Posts tagged fashion blogs
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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Uncharted Territory

Today marks the launch of the first of a new series for our email subscribers. Each issue will feature a post from our photojournal series Patient Explorers. Which I'm really excited about, because this series will let Composure go in a direction that feels a lot more natural and focused for the kind of brand and lifestyle I want to build. And develop a more focused, findable and resonant audience finally as well. 

In a phrase, what I'm hoping to combine is the gritty exploration of Vice Travel with the emotional self-awareness of The School of Life. And from an aesthetic standpoint Composure has started to blossom among an audience that appreciates both the dark avant-guarde found in Rick Owens and the calm minimalism of Acne Studios.

Until these last couple of months I've never been able to concisely articulate those points, and my audience-building efforts have suffered accordingly. The reality is that in many ways, there's simply no way I could have realistically sat down 3 years ago and planed or strategized my way to the way I now think about these audiences; I simply didn't have the mental building blocks required to get there. In fact I feel like a lot of the world-building initiatives that have developed under the name of Composure (the Virtues and Artistry volumes of the newsletter, the various events & collaborations, etc) have been my way of digging around, slowly developing those mental building blocks. Or in other words, it's all been a way to sort of "fail faster" and "think by doing."  

 

Explorers

I also know that a big reason that it took me a long time to get to a "lifestyle brand" that feels truly personal and authentic is because I have such a negative gut reaction to many existing lifestyle brands out there; kinds that are built entirely around concepts I consider to be rather shallow and generic ("inspiration" or "travel" or "hustle" or "art"). 

As much as I found myself talking about things like beauty and art, I always intentionally kept a distance from anything that felt a little too much like an inspirational poster. I mean, I fundamentally believe everything in the images above, and I know / am friends with many great people who have built large, inspired audiences in these worlds. But this approach just always felt a lil' too direct for me; as someone who believes that the most important and rewarding challenges of life are complex, not simple, I've always had a gut reaction to anything that says the answers are easy.  

The same "complex not simple" concept applies to travel and exploration as well. Almost every travel lifestyle blog I know is focused on the playful, easygoing, relaxing, or carefree aspects of travel; for as much as I talk about things like "exploration" I couldn't ever see the things like sunny beaches and "whoooooo we're so high-on-life!" cliff-diving that makes up a lot of travel lifestyle blogs being imagery that's part of the Composure world. 

(Maybe I just don't like water? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

 

Self-awareness

Once I started thinking about the more gritty exploration of things like Vice Travel, I was finally able to imagine a kind of "travel" lifestyle that romanticizes finding complex & difficult places over carefree & easy ones. A lot of things started to fall into place. 

What's nice about "complex" exploration is that it naturally resonates with something that has always been / will always be at the core of the Composure thesis: self-awareness. Nuanced, enlightening, brilliant, painful and terrifying self-awareness. I have about a million things to say about how difficult it is to find genuine self-awareness, how difficult it is to even start in the first place. Things to say about how many people live entire lives either not even trying to find it, or never even coming across a set of thoughts that would lead them to start thinking about trying in the first place. If Composure is truly truly truly about one thing, I'd be comfortable saying it's about "self-awareness," and I suspect I'll spend a least a significant number of years using Composure to try and express that in a way words probably never can. 

Anyway. There's something excitingly unique and personal about the prospect talking about self-awareness through the lens of difficult self-exploration. That we're all travelers trying to find difficult places deep within. What I'm building with the Patient Explorers series is a collection of vingettes and reflections on ways to find inner vision. I'm collecting human moments of calm, exploration and self-awareness through editorial lifestyle photography. Peaceful and uncommon moments of reflection. Maybe people who are exploring uncommon places and uncharted territory. It's something that finally feels natural and unique to me, and the audiences I've been testing this angle with on Instagram have responded in a way that feels entirely validating. 

 

"Today, with the Earth mapped, imaged and charted down to the last square foot, the frontier is supposedly in outer space: Mars, the moons of Jupiter, and beyond. But humans’ power to transform themselves and their environment suggests that the most important contemporary frontiers lie in the realm of inner space, in the possibilities for conceptual and moral transformation. It is at these boundaries that our future will be decided."

—Caspar Henderson, Death And Life Of The Frontier

 

I can say I'm genuinely and patiently excited about becoming better aligned with a more well-defined audience. And I know that through this process of intentionally (and admittedly, rather clumsily) building Composure in public, some people who loved elements of the first couple of years may not love elements of the ones to come. If at any point you feel that what we're doing is no longer for you I completely understand. Thanks as always for continuing to follow along. 

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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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Preparations

Busy week. Jumped last minute into a holiday market. Always nice to hear the nuanced, in-person reactions people have to the scarves, their finishing details, pricing, etc. They're not always positive! Good to hear anyway. Overwhelming consensus: "beautiful."

Also been building up the studio arm of Composure, setting the stage for a more sophisticated approach to working with the fashion blogger friends I've been getting connected to. Much more on that later, I'm excited about the way it'll feed into the Composure brand & newsletter. Until then, you can check out the early basics here: composure.studio 🔮

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"Just another social network"

I've been planting more seeds over at Ello, getting noticed by their fashion curator and black & white curator. Ello can't yet match the sheer volume of attention I can generate through targeted hashtags on instagram, but it's a nice niche that I can fill with non-scarf images—and will use later to connect with people to work with on future Composure lookbooks. The set above is from working with Rebekah during a fantastic sunrise shoot. I'm looking forward to more. 

For as much as people joked about Ello being yet another social network, Ello has been quite smart about honing in on a very particular kind of audience. Sounds like they know a thing or two about becoming a distribution hub 🔮💫

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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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