Posts in Fashion
A guide to claiming new selves 

Amber and I met in Deep Ellum, a Dallas neighborhood known for keeping fringe cultures alive in the heart of Texas.

She told me about how modeling became a creative outlet at a time in her life when she was struggling with depression, challenging herself to explore things she might otherwise never try. She went on to tell a story of finding a deep, confident self that was always there but maybe hidden away at first, unexplored.

Taking those first steps towards an unknown opened up for her a unseen world within the fashion scene, where she found a niche agency representing plus size models for commercial clients.

Now she’s one of the more confident models I’ve worked with, bringing not only her own ideas to the shoot but also the confidence to pull off any creative direction thrown her way. 

It’s a story that I relate to, and I think a lot of others do too: we grow up assuming that some creative realms are only appropriate for “others,” and that we’d be trespassing if we were to try and claim a our own personal selves there. I felt that way abut photography for a long time in my life; “only special photography people can become photographers,” is something I vaguely remember sitting in the back of my head for a long time. Only recently did I go through the same transformation as Amber, realizing that the world and all its many beautiful niches are more plentiful than we initially think. 🔮🙏 

Model / styling: Amber

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An Explorer's Guide to Finding Home
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When Rebekah and I first started working together we turned to the odd little dictionary Wordstuck to find a mood that fit us both. Some rare expression that would capture something unique about our shared stories.

It turns out that we met through a mutual fashion-world friend, who I in turn had only met by chance at an event hosted by a collective of independent designers. It was a series of otherwise fleeting circumstances, the kind that I've learned to appreciate and savor as part of being here in New York City—a place where rare combinations of disparate people end up being just common enough.

We landed on an iconically Welsh word "cwitch," a word used to capture that warm sense of finding home.  

I left the home I grew up in when I was young (17!) and found it natural to develop a different kind of home-ness in the people I was around. Between time spent in military intelligence school at Arizona, active duty in Kuwait, college in Georgia and a handful of other small landings, I ended up in a lot of places temporarily.

But being in New York has come to feel like something new, something warm, something found. It's only been here that I feel like I can have the chance encounters that let me explore and build Composure in ways I never expected, where seemingly disparate connections are made like magic.

We thought it entirely appropriate to meet at the Brooklyn Bridge, at the dawn of first a day and now a new year with plenty of magic ahead. 🔮💫

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Subtle magics, complex silences
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"Sharp feelings deserve blurred edges"

—@composure_black // 24 August 2016

 

While exploring a riverside corner of Brooklyn we found this small nook perfectly catching sunset rays. By the time Océane and I set up for the shoot it was colder than expected, but we really wanted the light so we didn't mind working through the cold. When your goal is clear you get to choose what matters—and what's fine being sent to a blurry periphery. 

"Subtle magics, complex silences"

—@composure_black // 12 December 2016

 

Sometimes it's easy to go overboard with flashy extravagance but then again sometimes just enough is magic 🔮💫. As patient explorers we all have these tiny lights buried somewhere within; our job is find them and to articulate them well, letting them shine. This subtle yet brilliant self-awareness is a worthy pursuit, and a good excuse to bring glitter to an otherwise dramatic scene. 

"Tiny lights buried deep within"

—@composure_black // 30 November 2016

Model / MUA: Océane Hooks-Camilleri
Featured: Black Succulents Series Scarf

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We are patient explorers of challenging places

I'm very intentionally building Composure as a "lifestyle brand," and I've known from the beginning that the most difficult part will be clearly articulating what that lifestyle is. It's relatively easy to make up a generic lifestyle brand for the sake of building an audience, but much more difficult to build a unique and deeply authentic one. I'd like to build the latter. 

Making this more difficult is that I have a tendency to abstract things as a way to make them more rich and interesting. I've had to come to terms with the fact that if I want people to follow along, it first needs to be simple enough that they know what it is.

I think of this as being difficult enough a problem for me to spend at least 2 years on it. About a year ago I started honing in on "artistry" as a central pillar of Composure, which felt a lot more focused than what I started with two years ago, "virtues." Whereas virtues allowed this abstract sort of "people who follow Composure care about strong inner perspective" description, it didn't do a good job of articulating a lifestyle. And while artistry let me talk about the kinds of lives people in the Composure world lead, it still hasn't ever felt like the kinds of simple, clear lifestyle starting point like "travel" that forms the basis of simple brands that people can immediately get.

Combine all of this with the fact that I'm also aiming to balance two different kinds of audiences: those that follow the brand, and those that buy the scarves. Thus far they haven't been exactly the same audiences. And I ultimately don't think they have to be. But I'd like for them to at least be well-considered, and in that way they could at least become at the right amount of similar. 

All that said, I feel like I'm starting to crack this rather tricky code.

Last week the guy behind a nicely developed lifestyle brand reached out to me on Instagram, bringing up a conversation where we touched on much of the above. It got my brain firing. I found myself really digging into audience profiles on both Facebook's (incredibly useful) Audience Insights platform this last week, and through various hashtag rabbit holes on Instagram in which clearly understood lifestyle brands live. It brought a lot of clarity to the kind of lifestyle and audience I want to build around Composure. 

I don't want to make this post about all the nuanced details, but I'm excited to have landed on a lifestyle brand concept that allows for the simplicity that comes with those built around exploration and travel: we are patient explorers of challenging places. 

I'm seeing this world playing with the undaunted exploration of Vice Travel, the avant-guarde  aesthetics of Rick Owens, and the calm minimalism of Acne Studios. 

It's not perfect, but right now it doesn't have to be. All I know is that playing around in these spaces has generated some immediately positive reactions in the Instagram world, indicating that we're in the right direction. We'll keep going. 

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Alignment

A couple weeks ago I met Nika. She's a fashion blogger, so we arranged to take a few photos. We'll be sharing the results and the story we built around it soon. But just taking a moment to remark that it took all of 1) learning how a proper camera works 2) showing up at a fashion event, and 3) getting a couple warm intros to other fashion blogger friends (and then intros to their friends), to now be in a place where I can talk about Composure making its way into some awesome fashion scenes with considerable audiences. Places that feel completely natural. I'm more than excited, and blown away how naturally things come along when likeminded worlds align. 

(I could say similar things about how naturally the twitter feed over at @composure_black has grown; the people who follow and RT the feed aren't friends I know or even in the fashion world; they're just people who too believe in the magic of artistry)

Anyway, more to follow as I find more natural alignment in more places—I'm truly looking forward to sharing as it develops ✌️

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