For women, one of the fastest ways to get to know a new friend is to look through her closet. Sifting through the layers of silk, sequins, cotton and wool, one can learn about the new acquaintance's past, her obsessions, her quirks and the things shared in common.
Los Angeles artist, photographer and fashion lover Jeana Sohn is inviting everyone to this intimate party, via a weekly feature on her blog.
Though women posting photos of themselves and their outfits online has become ubiquitous in this Internet age, Closet Visit ups the ante, presenting elegant, at-home portraits of some of L.A.'s most creative, stylish women, such as handbag designer Clare Vivier and jeweler Kathryn Bentley, shot with their wardrobes.
Sohn says that since she started the feature in mid-September it has doubled traffic to her 5-year-old blog (jeanasohn.blogspot.com) — from 2,000 hits a day to 4,000 — and generated countless recommendations as well as a few eager volunteers. It not only indulges the audience's voyeuristic impulses, it also satisfies the subject's ageless feminine desire to play dress-up.
The Korean-born Sohn says that when she decided to launch this project as a way to "practice" with her new camera, a Canon 7D SLR, she felt nervous that the women approached "would be like, 'Oh, she's just some girl, I don't want to show her my closet.' But they're actually flattered. I was really surprised; when I get there, all the outfits are laid out."
Her first "visit" was with gallerist Heather Taylor, who represents Sohn's delicate, nature-inspired paintings at Taylor De Cordoba in Culver City and helped her put together a list of potential future subjects.
"I was totally onboard right away," recalls Taylor, whose bohemian Hollywood glam mode encompasses vintage floor-length Halston, ankle-length jeans from the Gap and studded velvet Prada pumps. "Jeana has such an interesting and unique aesthetic," she continues. "Whether it's photography on her blog or her paintings, she finds this light that's really beautiful. I feel like it has a specific effervescence, so I knew she would bring that to it." Still, Taylor says, "I can't even believe how amazing they are."
Normally posted on Monday mornings, each visit features up to eight different looks and settings, plus the found still-lifes that Sohn's lens captures: a tangle of jewelry, shoes against a carpet or a work space mid-project. There's an undeniable shared sensibility, but each woman is an original.
Although Vivier and Bentley live across the street from one another and wear each other's pieces, Vivier's style is classic with a streak of off-beat Parisian chic and a weakness for ankle boots, while Bentley mixes Native American jewelry and tribal prints with vintage Balenciaga and Belstaff. Mohawk General Store's Bo Carney, also featured, has designs by Vivier and Bentley in her shop and her closet, but her style overall is bolder and more modern.
Sohn also interviews her subjects, and it's fun to pick out the common threads: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Frida Kahlo and Sofia Coppola are repeatedly named as style icons, and the Italian label Marni seems to be the across-the-board favorite — and that includes for Sohn, who writes that she was "dying" over screenwriter Deborah Kaplan's Marni collection.
But for Sohn, this is about more than finding a woman who "dresses cute."
"I'm trying to find someone who's more inspiring and creative and hard-working ... and who dresses well," she says.
The chic women in her orbit are definitely keeping Mondays looking pretty for now, but Sohn isn't opposed to opening Closet Visit up to New York or other cities. "It would be amazing if someday it turned into a book," she says. At the moment, though, "I'm gonna just have fun with it and let it grow."