Fashion, Film, Food ~ Through Royal’s EYES

“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today,
when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” ~ miuccia prada


photo: Jock McDonald

My daughter Royal has a voice… she has a voice quite literally ~ a beautiful, smoky voice that she’s been sculpting over the past 6 months by singing songs by Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald, Lourdes and Adele, Dolly Parton and Selena Gomez. Her voice is also expressed very much through the way she dresses. And that’s no surprise. I make clothes for a living and she was born into a clothing line that grew up with her until she was 6. And over the past 5 years she would sporadically pull things from the racks at my studio, transforming them at her whim from a skirt belted to make a gown, a scarf knotted into a sarong. She’s draped mini-collections for class presentations, helped me design pieces for St. Vincent DePaul’s Discarded to Divine, and inspired me to create a women’s wear palette that paralleled the colors she would juxtapose from GapKids. She’s now 11, and takes this aesthetic voice just as seriously as the way she conveys a song, and it makes me proud. Dressing her when she was a baby, in some of my favorite outfits that ranged from hand-me-down designer clothes and cashmere, to the very new (at the time) Tea Collection and Oililly, I never differentiated from “high” and low and at every given moment she could be wearing a favorite Baby Gap sweater with funky Oink Baby corduroy flare pants. Fast forward 7 years, to now. When we go shopping at Target, Macy’s, Ross or Crossroads, or when we’re in NYC she can spend hours in Century 21 ~ she’s just as likely to pull off a rack a pair of hip looking sweatpants with a logo on the butt, as she is a beautiful Oscars worthy gown. She sees them in the same glance as if her lifestyle (at 11) could perhaps encompass both looks simultaneously. And it does. What I love about seeing my daughter grow into herself, is seeing myself reflected back so vividly. I did and still do the same thing (although i was a little bit older when I started). But i do remember both in college and then again living in London and Venice, shopping for vintage gowns, worn out Levi’s, second hand Indian tunics and sample sale Pucci and Armani, and somehow making it all work as if it were seamless.

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Above, left~ at the Academy of Art Student Fashion Show; right, Red Cross Gala in SF.

During the past couple of weeks Royal was graduating from Kaiser Elementary School in Oakland, having her second solo performance recital at the Berkeley Jazz School, and spending some solid girl time with her close friend Ingrid seeing the film Belle at Bay Street, and sitting front row at the Art Institute of San Francisco’s end of the year runway show ~ and it was a moment to reflect on girlhood, identity, concepts of self and all of that stuff that as women we think we’ve moved on from, but then as mothers we are brought right back, face to face with those same issues of growing up ~ What and how different aspects of culture mirror ourselves at all ages, which then informs who we are, and to what extent we can then re-shape our experiences, make them our own. Inspired by my friend Davia, one half of the Kitchen Sisters, and their beautiful radio series “Hidden World of Girls ~ Girls and the Women they Become,” as well as the idea behind Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (which I have yet to see!), here is the beginning of an on-going mother/daughter dialogue which gives us the very much needed time together in our disjointed and chaotic world  ~ A Collaborative VISUAL DIARY on Fashion, Film and Food ~


Fashion ~ over the years

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Collage, Above ~ ROYAL, as an infant in Baby Royal, 5 years old modeling the toddler ROYAL line, modeling for SMALL GUNS in 2011, GEV photoshoot at Round Pond Winery in 2012, and recently at Jennifer Jones house in Bolinas (with Ponyo). Below ~ 5th grade graduation from Kaiser


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FASHION ~ Art Institute of San Francisco’ s STYLE NOW 2014 Student Show

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Above, left ~ Thank you Geetika Gupta!  Right ~ Ingrid, Royal and I… For a review of the show check out Mira Musank’s FaFaFoom.

What they liked about the “look” of the show as a whole ~ color, dramatic make-up and silhouettes, hoodies, and hair.


FILM ~ watching BELLE, Bay Street, Emeryville, inspired by Ellen Sebastian Chang’s review of it in EAT DRINK FILM…

What they liked about the film ~ “We loved it but we couldn’t understand what they were saying” / translation: it was a sumptuous film (they particularly loved the costumed!) and we talked afterwards about that time period and how things have changed, but in many places not really.

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GLEE & BEYOND performance with Ken Helman ~Berkeley JAZZ SCHOOL at the California Jazz Conservatory, June 12th, 2014

Royal’s favorite song to sing ~ her solo of “Cry Me A River,” but liked that she finally “got” Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On”



Food ~ post-performance excursion to downtown Berkeley’s BUILD Pizzeria

What they liked about BUILD ~ the fried calamari and making their pizzas. What they were (surprisingly) critical about ~ the space. They thought it was a little “too adult” for them and want to sit in the bar to the right (!!) next time. They didn’t like the huge photographs in the family space. They suggested you get your drinks delivered to you whilst waiting in line to make your pizza. For me, it’s a fun place to go for sure, but you are paying Pizzaiolo prices or more, for a pizza that may be over-cooked. Cool experience for the kids. But not inexpensive.

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Above ~ Dinner #46, June 28th 2014… at which Royal helped me prep salads, cook risottos, and co-host the dinner. Original photo: Paola Gianturco

I love seeing Royal become a lady, and doing so through her many voices ~  the way she balances how she feels on the inside ~ whether powerful or vulnerable, confident or timid, often frustrated, many times insecure, but always impassioned ~ with how she expresses herself on the outside ~ the way she dresses, does her hair, conveys her desires through her words, her music, what she eats or withholds from, or when she needs silence, alone time. These are all important to her. They make her into this multi-faceted creature who can be so lovable and suddenly fiercely difficult, but always coming back to a place of calm. Just like her moods, her tastes fluctuate too. Sometimes it’s Pina Bausch or Twyla Tharp at Zellerbach, Disney Princesses or Justin Bieber at the Oakland Colisseum. It’s Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina or Funny Face, Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil or  Wim Wenders PINA; Shailene Woodley in Divergent or Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games; and the other evening Amanda Seyfried in Letters to Juliet which we hadn’t seen in 3 years. It’s Target or Vivienne Westwood, Frye, Uggs or Converse; it’s IN&Out or Manpuku, Little Star, Chez Panisse (opening image of Royal and I, with her birthday pizza). I like that she is flexible and contextual but knows what she likes. She has style, originality. Lloyd and I named Royal for many reasons… the color, the concept, the “royale with cheese” (in Pulp Fiction), the port in Kingston, Jamaica. I knew she’d grow into herself, and will continually do so, balancing life as we do everyday… I remember one of the most important interviews I did as an undergraduate at Holy Cross, to get into the JYA program to go to Reading, England. I didn’t have the grades, but I recited this Dr. Seuss poem. I still give it as a gift to close friends. Below, excerpts from Oh, The Places You’ll GO!

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go…



…You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!



(My welcome toast to Royal and guests at Dinner #46 ~ to passing on to our children the many ways of telling our stories)

“The stars we are given. the constellations we make up. 
that is to say, stars exist in the cosmos, but constellations are the imaginary lines we draw between them,
the readings we give the sky, the stories we tell. 
~ rebecca solnit, storming the gates of paradise


  • Reply June 30, 2014

    Meredith Brody

    I still remember the party at your house when Royal changed outfits mid-party — was she six or seven? — and I thought “She’s her mother’s daughter!” The second outfit was a FEARSOMELY chic black-and-white embroidered Mexican mariachi outfit, pants, blouse, and I think vest and jacket — maybe it was just a bolero, but (a) she was gorgeous and (b) I wanted the exact same getup. Lovely to see her develop her own unique style, in voice as well as dress (another kind of voice).

  • Reply September 28, 2014


    So lovely to read about your sweet mother*daughter connection, and your insights about growing into ourselves. Beautiful!

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