Weekly Link Roundup

J.Crew Made-in-Spain Espadrille Flats in Linen (extra 60% off in all colorways)

+ Hundreds of new styles have been added to the J.Crew sale section, and are an extra 60-70% off with code SHOPSALE. Some picks:

+ The Revenge of Maximalism (The New York Times): “The fabrication of the flowers is not, as it happens, a minor detail in explaining part of the appeal of the alternate muchness, or the return to muchness, or whatever you want to call it … In a time of anxiety over artificial intelligence, that craftiness is key; it emphasizes the humanity and kookiness of creation. The weird, intuitive leaps and dreams that currently distinguish, or at least we hope distinguish, the man-made from the machine.”

+ Costco Clothing Is Cheap. WSJ Readers Love It. But Is It Actually Good Value? (The Wall Street Journal): “Lots of regular guys gush about clothes from Costco, and especially its private label Kirkland Signature, with the zeal fashionistas save for Prada … they claim Kirkland delivers the ultimate value-for-money clothing, a notable badge of honor during a cost-of-living crunch.”

+ Your Sweaters Are Garbage (The Atlantic): “Good sweaters, gloves, beanies, and scarves are all but gone from mass-market retailers. The options that have replaced them lose their fluff faster, feel fake, and either keep their wearers too hot or let the winter wind whip right through them. Sometimes they even smell like plastic … a pound of sheep’s wool as a raw material might cost from $1.50 to $2. A pound of cashmere might cost anywhere from $10 to $15. A pound of acrylic, meanwhile, can be had for less than $1.”

+ Unpacking Birkenstock’s Underwhelming Public Debut (The Business of Fashion): “Birkenstock itself is widely seen as a strong brand on a hot streak, with rising sales boosted by luxury collaborations, the post-pandemic trend toward comfort-meets-fashion and even a cameo in the Barbie movie. But that wasn’t enough to overcome broader uncertainties around the health of the global economy, and the ability for wealthy consumers in the US and other big markets to keep splurging on pricey sandals … The unenthusiastic reception has less to do with any individual company and more signals unease toward retail as a whole, analysts say. Consumer spending in the US has stagnated in recent months, and a number of mass brands have reported cooling sales.”

+ Wearables, Redefined (The New York Times): “… the Ai Pin — a stand-alone smart assistant that attaches to clothing via a magnet and so can be worn pretty much wherever you want it … could be summed up as ’employee ID badge chic’ (the kind employees never actually want to wear) though without a picture … Another thought it resembled a glucose monitor for diabetics … the pin didn’t add any sort of design element to the clothes.”

+Some The RealReal finds from this week:

+ Should You Delete Your Kid’s TikTok This Week? (The Atlantic): “Some schools in Israel and the United States have asked that parents preemptively delete social-media apps from their children’s devices in order to protect them from the possibility of clips in which hostages beg for their lives … Even if children can avoid videos of violence, the realities those videos represent still exist.”

+ These Women Tried to Warn Us About AI (Rolling Stone): “Many leaders at these firms … claim that elements of their AI systems are unknowable Chowdhury firmly believes this is bullshit. When codes can be picked apart and analyzed by outsiders, the mystery disappears. AIs no longer seem like omniscient beings primed to take over the world; they look more like computers being fed information by humans. And they can be stress-tested and analyzed for biases. LLMs? Once you look closer, it’s obvious they’re not some machine version of the human brain — they’re a sophisticated application of predictive text.”

+ Retailers Appear To Be Facing a Self-Checkout Reckoning (Business Insider): “Industry estimates suggest inventory losses can rise by 31% to 60% — or more — depending on the number of self-checkout stations used in a store.”

+ This Is Not a Taylor Swift Profile (The New York Times): “She has become one of a new breed of postmedia celebrities who have set new rules of engagement with both the media and the fans. Technology has risen to meet these new rules, and perhaps there really is nothing I can offer her, that we the media can offer her, that would help her sell more albums or become better known or more successful or more beloved than she already is. Witness this historic cultural event: this no-signs-of-stopping, local-economy-upending tour. Eras is its own news cycle, its own tabloid, its own Tumblr, its own news release and, as we would find out in a few weeks, its own movie set.”

+ Yellowface followed me around the web for months, from Amazon to Goodreads to fashion blogs I read. I capitulated last week after getting an offline recommendation and… finished it in one-sitting!

In Yellowface, two aspiring writers–Athena “a Chinese Anne Hathaway” Liu and June “I don’t know what a soup dumpling is, but it sounds gross” Hayward–who met as undergrads at Yale but who found vastly different levels of professional success, were out celebrating Athena’s Netflix deal one night, when things took a dark turn with Athena dying in a freak accident. June proceeded to steal Athena’s freshly-completed secret manuscript that’s “better than anything [June] could write, perhaps in this lifetime,” then submitted it for publication as her own. Yellowface, beyond satirizing the commercial publishing industry that its author knows well, also asks (but only explores superficially) the question of who’s allowed to tell the stories of suffering.

The book’s intensity was helped by Kuang’s choice to write in the first-person voice of June who, while severely lacking in depth, nuance, and awareness, narrated in increasing desperation as paranoia set in; she also held a mirror to modern-day fame culture, asking readers how far they were willing to go to secure validation and meaning. But I can’t understate how annoyed I was by June, to the book’s credit and detriment. I had to turn to the audiobook, after starting in Kindle, to get me across the finish line because the only way I could tolerate June’s rants was to rest in Balasana.

+ Airbnb Really Is Different Now (The Atlantic): “Something feels a bit off with Airbnb these days. Those searching for a quaint and homey place to stay now often have to brave high prices, inconsistent fees, laborious checkout demands, and untrustworthy photos and descriptions … larger companies or wealthy individuals with 21 or more properties now make up 30 percent of active listings … Airbnbs are now functionally more similar to hotels, but they are not subject to the same licensing and legal requirements that dictate everything from cleanliness to coffee machines.”

+ Sale styles are an extra 40% off at Anthropologie; no code needed, discount taken in cart. My picks:

+ Why Retailers Still Can’t Solve Their Hiring Problem (The Business of Fashion): “The quit rate for retail and hospitality jobs in 2022 was more than 70 percent higher than the US average … In response, many retailers vowed to revamp their sales associate roles. Some are reframing the gig, giving it a more attractive label … while others are offering opportunities to learn new skills and education subsidies. Wages are rising. But in many cases, the jobs failed to evolve enough, and the pay hasn’t increased enough relative to other lines of work to bring in new applicants. Despite their rhetoric, many retailers haven’t put the adequate investment into truly making the job more desirable; others are taking a one-size-fits-all approach that isn’t meeting the needs of their diverse workforce. And all retailers must contend with the poor reputation of in-store sales work, which isn’t likely to change overnight.”

+ What Power Dressing Means Now, According to Martha Stewart and Other Influential Women (The Wall Street Journal): “… the cliché ’80s designer power suit was never a big part of the workplace status quo … The woman who buys Saint Laurent’s extreme fall styles might work in the C-suite, but she’s probably wearing those clothes to a party.”

+ Why Victoria’s Secret Is Bringing Sexy Back (The Business of Fashion): “… the brand is projecting revenue of $6.2 billion this fiscal year, down about 5 percent from the previous year and well below the $7.4 billion from 2018 … The prime objective: improve profitability and cross back over $7 billion in annual sales. That means investing in new categories … updating its nearly 1,400 Victoria’s Secret and Pink stores and opening 400 new locations outside North America. Costs will also be cut and … fewer risks taken when it comes to the brand’s image. … For Victoria’s Secret, this means returning to swimwear and activewear, two categories that the retailer exited in recent years. At one point, activewear was a $500 million business for the company … with 16 percent share of the sports bra market. Today, that segment is far smaller and only commands 4 percent share … The retailer’s ‘store of the future’ features bright but warm lighting, soft decor, a wider entryway and an overall welcoming atmosphere.”

+ Recently purchased: J.Crew Collection Cropped Lady Jacket in Italian Wool-Blend Bouclé, ANKICK Oversized Sweatshirt Dress (I also ordered one sold by SAFRISIOR to compare), Ann Taylor Floral Puff Sleeve Popover, By Anthropologie Seamless Sweetheart Bra Top, Free People Hooked On You Pleated Lace Crop Shirt, Kamik Miranda Rain Boots, House of CB Caprice Long Sleeve Knit Dress, and Reformation Iben Dress.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Hi, I am Elle!

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