This is Trying My Vest. We’re new. We like talking about good design, and here, good design means beautiful, robust, ethical, and useful. We write about lots of physical objects, but especially clothes. We contemplate how throw-away culture came to be, and how modern consumers are more conscious of not just the items they buy, but where those items come from and what impact they have. Hence the name–a play on “trying my best”. We don’t actually own many vests, but we hope you get the idea.
A Letter From the Editor
Like many people, I started paying closer attention to myself–my appearance, personal hygiene, health and wellness, my belongings–during college. For me, that was a time when I started to be fully in control of myself and my choices, and develop a personal way of living that’s mostly independent from other people, such as family.
In starting to learn more about myself–like what clothes fit me best, or what types of things I liked–I also started to realize that there weren’t many fashion or skin care bloggers who looked like me, were shaped like me, or had a similar background to mine. But I knew I was similar in many ways to people I knew in real life–my body shape is similar to other black or African or just curvier women, and while I’m relatively light, I still have a deeper complexion than most internet beauty gurus. This is particularly relevant, in a very practical way, now that consumers buy a lot of apparel or beauty products online. I found that I would search and search for reviews of clothes I wanted from people that had a similar weight and height to me, or a similar shape, and it was difficult to find that. Brands are getting better at having more size-inclusive models partly for this practical reason, but that’s still far from commonplace. Furthermore, in a lot of my favorite lifestyle editorials–The Cut and The Strategist for example–there is a noticeable dearth of people of color, which means in these publications that curate and tastemake for the public, there’s a very singular, “typical” voice that’s not really representative of their target audience in the United States.
This really did create a lot of cultural homogeneity–why does everyone know about “hygge” from Denmark, but not about Design Indaba in South Africa, for example, or how come there are so few people talking about Ikea’s interesting new product line from African designers. This isn’t just about yelling for inclusivity–isn’t it also simply boring when everyone is wearing the same coat or buying the same style of furniture? Maybe more people with different backgrounds being vocal in the design space will stop all our coffee shops from looking exactly the same.
I started to increasingly feel that I should do my part; I should try to change these design narratives, even in a small way with a small blog.
Additionally, around the same time I started to realize how important my choices as an individual consumer were. The effects of climate change get worse and worse each day, and I became aware of all the issues with fast fashion and other industries with “dirty supply chains”. I embraced minimalism as a life philosophy; I started to be a lot more intentional about what I bought, from clothes to cleaning products, and these were yet more spaces where I found few voices, faces, or bodies like mine.
Lastly, my day job is as a mechanical engineer–a quality that makes me quite different in another way from a lot of the content creators you find on the internet. I think that perspective gives my approach to design and my choices in products a level of practicality that sometimes gets lost in the branding race to attract consumers. So that’s why I chose these pillars of what good design means to me:
- Beautiful–an albeit subjective quality, but maybe my background gives me a unique and different perspective on what is beautiful that I can offer
- Robust–this is not only practical, but also sustainable, allowing us to have just one thing longer and reduce resources needed to make, package, and ship even more items,
- Ethical–toward the environment, toward the often disadvantaged people and nations that are part of our global consumer supply chains, and finally,
- Useful–the practical engineer speaking in me, I feel aesthetics needs to be balanced, that form should follow function, and that I should pare my belongings down to what is most versatile and useful in my life
I also chose blogging as the platform for this project in a time when visual content (Youtube, Instagram) and short-form seems to be taking the lead. This is because that’s how I express myself best, and my own aforementioned favorite publications have longer written pieces too.
I don’t know if there are still people out there who are looking for a blog like this one, or as much written and text-forward content, but I thought this would be both a fun and important project and I might as well try my best–and that’s exactly what I’m doing, with Trying My Vest.
Because I’m small and new, I deeply appreciate each and every reader–feel free to contact me any time about any subject, and I’ll respond as fast as I can.
Owner and Operator
I’m Selam, and I’m a Mechanical Engineering graduate from MIT. I currently work in robotics by day and I’m an aspiring writer at night.
Other Blogs: On medium.com/@selamjie, I write reflections on global politics, the mixed-race experience, and other subjects. On MIT Admissions, I was paid to write about MIT student life.
Contact: Feel free to reach out to me on the contact page!