6 New York Women On The Piece Of Clothing That Changed Their Lives

Photographed by David Cortes.
Do you remember what you wore on the day of your high school graduation? How about the moment you first fell in love with your significant other? Clothing is often viewed as a mere material possession, but it's so much more than that: It's a key to our past, a holder (and reminder) of some of our most sacred life memories.

Let's face it: Even the most savvy of shoppers and organizers have that one article (or two) they just can't let go of. To get an intimate look at the clothing that has the ability to change your life, we asked six of New York's most stylish women to share the item that has affected theirs. Next time you open your wardrobe, your closet will feel less like an abyss and more like a scrapbook of your favorite (and most defining) experiences.
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Photographed by David Cortes.
Rachael Wang, Fashion Stylist And Creative Consultant

Tell me about your tunic.
“I was assisting Edward Enninful when he was simultaneously Fashion Director at i-D and contributing to Vogue — I was his American Vogue assistant. Our first travel job together was to India, and it was the first job that I produced and worked on internationally. When we showed up at the hotel, five men carried 25 trunks up this ridiculous stone staircase to this incredible room overlooking this pool. And there was this amazing pajama set — a tunic and matching pants — sitting on the bed. It was a welcome gift to all the shoot members. I slept in it while I was there, and now I wear it as a shirtdress.

"It was just this moment of, umm, pinch me, because I started as an intern in the W fashion closet. I didn’t study fashion or anything. I’m from California, and I had no experience, really, with elaborate international travel. So it was this fabulous moment where I felt like I was living the dream, like, 'I feel so lucky that I get to do this.'

“It was also a very eye-opening experience going to India...being amongst a lot of poverty and then doing a photo shoot that's all about luxury. It was a really good learning moment for me, to just be aware of what it is that I do, what’s going on in the world at the same time, and to understand the impact of what my industry does. I was very young and it took some time for it to sink in, but that has continued to stay with me for my entire career. It was this really amazing moment symbolized in a tunic.”
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Photographed by David Cortes.
How would you describe your personal relationship with clothing?
“I love clothing. I've always loved clothing, because I just am so inspired by different cultures and the past. But I also try not to be attached to material possessions; I try not to let them control me. For me, it’s about having fun, being playful, not taking myself too seriously, and just gravitating towards the things I love wearing. I feel like my wardrobe is constantly in flux. I have a one-in, one-out policy, so if I get something new, I get rid of something just to make sure that I’m always inspired by what I’m wearing. We’re always changing and growing as people, so I try to represent myself and where I’m at at that point in my life by how I dress.”

Do you think it's possible for clothes to hold significance and retain memory?
“Absolutely. I try to keep my wardrobe to significant pieces of clothing that retain memory and mark a moment. I love to travel, and I love to shop while I travel, because it’s a token of that moment in a special place. I think everything we own has significance for a time in your life, a place, a person who gave it to you, when you wore it, a special occasion...there's so much emotion attached to the garments we wear.”
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Photographed by David Cortes.
Pamela Love, Jewelry Designer

Tell me about your necklace.
“This necklace is from my grandmother Rose, who was a really big silver jewelry fan. She was really into clean, minimalist, and modern sculptural silver jewelry — that was her thing. She was also a really big Elsa Peretti fan, so she had a lot of pieces from the Elsa Peretti Tiffany’s collection, but then she also had a lot of really random, no-name stuff.

“She had this one ring that was a silver ball that looked like it was Elsa Peretti, but she said she bought it at a gift shop on the top of the Empire State Building. She wore it every day, and I have that, too. But this necklace is one of the most important things I ever received, because it was one of the first things that really intrigued me and made me interested in the idea of adornment and of creating jewelry.”

When did she give it to you?
“I inherited it — she passed away when I was still in college, but I had always been so fascinated with this necklace. Even before it was mine, it was inspiring me to make me want to make jewelry."
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Photographed by David Cortes.
How often do you wear it?
“I go through phases where I wear it every day, and then I go through phases where I only wear it on special occasions. I make jewelry for a living, so it’s important for me to represent myself. I wear it frequently, but I wouldn’t say it’s a thing I don’t ever take off.

“[My husband and I] are in the middle of renovating right now, so everything was in boxes and I couldn't find it. But normally, it’s hanging on my vanity staring at me, reminding me why I make jewelry. It’s about the connectedness between my grandmother and I, and how we both shared this passion for sculptural, more unusual things. That really became an inspiration for me in creating jewelry.”

How would you describe your own personal relationship with clothing and jewelry?
“My relationship with jewelry borderlines on unhealthy sickness, but I guess that’s okay because it’s also my job. But clothing, in general, I also really love. I love discovering new brands and fabrics and textiles, and I love accessories. I love hats — hats are my favorite thing in the entire world outside of jewelry. In a similar way, they have this power to transform you. I would say it’s a big part of how I express myself. I think that dressing is an art, and it’s something exciting.”

Do you think that clothing has the ability to evoke memories?
“I think clothing has such a power to evoke memories and to bring you to another place. I have all these old articles of clothing that I don’t normally wear — they’re not particularly well-made or expensive — but that I won’t get rid of just because of their sentimental value... I definitely feel that way about jewelry, obviously, because I think there’s nothing more powerful for evoking memory. I officially started my line the year my father passed away, and for me, there was nothing more powerful than the watch and rings he left behind and what they meant to me.”
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Photographed by David Cortes.
Eva Fehren, Jewelry Designer

Tell me about your jacket.
"About seven years ago, I was robbed. Someone broke into my apartment and stole all of my jewelry. Everything I had ever made and been given — my very precious, very personal jewelry history was erased. I was devastated. Thankfully, I got insurance about a month before, since my father had told me I was insane not to have it with the jewelry collection I was starting to amass after working in the industry for several years. So I filed a claim and, to add insult to injury, State Farm investigated me for insurance fraud. The whole experience was so awful and ridiculous that, when I (finally!) got the check, I decided that the only thing that would console me, that could replace the irreplaceable things that had been stolen, was a Rick Owens jacket.

"This is my favorite leather jacket of all time. It was a piece that I was lusting after for years, but could never rationalize spending the money on. Once it was mine, it became part of my uniform, my second skin — and it was worth every penny. I wore it every day until it was hanging on by a thread, and now I only pull it out for special occasions, or when I need an outfit to feel a little less perfect...the knit insert on the sleeve is completely ripped up from getting worn away by my bracelets and working in it, and the lining is tattered and falling out in the most perfect way. I think it is so beautiful in its distressed state that I refuse to fix it. I hang it on a wall of my apartment because I think of it as a work of art. I love the way leather breaks in and shows the history of how it was worn. It feels like it tells a story."
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Photographed by David Cortes.
How would you describe your personal relationship with clothing?
"I am not a big shopper. I prefer to invest in things that feel really special to me and go simple on the rest. That’s also why I love jewelry. It can elevate any outfit, and I love the contrast of wearing more casual pieces of clothing, like an old T-shirt, with lots of jewelry...and my leather jacket, of course."

Would you say our style can define some of life’s biggest moments? Why?
"I think our personal style is so tied into our identity...it helps us define who we are. In general, our style and the way we dress convey a powerful message without needing to speak or deliberately interacting with your environment."

Why do you think clothing serves as such an important part of our memory?
"The things that stick out most in my memory are the fashion faux pas I have made throughout the years...and reminiscing about these moments makes me laugh at myself, which is always important. I think it’s good not to take yourself too seriously, to have fun with what you wear, and not be afraid to make mistakes."
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Photographed by David Cortes.
Celia Smith, Founder, needle+thraed

Tell me about the piece, where you got it.
“When I started the lifestyle brand needle+thraed, I was very inspired by the Kenyan Maasai people, their culture, what they wear, their connection to the earth, and how they live. This piece is an original Maasai shuka that I purchased in Kenya on a recent visit to work with the women's cooperative that I partner with for my company... It was a life-changing experience, working with the women who I employ for needle+thraed and learning more about the culture and their love for life and nature. They exude the same vibrancy in person as what they wear; it really is a reflection of who they are.”

Is there a reason you decided to work with women in Kenya?
“I was drawn to their traditional garb; that’s what attracted me to working with the Maasai people. My company partners with indigenous communities with the goal to employ them so they can sustain themselves and their families, as well as their traditions. Beading is a huge part of the Maasai culture, and I basically translate what they wear and how they bead into throw pillows and chokers. I was able to take their work and tell their story to the market over here.”

Did they show you how to wear it?
“The Maasai women come from their rural areas into the city of Nakuru, Kenya, and work with Kenyan women there. And what they do is, they typically wear their basic clothes when they’re coming into the city, and when they leave, they go back into their shukas. So one of the women came fully dressed to the workshop, and it was amazing. She showed me how they pile on all their beads, and the way they tie their shukas and belt them. It’s just unlike anything any stylist can teach, or any fashion magazine can feature. It’s just a natural, innate sense of style. I was blown away by it.”
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Photographed by David Cortes.
How would you describe your own personal relationship with clothing?
“Working in fashion has, oddly enough, taught me to not become too attached to material things. They provide temporary fulfillment. And I’ve developed more of a meaningful relationship with clothing in terms of holding on to the things that actually do have meaning to me. Being an editor as well, you have to edit in life; you can’t keep everything in your closet. So I’ve learned to pare down to the pieces that have some special significance to me, like taking this trip to Kenya, my mom’s wedding band, or pieces that really are milestones in my life and worthy of keeping — like the first pair of shoes I bought at a sample sale.”

Why do you think that clothing, even though it's material, can hold such significance with our memories?
“I always say everyone has to get dressed when they wake up in the morning, whether you’re into fashion or not; you’ve consciously selected what you put on — it’s an outward expression of how you’re feeling. When you look good, you feel good. I truly believe that. It doesn’t have to be so frivolous and pretentious.”
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Photographed by David Cortes.
Rajni Jacques, Brand Consultant And Fashion Editor

Tell me about your jeans and where you got them.
“I got them at a vintage store in New Jersey called Red White and Blue, and there was just something about them — I always look for Levi’s jeans whenever I’m out shopping or on eBay. They’re not 501s, and they were in a bin for $10. I picked them up, didn't even try them on, and I was like, 'If they fit, they fit. If they don’t, I lose $10.’”

Is there a reason that you always look for Levi's?
“I just like the way that they fit; the old-school Levi's all have this sort of high-riseness about them. I also like the leg fit, because it’s a boot cut, so it’s slim on the leg but not a skinny jean. I feel like they fit any type of body. I’m petite, but I also have curves, and they fit my body well."

Is there one moment that relates to these jeans? Or is it more about having them in your closet in general?
“I think it's because I’m a jeans-wearer in general. I collect denim, and all of my best life moments (besides my wedding) have all happened in jeans. I like these particular ones, because I can dress them up and down. They’re easy and transitional. And the moments in these jeans are always good times, like going out to dinner with friends and family. I feel like these are the jeans that I always go to.”
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Photographed by David Cortes.
Where did your fascination with denim come from?
“I have no idea! It’s just something I've had since I was a small child. I always liked denim jackets — I had tons and tons of them. I think it's because denim is super-easy. Not that I don't like getting dressed up, but I want to be comfortable. I want to be easy and casual, and denim is exactly that. So through high school, college, and post-college, it’s been all denim for me.”

Would you say that your style can help you define some life moments? Why do you think clothing has become such an important part of our memories?

“When I feel confident with what I’m wearing, I’m confident in whatever I’m doing. So when there's a big moment in my life, I always remember what I’m wearing: what shoe, what piece of denim, what earring. I always remember those things. And for me, dressing casual— not just run-of-the-mill casual but sophisticated casual — is how people know me."
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Photographed by David Cortes.
STELLA, Singer/Songwriter

Tell me a little bit about these pants.
“I got them at Blue and Cream downtown. I don’t know when, maybe this winter. I had been wearing these drop-crop pants; I became my own boyfriend, and I was dressing like a boy. Then I was finally like, ‘I need to be a girl again sometime.’ So I got these pants — I only wear black. It’s not a rule; I just don’t feel comfortable in color sometimes. I like the peep knee. I can dress them down, I can dress them up. I like the skinny-leg look. My legs are my favorite body part, so…”

Do you have any favorite moments in these pants?
“I have favorite outfits I wear them with. They’re my go-to if I’m running out the door. I can put anything on top of them, and on the bottom I can wear any kind of shoes. In the winter, I wear leggings and tights underneath; you can see the leggings through the little peep-knees.”

How would you describe your personal relationship with clothing?
“I don’t like to look put together. I like to look like effortless, like, Did you try? Did you not try? Did you fall on the way here? Is that on purpose? A lot of the looks right now, everything is symmetrical and perfect, and it’s not my style at all. I like rock-'n'-roll, masculine-type silhouettes, or boyish stuff mixed and matched with feminine things — which is why I like these pants. They’re really skinny, so they can be feminine, but I can also put them with sneakers and dress them down.”
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Photographed by David Cortes.
Why do you think clothing can hold such memories in people?
“The way you feel when you’re wearing clothing affects everything. It’s so funny, my style has changed a bit [over the years]. I’m like, ‘I can’t believe I used to like that shirt,’ but when I did like it, I felt like the shit in it. Clothing makes you feel like there’s one less thing you have to worry about as a female. You can be like, ‘I look good, so it doesn’t matter if I feel crazy.’”

Do you think your music affects your personal style?
“It’s definitely made me more comfortable expressing myself more physically, because I’m expressing myself emotionally with writing.”

Do you dress up when you perform?
“I try not to. I try to wear something that looks like I tried, but I’m not Beyoncé out here with something sequin-y. There’s not a fan in front of me. I just like to be comfortable, really, and be able to run around.”
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