Meet two women from our recent feature on Zahra Aljabri, founder of Mode-sty. Sarah White and Vilay Dethluxay share their experiences on how personal style has influenced their lives and careers, and opened up about their struggles and triumphs when dressing to fit their personal values and beliefs.
After more than 15 years of experience in film, art, music, entertainment, fashion, marketing, and event production, Vilay wears many (awesome) hats. After working on both coasts she’s back to her Midwestern roots, curating knockout events such as Sound Unseen and Cult Collective.
1. What do you hope to communicate through your fashion choices and personal style?
I’ve always dressed according to mood or current inspirations, but beneath my fashion choices it’s always been about feeling good about who you are and staying true to who you are. I do believe fashion is a form of empowerment. As Vivienne Westwood so brilliantly put it: “Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.
2. How has your style changed depending on the place you call home (Thailand, Worthington, Minn., Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Minneapolis)?
My style changes not only according to where I’m living, but also for specific activities and travel! I’m someone that completely romanticizes the eras when dressing was dictated by your outings. I’m fortunate to have a wardrobe with garments from all the places I’ve lived and traveled, so I can look like a San Francisco bohemian one day and a sophisticated girl from Hong Kong the next.
3. What does your power outfit look like?
Most recently it’s a black pencil skirt paired with a black silk shell, and complemented by black/gold pumps and accessories. Something about wearing all black and a woman’s silhouette in a pencil skirt screams class and style.
4. Does the fashion industry help women feel empowered? Where has the industry been successful, and where is there room for improvement?
I’ve worked in the fashion industry for quite a long time. If I were to answer honestly, I would have to say that we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, the diversity of what’s being mass marketed (in terms of race and body shapes) doesn’t feel evenly distributed and it can feel quite contrived when done by a magazine that promotes “embracing one’s curviness” in one article, and then features models who weigh 90 pounds when you turn the page. However, I do believe the Internet and new media platforms help give a voice to those seeking change. Those voices can be heard in a viral way, which is amazing.
5. What fashion cues do you take from film, photography and music? Who are your on-stage or on-screen icons?
I’ve always been incredibly attracted to women who own their confidence and have a commanding presence. I grew up being completely enamored with Madonna and her evolving looks. Recently I’ve had a huge crush on Eva Green. Her characters are always so intense, poised, and mysterious. Her entire wardrobe in the film “Cracks” was so dialed in it was insane!
6. If you could only wear clothes from one designer for the rest of your life, who would you pick and why?
Hands down it’d be BCBG. Their collections are always spot on when it comes to the trends from the global runways. It’s the one store where every time I go I exclaim, “I’d wear every single piece in here.” Plus, you get to wear amazing runway-inspired looks at a fraction of the cost. What woman doesn’t love that?
Sarah is a songbird, emcee, and music maker influenced by the streets and the soul. Her sound is genre-smashing and ever changing. DJing, event planning, and photography top her long list of creative talents. She is also a mother, a student, and an entrepreneur. After five years of culture and hustle in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sarah has returned to Minneapolis and is currently working on a solo project and a new band, Shiro Dame.
1. How do you use your onstage fashion persona to communicate a message? Does it ever mirror the messages you hope to share through your song lyrics?
I try not to overthink my onstage persona and focus more on finding ways to fully express myself through my style that make me feel confident, secure, and sexy. Unless I’m having a really off day, my clothing and style really represent all sides of me and go parallel with my song lyrics, message, and daily walk.
2. How do your fashion choices speak to the kind of person you are or the values that are important to you? Could you give an example?
That’s a tough one because my style and fashion choices change day-to-day and mood-to-mood. I keep it edgy and challenge myself to wear things that scare me a little. But I’ve also been known to wear head to toe black all day, so I guess my style does speak to the type of person I strive to be: Edgy. Classic. Black. Changing.
I think my favorite piece right now is this perfect fitting skirt I scored at Cliché on Lyndale Avenue. It’s bright, but a very classic A-Line shape that flirts and flows well in business environments and on the stage. I like to be able to have versatile pieces that can go day to night without much effort. I am a busy lady with two kids, and don’t have time for much effort.
3. Fill in the blanks:
When I wear combat boots I feel empowered because I feel comfortable, safe, and powerful.
4. How do you think the local Minneapolis music scene, or the music scene in general, views women’s fashion? What’s good and what needs to improve to help women in the industry or women in the audience feel empowered? What fashion cues have you taken from the music scene?
I think the Minneapolis scene is very open and welcoming to whatever. I felt more pressure in New York to stay on top of my fashion game. In Minneapolis, I feel if you are confident and can commit to wearing what you feel fly in, that’s all that matters. It’s one of the things about the Minneapolis music/fashion scene that I really like. On the other hand, it would be nice to see people step it up once and a while. Maybe if more local designers sponsored local artists we could all work together to really push the envelope.
I personally don’t think anything fashion related needs to change to empower women. We need to empower and detach ourselves from thinking we need to look a certain way to feel power. To me, fashion is just an extra way to seal the deal and put our own flavor on it.
I love the way many of the ladies on the scene in Minneapolis dress on the stage and behind the decks. Some of my favorites are Adora Tokyo, Channy from Poliça, Caroline Smith and Lady Midnight.
5. How does your fashion change to reflect the different roles you play in your life (photographer, musician, mother, entrepreneur, creative, etc.)?
I don’t think I have enough clothes to keep up with my many roles (that may be a lie), but I do try to keep things that can float between each. Now and then I have some disasters: My skirts are too short to play in the sand, my jeans are too tight to get the right angle in a photo shoot, or my high-waisted jeans are too high for the crowd. But overall I get along just fine in any role with most of my favorite pieces.
6. What’s one piece in your closet you’ve worn to shreds?
Ha! My black tights all get worn to shreds! My black Calvin Klein skinny jeans also basically dissolved on me, and I’m still trying to wear them as shorts. My black clothes take a beating, but I still love them.