It's hard to separate Refinery29's coverage of fashion from Connie Wang — one of the site's first employees, and an unconventional fashion editor in her own right. Instead of prescribing rules, Wang strives to ask women to think for themselves, which is an unorthodox tactic to take in fashion, where the idea that "perfection" exists, and it usually comes in the form of a thin, young, rich woman. "We actually wanted to deliberately attack and break down the idea that you have to follow rules in order to be stylish," says Wang.
Her approach to fashion is an egalitarian one — and she believes that all style POVs, backgrounds, tastes, and budgets can lend themselves to interesting and creative outfits. "I think that this idea that fashion is only meant for a certain kind of person is really getting to be very outdated," says Wang. "And that's so cool to me."
In this bonus episode of UnStyled, she and longtime mentor, Refinery29's global editor-in-chief and cofounder, Christene Barberich speak about the joys of a good ugly shoe, and the upside of not spending too much time deliberating about an outfit. Says Wang, "I like my clothes, and I like my style, and I don't need it to look perfect."
As we wrap season 1 of UnStyled, we hope you enjoyed the diverse group of women and different takes on style it included. Make sure to subscribe so you catch the second season as soon as it drops. Read on, for a taste of this, the first season finale.
I'd love to talk with you first about growing up in Minnesota.
"I was born in China, and we moved around a lot when my parents immigrated to America. But we always moved to very, very white, suburban neighborhoods; from Nebraska, to Alabama, to eventually, Minnesota. So, growing up, I never really considered myself part of a Chinese community. I always considered myself American, or Minnesotan? But I knew that I was different, and that [even if I wore] Abercrombie or Limited Too, I still looked different. And, frankly, those clothes were really expensive for my parents. They were just like, 'No way are we spending $20 on a T-shirt you're going to grow out of in six months. Plus, there's glitter on it, so you can't even wash.' So, I had to get a little bit creative with hand-me-downs. There was nothing unfair about it. It was just the way it was. But the great thing about my mom was that she taught me to look through every single item, and find the one thing in the rack that was special. That’s the thing that Minnesota really taught me. That there's always going to be treasure — it just depends on how willing you are to look for it."
You and I really believe that you don't have to look predictably feminine to be stylish. And that's okay. Comfort is also really important, and not something to be embarrassed about. You know — "You have to suffer for fashion." I don't necessarily believe that. I don't think you do, either.
"I think that [traditionally], clothes are meant to make women look skinny, tall, more feminine, richer, and attractive to men. And I don't think that we operate under those assumptions at Refinery29, which is so liberating. You know, clothes are meant to make you look more you. More authentic, more interesting, more comfortable. The clothes are supposed to aid you in doing the things that you already want to do in your life."
That's a new concept, though. I think that there is finally an open dialogue in this industry about the fact that we cannot assume that all women want to look thin.
"It might seem like a such a subtle, non-harmful thing, to be like, 'Oh my god, that looks so flattering on you. It makes you look so skinny.' It's like a little worm that just burrows itself into your brain, like, 'Oh, skinny is good. I must always look skinny. I must never wear anything that makes me look a little bit wider than I am.' I could care less about whether I look thin, big, square, like a bowling pin, or whatever. It’s actually sort of alarming when people are like, 'Your waist looks so thin.' And I’m like, 'It does? What did I do? What’s wrong?' I think that most people who work at Refinery29 espouse those values, and that's so awesome."