What is artful or resonant is often forged in a diversity of appetite. A loose relationship with the road in front of you. A sensitivity to old magic of natural things and the accumulation of traditions that make an object more than an object, but an heirloom. A record of all the hands that have passed it down. The work of beauty is innately nomadic. It requires you to cast a wide net and give yourself over to wandering until the places you go tell you something. It requires you to be a person who can receive, who can make room inside yourself for new vocabulary. Through that work you become awake, to the art in the communion of difference, to the challenging friction of true eclecticism, where collaboration becomes transformation. Like flax to linen, like shadow to silhouette, like heat and pressure to iridescent stone.
All of it is about becoming. About getting there and how you adorn yourself when you do. In adornment, there is possibility. The trial and error of finding the right arrangement, but also the joy of that slow, occasionally chaotic process of selection, which gives you permission to be everything before finally, everything is arranged in a way that is true to you. In adornment, there is also fantasy, the opportunity to step outside of yourself or travel backward to the origin of make believe, when beauty was broad, forgiving, and imaginative, defined entirely by what felt good or had the kind of abrupt spiritual resonance that made self-consciousness impossible. Fantasy, when it was private and borne out of borrowing---your mother’s rings, her shoes, the dresses and scarves you kept and made a part of yourself.
Style is always a marriage. It collapses the borrowed with the secret, primal rhythms you find on your own. It is something you hone and dream until it fits, until you are the mother, wandering with your own baby on your back. So the work is labor too, inseparable from the body and an extension of it---palpable, urgent, always in the middle of the question of what it is to create. Being particular in that vision is a necessity, in part because creation is itself a necessity. The body is oriented entirely by that need. Art is made when that orientation is rendered, with care and intricacy, into new material. Hard, crucial work, because making something beautiful requires something of you. First, an openness to that requirement, to the terms of its frequency, and how in the process of listening, you become different. Second, embracing that different set of eyes, and the new beauty to which they are attuned. Finding around you, the possibility of surprise and the license to change your mind. Isn’t it lucky to be changed? To gravitate suddenly to a different kind of flower, for a new color to make sense? To surrender something of yourself and come out on the other side a little lighter, ready to name the city that you built?
Words by Raven Leilani for Ulla Johnson in celebration of the Autumn/Winter 2024 Runway.
©2024 by Raven Leilani