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Icon: Joan Didion


Joan Didion on Self-respect

"To free us from from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves - there lies the great, singular power of self-respect"

1968 Joan Didion

I consider Joan Didion the most evolutionary journalist in the 60's fashion era. She transformed 60's Vogue by writing intimate literature on the pages of where you would conventionally find fashion & beauty advice, alongside photographs of pretty women. Didion placed advice on self-respect instead, and from there she started very early as an important figure in intimate literature even today.

It wasn't until I came across Joan Didion's documentary under the title Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold that I began to idolize the author for her incredible work both on fashion journalism, and literature in general. Her most celebrated work from the pages of a 1961 Vogue was an essay she wrote on self-respect, which she titled: "Self-respect: it's source, it's power" captured my attention and I found myself jotting down life lessons as I read further on and on into the essay.

"... people with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things."
Didion confidently states many aspects related to self-respect, where she considers different traits that exhibit self-respect in an individual's personality. Admitting one's mistakes, discipline and having a sense of self-worth are few points Joan Didion mentions in her essay, appointing them to be elements that show self-respect in a person. One way of respecting ourselves according to Didion - which I find rather appealing and difficult to master - is having a strong sense of self-worth for better or worse; meaning: considering ourselves worthy of respect even when we fucked up big time. This is something I still wish to learn and hope to give myself one day.

The following extract is worth reading, taken from the 1961 Vogue featuring Joan Didion's 'Self-respect' article.
"In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and with United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for re-election. Nonetheless, character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life—is the source from which self-respect springs."

What I Picked up from Muscat Book Fair, 2018

The one event that I cannot miss here in Muscat every year: Muscat Book Fair. 

Here is the list of everything I picked up from there this year - directly snapped from my SnapChat

I don't want this poem to end - by Mahmoud Darwish

Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation by Kristin Knox

Fashion: Concept to Catwalk by Olivier Gerval

Left: The Spy by Paulo Coelho, Right: The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

Left: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho, Right: 1984 by George Orwell

Left: the death cure by James Dashner, Right: To kill a mocking bird by Harper Lee

Left: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Right: Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

The sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur

Unconditional Love

There’s this thing in you
That makes you love me
When I’m happy
And when I’m sad
When I’m sane
And when I am mad

Your love overwhelms me
Leaves no room for poems
No room for words

Please teach me
The art of loving another so well
So that I can bleed it onto a poem
And read it loud for you
To show you
How grateful I am
For receiving love from you
For loving you.

Balsam's Favorites Playlist

Today, based on the request of one of my Snapchat followers, I am sharing my favorite songs! 

Music speaks to my soul, and I find myself a person who looks more into the lyrical content when choosing songs to obsess about. This list includes few songs that have a very deep personal meaning to me, as well as a cultural significance that I find admirable as an aesthete. My two favorite artists: Lana del Rey & Cigarettes after Sex are somewhat dominating the list. Enjoy the music :-)

1. "Diet Mountain Dew" by Lana Del Rey

2. "Born to Die" by Lana Del Rey

3. "Keep on loving you" by Cigarettes after Sex

4. "Vienna" by Billy Joel

5. "I'll be seeing you" by Billie Holiday

6. "Apocalypse" by Cigarettes after Sex

7. "Terrence Loves You" by Lana Del Rey

8. "Black Beauty" by Lana Del Rey

9. "Summer wine" by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood

10. "No Diggity" by Blackstreet

11. "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver (also Birdy's version is quite awesome)

12. "My Hands" by Leona Lewis

The day I said yes ...

Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger.
 Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.
 Believe the best rather than the worst.
 People have a way of living up or down to your opinion of them.
Remember that true friendship is the basis for any lasting relationship.
The person you choose to marry is deserving of the courtesies kindnesses you bestow on your friends.
Please hand this down to your children and your children’s children: The more things change the more they are the same.

Jane Wells ( 1886)

Submitted by Carol Abbs

Alaïa: The Legend behind the Name

Fashion designer Azzedine Alaia with model Farida
The news of the passing of the Tunisian-born French couturier Azzedine Alaïa swirled 24 hours ago, and shocked the fashion industry: a very talented and well-established Couturier is gone. This is not a very happy end of the year 2017 for any person with strong appreciation for 80s and 90s Haute Couture, since Alaïa was a central figure during that time in the world of high-end fashion ... all the way up to the day of his passing, and more.

"You have to take things with a lot of laughter. I laugh with everyone; this way, I will be able to die happy." 

Naomi Campbell and Azzedine Alaia, 1987 - taken by Arthur Elgort

Naomi Campbell wearing Alaia dress in Elle 1989 photographed by Gilles Bensimon

 According to a French media report in Le Point, Azzedine Alaïa passed away at the relatively young age of 77, leaving behind an artistic legacy in fashion - particularly in haute couture. His life was mostly spent creating work of arts with clothing at his own pace, ignoring the fashion industry's crazy schedules and short-lasting trends. He became an example of authenticity, an icon to many and inspiration for women to be confident in their beautiful bodies.

"My obsession is to make women beautiful. When you create with that in mind, things can't go out of fashion."

I recall falling in love with Alaïa's work as a teenage girl, after browsing through the internet and finding attractive laser-cut suede shoes and waist belts. As a young girl, all I wanted was a belt like the ones I saw online ... and a tiny waist so that I look good wearing my Alaïa. After I stumbled upon the designer's collections from the late 80's and 90's period, I began to grow fonder of him as a designer. He dressed many of my style icons (mainly the 90's supermodels Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista), watching all my favorite faces walk in his couture creations made me look up to the man behind the brand which carries his name. His sole purpose was to beautify the woman wearing his designs, and make her look effortlessly sexy and confident. 

Linda Evangelista & Azzedine Alaia, early 90s

"It's important to make women feel confident, because I think they are more important than men."

Yasmin Le Bon in Azzedine Alaia Ensemble, photographed by Francois Lamy (1985)

Like many aspiring fashion designers, Alaïa gives hope to all of us because he had a very humble beginning for his dream: reading Vogue archives and aspiring to one day be able to make the clothes that are seen on those pages. He worked an entire-lifetime for this purpose and now the loss in the industry is felt by everyone in this scene.