops and booty shorts. Did I ever really do that? 

In any case, its been real interesting  watch young fashionistas and fashionistos born in the nineties reinterpreting the looks-everything from electric florals to Blossom hats (not my favorite), to body con Alaïaesque curve hugging, to Madonna crosses to maroon lips and Doc Martens. 

The fashion industry has followed suit on the plaid coattails of these kids. It comes full fashion circle: they get it from the street, recreate it bring it to the masses and the high classes (Marc Jacobs early nineties grunge), it goes out of style and then twenty years later comes back reinterpreted through the tiny round grunge glasses of an eighteen year old. 

Whole business segments have taken off on this aesthetic. Sophia Amoruso is the  owner of Nasty Gal, an online storefront and became and author with her memoir #Girlboss. At only 30 years old, she has built a fashion empire mostly on the backs of young women with an edge who are excited by the aesthetics of the Tupac and Nirvana era. 

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Sophia Amoruso of Nasty Gal in her signature style 

The price points of Nasty Gal are aimed directly for this young but highly fashion savvy consumer. These are girls who follow fashion bloggers who want to look cool but also  look like it was all their idea. Very different from how many of us lived through fashion in the nineties. When we were just trying to get it right, find the right pair of Vans, the acceptable amount of black eyeliner, the “I’m not trying too hard plaid.”. 

The seemingly overnight success of some style bloggers with Instagram accounts that look like glossy magazines can be overwhelming. They become famous for their signature style and then get sent expensive designer outfits and have top photographers working with them. Then sometimes they lose the very element that made them famous in the first place- the true street style.

One young blogger as big as she has become (over 600k followers on Instagram) has been able to retain most of her signature aesthetic-an aesthetic that turns out to be an exciting mix of nineties grunge-glam. Her name is Luanna and her blog is called Lehappy (decidedly not grunge).  Originally hailing from Peru, now residing in New York, her take on this iconic era is music centered, punky and grungy. However, as she is coming of age post-nineties  there is a sweetness and freshness to her that comes through. The edge she refers to  is a reverent, not  angst filled.

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The nineties as through the eyes of top style blogger Luanna from LeHappy

I’ve been left with mix feelings seeing the twenty year old girl in a Nirvana shirt wishing I would have tried harder to see them live, or wondering if its too late to get away with cut offs (it is). What does all this mean to the still hip 30 something? Can we revisit the era with a renewed eye?

The answer my lady and lad friends is YES. Its important to take style cues from these young fashion redux masters as well as slightly older girlbosses like Sophia Amoruso  and mix it in with some good common fashion sense. 

Recently I stopped a young lady at Starbucks. I wanted to hug her style I loved it so much. She somehow managed to mix Afrocentric touches (shells in her braids, African patterns) with elements of grunge and early ninties hip-hop. Not only that but she looked polished with a bold shouldered eighties blazer and pants.  She looked like she stepped off of a Vogue curated set of A Different World

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Fabulous fashion from the late eighties/early nineties A Different World. From left to right, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jasmine Guy and Lisa Bonet. 

It turns out her name is Akua and she is the owner of an online Etsy shop called House of Aama. She was with her friend Lia, who had a different take on style mixing. Lia was more of the painter the loose artist with a crocheted top and bleached pants and beautiful natural hair. It was still a style so familiar, yet so hard to place. Some seventies, some eighties rocker with the bleached pants. This style is bold- it takes confidence to mix with this careful eye. It is an art form and one not impeded by whether or not this or that nineties element was cool. These ladies are so young, they have no idea that creepers went out of style twenty years ago (Akua was wearing a delicious pair) or that bleached jeans are not for the faint of heart. 

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Akua, (left) and Lia right from House of Aama 

Which leaves lots of inspiration for a lady like me. To see the era I grew up in through new, fresh eyes and have options opened up for me. A look through Akua’s online shop shows lots of vintage finds and some original designs. Some of the pieces  I know to stay away from (the aforementioned crop tops) but many items that can be glammed up and grown up. 

Akua calls her look “afrogrunge” and says her style philosophy can be summed up with that phrase. Sounds right to me. Even better, it looks right to me. 

More Information: 

On Akua: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HouseOfAama

On Sophia Amoruso and Nastygal: http://www.nastygal.com

On Luanna at Lehappy: http://www.le-happy.com

FROM THE VAULT: The 400 Blows

In the haze that was college, I managed to between work, pretending to study and the occasional boyfriend induced class skipping- I managed to actually learn a thing or two. One of the classes I took has stuck with me. I don’t remember all the dates or the facts, but the names of the directors, the producers the imagery makers of the World Cinema class I took at Cal State Fullerton continues to permeate my mind, to influence my dreams. Kurosawa, Antonioni and yes…Truffaut. 

The breadth of the class was staggering and I saw images from countries I didn’t even know made films. It was in this class  that I was introduced to the French New Wave and where I saw The 400 Blows, François Truffaut’s masterpiece. 

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Truffaut was one of the pioneers of French New Wave. The movement is characterized by a break from the staid period dramas that had pervaded French cinema. Most of the filmmakers who worked within this movement were born in the 1930’s and these films were shot mostly in the late 1950’s-late 1960’s. 

As one of the film critics from the magazine Cahiers du Cinema, or cinema notebook in a literal translation; Truffaut  along with other critics, developed over time a philosophy of filmmaking which could be distilled into the idea of a caméra-stylo. That is, using the camera as a pen, the director becomes an auteur, or author of the film. His film is a personal stamp- a personal manifesto.

The reverb effect from this philosophy of filmmaking forever changed films as we know it. Many of the innovations, experimental shots and social realism are elements that continue to be apart of the innovative filmmakers arsenal. 

Even Tarantino, one of my favorite directors in all his sewn together symbolism and multiple layers of influences retains a singular vision. A Tarantino film is a Tarantino film. The French New Wave film artists would see him as an auteur. 

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The 400 Blows, translates to a French idiom meaning essentially to “raise hell”. The hell raiser of the movie is one Antoine Doinel, a young Parisian boy who is seen as a troublemaker by all he encounters, as a problem to be resolved. He is misunderstood and overlooked. After all, how bad can a Balzac obsessed boy be? 

His character is seen as an interpretation of Truffaut’s youth. Himself, the boys he grew up with and as a searing social critique on the juvenile system in France at the time. 

When it came out in 1959, The 400 Blows was recognized immediately for the revolution it was. It won at Cannes and at the Academy Awards. Most importantly, it  in won in the hearts and minds of cinéphiles everywhere.  Many fans of this film are captivated by its ending sequence which resonates emotionally long after the film is over. Antoine runs towards the ocean which he has always longed to see. Torn between what he has  known and the possibility of what lies beyond.

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