Thursday, December 25, 2014

low click of a ticking clock

Dream master* and fashion photographer extraordinaire Tim Walker delivers what is undeniably my favorite magazine cover shoot of the month in the December 2014 issue of Vogue China. The mostly monochromatic schemes are highlighted with splashes of bright color, each shot enhanced by dramatic shadows and practiced angles reminiscent of the millennia-long tradition of Chinese calligraphy that inspired this spread.

Up until I started high school and joined the debate team, I used to spend my Saturday afternoons at ink-and-wash painting lessons at a studio inside the Seattle-Chinese newspaper office building in the city, trying to emulate the wet-to-dry brush techniques used in both traditional calligraphy and painting. Chinese art, much like Roman art in the West, is obsessed with order and discipline. The practice of calligraphy itself is first and foremost a practice in perfection; the primary objective for most students of it is to write each stroke with measured precision that can be repeated with each character for every work transcribed.

I'm not sure if it's because of or in spite of my traditional art background, but the thing that really drew me to high fashion editorials was how they could embrace such raw emotion and turn dresses into an art form beyond practicality. Fashion is art unlike the compositions I studied in my childhood of art lessons in everything from sketching to cartooning to watercolor; my favorite photoshoots emphasized expression in the way they were able to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Fashion is Modern with a capital M, and the initial spark of interest by the provocativeness and absurdity high fashion had to offer grew into a lifelong passion for fashion.

Sometime between 2007 when I started reading Vanessa Friedman's Sunday fashion column in the Financial Times like it was my religion and today, the lines between fashion and art appreciation have blurred and seeped in to one another and became inseparable parts of my life. Coco Chanel, my first fashion heroine, said: "fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening," and it's something I really took to heart.

Before I started this blog, I was writing a different (older, embarrassing, and thankfully now private) personal blog throughout my first three years of high school also by the name "seattleite fashionista" even though I only posted about fashion 20% of the time. It was never so much about personal style anyhow: fashion, to me, is about the way I live my life and how I come to perceive it. Fashion on this blog is how I document and express my aesthetic interests of the moment: what am I feeling? What do I want to see? What ideas or themes am I attracted to?

Although I didn't make a post about it last year, 2013 was all about invented nostalgia and escape plans. I dreamt of road trips and amusement parks and rainy days at cafes, imagining a life a little too good to be mine, telling myself I'll get there eventually. I was scared to stop dreaming and start living, and after giving myself the first semester of college "off" to figure out who I was, I gave myself permission to let go a bit and experience life instead of simply meticulously daydreaming. I said yes to everything I possibly could and my life this year was so much more colorful and memorable for it.

2014 was a year of flashes of color much like the chaotic and beautiful Vogue China shoot: not only was it the pop-art supermarket pinks at Chanel RTW and the red neon signs reflecting on glass windows at bars on the 33rd floor of the Shard in London, it was also the bright grey of that rainy Saturday in March when I jokingly told a friend to bring me food and he actually showed up at my window with a tray full of cinnamon rolls and container of Häagen Dazs ice cream, the dazzling blue of the London Eye at midnight on my last stroll through the most magical city after a long Friday in August, and the warm cream of the light I stared at at my best friend's apartment when I was lying on her roommate's bed asking her "do you think he likes me? Because I like him a lot" on a Thursday in November.

I want to know, does it bother you? 
Low click of a ticking clock 
There's a lifetime right in front of you 
And everyone I know 
Don't Lie | Vampire Weekend

xoxo, vivian

Images from this post taken from: "笔墨幻境" (trans. "Ink Fantasy") by Tim Walker for Vogue China December 2014

* 造梦大师 translates to dream/illusion master, as Walker is referred to on the cover of this issue

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