IGTV just launched, and I’m taking this opportunity to create a new project which is about the silent conversations that we have everyday with the mirror. This first chapter is an introduction on the relationship I have with my reflection.
So first things first: this is where my day usually begins, having silent conversations with my mirror. I wasn’t planning on getting this personal just yet but I just finished this book that taught me that you always have to start where you are at your vulnerable, and for me that’s the mirror.
I hold a complicated relationship with the girl that lives there. I can’t hide anything from her staring eyes. She knows exactly who I am, and that’s quite intimidating sometimes a month from now I will turn 33…
Such a big number! I remember all those conversations I had with my sister at night, when we were supposed to be sleeping, and we talked about what we would be doing throughout the years. When you are six even 15 seems like such a big number. Yet all of a sudden, somewhere in time someone pushes the fast-forward button and you realize you will soon turn 33 and fora strange reason you feel it’s important to share your story with others, perhaps because you wish someone would have been there to show you their own story to guide your way.
Beauty is complicated for me. I was taught from a very young age, that being beautiful made to you shallow; it was the wrong adjective.
It has taken a lifetime to make peace with it, and realize it can also be something positive.
I contain many versions of myself. There is a very marked difference between the person I am when I’m braided, and the person I am when I’m not. I will get into the braided woman soon, but this is where the real journey begins.
I had a crush on Michael Jackson. He was the only celebrity that made me feel special just for being a child. Everywhere else I looked, the bling of adulthood was just too tempting. I went to his concert in Mexico; it was the first concert I ever went to, and it was epic. I was seating really close to the stage, and as he performed, I truly bought into his mission of healing the world and making it a better place. Why would someone ever think differently? Yeah. MJ had the answers to everything.
Ok, I know you could argue that there was a flip-side to that, but at that point in my life he made me feel less lonely. I was sure that the day I became an adult, I would make bicycle cars a thing (real cars seemed so boring), and invite as many people as possible from the streets to live in my house, because there was enough space for many of those little girls and families who spent their days begging in front of the shiny window displays I shopped at.
At that time coffee and alcohol were bitter and unattractive, while chocolates and candy were all I wanted. I fell into the trap of growing up, and it was probably pain that kicked in my appreciation for bitter flavors, and made me disregard the sweetness of the things I used to love.
When does maturity kick in, and why does it have a way of pulling us away from vulnerability?
Today I spend so much time in my car, and would not give up on AC for the world. My house is my temple, and only my closest friends and family can enter. I’m the guard of the hopes and dreams of my children showing them the beauty of the world, but often having trouble explaining to them its dynamics and injustice.
We all started full of hope, and eventually find ourselves filled with fear, but I often believe that the vision I used to have of humankind was better than the one I have now.
I remember how I felt back in September if 2017 after going through Irma and the earthquake in Mexico. Vulnerability made me a better person, but it was such a hard stage in my life as well. I’ve been reading ‘Becoming Wise’ by Krista Tippet, and this quote really resonated with me:
‘I’m waiting for the time the world becomes too vulnerable and say, we all have to stop. We all have to share. We have to make sure there’s enough food for everyone. We can teach each one our ways, we can share our dreams and hopes, but we can’t kill each other. And we can’t despoil the world as we are doing.’
It has to start with the way we raise our children. We can’t just throw at them a screen. I’m so surprised to see so many little children at restaurants plugged into cartoons, not engaging in conversations. We need to raise our children as human beings who care for the world, troubled as it is, and are aware, and participate on this dialogue.
I don’t have answers yet, but I know every answer starts with a question, and vulnerability is a key element for change that is available to all of us on our daily interactions with the world.
The best lesson I’ve learned from engaging in good conversations with great people with huge impact in the world, is that regardless of status, power or money, we are all looking for points of connection, and there’s no connection without vulnerability.
I contain so many versions of myself… You’d be surprised. The version that the outside world gets of me depends on a mix of external triggers –the right energy, the right attitude, the car that let me, or din’t let me pass on the highway, the mood in which my children are, the moon, if I’m hungry — mixed with my internal status.
It’s probably the same for everyone, but I can only recall living inside this one body, so I’ll do the speaking based on that.
Fashion has the power of transformation, which is the reason why we are all so enchanted by it. I love staring at people when they stare at beautiful window-displays. They fall in love with the vision of all the things they could be if only…
I’ve been wearing the braid for almost three years now, and it has been a revelation to realize the two different sides of me, being set apart by a simple hair-do. Creating an alter-ego was never an intention, yet looking back, I realize the braid has become my shield.
Danie, the girl with the long hair, is a woman who has been challenged way too many times to reinvent herself. She carries her culture in between those strands of long hair, often as a burden for the rules she should be following and the person she was supposed to become. She’s vulnerable as can be, and doesn’t allow many people into her life. She’s a mother, conflicted by how to raise those two boys the best possible way, without losing herself in the middle.
Floridian Frida, is very different: she’s ready to take over the world at every opportunity; she’s self-assured, passionate and fearless. She carries her braid proudly as a representation of the best of her culture and her traditions. She has so many friends and can be at five different places at the same time. She does what she can as a mother, and doesn’t doubt herself for one second.
We all have multiple alter-egos, triggered by different external situations, yet the moment that you approach this other self consciously, you can become the vision that you have in your mind of the best version of yourself.
Craft it properly.
Add a couple of characteristics that remind you of the role you are playing, and never forget that life is just a dream, and you have a say on the script that’s being written everyday.
Obviously, I am both persons, and so are you, regardless of your journey. But I’m grateful I found a way to switch between the two of them.
Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’, must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No. Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It’s the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us. It is the desire to fall, against which terrified, we defend ourselves.
– Milan Kundera
In Sweden, where I lived for three years, there’s a word that doesn’t exist in any other language: lagom. It means sort of ‘in-between’: not too good, not too bad. They use it all the time, which speaks a lot about their culture.
It has stuck with me through the years. The closest equivalent in English could be ‘balance’.
Balance is a constant movement in and out of equilibrium, and an eternal search for unattainable perfection. No matter how hard you wish to succeed, you only move constantly in and out. As soon as you attain balance you lose it. Try to hold on to it, and you will fall. We are tightrope-walking all the time invaded by vertigo.
Sometimes, when we let go, we dive into contrast. Perhaps it’s out of curiosity; perhaps it’s your internal compass having a say.
Overcome by vertigo, we fall. Falling can be seen as a mistake, but isn’t the line too thin to judge? Isn’t resistance too much of a struggle?
In regaining balance you learn to be happy to be sad, and sad with happiness.
And even when it’s often hard to understand your choices in life, all that’s left is believing in the vision that was placed inside of you.
It’s simply that photography has become our canvas. We discover ourselves through the pictures we post.
I portray the subject I know best –which is obviously myself — allowing the lense to grab what’s inside: the camera takes off my shield and I find myself ‘naked’, never allowing a socially sought after smile to dress me, and be protagonist over what’s really happening inside.
They make us all feel comfortable and welcome, yet real ‘happy’ has so many dimensions and tones that rarely fit into one smile. They rarely do for me.
The anatomy of a good pose is a mix between history, feelings, and how much you want to reveal about yourself in that specific moment: smiles get in the way, unless they are a true revelation of where you stand.
One thousand Instagram posts ago, I was a very different person. As I welcomed my first child to this world, I found myself torn between the absolute desire to build a profesional career, and the beginning of my journey through motherhood, while being a nomad with no roots, fully dependent on my husband’s work opportunities, and living in Sweden.
At that time, I was in love with advertising, and was admitted to Bob Isherwood’s Creative Academy in Cannes, as part of the Cannes Lions Festival. It was incredibly exciting. My baby was eight months old, and my mother in law, who lives in the South of France, close to Cannes, was willing to take care of him while I enjoyed the conferences.
On the last day, after a week of the most inspiring conferences ever, 95% presided by men, I approached Bob Isherwood –our guide through that week, and the advertising legend admired by many — and asked him if he thought that women, and specifically mothers, had a chance of building successful careers, given that none of the speakers were mothers. He looked straight in my eyes and said coldly , ‘In all my years in this industry, I’ve never seen it happen’.
I can’t even explain to you what I felt. The little hope I had in doing something with my life was shattered to dust in less than five seconds. I had been fighting post-partum depression, since my son was born, and the only thing that kept me afloat was the drive to build something in the future, dedicating every second my son slept to educating myself through different online platforms and diplomas that, in my mind, would become valuable tools once the time came to go back to my profession.
The meaning of a journey is not dependent in WHAT happens to a person; it depends, and grabs meaning in relation to WHO it happens to.
You see, I was born to a crumbling marriage of two beautiful individuals who were not meant to be together; they had one daughter, and were taking all the precautions they could not to have any more children, yet against all odds, I silently happened.
My mother wanted to be a painter; my father wanted a wife and a mother for his children. There was no middle-ground. In their perception, a choice had to be made. My mom chose art, and me and my sister grew up with my father who juggled his profession with nannies, drivers and help.
So there I was, about to take the train from Cannes to Aix to pick up my son, inspired to the core, yet thinking that I would never be able to do anything with all the things I knew, because I was a mother. There was no middle ground, right?
The years went by. I continued working, but always keeping my expectations low. After all, in my eyes, I was just a mother. I had a second child, and a couple of months later, moved to Mexico close to my father, while my husband lived in New York and prepared his next career move.
That’s when Jean Christian Agid, one of my husband’s best friends, asked me for help building a delegation with the top 50 women in Mexico. These women would be invited to Deauville to the Women’s Forum, and the delegation would be presided by Salma Hayek. At that point I had no idea of the meaning that this experience would have in my life.
Stories are embedded with instructions, which guide us in regards to the complexities in life. As I went to Mexico, and interviewed all these fantastic women, I became inspired by their approach to life.
We then took them to Paris and Deauville, and I familiarized myself further with their struggles and their life situations. I finally understood that my past didn’t have to define my future. It was up to me to decide who I wanted to be.
At that point I braided my hair in different ways. One of the braids, similar to the one I use these days, but without a scarf, grabbed the attention of these fabulous women, who asked me to braid their hair the last day. For me, it was a powerful statement mixing union and ‘womanhood’ with Mexican tradition.
The day after, as I was having dinner in Paris with my husband, JC and a friend from my childhood, JC gave me a beautiful Hermes scarf, which later became the first scarf I used for the Floridian Frida look.
Every time I braid my hair, as I tie the final knot with the scarf, I think of a woman I can push forward in some way that day. It has become a habit that has made me realize that by helping others, you always end up helping yourself. Specially when it comes to women. We need to realize that we are not competing against each other. Life is not a telenovela. When we work together towards a common goal, nothing can defeat us.
Every big scar is a door, and I know my story might heal others, the same way I was healed by the women that were part of that first Mexican Delegation at The Women’s Forum for Economy and Society in Deauville.
Plus, even though every day I encounter new struggles, I have realized that actually, there are no absolutes, if you lean into others. My husband is as much of ‘a mother’ in the traditional sense of the word, as I am, giving me the space to thrive professionally and heal my demons, as we do everything in our hands to give the best of ourselves and our time to our two children, as a team.
I am so very grateful to those who have believed in me, and also to those, like Bob, who didn’t. And this is only the beginning…
Being alive is a fatal condition. The moment we are born, we basically begin to die. I’ve always been intrigued by Death. Every year I honor her, and the effect she has in my experience of life by celebrating ‘Day of the Death’ with my family.
It’s kind of a trend right now: James Bond shed a light on the beauty of this tradition a couple of years ago, and ever since, Halloween has been plagued by different interpretations of ‘La Catrina’ (think of her as the Jedi of skulls), mixed with Frida’s hairdo, or flower hairpieces of every kind. Yet, most people don’t understand what this tradition is about. Below, a brief explanation:
Day of the Dead is celebrated mostly in Central and Southern Mexico on November 1 & 2. Even though this coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s & All Saint’s Day, the indigenous people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones.
The main belief is that the gates of heaven open at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.In most Indian villages, beautiful altars (ofrendas), are made in each home.
Day of the Dead is a very expensive holiday for rural based, indigenous families. Many spend over two month’s income to honor their dead relatives. They believe that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families. Ofrenda building keeps the family close.
On the afternoon of November 2nd, the festivities are taken to the cemetery. People clean tombs, play cards, listen to the village band and reminisce about their loved ones. Tradition keeps the village close.
The four key elements represented on the altar
Lighting of candles.
Fruits and Cempazuchitl flower. The petals of this flower are used to ‘lighten’ the way to the altar because this flower is said to save the light of the sun.
Glass of water also present to calm the thirst of the spirits
China paper that moves with the wind when the departed arrive. The tecnique to do the designs is very special.
Other basic elements
Shows the way to soul of the departed and helps them remain in this world for a bit.
They are a response to the mix between pre-hispanic cultures with the Spanish culture after The Conquest. The technique remind us that death is sweet and that nothing lasts. Each skull has the name of the spirit it represents.
Food and beverage/
Based on the likes of those who are being honored. Bread of the death is always present, and so is a plate with salt.
It represents Xotol. This hairless dog was considered a deity, and is supposed to help the souls in their journey back to the infra-world.
They serve as visual representations of those who died.
The number of levels in the altar represent different ancestral cosmovisions.
Two level altar/
It represents the division between earth and sky.
Heaven, earth and the infra-world. With the introduction of catholicism the symbolism is related to the Holy Trinity.
It’s the most conventional. It represents the seven levels that the soul needs to go through to reach eternal rest. The Aztecs believed in seven kinds of death, and for the Otomi culture there were seven original sins.
After experiencing tragedy so closely this year, I feel an immense need to honor not only the life of those who perished, but also the internal deaths society is going through as part of the experience of these surrealistic events. Our view of life has changed. They removed an element of innocence on us as well.
Celebrate life through death as a community: without history and memory there is no learning, and no future.
Freedom is formlessness, yet we are all contained inside our bodies. Showing on the outside what’s inside is liberating.
That’s what fashion is for me.
The process of learning how to dress, is so peculiar: through it, we define, and decide who we are. Every outfit is a message, as conscious or unconscious, as we choose to make it.
Schiaparelli, the most prominent figure in fashion between the two World Wars, was in an eternal quest to find and materialize beauty.
Realizing that she wasn’t pretty at a young age, she filled her nose-trills, throat and ears with seeds hoping that their flowers would make her beautiful.
She revolutionized fashion, by creating the first ‘ready-to-wear’ boutique, which at that time, was unheard of. She was also the first to use camouflage prints on regular clothes, zippers as design elements, and gowns with synthetic materials.
We owe her the existence of jumpsuits, overalls, culottes, scarf-dresses, the power suit, wedge heels, swimsuits with built-in bras, shirtwaist jackets, scarf dresses, wraparound dresses, and most importantly shocking pink.
In other words, she transformed dress-making into an art form and a tool of liberation. Her friendship with the Surrealists of the time, and especially with Dalí, became some of the most exceptional fashion collaborations ever, at a time when fashion and art did not mix.
‘The transformation I had in Schiap’s showroom was the starting point of a wonderful job’, said Katharine Hepburn, as her career began to explode.
Clothes have the healing power of transformation. A world of possibilities opens when you change the way you look, because it transforms the way people see you. This process reminds me of what the braid is for me: it’s my manifesto, but also my shield. It makes me strong. When my hair is down, I’m vulnerable.
No better words to describe this process, than Shiaparelli’s: ‘When you take off your clothes, your personality also undresses, and you become such a different person – more true to yourself and to your real character. More conscious. Sometimes more cruel.’
So take a dive into yourself. Venture into a journey through fashion as self-identity. Your story is not who you are, it’s what you make of yourself.
In Daring Fashion is presented in collaboration by The Dali Museum and Schiaparelli Paris featuring haute couture gowns and accessories, jewelry, paintings, drawings, objects and photos. It’s the first exhibition dedicated to the creative relationship works of Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali and will run until January 14th 2018. Pictures by Celia D. Luna/ dress by Carolinsa K