I finally developed some 35 mm film from my November trip to New Orleans.  This was my first time visiting New Orleans, and I was absolutely swoon by the mystique of this place. Truly, 'The Big Easy' is a place unlike any other, woven together by countless anthropologies and stories far too vast for any one person to own, so they instead belong to the whole city. A beautifully haunted melting pot, New Orleans has an expansive soul that is palpable, self-assured in a way that sustains hope and grit and sadness at once. 

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It takes a certain kind of crazy to live in New York City. You have to be able to find beauty in paying $12 for a box of off-brand cereal and fighting your way through crowds of meandering tourists to get anywhere. Beauty is the mystery of life after all. And it is a mystery that I am perfectly happy barely spending any time in my unjustifiably expensive apartment on the weekdays, and on weekends, busy running all the errands I wasn't able to run during the week.  But sometimes, when I find myself crossing 5th avenue late night or cutting through central park on my way from work to meet fiends for dinner, and I hear musicians playing for tips and see people are out and about everywhere -  I cant help but thinking to myself - how could I want to live anywhere else?   

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Whenever I leave New York City for my family's home in New Hampshire I'm always surprised by how different my days look. All of the sudden everything is turned inside out - it is untucked and wearing flip-flops. No longer am I sharing a sidewalk with half-frantic business types speed-walking to their early morning meetings.  Instead, day after day, I watch people make their way to the beach with surfboards strapped to bicycles, belted to antique cars, or tucked under arms. The contradiction is wildly fascinating. 

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An album of paintings from Yuanxiangguan, Volume 23 , Jiang Buying

An album of paintings from Yuanxiangguan, Volume 23, Jiang Buying

The earliest color painting known in China - indeed in the world - is a two color frontispiece to a Buddhist sutra scroll dated 1346.  In a world full of color, it is wildly fascinating to imagine being incapable of harnessing its expression. 

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The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place.  Throughout the long history of Earth it has been an area of unrest, changing with the swing of the tides, belonging now to the land, now to the sea.  Only the most hardy and adaptable can survive in a space so mutable, yet the area between the tide lines is teaming with plants and animals.  In this difficult world, life demonstrates its enormous toughness and vitality by occupying almost every conceivable niche - it carpets the intertidal rocks; or half hidden, it descends into fissures and crevices, hides under boulders, or lurks in the wet gloom of sea caves.      


Every time I find myself in this marginal world, I gain some new awareness of its beauty anddeeper meanings - sensing that intricate fabric of life by which one creature is linked to one another and its surroundings.


This awareness of a world apart most recently came to me during the golden hour on a beach on the coast of Georgia. I had come down at sunset and walked far out over the wet and gleaming sand. The ground was strewn with the shells of exquisitely colored mollusks, the rose telling, looking like scattered petals of pink roses.  I thought.  At one time, their ancestors had been sea dwellers, bound to the salt waters by every tie of their life processes. Little by little, over thousands of years snails have adjusted themselves to life both inside and outside of the water. 


The sequence and meaning of time and life was quietly summarized to me in the existence of hundreds of small snails - the spectacle of life in all its varied manifestations as it has appeared, evolved, and sometimes dies out. Underlying the beauty of the spectacle there is meaning and significance. It is the elusiveness of that meaning that haunts us, that sends us again and again into the natural world where the key is hidden. It sends us back to the edge of the sea.  

photographs by @roughhgem and I

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I went to sleep with foam rollers in my wet hair for an entire year when I was nine, because I wanted corkscrew curls like my friend Evie.  At thirteen, I straightened my hair into an near lethal state, causing the dry ends to fray and break apart.  When I was sixteen I nearly poisoned myself with copious amounts of extra hold hairspray for the sake of maintaining big hair just like my mother.  On the cusp of seventeenth I learned how to surf, coincidentally, this was the year I learned how to take care of my hair - or rather, how not to take care of my hair. 

The ocean is a textural wonderland, a mineral odyssey for your hair.  It was submerged within this vast liquid atmosphere that I began not only to recognize my hair at its healthiest, but at it's most genuinely 'me.'  And so I began spending less time transforming my hair into something it was not.  I began to care less about a routine that did not harmonize with my life and actually started to live it.  It was Rosalind Russell who said, "taking joy in living is a woman's best cosmetic."  The more we evolve, and our practices are determined by delight, the more the beholder and the object of beauty are one and the same.

Far and few between are hair products that truthfully prioritize simplicity and healthy life over fussy routines and regimens.  The ocean is life.  It is me, it is you, it is us.  When we float in it, we are healed, we are relaxed, we are home.  It's only natural that I would gravitate towards a product that is made from the sea. People ask me all the time what I use for my hair.  Playa has become my go-to for low maintenance cool hair.  Intent on delivering “get out of bed and go” ease with botanical-leading products that hew to the Environmental Working Group’s guidelines, there is nothing, other than the ocean, that gets my hair looking as laid-back and healthy.   

hair always by @playa 

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Yves Klein,  Suaire de Mondo Cane (Mondo Cane Shroud) , 1961, pigment, synthetic resin on gauze.

Yves Klein, Suaire de Mondo Cane (Mondo Cane Shroud), 1961, pigment, synthetic resin on gauze.

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My map crinkles over my lap, its folds snarling against one another as I smooth it with a gentle palm. As I trace a line north along a coastline I feel excited. Anticipation is one of the signal pleasures of visiting Maine.  It's tucked so deeply into the farthest reaches of the American Northeast that getting there can feel like an old fashioned journey, even in this age of planes, trains and automobiles.  This feeling is only amplified when the final destination is one of Maine's most northern points, a sleepy town that hugs the winding bend of Canada's boarder.  That impatient rush is immediately dispelled upon a solid breath of fresh Maine air, so raw it burns your throat.  An irresistible temptation to relax begins to creep in.  The cool and invigorating shadow under a tree, or the caressing sphere of warmth in a spot of sun are spaces of ultimate intimacy and comfort that beckon.  These are the spaces that conjure that feeling anticipation and make it worth the journey.  

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Slim Aarons,  Dame Joan Collins , 1955.

Slim Aarons, Dame Joan Collins, 1955.

I don't like when people ask who my favorite artist is. It's probably my least favorite question. My response differs day-to-day.  One constant, however, is photographer Slim Aarons. I have always gravitated towards his work on an aesthetic level. Indeed, his form and technicality are indisputably genius, but I never took time to delve beneath the surface of my attraction and really understand the ethos of his work.  I was reading a story today and discovered that Aarons, like me, is from New Hampshire, and greatly loved telling stories of his 'classic New Hampshire childhood.'  Now, if you know me, you know this is something I do very often, sometimes without realizing.  There is a certain childlike curiosity about life that I have, which I proudly attribute to my upbringing, and I see this same childlike curiosity reflected in Aaron's work. His interest in the world, people and that something else - the pleasures and diversions in life that we seek asylum in - there is something there that reminds me of the wanderlust inherent in myself. 

lauren engel

I never had a favorite color.  Although, when asked as a child I remember responding with intermittent certanity that the color white was my favorite.  Perhaps, thanks to the timidity of my youth, choosing a "favorite" color was a challenge.  After all, I was to be judged according to my response.  Perhaps I had wanted to be different.  Perhaps I just wanted to be difficult.  Whatsoever the underlying reason, I had regarded the absence of color as my color.  

A recent conversation with a friend re-ignited my thoughts on "favorite" colors.  As we sat looking out at the Atlantic Ocean, she asked me why the color blue was so often associated with sadness.  I pondered this for some time, and resolved that when experiencing colors a curious exchange takes place; the color projects its aura, and we project our own emotions and percepts onto the color.  The sadness of blue is fundamentally our own melancholy enticed by the authority of the color.  Enigmatically, we encounter ourselves in the color.  And all the while I was thinking about this, I was thinking about blue, in all its hues and tones; the cool and invigorating sensation of the sea on the skin, the clean shimmer of a morning sky, the glittering turquoise of melting snow, and the dark stain of an overripe blueberry on coarse hands, and I realized that I encounter my happiest self in blue.  But this is today, and who is to say about tomorrow and what magic of a writers word may influence my retinal association with a color?  Who might I encounter that may alter my perception, memory and imagination? 

Now looking back on my childhood answer, I believe this to have been a calculated one.  How can you choose a favorite color when you have yet to know all the colors of life? 


wearing @solidandstriped x @freepeople

lauren engel
Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954).  Memory of Oceania . Nice-Cimiez, Hôtel Régina, summer 1952–early 1953. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, and charcoal on paper mounted on canvas, 9′ 4″ x 9′ 4 7/8″ (284.4 x 286.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse, Paris/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Memory of Oceania. Nice-Cimiez, Hôtel Régina, summer 1952–early 1953. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, and charcoal on paper mounted on canvas, 9′ 4″ x 9′ 4 7/8″ (284.4 x 286.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse, Paris/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

When I was first studying art, Matisse was my master.  In fact, a print of this painting hangs next to me in my office as I sit here writing this.  The thing that holds his paintings together is color—and one professor told me that if I didn't understand that, I'd never be a art historian.  This is something I have translated into all that I do, especially with styling.  My design process starts with imagery from art. I never start with fashion. I create a sense of place and emotion, then envision a muse.   

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Just how many synonyms are there for the word color?  Undoubtedly, the answer to this can be found on the island of Aruba.  This former Dutch colony within puddle jumping proximity to the coast of Venezuela, is well versed in the language of color.  From its rainless desert, carpeted in brilliant red ochre, where rosy flamingos frequent salt flats and frothy waves crash onto severe cliffs, to its lush colonial squares lined with pastel pink and blue mansions just steps from the glittering turquoise Caribbean Sea, it is hard to overlook the color that exists in even the darkest of Aruba's corners.  Everywhere you look, light and color give the visitor the effervescent rush of a glass of champagne. It seems as if the people here have transliterated the natural colors of their island, bequeathing meanings that nary a SPF clad tourist could decipher without patience. Indeed, color is emotive, it triggers our responses immediately. However, in Aruba color is more than emotional stimuli, it is a form of communication.  There's a rich history here, a remarkable heritage that extends far into the Pre-Columbian era.  Aruba has many stories to tell, and has chosen color as its raconteur. Such features make this breezy island an alluring destination--at least for a certain kind of traveler. 

lauren engel
Stephen Shore,  Amarillo, Texas,  July 1972

Stephen Shore, Amarillo, Texas, July 1972

I still order milk with every single meal and like to play dress up in vintage garnishes once owned by fabulous upper east side women. What fantastical lives. Reduced to play-things, for a twenty-three year old, who refuses the inevitable.  

lauren engelComment

Sarah Lucas, Self Portrait with Mug of Tea, 1993. 

Have you ever taken the time to study your body? Every inch of it? It is a modern idea that the relationship a women has with herself is paramount.  A beauty routine is simply the sequence of actions a woman takes to feel good as she sets about her day. 

lauren engel
Alighiero e Boetti,  San Bernardino (Gary Gilmore) , 1978, Collage and mixed media on paper.

Alighiero e Boetti, San Bernardino (Gary Gilmore), 1978, Collage and mixed media on paper.

lauren engel

Susan Meiselas, Carnival Strippers, 1974, Gelatin Silver Print. 

Sam Malpass, Golden Gaze, N.D., Acrylic & Oil on Canvas

lauren engel

just for a fleeting second, like a glimpse 
I saw somebody sitting on a chair - I had a glimpse of this think you know, this is happening. And i got interested in painting that - its like a frozen glimpse
I watch out the window, and it happens over there. Or i can sit in this chair - sit and think - and i have a little glimpse of something. Thats the beginning, and I find myself staying with it - not so much with this particular glimpse - with the emotion of it... Each new glimpse is determined by many, many, many glimpses before. It's this glimpse which inspires you - like an occurrence. And I notice those are moments of having an idea that maybe I could start a picture. 

- deKooning

photographs by @j_kirn for @freepeople

lauren engel