I’ve discovered that I’m coming to prefer just about everything on a smaller, more intimate scale. Our own food supply is one thing. A small community and personal service is another. Handmade, timeless clothing from limited runs of speechlessly beautiful fabric and with loving, well-placed details is yet another. Prior to every ivey abitz order I placed, there was an event coming up for which I’d purchased each piece. (That’s the official story, anyway. It was a convenient excuse to buy the pieces I loved.) Each time, comically, the event was either indefinitely postponed or cancelled entirely. Sometimes it was weather-related, sometimes not.
In the meantime, they instantly became the most stunning members of my closet, eclipsing even my formerly most prized and flattering pieces. The day I wore my black sueded silk Bartholdi skirt into town (not exactly the ceremony for which it had been purchased, but she had a good sense of humour about it), my husband kept gushing about how much he liked it and how well it suited me, and even the postmaster raced out from behind the counter to stroke the silk (she’s a woman, it was OK) and admire the wild, elegant design that I like to call controlled chaos. More than any of the compliments, though, it felt so good to wear, and instantly elevated my mood and reminded me of the transformative power of a well-conceived, beautifully handcrafted article of clothing that was literally made just for me. I was reminded of my powerful desire to both create and be surrounded by beauty, and what it does for me from the inside out.
The ivey abitz collection debuted right about when we moved from Alberta to a small mountain town in British Columbia, and the timing was perfect. I’d been purchasing pieces from the other designers’ collections that IA used to carry, and already loved the quirky, unusual, “boutique” items that I didn’t see on every other person on the street. But I was blown away by the exceptional quality, attention to detail and point of view of the ivey abitz pieces. They were so far above and beyond even the other lines represented at the gallery, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. I even look forward to receiving the swatch books, and have kept each one and engage in some tactile time now and then, enjoying their textures.
Our beautiful little town in B.C. has been a culture shock, too. I keep describing it to friends as Green Acres revisited, and it’s no exaggeration. I’m playing the Eva Gabor role, wearing my beautiful clothes in a sea of casually clad retirees and far more polyester than is strictly necessary. I’m even Hungarian, just like Eva. We started an organic farm and now have cows, goats, chickens and ducks and are facing the usual challenges in taking care of them while still maintaining our sense of humour. My husband and I wanted out of the industrial food supply, and to become more self-sufficient in both the big and small things in our everyday lives. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I wouldn’t live in a big city again for any temptation.
My own group of artists, writers, and geeks was neither emaciated nor extraordinarily wealthy, so we ate with gusto, kept our food down and shopped on Melrose or Main Street to score cool vintage clothes that we’d mix up with more modern pieces and then swap among ourselves for greater variety. Even then, though there were occasional longings to have access to limitless finances, we knew deep down that budgets were more liberating than limiting; and that our resourcefulness and creativity muscles were getting exercised in ways that really opened our eyes to possibilities and unique combinations. Our templates weren’t models, which was liberating in itself.
There was never any mention of the actual quality of the clothing, though; for the most part it was about the “look.” No one seemed to care about or notice the materials used (other than the fact that we all hated polyester and acrylic), the stitching, or anything as exotic as dressmaker details or handwork. With few exceptions, none of us was ready to recognize, appreciate or embrace the hallmarks of excellence that would later come to mean a great deal. But when the shift does take place, it’s mind-bending and extends into every other corner of your life. At that moment, discernment is born and your childhood is over.
Fast forward a couple of decades. Something happens as you grow up. Cycles and trends become easy to predict, because we’ve finally lived through a few rounds of them and can see it all as a circle and not necessarily a linear progression. Trends are finally seen for what they are: gimmicks to promote impulsive spending, and not benevolent offerings from exalted, over-hyped designers to enhance one’s personal style or uniqueness. But there are exceptions.
to be continued in the next entry…
Moving to Canada was more than just a culture shock. It reminded me that there are millions of people in the world who actually experience all 4 seasons every year. Sounds simple, but up to that point, I’d never been one of them. From a sartorial perspective, it means that winter isn’t just a slightly cooler few months in which to toss a jacket over whatever you’re wearing. It means heavy coats, layering, clunky Herman Munster boots with real traction, and hats and gloves for warmth and not necessarily style. It was refreshing to see everyone dress for warmth, comfort, safety and snow-proofing instead of mere vanity. Soon I became one of them, in order to have a hope of enduring the Calgary winter that sometimes dipped as low as -45 with the wind chill. Stepping out of doors on those days felt just like razor blades scraping against my lungs.
Needless to say, we planned our escape.
to be continued in the next entry…
When I lived in L.A., I always took it for granted that just about any article of clothing from every major designer was locally available and would probably be showing up on either a classmate or one of their mothers (I grew up in Beverly Hills). It was always fun to see how people interpreted fashion and what they would do to individualize it for themselves. But I noticed that what made the quirky vintage and more unusual pieces exciting to me and my outsider group of friends, just didn’t seem to exist in the high-fashion crowd. The established designer pieces that they wore as a trophy for purposes of exhibition, just didn’t require any personality or creativity. The goal was to look like the runway model or magazine ad. The only thing that was broadcast was the amount of money paid for the item, and the whole process was very outside-in and not inside-out. The hallways at school were miniature runways where most people looked exactly the same and were, for the most part, indistinguishable. A lot of the girls carefully maintained a perpetual state of bulimia in order to properly resemble the models in these clothes, and it was understood by everyone that it was just a normal part of that exclusive subculture, regardless of how screwed up it was in real life.
to be continued in the next entry…