Recently, I have started to take pictures of women over 40, who have that certain spark that we get when we are happy to be who we are. What I noticed unfolding in front of the camera, is when they put on a shirt, both tailored and feminine and the same time, they awake to a different kind of beauty that is awesome in its strength.
Genise is 50 and I really thought she was joking when she told me her age. She has the body of a 17-year-old and the face of a doll. She keeps it that way by doing Pilates, taking care of her skin and always having a truly admirable attitude. Genise's adorable son is in a cool band. I know from my own experience with my teenage daughter, that being a mother keeps me from obsessing over my age. I would not want my daughter to have to worry about her mother trying to stay ridiculously young looking at the expense of dignity and peace of mind.
I asked Genise to model shirts and jackets and skirts from my fall collection. I usually see her in jeans and eclectic T-Shirts and tops. Once she buttoned up my white silk/cotton shirt and stepped into my gold jacquard pencil skirt, I caught a glimpse of her power. She transformed from a delicate doll into a somewhat dominant, truly sexy and all-knowing boss woman. She was still totally cool and hip, but in a way that demanded more respect.
This photo shoot took place during the recent heat wave in LA, and Genise didn't flinch or even sweat. When I put a pinstriped jacket with hand-knit cashmere sleeves on top of the shirt, it was 108 degrees outside by the fountain. Then she changed into a tight fitting lace skirt and a golden silk shirt with strongly emphasized waist seams. The skirt is very feminine, but the shirt gave it the vibe that I am cultivating and exploring more and more in my designs.
I myself prefer shirts with a strong collar and no-nonsense cuffs. A well-fitting shirt provides me with the look I need to feel like a true contender, a 'don't fuck with me' attitude, that is not so much aggressive as it is cause for respect.
In India, the traditional kurta gives women the streamlined no-nonsense air of security and power. The shawl blurs the lines, and turns the serious shape of the kurta into vulnerability, femininity and mystery.
Looking at the pictures of Genise, I realized that I have found the equivalent to the Indian way of dressing: shirts with jackets. This is my way to express security, power, vulnerability, femininity and mystery all at once.
Here is Genise: