If Fundamentals were a club or a school, it would be incredibly difficult to get in to. The criteria is strict, the bar set high. In the summer of 2020, I coined the term “WithOut Fails”. WOFS. I was attempting to get my arms around my closet to add some stability into my life, and to do so, I needed to attribute words and visuals to the pieces that served as the thru line of my style. As an acronym, WOF gave more context to what a Fundamental is truly designed to do for us.
Over time, if you are lucky, you find those pieces that reflect this description. But the process involves a lot of searching, trial and error, and even dumb luck. Because time is precious, errors are costly and frustrating, and luck too unpredictable, I set out to establish the common set of denominators for the WOFS. in my closet.
1. They combine Chill, Modern and Classic all at once. They embody the core adjectives that describe my style.
2. They’re chameleons. They take on and complement the persona of whatever you pair them with: like that friend I’m always so envious of who can go to any type of party and just slide right in and have a conversation.
3. They can be worn, in some way, 12 months out of the year.
4. Play, dinner, or work. These pieces are at home in all three environments.
5. They function as a means to ground and lend familiarity to new experimental pieces we’ve added to our closet.
6. Their texture and material must be luxurious, have a point of view, but not one that is overtaken.
Overarching everything is the confidence these pieces pack. When your visual style thru line is so clearly present, it gives you a sense of control. If things feel all over the place, which is a reality of life, these pieces are something that are steadfast, but still give you the ability to be highly creative and expressive.
When Traci and I plan out a new Fundamentals collection, we affirm what styles are critical for doubling down on like the Liams, the slouchy carpenter, the Stellas. We also look at pieces from past collections that we have been wearing on repeat that now deserve designation as a Fundamental. The mid-trouser skirt, the eased trench, the refined yet slouchy cashmere, and the oversized vest, to name a few.
Traci and I view each piece we add to Fundamentals through the lens of past, present, and future. Can we wear it with our favorite past pieces deep in our closet? Those new highly directive pieces we’ve just introduced on the runway? As well as the designs brewing in our head for future collections?
I also love experimenting with different accessories and proportions, and the aim is to navigate these new looks while still fundamentally feeling like myself. It means I’ll actually wear the pieces that on the surface may, at times, seem nonsensical or surprising.
Case study: The grey washable cashmere. It’s the perfect balance to all these pieces that are a bit more emotional. The high neckline, the volume, and the rich yarn are the point of view. It plays the support actor role, doesn’t overtake the scene, but keeps the story on point. See?
The Marni earrings, the Tibi Canvas knife pleat skirt, the Jill Sander giant hoop earrings, a silk twill color ring scrunchie, the Tibi deconstructed lace slip skirt, the Attico jeweled slides, or a tiny Miu Miu mini. All of them, grounded with an easy cashmere. If you reference the Tibictionary, we refer to these other pieces in our closets as our “Ins and Outs” and “Have to Haves.” Mixing these elements together is how personal style, rather than “outfits”, are built. Over and over.
Every piece in Fundamentals should solve a problem. Those lucky pieces in the main collection, they’re allowed to be more frivolous. Meaning if I can’t wear it at the office, or across three climates, but I love it, know where I’m wearing it, and I’m incredibly passionate about how I feel in it, that’s good enough. Done. But a Fundamental? This club’s hard to get in to.
Case in point: The Ring 3 Tee Shirt. I’m the first to embrace a suit in a neutral color - the perfect navy, the simplicity of a sharp black. But mixed with white? Ok yes, it’s good, but I want other options. When you feel “tired” of your wardrobe, it’s because you’ve got the vibe on repeat, not necessarily the clothes. A navy suit, or a faded denim and a blazer, paired with the non-white tee gives depth and interest in the simplest way possible.
See here? White, it’s good. It’s always a solid option. But now you have more. With just a t-shirt you’ve expanded the vibes in your closet, you’re getting more wear out of your pieces you’ve already invested in. Problem solved.
I’ll leave you with this visual from a failed cook. If Fundamentals were a food, they’d be the elements that you use to build something amazing. You never tire of them because they’re intrinsic to anything you make. “Shit, are we having olive oil for dinner again?” has been said by no one. But to make incredible meals, the best pressed olives yield the best results. The “Ins and Outs” in the closet are those key main courses, but fish every night, as delicious and healthy as it may be, can get tiresome. You love it, but not every day. And the “Have to Haves” are those unique elements that bring out the flavor in something, add a kick, and are used sparingly.
All of this is intended to help you organize your closet so you can shop smartly and get even better at visually showing your personal style. Remember, you only have three ways to communicate: your words, your actions, and your visuals. And since visuals tend to speak louder than words, personal style is even more outsized in its importance. We all feel better when we communicate better. That’s a fact for me everytime. WithOut Fail.