My Picasso Coat of Many Colors

It was
fabulous to be offered the opportunity in February 2024 to fly to New York City and attend the Global Fashion Collective NYFW FW24 fashion shows. I have known the founder Jamal since 2004, and have been covering his Vancouver Fashion Week since 2007. We have a long history of mutual respect and support, so it was an honor to be in my seat each day.

What to wear.  I decided to take just 2 outfits, one for each day. At the urging of a friend I brought what I call my Picasso coat.  The fabric features bright, vivid colors in a print that is definitely Picasso inspired. I feel like a peacock wearing it. My eyewear from The Optical Boutique was just as unusual in shades of orange and blue. The second outfit I brought was was the opposite - very muted and understated. This look featured beautifully tailored linen top in dark olive and asymmetrically draped black linen pants by Brooklyn label NRK by Anarkh. My jewelry and eyewear for this look were in textured brown and blacks.  

I chose to wear the flamboyant outfit on day one. I found myself a little hesitant at first as I would be walking 20 minutes to and from the venue.  No one I had seen so far on the streets was dressed this vibrantly.  I even asked the hotel staff what they thought in terms of safety when walking back after the sun set.  Mostly I heard no problem, so headed out confidently. 

I knew the reception to the two extremely opposite outfits would vary wildly, but it surprised me just how different. There is always a positive reaction to my Picasso coat. Honestly, it wasn't expensive. Just a lucky online e-tail purchase.  I think in these times people are drawn to the brightness and joy of the print.  Day one was the perfect day to wear this flamboyant piece as it drew the eye of others attending and opened up conversations with strangers.  It was a day to make new connections and capture photos with other attendees.

Though my day two outfit was designer made and from beautiful high-end linen, it didn't draw others to me like my Picasso coat. This look was had a quiet aura. It warmed my heart to be able to wear such beautiful pieces. The tailoring was on point, the linen paired well with the silhouette, and the asymmetrical drape of the pants perfect. I created custom dance costumes from jazz pants up to tutus for five years, so these details matter to me.  Day two was more for building on the connections made the day before, so it was okay what I wore didn’t open doors the way my coat did on day one. The fact I can't find one full length picture of this outfit except for a few candid images highlights the how different the focus of day 2 was.

The other
high contrast between the two looks was found while walking to and from the venue.  On day one, people of all ages and ethnicity would say, “Nice coat,” as I passed. Some would even walk with me a few blocks just to chat, not about the coat but about our lives.  What a beautiful gift.  This was especially nice when walking back after dark. I had regular traveling companions dropping in and out along my journey to the hotel.

Day two was the opposite.  With a grey tweed coat thrown over my muted linen look, no one noticed me.  If I caught someone's eye and smiled, they smiled back, but no one walked beside me sharing a bit of their lives. I didn't stand out as different. I looked similar others on the street, so simply blended in.  Honestly, I was tired and that was okay too. but the depth of the difference still stunned me. I always have the same open smile ready, and am always ready to talk with a stranger. In one outfit it happened, and in another it didn't.

As an interviewer, an adventurer, and a collector of stories, I found myself musing about those two outfits as I began packing my suitcase to head home. I was the same person with the same smile each day, but what I wore affected whether I was noticed, how people perceived me, and who talked to me. How often we judge a book by its cover. We walk the streets and see a group of teens, an older person, a man in a suit or a woman jogging.  Our mind tries to fit them into a box based on our social biases. We miss the mark far too often.

Will I change the way I dress?  Not a chance. One day I will be flamboyant and the next subtle.  There will be expensive outfits from designers worn when I want to feel chic, as well as an inexpensive Japanese-influenced patchwork dress paired with my rubber chicken purse when I feel like having some in-your-face fun. Then there are my Bohemian days where I sport Thai pants and ethnic jewelry.

There really is no right or wrong to fashion in my world. It's what gives you joy and fits your mood in the moment.  BUT be aware that how you are perceived will be affected by what you wear, and be ready to just take it in stride. Always be authentically you in every moment.