Week One: And So It Begins...

Neutral is NOT Impartial. Neutral ≠ Impartial is a weekly journal following the trials and tribulations of a designer cutting out color, one week at a time, for one full year.

What’s the difference between classic and neutral? Are they the same thing, in the context of a wardrobe, at least?  I’m not talking ‘the button down shirt;’ that’s an entirely different can of worms, and one that I’ll inevitably crack open someday!  I’m talking classic as in… er, steadfast enough to supercede trends and become an integral textile/material/style/whathaveyou, within our wardrobes. Basics, maybe. But more than basic, too: classics play the staple roles or function as canvases. Classics are elements to build off of, or up, up and away from. Whether particular pieces, types of prints, or whole styles, classics are NOT in-your-face, nor are they palette cleansers, because any color or texture can feel refreshing, especially these days, when more is more and everything seems to be always at our fingertips. If something qualifies as ‘classic,’ is it inherently also a fashion NEUTRAL? Or is that taking it too far?

With nearly a decade behind me in a shark-like industry that never stops breaking boundaries and rules, I’ve found myself at a crossroads. The junction overlaps territories of my own creativity, personally and professionally. Over the past few months, a few questions kept coming to the forefront of my thoughts…  

What is it about clothing that makes it feel like an extension of my self? What aspect of self-expression do I connect with most, getting dressed every day? How does what I wear influence my mood, my self-esteem, my well-being? And then, how do all these relationship-y issues with the clothes I wear relate to the clothes I design? Heavy, I know… certainly feels like I’m in the right industry, to get so twisted about what hangs in the closet or on our bodies, don’t you think?

As I peered into the (pretty epic) wardrobe I’ve built over many years – based on an intuitive, to-hell-with-your-rules, “like it or don’t” approach – my perspective seemed to shift. All the pattern and print and color started feeling fussy, rather than refreshing. Dressing had become a work of art – emphasis on the work – and stopped feeling anything like second nature. The pressure to outdo myself day after day had left me feeling ragged. I might have all the pieces necessary to build seven masterpieces a week, and all on a humble working girl’s budget, but where were MY classics? Where are the key pieces and colors and textures I could turn to, time and again? And where in the hell had all the neutral territory gone!?

As those ideals danced on the tip of my tongue, I found myself compelled to welcome in some restraint. This issue needed active resolution, rather than just kicking the can down the road any further. Ruminating on how limitation could – or would – affect the sharpness of my purchases AND aesthetics drove an urge to explore what self-imposed boundaries and rules might reveal. If getting dressed were ‘easy,’ would it also be super fucking boring? Could I feel satisfied by a wardrobe without color? Will I be relieved to look into a closetful of thoughtful purchases, complimentary silhouettes and NEUTRAL colors that afford me ease and sophistication… or will I feel terrified?

That’s how this new challenge and project fell into place. For the next full year, I will practice restraint every time I get dressed. Part performance piece, part science project, my aim is to draw back from the near-endless possibilities I’m accustomed to, and refocus on refinement and reflection. Neutral Territory is about looking through my closet, rather than just into it, and seeing right down to the bones. Along the way, I’ll consider purchasing, wearing and creating aesthetic choices through various intentional and conceptual lenses, and see what happens to my wardrobe (and sense of myself) when trends and statement pieces are left out.