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Leanne Shapton

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When someone understands a conceptual point I am trying to make, or if I make someone laugh.

2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?

I love looking at other women on the street. I'll notice a detail, like a collar, or a lock of dyed hair, or the way a pant leg is cuffed, and if it attracts me I file it away for reference later.

3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?

I get very mesmerized by other women (or men) if they are deliberately trying to do something inscrutable or personal with their clothes. A beckoning and deflecting effort is interesting to me and something I recognize.

4. Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or make-up or hair? What? Why did it happen then, do you think?

Things click for me every few weeks when I try something out from my closet then wear variations of it till I get sick of it. Nothing has ever clicked with makeup. I only wear lipstick and stuff to cover pimples.
But this question reminds me of a picture I saw of myself at 21, actually just a test print my friend Jason made, and just from my shoulders-down, in very worn white painter pants, blue sneakers, my brother's University of Toronto t-shirt and a sweater tied around my waist. It was the first time I'd seen what really felt like "me" in a photograph and the spirit of those clothes and that image has stuck with me as my default and ideal ever since. It is what I want to look like at heart, what my soul is probably wearing even though my body might be wearing something else.

5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?

Don't worry if something is too big. Pay attention to what you like. Yard sales are great places to buy clothes.

6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?

Don't bother with slips.

7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?

Location: A.P.C. Mercer St, New York City, Aug.2000
Kim: We're going to Coney Island later, so lets buy these bikinis.
Leanne: Ok. If you get the brown I'll get the red.

8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.

I approach all of these things in a sidelong way. I feel my way along in the semi-dark until head-on action has to occur, and then I am tenacious and disciplined and work out a system.

9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?

I have a white trouser problem, a vintage wool sweater problem, a men's vintage french corduroy problem, a vintage jodhpur problem, and a white plimsoll problem. I keep buying these things in search of the perfect version and if I find the perfect version I want a lifetime supply.

10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?

I've given my mother some of my clothes, pieces I don't wear much but are good quality and maybe more expensive than what she would buy for herself, and I love to see her in them. She once told me that it makes her feel close to me when she wears them, and that made me happy. At a yard sale one day I bought a boyfriend a three-piece corduroy suit that fit him perfectly and that he loved. It was a bulls-eye purchase. Cheap too. I've "successfully" received gifts too, in ways that I am glad about. That same boyfriend sent me clothes from London by a Macedonian fashion designer that were completely outside my usual style. Seeing the clothes through his eyes, also me through his eyes, opened up a new way of looking at clothes and designers to me. We'd talk about clothes in ways I had not before. We came to love the same things, and it was joyful to look at clothes with him. It took something like trust and love to shift the focus I had at that point in my life. He credits me with same, but I'm not sure I believe him. He did change his mind about peanut butter (in favor of.)

11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why? 

I have never dyed my hair. I don't particularly love my hair color but I've never had much motivation to find another.

12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?

I love looking at pictures of my mother before she had me, looking for clues as to my own spirit or sensibilities. She loves clothes too but in a different way, I think. To her they gave her a way to be in the world and be accepted in a country that she was not born in. To me they are a way of accepting and understanding myself and the aesthetics of the world I try to articulate in my environment and work.

13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?

I copied everything about my brother. The way he tapered and safety-pinned his jeans, the way he wore jean jackets, the way he tied his shoelaces. I once stole a cashmere sweater from a boyfriend. I copied the way my friend Laura wore her sweaters. I've imitated people's good manners.

14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?

When I got my first serious office job, a job with some authority, my boyfriend at the time brought me to Barneys to find a pair of shoes and a suit. I picked out a light grey, Rifat Ozbek suit and a pair of black Prada mary-janes that fastened with velcro. I wore the suit and shoes almost every day whereas before the job, everything I wore need ironing.
This boyfriend had a big effect on me. He introduced me to bakelite cutlery, screen printing and comics and antique flatware. He taught me, almost accidentally, about the Bloomsbury Group's graphics, through a book I was handed, unwrapped, one Christmas, because his father already had a copy. I stared at the book like I was going mad, everything in it made sense to me and appealed to me on a very deep level. He taught me about oak furniture, about framing drawings in pale blonde-wood frames, about good quality sausage and cheese cut in hunks with good quality butter and baguette, about dark chocolate, about pea coats and Francophilia and expensive groceries. He taught me about taste at this point in my life. It's funny that when we broke up it was because he claimed that my opinions were too strong.

15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?

Not overtly. I suppose if anything, by wearing mostly secondhand and vintage, I might present an alternative to wearing chain store or brand-new items.

16. Please describe your body.

I was a serious athlete for the duration of my adolescence so have a body that is usually described as "athletic." Strong, wide shoulders and arms, well-developed calf muscles, not much of a bum.

17. Please describe your mind.

Relatively sharp and pragmatic but also absent and ruminative. Willfully counter-intuitive but also willing to please.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Overwhelming, strong and easily engaged.

19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?

I am wearing a vintage Marimekko dress and some old deadstock jeans. My face is bare of makeup, my hair is straght-from-the-pool and puffy and messy.

20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?

To me, it's important to recognize this stuff as a language, or as a pure form of visual communication. I want to be multilingual. I want to speak japanese tailoring, army surplus, Harris tweed from the 50s, I want to speak parka and sari and kente cloth and cashmere and gabardine. I want to speak concert t-shirt and baggy sweatshirt and patent leather and tartan and cotton voile. All of these things convey messages and histories and beauty even when they don't intend to and I'd like to be able to enjoy what they say..

What’s your birth date? 
Where were you born and where do you live now?

1973, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.

Mother from the Philippines, father from the Canadian prairies.

What kind of work do you do?

Make books.

Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?

Married, one child.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?


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