COMFORTABLY NUMB: AN AMNESTY ON COOL

Enough with the hiding your real self behind your artfully composed selfies. It’s time to call an amnesty on cool, says Comfortably Numb columnist Kate Atkinson.

 

I want to declare an amnesty on modern cool – realizing this is one of the most uncool statements I could write, and more than aware that several people will probably be cringing reading this. If you are, call me anti-millennial and grind away. But if you’d have hoped we’d left it behind in high school, it seems like “cool” is an extremely contagious epidemic no thanks to the digital revolution.

What exactly is cool anyway? It’s an intangible phenomena that you can’t really touch, a state of being that defines the way you walk and talk, what you wear, the music you listen to, where you’re eating, and whether something is on trend – that is, worthy of likes on Instagram. It’s visceral. You can just feel it. And when it comes to true self-expression, I have to say, the modern version is a straight-jacket.

I also want to preface this story with the fact that while, yes, I do have tattoos, by no means am I an expert on cool. I was on the debating team at school – enough said. But I have got up close and personal enough with this insidious contagion to know how it works, and the more I examine its motives, it’s beginning to feel like cool is the root of an identity crisis that’s plaguing our generation.

A girlfriend put it perfectly when I asked what it means to be cool: “it’s the desire to be accepted, the need for validation, the urge to seem radical, despite longing to fit in.” And so it goes. Oh, the dichotomy of being human. Our narcissistic tendencies AND our insecurities are fuelled by cool, especially at a time when platforms for inclusion and exclusion are at an all time high.

Are you aspiring to be an “influencer?” This breed is all about being seen and accepted, “liked” on the interweb. For them, Instagram is basically a digi-friendly version of the high school cheerleading team. Things are sold to us now by “seeding” them with cool people. Brands, celebrities, and destinations are made by their manufactured “cool factor.” What I want to know is, what happened to under-the-radar cool of yesteryear?

In his 2013 book “The Cool School”Glenn O’Brien talks about the new tastemakers. But his cool  “squad” were, put simply, incredibly creative weirdos. Homeless Jazz beatniks, bohos and roaming beat poets. Anyone who made people uncomfortable basically. Something tells me that they wouldn’t be invited to Kim and Kanye’s dinner party.

We live in an age of such style over substance that it’s incredibly hard to rage against the machine and do your own thing. In fact, a study commissioned by smartphone maker HTC late last year revealed that 52% of the approximately 1000 Brits surveyed admitted to posting images of possessions and items with an intention of making their “friends” jealous. What the hey?

Wasn’t this cool thing supposed to be people going against the grain? Rather than just sticking up photo-shopped images captioned: “I ate, I pooped, I wore Celine!” Now pardon my French, but WTF? If this isn’t numbing what’s going on in our down and dirty daily human reality, I don’t know what is.

Because cool these days is about hiding the “sad” half of your life and projecting the best bits. Ambivalence is also key – pretending not to care, even (especially) if you do. Which is basically saying to your soul that your true hopes and aspirations count for nothing unless they fit with whatever’s trending this month. And yet, as the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character puts it in cult classic Almost Famous: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

A moment please to consider this: when the cool castles in the sky come crashing down around you and you’re left with the reality of your life, who out of your carefully curated online “tribe” will actually be there to help cushion the fall? Because what you’re really doing when you shield the real you with a glossy veneer of cool, is construct a bulletproof force field that deflects true intimacy.

So beside a total social media detox and cancelling our memberships to Soho House, how can we wake up from this aspirational bullshit existence that we’re creating for ourselves? By taking the time to get conscious to how we while away our days, and creating meaning in every interaction. By walking our talk, with our roots firmly entrenched in reality.

It sounds so obvious, but social media is the great distractor when it comes to following your own expressive intuition….and it’s there for seeking approval when you do actually create something. The old greats weren’t preoccupied with showcasing their creativity, they just did it.

It’s a mythic delusion and a safety net to communicate and earn accolades in this way – as well as a way to mask what’s actually going on. Surely giving away change on the subway is also worth a few “likes” – so why aren’t we posting on Instagram about that? “Saw a nice guy dish out change today on the subway – what a dude!” Shouldn’t he be the real “influencer?”

These stories DO come up on social media – and when they do it’s meaningful, the positive slant on modern technology. But too often, they’re engulfed in a stream of exclusivity: “I ate this, my bae wears that” – with resulting countless digital high fives and @s to follow.

I know my feed rarely delves beyond the aesthetics. And yes, fashion week happens, and friends stay in epic mansions. There are days at the beach with the clearest water ever. Again, I am not counting myself out of ANY of this malarchy, I am as partial to a well-posed selfie as the rest of us. But the lack of reality is what’s wrong with this whole picture, and it’s beginning to be all I can see.

Can’t somebody invent “Unstagram” for the days you’re feeling a bit off? For when you get dumped, you spent the last two days in tracksuit from Target, or you have an embarrassing medical problem?

Because you know what’s really cool? Being real. Not some projection of me me, me, me, I’m so fabulous, watch me eat, watch me sleep! Watch me break my arm! Look at me tagging historical references to show how tapped in and culturally aware I am.

Are we really this dumb? Is there no end to our ridiculous need for validation? This is the worst kind of cool that there is, and what’s more, this culture of exclusion is not social by any means. It’s actually scientifically proven to be making people chronically depressed.

So in a recent discussion with a friend on a rather significant life choice that involved making a potentially un-cool move, when she advised me to: “Fuck cool” – I decided I whole-heartedly concur.

NOT by Ernest Hemmingway

You are not your age,

Nor the size of clothes you wear,

You are not a weight,

Or the color of your hair.

You are not your name,

Or the dimples in your cheeks,

You are all the books you read,

And all the words you speak,

You are your croaky morning voice,

And the smiles you try to hide,

You’re the sweetness in your laughter,

And every tear you’ve cried,

You’re the songs you sing so loudly,

When you know you’re all alone,

You’re the places that you’ve been to,

And the one that you call home,

You’re the things that you believe in,

And the people that you love,

You’re the photos in your bedroom,

And the future you dream of,

You’re made of so much beauty,

But it seems that you forgot,

When you decided that you were defined,

By all the things you’re not.

AN EMPATH’S FASHION WEEK SURVIVAL GUIDE

Attending the international catwalk shows left former Garage Magazine fashion editor Chloe Kerman feeling utterly depleted. Here’s how she learned why – after leaving the industry behind… PLUS: Chloe shares her Fashion Week survival guide.

Chloe in her fashion editor days

I was a Fashion Editor for 10 years. I had a great job at Garage Magazine, produced beautiful shoots, working with incredible photographers such as Paolo Roversi, Ellen Von Unwerth, and many others. On paper, it was my dream job, but honestly during that time I was so unhappy. I felt like a hamster caught in a spinning wheel, running over the same old ground over and over again. I was very low, I had no passion, no drive, and felt like I was wasting my life.

Of course, my job also meant I attended the international catwalk events in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, and I saw almost all the shows. A dream come true for anybody who claims to love fashion. However, before the shows I would go into meltdown. I felt immense pressure to buy new clothes while the insecurities I felt about my body would be heightened at this time. My mood would be all over the place and I would dread the weeks ahead. By the end of the month, I was so emotional I would cry most days, which I put down to being over tired, suffering from stress and anxiety, and burning the candle at both ends!

Searching for some relief and some answers, I was still working for Garage Magazine at when I began studying Shamanism in October 2013. But on the last day of my course, Alberto Villoldo, my teacher and founder of The Four Winds Society, told me: “Don’t be surprised if your life changes when you go home.”

His prediction came true. Just hours after arriving home, my boyfriend at the time ended our three-year relationship – and the following day I was fired from my Fashion Editor job! In the space of two days, I’d been completely stripped of my identity. But all of a sudden, I was given the opportunity and freedom to change my life.

It was definitely a very challenging and emotional time, however now I see these events as huge gifts, as I took the opportunity to leave London and begin a magical journey of deep transformation, growth, healing, and study.

I have spent the past two years traveling and studying in the East and West Coast of America, Peru, Chile, Thailand, and India. I have studied Shamanism and Crystalline Consciousness, I’m initiated in herbalism, I studied at the Oneness University, and I’m currently working with the Divine Feminine empowerment movement, creating workshops and offering private sessions.

Chloe’s new life

I live a very different life from my fashion industry days, which has enabled me to see how every experience is an opportunity to grow, leading me to approach life as a constant adventure. I have learned to understand exactly how I co-create my reality, which means whatever happens for me I take responsibility for manifesting it. And how exciting and empowering it feels to choose to take full ownership of my feelings and my daily experience.

When I started my shamanic training I also discovered that I am an “empath” – meaning someone who easily picks up on other people’s emotions, and who taps into the collective consciousness around them. That’s when the penny dropped as to why I had such a hard time during the shows – not only had I been dealing with my own feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and stress, but I was experiencing the strain of taking on a lot of other emotions that were swirling around me.

Being an empath is a beautiful gift – when you’re able to identify as one. However, until then life can seem very overwhelming, simply because we’re so sensitive. And when I worked in the industry, I knew nothing about how to prepare myself energetically for the shows. One very simple tool I’ve since learned, and which you can use anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed, is to ask yourself: are these feelings mine? If you get a no, they will automatically defuse.

Here, I’ve compiled a list of my top tips for staying centered, aligned, and starting my day in the most loving way possible for myself and those around me.

1. As soon as you wake up, invite all the things you are grateful for to come into your mind. Let this be spontaneous: I’m grateful for this comfortable bed, that I had a deep sleep, etc. When you start the day like this your frequency automatically bumps up in vibration.

2. Follow this with some kind of practice to connect to yourself. This can be meditation, yoga, a walk in nature, conscious breathing, focusing on your heart, etc. Even 10 minutes of this can really change the flow and mood of your day as it will connect you to your own center.

3. Choose to make every decision in love, with honor and respect for yourself and the people around you.

4. Dab a couple of drops of organic Bulgarian rose oil on each of your seven chakras – starting at the root, and moving up through the sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. Bulgarian rose oil holds a very high vibration that maintains the integrity of the energy centers.

5. Wear a clear quartz crystal at your heart or solar plexus.

6. Do a chakra clearing daily, either morning or evening or both if you have time. I love Chakra Dyana.

7. Eat the most nourishing food you have access too – proteins and good fats are great for energy levels, and root veg for grounding. Avoid the foods and drinks that you know yo-yo your emotions i.e. caffeine and sugar (a hard one when you’re racing between shows!)

8. Movement. Anytime you feel stuck or low in energy its time to move, either physically or choosing a different thought pattern. This circulates energy and keeps us in flow and open to new opportunities.

9. Create an act of kindness for someone else daily, plugging into the energy of unconditional giving.

10. Book in with an energy healer after the shows to rebalance, nurture and refuel your system.

And, remember that anytime you feel stressed or overwhelmed, you can use this as an opportunity to practice coming back to your center – which means simply taking a moment to focus on your heart and on your breath, practicing compassion for yourself and the experience that you are having, and inviting gratitude into your awareness again.

I say practice because staying present is a choice we have to make consciously throughout the day, with all the adventures that come our way. With this said, I invite you also to consciously decide to ENGAGE and ENJOY the fashion week craziness!

To find out more about Chloe’s work and book a session contact: [email protected]

FASHION DESIGNER TAROT: THE CARDS ON THE CATWALK

Woah, Fashion Week fun alert! Welcome to Fashion Designer Tarot, in which Vix (a.k.a. the New Age Hipster) imagines a card for six of our favourite catwalk characters…

:: MARC JACOBS – SIX OF CUPS ::

Marc Jacobs embodies the Six of Cups like nobody’s business, which is interesting really because I always see this as the giving and receiving card, small business in a small town card. Marc is very clearly NOT small business these days, and in fact, being born in NYC it’s possible he hasn’t spent much time in small towns at all. But still he embodies an industrious work ethic, and having checked out his latest offerings with my third eye, the romantic notion of small town America he often returns to can be seen in full effect. His signature cartoonish motifs, military stylings and perfume bottles adorned with daisies just scream: “get me out of the big city and back to the back of beyond!” I’m pretty sure in his next life, MJ is coming back as a farmer.

 

:: VIVIENNE WESTWOOD – THE TOWER ::

Vivienne Westwood was the original 1970’s punk, and there’s no card in the Tarot more punk than The Tower! The Tower comes up in readings when everything you’ve built, everything you believe, and everything you trust no longer serves you, and needs to change – now! Just as the punks wanted to break the chains and see the tower of fascism fall, mixing fashion and politics is as natural to Vivienne as pairing tea with cake. Appearing as herself in risque advertising shoots and using every opportunity in front of a camera to push her stance on climate change, Viv continues to shake up and shock the tower of the fashion world well into her seventies.

 

:: STELLA MCCARTNEY – ACE OF CUPS ::

Stella McCartney’s classically feminine vibe can only really relate to the suit of cups. The cups cards help us to dive deep into our emotions, discovering all the gems that lie beneath, and helping us to harness our water energy rather than wind up an emotional wreck. Stella has most definitely got a hold of her own cups, making the Ace of Cups the perfect card for her. Her collection for SS15 is overflowing with gorgeous deep ocean blues, shimmering sunlight on sea metallics and beautiful flowing dresses the colour of breaking waves. And Stella appears to be balancing out her water energy with air this season too. Birds bask on the backs of deep blue cardigans, perfect for keeping you warm by the lake on a chilly evening out beneath the stars.

 

:: KARL LAGERFELD – THE HIEROPHANT :: 

Le Lagerfeld is basically the self-appointed Pope of the Church of Fashion. In Tarot we can relate these kinds of characters to The Hierophant card – supposedly the landline between you and your God, and Karl has the God of style on speed dial! The Hierophant is never ‘wrong’ about anything. He never admits to his mistakes, because he doesn’t make any! Pastor Karl has been involved in numerous controversies; calling Adele ‘fat’, saying he didn’t like Pippa Middleton’s face, oh, and don’t even get me started on his opinions about the use of animals on the catwalk. But he thinks all these things are totes fine, and unfortunately so do many of his black leather clad congregation.

 

:: DONATELLA VERSACE – THE CHARIOT ::


With the gold Medusa as her emblem, Donatella Versace is soooo the Chariot card. But the Chariot isn’t only about fancy Greek footwear and Swarovski bling. This card reminds us that in order to get moving in our lives we have to balance both light and dark. We need to give and receive – allow our sphinx to pull, but steer them where we want to go, right? Donatella takes 2000-year-old Grecian drapery and makes it relevant. She adds golden talismans to ward off evil spirits as you stroll around the mall, and reminds us that every new season in the fashion world is just another pause in the cycle. Nothing is new, and yet everything is new. And this is what keeps the wheels of Versace’s Chariot moving forward.

 

:: ALEXANDER WANG – THE MOON :: 

Mystery, intuition,  stillness, the quiet power within. These are all aspects of The Moon, the Tarot card that depicts Alexander Wang to a tea. A white leaf tea with no sugar, no milk and no sweetener. Wang’s stark, monochrome designs embody the power and beauty of a full Moon on a cloudless night. Of course, there are also brief flares of colour – perhaps blue for a passing comet, or a dash of metallic silver for a falling star. If you’re looking for the perfect wardrobe this season to help you dress like the Moon cycles, then Alexander has you covered.

THE FASHION WEEK ZODIAC WHEEL: DESIGNERS BY SIGN

The creations of our most iconic fashion designers always reflect the traits of their sign – so what part of the Fashion Week Zodiac Wheel speaks to the fashionista in you?

ARIES: MARC JACOBS

**DARING ** SELF-CONFIDENT ** TREND-SETTING ** EGOTISTICAL ** ATHLETIC ** STRONG **
One of fashion’s true thought leaders, with the show that closes New York Fashion Week Marc Jacobs is pretty much the only designer out of NYC with the power to set trends (not just capitalise massively on them). He also turned high fashion on its head when he invented grunge, and famously spends two hours a day in the gym honing that athletic Aries physique.

TAURUS: DONATELLA VERSACE

Atelier Versace Couture 2014

**SENSUOUS ** AESTHETIC ** MATERIALISTIC ** LOYAL ** LUXURY-LOVING ** RELIABLE  **
The ultimate material girl, Donatella’s vision never wavers – women have red carpets to walk down, and damnit she’s going to give them the glamazon gowns to do it in. When her brother Gianni (a flamboyant Sagittarius) was brutally gunned down in 1997, the Versace family knew they could rely on determined Taurus Donatella to follow in his diamante-studded, gold leaf inlaid footsteps.

GEMINI: HENRY HOLLAND

House of Holland AW07

**ORIGINAL ** COMMUNICATIVE ** QUICK-WITTED ** VERSATILE ** IMITATIVE **
As the sign that rules communication, is it any wonder that Gemini Henry Holland launched his House of Holland label with a line of cheeky slogan t-shirts? This set the tone for a playful streak that runs through every collection – the “House” in question also including his legion celebrity friends / fans always crowding out the frow at his shows.

CANCER: VERA WANG

Vera Wang Bridal SS14

**DEVOTIONAL ** DOMESTIC ** EMOTIONAL ** TRADITIONAL ** NOSTALGIC ** FAMILIAL**
Who else but Cancer Vera Wang could have cornered the market for high fashion bridal gowns? Wang’s name has become synonymous with the kind of wedding that fairy tales are made of – having dressed everyone from Mariah Carey to Victoria Beckham for their big day. As Cancer also rules the home (and by default, wedding gift lists?),  it makes sense that she expanded into homeware in 2002.

LEO: JEREMY SCOTT

Jeremy Scott SS14

** PLAYFUL ** CHILDLIKE ** ENTERTAINING ** DRAMATIC ** HUMOROUS ** FUN-LOVING **
The eternal club-kid, Leo Jeremy Scott refuses to grow up and get serious. This is the man who invented a pair of sneakers with a teddy bear’s head where the tongue should be, FFS. And he walks the walk. His own outfits are as outrageous as his you-cannot-be-serious creations, while in his case the lion’s mane is his signature (sometimes peroxide blonde) quiff / mohawk.

VIRGO: STELLA MCCARTNEY

Stella McCartney SS14

** PERFECTIONIST ** RESERVED ** INTELLIGENT ** PRACTICAL ** DETAIL-ORIENTED ** NEAT **
Smart women love Stella’s less-is-more, demure-yet-doin’ it approach, and, as a health-conscious, righteous Virgo, she’s as  known for her staunch vegetarianism as her catwalk prowess. Hello seriously discerning women paying astronomical sums for pleather bags and shoes. Consistently hailed as a designer who serves the needs of “real women,” she also has a penchant for virginal white.

LIBRA: DONNA KARAN

Donna Karan Urban Zen

** BALANCED ** SOCIALLY AWARE ** GRACEFUL ** REFINED ** RELATIONSHIP-ORIENTED **
Before Donna Karan came along with her ‘Essentials’ line in 1985 – seven easy pieces that could be mixed and matched to create the perfectly balanced work-life wardrobe – there were suits and there were leisure suits and there wasn’t much in between.  She was also being true to her Libra roots when she launched her Urban Zen foundation, selling thousand dollar shirts to aid indigenous cultures and support holistic wellness studies.

SCORPIO: RICK OWENS

Rick Owens menswear FW09

**INTENSE ** SEXUAL ** MYSTERIOUS ** AGGRESSIVE ** TRANSFORMATIVE ** FORCEFUL **
Who else but Rick Ownes would you wear to a high fashion sex party in the backstreets of Berlin? Not only is his all-black aesthetic directly out of some futuristic occult situation (I mean, he has a diffusion line called DRKSHDW), his bondage-inspired creations have the power to totally transform the body of the wearer. And, openly bi, you just know he and his wife Michele Lamy are into some kinky shiz.

SAGITTARIUS: JOHN GALLIANO

** OUTGOING ** EXPANSIVE ** BLUNT ** FORTUNATE ** PROFESSOR ** MORAL **
Outspoken to, ahem, a fault, it’s still unclear where disgraced designer John Galliano will settle following the antisemitic outburst that got him sacked from the top spot at Dior in 2011. After a guest slot at Oscar de le Renta (brokered by none other than Anna Wintour, hello resourceful Scorpio fashion fairy godmother) for AW13, rumors are circulating that he make take up a teaching post at Parsons.

CAPRICORN: DIANE VON FURSTENBURG

** PRACTICAL ** BUSINESSLIKE ** AMBITIOUS ** AUTHORITATIVE ** FOCUSSED ** REALISTIC **
Where would working women the world over be without Capricorn DVF and her iconic wrap dress?? The consummate fashion mogul, when she launched her company in 1970 her decision to “be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married” made her a figurehead for fashionable feminists. A walking talking brand in her own right she was even named President of the CFDA in 2006.

AQUARIUS: MARY QUANT

** INNOVATIVE ** REBELLIOUS ** INDIVIDUAL ** LIBERAL ** AWAKENING ** FREE **
Nobody but Aquarius Mary Quant could have invented the mini-skirt, and in doing so single-handedly created a uniform for the 1960s women’s lib movement. Although she always handed the credit to her customers; “It was the girls on the King’s Road who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump, and we would make them the length the customer wanted. I wore them very short and the customers would say, ‘Shorter, shorter.'”

PISCES: ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

**IMAGINATIVE ** FANTASTICAL ** CREATIVE ** VISIONARY ** OTHERWORLDLY ** MYSTIC **
May we all bow down to the memory of Pisces Alexander McQueen, a true fashion visionary whose beautiful, fantastical creations seemed like they were beamed onto the catwalk from another dimension. Taking skulls and religious iconography as his motifs, his work was entirely impractical, darkend by an obsession with the realm beyond the veil, and utterly, achingly, beautiful.