A Letter from the Editor: Express Yourself
My grandmother was an incredible storyteller. All she needed was the slightest hint that I wanted to hear about the past and she was off. As a child, I would listen intently for hours on her green brocade loveseat, bathed in warm light reflected off the soft pink walls of her living room. Later, as a teenager, I devoured stories in the pages of her memoir—published only for close family members’ eyes. Her kindness and enthusiasm for life were infectious gifts she passed on through her memories.
One of her favorite stories took place in a small restaurant, outside her Missouri town. She worked as a waitress for an entire summer to earn enough money to buy a new fur coat. Her family had very little money, but wearing that fur coat made her incredibly proud. She had cared for a sick mother and lost her father at a young age. With 17 years of poverty and struggle behind her, the purchase of a new fur coat—something normally reserved for those far above her station—was a powerful symbol of triumph. She had proven to herself that she could shape her own destiny. For her generation, a new coat wasn’t merely a luxury purchase. That pride for her appearance and bold resilience carried her through a Great Depression, a World War with a soldier husband and her first son’s death. Her ability to always be her original self meant that she could wake up every morning and confidently face the world.
I’m sure you have stories like hers. Whether it is through what we wear, the art we create or how we spend our time, everything we put out into the world expresses who we are as unique individuals. This issue is steeped in stories of personal expression. Cole Lu, a Taiwanese immigrant now living in St. Louis, has built a robust art career creating visual work commenting on language and miscommunication—something she struggled with while transitioning from Mandarin to English (page 16). Lisa Hackwith of Hackwith Design House, observed a need in the American market for unique, minimalist clothing. She dedicated herself to creating a sustainable line, all manufactured by seamstresses in her Minnesota studio. By simply doing what she loved, she’s garnered more than 100,000 Instagram followers and the respect of stylish women and top fashion bloggers worldwide (page 22). Emerging St. Louis artist Kahlil Irving blends pottery and installation to comment directly on current events and social and racial inequities. He uses his beautiful craft to express his deepest feelings about pushing the community forward (page 18).
In two of our deepest stories, we present a mix of individuals, all vastly different, all using their unique gifts to convey their ideas. Kansas City Designer Matt Baldwin has worked tirelessly for years to cultivate a successful denim brand. Now expanded to include a lifestyle range, Baldwin’s company has won praise internationally—including props from Conde Nast Artistic Director and Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour (page 36). Throughout our country’s history, fashion, music, fine art and culture have always been influenced by underground expression. In “Birth of a Movement,” take a closer look at an arts renaissance based in south St. Louis and how a group of collaborative individuals have been stoking the coals under an artistic re that is now burning bright (page 46).
Whether you’re a small-town kid trying to make a statement, a famous artist or perhaps a presidential candidate, don’t wait to express yourself honestly. Pride yourself on owning your game. Because whether your granddaughter is watching—like I so closely was—or the whole world hangs on your every word, someone sees you. Someone hears you. Someone is waiting to see what you’ll do.
Top photo by Damian Zaleski. Cover photo by Attilio D’Agostino.