Spark Styles: A Musical Experience

May 10, 2019 / Spark Magazine

When it comes to visuals for Spark, the stylists truly are the backbones of shoots. They are the artists in who curate outfits for any and all projects that our organization crafts. From creating pieces for physical magazine editorials from scratch to curating outfits via pulled clothes from local stores for online articles, stylists are diverse and important, for they ensure that Spark’s visual content is executed to the highest and most prestigious degree. I, for one, have grown a great respect for our stylists. Being a writer for our physical magazine, I got to experience the artistry executed by stylists firsthand, when they took the abstract topic I’d chosen to write about and crafted outfits that not only met my expectations, but exceeded them. I was blown away by their ability to take something complex that I had in mind and find pieces that fit the concept I was going for. This art form, like all others, also gives stylists the ability to amass their own sense of style and method. Stylists each develop their own personal taste, a taste that they use while styling for various projects within Spark. With each stylist’s perspective being vastly different, I asked what would happen if we had Spark stylists curate different outfits based on the same topic, giving them full creative freedom?

So, with this in mind, I asked three Spark stylists to create an outfit based loosely on a single from Vampire Weekend’s newest album, Father of the Bride, called Sunflower. The track, featuring Steve Lacy, is reminiscent of that of a true summer anthem. With an upbeat tempo and a constant guitar-and-bass melody, the song is one of a carefree nature. It’s lyrics, like most of Vampire Weekend’s tunes, hold meanings that are open to the interpretation of its listeners, something perfect for our project at hand. The track is accompanied by an audio-video which plays the song accompanied by various multicoloured weather RADAR visuals of hurricanes passing through the Florida coast, amongst various other abstract and conceptual sights. The song also has a music video, which directed by Jonah Hill, showcases Weekend’s lead vocalist, Ezra Koenig, walking with Steve Lacy around various small grocers and diners around New York City in casual menswear.

I asked our three stylists, Lizzie Dragon, Shannon Homan and Maya Halabi, to take any form of inspiration from the song, be it from the track itself or any of the visual components attached to it, and to make their own outfit based off of it. Other than that, the trio was completely free to interpret it however they liked and had absolute freedom in deciding what stylistic endeavours they wanted to pursue. Here’s what they came up with:

Lizzie’s interpretation is most like the way I, too, interpreted the song. Her second semester styling for Spark, Lizzie found inspiration first in the overall nature of the song. “The song itself for me exudes a sort of carefree, dancing around your room in your pajamas type vibe, which led me to choose a comfortable, relaxed outfit. The overall vintage aesthetic of the band over the years inspired me to choose more natural tones colour-wise,” she said. This, however, was not Lizzie’s only inspiration in curating her outfit. She also found the genius within the abstract concepts contemplated within Sunflower’s lyrics. "Strange thought upon the pillow, ‘What day demands a date?’ Well I don't know,” “These lines, to me, convey a sense of questioning the normalcy and traditions of life, and why we may choose to conform to such things,” Lizzie says; then continues with other inspired lyrics from the song, “No power can compel you out into the daylight, let that evil wait.” “These lyrics emanate going against the grain. You're breaking standards, moving to the beat of your own drum, not conforming to someone else's idea of what you should be doing... You're not a sunflower. You don't have to follow the sun's every move. In styling this concept, I chose to pair a dress with sneakers to communicate the act of going against what was once considered normal. Years ago, it was considered weird and kind of ‘punk’ to wear sneakers with a dress to Homecoming or Prom or whatever it may be. Now, fashion has evolved to being more open-minded and appreciative of individuality.” This evolution to appreciate individuality is true for both fashion and music. Interestingly, “Father…” is an album that required Vampire Weekend to practice open-mindedness just the way Lizzie mentioned. It is actually the first album by the band to contain features within its tracklist. They also recruited Danielle Haim, the oldest of the three-sister band, HAIM, who is featured on three tracks on “Father…” as well.

Lizzie’s outfit is one taken straight from a carefree teen movie. Sporting a flowing dress with a pattern ordinated with sunflowers throughout, our model is transported into a scene in which she has escaped the shackles of everyday expectations. Her choker is one meant to be worn on a summer day, a day free of worries. With a thrifted denim jacket over our summer vacationer’s shoulders, Lizzie’s vision of disregard for norms is complete. With an eye for individuality and a keen ability to see beyond what’s commonplace, Lizzie’s inspired vision is one that is executed perfectly with her choice of outfit.

Shannon, a first-semester stylist for Spark, found inspiration not just in the song itself, but in the mythology surrounding the track’s title. “The image of this thing (the sunflower) that follows but can never meet the thing it desires (the sun) is really powerful to me. To me it really reminded me of the feeling of being a young person who’s about to enter into the work field and who wants specific things so badly but there’s this kind of sense that they’ll never be attainable. Maybe that’s a reach or just a projection of my own career anxiety…”With a khaki overcoat paired with a pair of black striped pants, our model looks ready to be seen in the morning streets of a New York City weekday. Her crop top and hooped earrings, both white, add a sense of youth to her poised look, as does Shannon's incredible choice of a maroon Dior shoulder purse to accessorize. Interestingly, this outfit has a stunning similarity to the scenes depicted in the music video for Sunflower. Originally, I thought that was her inspiration, but upon her explanation of how she decided on the outfit, I was even more excited. Shannon managed to expertly visualize the fashions depicted in the music video, which in itself is a dedication to the culture of the Upper West Side, with its endless number of old, home-style diners and family-owned grocers. The video even features a cameo of the UWS legend himself, Jerry Seinfeld.

As someone who likes to play with gendered clothing, Shannon managed to take the classic silhouette of workforce menswear and turn it into a cohesive, on-trend millennial woman’s dream fit. Her interpretation of Sunflower, though not directly influenced by the music video, manages to integrate its key elements by mere coincidence. Her own interpretation, though only loosely based upon the song Sunflower itself, provides a unique perspective on how stylists can truly find inspiration within any concept, and under the right circumstances, how that inspiration can bloom into a truly divine piece of art.

A second-semester stylist for Spark, Maya uses her personal style throughout her work, integrating her own sense of fashion into the outfits she crafts. She describes her style herself, explaining her inspirations saying, “Cultural diffusion, music eras and anything in the realms of avant-garde art are the essential inspiration to my unique style and passion for sui generis and mostly vintage pieces.” Maya is no stranger to experimenting with style in her looks, noting that she styles based on her mood at times. Notably, Maya has recently amassed an appreciation for the technological advancements that were made in the late ’90s, reflected in her love for the cyber/digital aesthetic. This love is emphasized in the outfit she styled for Sunflower shown, which includes a thrifted 90’s manga top and fluffy earrings.

“I found my connection through the beat and vibe. I felt bright, spring colours and, being honest, knew it would be a little difficult to piece together something pretty and composed when my style is pretty alternative and all over the place. In turn, I took the vibe and made it my own. I incorporated pieces that I would personally wear and added my personal touch of "bright, spring colour" through the pink manga top and geometric heels.” said Maya. Maya’s style is one that is entirely her own, and even though she realized the song’s style was not entirely cohesive with her personal artistic vision, she still managed to create a piece that not only fit the song, but also is a true visual representation of what she wears. Her choice of black pleather zip-up paired with an anime graphic spaghetti strap along with a maxi pant + patterned tight duo is a visually intriguing outfit to the eyes. It begs to be analyzed, the longer you stare at the outfit, the more you notice. Maya has a keen ability to take the rules of fashion and bend them to fit her own style. Her usage of matching the model’s earrings to the pink sky on the graphic spaghetti strap exemplifies this. It is a common practice to make an outfit cohesive using matching colours, but Maya’s style is so brimming with individuality, that this attention to minor details isn’t recognized until you look long enough at the outfit as a whole. Her alternative style is one that intrigues, maybe even provokes its viewers at first, but upon deeper dissection, it begins to make sense. The loose, carefree nature of Maya’s outfit paired with its baby pink top and matching earrings are her version of a spring piece. Her style is one that is hard to replicate, but it’s also one that is easy to recognize.

This is what styling is all about. The ability to take your own interests and influences and craft something completely new and cohesive. It is an ability that Maya has managed to perfect in her work. With a completely original eye that still manages to have an artistic root, Maya’s fashion is one to pay attention to.

Written by: Ty Marsh

Photographed by: Erin Eubanks

HMU by: Mariam Ali

Styled by: Lizzie Dragon, Shannon Homan, Maya Halabi

Featuring: Haoquing Geng

Self-described as “just another curly-haired twink,” Ty is a freshman contributor for Spark’s online publication and a hopeful Journalism major transfer student. With a diverse set of creative interests, Ty is constantly writing about whatever may catch his attention in that moment. Because of his passion for music, you can usually find him somewhere listening to whatever new sounds have been released by his favorite artists that week.
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