KHADJIA ACONE TAKES ON FASHION WITH HERVE LEVINE
There is always someone who passes by with a good look.
“It has been said that beauty is a promise of happiness. Conversely, the possibility of pleasure can be a beginning of beauty.”
To see the beauty in something; to truly admire the detail of a piece of art, a piece of clothing, the freckles on one's face and the glimmer and shine that comes off a strawberry blonde's hair.
These are all the visual pleasures of life.
For a long time, I believed that there was nothing but the soul to truly admire. That the visual reality that is life, is merely nothing but a distraction from the soul. I stand by this, only not wholeheartedly; Instead now I have taken to understanding beauty in more depth.
The soul is the light that feeds beauty. To understand the soul means to allow the pleasures of the world. This means to receive, to allow, to accept with open arms, the pleasures of life.
It started when I worked in modeling; I rejected the truth that was - I was admired for the qualities and traits of who I am. I had a look and way of presenting myself (as we all do) and sometimes I was really good for the job. I rejected it all. I failed to see the beauty in most things and so I fail to see the beauty in myself.
Then I worked alone, 8 hours, 5 days a week in a laborious job that was landscaping. I had nothing but my thoughts and nature to entertain me. I don’t think I can truly describe the feeling of being alone in your thoughts, meanwhile being physically alone, doing hard physical work and having to fight the elements every single day, rain, shine or snow.
It was a challenge to say the very least. The unfolding of the darkness that was in my mind, was healed by the power of nature. The immense beauty of nature healed me; who could be depressed and angry in the wild? Who could spiral into negative thought, days on end, when there is the sound of birds every morning? How could one be sad in the presence of abundant colour and textures?
I believe this job really taught me the power of beauty - or at least the power of allowing yourself to recognize beauty.
I find myself now people watching and looking at the details of building materials as I sit on the train and watch the world go by. I don't listen to music or podcasts in public - the beauty of the world now is so overwhelming. I exit the train and I hear the voices, the accent of a foreigner on the phone - how gorgeous is a New Zealand accent?
I walk to work and I feel the pavement beneath my feet. I think about how smooth and accurate the bluestone has been arranged - how gorgeous is a material like bluestone?
I come to some traffic lights and across the road I see a crowd of white collar workers walking towards the train station I just came from. These gorgeous women in their stiletto heels, the sharp suits and cologne of the men - beautiful, beautiful people! “Do you know how beautiful you are?” I think to myself as I watch them.
This is all a short 5 minute walk from the train station to work. So many beautiful things to hear, see, and smell. I don't want to be distracted, I want to take all this beauty in - all the pleasure is mine if I want to perceive it.
Sight for me is a particularly big one - beauty through sight is probably the most perceivable/palatable sense compared to all the senses and this is why I stress sight more than anything.
One may argue that taste is the sense with the most perceivable pleasure. I would say that food is one of the most pleasurable pleasures of life, yes! But can one truly understand the crips of a panino without really seeing the char of the bread? Try closing your eyes while eating a meal and tell me that half of the experience is the sight. I mean this is why ‘plating’ in the world of cooking is so important.
The same can be said about smell, touch and hearing.
One book I like to refer to, a book I picked up when contemplating my study endevours into fashion and design in general, On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry.
Scarry argues that “our responses to beauty are perceptual events of profound significance for the individual and for society…beauty stops us, transfixes us, fills us with a surfeit of aliveness. In so doing, it takes the individual away from the center of his or her self-preoccupation and thus prompts a distribution of attention outward toward others and, ultimately, contends, toward ethical fairness.” Elaine Scarry concludes by remarking that we can see how important beauty is by observing our own attitudes towards beauty.
Beauty makes us stop in a moment of suspended delight. It causes, in Scarry’s words, a ‘radical decentering’. We no longer feel that we ourselves and instead, “we willingly cede our ground to the thing that stands before us.”
I often hear artists rave on about a particular material or a colour “how stunning is this corduroy” “How charming is this turquoise”. I would hear these sentences on a set of a photoshoot or just
in conversation with artists at a gallery or fashion show and it was always amusing to me. The delight and excitement on their face over a particular colour or cut of fabric brought me joy!
You can see that they are feasting their eyes on everything beautiful!
The prose “Beauty Lies In The Eyes Of The Beholder” is a paraphrase of a statement by Greece philosopher Plato. I thought to myself, I want to be a beholder that can see this beauty! It takes practice and so I say “YES that is such a gorgeous blue!” and “Yes that is a stunning piece of silk!” Soon, faster than ever, I began to see more and more details of life that are beautiful.
The song So This Is Love by Ilene Woods and Mike Douglas says “So this is love
So this is what makes life divine… And now I know (and now I know)
The key to all heaven is mine”
Perceiving beauty is a mindset, a perspective and an attitude. This is why I love surrounding myself with ambitious and excited artists.
In her book, Scarry said “... the pleasure we take in beauty is inexhaustible. No matter how long beautiful things endure, they cannot out-endure our longing for them.”
So I say in my final words - seek beauty and you will be seeking yourself. For one cannot perceive and bathe in the pleasure of beauty if one does not allow themself to.
I want to acknowledge and thank Herve Levine for being one of the first artists I have openly discussed such topics. Understanding and witnessing Herve in action allowed me to see through another artistic lens, one that sees and interprets beauty in his own unique way.