Sara is my cousin’s sixteen year old daughter and a fan of Vivienne Westwood. She keeps little books full of drawings and sticks pictures of her inspiration in them. Like I was at her age, she’s surrounded by green fields and sheep and the sound of tractor engines but not much fashion to speak of other than what’s brewing in her imagination. Luckily she has the internet where I didn’t. But I imagine the people wearing clothes like that can still seem very far away from where she is.

Her peers all wear hoodies and floppy athletic bottoms with local hurling or Gaelic football logos emblazoned down the leg. 

So I think what’s brewing in Sara’s imagination is worth spotlighting. image-30image-25 image-28 image-27 She’s painting, layering, juxtaposing and embroidering. Nice move placing the chunky knit next to the patchwork. And her decision to photograph her dress on her younger cousin messes with the proportion of the garment which together with the exaggerated make-up reminds me of artist Cindy Sherman’s collaboration with Comme des Garçons in the early 90s.

Cindy Sherman/Comme des Garçons

Cindy Sherman/Comme des Garçons

Cindy Sherman/Comme des Garçons

Cindy Sherman/Comme des Garçons

In an industry which increasingly steers young talent towards commercialism and designing clothes that will get you a job (when the reality is your lack of a developed point of view will more than likely lose you the job); in an age of celebrity culture where the examples of style that we are bombarded with all wear the same hair, enhance the same body parts, use the same stylist, and easily blend into one another on red carpets, there is no time to unleash what’s inside, be free and just create. Maybe living in the mountains in Ireland will allow Sara that and she’ll be all the better for it. When my New York City students first arrive in my class they often resort to drawing looks Rhianna has already made popular  or recreating on paper the skintight blandness of those sisters whose name must not be mentioned in my presence.

Be warned. Heads might not roll but bad grades will.

This is your time to explore, I tell them. Rip it, flip it! Slice, dice, but forget nice! Challenge everything, let your mind soar and travel where your feet or your student budget can’t take you. Accept nothing at face value, including perceived notions of commercialism.

Measuring creativity in units that sell will come soon enough. Sara’s patchwork painted pattern pieces will be replaced by grids and Excel sheets in the blink of an eye. Trust me, I know.

Sara's fabric manipulation

Sara’s fabric manipulation

Rei Kawakubo's fabric manipulation

Rei Kawakubo’s fabric manipulation

Martin Margiela's fabric manipulation

Martin Margiela’s fabric manipulation

The youngest movers and shakers operating in the fashion industry have nothing to do with this lot below (sorry Kanye. And Riccardo–oh, by the way, you should be ashamed of yourself. While we’re at it, may I take this opportunity to applaud Juergen Teller for refusing to shoot Miley Cyrus for the new Marc Jacobs ad campaign. He and Jacobs had worked together on his campaigns for years before this):kim-kardashian-kris-kardashian-khloe-kardashian-and-kourtney-kardashian-attend-pure-nightclub-for-khloe-kardashians-birthday-on-june-27-2008-in-las-vegas-nevada-55221521marleaux6302008120539amMoving and shaking in fashion looks more like this:

Suzie Wong from Style Bubble

Susie Lau from Style Bubble

Suzie Wong from Style Bubble

Susie Lau from Style Bubble

So have fun and don’t go conforming. Not just yet. In the words of Rei Kawakubo, now is the time to…
My novel set in the international fashion industry is now available. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.


  1. Sara Conway

    This is incredible Jackie, made my day receiving this email:)

  2. You’re very welcome, Sara. My pleasure xo

  3. Cyndie

    Loving Sara’s charming funky creativity!!! Bring us rain drenched New Yorkers more, more, more! of this fun ray of sunshine, please!

  4. Ah, there we go again talking about the importance of imagination! Sara’s work is imaginative, fun, amazing for a 16-year-old.

  5. Absolutely loved this post! And it applies to any art form

  6. I am loving your young Sara’s work! Hurrah and what fun.

  7. Peter McLaughlin

    Here here.

  8. Actually, I think the sentiments in this post apply to all walks of life and whatever path you choose.

  9. Oh YES! Way to go Sara! For some reason, the older I got, the funkier and more daring my wardrobe became! I think it has something to do with caring only about what I like and embracing individuality as opposed to trying to blend.

  10. I think that’s great, Lia, way to go! Maybe it’s living in the US but I am a little more streamlined now. I used to have so many layers and accessories swinging from my person, I would never have gotten through security at airports! I was a tad more exuberant in my sartorial choices, let’s put it that way. Now, less 😦

  11. Sara has a genuine flair for original designs. I have been a fan of Alice in Wonderland for years and years. The makeup is terrific too! I like to see her using a literary theme in an original way. I don’t suppose you remember a magazine, don’t remember which one, that attempted to glorify suicide using Sylvia Plath and Virginia Wolff among others, wearing designer clothes and well, lets just say it was horrid…or the attempt at a strange homage to homeless chic in Vivienne Westwood’s 2010 menswear show in Milan with make-up imitating frostbite, accessories such as shopping trolleys and rolled up mattresses, and a runway covered in cardboard boxes. Talk about tasteless. I’m glad no one tried that on the runway. It’s an unoriginal attempt to shock the unshockable. But Sara seems to have hit a comfortable medium ground between shocking and tasteful. I love it! I wish celebrities would dress themselves again.
    Now, we’re left with a group of men and women who are being herded into ALL wearing the same basic dresses in an attempt not to stand out or express themselves through fashion. Stylists are strangling the art of fashion.

    • I agree! I’m a big fan of Alice too. I don’t know the magazine article you’re referring to but there is no end to those questionable “incidents” in fashion: this week men with native American headdresses on the catwalk. Frustrating! Designers can be lost in their own little bubbles. Hopefully Sara will keep thinking outside the box without treading on anyone’s toes.

  12. Hear hear!! Well said…your niece is a pure piece of joy..I think we all need more fields and tractors.. xxx

  13. Perhaps the green fields and sheep are allowing her imagination space and time to form, just as they did yours?! She’s clearly much cooler than her peers! Jx

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