Trending @ Traill talks fashion, photography, and feminism

"My aesthetic is femme Steve Jobs."

The advent of social media has created an opportunistic hub for artists. University culture has thrived due to platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, allowing for discourse, debate, and a broader outreach to the student body than before. Trending at Catharine Parr Traill College is one of these niche University projects, utilizing Instagram to appeal to students. You may have seen your friend tagged in a Trending at Traill post, or overheard someone talking about it in Scott House.

Trending at Traill is a student-run Instagram page that captures denizens of Traill College in their natural habitat. Trending at Traill hones in on their aesthetic and asks questions relating to their look that day. This often results in a quirky, candid conversations, which then appear below the photo. Trending at Traill is reminiscent of projects such as Humans Of New York, as it takes a similar concept and brings it closer to home. The humans appearing on this page are people you’ve most likely seen sipping on a brew at the Trend, or having a smoke between classes. Trending at Traill focuses on student fashion and how it represents the paradoxical chaos and lethargy of student life. Arthur sat down with the creator of Trending at Traill to understand the process and what inspires it.

Why Traill?

Most of my classes are at Traill, because I’m an English student. Traill College is such an underrated college. Everyone’s always like “Oh , I’ve never been there before, I’ve never heard of it.” Traill has become so close to my heart. It’s exactly what Trent is supposed to be; an incredibly alternative way of learning, where you’re on equal ground with your professors; it’s a very unique quality to Traill. I don’t think I’ve ever met any of my professors for coffee at main campus; it’s always at Traill. It’s a completely different culture here.

Does Traill have a certain visual quality that inspires you?

I honestly can’t imagine doing the project at any other college, because of the scenery at Traill. It’s got this old school architecture, and also because people are dressed really interestingly at Traill. Student fashion is funny, because it’s so random and weird. Traill is such a laid back place.

When did you decide to begin this project?

I was talking to a friend, and she had a really cute outfit on, so I asked her if I could take her picture. I’ve always been someone who loves admiring what people are wearing. I love the candidness of not thinking, and wearing what you want to wear. One day I just thought, “What if I had an account called The Trent College Look Book?” or something like that, and my friend was like, “Oh yeah. That would be awesome.” I’ve always wanted to do some sort of fashion blog.

It’s a really great name, by the way.

I didn’t actually think of that name. I was talking to Michael Eamon about it, and he was like, “What about Trending at Traill”, and I was like “Oh my gosh!” because before that I was like, “It’s gonna be the Traill College Look Book.” I had been planning on doing it for months, and I kept forgetting my camera at home, so the first photo was taken by my phone, because I needed to stop putting it off. So I just did it. From then on, I always brought my camera with me.

So did this project inspire you to pick up your camera again?

I’ve had my camera since I was fifteen. I wanted one all throughout my childhood and I would always use a disposable one. Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money. So my first job, I saved up all of my money, and I still remember that day. I bawled my eyes out. I was really into photography in High School, and then I kind of just fell out of it. I’m an artist, and I love having an outlet, but it’s nice to have something that’s not me trying to be like, “This needs to be good.” It’s nice having people be like, “Have you seen Trending at Traill?” It’s nice having that animosity.

Do you enjoy the social atmosphere that the project fosters in that moment?

Yeah, so often people are like, “I’m not wearing anything special.” But I love the art of dressing yourself in the morning. Some people hate it, but I’m definitely someone who loves getting ready in the morning. I’m intrigued by what people wear, even when it’s totally thoughtless. I think it’s so interesting. I took a picture of a girl yesterday who was like, “Oh, I’m telling people that I just threw my outfit on, but I’ve actually been planning this outfit for like two weeks, waiting for a sunny day.” She was so excited to be wearing this dress.

That’s so cute! So, what does fashion symbolize for you?

A good question, with so many answers. I’ve always been very different in the way that I dress. I was very lucky when I was a kid, because my parents are big time hippies who don’t care that much about gender norms. When I was a kid, I almost exclusively dressed in boys clothes. My best friend ended up being female to male trans when I was a kid, and because they’d always wear boxers, so did I.

I grew up with a free for all, wear what you want philosophy. I love that about fashion and style; just wearing exactly what you’re feeling. Like, today, I wore this [points to a band shirt]. I bought this shirt for a friend, but then we ended up getting in a big fight, and it’s turned into my favourite shirt.

And now there’s a story behind it.

Yeah, exactly. Now that we’ve spoken, she’s like, “Ok, I owe you that shirt.” So, we joke that she was acting like the dinosaur on the shirt.

What purpose does fashion serve for you?

Because I’m an artist, I’m someone who feels super extremes; highs, lows, everything. Fashions allows me to get outside of my head, and be in my body. I enjoy thinking about how I’m going to dress myself and do my makeup, it’s so therapeutic. Whenever I pull an all nighter I always dress up super fancy, do my hair and makeup, and everyone is like “Oh, you look so great today!” I just know that if I do that, I’m going to feel better, where as if I didn’t, I’d just be like, “Oh, eff my life.” I wouldn’t feel the same way, you know.

For example, I love dressing feminine. I’ve been through phases in my life where I love dressing like a boy. But I’m typically drawn towards more feminine things right now. I’m really intrigued by the expectations that come with fashion. I remember always looking at people as a kid and being like, “Wow! Everyone looks like they could be on the red carpet today, everyone looks so beautiful.”

Do you have a particular aesthetic that inspires you?

I’m in a transition phase right now. I was dressing in a lot of floral, but now I’m making a transition into something more mature, and more fitting for my age. It’s more androgynous but it’s still within the feminine realm. It’s a lot more experimental. I’m the same with makeup as I am with clothing. I love things that are experimental, accentuate the human body and celebrate the way that people are formed. I love looks that push boundaries. I saw these beautiful heels two years ago during Paris Fashion Week, they were all-glass platform heels with roses inside. I love the avant-garde, elegant look. I also love androgynous clothing, and I’m really fascinated by looks that are gender-bending.

I’m also very inspired by light. It really affects me as an artist, and it’s also partially why I love Traill College. I love all of the windows and the light pouring in, and the way that the light shines on peoples faces. It’s what inspires me to take a picture. It’s so corny, but light encapsulates everything, and I’m really intrigued by the differences and the way that people choose to dress. I love the uncalculated thoughtfulness of the way that people dress. I especially love the way that comes across in being a university student. You know, the rush, but also the whole, “I wanna look cute for that guy” or “I have a presentation today’ or being like “Fuck it” and throwing something on. I love that line between being uncalculated and candid, but also that intention.

Do you have a fashion phase that you ever look back on and go, what the heck was I doing?

This is going to sound weird, but it’s something I’ve reflected upon a lot. I think I had a lot of internalized misogyny as a kid. I hated anything feminine, and I looked down on girls who did dancing. I wore boys clothes and was in competitive judo. When I was really little, my mom would dress me in flouncy dresses, and I grew up to hate it. Then, I became uncomfortable being a girl who dressed like a boy around puberty. So, I stopped wearing boys clothes and was like “Oh my god, what the hell am I dong? I’m wearing boxers.” So I’d had all this hate, and then I was like wait…. So I started dressing in typical brands like Hollister. I felt like I fit in more. When I was a kid I never wore my hair down, it was always pulled back. I was one of those tomboys.

Do you think it made you feel stronger to reject femininity?

I honestly just thought of feminine things as stupid and weak. I look back on it, and it’s like really sad. I have no idea where I got this from. I just find it interesting because I loved Sailor Moon and things like that. I always just thought of myself as a tomboy, and then not until I got older did I realize I had internalized hate towards women. I’d always considered myself a feminist, and not until I was 17 did I have my awakening. Now, I’ve really embraced all these feminine aspects of myself. I love dresses, make-up, and curling my hair.

That’s quite young to be so aware of gender normatives.

Like I said, my parents are really big hippies. They used to send me to Social
Justice Camp when I was a kid. I found out about child labour at a really young age. I remember finding out that Matel was a big exploiter of child labour, so I stopped buying Barbie dolls. I started cutting the hair of the remaining Barbie dolls that I did have left pink, and dressed them up in punk clothes. I hated that they were dressed the same. I wanted to re-invent them. I was a strange kid, and part of me thinks the whole Barbie re-invention thing is cool, but another part of me is sad about it, because I think there was some woman-hating going on there. I think this is something all feminists struggle with; trying to liberate women, but then destroying their liberation in the process.

What do you hope that your project accomplishes?

I think that question doesn’t really have a straight answer. It’s not about me, and that’s part of what I love about it; forgetting about my ego, listening to other people, and letting it define itself. The same way they’re defining their own fashion without thinking too hard about it. I love Traill College so much. I’m not normally a spirited person, but Traill brings out that part of me. I want everyone to go to Traill. Traill at Christmas-time especially, with all the trees up, everyone knows each other, the people at The Trend know your name, Michael Eamon knows everyone, and you get to know all the faces… that’s what
university is supposed to be.

About Yumna Leghari 59 Articles
I am currently co-editor along with the fabulous Zara Syed. I'm a Peterborough hobbit, and often find myself writing too much poetry and struggling to be a proper adult. Just kidding, there is no such thing as too much poetry. I spent two years as a reporter before being lucky enough to become co-editor of Arthur. I love journalism of all sorts, but generally focus on music journalism and politics. As a History and English major, I tend to over-analyze everything. Luckily, the journalism world is the one place where that is accepted-one would hope. You can probably find me tucked away in a corner of Peterborough somewhere, scribbling in a notebook frantically over my fourth cup of coffee.