It started just over 5 years ago in New York City, when I was interning at a high-end design house. As part of my research project, I spent most of my time in department stores that we know their names better than we do the experience of shopping in them: Bergdorf’s, Barney’s, SAKS, Henri Bendel, Bloomingdales… Poor me, right? As much as I loved spending all that time studying retail real estate, it got very lonely at times. I loved being undercover, trying to capture how much merchandising space each designer had, on which floor, who they were placed next to, etc. But sometimes it just got weird when the sales associates started to treat you condescendingly, mock-asking whether you were going to try on something. Oh well, that’s retail for you. Apart from the larger department stores, I also frequented high-end independent boutiques. Some brought me into areas I would never have forayed to, and I was thankful for that. It was near my birthday when I stepped into a store that had previously carried our designer’s clothes but had dropped it recently. I decided to investigate, and it took me all the way up to the Upper East Side. I forget the name of the store, but I remember when I stepped in I wasn’t as intimidated as I did with most other boutiques. I was actually getting quite used to seeing Robert Rodriguez – oh, what a familiar name! There were lots more higher end labels, but I appreciated the nice “high-low” mix, if you can call it that.
Then for the first time ever, I saw something I liked, could afford, and tried it on. It was a Park Vogel black & white striped top. Everything about it, I absolutely loved: the twisted straps, the v-neckline, the wide stripes, the A-line trapeze cut… It was only around $100, so I splurged. When I stepped out of the dressing room, the sales associate’s expression immediately changed. She told me how the shirt really suited my style; even as a mostly-cynic, I believe she truly meant what she had said. Or maybe I had just wanted to believe her that much. So that’s the story of my first black & white shirt, and 5 years later, I still love this style. Many times, I had questioned my style intuition and tried to get myself to try on neutral palettes other girls seemed to pull off so effortlessly. Why can’t I wear that pale pink skirt with a denim vest? Or try working with more neutrals? Actually after I bought that b&w striped top, I went to a Billion Dollar Babes sale and bought a Park Vogel tunic in army green. Where did that end up? Being consigned at Front & Co a year later.
I came to my senses when I read somewhere about singer Janelle Monae choosing to wear only black & white because it gives her freedom like a blank canvas (although she’s recently revealed it’s because she pays homage to her working-class parents who wore uniforms). Whatever reasons we have for wearing what we like, I feel that you can comment on my awesome style ;) or make fun of my predictable style or admire my consistency as much you want, but I’ve come to realize why I’m so attracted to these non-colours. Firstly, I’m a person of extremities who is either fully engaged 100%… or not. And I also feel the same way about black and white being like a blank canvas – you can do so much with so little. Lastly, it’s classic. I truly believe that we should be buying things because we love them and not for keeping up with the Kardashians. I bet I’ll still get compliments if I leave these items in my closet for 5 years. Now that black and white stripes seems to be carried in every store, I’m not about to buck this trend! I proudly admit that this year I’ve accumulated countless black and white items, whether it’s in the style of polka-dots, Azetc styling, stripes, or abstract designs, I’ve got it. And that’s how I became obsessed with wearing black and white.
Photos by Robert Sam