Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Iceland! A Retrospective

As I mentioned way back when, my family spent a few days in Iceland between Christmas/Beyoncé visiting and the New Year. And as has now become family tradition, I filmed the trip to add to the growing collection of Strasburger trip movie memorabilia (a concept which I have discussed at length here) alongside: Southeast Asia, Cubathe Stans, and Brazil.

Just a few months later (okay, seven), I've finally got around to editing it! But the tricky thing about this little Icelandic production is that we were no the island for approximately 62 hours, only 4 of which contained actual sunlight. Because Iceland in the winter is essentially the shadowland, it's a short film, but one full of the odd and beautiful sounds of Iceland's own Sigur Rós. Enjoy the stark scenery, and let it serve as a friendly reminder to embrace summer's warmth before we go back to the hell that is cold weather.

P.S. Stay tuned for the India video! But maybe don't hold your breath...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How to Dress for Gov Ball (IMHO)

My third Governor's Ball Music Festival has come and gone, leaving me with some all too familiar souvenirs: muddy feet, a tender sunburn, and an increasing frustration with humanity. Yes, music festivals are about music, duh, but ask 80% of the crowd what they spent the past week preparing for and I'll bet you two overpriced beers their answer is not which bands to see, but rather what outfits to wear. I watched photographers stalk the fields looking for the next big festival trends and interesting silouhettes, and my heat ached with them because THERE WERE NONE. Now I'm no festival junkie, but I've religiously attended Austin City Limits for the past 11 years of my life and the only sartorial change I've seen is an increase in flower crowns and skin exposure. Sure, flash tats were an exciting addition in 2014, but when you're blinded by metallic designs everywhere you turn, they begin to lose their sparkle.

When I first moved to NYC, my city-savvy friends convinced me to invest in a ticket, and I naively showed up to the scene in what I deemed appropriate festival wear: rain boots for the rain  what else would you need? So I was surprised when I was asked to be photographed for Urban Outfitter's blog, and that's when I realized the Randall's Island hoopla was about more than just music. This concept was new to me because ACL hasn't quite caught up with the fashion-meets-music scene yet. So when I was at Nylon magazine I offered to snap some street style pics while I was home for ACL, but spent the three days in complete frustration and disbelief: not a single interesting or unique outfit. There just isn't a culture of pushing fashion boundaries at ACL, which is why I hadn't expected there to be such an emphasis on it at Gov Ball, but boy was I wrong.

This year I spotted more than a handful of style bloggers I recognized posing for pics in front of the graffiti art in their wide-brimmed hats and heart-shaped sunglasses, the bands playing behind them merely a pleasant soundtrack to their main event. But I'm not going to lie, I would be just as happy sitting in the grass licking an ice pop and people watching as I would standing in a sweaty crowd listening to Tame Impala. It's absolutely fascinating to see what the majority of the population chose to wear to New York City's big weekend out. But if this is the place to see and be seen, why does everyone wear the exact same thing? It's like the Gov Ball committee sent out a flier with an attached Urban Outfitters/American Apparel catalog and circled the three halter tops that would be allowed in and mine just got lost in the mail. Sure, it's a safe bet to roll up in what your friends are sporting, but where's the fun in that? The sky is the limit when it comes to risk-taking at a music festival, so why not take advantage of the three days of trend freedom? I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the fourteen-year-olds stumbling around in exposed bra straps and short shorts displaying what I can only describe as "under-butt cleavage."

But as I waded through the underage drinkers and first-time smokers, I began to wonder if I was wrong to be so condescending of this unspoken uniform. Is it really so bad to have a pack mentality when it comes to dressing for events? Is herd behavior really so shameful when it means sporting a tried-and-trusted outfit? No, of course not. But my disappointment lies in the lack of interest in trying something new. Every year I look forward to the new accessory that will define that year in festival wear, and every year I'm faced with the same make-your-own-flower-crown stand with an impossibly long line of tween girls.

So you're probably thinking, "Alright Chantal, if you're so high and mighty about music festival outfits what did you wear?" Well, nothing that will break the internet, but I spent the an afternoon combing through the racks at various thrift stores around my BK neighborhood to find one-off pieces that no one else would be wearing something interesting that most people would pass up, but if paired with the right accessories could actually be pretty badass (a much harder task than you might think, mind you). But I scored a rather fabulous retro jumpsuit from People of 2omorrow which I paired with a leather and snakeskin bag (below left). For the first day I threw on a silk robe my aunt and uncle picked up from Uzbekistan, a country I also recently travelled to and couldn't get enough of the incredible textiles (see above). And for the third day I went with a '70s wide-legged jumpsuit that zipped up the back (below right).

I got many nods of approval and compliments on my non-crop tops and was thrilled to be stopped by a few photographers and publications. But the main takeaway I got from my weekend in jumpsuits?

Peeing in porta-potties naked is the WORST.

Other than that, it was a pretty successful weekend of gawking and observing. But there are a few tips I would give a Gov Ball first-timer (take these with a grain of salt and a pinch of snobbery):
  1. Go to a thrift store to buy your outfit for guaranteed originality.
  2. Step away from the flower crowns.
  3. When it comes to footwear, practicality is key to endurance.
  4. LAYER! It might feel like a pain to truck that light sweater around all day, but when the sun sets not even Lana del Rey's crooning can keep you warm.
  5. There's no such thing as too much sunscreen. 
  6. I'm all for self-love when it comes to showing off your body (really, I am) but there is a certain fabric minimum required for shorts to be called shorts, and I would recommend sticking to that. I believe there has to be an inseam of sorts.
  7. If you have a chest that requires a bra, don't buy a backless halter top that barely covers your nipples. You will not be comfortable. Cheating the system and wearing a bra with it anyway is just as ill-advised. You have to know what works for you body, and stick with it. 
  8. There's no detail too small. Want to load up on your pin collection or heirloom rings? The strangers packed in next to you for that hour and a half set will appreciate every single one. 
  9. Remember that your purse it not just a cute accessory, but should also be able to hold your water bottle, wallet, snacks, camera, phone, keys etc. etc. So that tiny little fanny pack you were planning on buying? You might want to grab two. 
  10. On that note, backpacks/fanny packs are the way to go when it comes to carrying supplies. Hands-free dancing is the best kind of dancing.
There are a million other thoughts I have on the subject, but we'll keep it at that. So please, next time you're planning on hitting up Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo, accept the challenge to rise above the crowd and find yourself a getup that will shine. Might I suggest sequins?

P.S. IMHO = In my humble opinion.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Slow, Steady, and Tragic Decline of the Man Bun

The movement started with a faint whispertales of glorious strands being pulled back into a tight little knot and sman-manes billowing in the wind, only to be tamed by the strength of an elastic band. Originating with dirty Australian backpackers and steadily finding its way onto the heads of Brooklyn's elite, the bohemian hairstyle, centuries old, began to find a new life. But from these arcane subcultures it streamed forth, ensnaring men who had previously sworn by a clean cut and a fresh shave. These former prepsters found themselves starring into bathroom mirrors and asking friends, "Yo, what do you think about me growing out my hair?" with mock nonchalance and heightened self-awareness. However, when the top knot started appearing in the most mundane of settingsa fast food commercial here, a Forever 21 ad there—there was no denying it: The man bun had gone mainstream. They could be spotted on subway cars, at the Met, in Trader Joe'sthere were even sightings in Murray Hill, much to the outward disgust and secret pleasure of the local fro-yo imbibing females.

Then slowly but surely, articles started popping up defaming the holy aesthetic, vindictively announcing the "shocking" amounts of bacteria found on beards and smashing every germaphobe's dreams (not mine, of course, I embrace all forms of microorganisms). Moreover, a recent study confirmed that 63% of women now despise the man bun trend. So when did the tide begin to turn? Why did popular opinion rise against, and what was the catalyst that started denying the man bun the admiration it deserves? 

Perhaps it was the same fate that happened upon flower crowns: While beautiful and pure in appearance, well-meaning and ethereal, they belong to a different time, a different place. Floral headdresses were created to grace the heads of nymphs in Botticelli paintings, so at music festivals they come across as trite and overeager. One could argue that by exuding masculinity and strength, the man bun belongs in a world of battlefields and armor, bloodshed and glory (think Jon Snow meets Thor). Even I, self-proclaimed lover of all things facial hair, sensed my own recent recoiling when I unfollowed Man Bun Monday, an Instagram account whose images I used to tag friends on religiously, but has gradually begun to feel tired and erroneous. 

With that said, it is still with great sadness that I bid the fad farewell, and usher in an era of close crops and undercuts. Au revoir man bunssociety may be moving on, but I will never deny you a subtle nod of appreciation when die-hards pass me by on the street, throwing all cares of trend and popularity to the wind, along with their beautiful heads of hair. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The L Train; or, Why Some People Choose Not to Live in NYC

Today I'm going to write about what's currently on my mind: public transportation. Sexy, eh?

Here's what's up: I live two blocks from the L train. The line runs straight from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and I'm off the first stop out. So it would make sense for me to take the L into Manhattan, transfer at Union Square to the 4/5 and make my way down to the brand-spankin-new-but-also-sort-of-falling-apart One World Trade Center. SUUUPER convenient morning commute right? Right. Except also very wrong. Let me explain how this route goes down IRL (and why I no longer take it).

6:30am: Alarm goes off. I lace up my sneaks and head to the gym for an early morning sweat sesh.

7:30: Realize that was only wishful dreaming and I have just been repeatedly hitting snooze every five minutes for the past hour.

8:40: After bathing, clothing, and feeding myself, I head out the door.

8:45: Descend into the pits of hell that is the Bedford L stop on a Monday morning. Platform is packed with rows upon rows of impatient New Yorkers (redundant?).

8:55: MTA voice from above kindly informs us that there is a delay, and that the next train arriving will not stop. We all miserably watch as a packed L passes us by along with our hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

9:05: The first train comes to a stop. It is so full that an exact average of 1.5 people make it onto each car.

9:10-9:25: This continues as the population of the platform grows and people save twitter drafts of crowd-selfies (why)(because there is no cell service).

9:30: I use my creative problem-solving skills and deductive reasoning to realize that if I take the L train going further into Brooklyn a few stops, my chances of actually making it onto a train increase. I take it three stops towards Rockaway Pkwy, cross over ABOVE ground and re-enter on the other side to squeeze onto a Manhattan-bound train. ha HA! My plan works and I am feeling smug even though I am making direct skin contact with no less than four strangers.

9:40: Half-sympathetically/half-maniacally watch as no one at the Bedford stop can get on. Sayonara, suckers (also sorry!)

10:20: Arrive to work late, commiserate with co-workers about living in bRoOkLyn ugh, and vow never to take the L again.

SO. That is the story of how I left my abusive relationship of one and a half years with the goddamn L train and started taking the J.

The J is a dream. The cars are wider, rarely packed, and—best of all—it crosses the Williamsburg bridge so you start your day off with a stunning view of Manhattan looking out over the water and you remember why you love this city ha ha ha. Above ground time is time well spent. The only catch is it's about a 30 minute walk from my apartment. So it now takes me an hour to commute. Which is fine because I view my morning walks as "me" time where I listen to podcasts, observe the slow but steady gentrification of South Williamsburg, and think about how I didn't go to the gym that morning. It's also the perfect distance to hit just the right amount of cardio so that when I leave my apartment I'm freezing but by the time I get to the platform I'm sweating!

Next time on Daily Commuting with Chantal: "The Ferry: New York's Best Kept Secret, Sort Of".

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Song of Ice(land) and Fire

Okay, so I didn't get around to following up on my gift guides which is INFURIATING because I had carefully chosen all the products for each person, but family time got the best of me and I decided not to spend my precious holiday time in front of the computer screen (one of my New Year's resolutions). Speaking of holidays, my parents surprised us with a trip to ICELAND which was AMAZING. It's a very cold, dark country (the sun rises at 10:30am and sets at 4pm in the winter...) but with beautiful people, stunning scenery, and delicious food. Also, fun fact, many of the Game of Thrones scenes is filmed there (think North of the Wall) so we even went on a GOT tour, I kid you not. In fact, the way our parents told us we were going was by gifting us a map of Westeros on Christmas Day. Needless to say none of us guessed "trip to Iceland" from the illustration, but cousin Harry was quick to point out our shortcomings. The cherry on top of the trip was the knowledge that Beyoncé and Jay Z had just been there to celebrate his birthday, so we were walking on hallowed ground indeed. I even swam in the exact same waters Queen B did at the famous Icelandic Blue Lagoon. I'm never bathing again.

Here are a few more snapshots of the Viking land.

 Thrift shopping with Selina at the must-visit Spuutnik in Reykjavik. Don't worry, I bought the coat.

 Explorer Roy

 Trolling the town's local music scene. The fam loved this band--def check them out: 1860
 THE NORTHERN LIGHTS!!! Not the best picture ever but insanely mesmerizing in person. 

 An example of a waterfall you would not want to fall into.

We spent New Year's in London and it was a wonderful end to an exciting and busy year. Here's to 2015!