NO MOR E F EAR

Fash­ion jour­nal­ist Nathalie Atkin­son has learned to let go of what people think.

Elle (Canada) - - Special -

WHY TREND FORE­CASTER

LIDEWIJ EDELKOORT

WANTS TO UP­GRADE OUR FO­CUS

“People want to be ev­ery­thing for ev­ery­body. Brands start with jeans and then they’re do­ing ho­tels, soup and wa­ter. This is wa­ter­ing ev­ery­thing down. I think we are go­ing into a mono-needs pe­riod where people will do fewer things re­ally well—we’re see­ing it with food al­ready. There are shops just for oil or pep­per

and salt. You can ap­ply this in your own life. Up­grade by be­ing more cen­tred and fo­cused.”

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’ll never for­get those shoes: chunky black slip-on wedges, with jagged grooves carved into the rub­ber soles like bared teeth. Think a Mil­dred Pierce-era Joan Craw­ford gone punk. They were my per­fect Fash­ion Week footwear: They made me taller by two inches and, with the Franken­stein plat­forms, I could sprint from my seat to the press room be­tween shows to file run­way re­ports. They were shoes made for clomp­ing, for com­fort, for quick get­aways. Plus, they were cool.

Then, un­ex­pect­edly, those wedges and I were the sub­ject of a dis­parag­ing blog post. The au­thor snarked that I should be ashamed to call my­self a fash­ion critic and show up in pub­lic—at Fash­ion Week, no less—wear­ing such shoes. To add fur­ther in­sult, the blog­ger was also the de­signer of a small (now de­funct) Cana­dian-made lin­gerie brand that few of the lo­cal me­dia had taken much no­tice of, let alone writ­ten about. I had been one of the few.

I laughed off the post with a shrug, or so I thought. I was sur­prised how the st­ing lin­gered, stab­bing at in­se­cu­ri­ties I didn’t re­al­ize I had. Even­tu­ally, I did what I do for a liv­ing: an­a­lyzed what the in­ci­dent meant within a larger con­text. I re­al­ized that what both­ered me wasn’t the shoe snub—it was the ex­pec­ta­tion that I should dress a cer­tain way be­cause I cover fash­ion. At the na­tional news­pa­per where I work, the cul­ture of fash­ion is one of my beats. I also write about film, books, mu­sic and food. I no more ex­pect a theatre critic to move me to tears recit­ing a mono­logue from Death of a Sales­man than a restau­rant critic to cook me a three­Miche­lin-star meal.

Fash­ion, though, is treated dif­fer­ently. Get­ting dressed means be­ing con­scious—and some­times self-con­scious—about how you look. It’s a tricky propo­si­tion: If I dress with too much care, I’m con­sid­ered just a fash­ion girl; if I’m not care­ful, I end up wear­ing a chip on both shoul­ders.

Ten years af­ter that post, I’ve grown into my per­sonal style: I dress to please my­self. That lon­gago in­sult made me fig­ure out who I was at a time when the fash­ion ecosys­tem was about to get a lot more com­pli­cated. To­day, emerg­ing de­sign­ers/ writ­ers/blog­gers/stylists who haven’t achieved sol­vency, let alone global suc­cess, feel the pres­sure to con­vey the same air of jet-set glam­our as bil­lion­aires like Michael Kors. How they dress is their brand. You can’t fault them—it’s the in­evitable hu­man ex­ten­sion of mar­ket­ing in the street-style-plus­so­cial-me­dia world. But an It bag and state­ment shoes aren’t what give my words cred­i­bil­ity.

Last fall, dur­ing the heat wave that swept the Mi­lan col­lec­tions, Cathy Ho­ryn, then fash­ion critic at The New York Times, wore a pair of cut-off denim shorts in her front-row perch. I was heart­ened when, in re­sponse to queries about the deeper mean­ing be­hind her wardrobe choice, she prag­mat­i­cally replied, “They’re com­fort­able, and I’m work­ing.”

I’m grate­ful to have the lux­ury of fo­cus­ing more on what’s be­tween my ears than what’s on my feet. In a sea of soignée stylists, it has per­haps be­come too much of a point of pride lately. I’ve been wear­ing plat­form der­bys by Junya Watan­abe. Lumpy, bumpy and bone white like cor­rec­tive or­thopaedics, they’re so ugly that they’re down­right in­tel­lec­tual.

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