Friday, February 17, 2012
question time: amanda, assembled hazardly
Amanda's posts on her blog Assembled Hazardly are always worth taking your time over - reading, digesting, and thinking of what you might add to that conversation. There are few blogs as self-critical about motives for shopping and buying habits, and her posts never fail to provoke me to reassess my own behaviour when shopping. Oh, and she has great style.
Read on for a Q&A with her, and then head over to her blog where you'll be likely to spend the next few hours going through her archives.
Where are you from, and what do you?
I'm originally from Malaysia and I came to the US about five years ago for my graduate studies. I'm currently in my 3rd year of PhD studies, with a primary research focus on climate change and hydrology.
When did you begin to take an interest in style and defining your style. How did that come about?
I'm really not that interested in style or fashion per se. I'm more interested in dressing well and looking respectable since I find that I’m usually more comfortable and confident when I don’t look like a mess. And I guess I also really like pretty things!
Describe a favourite/definitive outfit, and when and where you wore it. Why is it significant to you?
My definitive outfit is a pair of black straight leg jeans or pants, a button down and a sweater with boots or oxfords. I wear it all the time – to school and to work, and I think it's a representation of my personal style statement: be neat, be comfortable and be prepared!
Why did you start blogging, and how have you found the experience? What have you found to be the most unexpected thing about blogging?
I started a cooking blog a few years ago as a way to keep track of recipes and take pictures of my attempts at making fancy foods (I also really like to eat). Graduate school got in the way of cooking however, and eventually I gave up food blogging for a bit. Just last year though, I felt I had something to contribute to the discussion about minimalist dressing. The experience is sometimes bittersweet. On one hand I love discovering new blogs and new bloggers to interact with. I’m quite glad that I have intellectual readers who can contribute to the discussion and who find even my most loquacious posts interesting. On the other hand, I get a little bored and frustrated sometimes when I write posts about my own consumption habits and I realize what a terrible hypocrite I am. I guess blogging is sometimes all about keeping up a façade.
You have blogged quite a bit about ethical consumption, as well as healthy consumption habits? How did the interest come about?
I’m a little bit of a nihilist as well as an existentialist – it’s proven to be a pretty depressing combination. As someone who works on climate change prediction and who has spent a good chunk of her life worrying about the state of affairs and what the future might bring, I've learned that a lot of the ills of the world can be attributed to human greed and consumption and that the explosion of human population is contributing to our demise. Anyway, my obsession with ethical consumption is sort of a selfish way of consoling myself that what I do today would possibly make it better my children in the future.
What do you think are the challenges of trying to lead a sustainable lifestyle in the typical urban context? Can you recommend some useful resources/guides?
I think that convenience and cost are the two primary hurdles to living a sustainable lifestyle. The problem is that we are so used to mass-produced goods and subsidized agriculture for so many years that it’s hard for people to change their mindset. For example, things like composting or recycling is really a no-brainer but a lot of communities still have not embraced this simple concept because it involves more work and you have to pay for these services. Then there are things like growing your own vegetables in containers or buying sustainable produce – it takes more time and costs more money and I think most people just aren’t willing or can’t afford to do it. I love Re-nest for ideas on green living, but some highly recommended books are "The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices", Tom Petherick’s "Sufficient" and any book on homesteading.
Consuming rationally often seems to be primarily a dilemma between desire and the rational mind. What do you think? How do you resolve a dilemma like that?
This question has me stumped. I really don’t know how to strike a balance and I find myself constantly being mad and irrational when I see something I really want but don’t need. I think that’s it’s a matter of discipline and contentment. I find that you’re more likely to be “rational” about something when you’re contented and happy. Being frazzled, stressed or bored makes me more likely to do silly things like splurge on something I’ve been eyeing for a while even though I don’t particularly need an item. Also, discipline (and I mean really strict discipline) is a good way to keep your desires in check. Don’t ask me how to do it though, I haven’t really quite figured it out.
Who or what inspires you?
This may sound really clichéd and pretentious but I’m inspired mostly by writings. Does that count? I don’t think any one person holds a sway over me in terms of inspiration, but cleverly written books and music have formed who I am as a person. I guess I’m also inspired by really smart people – my husband, my co-workers, teachers and professors, journalists and critics, etc. Anyone who continuously challenges me intellectually inspires me!
Tell me about one particular item of clothing of yours, and a memory you associate with it?
I have a really old navy lambswool sweater that I bought on my first trip to the UK when I was 16. It was perfectly handmade in Scotland from Scottish wool, cost about 65 quid and has lasted me till today (I’m 29 now). I hold every clothing item I own to that standard, and unfortunately nothing has come close.
Name some places you happily shop in.
Happily? I don't know if there are any clothing stores I'm completely happy shopping in. I do most of my shopping online as to avoid crowds and snooty sales associates. La Garconne, Net-a-Porter, Frances May and Totokaelo are a few of the stores that I've done most of my shopping in over the last two years. I think I'm happier being in a grocery store than I am at clothing stores!
What are some of your favourite blogs you'd like to recommend?
There are so many good blogs these days and I’m probably behind the curve on the most of them, but my favorites include Dead Fleurette, A Continuous Lean, Hyperbole and A Half and Paul Krugman’s New York Times blog.
Tell me five things you love about the place you live in (style-related, or otherwise)
Is this a question about my house or the city? I live in a town house that’s pretty bare except for a huge collection of books and DVDs. I guess if you’re talking about the city, then I love Seattle because no one really cares how you dress, there’s good music ALL the time, people are really nice to the point of being annoying, we all compost and the scenery is amazing year round.
Do you think your style and views on fashion/shopping would develop differently without the internet?
I’ve never been a reader of fashion magazines, and I only go on internet sites/blogs that have cater to my sartorial aesthetic, so I don’t particularly think that the internet has a huge influence my style. But the internet has certainly made it easier to spend more frequently and in larger amounts too. It’s easier to be mindless when you have your credit card information stored on some site and all you need to do is hit “Add to cart”.
Describe your style 10 years ago, five years ago, compared to now.
10 years ago, I was a laughable disaster. I dated a boy who was into “girly” girls, so I had the whole hoop earrings/schizophrenic slut thing going. I constantly felt like a fraud and I am glad out outgrew that phase. I’ve pretty much stayed the same over the last 6 or 7 years when I figured out what works for my lifestyle and body type. I can’t pull off things that have too much pattern and I can’t pull off pastels or bright colors so I’ve been sticking mostly to a very subdued neutral palette.
Pictures courtesy of Amanda