Changing the Narrative: Learning from Lucinda Chambers Vestoj Interview

If you love fashion, especially the industry gossip, you probably read the Vestoj interview with former British Vogue fashion editor Lucinda Chambers.  If you haven’t read it, read the linked article above, because it is very informative.

I want to point out the last part of the article, which I believe is very important for the future of magazines, newspapers and blogging.

From Lucinda Chambers’s Interview

There are very few fashion magazines that make you feel empowered. Most leave you totally anxiety-ridden, for not having the right kind of dinner party, setting the table in the right kind of way or meeting the right kind of people.

Truth be told, I haven’t read Vogue in years. Maybe I was too close to it after working there for so long, but I never felt I led a Vogue-y kind of life. The clothes are just irrelevant for most people – so ridiculously expensive. What magazines want today is the latest, the exclusive. It’s a shame that magazines have lost the authority they once had.

They’ve stopped being useful. In fashion we are always trying to make people buy something they don’t need. We don’t need any more bags, shirts or shoes. So we cajole, bully or encourage people into continue buying. I know glossy magazines are meant to be aspirational, but why not be both useful and aspirational? That’s the kind of fashion magazine I’d like to see.


This article really made me think over what I wanted to do with this site.  For those who come here often, you may notice there are slight changes occurring around the site.  I started working with sponsors and book publishers, even Amazon, to create a better site, one that generates an income.

After I spend so many hours monetizing the site, putting up legal disclosures and posting content, I have to ask myself if the posts are in line with the core values of the site.  I realize that in order for the site to generate an income I have to have the monetary posts along with the real content…the stuff my original readers come for.

I was reminded by a film director yesterday that I needed to keep in line with the goal of the site.  The ‘fluff’ pieces generate a lot of hits, but it is not qualitative content.  It is not the soul of what this site means.

When people ask me about the site’s name, they fear the word ‘perfectionist.’  When I explain that’s why it says ‘wannabe,’ and how we are not perfect, but we all strive to be, it makes sense.  It is the perfect title, because those who strive to be a better version of themselves, strive to perfect themselves in the things they do, but always fall short.  We always learn something new every single day on how to be better than we were yesterday.


I don’t like consumerism, yet I participate in it.  I own a rather large wardrobe.  I KonMari’d the hell out of that thing every season.  I am still nowhere closer to having only a few items, because everything brings me joy.

I still buy handbags, even though what I pay is 2-3 months worth of rent in NYC for one bag.  I bought two Celine handbags this year, but I didn’t stop there.  I bought a Prada, a Balenciaga, a Valentino and a Fendi.  This is all in the state of perfecting my own fantasy wardrobe [curating a wardrobe that I always dreamed of having].

The reality of my wardrobe is that I have low end and high end, just like every serious fashionista out there.  I still shop at Gap, Ann Taylor, Loft and Forever 21.  They are my low end stores, because they dish out quality.  I still own tank tops I bought 15 years ago from the Gap.  That is what I mean by quality.  That is how a wardrobe is supposed to be built…on quality.

There are a lot of trials and errors with fashion because we don’t know if an item we purchase is going to unravel or discolor after the first or 100th  wash.  We don’t know how many events we are going to have to go to where we will need a different outfit each time.

We can’t go to work wearing the same outfit two times a week.  I know there are women that do that and I don’t agree with it, especially if it is not a uniform and you can afford to buy clothes.

I also have a hard time believing people launder their clothes 2-3 times a week, especially if you are in NYC.  If you’re a stay at home parent, ok, maybe I can see it.

Building The Perfect Wardrobe

People always comment that I take good care of my clothes.  The truth is that I have a month’s worth of pants, mainly black, that I wear.  I stick to the same brands: Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, NY & Co., and Lane Bryant.  I have the pants tailored to fit.  Those pants have lasted me 15 years and still going.

Most items in my closet I wear once a year.  There are some items that I layer or are easy pieces that I wear once a month.  I donate anything that does not fit well, or after a washing the stain won’t come out.

I wear each of my couture pieces once a year, because people notice it.  These pieces are treasured pieces that are only worn when I want to feel beautiful and extraordinary.

I switch out my handbags all of the time, because that is one item I do not want to show any wear.  They are collector’s pieces to me. I may love my Fendi tote and want to use it all of the time, but I force myself to use the other 100 bags in my wardrobe.  If I don’t, that Fendi won’t last long.

Keep in mind, I was not in my 20’s when I started buying couture.  That’s when I started dreaming of the ‘someday’ fantasy wardrobe.  I was in my mid-30’s when I purchased my first Valentino.

It takes time to build your perfect closet…and I think that is what all women aspire to do.  They aspire to perfect their closet.

Debt For Fashion

We look to magazines, celebrities, fashion icons, fashion bloggers, etc. on how to dress each season.  There are $14,000 gowns, $5,000 handbags, $3,000 shoes that are showcased in magazines like Vogue.  Somehow we are supposed to own these items.

But the truth is, how many of those items are actually sold?  A celebrity doesn’t want to be caught in the same dress as another celebrity.  So who are the people buying these dresses?  We can assume it’s the uber-rich, but people like to pretend they are in that crazy rich category.

We live in a culture where people live this fantasy life that they are one of the cool kids, because they own a Birkin or have the latest IT fashion off the runway.  They have an in-disposable amount of income where they can buy all of these things, when in reality they probably just have a lot of credit card debt.

Let’s talk about that credit card debt.  I bet you didn’t know that a lot of fashion bloggers and people that work in fashion are in serious debt because of fashion.  Thank God for Rent the Runway in NYC.  That’s been a lifesaver for many that work in the fashion industry and need to wear designer clothing daily.  But that debt?  It is real.

People in fashion do not make a lot of money unless they are one of the big time people.  There are very few that are making millions of dollars a year like Chiara Ferragni from The Blonde Salad.  Even the fashion bloggers I follow have a day job and freelance on the side.

Sure, fashion bloggers make more money than hockey bloggers, but it takes a lot of business smarts to create that income.  It’s not just about those invites to fashion shows and where you are sitting.  It takes more than a great Instagram photo to get Edward Enniful’s attention (and yes, I’m one of the lucky ones).  It takes character and knowing how to market and project yourself.

If you’re lucky, a designer or retailer will work with you.  It’s what you create in that relationship that determines your success.  Some bloggers work for free stuff.  The more serious bloggers demand payment for space on their site and use of their brand.

What is In

Most people pretend to live extravagant interesting lifestyles.  That is the content that is IN.  They give the illusion that you should want to be them.  You need to be jealous of them and what they are doing or wearing.  But like Lucinda Chambers says, she is not living that perfect lifestyle.  She is living far from it.

What magazines and everyone is selling is a FANTASY.  They want to show you that living a perfect life where you live, eat, dress, and do extravagant things are very real.  You have perfect, beautiful friends, lovers and significant others.  Beautiful people surround you.  You workout and are super thin with incredible skin and hair.  Your home looks like the pages out of an Elle Decor magazine.  They are selling you a dream that will never come true.

Looking Perfect Is Not What It Seems

I’ll admit that right now, I have the most amazing ombre wall with a piece of Chanel artwork from Oliver Gal.  It looks amazing and brings me joy every time I look at it.  I still have yet to finish painting the other three walls, because I can’t decide if I want the entire living room to be ombre or one color.  If I decide on one color, which color will that be?

I still have paint canisters for the living room and kitchen sitting around staring back at me every day.  There are tiles that still need to go up, artwork that needs to go up or be sold, and stuff all over the kitchen table.  My plants are all dying.  I keep finding new places where the cat puked.

Trust me, this entire home is still a work in progress no matter how many awesome things I bring into it.  If only we could purchase just a few things to decorate our home and it looks exactly like the magazine ad.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have the same predicament as me.  You get an idea in your head of how you want to decorate.  You try one thing after the other and you hope somehow it will all come together until you are inundated with so much stuff.

Pretty soon the clutter starts forming.  Nothing matches.  There is no theme.  Your home looks nothing like the one in the magazine where you got the idea to begin with!

I oftentimes look at the pictures from magazine spreads and ask where all of the paper is.  Where do they put all of the pieces of paper they collect?  You can’t tell me paper isn’t in their home.  I know it has to be somewhere.  Where do they hide it?

False Narratives

What I’m trying to get at is that nobody has a perfect home or life.  It’s just smoke and mirrors.  Even the Kardashians photoshop their images, just like the majority of magazines and advertisements do.   We are left to believe that no one has stretch marks, acne, cellulite or a layer of fat hanging from their arms.  Everybody has teeny tiny waistlines.

The false narratives are the issue in our world today.  We live in a world where everything is fake.  We no longer know what is real anymore.  We watch the world around us and believe that we will have a better life if we own X.  We are not somebody unless we are rich and famous, so we must all aspire to  be that.  No one will love us if we are fat, ugly, have skin problems, balding issues, etc.  People will hate us if we are not perfect.

That is the current narrative.  No matter how many people try to create positive narratives, they still feel small when someone comes along and rips apart everything they’ve worked so hard for to be accepted.  They are shamed for being themselves, something different than the perfect narrative.

Be Useful.  Be Aspirational.

Getting back to the quote above…what is wrong with being useful and aspirational?  How can we create a new narrative that is both useful and aspirational without selling something fake?  The truth is we are all wannabes.  We all strive to be perfect and fit into that perfect narrative.

But we are not perfect.  Perfection is an illusion.  It is not something attainable without adding some lies on top of it.  An airbrush here, tons of makeup there, a photoshop here and there…they’re all lies that cover up the truth.  Why can’t the truth be beautiful?  Why can lies be the only thing that is beautiful?

I challenge everyone to create a new narrative.  Be useful.  Be aspirational.  Don’t be a sellout that only goes where money beckons.  Be behind the product you pitch to your readers.  Be real with what is truly going on in your world.  We need to be the change.