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A luxury of easiness: a lofty answer to a complex question

A luxury of easiness: a lofty answer to a complex question

posted on Sunday December 25, 2011 | in Tuning in to Josephine | 8 Comments

Dear ————-,


It’s funny, I was always so cynical about things like world peace but something strange has happened.  I would always make fun of John Lennon’s song Imagine, “how could he imagine such a thing as world peace?  It’s so stupid” I’d tell myself, and anyone who would listen.  But slowly this summer, and I don’t know why, something started chipping away that.


Funnily enough this idea really took hold for me at a fashion show.  I was sitting at Haider Ackerman’s show in Paris (I will make this descriptive for your pleasure as I’m sure you’re sitting in your hotel room in South Africa a bit dismayed).


Yes I had gotten up early, as Haider’s show is quite early, it was a Saturday morning in October and by that time on the trade show calendar all I wanted was to wear flats, feel comfortable and for some reason wear way more Chanel No.5 than anyone near me could stand.  I doused it on.


It was a HOT October day in Paris!  A HOT OCTOBER day in PARIS.  I was determined to wear flats, and sure as hell determined to stay cool, not fashionably cool but to keep my body temperature low.  I didn’t want anything squeezing at my waist, or any fabric clinging to me so I wore snow white pajamas that I had just gotten the week before at a uniform shop in Milan, and Prada penny loafers.  So as not to look too much like an idiot I threw on a string of white pearls that my friend Gaia Repossi kindly lent me to replace my own as she restrung them at her shop.  I put on my dark sunglasses not really in the mood to talk to anyone and got in the taxi.


Let me tell you, Paris is gorgeous on an early Saturday morning, especially if you’re driving along the Seine, especially if you’re driving alone in the car with no one to disturb your thoughts and it did cross my mind that it was unusually hot, about 80 degrees farenheit, but I remember feeling very smart for wearing cotton.  It was about a 15 minute ride from the Place Vendome to Haider’s show.  During this time I called my friend Jenke about ten times as we were to visit a friend immediately after the show for whom I was carrying this blue plastic bag filled with perfumes and powders as she loves fancy things like that.  I reached him at one point but as I know him very well I understood there was no way he was going to make the show.  He’s the kind of guy who can work 18 hour days back to back then the wrath of God couldn’t wake him up when he collapses.  He’d just pulled one such stunt where he flew to New York for two nights, worked on a music video and flew right back to Paris, went directly to a fashion show from the airport and so he was never going to make it to Haider’s show.  But I pleaded anyway.  You have to come, I’m carrying a big blue plastic bag to a fashion show, you can’t leave me hanging, Haider’s show is one of the most “poetic and … transportingly beautiful shows” these words from American Vogue.  Oh was I mad at him! It’s the one show I don’t want to miss in Paris, and beyond that, it’s the one show I’d like all my friends to experience, it’s just that moving.


Which is the point I’m getting to.  This past summer I started thinking about impossibilities.  Like how if I’d told my great great great grandmother that one day I could be in another country and we could speak with each other and see each other at the very moment on a program me called Skype she’d think I were telling fables, and well could you blame her?  If two hundred years ago I’d told her that, well it would only be coming out of my imagination for  it would then have been only an impossibility. In just the same way that it was hard for Queen Isabella to understand that the world was not flat or that one day had Christopher Columbus remained alive for a few hundred years he would fly from Spain to California in the air next to a Kenyan man on a plane called American Airlines.  Oh Shala, you have such a vivid imagination Queen Isabella would say to me.  And if I were her jester I would surely have made up such fantastical stories such as flying from one mass of land to another, just to amuse her. So…


There I was sitting front row at Haider’s show (really lucky me) swimming in Chanel No.5, the Chinese lady next to me holding a kerchief to her nose, maybe I shouldn’t have done it, but sometimes in the morning I don’t think in a linear way.  I never even understood all the fuss about Chanel No.5, that’s kind of why I’ve been wearing it lately. It’s supposed to be for rich old ladies, that was always the idea I had in my head anyway, that’s why I’ve taken to wearing it now  because I’ve always liked spinning things on their heads.  I suppose I always felt that rich old ladies always wore a lot of perfume so I woke up playing with that idea.  So there I was sitting front row with the nice Chinese lady, who was  wishing she were not sitting next to me.  It was a nice experiment.  Like Miuccia Prada’s spiky plastic coat, wearing a lot of perfume can keep people at arms length…


Anyway lights down, music up, the slowest version of John Lennon’s imagine comes on and here I really got to meditate on IMPOSSIBILITIES and the power of imagination.  Now the power of imagination I’ve been thinking about even more so since the summer of last year after reading Diana Vreeland’s autobiography.  I’m sure she had to peddle advertisers products, she was running a business after all but what I understood from her words was that nothing was as important as the power of imagination and that and that alone was her first concern for every fashion shoot she put in every issue of American Vogue that she worked on.  I’m almost 100% certain that for all her life’s work, what she would have wanted us to remember about her is that she wanted us to dream, for only out of dreams can we create another reality.  Imagination is the one word I always associate with Mrs.Vreeland.


So as I sat at Haider’s church, that’s how I’ve come to think of his shows, a brief respite in the madness of fashion month, the two words came up to together in an equation;  IMPOSSIBILITY+IMAGINATION=POSSIBILITY.


The models walked extraordinarily slow, I mean slower than a Berber walking on a desert dune, slow; and the words of John Lennon even slower, “Imagine all the people living life in peace” and the models floated past us, the Chinese lady still with her kerchief at her nose, the floor to ceiling funny mirrors doubling the whole experience and warping it too, the room dark except the jewel toned silks floating past us, on girls walking in flat men’s shoes. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, I hope some day you’ll join us, I hope some day you’ll join us…


Girl after girl, slowly they walked by.  They looked like poets to me and that was Mr. Ackermann’s intention to invoke the dreamer, to invoke Lord Byron and Baudelaire and John Lennon; to invoke distant lands and distant scents and distant ideas.  And as I sat there very present I had a very distant thought in my head, what if John Lennon was on to something?  What if he wasn’t so crazy after all?  I mean Steve Jobs and my mother always said the exact same thing to me,  “think different”  Ok so I never met Steve Jobs but he got the point across, but my mother whenever I was sad would say to me in creole, for it was a creole affirmation “change your mind”  “take it out of your head”  whatever bad thought I was having the very simple solution was to “think differently,” so I’m starting to think that world peace is not an impossibility, I think that’s what Steve Jobs and my mother was telling me all along, “think different” it is by thinking differently that we can change the world.


So ———-, today I’m going to think that it’s not impossible that there is another way.

From Deep Down The Rabbithole.

(a lofty answer to a complex problem)



On Nov 26, 2011, at 6:13 AM, —————- wrote:

Hi Shala,


I’ve settled into climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa.


We’ve been having much discussion on ramping up our urgency in the media!


Quite simply I work with AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States, representing 46 islands in the world including the Caribbean Islands, all fighting for their survival against the impact of climate change which includes mainly sea level rise, flooding and drowning (actual disappearance) of islands and coastal lands and increased intensity of natural disasters including drought, hurricanes, typhoons etc. Coupled with the economic problems already faced by many of these regions – it is quite debilitating really.


Within the negotiations we are asking for an extension of the Kyoto Protocol which locks in the legally binding framework of a climate regime – simply, without a legally binding nature we do not have the proper enforcement necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). GHGs are responsible for the rapid increase in temperature (global warming) and changing climate.


However, the major GHG emitters which includes USA, China, Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, India , Indonesia and Brazil, both developed and developing countries would like to delay the extension of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020, which means that without a legally binding nature, major emitters will continue emitting without reducing further placing the small islands of the world in jeopardy. By 2020 if the business as usual scenario continues many islands will be lost – not just land but cultures, and economies.


This is a critical issue!


We do not want a world where we have to deal with climate refugees – whole nations being forced to relocate, and give up their identities.


In fact we are fighting for your survival here in Durban! We’ve recognized the need for a forceable media presence.


Hope things are well in NY!





Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

Mission to the United Nations

-photo: photodiarist

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  1. robby (Reply) on Sunday 25, 2011

    you’re a beautiful person, shala. thanks for sharing your story and thoughts. thinking different is vital. i think we can change the world by starting to change ourselves. you know, we have to be the change and inspire the people around us. that may not lead to world peace but helps to make the world a better place.

    p.s.: it was the cover version from antony and the johnsons that haider played at the show. you can find that song on the ep ‘thank you for your love’.

  2. Olar (Reply) on Sunday 25, 2011

    Beautifully written… and most of all, incredibly interesting thoughts!

  3. Cleon (Reply) on Sunday 25, 2011

    What a revealing piece Shala; reading it was a dream in and of itself. Great points, thinking differently and the non-impossibility of world peace. Having obsessed with the issue and too many others in my more rebellious days-doubt they’re over; I too became pessimistic towards the notion. But again, a bit of “thinking differently” changed things for me.

    A large grandiose concept like world peace or even “world content” always seemed to have the effect of being too multi-dimensional and multi-faceted to tackle. So, I simply started to qualify it all it my mind. Less wars, less conflicts, more sovereign nations, more egalitarianism among nations, useful economic globalization, etc. etc. Again, maybe a lofty answer to a complex question. But an answer I can accept, observe, and work towards. Sometimes people just need to see small changes in order to imagine, and create great ones.

    Thanks again for sharing, and I sympathize with Jenke lol. 18-hr days are brutal!

  4. malika (Reply) on Sunday 25, 2011

    Coco Chanel was brilliant to invent the pajamas of beach also.

  5. I just came across your blog and love reading your writing style! I will stop by again!

  6. Antonia (Reply) on Sunday 25, 2011

    Hello Ms Shala,

    Sorry for the ill-placed comment (it’s not related to the post above) but I wanted to share my own latest post with you ’cause I remembered you did one about wigs too!

    Hope you enjoy it: http://fabulousblackhair.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/new-year-new-hair-an-ode-to-wigs/


  7. marlyse carrol (Reply) on Sunday 25, 2011

    Just wanted to say : Happy New Year Shala , Much More success & Influence in this New Year ,Stay the way you are… I just Love you too much .

    Hugs from West Africa.

  8. Marian (Reply) on Sunday 25, 2011

    You were born to write. Really, sincerely and truly born to write. Thank you for taking me down that rabbit hole and back out again, renewed.

    You looked tropic cool in the whites, the flats and pearls were a wonderful touch.

    Thank you for reminding us how powerful our imagination is
    Thank you

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