The Zoe Report’s First Issue, Fashion Takeover, Is About What Style Is — And Isn’t

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I knew early on that clothes had the power to be transformative. I'd watch the grownups in my life get dressed, and I saw the deliberate choices they made. They'd put something on, and suddenly they were a different version of themselves, embodying the ready-made identity of their outfit. Anything other than a uniform — the only clothes adults wore that they didn't get to choose — always felt so pointed and intentional.

My mom, who always made coffee wearing her black-floral silk sleep-kimono, took nearly an hour to get ready each morning. She’d sashay downstairs to her bathroom, a four-by-five unfinished hideaway in the basement, and emerge later in the garb of whomever she was going to be that day, or so I thought. On my first day of kindergarten, she chose “totally-not-overworked parent” with a tapered charcoal gray pantsuit and muted black Anne Klein slingback shoes. Once we got to school, we said goodbye to my sister at the door of her third-grade classroom, where Ms. O’Connor wore a hip-length blazer cinched at the waist to welcome her new students. My sister wasn’t a strong reader, so I knew she was in trouble: Ms. O’Connor meant business. Her jacket said so.

Courtesy of Lauren Caruso

My mom, too, went to work in clothes that signaled her role there. Yes, she answered phones for a corporate banker, but her power suit said he’d be useless without her. She always wore jeans on the weekend — the rigid light-wash kind with high pockets, usually with white Keds and a pressed tee that proved she was relaxed but never lazy. But when she put on her best Style & Co. suit separates, the world — and the banker — saw her as someone to be taken seriously. She encouraged it.

You can’t select “skilled negotiator” or “fun-loving girlfriend” out of a wardrobe lineup (though, sure, the right floral top might help coax it out of you). Those things are in you — the clothes just help you express them.

I didn’t understand then that the wearer bestows style on the clothes they wear — not the other way around. And so, the way you address the world isn’t idling in your closet, waiting to be picked out. You can’t select “skilled negotiator” or “fun-loving girlfriend” out of a wardrobe lineup (though, sure, the right floral top might help coax it out of you). Those things are in you — the clothes just help you express them.

Courtesy of Lauren Caruso

The 2019 Zoe Report, or TZR as we call it when we’re yelling over the commotion backstage at Fashion Week or filing this season’s essential trend report, is about this idea: Style is innate, and getting dressed is the way you express it. Our first digital issue, Fashion Takeover, is about that simple assertion, and how it applies both to the industry and to what you personally decide to wear.

That idea is nowhere more visible than in the spring 2019 collections, showcased in our cover shoot and feature, A Different Story, where Alexandra Mondalek talks to designers and retailers about a fundamental shift afoot in the spring collections. Brands have always promised to make their offerings wearable, but this season they’re finally doing it, for reasons both cultural and financial. It turns out that listening to your customer not only pays off, it offers a wealth of inspiration and creative direction, too, which Mondalek dissects in pieces ranging from Rejina Pyo’s fitted blazer jacket, complete with frayed darting and oversized pearl-effect buttons, to Fendi’s leather utility belt bag to the tailoring of Off-White’s slime green bermuda short.

Courtesy of Lauren Caruso

The anchor of this first issue is our list of The New Icons, 28 women of style who are changing the way we all dress now. From a range of backgrounds, fields, interests, and sensibilities, they spoke to The Zoe Report about what inspired their unmistakable sense of style, the pieces and designers they love, and their earliest fashion memories. From footwear designer and tastemaker Mari Giudicelli to artist Angeles Almuna to Harlem style icon and millinery connoisseur Lana Turner to Kardashian matriarch MJ Houghton, together these new icons offer inspiration for building a wardrobe that means something to you, and the unique way you, and only you, will wear it.

Your style — not just what you wear, but also the decor you pick out, the signature beauty look you land on, the manner in which you present yourself to the world — is ever-evolving, but it comes from within.

And there’s more: that slime green you see in the cover story — the hue that is still everywhere and yet somehow always unexpected — is the focus of our first Trace The Trend investigation, in which we backtrack through history to figure out who wore it first. In keeping with our commitment to research, in our new beauty series, Chemistry Lesson, beauty writer Jess Yarbrough takes on a product people in-the-know swear by — in this issue, essences — and talks to a cosmetic chemist about what makes it work. In Hypothetically Speaking, the essay series that will weigh what life could be like with a coveted item of clothing, writer Leeann Duggan attaches excessive yet reasonable meaning to Sies Marjan’s Jessa boot, and in Best Dresser, we chat with Law Roach, who makes it his entire job to find the clothes that express the person for the world’s most-watched events, from the Golden Globes to the Met Gala.

Because we thrive on the unexpected here at TZR, we’re also debuting the fashion world’s first ever plant column, New Leaf, focused on an “it” plant or plant derivative (this issue: Squalane), and in Everything I Bought This Month, we ask Highsnobiety style director (and very stylish person) Jan Quammie to reveal what someone who toes the line between influencer and editor actually buys for herself.

It took me a long time to realize that the message in my mother and Ms. O’Connor’s attire wasn’t that you put on a suit like Clark Kent and become someone else. Your style — not just what you wear, but also the decor you pick out, the signature beauty look you land on, the manner in which you present yourself to the world — is ever-evolving, but it comes from within. Now, when I shop (which, er, is a lot) I don’t look for items to lend me a persona. Instead, I like to think each piece is waiting for me to give it life.