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VOLTA Fashion & Lifestyle Society

The sole responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the authors. Its contents do not reflect the opinion of the University Students’ Council of the University of Western Ontario (“USC”). The USC assumes no responsibility or liability for any error, inaccuracy, omission or comment contained in this publication or for any use that may be made of such information by the reader.

table of contents 04 CONTRIBUTORS this issue’s Volta team

10 DIFFERENT, BUT THE SAME by Rachel Goodwin

24 CULTURE ft. London’s highlights of fall 2012

05 EDITOR’S LETTER Kasia Knap and Emma Barrett

12 FIGHTING GOOD TASTE by Emma Barrett

26 WANDERLUST notions of decadence

06 MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS notable magazine members

14 NOCTURNAL SPLENDOR rethinking the accessory

34 YOU ARE HERE by Emily Fister

07 COVER PAGE & SPONSORS the production team behind the cover image


36 RUN LOLA RUN navigating fall textures 54 THE PARADOX OF CHOICE by Shaista Kitabi

photograph by Sorin Popa

CO-EDITORS IN CHIEF Kasia Knap and Emma Barrett CREATIVE DIRECTOR Stephanie Wood







WOMEN’S STYLISTS Hannah Murphy-Marshman Alexandra Petropoulakis

PHOTOGRAPHERS Maira Tilson Jennifer Barrett Sorin Popa

LITERARY EDITORS Emily Smibert Zayn Khamis


WRITERS Rachel Goodwin Emma Barrett Julide Cakiroglu Kevin Hurren Kasia Knap Emily Fister Shaista Kitabi MAKE-UP ARTIST Jasneet Nijjar CASTING DIRECTORS Merrick Chan Sandra Bartkowiak MODELS Hang Yang Elle Bulger Catherine Williams Jacqueline Wojciechowski Robin Wilding SHOOT CONTRIBUTOR Jessica Shaheen



TEXT EDITORS Keagan Davis-Burns Angelica Ng

Letter from the Editors

The fall/winter ’12 issue has been a whirlwind of creative energy. Feeding off the summer’s momentum, much of this issue recollects and interprets our experiences of the past several months. For this edition, we focused on reimagining the sentiment of fall fashion. We have several great new collaborators as part of the team this year, but many are returning veterans and we appreciate the continued support. The spreads featured in this issue are also all from returning talent. We welcome back Toronto artist Jennifer Barrett, who explores notions of decadence in “Wanderlust”, creating sensual images that combine luxury with natural motifs. The inspiration was the German word “Waldensamskeit”, meaning ‘the feeling of being alone in the woods’. London-based photographer Maira Tilson shoots “Nocturnal Splendor”, a focus on innovative ways of utilizing accessories to function in ways other than their intended purpose. Using this past summer’s Metropolitan Museum exhibition “Impossible Conversations: Prada and Schiaparelli” as a starting base, we studied the show’s “Neck Up/Knees Down” subsection for inspiration regarding the unexpected employment of accessories. Finally, collaborating with local vintage boutiques Mesh and Lovesick and UWO photographer Sorin Popa, “Run Lola Run” is our take on the latest fall trends. Set against the urban landscape of downtown London, we had our models running around in the rain wearing exciting textures to counter the weather: knits, leather, furs; even Mongolian goat hair. As always, we hope you enjoy the issue. See you in the spring! Your editors, Kasia Knap

Emma Barrett




Stephanie Wood: Creative Director Stephanie Wood, a second year Urban Development student, is a dynamic element of the Volta team as she takes on the role of Creative Director this year. Her eye for unexpected fashions makes her an asset to each and every photo shoot. In her spare time, Steph likes to shop for second hand clothing and enjoy the casual red velvet cupcake.

Jacqueline Wojciechowski: Model Appearing as the reimagined heroine of the cult classic “Run Lola Run� in the shoot of the same name, Jacqueline added great depth to the role. She was a delight to work with despite the terrible weather, evoking a present day Katherine Heigl. A social butterfly, Jacqueline loves meeting new people and enjoys Polish folk dancing.

Jennifer Barrett: Photographer Jennifer Barrett is an artist and curator working with photography and anything else she can get her hands on. Now having completed a BFA in Photography Studies at Ryerson University, she spends her time clicking shutters and sipping tea. Jennifer lives and works in Toronto. www.jenniferbarrett.ca



SwagLdn, Showcasing the Nightlife, Culture & Parties of Western / London, Ontario. www.facebook.com/LdnSwag

COVER Photographer: Jennifer Barrett Creative Director: Jennifer Barrett Make-Up Artist: Jasneet Nijjar Model: Catherine Williams

What Fits Well, Feels Great!


Tailoring&Design Anna and her staff can make you feel great in whatever you are wearing! We do all kinds of alterations and custom made clothing for men and women including all kinds of bridal wear.

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Every woman needs to do a self-examination monthly. Join the SuicideGirls in the fight against breast cancer. 10


Different, But the Same written by RACHEL GOODWIN As you may know, October is recognized in North America as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But what you probably didn’t know about is the campaign launched by the official SuicideGirls website in-line with this year’s awareness month. SuicideGirls is a networking-based site designed for the production and distribution of soft core pornography be it images, videos, or text media. While promoting themselves via other social networks (Twitter, Facebook, and the like) access to the majority of the site itself is of course, by paid membership only. SuicideGirls’ target audience is for those interested in more alternative lifestyles as its female-only model base features representations of women as “tough girls,” possessing anything from indie-style to more punk-rock and goth images. Now, I could fill column after column analyzing the site as a whole, but for the sake of this article, it’s best to focus on one particular image posted by the SuicideGirls Facebook page for the website’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. The campaign itself was fairly admirable, stating that for every 10,000 shares, SuicideGirls would donate $1,000 to America’s National Breast Cancer Foundation. However, it’s the image specifically that I question as a method of promotion. The image, stated to be a how-to guide for self examination, features five separate pictures of various models clothed in lacy lingerie and colourful bikini tops. Each can be seen pressing, pushing, and yes, even squeezing in mildly suggestive ways, breasts. Beneath every picture, should you take the trouble to read it, is a blurb that provides vague instructions on how to execute a proper SBE (self breast exam). Suffice to say, this ad is far from being an adequate guide for personal health but unfortunately, there’s just no patent for medical guide charts. And perhaps that’s all the image should be read as, merely an advertisement for a campaign. That’s how I regarded it until I began reading comments made by various participants. While some were quite positivist: “The sooner we get rid of breast cancer, the better for everyone!” Others seemed to undermine the importance of the campaign. Yet, I was most concerned by the comment posted by one woman in particular: “Is this poster available for purchase? I would love to hang it on my bathroom door”. At first glance, I felt it assumed that any person could discern this from an actual SBE chart until reading such an inquiry. Which brings me back to my initial argument; the promotion of this image as a visual aid for medical purposes, as novel as it may be, poses a problem in the case that someone may actually attempt to use it for that exact reason. Beyond a concern for the distribution of misinformation, particularly when it pertains to personal health, I can’t help but criticize the image of SuicideGirls as a whole. The greater issue lies in the attempt made to promote itself as more than the average porn site. The About page of the official website even states “SuicideGirls was founded on the belief that creativity, personality and intelligence are not incompatible with sexy, compelling entertainment”. And while I’m a big advocate for the freedom of sexual expression and support any domain that facilitates the right to do so, I challenge the claim to intelligence when the operators of this site have clearly displayed a lack there of. And while I’m sure some of you may feel I am being too critical, attacking a corporation when their efforts are simply for a good cause, I suppose I would be less scrutinizing had the campaign proved to be more effective. With a fan-base of over 4.5 million on Facebook alone, one would expect more than 16, 645 shares on a post for a charity campaign. That’s a whopping $1,600 in proceeds which is made even more trivial by the number of “likes” the post received: 22,492. With mere popularity tipping the scales, the SuicideGirls awareness campaign is reduced to being little more than another clichéd example of just how effectively sex sells and in turn diminishes the significance of the greater cause altogether. What’s more is just how transparent their tactic becomes when you pick away at the display of information in the image. Having semi-clothed models is subtly provocative and every article, every accessory replaces the clinical with a fetish until the image is nothing more than a tease. And that in turn seems to contradict the campaign title: “Nobody’s Immune to Breast Cancer”. I’m even prepared to argue that had the models been fully undressed and performing accurate procedure, the image would have likely captivated a much larger audience. But perhaps it’s asking too much to lay the truth bare. After all, no one likes being made to feel vulnerable, certainly not when it comes to the awareness for personal health. Ultimately, this campaign confirms that despite an alternative attitude, the site favours image over substance and for that reason is simply less different and more of the same.



Fighting Good Taste written by EMMA BARRETT

“If I have done anything, it is to make ugly appealing. In fact, most of my work is concerned with destroying—or at least deconstructing— conventional ideas of beauty, of the generic appeal of the beautiful, glamorous, bourgeois woman. Fashion fosters clichés of beauty, but I want to tear them apart.” – Miuccia Prada From May-August 2012, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City presented Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations. The exhibition features 100 designs and 40 accessories by fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, born six decades apart, with seven themed sections categorizing the ways in which the designers understood fashion, including ‘ugly chic’, ‘the surreal body’ and ‘neck up/ knees down’. The exhibit included video installations by Baz Luhrmann, creating ‘impossible conversations’ between Prada and Schiaparelli, where an imagined meeting was staged between Miuccia Prada and actress Judy Davis as Schiaparelli. Their similarities are intriguing, but it is their striking differences which show how these two women revolutionized the fashion world. Elsa Schiaparelli was born in Italy to a wealthy family in 1890 and went on to study philosophy at the University of Rome. After meeting Count Wilhelm de Wendt de Kerlor in London, Schiaparelli moved to New York City, but was abandoned by Wilhelm shortly after the birth of their daughter, Gogo. Schiaparelli joined the Greenwich Village Dadaists and worked at a French fashion boutique. She eventually moved to Paris and continued her work as a sales clerk, as well as a freelance designer for lesser-known fashion houses. Schiaparelli opened her own boutique in Paris’ fashion centre, Rue de la Paix, in 1927 and became an instant success. By 1932, nearly 8000 garments were produced each year in 8 ateliers. Schiaparelli’s success was driven in part by A-list celebrities such as Greta Garbo, and the use of her designs in Hollywood movies like 1937’s Every Day’s a Holiday. A sense of humour was often detected throughout Schiaparelli’s 1930s collections. She was described as pushing buttons with “morbid zeal” after using dollar signs as coat fasteners, a striking choice during the Depression. She created sweaters adorned with sailors’ tattoos, and even a hat resembling a high-heeled shoe resting atop the wearer’s head. Schiaparelli dressed women on the move, but also those women who had ridden out the Depression; they could afford her couture, giving Schiaparelli flexibility in her designs. Schiaparelli’s mix of humour and surrealist influences allowed her to change and reform conventional notions of beauty. Schiaparelli was more often seen as an artist as opposed to a designer for her involvement in the surrealist movement. Collaborations with Salvador Dali, a prominent Spanish surrealist painter, produced a hat shaped like a lamb chop, and most famously a giant lobster dress purchased by Wallis Simpson. Dali and Schiaparelli also created works of protest art, such as 1938’s ‘tear dress’. This pale blue silk dress, embellished with a print designed by Dali and featured tiny incisions all over, revealed red sinews beneath, giving the illusion of torn animal flesh. Schiaparelli was forced to flee Paris in 1940 for New York. She spent the remainder of the war volunteering for the Red Cross. Facing bankruptcy, Schiaparelli finally closed her boutique’s doors in 1954. She passed away in Paris in 1973 at the age of 83; Miuccia Prada had just turned 24.



Maria “Miuccia” Prada, born in 1949, obtained a degree in political sciences from the University of Milan before training as a mime at Milan’s Piccolo Teatro. The silent art of miming resonated with Prada, just as fashion would in the future; only the body is able to translate the message you want to express. During her years as a student, Prada joined the Communist Party and during the period of upheaval in Milan, would wear Saint Laurent to distribute leaflets. In 1978, she took over her family’s Milan-based luxury leather business. While running the family business, Prada met Patrizio Bertelli, who would become her husband and business partner. He convinced her to try her hand at women’s wear, and in 1988, Prada debuted her first runway collection, a year after their wedding. On her wedding day, Prada typified what would become one of her style tenets, ‘ugly chic’, wearing a grey cotton day dress with a man’s oversize camel overcoat. Prada’s postmodern style combines the sartorial ideals of bourgeois Milan, characterized by a neutral palette, and her own disregard for general conventions of femininity. A formative influence for Prada’s early collections was 1967’s Belle de Jour by Luis Bunuel, which featured costumes by Saint Laurent. The costumes seemed to have split personalities, often classic and subdued from the waist-up with a more outrageous sentiment from the waist down. This idea resonated with Prada and made her well-known for her skirt designs; to Prada, the bottom half of the body is natural femininity, with attention to the top half of the body discomforting. Like Schiaparelli, humour weaves itself into Prada’s designs. For example, an early success was handbags created from army-tent material, and a was recent success the cutlery-covered dress worn by Carey Mulligan at the 2010 Academy Awards. A year later, Prada would raise $2 billion in an IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Backlash from the IPO came from sources in the fashion world, including Giorgio Armani’s claim that fashion should not be in the hands of the banks. Armani scolded Prada for this move, saying she has “bad taste that becomes chic,” and that her clothing is “sometimes ugly.” Prada shrugged this off, saying she often “fights against her good taste.” Presenting Prada and Schiaparelli’s work side-by-side shows how the past and present can influence each other. Overall, they challenged modern ideas of beauty, opting to pursue other creative routes. Schiaparelli is well-known for collaborating with Surrealist artists such as Dali and Picasso, while Prada worked with many from the contemporary art scene, like Jacques Herzog; these artistic works had the invincibility of female self-possession as the main theme. Prada and Schiaparelli’s desire to subvert the purpose of clothing was rooted in their similarities as fashion designers. Despite being born six decades apart, Schiaparelli and Prada had similar experiences before entering the world of fashion. Both women had distinct Catholic upbringings, hailing from upper-crust Italian families; each subjected to traditional expectations for women. They shed their upbringings in the wake of uproar in art and politics, being viewed as rebels and feminists, hardening their ideas of non-conformity. However, the turbulent environment meant that each woman delayed their career; Prada was 39 and Schiaparelli 37 when their first collections were unveiled. Their disregard for traditional expectations in their youth meant their work asks you to consider the strong woman, intolerant of submission, which was very different than what was available from their peers’ designs. Prada and Schiaparelli both had ambitions of uniqueness; they believe that nothing is drearier than being somber. Prada is well-known for her ‘ugly chic’ style, as she attempts to work with atypical materials. One famous example is her use of hospital scrubs in the S/S ’11 collection. Schiaparelli’s innovations in textiles allowed for distinctive designs, such as the 1930s sari dress. Prada revisited the sari silhouette in her 2004 collection as well, placing it with a 1950s couture silhouette as an allusion to globalization. Both women reveled in the inimitable, preferring the challenge to create garments for the woman who wears their designs with the poise of youth, and at times questioning their own good taste to do so. Each woman had a particular focus on a woman’s body, similar in ideal yet reverse in execution. This is seen in the accessories subsection ‘neck up/ knees down’ of the Met exhibit, an overview of Schiaparelli’s hats and Prada’s shoes. Schiaparelli designed in response to the 1930s theatre society, where women were often seated when dressed up. As a result, decorative detailing drove attention above the waist, often in the form of hats and jewelry. Prada, on the other hand, had a focus on ‘waist down’, as this showed her ideas of femininity and modernity. Simple cardigans were paired with flamboyant skirts and outrageous footwear. The recurring theme of drawing attention yet implemented in opposition provides insight on how the past can influence the present, while allowing the present to reevaluate the past. It is clear that Prada studied Schiaparelli’s works; however, it is more of a testing rather than reproduction. The Met’s Impossible Conversations identifies how resemblance in ideals between Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli can produce dissimilar results. Despite the decades separating these two women, Prada and Schiaparelli both formed original notions of beauty.







Hang wears crème flower with pearl stud hair accessory, pearl hair accessory, gold twisted brooch hair accessory, gold and crème, crème and gold geometric patterned necklace, gold leaf bangle

Hang wears black patent lace-up booties pearl and gold chained shoe accessories

Hang wears black studded clutch with crystal ring handle, turquoise stone bib necklace, diamond studded necklace, metallic twisted headpiece


Hang wears black leather and suede wedge booties, crystal studded anklet, silver beaded anklet, diamond drop pendant, diamond teardrop shoe necklace, pantshoe dangling silver chain


Hang wears wooden figure necklace on leather cord, coral stone dangling necklace, gold chain bracelet, wooden bangle with gold decorative, gold and crème marble bangle, floral head turban

Hang wears brown leather sandals with floral accents, peacock feather and chain accessory, grouped gold chain

written by KASIA KNAP

The Repetitive Gesture

photo by Kasia Knap, Sorin Popa


reoccupation with unproductive time is a contemporary concern, and one that is brought up more and more in cultural discourse as a recurring thematic. Discussion of this nature generally concedes that unproductive time parallels with repetition, and that this sort of time is wasted time. No traditional books, epic poems, or classic films were ever made on the humdrum of daily living; unproductive time as such is excluded from historical narratives. In the Marxist sense of the term, unproductive processes stand to mean a no manifest product yield. While not historically relevant, these rituals are what substantiate life. Like rituals of the religious variety, daily rituals reveal a certain truth that is beyond the scope of articulation. In mid-October, I ran my first half-marathon. I ran it in 2:06:34, a time I consider impressive, however laughable to any seasoned runner I’m sure. I imagine it certainly would have been a source of amusement to the men I overheard laughing at the 2:15 pacer bunny in the pre-race porta potty exodus. I did not go in with set expectations of a finish time, but I thought it would be slow. Running is one of my daily rituals. While not literally an everyday occurrence, it belongs to the everyday. If I am to look at the activity conceptually as a process art, then the repeat return of this mundane private performance evokes the idea of a weak, interchangeable gesture. My running speaks to your humanity. Sometime during grade school, my mother’s sister and her husband visited from France. An anomaly in my family, my uncle is a marathoner. One morning he went for a jog but was gone for hours. Upon returning, he said he had run to Lake Ontario and back. The nearest lakeshore was in a neighbouring town; he had run over 30 km as if it were commonplace. I wanted to run 30km and consider it commonplace.



All my life I wanted to be a runner. I was good at field events during track and field in elementary school, excelling in long and triple jump, but the longer distance races were something I always had to drop out of not long after gun time. This continued into high school, where I wanted to join the cross-country team. I could run up to an hour on my treadmill, so naively I thought a 6 km trail in the real world would be no problem. It wasn’t. Running on a machine does not equate with actual running. I couldn’t keep up, had agonizing side stiches, and had to admit defeat before the second day of tryouts was over, my shins in pieces. I attributed the lackluster performance to early onset arthritis, weak joints, and bad knees. I thought I didn’t have a runner’s build. None of it was true. Thankfully, this woeful account of failed attempts does not extend to my time as an undergraduate at Western, where no serious thoughts of joining the school’s crosscountry team, which requires a sub-16 minute 4km to be even considered, have been entertained. Siding with the belief that such an endeavor is inherently dangerous, some people found the time I spent training not only useless but counter-productive. This just fed my worries about not being able to finish the race. There was an assumption that long distance running was harmful to the body, but the idea of wasted time was also brought up because racing would not give me anything, as in no awards or prizes. What was the point then? The amount of miles I was logging was nothing exciting, spectacularly ordinary even, but I did end up getting myself injured. When this happened it validated the suspicions of the nonbelievers. Poor form and simple overtraining were to blame, but that’s on me and not on the running. Specifically, it can be attributed to my failure to resist the temptation of setting arbitrary goals too high as a beginner, focusing too much on a product that is felt should manifest after months of work. Nothing shifts your attitude more, however, than sitting out for five weeks with a pulled hip flexor and quadricep. Suffice to say, my efforts are now marked by a conservatism that has proven effective in warding off such unpleasantries. Attracting thousands of participants from around the world, the race was a magnificent event. Even though it took place during a torrential downpour, a palpable excitement hung in the air alongside the dense fog. There was a discernable sense of community present, even outside the parameters of the racing area. You could identify who was awake at such an ungodly hour and where they were going by the crimson race kits slung over shoulders. The gunfire and roar of the crowd signaled the start of the race, one corral emptying out at a time. The landscape of the downtown area was transformed by this multiplicity of moving bodies. The collective swell of energy from the runners did not contain itself within the course but would increasingly spill from the trail out onto the sidelines, venturing even deeper into the city itself; it seemed everybody was interested and engaged in the race. I ran the course with a negative split, using the first 10km as a warm up. The most satisfying moment came at the 16 km mark, when the 2:15 pacer came into visibility amid the sea of runners. I had lost hope early in the race of ever catching up to him, but there he was, with his little group of devotees. Sprinting past them, I don’t think I slowed down until I crossed the finish line 5 km later. It can be argued otherwise, but the reason I think I was able to run 21.1km within a reasonable first time was due to an elimination of a power running, no pain no gain, eyes on the prize mentality. The emphasis shifted from needing to hit a target time per km during training, to just running. Anxieties about not finishing were put on the backburner, and I stopped caring about my finish time. I do not believe there is such a thing as unproductive time. Every action has a reaction; excess time has a purpose. We are driven forward by an ideology of rapid progress and result-orientated processes, an evolution dependent on continuous reiteration. In such a culture, unproductivity is problematic. There is a fear and anxiety surrounding potentially useless projects, or at least projects that do not immediately gratify with something physical to show for your efforts. For this reason, the significance of the journey rather than the destination should be stressed, looking at the bigger picture, process over product. Limiting the notion of productivity to a criteria of tangibility is a profoundly archaic attitude, one which should be replaced by a mindset that focuses on the present and not the hypothetical future.



gallery review: a look at wanda koop’s interface A standard opening at the Micheal Gibson has three things: free alcohol, schmoozing, and artwork. All are guaranteed to create a successful social evening. The most recent opening, featuring artist Wanda Koop, had all three in abundant supply. You were greeted immediately by her works on the wall as the sound of Londoners and art collectors filled your ears. Looking closer at Koop’s work revealed cryptic semi-robotic portraits of ethereal techno landscapes in surreal colour palettes. It was hard to separate the work from the crowd; they played off of each other. The work seemed to reflect the crowd well. The high aesthetic appeal matched the price, which was perfect for the clientele. Michael Gibson exists to display and sell art, and anyone who was unable to purchase any of the pieces quickly felt out of place. When

art is made to be sold, its content also changes, and becomes tamer in its subject matter. Koop’s work was beautiful with large-scale misty cities in muted pastels. The landscape always seemed to be floating in a body of water, signaling the idea of a metropolis existing in a dream. Koop has stated this as her way of coming to grips with technological change poetically. In a hightech society, how does her work fit into the overarching history of art? Perhaps its place is on the sidelines, supporting more daring peers. Ultimately the Michael Gibson Gallery is great to bring a friend to, but doesn’t give the full contemporary art experience. The artwork exhibited and vibe of the events is cool, but detached from the raw feel of an art scene meant for a more youthful audience. Simply put, it might not capture the youth and beauty of our time - but it’s certainly nice to look at.




saying goodbye to apk live On October 15, London music fans were forced to say goodbye to APK Live, a music club dedicated to showcasing diverse and local talents. The closure was due to APK Live’s inability to financially cover the costs of building repairs, ultimately leading to issues with rent and an eviction. In the weeks leading up to and following the clubs final night, APK Live was met with an outpouring of support from fans and past performers. Though touching, these goodbye messages left one questioning how exactly the music club closed when it was such a gem in the local London music scene. The answer to the club’s fate is that not many people make recurring trips to APK Live, nor downtown venues in general. When it comes to music, shopping, and dining, students will often stay on Richmond Row or elect to make the trip to nearby commercial hubs such as Toronto. While the two hour drive to Toronto may seem worth it, the cost of that decision could be a lot more than a gas bill. A lack of support for local stores has a number of implications for London, and subsequently, all of us who live in the city. For instance, if original, unique businesses like APK Live close, London will lose its sense of local character. In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind

businesses and distinctive character not only have an economic advantage but also have a flare of diversity. Such diversity allows these local stores to cater towards the needs of their customers instead of making decisions based on a national sales plan made by men and women in offices miles away. There are not only economic and commercial benefits to supporting local businesses, but visiting such stores also improves the aesthetic of the city. If local storeowners feel more invested in their community through their work, they’ll help sustain vibrant, maintained, walk-able town areas. The run-down or ‘sketchy’ areas of London are in part responses to a lack of concern or responsibility for the surrounding buildings. Above all, these storeowners are entrepreneurs who have taken a chance on London. Their work fuels innovation and prosperity in the community and add character to the city. While most students only plan to stay in London for the duration of their education, that doesn’t mean that they can’t form a bond with the city. So the next time you’re looking for something to do on a weekend, or a new place to eat and shop, take some time to discover the small and valuable places in London. With a little bit of effort, you can find a lot more than trees in this forest city.






















photo by Emily Fister


written by EMILY FISTER ukit Bintang, the entertainment district in Kuala Lumpur, is buzzing with 20-somethings in search of dubstep drops and European beer. At a pirated DVD stand in front of a 7/11, I meet a conceited British architect: 27 years old, self-proclaimed Ryan Gosling, and a surprisingly sobering conversationalist at 2:30 a.m. “Why Malaysia?” he asks, wrinkling his nose. The exchange stops abruptly. “Wait…” British Gosling rubs his forehead, talking more to his past self than to me. “Why the hell am I in Malaysia?” Over the past four months, this has been a common catchphrase – substitute a profanity or two. Why Malaysia? Nestled in between provocatively spiritual Thailand and the sanitary shopping haven of Singapore, Malaysia is the inevitable intersection of Southeast Asia. And it was never on my traveling radar until this summer. Combining my passion for free media, art, and political resistance, I embarked on an internship at the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ). A non-governmental organization (NGO) advocating for freedom of information and expression, CIJ acts as a watchdog for the fourth estate. And the state of the fourth estate in Malaysia… well, it could use the unbiased lens of an NGO.



Naturally, as a summer intern in a foreign country, you undergo relentless identity limbo. Am I tourist? Am I a local? What am I doing here?

The rifts between racial and religious groups in this country are deeply rooted in corrupt politics. The same party has been in power since independence in 1957—the almighty Barisan Nasional (BN) with its overarching coalition, United Malays National Organization (UMNO)—and elections are far from fair. Under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), newspapers are tied to the ruling government and undergo an annual review. If they’ve published critical views on BN and its many corruptive laws, they’re pulled from the shelves. If they praise the party, then they’re the party propaganda mouthpiece. Arriving just after the controversial Bersih 3.0 rally for clean elections, I was thrust into the reality of book bannings, politicized religion, and an Internet Blackout to curtail BN from extending its media hold to online expression.

My purpose here has always been in question, whether by myself or by the locals. Naturally, as a summer intern in a foreign country, you undergo relentless identity limbo. Am I tourist? Am I a local? What am I doing here? Malaysia is both an astounding and frustrating place, and my expat slice of sanity has been to escape into the art scene. After meeting some local art gallery owners at KL Alternative Book Fair, I stumbled across the work of Vincent Leong. His latest exhibition, You Are Here, subverts sociocultural issues in Malaysia. Leong fuses and confuses the famous tradition/modern complex in Asia by channeling the nation’s unique obsession with identity politics. Although a familiar theme drawn out in popular culture, this artist has an authentically Malaysian voice. After studying abroad and returning to Kuala Lumpur, Leong underwent the same physical/emotional disorientation that I’ve just graduated from. Except, instead of experiencing motion sickness, he’s achieved clarity by distancing himself from his native culture. Even though the government promotes a “Malaysia” ideal, Malaysians have a sense of disjointed multiculturalism. The Muslim Malays are given certain social privileges under bumiputra law, while the Chinese and Indian populations are given second and third tier priority. Children still attend separate language schools, political parties are divided along religious lines, and the increasing Islamic conservatism overshadows a unified and multicultural nation. Of course, everyone gets along in the media and is equally Malaysian. Instead of avoiding this contentious topic, Leong marries comedy with controversy in Keeping up with the Abdullahs I and II.


For this portrait, Leong visualizes the social displacement of non-Malay communities. Chinese and Indian families dress in traditional Malay garb, recreating a historical kampung (village) setting, but with a contemporary twist. Although it’s been 55 years since Merdeka (independence day), the struggle to define a multicultural Malaysian identity is still irresolute in 2012. These portraits are aged digitally, expressing a state of stagnation where modernization and democracy can’t fix old tensions. A member of the Chinese Malaysian family in Keeping Up with the Abdullahs 2 holds an iPad, mouth agape as old/new becomes blurred. With this piece, Leong hints at a struggle to define a “Malaysian.” Instead of dwelling on the past, he opens up a critical dialogue for a more harmonious political future. How do the three major races of Malaysia perceive here? Where is Malaysia exactly if its age old racial and religious disputes are still a murmur in markets and malls alike? There’s a sense of incongruous assimilation, unlike the “multicultural mosaic” that I’m used to in Canada. After spending my summer at CIJ, I’ve been exposed to the up-and-down political soap opera that is Malaysia. One moment, you are here. The next, you are no longer in the “here” you once knew. Police and mainstream media frame Bersih 3.0, a peaceful movement in the public interest, as a public disturbance and unpatriotic. Yet, the people I’ve met have mentioned how this rally has been the one time they’ve truly felt Malaysian – no party politics, no racial rigidity. This spin cycle is the reality of the unstable, ever-changing Malaysian media landscape. Despite the fact that the country is a democracy, there are inherent flaws and disparities in the system. A few weeks after my dizzying encounter with British Gosling, and with Leong’s exhibition on my local/ tourist mind, I gawk at shoppers in a high-end mall. For the first time, I’m seeing Kuala Lumpur as an artist. A Chinese couple dons Abercrombie (him) & Fitch (her). To their left, a European pair passes by in matching, paisley patterned Aladdin pants. Who is who and where exactly do they think they are? Much like Leong, I can visualize a socio-cultural disconnect. Maybe, I realize in this bizarre exchange of fashion identities, we’re all just trying on costumes – uncomfortable in our native culture with its political quirks and cracks. Fashion can transform identities, cloak anxiety, and visualize hope. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this trip, it’s that we’re all a little insecure in our surroundings. When you feel displaced—whether aesthetically or physically, whether in your hometown or in a foreign country—it can help you better understand your purpose here. Malaysia might not have been on my travel horizons, and Malaysians may still not know what here means to them, but it’s provided me with enough artistic perspective to see the importance of being here and taking these musings back to there: Canada. This summer, despite the disorientation, I’ve embraced the good, the bad, the old, and the new… and will arrive home with an unexpected perspective. Here’s to the relentless social tensions, brave movements of activism and art, and the unfaltering beauty that will bring me back to Malaysia.


Jacqueline wears a black leather jacket, fur scarf, silver sparkle skirt, leather ankle boot with wedge heel, stylist’s own; Robin wears a black turtle neck, black and grey wool jacket, grey flannel pants, black leather dress shoes, stylist’s own




Jacqueline wears a knitted grey dress by paperpeopleclothing.com from MESH ($89); antique jeweled necklace, fur French hat, stylist’s own.


Jacqueline wears a lace mini dress, fur coat, stylist’s own; knit bag from Lovesick ($25)






Jacqueline wears a fur coat from Lovesick ($120); cotton spandex jersey halter leotard, black pants, leopard heel ankle boots, body necklace, stylist’s own.



Robin wears a checkered black and white jacket, black and white stripe collared mock neck, black pullover, black and white patterned button up, black turtleneck, black jeans, black lace up leather boots, stylist’s own.







Robin wears a checkered black and white jacket, black and white stripe collared mock neck, black pullover, black and white patterned button up, black turtleneck, stylist’s own.


Jacqueline wears a cotton cape in melbury purple, leather pants, beaded clutch, gold cuff bracelet, leather ankle boot with wedge heel, stylist’s own.



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Jacqueline wears a brown cotton cape “I made this just for you” by Sarah Duke from MESH ($40); cotton spandex jersey halter leotard, leather pants, beaded clutch, gold cuff bracelet, stylist’s own.



Jacqueline wears a lace mini dress, fur vest, high black pumps, gold bangles, stylist’s own; knit bag from Lovesick ($25); Robin wears knit turtleneck, black leather jacket, grey flannel pants, brown dress shoes, stylist’s own.







Jacqueline wears a dress in burnt amber with black fur sleeves “I made this just for you” by Sarah Duke from MESH ($30); Fur hooded black jacket, gold woven necklace, gladiator cuff bracelet, fur evening purse, leather heeled ankle boot, stylist’s own.



Jacqueline wears a brown cotton cape “I made this just for you” by Sarah Duke from MESH ($40); cotton spandex jersey halter leotard, leather pants, stylist’s own; Robin wears a brown and black jersey jacket, black oxford shirt, black cotton sweater, dark black jeans, buckled leather boot, black ball cap, stylist’s own.


The Paradox of Choice: Can I have a double cheeseburger, but hold the mustard, extra pickle, no salt, half onions, and extra sauce? written by SHAISTA KITABI

Wake up. The alarm clock reads 8 a.m. First things first. Coffee. You open the cupboard to find…you’re all out. Tea it is. Flipping through the cupboard, there’s camomile, chai, acai berry, Moroccan mint, pear infused hibiscus, green tea, black tea, white tea—forget it. You can just pick up Tim Horton’s on the way, or Starbucks, or actually stop by that little diner down the street. “Can I help you with anything” the waitress asks. “Can I get a menu?” you reply. “Alright, and just so you know, the special for today is French toast with eggs and your choice of side: fries, home fries, hash browns, fresh fruit, toast, English muffin, regular muffin, croissant, banana bread, mashed potatoes or a salad.” “OK, but could I replace the French toast with pancakes?” “Absolutely. The meal comes with four pieces of French toast, so you can mix and match. Now how would you like your eggs? We can have it done sunny side up, scrambled, easy over, omelette, hard boiled, soft boiled, or poached.” “I uh—” “And if you want toast with that, unfortunately, we’ve run out of white bread, but we still have honey oat, dark rye, light rye, whole wheat, whole grain, multi grain” “Well I—” “Oh and what would you like to drink?” Sound familiar? Going to a restaurant or, in this case, simply waking up in the morning can be a daunting experience. There are so many choices to make, so many different outcomes to consider. Today, we probably have more choices available to us than in any previous generation; and while choice translates to freedom, excessive or unlimited choice can be quite overwhelming. This is especially true in what blogger Grace Boyle calls the “I Can Do Anything” syndrome, a phase Generation Y is known for. That isn’t to say aspiring to do anything and everything is a bad thing; it just alludes to the fact that today we have the options to do anything.


Almost all areas of our lives involve choice and decision, and there is no argument that choices make our quality of life better. How could it not? However, in his book “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less,” psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that too much choice may not be a good thing. From the very moment we are able to distinguish between “yes” and “no” as children, we begin to make choices. Granted, even though as little kids we couldn’t complain about having one diaper brand over another, if we cried enough over one option, our parents were sure to take the hint. This is especially true in the West and in developed countries where the commoditization and economic wealth of the country allows for such choosiness. Some of our biggest decisions are, picking the right university or college, the right major and then the right job, is a daunting task. While the array of options gives us the opportunity to choose whatever we want, Schwartz explains that selecting something that doesn’t give us the results we want means we only have ourselves to blame. However, taking responsibility for our actions is not something new. Most of us have been taught to think for ourselves and accept the consequences that come with those decisions. So this isn’t a strong enough reason to narrow our choices down. Instead, what is more troubling is Schwartz’s “what if…” theory. Asking “what if,” is something everyone has faced when making a decision. With so many different paths open to you, it’s only natural to question whether the decision you made is the best one. But does questioning “what if” mean you can’t ever be happy with the choice you have made? Schwartz certainly thinks so. Consider how many people change their majors during their time at university. According to Dr. Fritz Grupe, founder of MyMajors.com, about 50 percent of students change their majors, some even two to three times before they graduate. After graduating, many students are still trying to decide what they want to be when they “grow up” simply because the options are limitless. So is Schwartz right? Will simply having fewer options, and consequently, lower expectations make us happier? All I know is, if when I order my grande hot decaf triple five-pump vanilla nonfat no foam whipped cream extra hot extra caramel upside down caramel macchiato, they run out of skim milk again, I’ll be pissed.


VOLTA: [vohl-tuh, vol-; It. vawl-tah] In literature, the volta, also referred to as the turn, is the shift or point of dramatic change.

Profile for VOLTA Magazine

Volta Magazine F/W '12  

Fashion and culture student publication of UWO, London, ON

Volta Magazine F/W '12  

Fashion and culture student publication of UWO, London, ON

Profile for voltamag