Working with clients in both fashion and interior design, I will often get pushback* when introducing something (a style of furniture, an accessory, a color) reminiscent of their history (something they didn’t like at the time**) or history overall (oversaturation of a trend***). Which is to say that our reactions to style are deeply personal.
I’m just as susceptible to these subjective biases, as I experienced recently regarding the re-emergence of Birkenstocks. I saw Birkenstocks as the crown jewel of the neo-hippy movement of the 90s, a period heavy on posturing and light on politics. I was unable (and initially unwilling) to divorce them from their context , so I poo-poo’d them to friends, clients, and in print (forever cementing my blunder). What happened, of course, is that J.Crew re-introduced them as slightly modified and modern, in great colors and with an adorable signature white sole; suddenly they were perfect accompaniment to skirts or a Summer dress.
Part of my job in building style vocabulary is to erase the history, remove the pre-existing context, and allow you to see any item in a new light. I tell my clients that it’s a lot like cooking- if you ate mushrooms often during childhood and always in dishes that you didn’t like, you’d probably be averse as an adult. But if I introduced them to you now in a different recipe, full of ingredients you liked, ingredients that work with the mushrooms, you may change your mind. I have. Mushrooms and Birkenstocks taught me that anything can be adapted to suit a modern sensibility and a discerning palette.
*Something I encourage.
**Grandmother’s house full of Victorian antiques, or brass buttons on annoying school uniforms.
***80s pastels, skinny jeans, overly stylized granite.
Photo by Chowen Photography