Mark Twain brilliantly observed that, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” In the same way, a precisely chosen fashion accessory can transform a whole look from predictable cliché to a witty statement of personal style. This Thursday, February 20, 4-8pm, Moss + Mineral is proud to introduce Tacoma designer, Virginia Bunker, and her debut collection of romantic accessories. Please come meet Virginia and see how the addition of one succinct detail to your wardrobe can change your entire fashion vocabulary.
Recently we chatted with Virginia – who is a professional stylesetter and writer, in addition to designer – via e-mail about her new collection, her work routine and style secrets of the Elizabethan queens.
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Moss+Mineral: Hi Virginia. What is the first thing you check in the morning – voicemail, email, newspaper or – ?
Virginia Bunker: Instagram. It makes me smile.
MM: I understand you sometimes commute on the bus from Tacoma to Seattle. What do you do in the 40-minute transit?
VB: Well, lots of different stuff. I zone out, meditate, listen to music and go down Internet rabbit holes while researching and brainstorming. Occasionally, I write.
MM: It’s a great place for people-watching, kind of open season for a designer.
VB: Well, it can be, if I have the right mindset and stay open. Often I just hunker down with my headphones and turn inward. Don’t get me wrong: I love people-watching. Just not on the bus. However, I have overhead some extremely funny one-way cellphone conversations.
MM: You have a high-flying job shaping style and beauty trends for a multi-billion dollar company; you have also been an associate editor at Seattle-based City Arts Magazine. How did you decide to try your hand at creating your own accessories collection?
VB: Unlike my current day job, there’s no strategic vision. This line just evolved. A colleague gave me some designer silk ties and challenged me to make something out of them. Then I started looking around at other materials that I’ve collected over the years. After I’d made a few things I started noticing a theme: circus colors, textiles from around the globe, and felt.
MM: M+M is so excited to be hosting an opening reception for your debut collection this Thursday, Feb. 20. Many people don’t think about accessorizing their wardrobe. What is the importance of accessories in the broader context of fashion?
VB: Thanks, I’m excited to be sharing my designs with people at M+M. Fashion and beauty sometimes have the reputation of being intimidating and exclusive. They can be for sure, but that needn’t be the case. The best side of the industry is about personal expression, wit and intelligence. That’s why I prefer the word “style” to fashion. Most of my artistic dabblings tie back to fashion vs. style in some way or another. Accessories, even crazy, oversized, offbeat accessories are the sartorial equivalent of a wink. They are the ultimate way to customize your look.
MM: Your accessories, such as the knotted necklace made from a vintage silk men’s tie, epitomize that wink in the most sophisticated way. They play with gender, a mix of fashion eras, and recycled materials that receive a fresh persona.
VB: The Elizabethan ruff.
MM: Oh yeah! It definitely rocks that power suit kind of authority…What would you say is the most underrated or undiscovered fashion trend going right now?
VB: Great question! I’m putting my money on boiler suits. My favorite right now is a design by Oak NYC. Wear heels (and a straight face) with your boiler suit and you won’t look like ‘the cable guy’.
MM: What is a boiler suit? And where would I wear one in Tacoma?
VB: The boiler suit is basically just a jumpsuit – but a lot of people flinch when they hear the word ‘jumpsuit.’ A boiler suit for the boiler room. Get it? I would wear one to the grocery store or to a bar. I would not wear one to a fancy restaurant. If you work in a creative or industrial environment, you might also wear it to work. Oh, and it’s perfect for art openings. People laugh when I wax poetic about the boiler suit. But hey, it’s one-piece dressing – what’s not to love? It’s super easy and it looks great.
MM: Hmm, sounds a bit like something from Tacoma’s industrial past. In fact, maybe we never stopped wearing them. Maybe we’re reverse trendsetters...
When designers are trying to sell an entire look, how can a single detail make a difference?
VB: One little detail can say so much. For example, Calvin Klein showed a lot of mohair coats at New York Fashion Week. Normally, a mohair coat would come across as very ladylike and traditional, but he added an oversized safety pin with a big bead on the front. That one detail took the look in an entirely different direction – polished with a touch of punk.
MM: What is your own favorite personal accessory?
VB: Flamboyant cocktail rings. And perfume. (I consider fragrance to be an accessory.)
MM: Tell me about the new collection – what are the materials you are using, and why?
VB: Everything is upcycled – and comes with an interesting story. My debutante belt incorporates velvet flowers plucked from a 1930’s designer gown. The pom-pom cuff is embellished with a tassel from a vintage Turkish pillow. The silk tie necklaces have a designer provenance. All of the pieces are extremely personal.
MM: How would a woman of 25 wear one of these pieces differently than one of 45? [Editor’s note: women in both categories will love them.]
VB: That really depends on the woman. It’s more about attitude than age.
MM: What is your own favorite way of wearing them?
VB: My favorite outfit is jeans, t-shirt and tuxedo jacket. The cuffs and neckwear look really cool peeking out from under the sleeve or lapel of a black jacket.
MM: You have an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion – please name one or two of your favorite style icons, and why.
VB: Yohji Yamamoto and Dries van Noten. Both are completely different, yet masters of strong, elegant shapes. Their designs morph to suit the person who is wearing them.
MM: Much like yours do. Thank you, Virginia!
VB: Thank you, Lisa.
~ Lisa Kinoshita