Shirt Stories: Emma Elwin

Shirt stories - Emma Elwin - Classiq Journal

You always notice the person wearing a great shirt.
A classic that holds just as much appeal as a perfect
pair of jeans. Shirt Stories is about the men and
women who wear it well.

Emma Elwin is the co-founder of the Swedish online magazine Make it last, a platform that emphasises and embraces sustainability and genuine style, providing authentic content and catering to audiences whose interest and beliefs transcend the traditions fashion system. We need this kind of inspiration and guidance towards living life as a conscient choice and mindful shopping. I subscribe to Make it last’s ethos that sustainability is the guide to growth, both in regards to personal style and in a business sense.

As soon as you see Emma Elwin, it’s clear from her look that she is into timeless style, and by that I don’t mean just the kind of style that is easy and true to oneself and relevant regardless of trends and seasonal must-haves, but the kind that merges aesthetics and ethics. Because that’s the only definition of style that will make sense from now on.

Shirt Stories - Emma Elwin - Classiq Journal
photos: Make it last

Related content: Style Profile: India Hicks / Style Interview with Travel Writer Francisca Mattéoli / Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts in A Bigger Splash

Shirt stories - Classiq Journal

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The Book That Has Changed My Lifestyle

An eye-opening, vital, alarming, passionate, compelling and utterly convincing book that has taught me to love sleeping again.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
I used to have a good night’s sleep. It was a long time ago. I’ve always been an early bird and have loved waking up in the morning before everybody else. But I had to have a good night’s shut-eye, which meant 8 hours of sleep. Whenever it came to going out in the evening, I have always been the least popular in our group of friends because I was always the first one who wanted to call it a night, and even if I stayed only two hours past my bedtime, the next day I would feel like I had lost the entire night. And the fatigue would last for at least two days. Sleeping in has never been an option for me, not even on weekends, because whether I went to bed at 11 p.m. or 2 a.m., I would still wake up before 7 a.m. without an alarm clock. I have had my fair share of excesses, sure, occasionally staying up late at night from various reasons, but my 7-8 sleeping hours per night were usually non-negotiable.

Fast forward to motherhood. Sleeping at night became an adventure. And to make things worse, I did not follow the piece of advice I was given most often: “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” I did not, and be it day or night, I would take advantage of the time my son slept to work. My lack of sleep started to accumulate. When my son finally started to have a full night of sleep, the sudden prospect of a few more hours I could use to work every night (I work almost exclusively from home) seemed too good, even glorious to pass on, so my sleep did not improve much. On the contrary, it got worse. Not few were the nights when I would stay up even until 3 a.m. and would then have to wake up at 7 a.m. I could almost not tell the difference between night and day anymore, when the day ended and the night started and vive-versa.
Cloud Study by Irina Georgescu

“Cloud Study”, illustration by Irina Georgescu, as part of the 5poems project

To make a long story short, I started to feel my sleep deprivation and everybody else around me did, too. I was often nervous, snappy, irritable, not-fun anymore, tired all the time. My family stepped in. “You should get more sleep. Get some time off.” “I know, I will try”. Neither of us believed what I was saying. Then, one day, my brother tells me about this book (I always take his advice on books), Why We Sleep. “Everyone should read this book,” he says and he lets his words sink in before telling me a couple of things he’s read in it, among which why the entire educational systems in the whole world should be changed so that children don’t have to wake up very early (with special emphasis on teenagers – believe me, if you are the parent of a teenager, you want to read the book now). That’s all I needed to hear to decide to buy it. Me, who has always been scornful about people sleeping in and had never fully comprehended that people can be night owls just as well as they can be early birds and that waking up late has nothing to do with laziness.

As soon as I started reading the book, written by Matthew Walker, neuroscientist and professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, I literally got scared. I started to realise what the consequences of my hectic program and chronic sleep deprivation (it’s important to realise the difference between sleep deprivation and insomnia) could be. What those consequences already were. That my sleep loss was inhumane (bare in mind that this had been going on for more than three years). I knew I had to change my lifestyle. As simple and as crucial as that. It’s the second time a book has had this lifestyle changing effect on me. The first one was a nutritional book, in high school, and I wrote about that experience here.

So after starting to read Why We Sleep, I started to make changes in my daily routine and now, about a month later, I am already starting to feel the difference. Some things you may already know, some things are common sense; I had already known many of those things myself, but still didn’t apply them. But believe me, if you did know what irreversible impact the deprivation of sleep and insomnia have on your physical and mental health, you would want to act now. And that your body and brain will not be able to fully recuperate any loss of sleep, that is something you should know, too. And that if you are about to undergo a medical procedure, you would better ask your doctor how many hours he slept the previous night. Yes, not sleeping enough is health- and life-threatening (on so many levels). So I will not tell you much else about the book, because, you do have to read it yourselves, but I will say what changes I myself have made so far based on Matthew Walker’s advice.
Irina Georgescu Illustration

Illustration by Irina Georgescu

No screen time within two hours of bedtime. No work on laptop or iPad. I’m not into social media, which means I didn’t have anything to cut off from in that department, but writing email drafts (I say drafts, because I believe it’s unprofessional to send emails at any time of day or night, and, no, it does not prove that you are productive), or working on a new project could often turn into long hours into the night. So I just stopped working at night and became more organized during the day. I was surprised to find out how doable that was. And here comes the difficult part: I had to say no watching movies before bedtime (I say movies because I don’t watch tv). Guys, if you’ve been visiting this site for a while, you know that I would bindge-watch every night if I could (which in fact my husband and I have done many times over the years, and, truth be told, few things can beat that) and the fact that I have even started to reconsider watching a movie in the evening should give you an idea about the impact this book has had on me.

I don’t drink coffee after 2 p.m. anymore. That second cup of coffee was one of my daily biggest pleasures, but I stopped from day one after reading about it in the book.

Relax before bed. I am an over-achiever who is trying to over-schedule every day of the week. I am learning to cut me some slack and find ways to unwind. Easier said than done. But I am trying transform reading into my bedtime ritual again. Even more than watching a film, reading a book is the thing that truly relaxes me, because, to be honest, my mind sometimes wanders off to to-do lists and stressful matters even while watching a film. And we always listen to music with our son before his bedtime.

We dim out the lights in our house with at least one hour and a half before bedtime. And make sure you don’t have white lights in your home.

Take a hot bath before bed. I am a shower person (Are you kidding me? Just think of the time you save showering instead of taking a bath! Yes, I am that stressed about my time management.), but whenever I take a bath before bed, it helps a lot.

Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, comfortable bedroom, gadget-free bedroom.I’ve never been able to sleep (even before having sleep problems) in total darkness. I have now started to close the blinds completely. I sometimes cheat and leave them a little open, but I have realised that I do sleep better when it’s darker. Another important aspect is room temperature. Let me put it this way. You sleep better when it’s a little cold than when it’s too hot in the room. Comfort: I can not sleep if I do not have a good, firm mattress, a comfortable pillow, cotton sheets. And last, we’ve never allowed phones or iPads in the bedroom, but we gave in to a tv to use only on those nights when we wanted to indulge ourselves and watch Seinfeld. Yes, really, we still watch Seinfeld, and, yes, really, that’s all we’ve ever watched in the bedroom from time to time. So Seinfeld had to go, too. Radical choices (for a movie buff)? Definitely. Necessary? Absolutely.

Don’t lie in bed awake. If I can’t sleep, I go to another room and read a book (I used to go to another room when I couldn’t sleep before, too, but I would turn on my iPad and work).

The biggest struggle of all (and the most important rule, according to Matthew Walker) remains going to sleep at the same hour and waking up at the same hour, even on weekends. I am slowly getting there.

I let my son sleep in if he has had an unrestful sleep during the night or had trouble going to sleep at the right hour (he usually wakes up by himself early, as any child going to bed at the right hour, with a healthy sleep, should) and skip kindergarten. I know this is not an option for many or some parents, but my schedule affords me to do that and so I do it, no remorses whatsoever.

And here are a few more tips for healthy sleep, which were already part of my daily routine and lifestyle, and which Matthew Walker advices readers to follow.

Eat dinner early. Do not exercise in the evening. Have the right sunlight exposure (get outside in natural sunlight for at least thirty minutes each day). No alcohol in the evening. No smoking. Avoid sleeping pills (and seek the help of a sleep specialist instead).

I also highly recommend listening to this Fresh Air podcast, where Terry Gross interviews the author.

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Autumn Reading List

autumn reading list - Classiq Journal
It starts to look like autumn and I love soaking up each ray of sunlight left, enjoy the leaves’ changing colour, take one last chance to appreciate nature properly until the cold settles in, and finally be able to catch a good film at the cinema since the beginning of spring. But my perfect kind of autumn day usually ends with a good book. These are the books I’ve been reading or plan to read this fall.
Autumn reading list - The Lonely City - Classiq Journal
The Lonely City, by Olivia Laing. This is the book that has been recommended to me most often in the last year (and that’s the reason I’ve included it here) and I was looking forward to reading it. It explores the author’s loneliness in New York City, but mainly through the works and lives of artists of the 20th century who lived there. It is a very interesting approach, but it lacks personal depth, as the writer does not go much into her own loneliness. And the even bigger “but” comes from the fact that I could not relate to it simply because I’ve never felt lonely (not to confuse lonely with alone), so I don’t know if it would have made any difference had the author delved deeper into her own life (although I believe it would have). The bottom line is: this just isn’t a book for me. I appreciated the many art references though, and I think Olivia Laing’s work would have benefited more from that if it had been illustrated with photos of the artworks mentioned. But if I were to choose an artistic investigation into loneliness and the modern city, I would choose Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express, the quintessential film (yes, it is a different medium) about loneliness in the postmodern metropolis, in contemporary Hong Kong.
Autumn reading list - Georgia O'Keeffe at Home - Classiq Journal
Georgia O’Keeffe at Home, by Alicia Inez Guzmán. “When I got to New Mexico, that was mine. As soon as I saw it, that was my country.” I have been fascinated with Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch home in New Mexico (its architecture and styling, but also the place where the artist’s daily routine was marked by her respect for simple rituals and the freedom to be fully present in each moment) for a long time and this is just one of those art books I needed in my home. And what I love the most about this sumptuous life history is that explores the influence of the various landscapes and cities inhabited by Georgia O’Keeffe on her life and artwork (yes, this one is generously illustrated, as it should be).
Autumn reading list - The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald - Classiq Journal
The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald. England, 1959. Florence Green decides to open a bookshop in a small town that does not want a bookshop. I have a keen interest in stories about bookshops, just as I have in coming-of-age movies. These are two crucial aspects in the development of a child and of an individual. I hope the book lives up to my expectations. On a side note though, I dislike whenever a book gets the cover showing the poster of the film adapted from it, like in the case of the latest edition of this book (not the one pictured above because of this exact reason). Keep them separately! They are two different worlds!
Autumn reading list - A Tokyo Romance - Classiq Journal
A Tokyo Romance, by Ian Buruma. A film student from Europe. The fascinating and bustling city of Tokyo in the 1970s which shaped the young artist. Moments on-set with Akira Kurosawa. I have to admit that the latter detail was what made me buy the book. That, and the fact that Ian Buruma is a former editor of The New York Review of Books (he left the position this September).
Autumn reading list - Woolgathering by Patti Smith - Classiq Journal
Woolgathering, by Patti Smith, and Devotion, by Patti Smith. Because I want to read everything written by Patti Smith.
Autumn reading list - A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking
A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking. I wasn’t good at physics in school (I wonder what difference it would have made if I had had more open-minded teachers in some disciplines), but I think you are never too old to learn anything. My brother loved physics in school and understands physics (incidentally, unlike me, he had a great teacher) and he recommended this book. “It’s accessible, you should give it a go,” he said. A Brief History of Time remains a staple of the scientific canon, and its succinct and clear language (this gives me hope) continues to introduce people of all ages to the universe and its wonders.
Autumn reading list - Open by Andre Agassi - Classiq Journal
Open, by Andre Agassi. I am well into this one and, all I want to say for now (I will write more in detail about it in the near future) is that not only is it a great memoir, one of the best I’ve read, but it is simply a great book. In fact, I liked it so much from the very first pages that I ordered a copy for my parents as well (oh yeah, the tennis love runs in the family). It’s also the first sportsman autobiography I’ve read and it’s new territory. I don’t think you can get a rougher and more raw view into the inside world of tennis. It’s haunting, the way Agassi recounts with extreme precision the highs and lows of his career, a career in a sport that he never chose, but which it was chosen for him by his father.
Autumn reading list - The Long Long Life of Trees - Classiq Journal
The Long, Long Life of Trees, by Fiona Stafford. I read a couple of chapters from this book last evening and I could have read it all in one-go, but I think it’s best to take one chapter at a time in. Because it is a wonderful book to have and to hold and Fiona Stanfford writes beautifully (it’s also beautifully illustrated). The synopsis reads: “Throughout history, trees have served humankind in countless practical ways, but they are also sources of great symbolism and creativity. In this lyrical tribute to the rich diversity of trees, Fiona Stafford explores seventeen species that have inspired stories, songs, poems, paintings, religious and patriotic devotion, and much more.”
Autumn reading list - James Baldwin - Classiq Journal
The Devil Finds Work, by James Baldwin. Published in 1976, it is both a memoir of Baldwin’s experiences watching movies and a frank critique of the fraught intersection between Hollywood’s industrial practices and its limiting representation of black characters, with emphasis on films such as In the Heat of the Night (1967), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), The Defiant Ones (1958). I expect it to be razor sharp, witty and poignant. This book is not Baldwin’s only foray into film comment. In the 1955 collection “Notes on a Native Son”, he wrote about Otto Preminger’s all-black musical Carmen Jones (1954), and his essay “The Northern Protestant” (1960) is about Ingmar Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel (1953).
Note: I have added links to every book, in case you want to read more about it beforehand, but I hope you will first visit your favourite bookstore in town to search for any book that has captured your interest. My own favourite bookshop, where I regularly get my refill, is this one.
Autumn reading list - Classiq Journal

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Editorial: The Children Are Alright

Editorial- Fantastic Mr. Fox - Classiq Journal

The Editorial: thoughts, short stories
or essays about the world of cinema

Talking about the book Fantastic Mr. Fox, on which he based his film by the same name, Wes Anderson said in the book-length interviews with Matt Zoller Seitz: “Roald Dahl really did have a knack for seeing from a child’s point of view. The details he focuses on and vividly describes are just the ones that might most fully and directly capture a child’s attention and inspire a child’s imagination. Or it might just be that his books show a true interest in the things that make children laugh and frighten them. He never particularly held himself back from the extremely scary or disgusting things. He had such a broad imagination and would turn some real-life inspiration into something fabulous. He also had this tremendous facility with inventing characters, and he could just weave a plot that was real.”

Continuing to talk about Dahl, Zoller Seitz tells an incredulous Anderson how Dahl is not persisting, and that he senses on the part of other parents a bit of hesitancy in exposing kids to the author’s books in America because there’s a whole movement toward making the world of childhood as comfortable, bright, and cheery a place as it can possibly be, and Dahl is the opposite of that.

Really? Asks Anderson, more and more surprised by what he hears.

Really? I am asking, too.

Unfortunately, yes. Zoller Seitz is not the only one who has noticed this movement. Parents have started to stop reading traditional tales to their children because they are considered too scary, violent or because they discriminate women or certain minorities. And I want to ask: Where exactly is this censorship going? What are they reading to them instead? Only new fiction written especially to accommodate every opinion, carefully composed so that it does not offend anybody? This is not art, it is not artistic expression, it is not imaginative literature, it does not ignite children’s imagination, it does not teach them right from wrong, it does not broaden their minds. Quite the contrary. And I think it’s one of the greatest wrongs we can do to our children.
Fantastic Mr. Fox illustration  
Old-school fairy tales — stories by authors such as Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde, Grimm Brothers, CS Lewis, J.M Barrie, or Andrew Lang — are filled with a richness and complexity that is often missing from the modern-day children’s books. I know. I have been reading my three-and-a-half-year-old son both classic and modern children’s books and there is not much that makes my mind wander off when I read modern books to him. The language is so less complex and captivating. My son also asks a lot fewer questions and about a lot fewer new words than when he hears a traditional fairy tale. And just to make it clear (and I believe it’s a pity that we’ve come to a time when we have to explain these things), Hans Christian Andersen didn’t write “The Little Mermaid” to teach little girls how to marry a prince, but to warn us that our actions have consequences. I have read that “Snow White” is considered discriminatory to dwarfs. What part of the story exactly does that, may I ask? It’s from fairy tales that I learned, as a child, that there are all kinds of physical diversities; fairy tales have taught me not to judge based on class provenance, physical appearance or cultural differences. There are so many layers in a fairy tale that help you understand human kind and ourselves. A child can see both the mystery and truth in such stories. As Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller explained, “Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.”

Let’s stop being so politically correct, for God’s sake! For the good of our children! Fairy tales nurture moral behaviour and show children the strengths and weaknesses inherent in human nature, by contrasting good and evil, rich and poor, vanity and valour. By exposing children to these stereotypes of good and bad, you provide them with a moral code on which to start to develop their own lives.
Fantastic Mr. Fox illustration  
Yes, fairy tales may tackle difficult issues, but they prepare kids for life in the real world, they teach them to deal with inner dilemmas, they teach them not to shut their feelings in. Like life, some fairy tales don’t have happy endings. Bad things do happen. Children must learn that life comes with good and bad, with joy and sadness, with growth and loss. We must read stories with our kids, of all kinds, and talk about them. As C. S. Lewis believed, “sometimes fairy stories say best what needs to be said.”

A few months back, my son was treated badly by an older boy in the park. I wasn’t with him, my husband was. He didn’t cry or seemed affected in any disturbing way, but he was surprised that another child could treat him badly. I was worried about the incident and didn’t know how exactly to handle it when we talked about it at home, wondering if I should try to find a plausible explanation for the ugly behaviour of the other kid. That his parents did not teach him how to behave, that’s not a plausible explanation. I then talked to my parents. “Stop trying to control what you can not control and stop trying to protect him and telling him life is always beautiful and cheerful,” they said. “It’s not. It’s good for him to know that people are good and bad and that he is not one of the bad. Take it as a lesson. If you seek to protect him from all unpleasant events, you do not equip him to deal with the real world.” Of course, they are right.

Fairy tales also allow kids to learn how to deal with scary situations. Kids see how the characters face their fears and learn from their experiences. They help children to understand the flaws of human behaviour and their own emotional dilemmas and to accept many of their own fears and emotions, without developing frustrations, in an imaginative way.

But I guess the most extraordinary thing about fairy tales is that they introduce children to the genre of fantasy. Fairy tales help develop their creativity and imagination. That’s one of the most precious things a child has and we should foster that imagination from as early on to as later on in their lives as possible. “When we are no longer children, we are already dead.” (Constantin Brâncuși).

Furthermore, fairy tales pave the road for more reading later on in their lives. The human kind has no future without culture and education. Let’s start by continuing to read to our children as much as possible, and to read them classic fairy tales. They’ll be alright.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
image from “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009) | illustrations by Quentin Blake

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A One Woman’s Homage to the Flyer’s Jacket

Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient - The flying jacket 
Hers is the glamour of an adventurer who stirs your imagination with her game-changing style, while learning to love Africa. In Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient (1996), Kristin Scott Thomas plays Katharine Clifton, a British who goes to Northern Africa with her husband (Colin Firth) on a desert expedition. I will not say much about the film, just that it is overly sentimental, too long and with an unfulfilling ending for my own taste, and that I totally understood Elaine’s ordeal in Seinfeld when she had to watch it again unwillingly. However, I did watch it again a little while ago, at my own free will, but I did it just for Kristin Scott Thomas’ flyer’s jacket look (hazards of the job I guess).
Style in Film - Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient  
In her suede aviator jacket, pleat-fronted trousers, white shirt and earth-toned scarves, Katharine may be channeling aviator Amelia Earhart. It is one of the film looks that will endure over time and there is a lot we can take from it any given day. The colour scheme – beautiful browns, raging from chocolate and caramel, to camel, tan and milky beige (in the image above, Katharine and Almásy (Ralph Fiennes), dressed in sand-hued clothes, seem to blend with the desert). The fabrics – natural fibres, very practical and necessary in the African heat (it’s in utilitarianism that resides the endurance of any clothing item), like linen, cotton and wool. But, most of all, it’s that timeless, androgynous, modern silhouette: the aviator jacket over white shirt, and oversized trousers. Masculine-inspired and bold and supremely self-confident, very Katharine Hepburn. It looks casual and simple and easy and natural. But it’s enigmatic and seductive, too. “A woman wearing a man’s overcoat as she walks along the street is much more sensual than one wearing an evening dress,” said Giorgio Armani. I second that.
Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient  
I often write about men’s style in film. Because an innate sense of style seems to run amok among our male counterparts, because men’s style stands the test of time much better than women’s and because I myself have a fondness for menswear basics. Whether it’s Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor, James Dean in Rebel without a Cause or Steve McQueen in Bullitt, men’s style simply ages better. But I have to admit that whenever a woman is channeling a men’s style well, hardly anything beats that. It happened with Kelly McGillis in Top Gun (can you seriously think of a better look than a bomber jacket with a pencil skirt?) and Lauren Hutton in American Gigolo, and, in this case, Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient. She is not merely channeling masculine style, her flyer’s jacket is worn like a public declaration of her femininity, one that it is well aware of her innate power.
A one Woman homage to the flying jacket - Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient  
There is a red patterned shawl that Katharine wraps herself in now and then. I like that splash of colour, maybe hinting at the fact that, underneath those neutral colours that can hide her emotions, she is in fact in search of a certain kind of freedom and of romance, and she came to Africa to find it. “Up in this air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.” (Karen Blixen, Out of Africa)
The leather jacket - Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient

photos: film stills from The English Patient | Miramar, Tiger Moth Productions

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