(photo by Merissa)
Guys! this is the piece i worked on with Cathy Horyn!
Some girls are cool. Not the kind of cool that has been calculated or is defensive, but the kind that can’t help from escaping a little out of a smile. Moseying around the tents at Treasure Island Music Festival this weekend, I stumbled upon perhaps the coolest girl I have ever met: Maya De Paula Hanika. That magical unknowable quality was practically oozing out of her every pore. I was smitten at first glance solely by the magnificence of that coat, perfectly worn leather, fur lined, huge hood, and almost exactly the color of her hair. It is one of those pieces that feels so right, almost as an extension of self, that if put on a stage would become inextricably linked with the ethos of the character. A little bit hipster, she found it at Salvation Army, of course, but also equal parts luxury. The softness of the leather blew her cover as a bay area native but brought out the color in her skin. The length was precisely proportional, hit above the knee, not quite a full length coat but coupled with the roomy hood had the feel of an over-sized sweatshirt placed on you sometime cold by some one who loves you, but miraculously fits perfectly through the arm.
After a bit of courage summoning I approached her because I could not walk away with out a picture of that coat. She was sitting behind her table in the booth giving her spiel about pirates (don’t worry I’ll come back to that) and I awkwardly had to inquire, “Could I see your shoes?” I’m a shoe person through and through and generally base my entire opinion of someone on the quality of their footwear, so flip-flops or sneakers are generally automatic deal breakers. I like to take myself too seriously; you know: heels, boots, fashion! Maya graciously obliges my ridiculous request and climbs out of the booth to show me her converse, mental groan, double take on the color, think about how awesome this girl is, file away the shoe judgment. Much to my chagrin, the full ensemble is perfect. How could I imagine any other shoes on this painfully cool girl? The color ties the look together like magic. Then, I find out that they belonged to her best friend from home. These are shoes soaked in adventure from a mountain trek through South America, inundated with dust, sentiment, and actual life that have become the perfect pinky nude, like the flushed cheek of something alive. The pants weren’t your stock skinny jeans, but a proper trouser; did I mention that she was British? (So. Cool.) They are her favorite shape, now no longer produced by the Gap. The Breton top, always classic, and on her is not even remotely mundane. Anyone can throw on the striped tee, but the Bridgette Bardot effortlessly chic part is impossible to fake.
So this girl is cool, and I mean really cool because she’s wearing this iconic shirt for her love of pirates. What? The girl is from across the pond and traveled here to find herself, so I get the roaming, lawless appeal, but what? Maya is a volunteer at the one and only Independent Pirate Supply Store in the Mission District. 826 Valencia not only sells eye patches, spyglasses, and is host to spontaneous “moppings of the deck” but is also a creative writing foundation founded by Pulitzer Prize finalist Dave Eggers in 2002. Eggers wanted a place for kids to have a creative outlet, but San Francisco zoning laws demanded that this location be used for retail. Thus the legitimate storefront sells pirate paraphernalia and the black market thought crimes take place in the back. This is the kind of literacy project not relegated to portable classrooms run by faceless government officials, or uninterested teachers, but instead is the product of a vibrant community of young invested artists. 826 champions project based learning and offers one-on-one tutoring for free. Seriously, this girl is so cool. Maya spends her days leading workshops driven by creativity and self-expression. She helped lead an 11-year-old memoir-writing workshop entitled “Me, Myself and I.” Self-aware 5thgraders? Awesome. Her life is dedicated to encouraging kids to articulate their innate desires to explore and create, providing attention and tools in a distinctly post-modern artistic community. Maya’s motto is, besides ARGHH, “Creative expression is the key to human identity, and personal freedom.”
Her style is unencumbered by the latest runway show but not uninfluenced by the fundamental process of fashion. Creating the trappings of our lives out of things that inspire us are real life manifestations of our love and imagination. Maya the young artist far from home, grounded by her best friends shoes, in a found coat, her favorite pants, and her pirate uniform is a strong sartorial statement. She has perfectly costumed the performance that is her life, it’s reality informed by the joy of the color palate, the comfort and respect for the stories of the pre worn coat, the confidence in her favorite pair of pants, and her pirate-y passion for fostering creativity.