“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anaïs Nin
It’s just Anaïs, finding the right words, yet again. Every trip we take, depending on the destination and context, tends to bring out a new side of our personality. A new alter ego. In my case, this metamorphosis is most notable through my style, which changes a lot when I’m away from home.
The boho Joëlle from Holbox has nothing to do with the minimalist Joëlle from Copenhagen. Just like the chic Joëlle from Paris has nothing to do with the laidback Joëlle from San Francisco. And the new Joëlle that has emerged from Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, clearly has nothing to do with any other Joëlle I’ve seen before.
Las Vegas is the city of bling, lust, excess and, let’s be honest, bad taste. It’s one of those few places where, on the same block, you can come across a huge Louis Vuitton store cast in gold, acrobats cartwheeling in spandex suits, and a woman at a slot machine, cigarette in her mouth and flip flops on her feet.
Everything goes in Sin City. It’s the place where too much is never enough.
You get where I’m going. Las Vegas is no fashion capital. But it’s still home to MAGIC, one of the biggest fashion trade shows in the world. In case you you’re not following me on Instagram, last February, I attended the event with MMODE (aka the Fashion Metropolitan Cluster) as their official content creator. Our mission: promote Montreal fashion to over 70 000 industry players.
My camera and I weren’t the only ones in Nevada. A bunch of brands took part in the #mtlstyle initiative too, like Yoga Jeans, Markantoine, Solios and WellDunn. By the way, I’ve listed all my favourite ones right here. So, how can I describe this 4-day marathon? I’d say meetings, interviews, conferences and a whole lot of coffee. And based on the feedback I heard from participating designers, a whole lot of business opportunities as well.
Back to my style metamorphosis. I was in a city where style extravaganza knows no limits, but also in a professional working environment. Two completely opposite ideas from which a new and unexpected Joëlle rose. Here’s what she taught me.
IT’S OKAY NOT KNOWING WHAT YOUR STYLE IS
Minimalist. Maximalist. Boho chic. Normcore. Street. Sport. Retro. Preppy. Punk.
What’s MY style? That’s a tough one. When I was a teenager and would take the ‘What’s your style?’ quiz in Seventeen magazine, I’d always be ‘all of the above’. For a long time, I’ve tried to define my style identity, without ever successfully pinpointing it. Not being able to put my style inside a concise box often felt like a reflection of me being all over the place.
If Las Vegas has taught me one thing is that, in fact, I have MANY styles. I can wear baggy pants with a men’s leather shirt and switch into a pink dress with pearly hair clips and still feel 100% myself. An eclectic, free-thinking style is still a style in itself.
It’s a little bit like if my body was a blank page. I can fill it with any story I want. Which character do I want to play today? The serious journalist, the femme fatale, or Sporty Spice are all mine to take.
The goal isn’t to transform your wardrobe into SNL’s costume closet. It’s more profound than clothes. It’s letting yourself be whomever you want to be, whenever you want, without ever having to frame it with words.
YOU’RE NEVER TOO MUCH
On the Thursday evening, the whole MMODE team was having a celebratory cocktail with Export Quebec at the very posh restaurant, Milos. I was planning on wearing an Eliza Faulkner dress for the occasion. Puffy, off-shoulder, made out of taffeta: it was a dress straight out of a dream! Like Cinderella could have worn it to her prom, if only her stepmom had let her go to school.
Plot twist: the day of the event, self-doubt set in. I was afraid I’d be too dressed up, too fancy, too much. Based on the people I had met throughout the week, I had a feeling the evening’s mood would be more like a networking event rather than, let say, the royal wedding.
But why was I suddenly intimidated to wear a dress that I loved so much? Was I afraid of being judged? Would people think I looked ridiculous? Would they be staring at me for all the wrong reasons? Honestly, all those possibilities went through my mind. And regardless, I still chose to wear it.
Firstly, because it took up half of my luggage and I hadn’t dragged it across the other side of the continent for nothing. Secondly, because it was a piece by Eliza Faulkner, a friend and an amazing designer, whom I wanted to promote proudly. Thirdly, and most importantly, because I felt strong and beautiful in it. It caught people’s attention. It was big. It was bold. It pushed me to own the role for which I had come for.
Because fear of being too much, is fearing standing too tall when you’re used to making yourself small.
Evening’s report: I received so many compliments on my dress, I eventually stopped counting. But the important thing is that, even if nobody had said anything, I still would have worn it.
I DON’T DRESS TO BE ATTRACTIVE ANYMORE
There’s a difference between wearing an outfit to feel pretty and, in my case, wearing an outfit to feel pretty in the eyes of men. Today, I fall within the first scenario, but it’s a shift that’s only happened recently. Is it an organic outcome of having been in a relationship for a long time? Maybe. But I only truly became aware of it in Vegas.
Before leaving for my gig with MMODE, I prepared all my outfits. Some were super stylish and some others were just really funky, man repeller-ish. I think I was more open to extravagance than usual due to the nature of my trip. A fashion trade show in Las Vegas: there’s just no better time to experiment.
Consciously or not, when I picked out my outfits, I completely took out the ‘seduction’ variable of my selection process. I wanted looks that weren’t about what to show or what to conceal, but rather about creative endeavour. Like an artist who doesn’t care for a pretty drawing, but only for a drawing with meaning.
I know what you want to say: “Joëlle, chill for a sec. It’s only a neon turtleneck and some loose jeans! Get over yourself.” But it was more profound than that. The same thing could be said about Rothko’s paintings—it’s only coloured squares!—but it’s not because something looks simple that the journey is simplistic.
P.S.: If you’re a designer and want to learn more about MMODE’s initiatives (there’s a lot!), you can click right here. And if you, like myself, love local fashion, I suggest you take a look at their local business directory.
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