Sylvester Sessions #84

Emma wears Leaves shirt & Chambray belted up trouser.

Emma wears Leaves shirt & Chambray belted up trouser.

Emma Gleason

Auckland, New Zealand

What advice would you give your 20 year old self?

You don't know who you are, but you're not supposed to yet. The insecurity, self-loathing and anxiety you feel engulfed by now won't last; these form the yardstick with which you'll measure your progress. Love your body, show it some appreciation and respect, and above all listen to it because it's screaming at you. Youth isn't everything, in fact I wouldn't trade places with you for anything in the world. Nearly ten years separates us now, but the expanse seems far greater from where I'm standing. Be patient, you'll understand love and heartbreak, you'll understand your family and most importantly of all you'll understand your own mind, body and soul.

A book that has always stayed with you:

The Lover by Marguerite Duras has been ingrained in my mind since I read the slim volume five years ago. Her evocative description of tropical heat and intimacy, so beautifully rendered in the written word, is something I haven't been able to forget. Another equally visceral and well written book is Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, a fever dream hellscape of violence and brutality, incredibly poetic and disturbing.

We love your style, what would you say inspires how you dress? And what are your goals in terms of feel and function?

Emotion drives how I dress. When choosing what to wear each morning, I start with how I wish to feel that day. A coat and trousers can make you feel strong and unimpeded, whereas a loose silk dress feel sensuous and relaxed. I'm obsessed with both feel and function. I'm very aware of the way an item feels and performs throughout the day and the impact these have on your routine. I walk to and from work, so I seek out items that help rather than hinder mobility. Loose coats are my favourite (my favourite is an old Kate Sylvester men's coat that I've stolen from my boyfriend) as are A-line skirts and simple knitwear. Pockets are important. The feeling of clothing is multifaceted - both the tactile nature of fibres like linen and wool, and the feeling it imparts on the wearer. The way a pair of well cut trousers makes you feel about your body, aware of curves and gestures. Sentimentality also plays a huge role in the feel of clothing for me. I am incredibly attached to my clothes, and purchase new items very rarely these days. All items within my wardrobe are there because they possess sentimentality, quality and function - whether it's an old cashmere sweater handed down from my parents, a locally made piece from a New Zealand designer, or a second hand gem. I actively try and limit what I consume, and make any new purchases very carefully. The scale of global consumerism turns my stomach, especially the impact fast fashion has had on manufacturing, waste and the devaluation of clothing. It's so important to support local designers, invest in quality and shop sparingly.

Who are the writers you look up to? What is it about their work or voice?

As far as writers I both admire and enjoy (the two don't always coexist) I love Zadie Smith, especially her essays, and the way she explores modern life within a sense of female identity and multiculturalism. I also love that she writes about writing, and domestic routine; her work sits alongside the mundanities of life, as both exist are part of a whole. Joan Didion is another with her rich, shrewdly observed tapestries of society and people, and considered turns of prose.

Interview and photography by Greta van der Star.