Wednesday 15th December

| BY Andrew Bevan

Andrew Bevan on the Desire for Post-Pandemic Glamour

This spring, as the pandemic-induced fear and grief we were all living with finally began to ebb, the New York Times published an article titled “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling” that branded and broke down the dominant mental temperature of early 2021. Organisational psychologist Adam Grant wrote how between the poles of depression and flourishing lies the state of – dun-dun-dunnnn – languishing. He calls this state “the neglected middle child of mental health”, and compares its attendant sense of stagnant emptiness and dull focus to looking at life through a foggy windshield.

I felt seen when my friend Katy subtly slipped the link to this article into an ultra-important text conversation about eyebrows (which included the obvious cameos: Lily Collins, Bert from Sesame Street, Eugene Levy and Lourdes Leon). Having spent much of the year attempting to find a squeegee for my own proverbial dirty windshield, it was nice to have a name for the unwanted party guest that was trashing my brain like one of Keith Moon’s hotel rooms. “Is this us?” I quipped to Katy, whom I had spent the better part of 2020 and 2021 “deprexting” (AKA depression texting, a distant relative of sexting).

When I was asked that very morning to write an essay that aligns with the theme of Bold and Beautiful, I said yes with Pollyanna-like enthusiasm. “This will be great!” I thought. Yet it goes without saying that, as the weeks went by and my deadline approached and eventually passed, I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around what bold or beautiful even meant to me any more, let alone bold and beautiful. My mind and computer screen were blank. My Keith Moon and the stars were not aligned on the concept.

In an attempt to ease my writer’s block, I did what any sane writer would do and turned to Google and the digital tomes of Webster, Oxford and Dictionary.com. The formal definition of the word “bold” is a person, action or idea that encompasses a fearless, daring spirit that challenges the limits of conventional thought or action. It’s imaginative, showing an ability to take risks, standing out prominently, confident, and courageous. The formal definition of “beautiful” is an exciting aesthetic pleasure, of a very high standard; excellent, possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about etc; delighting the senses or mind. Apart from finding a new Danish pen-pal with great hair, a few fever dreams and watching the sunsets (and Frances McDormand doing a number two in a bucket in Nomadland), 2020-21 has been devoid of most of the above.

During the pandemic, alone in my NYC apartment (where I am still fighting long-haul Covid), I began to feel mocked by the slew of Facebook memories and Instagram throwbacks that haunted me daily. They were reminders that life was once very mask-less, social, spontaneous – all very bold and beautiful, in short. Aside from a few misguided fashion choices, I initially viewed these fabulous breadcrumbs as little reminders of how lucky I was. But the breadcrumbs soon turned into little pricks and pangs.

Throughout my decade-long tenure at Vogue and Teen Vogue, and the last few years as a freelance writer and brand creative for the likes of Chanel and Levi’s, I’ve been fortunate to lead a very high-wattage life: trips to Tokyo, Moscow and Cannes; pinch-me openings and film premieres; and ten Met galas. As a result, I regularly cohabited as a mere mortal among very prolific people. I inadvertently befriended some of my idols, like Juliette Lewis, Erin Wasson and Liv Tyler. I experienced sur- real moments, like meeting Mick Jagger and David Bowie… and later speaking with Mr Jagger for a good ten minutes about brooches.

With a Martini in hand and a requisite pinch of salt, I never took anything for granted and soaked in every moment. I always felt like if it all ended and I had to take a barista job tomorrow, I could and would. I found I needed to strike a balance between being “on” most of the time with a few moody, quiet loner days at home listening to the Cocteau Twins on vinyl, having an earthy Bordeaux with grilled cheese, and watching a mixture of trashy TV, thoughtful documentaries and foreign film. The key word was “balance”. I thrive in the high/low, in/out, shy/gregarious, Samantha/Charlotte of it all. But, as we all came to find out, Covid times lacked balance, to say the least.

Now, as we crawl out of our state of languishing (some more headfirst than others), what is the world going to look like? What will our ideas of what is bold and beautiful look like? Is this a watershed moment for us to reset the ways in which social media has muffled and distorted authenticity and sincerity – the two boldest and most beautiful qualities of all?

My hope moving forward is that, as fashion seeps back into the collective conscious, the industry and those in it find ways to recalibrate. It would be refreshing to take what we know now and figure out a new set of standards. Imagine seeing more designers hone their craft and fashion plates evolve their style with an intention that doesn’t involve media buyouts, non-compete clauses or a hashtag. If you can’t confidently show your collection without some sort of thirsty gimmick or a crop of Hollywood starlets in the audience, maybe you need to rethink your wheel.

Ten years ago, street style gave industry insiders from interns to editors-in-chief a platform to carve out their own personal brand. Both their peers and the public at large were inspired and influenced by the genuine flex of their sartorial prowess. But soon, the formerly off-the-cuff nature of street style became nothing more than a head-to-toe checklist of runway samples someone borrowed for the day. There is nothing bold or beautiful about an ill-fitting, slightly soiled luxury item on loan for the sole purpose of playing the part of a person in fashion. I believe the world and consumers expect more and can see through the BS.

This leads me to my aversion to peacock dressing. For me, Björk as a swan laying an egg at the Oscars in 2001 felt authentic, bold and beautiful. Whereas a decade on, Lady Gaga wearing a meat dress to the MTV Video Music Awards or arriving at the Grammys inside of a giant egg was bold – but also thirsty, gimmicky, showy. Meanwhile, at the Met Gala, I have watched firsthand the effortlessly chic or playful glamour of fashion’s biggest and most exclusive night become a little campy, long before the 2018 camp-themed event. Gone are the days of ’90s Gwyneth Paltrow in a Calvin Klein shift or Stella McCartney and Liv Tyler wearing matching one-shoulder T-shirts emblazoned with “Rock Royalty” from New York’s East Village vintage tee outlet Filth Mart, as they did in 1999. Those particular looks were far more punk-rock than some of the overwrought looks at the 2013 punk-themed gala. When Kim Kardashian dressed as a sofa and Beyoncé wore a bedazzled condom, the red carpet at the Met became a trap for fashion one-upmanship rather than unadulterated, unapologetic style.

This autumn, the Met Gala is returning on a much smaller level, so there is hope for that reset button I was talking about. Letting some air out of the tyre might make space for the return of some sort of mystery and aspiration, of the “you had to be there” exclusivity that previously made the industry so enticing and sought-after.

As we creep back into a more normal state of social gatherings, bars, restaurants and offices reopening, the emotional devastation of the Covid-era has not left our bodies yet. We need to remind ourselves it’s OK to go slow and be compassionate with ourselves and each other. We have to heal and recharge our batteries on our own timelines. Many are rushing to figure out how to be relevant again, often shrouded in a level of toxic positivity I’m not ready for. Juliette Lewis, perhaps the boldest person I know, told me that 2020 was a year of emotional shock and that 2021 needed to be a year of cocooning so we can emerge in 2022. The bold thing for me right now is not to helicopter to a yacht party in Saint-Tropez, but rather to show up in a year’s time with a clear head, a six-pack, a finished screenplay and a dog who can understand that sit means to sit.

A few weeks after the NYT ran the piece on languishing, the paper published a hopeful anti- dote titled “The Other Side of Languishing Is Flourishing”. According to writer Dani Blum, flourishing is a “lofty combination of physical, mental and emotional fitness”. “It’s living the good life,” Tyler J VanderWeele, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor and director of Harvard’s Human Flourishing programme (which is apparently a real thing and not an SNL sketch), states in the article. “We usually think about flourishing as living in a state in which all aspects of a person’s life are good – it’s really an all-encompassing notion.”

As much as I hope that we as a society are going to become more emboldened and gregarious, I worry about the pressures that come from living up to the “Soaring ’20s”, as the decade has been preemptively billed. I plan on getting my feet wet and popping into the world with measured intention – approaching my flourishing journey like one of those annoying people who eat one square of a chocolate bar at a time, returning the rest to the cupboard for later. Just let me do a few thousand sit-ups and finish that screenplay first.

Collage by James Stopforth. Taken from Issue 67 of 10 Magazine – BOLD & BEAUTIFUL – order your copy here.