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Incu EDITION // Lauren Yates of Ponytail Journal
June 29, 2016 / Incu Online
Interview by Sophie McComas
Images supplied by Lauren Yates
Lauren Yates of Ponytail Journal created her website to “let her brain run loose.” Her quirky online journal is part curatorial fashion magazine, part recipe index and cooking show, part travel guide and vintage clothing pin-up board, all rolled into one.
Lauren also contributes photographs and words to Vogue online as well as Condé Nast Traveller. Right now she’s working on her own clothing line, W’menswear, which celebrates tough workwear clothing for women meant to last the distance. We chat to Lauren about her direction, inspiration and shooting the perfect photo.
Why (and when) did you start the blog?
I started it two and a half years ago as a creative space where I could let my brain run loose. I was working as a model and was losing the thrill of being in front of the camera. I had studied fine arts (majoring in photography) and had gone to cooking school beforehand. Oh, and I was also a musician at the time, so I had all these bizarre passions that needed a focused space to develop. So, I built the idea, direction and site from scratch and launched it without any expectation, but a stubborn commitment to make good content, at least three times a week.
What kind of projects do you work on now?
Now I find myself art directing or shooting ad campaigns, advertorial, and editorial for brands and magazines; writing print and online articles; and I have just started my own line of workwear for women!
Workwear for women? What does the line look like?
Think chore coats, smocks, work pants and very simple dresses inspired by ship sails. This stuff is made to work and also age in an elegant way. I use a lot of heavy canvases, dead stock fishing net, weathered copper hardware, twill taping, leather, rope and stencilling. I love the idea of corrosion and damage. As for the colour palette, I’m using a spread of marine camo you’d find in a working port: navy blue, off-white, khaki green and safety orange. It will reach stores around September this year. At the moment I have retailers in New York, London, and Tokyo but I won’t be selling anything on my own avenue, just retail first!
You coined the term W’menswear when describing your style. What was the first piece of W’menswear you bought?
W’menswear is me using typical men’s shapes to try to express how feminine I can be. One of my favourite pieces would be my WW2 USN N1 coverall. It’s what someone would have worn while working on deck in the US Navy. It’s a khaki green onesie with black stencilling on the front and a stamp on the inside, which tells me about where and when it was made. It’s a really gnarly piece.
What frustrates you about typical womenswear clothing?
The fact that it’s so trend driven and there is a lack of focus on construction. It’s much more disposable, which is something I don’t agree with, and don’t believe is sustainable.
How important are great photos to you and your work?
Great imagery is everything to me. Styling and image making is a passion of mine and I think it has the ability to awe and inspire. I get emails from people saying that they use Ponytail Journal editorial as inspiration, which is cool. All this said, writing is also an equally important part of it all ... they come hand in hand.
What do you think makes a perfect photo? Is there a formula?
I don’t have a formula for anything but I like to get everything right in frame. To me, retouching is just for fine details like skin, colour, and tone. I think it’s always important to understand the intention before you can construct the photograph, and I myself love to reference early photography in my work - even if it’s in the most abstract way.
What is your approach to Instagram?
I think it’s a fun app but I think we’ve placed far too much value in it. In saying this, Instagram has been a wonderful avenue that has opened up dialogue within my niche community of vintage-loving, denim-wearing, poetic folk. I love it for that. The goal is to have that happy balance between connectivity and reality.
What have been your favourite shoots or articles so far?
Shooting the Kapital catalogue has been a highlight - they are the wildest, raddest team, and we got to shoot in my home country of Thailand. We ventured up north to Chiang Mai where it gets much cooler and there are some incredible mountain ranges. We covered every sort of location possible from indigo dying factories to thick tropical jungle and my role as producer and model made for many combination-fried-noodle-stories.
I’m also very fond of work we did for Nigel Cabourn a few months ago up in Newcastle, Northern England. I was helping him source vintage pieces in London for inspiration, and the following day we took the pieces all the way up to Holy Island (an iconic tidal island on the Northeast coast of the country) to shoot mood for an upcoming design collaboration. It was cold, wet, and you could hear the faint grunt of a nearby seal colony. All that charm provided the perfect juju to set the scene.
What is the future of fashion blogging? Where’s it heading?
I think it can be a very lucrative profession if you are committed to it. I don’t call myself a fashion blogger but I’m sometimes put in that category next to others who are doing very well from it. To be a successful fashion blogger you must have integrity and create something fresh. We’ve seen so much sameness float around the internet like cyber flotsam and jetsam that we’re gearing into an era of refinement.
What are your plans for the future of Ponytail Journal?
I’m launching my label W’menswear this year. I plan to run this ship tight, not expanding too quickly for the next two years, so to focus on delivering a really great product. My goal with this is to grow a community apprenticeship program to inspire greatness in manufacturing rather than ‘make more stuff for less’, a model that’s suffocating the fashion industry. This will be a big guzzler of my brain juice, while continuing to develop Ponytail Journal. I will continue to art direct other projects because it really floats my boat and inspires a dynamic headspace. But most of all, I plan to catch more waves and eat more curry.