STEVE: Welcome to the podcast by StyleCircle. My name is Steve Nguyen, my pronouns are he/him, I’m this year’s Editor-In-Chief, and you’re listening to Episode Seven, where we discuss about everything you need to know about The Book 06.
The land where StyleCircle and The Book operates has an important history, present and future that we need to understand and acknowledge. This land is called Turtle Island, and it is originally home of many indigenous peoples. It is the unceded traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat and the Mississaugas of the New Credit. We acknowledge and respect these nations as the past, present, and future true inhabitant people of this land. The Dish with One Spoon is a treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee that bound them to share the territory and protect the land. We want to recognize that we are sharing this land on which Toronto sits with each other.
Although our listeners are not all on the same land right now, you can learn more about the land that you’re on and who it belongs to by going to native-land.ca.
Hi listeners. I hope you’re all safe, enjoying the really nice weather we’re having so far and also taking some time to relax during the busy time of the semester, I know that assignments and projects are really piling up at this time and hopefully you’re able to find some space to de-stress. This is my first time hosting a podcast not just any podcast, but The Podcast. Bella, our podcast host is not able to join this episode she’s currently busy battling the Volturi with Edward, but I’m honoured to be here.
This is going to be a really exciting special episode of the podcast because by the time we release this will be launching a project that the StyleCircle team has been working on since the beginning of the school year. We’re really excited to announce the sixth issue of The Book that launching on March 25 at 7pm at our virtual event at thebookbystylecircle.org.
So The Book is an annual print publication produced by StyleCircle which was started by former members Millie Yates, Bronwyn Marshall, and Luke Severin, which features original visual and written content by our team—the piece de resistance, as some might call it. Each year we present a theme that reflects the current conversations within fashion and culture, and fun fact; when I was interviewing them for a web article earlier last summer they mentioned that the name actually came from the infamous manuscripts in The Devil Wears Prada.
This year we’ve met a lot of challenges as Covid-19 really changed the course of how we operate and produce this issue. Even with the discussion in our previous episode, “Is Print Dead?”, there has been conversations of whether to continue print publications and questioning the relevance of them in an increasingly digital world. And that’s kind of been seen and the difficulties in transitioning from a solely digital workspace as well as the limited resources available to produce this issue, but I’m so happy to see the persistence and resourcefulness, that really showcases the talent of the local and rising creative that made this issue together.
Coincidentally, our experience really ties with our theme this year, which is “Prefix.” That really focuses on the way that we connect ourselves with fashion and dress through the acts of reflection, reconnection, reconciliation, redemption, and reclamation. This issue is, I would say, a personal collective documentation of experiences that explore the relationship between fashion and self-expression, and especially now that our relationship with our clothes and other forms of adornment are changing, I’m really excited to have this conversation with everyone and to expand fashion as an ever-evolving process with identity.
This episode, we will be discussing with the exec team as well as a few of our general team members who have contributed to this year’s issue to talk about their experiences in production. Throughout the episode we will also be answering some of your questions for our Instagram on what you would like to know about our journey, up to the launch. So before we get started, I wanted to read you all and excerpt from the team’s letter which you can see in the first few pages of our latest issue that will pretty much inform what we will be talking about today. So it reads,
“Clothing is sometimes said to be a second skin, our relationship with how we dress and present ourselves is inherently personal. The objects that we encounter, or revisit become a rite of passage that communicates the transformation of identity intersecting in all areas of life. Dressing reflects the authenticity and subjectivity within material culture in relation to the bodies that contextualize personas, legacy, and importance. Ultimately, it is the individual that gives these objects its first breath.”
So without further ado, we would like to share with you our experiences and our journey towards this incredibly special issue right after this break.
STEVE: And we’re back. We’re joined today with a couple of our StyleCircle exec members who’ve worked really hard in putting together this issue. With us today are Mia and Omar and I’m so grateful to work alongside this amazing team and talk a little bit about how far we’ve gotten. So thank you so much for stopping by in the podcast, would you like to introduce yourselves?
MIA: Yes, hello. Thank you for having me. I’m Mia, my pronouns are she/her, I am the Art Director at StyleCircle, and I’m currently studying fashion communication at Ryerson.
OMAR: Absolutely. Thank you for having me on. My name is Omar, pronouns are he/him, I am the Managing Editor here at StyleCircle. I am a Team Edward btw, and I am a third year creative industry student here at Ryerson.
STEVE: I mean correct; Team Edward is the way to go. So thanks everyone, I guess first of all we’ll be discussing a little bit about this year’s theme and how it came to be. So this theme has been kind of on the work since the launch of last year’s issue, The Book 05, as a reaction towards the previous theme, which is titled “Voices.” I guess the impact that fashion and culture has really shaped our community, it really goes to show that fashion is also rooted in experiences and we wanted to examine and/or juxtapose this too from our own closets and from our own stories. Although this theme was originally thought out in the middle of production for The Book 05, it has really resonated with people as time passed which really made this issue stronger.
So back in July when we announced the theme to the general team what we’re your initial thoughts or your first impressions?
MIA: Um, yeah so I think as you guys know I joined the team only last summer. So I hadn’t been around before that, but I remember one of the first meetings that we had over Zoom, just to, I guess, talk about my role and The Book, during one of those meetings you brought up the theme, and because I had no frame of reference for what The Book is about I was like, well, the theme itself is exciting I really liked the theme, but because I just didn’t know that..what StyleCircle did in the past, I was even more excited about being able to work with this theme and the prefix words. So if I remember correctly, my reaction was probably something like, “Omg, this sounds so amazing! I love this. Yes. I can’t wait!” I’m just a total sucker for major conceptual projects and projects inspired by reflection so I was really, really excited about that. And so, when I heard the words reflection, reclamation, reconnection, etc. I was like, “Yes,” and they all start with “RE”, “Prefix,”— it’s genius, amazing!
OMAR: Genius is a great word, you know, I was intrigued. I was absolutely intrigued. I think what I really like about this theme and my first thoughts was that it’s broad enough where you can definitely explore and like, have those conversations, but at the same time, there’s something there to tether you, right. You still have a guiding line to follow. You’re not just kind of like, aimlessly in the wind. It helps ground you, but you don’t feel grounded, if that makes sense.
STEVE: I think what I found interesting was that Mia, when you did your takeover discussing a little bit about your process for The Book you were talking about how a lot of these prefix words have a kind of circularity or have a cyclical nature. In terms of, for example, if for someone who needs to have, for example, to have redemption, you need to have self-reflection. So I get that transitions into the idea of the prefix words that are showcased through this issue. What was the first thing that came to mind when you heard about those prefix words, and I guess which word stuck out to you the most?
MIA: Well, building off what you said Steve, exactly what you, what you brought up about my takeover. So for anybody that didn’t see the takeover the other day, I was talking about how, well, for one, I love the words, and I’ve already expressed how much I love the theme. But just in reflecting on the words themselves and just my experience working with The Book, I thought about how, in order to perform or achieve things like reclamation, reconnection, reconciliation etc; here would need to be in achievement of in self-reflection first or reflection of others or your surroundings, because ultimately in order to reconnect with something, you will obviously have to think about the thing that you want to reconnect with, and there’s a similar sentiment for the other words as well. So yeah, I mentioned earlier that I’m a sucker for conceptual and self-reflective projects. So, naturally, all of these words and the concept itself, I fell in love with.
OMAR: You know for me I think it was reflection that really stuck out. I am definitely a reflective person and you know when I hear the word reflection I think about conversations, and I think about, you know, in this context conversations with yourself about your relationship with fashion and with culture, so you know, conversations with your closet, even like how you dress all these different connections that could be explored through this theme. So I was really glad to have these kind of “RE” words, right, these prefixes, because that really kind of centered all these topics, and gave it more of a ground to kind of sense of where do I, where do I start that conversation, where do I go from there.
MIA: When, and Omar, just following up with that, when you, when you said, quote unquote, “All these “RE” words,” that reminded me too that, obviously, they all share the same prefix and therefore, we named The Book prefix. But I remember thinking about how “RE,” like, “re:” is also the abbreviation for “reply.” And so, my brain just kind of thought about how the works in The Book, or the things that we do to self-reflect, or reconnect, and things like that, are kind of like responses or replies to something else – take that as you will, but anyway, that’s something that I thought about.
STEVE: Yeah, I find that the theme really reminds me of—I don’t know if anyone still uses Tumblr nowadays, but there is this blog that was titled “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” that kind of like developed these like words that don’t necessarily… or like, emotions that don’t necessarily have a descriptive term. And there’s a term that they featured in the blog that really stuck out to me, was the word “Sonder,” and they described it as, “The realization that each random password by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” And in a way, this kind of is manifested through the clothes that we wear and how clothing is also a visual tool that communicates our lifestyle or history and our personality, that carries this weight, that’s kind of present throughout this issue.
So I guess to follow up, how would you describe your relationship with fashion and like, how you dress?
MIA: Well, for me, I would definitely say that fashion and dress are and always have been an integral part of how I grow to understand myself and how I grew up to express myself and communicate myself to others. So I would say I learned about myself through the ways in which I express myself, and I express myself as a result of learning about myself, so there’s kind of a symbiotic relationship between the two.
Although I’ve grown to become kind of less dependent on overconsumption, like for example when I was like, just a matter of a couple within the past couple years I would just buy, buy, buy, buy, buy; wear, wear, wear, wear, wear millions of things, thinking that, that is how I should be expressing myself personally, and then just over time, particularly within the pandemic, I’ve just kind of grown to only express myself more simply, I guess, even though like even within that though, there’s still a really strong desire to want to express myself through fashion. Even if my decisions are a little more simple than they used to be. It’s also just interesting thinking about how, when growing up I used to make sure that I aligned my choice of fashion with my perception of self or my perception of how I should look. But these days, I feel like I’m leaning more towards letting my favorite garments shape myself, shape my outward identity. So if I like this, I’ll wear it, and I just don’t really think about the details to too much anymore. So naturally I own clothes that I feel like align with my sense of identity but I feel like the pandemic has influenced my choices in a way where my choices have become simpler.
STEVE: Yeah, I definitely agree. I think one thing that’s interesting with the relationship between ourselves and fashion, and it reminds me I guess a lot of your article, Omar, about the idea of having a certain type of heirloom, that is almost transcendent with time and novelty that really talks about hist—you know, like, history, or talks about the idea of owning a piece for the rest of your life, I guess, do you want to talk a little bit about your piece and kind of like what it’s all about.
OMAR: Yeah, absolutely, and even my piece actually relates to that question that was just asked to Mia. I think that when it comes for me like I really like things that will last, right, so my relationship with fashion, but at least part of my relationship with fashion is about timelessness and about really like, heritage, right, like, that to me is what great style is, and I think I—that’s what kind of inspired me to write my piece. It ended up focusing a lot on the marketing and the storytelling because I feel like people forget that, in your relationship with fashion, it’s not just a two-way relationship; there is also the business behind it, and there is a lot of money out there that is influencing you and compelling you to buy certain things, right, so it’s definitely, as romantic as it is a think about it as like just you and this you know one piece that speaks to you, there is a marketing and PR machine, there is a whole industry out there, that is compelling you or inspiring you to purchase that piece, um, for me, it was really about exploring that, right, and I was really inspired actually just by pieces in my wardrobe, right, things that I have that when I bought them, or when I received them, I was like, “I’m going to have this the rest of my life,” like, “I’m going to carry this with me forever,” and that was kind of those the starting point for writing the article and exploring my relationship with fashion.
STEVE: Yeah, that’s awesome. I guess, in that case, how would you describe your personal styles?
MIA: I feel like my style has changed so drastically and so suddenly in the pandemic that I don’t even really know how to unify my style, but I guess, in general, well I can just tell you what I’ve been wearing lately: t-shirts, graphic tees or simple solid color t-shirts with a cardigan. For some reason I’ve grown to really like cardigans within the past few months. So I have this green cardigan, cardigan and T shirt and sweatpants, but if I were to go out my pant of choice would be jeans, particularly black, black washed out jeans. I guess my style could be described as for comfort with a little bit of an edge. Maybe because of my, my hair or how I do my makeup but yeah, my style has become really different lately.
OMAR: It’s interesting you say that you wear jeans like, I don’t know I just I am not a jeans person. I own maybe one pair of jeans in my wardrobe, I’ve always been more of like a, like a sophisticated trouser kind of person you know what I mean like, I’m all about trousers. That being said, I think there’s definitely tension for me like, I’m kind of caught in these polar opposites of, am I gonna go Keeping Up With The Kardashians and were like neutral tone sweatsuits or am I going to go like, Sex in the City and all out with, like, the statement pieces I think my personal styles like caught up in that tension. I don’t think that’s really changed during the pandemic shockingly enough.
OMAR: Interesting. Yeah. The trouser thing so before the pandemic I used to be about trousers to like all the time. I would switch out through multiple different pairs and variations of like types of trousers like, I would have like a window pane trousers I’d plaid trousers like so many different kinds, and then like that was my identity, trousers and then yeah, for me it’s changed but it’s interesting that for you it’s, it’s been the same.
STEVE: The classic trousers versus jeans question. I personally am 100% trousers. I find them to be so comfortable that, well, I guess the—specifically high waisted, wide leg trousers are fully it for me. I think what’s interesting is my personal style has definitely changed, I agree with you, Mia, in terms of the way comfort has become such a pivotal part of my style, where it’s kind of like, in a way, disjointed. Well, for the past few years I’ve been worrying solely primary colors solely red, but now I’m at this point where I, this is my first year that I’ve worn sweat pants, like in public, to the grocery store, which is very not, I would call, in quotation marks “on brand,” but it’s something that I’ve grown to acknowledge and kind of accept this new version of myself, which is very interesting in terms of whether this is something that I kind of inherently had all throughout my life that I’ve kind of repressed, or if it’s just kind of adapting to the new times, who knows.
OMAR: Interesting how you say high waisted I’m, unfortunately, or maybe fortunately I will announce to the listeners I am in fact six two, so high waisted doesn’t really work, but I will keep looking and try and figure that out.
STEVE: As someone who is five foot seven and gaining a few pounds, high waisted, wide legged trousers have saved me. So anyone who is five foot seven, I 100% recommend high waisted trousers.
MIA: High waist is the way to go. That’s the only way I can eat food while wearing pants because high waisted pants fit my body after eating a lot of food.
STEVE: And also, cheap trick if you, if you end up becoming really full, then you could on tuck your shirt and just let it out, you could unbuttoned a couple buttons and no one needs to know.
STEVE: Literally no one needs to know. Um, so I guess another thing too that early on our Instagram we’ve asked our followers on what they would like to know about this year’s issue. And we got a question from Tamia James, who asked, “How will you as a publication strive to make this issue different from the past ones?”
MIA: Well, for me at least like, as I mentioned earlier that this is the first issue that I’ve worked on, I only came on to the team last summer, I don’t really have a frame of reference as to how the team, or this publication works as a team to make their issues, but just, you know, when I came into the role my only foundation was my was consisted of my own perceptions of how leadership should be and what kind of responsibilities publications have and should uphold, but at least, so what I can say about this issue and my experience, I feel like we worked really hard to guide both ourselves and our team members to uphold certain responsibilities in both working with others and producing work for others to see, we’re all still young learning individuals so we’re bound to make mistakes. So we just have to make sure that we’re resilient, open minded, when it comes to improving ourselves both creatively. And as individuals. I, again I can’t speak on past issues but I think we really tried really hard to keep a clear focus on the creative vision for this issue, so the prefix terms as our guiding principles to push us through, but also the responsibilities that we need to uphold as creatives, just upholding those as best as we can. Although we have more to go, I think everyone did a really great job working on this issue and should be really proud of what they’ve done.
OMAR: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think I think for me as Managing Editor, you know, the challenge is not the challenge maybe just the reality of writing is that writing is a solitary act, you can have the writing circles, you can have the meetings, etc. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be you, your laptop at two in the morning clack clack clacking away. That’s what writing is. And so for me it was how to, how to make the process different was to really try and have those conversations with the writers, at every step of the way. Right, have those meetings be open to you know the check-ins, let’s have a conversation okay what are you having trouble with, where can we improve on, have you thought about this this and that trying to have that dialogue, that to me is what makes the process, at least a bit more engaging. So it’s not just like okay here is the presentation, you know the theme. Go ahead. I’ll talk to you in like four months. That’s me isn’t that’s not how I want to like oversee the process. I think that was, you know, and that was your previous issues, different managing editors, different processes. This is kind of how I approached it. I think it did, hopefully make a difference in the final word produced.
STEVE: I think when you’re mentioning about having a different process, I think that theme throughout the entire issue. I think the pandemic has really kind of shifted the narrative in terms of what fashion can look like and also what the issue can look like. Whereas with previous issues, you have the conventional photo shoots and the hair and makeup team and they have the models and then you have the styling. And then you have the pieces with the graphics and everything, whereas this year because of the circumstances, what’s going on, a lot of those opportunities don’t necessarily…we don’t necessarily have those opportunities anymore. So I guess it’s now up to us to re-examine how can we communicate powerfully without those resources. And that’s kind of been seen through a lot of our visual works which, a lot of them deal with very tactile elements so we have collages, we have illustrations, and even with our graphics throughout the issue, there’s a lot of illustrated elements to it too, which really kind of reflects the way in which people crave the idea of feeling things, the idea of kind of like being material like physical materials being present. And that’s kind of even seen through the art direction of this year’s issue in terms of adding some handwritten lettering in titles and everything. So I think the process in itself is really, and I see the different processes in itself is kind of reflected in the final works, and it’s definitely something that’s a lot more unique than the previous issues and I’m really excited to kind of share that with our readers as well.
So our next question is actually from our own team, so our social media coordinator Morgan Cheung, also wanted to ask, “What would you like our readers to take away with in this issue?”
MIA: So, for me personally, I hope that readers, from, after consuming the imagery and reading the articles, that they inspire or encourage them to be more self-reflective if they haven’t been already in the pandemic. And in addition to that, maybe, grow their empathy a bit for other people, considering that, you know, although each editorial both visual and written could be interpreted as very personal reflective stories to their authors, I also think that because they’re so personal to their authors that they open the opportunity for readers to get a little personal glimpse into their lives and perspectives and see how other people think and perceive certain situations, and potentially use, use those in take those into consideration for how they reflect upon themselves.
OMAR: Yeah, I think, I think I really want readers to take note overall, of just how different the pieces are and how everyone has something different to say, and something different to bring to the table, and I’m really hoping that that allows the reader to feel like it’s okay if your relationship with dress and with fashion is maybe not what is the messaging around you, right, we’re presented with a very narrow scope of messaging and like, what things should be. And I think that this collection, this body of work from students of all backgrounds of all, you know, just different kind of—all across the spectrum of who we are, right i think that this allows the reader to really kind of take stock of where they stand and what they value in their relationships, and I really hope that seeing this kind of work presented in this way, helps reinforce and reaffirm feelings of individuality among the readers.
STEVE: Yeah, for sure. I feel like another thing that I also would want readers to take away in this issue is to kind of look through your own closet and see the stories that are kind of manifested through their own closet, whether it be a shirt that you got as a pass along from your, you know, relatives, or if it’s a particular airline that you’ve received that kind of is passed down from generation to generation, or if it’s just a recent purchase that you’ve gotten because you personally resonate with this particular piece. And it kind of really shows that you know, fashion is something that everyone participates in. And everyone just, you know, dresses up for a myriad of reasons. But ultimately, it really speaks about who you are and how you want to present yourself to, I guess, also to yourself, or to the world, and fashion doesn’t necessarily have to be you know glamorous or I guess polished as you see in you know other more mainstream fashion publications, but it can also just be a neatly on what you were on a daily basis. And I hope that people take the time to read a couple of the testimonies and the stories that we like to share to the world. Yeah, thank you so much for joining in this podcast we really really appreciate insight. So I guess the final question that we have is that is there any way that we can find you, whether it be other projects, social media handles?
MIA: Yes, absolutely. So I can be found on Instagram, @miayaguchichow, no hyphens no underscores just straight full name. I also have a website that’s just a collection of works, miayaguchichow.ca, no periods, hyphens, anything; full name. And a little project I’m currently working on it’s just my fourth year Capstone research project on identity expression and development on Instagram, called We Are The Machine so for anyone interested in following the research on that participating in any way, you can just find that on Instagram @we_are_the_machine.
STEVE: That’s awesome, thanks Mia. Omar, where can we find you?
OMAR: Yeah, you guys know what’s up! @omar.taleb5 pre the link, that’s Instagram. You will find a link tree link in my Instagram bio, you can see my previous articles I’ve written, some for StyleCircles some freelance some of my Medium. Website is coming this summer so stay tuned for that.
STEVE: Well, that’s awesome. Thank you again so much, Mia and Omar, for being a part of this podcast, and uh, when we come back, we will be joining in with a couple of our StyleCircle members who have contributed to this year’s issue, and they will also be sharing their unique perspectives on fashion and their experiences with The Book. So we’ll be right back right after this break!
STEVE: And we’re back. Joining us today are a few of our StyleCircle members who have contributed to this year’s issue, ranging from both visual and written works, which they will be sharing their perspective on what’s going on with The Book. So thank you so much for joining in this podcast, would you like to introduce yourself.
ERICA: I’ll go first. Um, I’m Erica. My pronouns are she/her, and I’m a writer for StyleCircle, and I go to Ryerson for English.
NATALIE: Hi, I’m Natalie, my pronouns are she/her, I am a graphic designer at StyleCircle and my program is fashion communication.
SAFIA: Hi, my name is Safia Sheikh, I use she/her pronouns. I’m currently in my final year of fashion design at Ryerson, and I hold the position of copy editor at StyleCircle.
STEVE: That’s awesome. Thank you so much everyone. So this is a really exciting time and StyleCircle, with StyleCircle in general, because The Book is something that has been highly anticipated even since the beginning of our formation of this year’s team, and it’s kind of something that people go to in terms of, “I want to be in this team because I want to write something for The Book” and it’s quite a ride, going from point A to point B, especially now with the pandemic in sight, that kind of shifted the way in which we do our operations as a whole. But I think the pieces that we’ve had this year is something quite special. So can you talk a little bit about your pieces for The Book and I guess, how do you interpreted this year’s theme as well?
ERICA: Yeah, for sure, my piece really looks at the impact quarantine and social isolation has had on my mental health, and my ability to interact in social settings. And I kind of draw on my experiences with social anxiety, and how this situation with Covid made things more difficult for me. So I kind of discussed what has helped me and how I’ve tried to move past my struggles. So I definitely really took the term reflection and based my piece around that.
NATALIE: So because with Covid, I spent a lot of time by myself. I tried to get into journaling and I just spent a lot of time reflecting, and I was taking a course about the philosophy of environmentalism and I started reflecting on how I am as a human in this world and how I affect nature and how I am a part of that, and then thinking about humanity as a whole and I got really interested in that, and it was kind of like this weird paradox where that I was thinking a lot about humanity and I was so distance from humanity. So, that’s kind of what my piece is about.
SAFIA: So I actually remember, Steve, like, I don’t know if you recall this but we had a casual conversation about your idea with prefix and the five “Rs” like sometime last year and you know almost immediately I was really drawn to the idea I think it was really amazing and now seeing what’s happened over the year, I think the timing could not have been better for producing something with such a tactile kind of theme, I guess. And so for me something that I really always wanted to explore was my ethnic background in relation to where I live. So I’m second generation Pakistani who’s been born and raised entirely in Canada, and you know that experience of being Desi is really unique, I think, when it comes to garment expression. There’s a lot of internalized racism, actually I would say when it comes to sartorial expression as you grow up. And so in that sense these ideas of reflection, reconnection, reconciliation they really stood out to me. So I produced Inside Out for this year’s edition of The Book, and that piece is really a collection of, I would say anecdotal narratives of second generation, they see individuals told through kind of a close reading of their garments, so I had each individual supply one garment they wear at home, and then one that they were when they’re out in public and we held these conversations that would deep dive into their associations with the clothing and how these associations can provide us some insight I think into how these individuals understand their society around them, and you know, their own place within it.
STEVE: That’s awesome. Thank you so much everyone for sharing. I think once you really unique about this fear is that previously we would be able to separate ourselves and kind of have this distinctive barrier between school and work and personal life that kind of informs the way in which how we operate in our daily lives. and I think now during a time of isolation, And in a way, this can also reflecting Erica’s work as well, in terms of like they all seem to like, you know, be the barrier between work school and personal life is now kind of blurred, in a way in which everything seems to merge in for each other since a lot of the pieces that are in The Book really derived from personal experiences, and in cases, it also has this context of being, I guess sometimes too familiar, or sometimes being hyper aware with our surroundings and making the most of what we have. So I guess, do you find that that has informed your piece for The Book, or have this kind of shifted or change your perspective on how you view your piece?
ERICA: I don’t think that it’s changed the way I look at my piece. I definitely think that it helped me to look inward and being home all the time definitely gave me a lot of time to reflect on the things that I was experiencing. So, the more time that I spent working on it and just being with my thoughts, the more comfortable I felt being more vulnerable with you guys.
NATALIE: I agree with Erica, and I don’t think that the shift, like changed my, how I view my piece but I think it informed it during Covid, after like I’d say like the first like five months I was feeling really down and I started going on these really long nature walks by myself. Like I live close to this nature park had this lake and I had, like, pick flowers and plants and bring them home and like see just like, animal prints and like, wild birds and I think that was a big inspiration visually for my piece, as that like, made me feel very grounded and being in nature, it’s like you could be in any time, any place, and things feel calmer and it allows me to connect with myself so, I think you can see that visually through my piece.
SAFIA: I agree with both Erica and Natalie, I think this kind of breaking down that barrier actually, informed my piece as well. So actually told Omar back when we were you know pitching one pitch, when I, I actually told Omar back when I was pitching the idea that it really rose from the realization that I had since I’ve been confined to kind of staying at home all the time. I’m sure I’m not alone in this like my dressing habits changed. And so I personally have always like worn what we call shalwar kameez, which is like a tunic and pants set, at home. But prior to the pandemic, it was like, I wasn’t spending that much time at home just because I was so busy with university and other things. So suddenly being in these clothes 24/7, I was forced to really reconcile with how I felt about them. And so that really led me on this path of inquiry into how other Desi individuals might also navigate their private and public spheres.
STEVE: I think what’s interesting with your pieces is that they kind of have this sense of clarity in terms of revealing aspects of ourselves that hasn’t been necessarily been expressed before, which I find very interesting. So I do want to ask each of you, now that the pandemic as kind of informed the way we view those particular pieces, how do you navigate those forms of creativity. I guess who are there any aspects that force you to change or unlearn things that are often seen as normalized pretty pandemic?
ERICA: Yeah, for sure. I feel like having so much free time definitely made me feel pressure to be working and accomplishing things constantly because, in my mind, there was like no excuse because it’s not like I was busy doing anything else. But for me it was just as difficult, if not even more so, I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but I found it pretty difficult to focus on just one thing. Like I felt like I was being pulled in a couple different directions at once and it was difficult to be, to stop being so hard on myself for not being productive, because I feel like the pandemic kind of tricked us into thinking, we need to make the most of our time and like accomplish as many things as possible. But at the same time, I think just surviving and staying afloat mentally and emotionally should have taken priority. So yeah, I definitely learned that it isn’t healthy to force yourself to be productive, all the time.
NATALIE: Definitely I, I find that with Covid, now, at first I was like getting really far behind and now I’m like, it’s okay to ask for, like, extensions and I think overall like we’re more patient with other people and people are more patient with us, and realizing that like, mental health, and creativity and all these things. They need the right environment, and sometimes the right environment isn’t available to us, so I think overall just, it’s okay now I feel more comfortable asking for others to be more patient with me. And, yeah, that’s, that’s my answer.
SAFIA: I definitely relate to both Erica Natalie just mentioned. I think maybe on the more optimistic end of things, if anything, like pandemic has shown me as a creative, it’s kind of like evidence that I think stepping back and giving yourself enough time and space to create can actually yield more impactful results. Like, I’m also a fashion design student and I think others who are can totally relate with what I mean when I say like. this idea of while you’re in school it’s like you keep going, and going and there’s this constant output and I think that really leads to burn out quite quickly. So while the pandemic is like a less than ideal situation I think what it’s revealed more than ever, is that like, you know slow production and taking time to really synthesize and nurture your creative ideas is a far more sustainable way to produce work that you’re actually proud of.
STEVE: Yeah, for sure. Um, one thing that Omar actually mentioned when we were, the exaecs and I have been talking about The Book in the process of that was kind of the idea of writing as kind of the solitary experience, and a way kind of, the confined spaces that we have right now in terms of the separation from school and work, and sometimes writing feels like, and also from writing to, it feels like sometimes in a way you become more so occupied by so many things, and sometimes the headspace can be different, that you don’t necessarily have the same opportunity to really immerse yourself with your writing or with your work or with your school as much as before. So how do you navigate through your creative process with that in mind?
ERICA: Because my piece is just so rooted in self-reflection and because through my piece I was discussing things that I was still experiencing at the time of writing it, I think it might have been easier for me because I could recall in detail what I was going through and what I wanted to express.
SAFIA: For me personally, I think in general with the pandemic, we’ve all really been given more time to ourselves, I think, and that in turn for my piece meant a lot more time to reflect, which is crucial to kind of synthesizing all the different types of information that I was receiving. But, um, when it comes to like the actual physicality of production, I guess for me what’s interesting is in this pandemic time while everyone is talking about being alone, I actually live with my family, so I have this paradox where I’m not completely alone and suddenly you’re trying to manage, you know, five different people’s schedules all around each other and so other than just trying to immerse yourself in the creative process, I think just even being able to immerse yourself in any type of work has become incredibly difficult. So, for me what I found is that I, I’ve always really been a bit of a night owl, I think, but I think even more so in the pandemic. I found myself being most productive creatively at night, because that’s the time when I think that I’m completely alone and, you know, more time to synthesize my thoughts again. Yeah, I think that that would be kind of my answer.
NATALIE: So, I am an only child so I spent a lot of time by myself and like being creative by myself, so when we got into lockdown, I kind of found myself actually more creative in some aspects like, I felt like, “Oh, I‘m familiar with this!”
STEVE: I think one thing that I’ve definitely learned within the pandemic and also it’s kind of seen within this issue too is the idea of forgiveness. In terms of being forgiving in the creative process but also being forgiving in the idea of like, perfectionism, in a way that hasn’t been seen in like fashion publications in general everything is still hyper stylized in a way where it’s kind of like having the support of grittiness or like this kind of human quality that really reminds us that like the innate fundamental feelings of emotion or sense of touch and things like that, which I find really interesting, and it kind of like reveals a lot of experiences that people don’t necessarily people like reveals these particular experiences that people overlook when they associate the word fashion in general, were a lot of which were people like to be very surface level in terms of you know fashion is more so about looks but it’s deeply innate, in terms of your personality, your identity, the community. And I think that’s pretty much reflected in all of your pieces and also the pieces within the issue. I guess another thing too is with this pandemic, one of the most challenging aspects in production was developing visual pieces, and like, because of that, the pandemic really took a pivotal shift in terms of producing creative works completely digitally, and that includes figuring out how to develop a concept, how to execute a concept. Because a lot of which they rely on heavy, like, a lot of which they relied heavily on in person task, and with limited resources available, a lot of the pitches that we received really reflect the states that we’re in. So, on the idea of the nostalgia physical touch that was art directed by Bella, a lot of her pieces, really resonate in terms of the kind of desire to have human connection again, and physical connection again. And even the safety and precautionary measures too kind of change the way that we go forward with photo shoots, whether it be kind of this all like boat you know previously it used to be this all hands-on deck where you have multiple models you have multiple makeup artists, whereas now it’s kind of one person taking on multiple positions at the same time, you know like, Jacobs by Marc Jacobs for Marc by Marc Jacobs, you know, so I guess Natalie, you’ve done a—that particular visual piece, how do you manage or deal with those challenges?
NATALIE: So, I believe it was, up until late November, I was planning on working with a photographer and a model, a makeup artist, and I had all these ideas like, “Oh I’m gonna go like to clothing rental house and we’re gonna like rent an Uber, I mean, a car, get an Uber and like go to this studio.” But then, when we we’re putting to lock down, a lot of that had to change. And so, I actually like reworked my concept. And I am super fortunate that I have a close friend that’s a really amazing photographer, his name is Austin Philip and he agreed that he would work with me, he has a studio in his apartment and my roommate agreed to model for me so I was able to get people in my circle to help me out and I’m super thankful for them. And I’m really happy how it turned out. And I mean it was definitely stressful at first when I realized that like my plans weren’t going to go the way I thought I wanted things to be but then I realized that sometimes when we are given like these intense barriers that it actually forces us to be more creative and be resourceful and come up with ideas we probably wouldn’t have come up with if things were said easier, or you know like the traditional method that we’re used to of like sourcing other creatives I was like, collaborating with people that I probably wouldn’t have collaborated with previously. So, um, I guess it was really insightful. It was an insightful experience for me.
STEVE: Yeah, for sure. I mean, from an exec perspective, it was a very interesting time, especially during November, December when lockdowns began again. Whereas, kind of, we have this set plan of like, “Okay, so we have these pieces are going to be completed this day. And then we have these pieces going to be completed this and we’re going to have copy edited by this day and then we’re going to have everything done by this particular day,” where now when that happened, and like the lockdown procedures kind of changed, literally almost every single editorial that we’ve had, we’ve kind of had to restructure everything in terms of, “Okay, so this isn’t going to work. What are we going to do, how can we I guess help everyone to like make sure that they get something, you know, submitted.” And that was kind of like something like kind of a challenge for us. Like, for example, to in terms of how can we make things work with what we have and how I guess, can we help out because like, ultimately, like within the small social circles, we can’t necessarily, you know be physically present in these photo shoots or within the creative process. So it’s a lot of back and forth in terms of, “Here’s what I have, what do you think?” “Oh yes, I like it. Let’s go forward with this.” “Okay, let’s do this, this, this, this,” and it’s a very prolonged process in terms of doing this for months and months and months, and then we would do everything up until the last minute, and it was, I remember it was during the last week of February where like everyone’s losing it. And it’s just kind of like, do we have this piece in, but what do we have this what—what what’s kind of left. Um, but I’m really glad that everything came together in the end. And I don’t know if you’ve seen a couple of previews of the issue, but from what we’ve had, we’ve collected so far it looks amazing! And by the time that we upload this particular episode, hopefully the everyone’s able to take a look at the issue, and see the incredible work that everyone has done.
So I guess another thing too, I can extend this to Erica and Sophia as well, what do you find the most challenging about your creative process when you were additionally drafting your piece?
ERICA: When I was writing my first draft, I was just really concerned that the issues I would, I was discussing weren’t common and that nobody would really understand where I was coming from. But at the same time, like thinking about it, even if my piece isn’t relatable for everyone, like, the struggles that I talked about are still a product of the pandemic, which is something that hit and hurt all of us in different ways. So I feel that better about it.
SAFIA: So, Inside Out was written, as I mentioned previously, kind of, as abstract anecdotal narratives. So that meant interviews transcriptions, translations etc. So on so forth so actually Steve kind of like what you said before there were some issues just logistically trying to organize schedules and things like that. However, for me, I think the most difficult part came afterwards, in trying to like determine what was the most crucial thing for the audience to know, because I found like, even as the author of this piece the interviews that I had were, they were quite healing, I think to me to just sit down you know have this very personal conversation with someone about their clothes and their experiences in them and being someone who shares and identity with the person on the other side as well I found it quite a healing experience so I was quite eager to kind of put everything in but you know, obviously that that’s not something that you can do. So I think the thing that I kind of struggled with the most was trying to determine what was, you know, most crucial for the audience to know. And we, we actually ended up discussing so many things that were beyond what ended up in the final piece. While the piece itself I think is heavily based on these individual experiences, I think it has overarching themes that really anyone can resonate with, especially the way it explores reconciliation. I think in general just hearing from voices and communities, you may not necessarily be part of is still intrinsically beneficial to expanding your worldview. And so, you know, keeping that in mind I had quite a positive outlook, about how I was developing the piece and kind of how it ended up.
STEVE: Yeah, I guess, on that note, what do you find the most rewarding from your experiences when you were producing the your own piece for The Book, or with StyleCircle in general?
ERICA: Before I started working on StyleCircle so just prior to the summer, nothing that I’d ever written had been published or anything like that. So this is just really exciting for me and I’m really proud to be a part of The Book.
NATALIE: I would say that I really enjoy collaborating with fellow team members and getting like really great constructive criticism and feedback, and I really enjoyed the conversations I had where like people be like, “Oh, you know what this is actually like a really cool idea, like we could add this on to that concept if you felt like doing that,” and I felt like I learned so much and I’m really excited to have this piece so that so many people helped me with.
SAFIA: I think in the process of working on Inside Out, I was really, like I mentioned earlier like able to kind of heal through just having these conversations with other members in the community. As we are speaking to StyleCircle in general, honestly, I’m just really grateful for the team and just how I think understanding and flexible everyone is I think especially in the time of like the pandemic when everyone’s dealing with so many other things it’s really, really comforting to know that you have a group of people for, you know, quite understanding and, and I guess, willing to give you the liberty to create in a space that works for you. And speaking, just generally like this is my second year with StyleCircle, and just knowing that StyleCircle has grown into this publication that it, you know, quite critical in its nature and does it’s best to emphasize that as a strength definitely gives me pride to be part of it.
STEVE: Yeah, definitely, Safia, like I really appreciate your, your comment because I think one thing that was what really brought everyone together is just kind of like sharing this common goal of really kind of like developing great pieces and great stories to tell for The Book, and not just The Book but also with StyleCircle in general, when we were publishing web articles and all of that too. And I think maintaining that criticality within the publication something that the team in general strives for. And I think sharing common goals definitely what made us better as the you know the day is progress, and as the year went on, was just definitely, I guess it’s definitely a challenge considering. I haven’t even met 75% of the team yet in person. And whenever I do meet them in person, whether it be picking up like the StyleCircle merchandise, or whether it be working with Event related thing really of things are doing in person photo shoots and stuff, it’s really rewarding to see kind of to see them and kind of like share that we all have a collective experience of really trying to make the publication but as best as we can with the time that we have in the circumstances that we have.
Now I guess it to wrap up everything. We have a question from Morgan Cheung which who is our social media coordinator, and she would like to ask, “What would you like our readers to take away with this issue?”
ERICA: Like you were saying, Steve, I think it’s really cool that we managed to do this as such a weird, and difficult time. And it was difficult but we did it and it’s going to be so great. And for my piece what I wanted readers to take away, I really just want readers to know that it’s not shameful to struggle with their mental health, especially anxiety around social situations, because I feel like social anxiety isn’t often talked about because it’s maybe perceived as embarrassing, or something. So I hope that my piece can kind of show our readers that that shouldn’t be the case and it’s not the case
NATALIE: For The Book as a whole. I’m really excited for people to read stories and to learn something new. Storytelling is something that’s just so intrinsic to being human, and I think it’s really awesome that we have this book filled, full of stories. And I’m really excited that people have access to this and I hope they learned some things and also relate to different aspects of this really strange time we’re living in. And in regards to, my piece I hope they take some time to reflect on their relation to the earth, to plants, to the biosystems, and reflect on where we have been as humans and where we’re going and if this is something, if we are living in a way that we’re going to be proud of in the future, and just ask themselves the question like “Are we a part of nature, and what is, do we have a responsibility to nature?”
SAFIA: From inside out. I hope readers are able to kind of sympathize or empathize with the experiences of the individuals that are presented. I hope it becomes clear if it wasn’t already that you know the Desi experience, isn’t really one that is a monolith experience. And I really hope that with the formatting of the piece and kind of its abstract nature, I hope individuals are also prompted to kind of reflect on their own relationship with their clothes and you know why did they choose to wear what they do. And I don’t want to spoil anything, but I do think the greatest takeaway of the piece is in the last three paragraphs so I do hope readers really pay attention to those in relation to other pieces actually in The Book that I’m really looking forward to, I’m pretty excited about Letters to Our Skin by Noah so shout out to him. I think that’s going to look really amazing. And I think I want this issue at large, really to just be remembered as one that took place under, I think the most trying and testing circumstances for print that I think you could imagine. It is I think in a way this tactile time capsule that somehow also outlives, the present, so I think that’s pretty cool.
STEVE: Yeah, this issue, I would say, it really is kind of a testament to the resilience of the team. In terms of kind of making something out of nothing, being resourceful and also kind of like this underlying message of, “We want to share our stories,” and kind of create this body of work at this time that really reflects, I guess not only just the time that we have, but also how we felt what we wanted, what we desire, what we, what our emotions are and kind of encompassing that within, you know, a, an almost 100-page book. And with that, I’m really, really proud of all of you in terms of the work that you’ve done too, and I’m really excited to share your pieces with our viewers because they’re pretty much in for a treat—not going to lie, and I’m hope that this particular issue is something that will be remembered for years to come. And on that note, thank you so much, Erica, Natalie and Safia for joining in this podcast, we really, really appreciate your insight. And I guess, to wrap up where can we find you, any social media handles anything you’d like to plug?
ERICA: I’ll just share my Instagram it’s, it’s @ericaweekes.
SAFIA: So you can follow me on Instagram @offlinesafia or @studiosafia. You can also find my work at safiasheikh.myportfolio.com. I’ll also be participating in the upcoming mass exodus show with my capstone project, which is exploring textiles and garments, as a form of subverting facial detection, or recognition algorithms so if that’s something you’re interested in, lookout for that later this year too.
STEVE: Yeah, so thank you so much once again, and when we come back, we will be discussing a little bit about the launch event on March 25th, and what’s to come, so stay tuned for that right after this break!
STEVE: So welcome back everyone! Once again, thank you so much to all the members for sharing their experiences with The Book. We’re so excited to share our latest issue, The Book 06 with you on March 25th at 7:00pm. We will be launching our own website, thebookbystylecircle.org, which will be viewed to the public for a limited time. We will be featuring exhibits that reflect some of the pieces from The Book, which include student features, panel discussions, and performances by various artists. Physical and digital copies of The Book 06 will be available during the launch event, and you can also explore the amazing event compiled by our events team. I hope you enjoyed reading this episode as much as I did, and I hope you enjoyed our conversations with the team. Until next time, we hope you stay safe and see you at our upcoming digital launch!
This has been the Podcast by StyleCircle. Subscribe to continue listening to new episodes of The Podcast every 2 weeks on Spotify, Apple Music and Apple Podcast. The Podcast is produced by StyleCircle and hosted by Steve Nguyen. Administration is by Samantha Cass, Media Production is by Norah Kim, Original Music Arrangement is by Particle House, and Additional Contributions from Mia Yaguchi-Chow, Omar Taleb, Erica Weekes, Natalie Welsh, and Safia Sheikh.