Karlie Wu is the creator of Glaswegian Westwood - 'a casual documentation of glasgow's street style'.
When starting the blog in March 2014 little did Karlie know how rapidly her following would grow and that just a few months later her Instagram pictures would get likes from none other than Advanced Style’s Ari Seth Cohen. Barbara Loisch takes a deeper look into what this wonderful blog is all about!
I meet her – impeccably dressed in her favorite colour combination of mint and pink - to find out more about her understanding of art and fashion and why it isn’t awkward at all that a painting student at the Glasgow School of Art writes a fashion blog.
The idea started last summer, having been style spotted three times within two weeks at the Glasgow Vintage Festival and in Edinburgh. Coupled with her preexisting interest in fashion since a young age, Karlie began playing with the idea of creating a street style blog for Glasgow.
'I had seen such blogs before and I knew there had been some for Glasgow like Garcon des Glasgow a few years back. But when I looked into it, I found out that they were no longer active. I couldn’t believe this since Glasgow is a city full of creative people. However I was hesitant because I’m a painting student and I was worried about the possible reactions I’d get. If I was a fashion student, of course it would make sense to do such a thing and I would have more credibility. But I don’t know all the designers and was worried that my “style radar” wouldn’t be good enough as I am not professionally involved in the fashion world.’
But one day she saw somebody that inspired her to take the leap and make the blog.
‘I was on the bus from the City Centre going home and this lady got on. She was about 60 years old, very small, and she was wearing a green tartan blazer that was far too big for her, and a white pleated skirt with playing cards on it. The wacky blouse, the shoes, her massive glasses, and her dyed orange hair - everything reminded me of a cartoon. I just thought: ‘Wow, she looks dead cool; you don’t see that everyday in Glasgow.’ And my instinct was to photograph her, only that I didn’t have a camera with me and the lady got off the bus.
But that’s when it kicked me and I thought if I don’t photograph people like that, then nobody else will know; nobody will see this fantastic lady and her style. That is why the blog is called Glaswegian Westwood; because all I could think of when I saw her was Glasgow’s Vivienne Westwood.’
Unlike many other style blogs, Glaswegian Westwood has only few zoomed-in views or cropped images. The blog is a celebration of entire ensembles rather than pieces of clothes. Jumper, shoes, trousers are store-bought items, but what Karlie is interested in is the consideration of combining them to create an outfit.
However the blog is not just about fashion for her. It is about meeting and getting to know new people, finding out what they are passionate about and why they put so much effort into how they dress. ‘Everyone dresses for a reason’ says Karlie, ‘be it the look, the comfort or a statement they want to make.’ She goes on telling me about encounters that really touched her, such as Mildred, who is in her late seventies and makes everything she wears since her twenties; or Ian and Rhona, a couple who dress as if they were from the 1950s and have done so since the 70s as a lifestyle!
Talking about what she jokingly calls a ‘creepy hobby’, Karlie admits that not every spot is successful. Even when she does find that person, timidity sometimes gets the better of her and after chasing a person for a while, she shies away from actually asking for a photograph. At other times the people she’s spotted don’t feel comfortable with their photo taken or simply don’t want to be noticed. Karlie says that what she thinks is most important about style spotting is spontaneity.
‘It’s like gambling, you never know when you’ll win; you just hope to find someone.’
Yet what about the connection between her practice as a painting student and the sideline in the form of this style blog? Karlie agrees to my impression that she approaches the blog from a fine art perspective. It is a personal project that might even qualify as research, as she feels that she sometimes captures the personalities of these people rather than their clothes. She doesn’t necessarily pick the craziest outfits but rather concentrates on how the clothes move, how the material flows.
'You don’t have to dress wildly for me to take a photograph, it is about aesthetics.'
'A plain white t-shirt and jeans can work if you carry it well. It is how people walk and hold themselves that catches my eye. You don’t have to dress “well” to be stylish, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. If you can’t feel it, then you can’t show it. Just putting on a dress doesn’t necessarily make you feel confident, sexy, cool right away… It’s how you utilize it that makes the difference. At the end of the day a dress is just a dress.’ And she adds with a smile: ‘You can look ‘different’ but you can look like a disaster too!’
The reaction on the blog, however, is far from being disastrous. Not only has she received positive feedback from the “dreaded” fashion students, but peers from across departments in GSA stop her to compliment her. Gordon Millar of Scot Street Style has shown interest in Glaswegian Westwood, and has also met fashion bloggers Betty and Bee.
So might fashion be another possible career path?
Karlie smiles and after a time of reflection says: ‘Painting is where I truly feel that I belong. I would pick the art career over fashion. But I’m not cancelling it out as an option. In an ideal world I would love to be a painter and design or illustrate clothes.’
Visit glaswegianwestwood.tumblr.com to see more exquisite fashion ensembles!
Article by Barbara Loisch