Style is a state of mind.
La la Land (noun): e.g. living in lalaland. The mental state of someone who is not aware of what is really happening; a nickname for Los Angeles, California; or any place renowned for its frivolous activity.
I said I would write about Fashion Week last time. And it is approaching again – just a full year later.
In this year I went to Greece to find sense in a country in chaos. The largest refugee crisis of European history plus a complementary economic crisis to boot. Forcing me out of my lalaland. I returned 3.5 months later a little quieter. A little more humble. A little more thoughtful about how Londoners rarely display sincerity and mean it.
I would go for runs in the Acropolis and felt the wonder of a past world where people thought and fought for a certain fairness coupled with grandeur and paid homage to ideals. A world now crumbling at the edges. Today’s Grecians, as earnest as they all are, barely scratch the surface of the depths they achieved 2000 years ago.
It was often a very lonely and uncomfortably personal time. Forcing me to sit in my skin. I went on road trips exploring inland Greece, rather than the islands, and travelling up to the northern villages below Albania. I went into small metal factories and wholesale jewellery merchants, spending lots of time with craftsmen, building trust, slowly working past prejudice on both sides, slowly learning their craft – which they taught to me in exchange for nothing. I came back to London with a small collection of my own work. I painstakingly made it by hand through the warm nights. I had a few tools, a few skills, and I practiced and persevered between killing cockroaches and smoking cigarettes. I proudly produced a capsule collection of gold plated and ceramic jewellery that I continue to build today, complete with its own brand identity.
There were attacks in France and Turkey. Relations with Russia more strained. I returned to London to Brexit. A country in shock. A tumbling currency. Farcical political drama. An unprecedented US election campaign. Instagram and Twitter frenzy. The ‘virality’ of storytelling. The extinction of ‘facts’. But life carried on. Pause and rewind possible as you binge-watched Netflix series, but no pause and rewind button for real life. I got a job at an agency and will now attend Fashion Week to manage consumer campaigns next month. A trivial dream in the current context, finally achieved.
We live East in a nice flat. Nothing extravagant, but not modest either. We are close to one another in an almost subliminal way. We hurt one another and are riddled with fault lines, like the fissures under the seabed, or under live volcanoes. Our relationship is as volatile as it has always been. But it is also solid, present, and relentlessly thriving. Like a force of nature that has withstood tests of time and confidence and is unshaken. Like a fierce and ragged beauty. Wild and strong. And we are almost compelled by one another into this union.
I get to walk to work now (a true luxury after years of catching planes and eurostars). And I can hear what I’ve written here. Don’t underestimate how aware I am of how this sounds on multiple levels. Yes, even that one.
I watched La La Land tonight. A feat of advertising genius. And I was surprisingly un-disappointed. It struck a chord. Sorry. It struck a nerve. Took me deep beneath our foundations, the ground, the crust of the earth, even the fault lines. It took me right down to that softer place close to the heart. The fluid molten essence of where we come from. Where I believe souls make pacts before they are born. Promises to have journeys together to learn specific lessons. And I ran through all the details again of how I got to where I am right now. Like sorting through the details of a dream you’ve woken from too early before it got to the good bit. If someone had kept working at their cabbage patch, I muddle. If we had just embraced the fault lines as a land rich in resource. If we had focussed less on the the tremors and quakes. I recall scenes, moments, things said, things felt and misunderstood. What would have happened? But then I remind myself, this is the stuff of dreams now. The stuff of la la land.
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