Weekly Link Roundup

+ The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Returns. But Not as You Knew It. (The New York Times): “… there was no runway … It’s not enough, in the end, for a brand to simply say it stands for “women.” It has to offer up a coherent point of view on women and what it thinks women need. Especially if what it makes is underwear, that most intimate of garments. Especially if it has the sort of baggage Victoria’s Secret is toting.”

+ The Victoria’s Secret Show Could’ve Been an Email (The Cut): “I kept waiting with bated breath for the fashion icons in attendance to appear onstage, strut down the stairs, pose … or do anything at all. Alas, they did not. Despite being in the building, in costume, and in character, the Victoria’s Secret dolls gave us nothing. Instead, the night ended with short performances from Doechii and Goyo. I loved both, don’t get me wrong, but it was a bit disappointing considering the incredible production value of past Victoria’s Secret fashion shows. All in all, the event missed the mark.”

+ The Candy Sellers (Curbed): “The youngest working children in the Vega family, about half a dozen cousins between 4 and 14 years old, stay on one of the platforms all day, supervised by an adult … Month after month, the children work throughout the weekday. Even if their parents might want to put them in school, they know a simple truth: Children sell more … most of the candy sellers are Kichwa-speaking Indigenous people from Ecuador’s rural central highlands. They are part of the largest wave of Ecuadoran migration to the U.S. since the turn of the century: In January, for the first time, Ecuadorans were more common than any other nationality of migrants detained by Mexican authorities. Whole families are fleeing a country mired in a socioeconomic crisis, driven by radical cuts to public spending and an overwhelmed health-care system still recovering from the pandemic. More than a quarter of the population lives in poverty, and in many regions gangs and drug cartels have fueled a surge in violence; on August 9, a presidential candidate was killed on the campaign trail in Quito. Some 12,000 encounters with Ecuadoran migrants were reported by the U.S. along the southern border in November 2022 alone, a nearly 20-fold increase over the year before … In New York, asylum seekers have struggled to find space in the city’s shelter system, which currently houses 57,000 undocumented new arrivals, outnumbering the homeless population for the first time. Earlier this month, hundreds of migrants had to sleep on the street when the city couldn’t find beds for them.”

+ (From 2010) “I Was a Starter Wife”: Inside America’s Messiest Divorce (Marie Claire): “I barely recognized myself. I had turned into a trophy wife — and I sucked at it. I wasn’t detail-oriented enough to maintain a perfect house or be a perfect hostess. I could no longer hide my boredom when the men talked and the women smiled and listened. I wasn’t interested in Botox or makeup or reducing the appearance of the scars from my C-sections. And no matter how many highlights I got, Elon pushed me to be blonder. ‘Go platinum,’ he kept saying, and I kept refusing … I realized the kind of social world I’d been living in: The females who populated it were the young wives and girlfriends of wealthy men, or the personal assistants who catered to them. Women disappeared after some point in their 30s, and any female ambition other than looking beautiful, shopping, and overseeing the domestic realm became an inconvenience. Being in that audience, watching that staged reading, I felt myself reclaim the freedom to write my own life.”

+ A Fashion ‘Prodigy’ Makes a Big Debut. No Pressure. (The New York Times): “Mr. Do is known for dramatic, elegant silhouettes: billowing shirtdresses and oversize blazers and coats with exposed backs, often in neutral or muted colors, as if designed under the assumption that a bold shape can outshout a bold color on any day. Despite the enthusiasm for the brand among young fashion people, these are not clothes for cool kids. Peter Do offers a grown-up, intellectual glamour, made to last forever … There was no color in Peter Do’s fall 2023 collection. But at Helmut Lang, he has embraced color — color-blocking in particular, in a way that seems reminiscent of Phoebe Philo’s Céline, where Mr. Do worked as an assistant designer.”

+ Gen Z Loves Clothing Hauls and Hates Landfills. Enter the Style Bundle. (The Washington Post): “Amid a trend cycle in hyperdrive thanks to TikTok, these online stylists have found a niche selling secondhand clothes that give eco-conscious Gen Z customers the thrill of a shopping spree — without the guilt of a Zara haul. They promise to pluck castoffs with cachet from the bargain bin — and pair them with other pieces to yield an Insta-worthy ensemble. And since they’re shopping at the Salvation Army — not Bergdorf Goodman — you don’t have to be Sofia Richie or Bella Hadid to enlist their relatively affordable services. As such, they’re democratizing a domain once reserved for the rich.”

+ Olivia Rodrigo, Pop’s Brightest New Hope, Just May Be a Rock Star (The New York Times): “As streaming pushed hip-hop, pop and global sounds to new heights, the most innovative and exciting rock has been bubbling beneath the surface, driven largely by young women. When Rodrigo bounded onstage on tour in a pleated plaid skirt and arm warmers, she drew on a lineage from riot grrrl to early 2000s pop-punk to acts like Soccer Mommy and boygenius that have been expanding rock’s emotional palette. Those contemporaries have built cult audiences on the back of growing indie success, but Rodrigo’s stakes are higher: She’s Trojan-horsing in rock’s musical brashness and emotional spikiness under the cover of pop stardom.”

+ Coach’s 10-Year Quest to Be More Than a Handbag Brand (The Business of Fashion): “Apparel is Coach’s smallest category, at 11 percent of total revenue (handbags are about half), and even after eight years of regular showings at New York Fashion Week, many customers — and even fashion insiders — could be forgiven for overlooking that Coach sells clothes at all … if overall revenue is $6.7 billion, then sales in the ‘lifestyle’ category, which includes apparel, should have totalled about $737 million last year.”

+ After Two Dates, Her Designer Shoes Went Missing (The New York Times): “The story does seem to have all of the elements of a viral hit: two attractive compelling characters; a deliciously twisted, low-stakes scam; a potential cheating scandal; a satisfying ending (the victim of the story got her shoes back) that leaves room for yet more intrigue (what does the girlfriend think of all this?).”

+ What Happened to Wirecutter? (The Atlantic): “In 2016, the site sold to the Times, as a service-y complement to the newspaper’s own journalism. It didn’t take long for Wirecutter staffers to realize that the Times’ ambitions for the site far exceeded Wirecutter’s own expectations of moderate, steady growth … the Times’ leadership wanted the site to double the amount of content it produced in order to juice revenue. Those employees said Wirecutter’s top editors argued that the site’s business would not scale directly, because a minority of articles, many of them for big-ticket items such as appliances, generated the bulk of the company’s revenues. But the mandate remained: Wirecutter would need to double its staff and double its output … Times management also adjusted the freelance pay structure from an hourly rate to a flat fee per article, which two former staffers argue likely contributed to less time spent on researching and writing product recommendations. To hear former staffers tell it, Wirecutter’s founding spirit was diluted over time as a result of the Times’ effort to chase scale: Doubling the site’s staff and content goals so quickly naturally led to a quality drop, they reasoned. But the people I spoke with were hesitant to pin the blame solely on the acquisition. That’s because although Wirecutter changed, everything else did too: The internet of 2023 is not the internet of 2011, nor are the products, nor are the consumers.”

+ What Happens to All the Stuff We Return? (The New Yorker): “The annual retail value of returned goods in the U.S. is said to be approaching a trillion dollars. Most online shoppers assume that items they return go back into regular inventory, to be sold again at full price. That rarely happens … A century ago, the average return rate at Penney’s was probably something like two per cent; before Internet shopping truly took hold, retail returns had risen to more like eight or ten per cent. Returns to online retailers now average close to twenty per cent, and returns of apparel are often double that. Among the many reasons: products often look nothing like their online images—such as a crocheted bikini top that was barely big enough for the purchaser’s cat—and colors and fabrics appear different on different screens … Returns are expensive for sellers, since shipping alone often costs more than the items can be resold for … Despite the cost, retailers worry that discouraging returns discourages buying in the first place, driving revenues down. Easy returns are like free shipping: they can be a dealmaker or a deal-breaker when a consumer is deciding where to shop, even though in both cases the cost is ultimately borne by the consumer … For a liquidator, turning a profit depends on having the ability to quickly determine whether an item can be sold again at a reasonable price, and, if so, whether it requires human attention first. Liquidity Services and companies like it use automated and semiautomated routines to sort returned items, repair what can easily be repaired, wipe information from electronic devices, and funnel salable goods to likely customers.”

+ How America Got Mean (The Atlantic): “… emphasizing moral formation meant focusing on an important question—what is life for?—and teaching people how to bear up under inevitable difficulties. A culture invested in shaping character helped make people resilient by giving them ideals to cling to when times got hard … Expecting people to build a satisfying moral and spiritual life on their own by looking within themselves is asking too much. A culture that leaves people morally naked and alone leaves them without the skills to be decent to one another. Social trust falls partly because more people are untrustworthy. That creates crowds of what psychologists call ‘vulnerable narcissists.’ We all know grandiose narcissists—people who revere themselves as the center of the universe. Vulnerable narcissists are the more common figures in our day—people who are also addicted to thinking about themselves, but who often feel anxious, insecure, avoidant. Intensely sensitive to rejection, they scan for hints of disrespect. Their self-esteem is wildly in flux. Their uncertainty about their inner worth triggers cycles of distrust, shame, and hostility … Sadness, loneliness, and self-harm turn into bitterness. Social pain is ultimately a response to a sense of rejection—of being invisible, unheard, disrespected, victimized. When people feel that their identity is unrecognized, the experience registers as an injustice—because it is. People who have been treated unjustly often lash out and seek ways to humiliate those who they believe have humiliated them.”

+ What Really Happens to the Clothes You Donate (GQ): “… only between 10 and 30 percent of second-hand donations to charity shops are actually resold in store. The rest disappears into a machine you don’t see: a vast sorting apparatus in which donated goods are graded and then resold on to commercial partners, often for export to the Global South … around 62 million tons of clothing is manufactured worldwide every year, amounting to somewhere between 80 and 150 billion garments to clothe 8 billion people … Every week, 15 million garments move through Kantamanto, where an estimated 30,000 traders are crammed into just seven claustrophobic acres. The majority arrives, via container ship, having been donated to charities in Europe and North America. From here, the clothes will spread across Ghana and across borders, into Côte D’Ivoire, Togo, Niger, Benin and beyond. The second-hand trade in Ghana and across West Africa exploded in the 1980s and ’90s as Western charities flooded Africa with clothing, intended both as fundraising and aid … But the donations, however well intended, have done as much harm as good. Unable to compete with the flood of cheap goods into Africa, local textile manufacturing sectors collapsed. Between 1975 and 2000, the number of people working in the textile trade in Ghana fell by 75 per cent. Businesses simply couldn’t compete on price with a product people were throwing away … as much as 40 per cent of the clothing arriving at Kantamanto immediately becomes waste.”

+ The Romance Scammer on My Sofa (Atavist): “Nigeria has an estimated 53.4 percent unemployment rate among 15-to-34-year-olds, and an average monthly income on par with what it was in 1980 … The playbook for romance scamming starts with creating, buying, or hacking a social media account to pretend to be another person, usually a white, attractive American … Biggy told me that it’s better if a fake account has existed for a while, because that helps it appear legitimate. When he created Natasha Bridges’s profile, he joined lots of American Facebook groups, prompting members to send Natasha friend requests, which in turn made it seem like she had a network. Then he left the account alone for two years before he started ‘bombing,’ slang for sending messages to hundreds of strangers.”

♥ Recently purchased: Lauren Ralph Lauren Long Down Puffer Vest, Maeve Tie-Neck Mini Dress, Tuckernuck Croissant Tweed Jackie Dress, ETCYY Sweater Set, J.Crew Frances Lady Jacket in Maritime Tweed, Free People Beloved Waffle Knit Ankle Socks, Ann Taylor Soft Frame Clutch, Alice + Olivia Adara Bustier Dress, and Free-est Freya Short Sleeve Sweater & Pull-On Pants Set.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Hi, I am Elle!

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