Passionless Fashion

transforming our lives by transforming our wardrobes

Daily Archives: March 18, 2011

Inspiration: Andi

Bina: Please welcome Andi Teran! (applause break) I met Andi back in the theatre department at the University of TX at Austin. She was a year ahead of me in the program, and I thought she was quite possibly the coolest girl I’d ever seen. Later, I had the pleasure of working with her on a few plays in New York, always admiring her from afar. For as long as I’ve known who Andi was, I have always thought of her as a force to be reckoned with. Her addictive zeal for life, acting, art, movies, writing, and style make her one of the most beautiful, passionate people I’ve ever had the privilege to come across.

We asked Andi if she would mind taking time out of her very busy schedule, which includes contributing to websites such as VanityFair.com and Vogue.com, and writing her own amazing blog, Verbose Coma (check it out, run don’t walk!), to tell us a little bit about what fashion and style mean to her, as well as what motivates and excites her. We love and admire the way that Andi has turned her passions into her career. She is truly inspirational.

Andi!

Andi: To the French poet and neck-ribbon aficionado (a man after my own heart) Charles Baudelaire who once said, “Style is character,” I must state that I firmly believe character is style. Whether innate or learned, whimsical or reserved, style is always a projection of the self. Some believe it to be an art form, others a philosophical statement, but to me, it is both a choice and a way of life. Also, let’s be honest, clothes are just really, really fun.

For the record, I believe that fashion and style are two entirely different peacocks. Fashion is new and now; style evolves over time. Fashion is chosen by a cognoscenti; style is dictated by the individual. Fashion fades; style is eternal. Now, I love fashion and have worked in and around it for years, but what I truly revere, what continues to speak to me when I open my closet doors every day, is my own style. That probably sounds totally pretentious, but it’s taken me awhile to get here. (Also, geez, I started with a Baudelaire quote! Gag me.)

I first learned about style from an Australian woman on CNN. Like every other third grader in suburban Texas, I watched cartoons on Saturday morning. One day, while flipping channels, I came across a woman with a severe black bob and red lipstick. She had on a pretty dress and spoke to me like I was a grown-up. With a backdrop of classical music, the kind I imagined played on loudspeakers all over France, this woman, Elsa, introduced me to designers who made crazy bright colored clothes for models who could punch bullies with their eyelashes. I was enchanted. Elsa went on and on about things like patterns and the importance of a great necklace in this calm, elegant way. It was unexpected, but from that Saturday forward, I stopped getting up for The Smurfs and made sure I was awake for Style with Elsa Klensch.

Soon after (the result of many impassioned pleas), my mom took me shopping for school clothes and agreed to let me put together an outfit of my choosing. I wanted something with an animal on it because I liked animals, but I also wanted to make Elsa proud. I chose a black, button-up shirt covered in giant orange and white striped zebras paired with Tang-orange baggy pants also covered in zebras, these in black and white—the yin to the shirt’s yang, if you will. I figured it would pass the fancy fashion test because the shirt had buttons (I was used to wearing t-shirts), and it had to be tucked into the trousers. I topped this ensemble with a dark sweater vest, remembering a recent designer on the show who had a penchant for wearing all black, and tipped it out with my favorite brown lace-up shoes. The look was what I considered safari superhero chic, and it made me feel powerful and transformed.

At school the next day, I was christened with a new nickname: “zebra head.” I hid during recess until the bell rang. Even my best friend—who always looked cute in pink and blonde—left me alone. I didn’t understand. My outfit made me feel good and was something I had put together myself. It was a long walk back to class, but somewhere on that dusty road of elementary fashion fallout, something had changed. A kindergartener passed us in the hall, pointed at my clothes and said, “I like your pants! I like zebras!” This restored my confidence. If only one person other than me liked my ensemble, that helped, yes, but I liked it, and this meant everything.

Today, I still wear animal prints as often as possible (leopard is always beatnik-y and classic). I like menswear mismatched with floral shirts and huge plastic accessories. I don’t care about labels but live for good construction. Elsa taught me that all you need is a simple outfit that fits well; you can then trick it out with fantastic accessories. The only things I save for are well-made, comfortable shoes that last (like leather oxfords which go with everything, look cute with dresses, and stand up to NYC concrete). Splurging on a black leather handbag that holds all your everyday stuff or investing in a classic, tailored black blazer is good, too. The one thing I’ve really learned on my own, though, is if it makes me feel fantastic when I put it on, then I know that it works.

I moved to New York City to be an actress (SO many costumes, SO many different people to dress up and be!), but if you’d told me I’d wind up working in fashion, that one day I’d attend fashion week (a lifelong dream) and meet some of the people profiled on Elsa’s show, I’d have passed out right then and there. I’ve seen all kinds of crazy “fabulosity”, but the people who have stood out from the crowd, the ones whose zebra pants I like the best, are always the ones just living their lives in outfits that illustrate who they are inside. Brave women who don’t give a toss if anybody thinks they look pretty or cool, like Isabella Blow and her crazy hats, or Daphne Guinness in feathers and Cruella hair. I’m obsessed with regal lady-bird Iris Apfel, an octogenarian who layers tons of necklaces atop loud tropical prints. I like women who take the time to care, as well as those who look like they aren’t trying at all (hi, Patti Smith). The point is, style begins with you. Never forget to outfit your inner superhero.

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Day 83 – Friday

Ena - Day 83

Ena: Today is Friday.  I’m sure you already knew that, but I wanted to say it anyway.  Today is also the first day that I have worn my new-to-me maxiskirt.  I picked up this skirt while thrift shopping in Palm Springs with my Grandma a few weeks back and I really like it.

A maxiskirt was on my thrift shopping wish list, something I was specifically looking for.  Maybe I’m just naïve, but I was completely shocked by how hard it was to find an acceptable maxiskirt; by that I mean one that does not have palm trees printed all over it or tassels hanging from the waist band.  I finally found this one at the Goodwill in Palm Desert.  I wasn’t completely sold on it and I almost didn’t buy it, but now I am so glad that I did.  I love the fabric (is it silk, satin, cotton, polyester…who knows), it’s soft and light and perfect for Spring and Summer.  Yay.

I am really looking forward to this weekend; it is supposed to be a bit overcast and chilly, perfect weather for some much needed couch time.  I am also looking forward to it because Saturday I am taking my GAB training course.  I will finally be able to begin my career as a Los Angeles Public Library volunteer, I am through the roof.  I can’t wait, I’ll tell you all about it on Monday.  Double yay.

Bina - Day 83

Bina: After yesterday’s pathetic display, I was determined to put on a better show today, if only for my own gratification. For one thing, I set 3 alarms and actually woke up at a proper time today. Secondly, I straightened and brushed my hair. Thirdly, I knew what I wanted to wear. I’m still a big fan of this little $20 dress and these bright turquoise tights. They make me happy just looking at them; they are springtime to me. And the colorful, sparkly bangles (though hard to see in the pics) are from India.

My Pops comes back from India next week. I’ve missed him, even though normally he would still be in Texas anyway. But it feels different when your loved one is on the other side of the globe as opposed to just a couple time zones away, especially when the world feels somewhat apocalyptic. It’s comforting to know he’ll be home with my Mom soon.

As you probably know, India still has a somewhat active caste system. We are Rajputs; Rajput is from the Sanskrit word Raja-putra (son of a king). Considered to descend from the ancient Hindu ruling warrior dynasties of Northern India, the Chauhans were one of the first Rajput clans to rise to prominence. Our reputation precedes us as hot-blooded and short-tempered. In fact, during colonization, the British deemed the Rajputs a “martial race.” They used this term to describe ethnic groups that were thought to be naturally warlike and aggressive in battle and to possess qualities like courage, loyalty, self sufficiency, physical strength, resilience, orderliness, a hard working nature, a fighting tenacity, and military strategy. The British recruited heavily from these “martial races” for service in the colonial army.

As I mentioned some characteristics from my Japanese lineage recently, I thought it only fair to share a glimpse of the other side of my coin. Sometimes I feel like such an anomaly – as if two very, very different cultures clashed and made me. I was born on a cusp; people seem to never be able to figure me out, ethnically or otherwise; astrological readers are befuddled. Sometimes, it seems, my existence just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe lineage and astrology is a bunch of hooey. Or maybe I’m just special – aren’t we all?

OR I AM AN ALIEN.