Do You Stand For The Brand? (Alivia™’s Guide To Being Greater Than The Haters)

alivia-cooneyNew FIT class, new post! New year, new me!

For some of us, it’s more like “New minute, new me!”

It’s a silly concept that so many of us stay enamored with. We think that the changing color of a leaf means that it is time for us to change as well. Is this out of insecurity, or are we just trying to remain relevant?

Do you stay on top of your public image? Or do you go by an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of philosophy, making your persona as timeless as the t-shirt?

This Sunday’s Precollege class at FIT was centered around the concept of branding. What is a brand? Why do companies work so hard to establish a certain image or reputation through billions of dollars in marketing and promotion? Why do even the youngest of children know that the Nike swoosh means the person wearing it is “cool”? We watched a documentary on such “superbrands” and had an enriching class discussion to explore these questions.

The concept of the “brand” is a very controversial one. Many people are wary of the near monopoly certain brands seem to have on the market, at the expense of smaller businesses. Even more people worry about the literal brainwashing aspect of the phenomenon.

It’s not just in fashion, or even in food and other highly marketed, factory-produced products.

Since the rise of social media, branding has taken on a new meaning. Because we now have more direct control over our image than ever, everyone is obsessed with their aesthetic, persona, and vibe. Such attributes, which were once exclusively found in the moment, in interpersonal interactions, are now highly calculated. People realize that they will not be given a chance with anyone if their social media page does not line up with the person who they want to be, or who they think they are. It’s a very interesting growing phenomenon that is unique to Generation Z.

We can see this especially in celebrities, the best example being the Kardashians. They built an empire out of nothing but decent genetics and being in the right places at the right times. They then used branding tactics to expand their images onto TV shows, ad campaigns, clothing lines, makeup lines, and more. Everyone wants in on their gold touch, which is why so many people buy their products and “keep up” with them. I consider them to be superbrand superstars. They know how to play the game and win. Even the newest addition to the clan has been named Dream Kardashian; straight out the womb, brand already on point.

Love them or hate them, you know them. They have been drilled into your mind whether you want them there or not. You can probably name each of them, list their age orders, and reference some memes about them without so much as an “um.” Some people are resentful of this factor. This “forced” factor, in which people feel as though their subconscious is being invaded, has oftentimes turned public pedestals into social stakes.

Think of that person who’s more popular than you, or who simply gets more attention than you. You get jealous, right? It’s human nature. If an additional factor comes into the scenario in which you feel they are undeserving of such recognition, you have a recipe for pure resentment. Have you ever known a person that you have come to hate, even though they’ve never technically done anything bad to you personally? It was likely due to this “forced” factor. You were expected to be obsessed with them, and you weren’t, and it burned you inside. It is the same thing with celebrities. The only difference is that they are on a much larger public platform, so it is more socially common (if not acceptable) for people to voice their discontent.

As an aspiring artist, I’ve inevitably dealt with my fair share of criticism, particularly regarding the way I brand myself to the general public. After all, art is controversy. And the way I’ve developed my character? It’s art! My public relations technique took years of training through observation of everyone (taking the good and leaving the bad from each person) and researching others who I wanted to embody. Maybe it’s because I’m an actor, and being a chameleon of sorts is only natural to me. I don’t know. Nonetheless, in order for any craft to have meaning to anyone, it must first spark some strong reaction in someone.

Due to my acting career, I’ve had to grow especially thick skin in very short amounts of time. Whether it’s criticism of my weight (which I’ve since lost, and which is an example of applying constructive criticism), or someone not “getting” my jokes, or even a risqué costume that was beyond my control but necessary for the character, you can’t please everyone. I try to live by the mantra “Don’t try to win over your haters, focus your energy into impressing those who already love you.”

In a further effort to avoid wasting my time with the naysayers, I am learning to separate art from self.

For example, if someone criticizes a performance or an article I’ve written, or even just the way I carry myself and my personality (which took years of artisanal craftsmanship to develop), I accept their statement and move on with my life.

This was a hard balance to achieve, considering I take everything I do very seriously. There were times when I’d just sit and sulk over it. I even rejected the idea of this balance at first, since my entire brand was built initially out of more of a “Be yourself, and if people don’t like it, change” sort of philosophy. (I don’t debunk this statement completely, as it was necessary for me in a different way at an earlier time).

Then I realized my own worth. I began focusing more on myself in a way that actually wasn’t selfish; I started viewing my output as a more spiritual kind of thing. God (or your spirit guide, or your parents, or whatever you do or don’t believe in) gave me these gifts, and I have no right to throw them away. In a way, I’m more humble now. This balance was so necessary to achieve in order to keep moving and inspiring others through warmth. Because you can only be warm toward others when you are well-adjusted in yourself.

You cannot stop for people who ultimately don’t actually care and are just speaking to fill up time and distract from their own lack of hustling. In the wise words of Alyssa Edwards, “Don’t get bitter, just get better.”

It’s okay if they don’t know why you do what you do. As long as you are secure and truthful in your own intentions, you can do no wrong. Never. Your conscience will be clear and so will your skin.

You don’t need to be controversial for your art to have meaning. As a matter of fact, the shock value approach is often the worst from an artistic standpoint, as it encourages extreme vapidity and lack of purpose (often from the perspective of a maladjusted artist). The real key here that separates the good shock value-ers (known as artists) from the bad (known as capitalists, exhibitionists, exploiters, etc) is the intention of the artist. This creates even greater controversy, because how are we to know this? Still, for better or worse, if your art is controversial, it guarantees some sort of meaning. Even if the people are talking poorly of your work, they’re talking. And conversation is the key to progression. Even if you took the easy way out through shock value, as an artist, you did something.

You did something.

Are you conscious of your own brand? Are you aware of others’ opinions of your brand? Should you even be aware? Do you really even care?

– Alivia

Want To Be Apart Of The NYC Community? Communicate.

alivia-cooneyIn the wise words of Kylie Jenner, this really is the year of us all just “realizing things.” Based on my personal experiences in the last year alone, which have culminated into this grand 2016 finale of being a part of FIT’s Precollege Program, I can say that the universe has thrown a lot at me in a very short time.

A major key that has been a running theme for me in recent times, which also happens to be a running theme in my class at FIT, is the necessity for communication skills. The ability to articulate yourself clearly and effectively is the single factor that can unlock any door, whether it be for social, creative, or business purposes. If you can’t control your words and self-presentation in front of live human people who also have thoughts and presences, then you will always be locked out and left behind.

I’ve always been better with writing words than speaking them. Up until eighth grade, I had about two social skills, and barely two friends as a result. There came a point where I realized I’d have to learn how to speak like an approachable, relatable human person if I wanted to go anywhere in life (especially in my field of interests, in arts and entertainment). So I spoke, and I haven’t shut up since! Human connection is rewarding. 10/10, highly recommend.

This past Sunday’s class specifically is what really inspired me to start thinking about the importance of strong public speaking skills. We had to present two Power Point presentations on a retailer and fashion icon, and their respective influences on the fashion world. I presented first, because I also was asked to speak about my blogging with FIT. I stood at the front of the room for literally about a half an hour. This was a challenge that I didn’t know I needed; I had to conduct class discussions on the spot, while keeping the principle of selling myself and my ideas at the forefront. I have a decent amount of experience in presenting myself to a large group from doing theater my whole life, but this was different. I couldn’t hide behind a character or gimmick, I had to be myself in a way that was engaging and inspiring. I was talking about subjects I’m passionate about, in front of girls who I’m all friendly with, yet this was still a foreign concept to me, nerve-wracking in the moment. It was honestly a humbling experience. It made me realize that I still have a lot of room to grow, and I’m grateful I now have this forum to do so.

Class discussions are the wheels that keep the class a-turnin’. Our professor is excellent at picking out specific insights and turning them into questions, sparking further discussion and debate. Given the fact that this is a business class, it only makes sense for the class to be fueled this way, given that it is preparation for presenting our ideas in front of, say, a product development team. Even if we do not go any further in the fashion industry, the public speaking skills we’ve learned can be applied to any profession in any industry. It’s life! People talk!

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(reposted from buzzfeed.com)

What do you have to say?

-Alivia

FIT: Expectations versus Fantastically Incredible Truth

alivia-cooneyHey city starlets! It’s time for another poast in which I toast FIT’s Precollege Program for opening me up to a world of coexisting creativity and focus that I didn’t know existed, let alone could enter before college!

I had high hopes in signing up for my Product Development class this fall. After five weeks of immersing myself in the program, the school, and the surrounding culture of Chelsea, I can say with all honesty that my experiences have exceeded even the highest of my expectations.

Stepping off of the LIRR train and onto the Penn Station platform, my first day began a little astray from schedule, but nonetheless in an Average Alivia fashion: Immediately after finding my way out of Penn (harder than you’d think, considering there’s literally hundreds of directory signs) into the hustling-bustling habitat that New York City is so renowned for, I walked a full two blocks in the opposite direction from FIT. The only unfortunate unexpected part of my experience at FIT thus far? Navigating the city without a sense of direction!

Entering the concrete, blue business building (poetry is alive) into class, I anticipated entering a community of like-minded artists and up-and-coming enterprisers. I wanted to view these potential friendships as networking opportunities, with equal parts potential for creative collaborations and business collaborations. Within minutes of starting the class and meeting my peers who I would be spending the next 11 weeks with, I knew my anticipation proved accurate!

While I expected to value these classmates from a business standpoint, I did not expect to form such natural friendships so quickly and easily. These friendships are not just all-business; they are honest and fun as well.  It wasn’t even two classes in before I started having kinds of conversations with these girls that I don’t even have with friends at school who I’ve known for years. I went out after class to stores with these girls without any prior plans, so fluidly and without any initial awkwardness. There is a natural kinship: we are all one tribe. Even apart from the amazing girls in my class, I’ve had inspiring and promising interactions with many other millennials in the area, from store clerks to fellow shoppers. I don’t make friends nearly as easily and quickly with people in the suburbs as I do with city people. Such a refreshing vibe that I didn’t even know I needed. My (cliché) advice for anyone in the precollege program? Don’t be afraid to talk to people!

Another thing I didn’t expect about the program was the time commitment. I knew it would be an all-day project once a week, but I did not expect the lingering influence it has in my life all week long, each week. I’m not just talking about assignments and projects; this class has honestly changed my worldview. I’m much more focused. I no longer let petty daily high school happenings weigh me down, because I have an inner drive that gives me strength. Now that I’ve been exposed to such a great environment, it is all I can concentrate on. I’m constantly working on posts for this blog, projects for my class, and seeking out opportunities to be in the city as much as possible. This concept is so important to me and many of the other girls in my class. The gift never leaves.

I think the most major part of my experience at FIT that I didn’t expect was the fun and fantasy-like adventures that I go on before and after, whether it be for food, shopping, or entertainment.

Generally, I don’t stray too far from seventh avenue (my route from Penn to FIT), partly because of convenience, partly because I have strict parents, and partly because I still have no sense of direction.

As far as shopping is concerned (and I know from personal experience that it is a major concern for many FIT students), there are literally tons of diverse options within walking distance. Listed below are some of my favorites, sorted into categories, and complete with the respective price ranges (according to Yelp). Also important to note is that these are not all clothing stores, but rather unique stores of all kinds that are hard to find dupes of outside of the city.

Buffalo Exchange – 114 W 26th St ($$)

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(reposted from pinterest.com/buffaloexchange)

I’ve mentioned this store before, and I will mention it again. Buy, sell, and exchange unique, trendy, seasonal apparel. Must be 18 or older to sell/exchange, unless you are accompanied by an adult with ID.

Lasting Art – 110 W 28th St ($$)

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(reposted from yelp.com)

I’ve recently discovered one of the most underrated, beautiful streets in Manhattan; West 28th Street, also known as the FLOWER DISTRICT! So lovely! This store in particular is known for their authentic artificial flowers.

New Dragon Toy Wholesale Inc. – 101 W 27th St ($)

One of my favorite things about the FIT area is the huge amount of specialized wholesale stores. This one is a toy store, so it’s a bit more niche-y. I went here to buy my ten year old sister  some birthday presents just last week. (Thankfully, my economic choice was worth it, as she loved her new chachkis!) These stores may not be known for their quality, but they are great for quantity. When I took a class at FIT in eighth grade, I once got about five packs of printed leggings (all the rage at the time) in bulk for just twenty-something dollars. Sadly, I never took note of the specific name of that store, but if you take a quick stroll down this block alone there are several stores that can satisfy this purpose.

Rock Star Crystals – 146 W 26th St ($$)

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(reposted from yelp.com)

Just a few stores down from Buffalo Exchange, this store sells exclusively crystals of all kinds, in both raw and jewelry form. The idea is that crystals possess certain healing powers. I literally gasped when I first walked past it, it is so strikingly beautiful. It is stores like this that remind me how much money I need in order to live out all my impractical whims.

Strand Bookstore (in Club Monaco) – 160 5th Ave ($$)

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(reposted from pinterest.com/shienru)

Our class visited Club Monaco on a field trip a few weeks ago in an effort to study their floor plan and its relationship with product development. However, I was quickly whisked away by a strong fragrant scent toward the far side of the store. I’ve always loved and appreciated bookstores as a whole, and this one is easily my new favorite. It has such a vibe! Filled with rare collectible books all about art, feminism, fashion, and other liberal arts, I would be completely content living there for weeks on end with no outside interaction. It also had one of those wheely ladders like in Beauty and the Beast. Easily the most aesthetically pleasing bookstore I’ve ever been to. I’m in love!

Truemart Discount Fabrics – 261 7th Ave ($$)

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(reposted from commonthreadupholstery.com)

What fashion student wouldn’t appreciate a fabric store? I have yet to go inside, but being directly across from the FIT campus, it is so tempting AND convenient.

Uniqlo – 31 W 34th St ($$)

A store specializing in basic clothing essentials ranging from t-shirts to leggings to socks. It’s one of my personal favorite stores because of its practicality, which has granted it locations all over the world. From a product development standpoint, I appreciate the business model.

Whole Body at Whole Foods Market – 260 7th Ave ($$)

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(reposted from nytimes.com)

A whole store dedicated to carrying on Whole Foods’ value of the all-natural and organic, but with a focus on health, beauty, and homeopathy (another branch of liberal faux-science akin to crystals in which I am a sucker for)? Sign me UP!

In addition to shopping, there are also some sick local galleries that you need to visit. I could write a whole separate post about them, but for now I will just plant the seed.

Last Rites (325 W 38th St)

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(reposted from art-nerd.com)

Popaganda NYC Pop-Up (72 Gansevoort St)dscf4069

(reposted from streetartnews.net)

A long day of commuting, working hard in class, and navigating the city is tiring. Below I’ve listed some cool restaurants great for a pre-class startup, mid-class break, or post-class pick-me-up. I’ve bolded the places I’ve been to, and the others I frequently walk past and hope to stop at soon.

  • Argo Tea Café – 275 7th Ave (at W 26th St)
  • brgr – 287 7th Avenue
  • Broadway Bites – Greeley Square, Broadway
  • Cafe 27 – 250 W 27th St
  • Fresh & Co – 363 7th Ave
  • Gigi Cafe – 307 7th Ave (directly across from Pomerants Art & Design Building)
  • Gregory’s Coffee – 356 7th Ave
  • The Juice Shop – 7 Pennsylvania Avenue
  • Just Salad – 291 7th Ave (They just sell bagels… just kidding. It’s just… salad.)
  • Pret A Manger – 342 7th Ave
  • RARE Bar & Grill – 152 W 26th St
  • VLife NYC – 348 7th Ave

That’s the word on the street for this week! Check back next week as we continue to “Liv” The Dream in NYC, brought to you by FIT’s Precollege Program.

The Best DIY Halloween Costume: You

alivia-cooney

Alivia

Hey guys and ghouls! It’s the Halloween season, a time to celebrate individuality, theatricality, and plain old absurdity. What better time to experiment with new styles, based on some of your favorite icons? Make every look a costume! Treat your wardrobe like it’s a Halloween pop-up store, not a uniform factory!

It has been four classes and one field trip into my weekly Sunday odyssey at FIT’s Precollege Program. It’s time for a new post that might send shivers up the skinny jeans of the fashion-conservative, while making us fashion deviants scrounge the shelves of the nearest thrift shop within seconds.

Who are you supposed to be? Are you the winner of the costume contest, or are you just another stray cat?

My Product Development class has gotten me thinking about how an individual’s fashion choices come together to create a character. At a certain point, our fashion becomes our costume; we are not referred to by name or number, but by “girl-with-heavy-contour-and-heels-she-can’t-walk-in.”

On my first day of class at FIT, the professor started the course by going around the room and having each student say where they shop. In the context of a Product Development class, this is only logical; our goal is to meet the wants and needs of the common buyer, and what better way to learn what average buyers seek than by studying the models of successful stores? From a business standpoint, we can extract the popular stores’ models by placing their products in terms of the Pyramid; no, not Abby Lee Miller’s pyramid- the Product Development Pyramid.

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On a more personal level, this class discussion led me to consider what contributes to an individual’s style. I know what stores my peers shop at, but what brought them into that store? What has influenced their fashion sense? Who are their style icons? What did they first see that subconsciously caused them to believe that this store is the best reflection of them?

To best answer these questions, I will discuss the influences and influencers of the character whose style I know best: myself.

My style icons are mainly renowned for their bold and theatrical aesthetics. I’m very passionate about music, so most of them happen to be musicians (the context of which their dramatic aesthetics are fitting). I’ve listed a few below, along with some key examples of signature looks that should say it all:

FKA Twigs
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(FKA Twigs, reposted from stealherstyle.net, glamourmagazine.co.uk, pinterest.com/passionn5050, and elleuk.com)

Gwen Stefani
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(Gwen Stefani, reposted from cosmopolitan.co.uk, © Mark Ferguson/Rex via dailymail.co.uk, 90sgwenstefani.tumblr.com, pinterest.com/jennyelina)

Marina Diamandis
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(Marina Diamandis, reposted from pinterest.com/janbergazzi, elle.com, pinterest.com/billboard, and fanpop.com)

Nicole Richie
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(Nicole Richie, reposted from Nicole Richie for House of Harlow 1960 by Vijat Mohindra via rebloggy.com, peoplemagazine.co.za, pinterest.com/churachura, and celebitchy.com)

Stevie Nicks
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(Stevie Nicks, reposted from imgfave.com, pinterest.com/alanalda45, pinterest.com/mollymcisaac, and pinterest.com/9gypsy)

St. Vincent
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(St. Vincent, reposted from tumblr.com, © Ben Hassett for Harper’s Bazaar, pinterest.com/twotickets, and vanityfair.com)

Aside from public figures, I also draw a lot of the inspiration for my aesthetic from other media, like movies and TV shows. Sound similar to choosing a Halloween costume? For example, I’m greatly influenced by the aesthetic of 90s cult films like Clueless (1995) and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997), as well as Tim Burton movies like Coraline (2009) and Edward Scissorhands (1990). I love wearing hyper-feminine 90s-style crushed velvet and chokers whenever possible, and I love to style it in as whimsical a tone as possible. The theatricality! I also really love the look and feel of old school low budget films, like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). It doesn’t get spookier than that! Various television characters, for example Fran Fine from The Nanny and Samantha from Sex and the City, as well as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (QUEEN of wearing the same outfit for thirty years), have also contributed to my look. It sounds funny, but I also find unlikely inspiration from nonhuman characters like Betty Boop, Jessica Rabbit, and Miss Piggy. The more imaginary, the better! What can I say? It’s a concept!

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(Miss Piggy, reposted from femalefirst.co.uk)

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(Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, reposted from sugarrockcatwalk.com)

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(Texas Chainsaw Massacre, reposted from evilontwolegs.com)

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(Fran Fine from The Nanny, reposted from racked.com)

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(Samantha Jones from Sex and the City, reposted from buzzfeed.com)

To best express the influence of such nouns (people, places, things) on my vibe and aesthetic, I shop mainly at local and online boutiques (mainly for statement pieces, which would fall under the top “fashion” part of the pyramid).

These stores include:

~Buffalo Exchange (locations all over the U.S., including five in NY, one being a block away from FIT in Chelsea at 114 W 26th St)
~Dolls Kill (dollskill.com)
~Fashion Nova (fashionnova.com)
~Free People (freepeople.com, locations all over the U.S., Canada, and U.K.)
~House of Harlow 1960 (houseofharlow1960.com)
~Mystique Boutiqe NYC (mystiqueboutiquenyc.com, locations in Manhattan and Long Island)
~Nasty Gal (nastygal.com)
~O-MIGHTY (o-mighty.com)
~Ruby and Jenna (rubyandjenna.com, locations in NY and NJ)
~So Aesthetic Shop (soaestheticshop.com) ~ use the promo code “Harmony” for 10% off
~Twenty5A (twenty5a.com, located on Long Island)

Where will you buy your daily costumes? Will you mix-and-match and DIY, or will you choose a prepackaged number off the wall? What character will you be? Will you masquerade as the most convenient persona, or will you take the time to develop the best product, a conglomerate of all your favorite icons and influences- you? Creep in the comment section below and tell your tale!

Join me next week as we continue to “Liv” On The Edge of true enterprising artistry, brought to you by FIT’s Precollege Program!

~Alivia