We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you”? These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”
Writer, photographer and all-around Instagram crush Orion Carloto‘s second book, “Film For Her,” couldn’t have arrived at a better time. In the followup to her first collection of poetry, Carloto celebrates the beauty of the “mundane,” the “in between” and “the most ordinary place,” while luxuriating in the comfort of fond memories and nostalgia. The sentiments — as expressed through poetry, short essays and the author’s own dreamy photography — hit hard right now, as we toil through the banality of our own pandemic time loop existences.
Carloto applies the same approach to her day-to-day personal style, which has helped garner her 730K followers on Instagram and partnerships with prestigious brands, including Burberry, Cartier, Chloé, Givenchy, Chanel Beauty, Gucci Beauty and Savage X Fenty.
“I’ve always been drawn to more classic pieces,” says Carloto, over Zoom, while clad in a thrifted sweater and soda can tab-shaped earrings, which peek out from her enviable pandemic curtain bangs and undone updo. “Obviously, I do love over-the-top. I do love avant-garde. That’s a very special form of fashion I can always appreciate. But obviously, it’s not logical to carry that into my everyday wear.”
Growing up in small town Georgia, Carloto began documenting her early fashion exploration on Tumblr. After trying out New York and now settling in Los Angeles, the 24-year-old has eased into her cool, easy, yet playful style, which runs from arty-sporty to oversized suiting to vintage costume dress-up to just a pair of strappy sandals — and only just. And maybe you can take a girl out of Georgia, but you can’t take the Georgia out of the girl — the thrifting skills Carloto learned back home, at least, which she’ll discuss below.
Last year, for ultimate inspiration to finish writing “Film For Her,” Carloto spent a month in Paris. (Comme c’est romantique, right?) But unlike a certain social media marketing exec from Chicago, she embraced the local scene, staying in the cultural and historic center of the 9th Arrondissement (or “Opéra”) and dressing the part of a Parisian écrivaine at her local, Café du Mogador.
“I would always go to write at this coffee shop right across from my Airbnb and I remember I’d put on a black turtleneck and be like, ‘Yeah, I’m a poet. This is it,'” she says, with a smile. “I have the notebook. I have a Hemingway book next to me. No one can say I’m not a poet right now.”
Carloto’s understated, Parisian-chic writing uniform also embodies the main messaging of her new book: “Obviously, there’s that pressure to want to fit in and look Parisian so nobody knows you’re that one American. So I pretty much just stayed to the typical black turtleneck, a pair of jeans and this oversize Acne coat that I wore basically every day.”
Below, Carloto shares how her early self-expression through fashion wasn’t always appreciated by her peers, where she likes to thrift for “very, very cheap” designer finds and what brand she finding inspiration in right now — but which she previously considered “frat boy Georgia.”
“Gosh, I remember in high school, I wore a pair of Doc Martens and these denim overalls to school. This girl, whom I was really close friends with at the time, looked at me up and down — this is peak when I started following my own fashion trends and not really wearing what everyone else was wearing to fit in — was like, ‘I remember when you used to dress cute.’ I was like, ‘Gawd.’ It was so insulting, and it simply was because I wasn’t wearing Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister anymore and I had a Tumblr account. I was into all of these alt-trends that hadn’t really hit small town Georgia yet, experimenting with that. Half of it was thrifted. That’s the best thing about it: They were off-brand Doc Martens. It was something I just found at a thrift store. I was definitely not a hit for that moment, but I’m glad I kept true to myself and forgot about that comment.
“At this certain point, I just knew that everything that I was wearing was to fit in at my school. It really was one of those things where you come back one summer like a whole new girl with like a whole different wardrobe. I discovered the love I had for thrifting. We had two Goodwills in my hometown. I would legitimately skip school just to go thrifting. It wasn’t good. I don’t condone that, but I did that many times.
“I still thrift. Goodwill is great, but I also source things online and find vintage designer for very, very cheap. My three favorites are Vestiaire Collective, Depop and Thredup. I bought a pair of plain brown Prada trousers for 50 bucks the other day on Thredup. I also got this really cool pair of platform Jil Sander sandals from Depop. I can’t believe I’m supporting a wedge right now because I used to hate on a wedge so much. But they’re just the right wedge with just the right patent leather. I think I paid under $100 for them. Oh my gosh, and this Burberry skirt — it’s the classic Burberry pattern but more of a pastel blue and a very light brown. I’m typically not used to adding shades of blue in my wardrobe, but it’s muted enough for it to make a lot of sense in everything else that I wear.
“There is evolution in my taste, but I will say throughout all of that, for the most part, I’ve kept true to having a similar color scheme. Just because, especially, as a teenager, I couldn’t afford to buy clothes all the time. So I found buying a similar color palette would guarantee me many different looks than I could ever possibly imagine. I’ve always just been drawn to neutrals: the blacks, the browns, the grays, the creams and whites. Now I’ve added in a muted blue. I have this — I’m looking at it right now, I keep looking over at it — vintage Ralph Lauren men’s button-up that I just throw on over any white T-shirt. I love love love.
“This sweater I’m wearing now, I thrifted. It’s Russell Athletic. I’m into kind of a sporty vibe lately, but what’s so great is you can dress it up or dress it down. Same with, I recently bought this oversized mix between a blazer and some sort of flannel situation. Those are two things that I’ve been wearing non-stop lately, especially this sweater I haven’t taken off. It’s cold in L.A. And denim. Denim is always great because you can get that tailored and it looks like a brand new pair of perfectly fitted Levi’s.
“Growing up in the age of the internet was a beautiful thing to source so much inspiration. But as a kid, I always loved playing dress up, and my mom always has had a deep appreciation for fashion, as well, which is really where it all started. And, of course, I have older sisters who were always into trends before I even knew that things could be trendy. As a young teenager, [I found inspiration in magazines] in the Teen Bop world. I’ve always loved Mary Kate and Ashley [Olsen], which is so fun because now I still do, everything they’re doing with The Row; they’ve been some form of fashion icon for quite some time.
“But the real fashion magazine that I got into when I was younger was Kinfolk. I don’t know if you’d necessarily consider that fashion, but the photography in it and what the models were wearing… I was like, ‘This is what I want. This is really cool.’ It was really the only thing that I knew and it also tied hand-in-hand with this admiration for photography. Because a lot of the photos in there, I remember I would try to create or emulate in my own way.
“Lately, my influences for fashion would be looking at archived photos or celebrities from back in the day and also films. I recently watched — semi-recently watched — this French film called ‘Claire’s Knee‘ and every outfit in it, I was like, ‘I need to recreate this.’ I love looking at old photos of Chloë Sevigny or John F. Kennedy, Jr and his wife [Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy] or Princess Diana or Jil Sander or Margiela archives.
“One big thing I’ve been into lately as well, which is prime classics, is Ralph Lauren. I watched his documentary ‘Very Ralph’ and it was very good. Looking back at their old lookbooks and everything that they did leading up to where they are today. It’s so funny, though. Because if you would have told me six years ago I would be looking at Ralph Lauren as some sort of inspiration, I’d laugh in your face. In my head, that’s very fratty, frat boy Georgia, and now I’m looking at it through a whole different lens.
“A lot of the brands and what they’re doing now is great: Bottega Veneta, Prada and Louis Vuitton are killing it. Obviously, I can’t own every single piece that these fashion labels are putting out. But it’s interesting to see — especially with what they’re doing during Covid and how everything is accessible online — is how they are styling models and what their shows look like and how I can recreate that as well.
“[Growing up], I never really had a space to be somewhere where fashion was appreciated. Because, in small town Georgia, nobody really cares about fashion all that much. Once it got to a place where I was old enough to leave home — choosing New York or choosing Los Angeles — was this dreamworld for me where I could be included with people who also share that same love and appreciation for fashion as well.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.