March 28, 2014

Profiles in Vigilante Living: Sami the Avant-Garde Suburbanite

Sami_Young_Profiles in Vigilante LivingProfiles in Vigilante Living introduces us this week to Sami Young, a beautiful Chicago twenty-something who recently made a rather Vigilante move: she packed up her city apartment in Wicker Park and moved to the suburbs. Quite in opposition to the tidal wave of hipsters streaming from the suburban periphery into the Big City, Sami and her boyfriend Brian are emblematic of the Vigilante idea of “living life on your own terms.” In their case, the rebellion was seeking a rural-suburban community in which to shack up cozily. To be avant-garde suburbanites. Sami, a make-up artist with Chicago’s premier make-up studio Sonia Roselli, loved living in Chicago, but craved more open space to walk her dog, and square footage to hold weekend parties (something that was significantly harder to do in the city.) “We were always eating out.” she says of living in the city. Overall, it’s been a hugely positive change: Sami still gets to see shows on a regular basis (she and Brian are deep into the Chicago music scene), they are geographically closer to their families, and lastly, because Sami’s work takes her to Chicago nearly every day, she doesn’t really miss urban life. What’s best about living in the suburbs? “Oh! The peace and quiet. Birds! Trees!” says Sami. “Not to mention our pets who enjoy a significantly improved quality of life out in nature.”



So, in their new suburban life, will you find Sami and Brian out on an evening stroll in matching track suits? Well, maybe as a joke! But Sami is not afraid to rock an entirely original dog-walking outfit — she typically throws on her grandma’s full length fur coat to walk the dog, paired with huge Jackie O sunglasses. “I probably look 70 years old” she jokes. Sami’s style is utterly original. When I first met her, my first impression was that of a petite Brigitte Bardot (all lashes and 60s hair) combined with the freshest-face full of sweetness and freckles. Her everyday fashion sense is Vigilante too. She’s not afraid to shop at Target, pair a simple teeny-bopper dress with authentic 1940s vintage jackets and home-made jewelry. Sami loves thrifting and finds that her new suburban digs offer many untapped opportunities for vintage shopping where the stores are not insanely picked-over. “Some of Chicago’s suburbs are really cute little villages. Little gems. People in the city would never know about them.” Sami’s lack of snobbery so irresistibly refreshing. Sami embodies the idea that YOU are where the cool is. Your neighborhood is not your street cred. YOU are  your street cred. And when Sami moved to the suburbs, guess what? That’s where the house party is now: “Nearly every weekend we entertain.” Sami giggles. “We barbeque, we have cocktails, we play our music and hangout. It’s awesome!”

As a recovering city planner (my career prior to Vigilante Paper and illustration) this is sacrilege, to applaud a city-dweller’s move to the suburbs. But what I have learned is that one cannot judge another for the decisions that make them happy. And that the suburbs can be places of poetry and mischief just like the city. It’s much more Vigilante to be like the beautiful Sami and, with open arms, embrace the unpopular thing — and with a full heart and irrepressible sense of optimism, make it your own.

March 19, 2014

The Quiet Rebellion of Red Socks


The only color of socks I own.

If you want a quiet rebellion in your life, dump out your sock drawer and start over with red socks. I have always admired the unbridled color popping out from the pant cuff of a man’s dark suit. But I never considered that I, a girl, could do the same. For one, in California where I grew up, I led a mostly sockless existence: flip flops, sneakers sans socks, sandals. But now that I’m located in the tundra known as the American Midwest, socks are what go under the boots you wear 6 months out of the year. My red sock life, which began in winter 2012 has probably kept me from heavy drinking. Or at least Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I flagrantly stole the idea of red socks directly from a piece I read about Roo Rogers. Roo is a son of Lord Richard Rogers the lauded English architect of Paris’ Pompidou Center (with Renzo Piano) among many famous buildings (the Llyods of London Building, etc) and grew up in a world of high design, and also minimalism; Roo himself has had an interesting career as an environmental entrepreneur and author, having founded OZOcar, New York’s eco-friendly car service, and is now a member of Yves Behar’s rock star design company fuseproject.

“I only own red socks, which I’ve worn since I was 11 years old. I went to school in England and we had to wear grey socks with my uniform. So I started wearing red socks to rebel (you couldn’t see them underneath my trousers). Now it’s become part of my identity when I meet people.” – Roo Rogers interviewed here  in the Financial Times.

If you’re looking for more red than just on your feet,  another wonderful piece on Roo and his wife Bernie’s New York apartment (New York Times ” When Privacy is Not Quite the Point, Dec 2006″ is a testament to open-space planning and bright color. The apartment’s main architectural feature is it’s long wall of cherry red cabinetry housing the kitchen, the appliances, and hidden shelving. While I admire this space aesthetically for its clarity, I could never live in it. I like tchotchkes too much. But Roo certainly does know how to harness the vitality of color and use it in his life. Very vigilante indeed.


Red sock drawer in effect.


Cashmere, cotton, hosiery. All red.

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The leader in the red sock rebellion, Roo Rogers, picture with his wife Bernie in their Nolita apartment. Photo by Angel Franco.

Roo Rogers_Angel Franco photo_NYT

The red wall of custom cabinets. Photo by Angel Franco.

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At the bottom of the photograph, red socks. (Courtesy Financial Times)



January 22, 2014

How to Survive Winter

As a native Californian now located in the Midwest, it has taken me several years to develop methodologies for how to survive winter. Here are some Vigilante Living tools for my friends in the wintery climates to keep in mind while getting through these next few months.

1. Wear bright colors. Go right now to the sale section of and pick yourself up something wildly colorful that will cheer you up. is a marvelous resource for vintage jewelry of high quality that you will not find anywhere else.

2. Buy insanely colorful items for your home or apartment. Christmas is over, and if you didn’t get what you wanted, go to and buy yourself a magnificent turquoise metlasse box to hide all your trinkets in. They are not expensive but they look it.

3. Wear a dab of perfume — behind your ears and your knees. If you are a guy, work a smidge of aftershave. Try for small bottles in new fragrances so you can test them out.

4. Pour yourself a drink and make a homey warm dinner. Just forget about salad. It does not help you feel better in winter. Make yourself a hot cider for dessert if you still do not feel the sunshine running through your veins.

5. Music is the most essential blues breaker for winter doldrums. If you want to spice things up cheaply, get a used record instead of hitting up iTunes — record shops are curious places where you can stumble upon something magical — get a record to just to shake it up and actually read some liner notes. The tactile nature of a record will go well with your cocktail at the end of the day! Tropical music, like ska, reggae, salsa, or other latin music will do wonders for your sun-deprived self.

6. The next time you are at your corner bodega or grocery store, look at the flowers for sale. If they are not dying and brighly colored, just buy  them. Even baby’s breath look nice on your kitchen windowsill or on your desk at work. (I am not a flower snob. Almost every plant has some beneficial qualities.) The smell of something alive is not to be underestimated. Plants are great too — but only if you remember to water them. A dead plant is only going to add to your winter woes.

I hope these tools for surviving winter are at least a little helpful. They are not avant-garde, but they are cheap and appeal to everyone’s need for color, humor, and desire for JOY in everyday life. For those of you in California, India or Australia (where it’s now summertime) please do have a margarita for me and take a look at your legs. I totally forget what mine look like they’ve been in pants for so long.

Sayonara from the polar vortex….



January 15, 2014

Preppy Edge: A Manifesto – Part 1


It’s January 2014 I’m suffering from hipster fashion fatigue. I am tired of you, hipster. Raise your hand if you’d much prefer a hot date with the late, conservative poster-child William F. Buckley than spend an evening with a skinny-jeans clone on a fixed gear. It would be more original to be with Buckley! More fresh! He’d probably suggest doing more shocking and fun things, and order you one too many a cocktail. Sure, I might have more in common with the hipster, in terms of music and cuisine, but there is something to be said for a little SHOCK VALUE. This brings me to an existential design question: does what’s on the inside have to match what’s on the outside? What if someone who held the interests of a hipster dressed like William F. Buckley? I admire people who don’t wear their political alliances as a costume. Give me contradiction or give me death.

preppy_quoteSo here at Vigilante Living, we’re deeming 2014 The Year of Preppy Edge. How on earth is preppy dressing revolutionary, you might ask? Well, khaki trousers and a button down are a classic way to pass under the radar and spend your core energy doing something original with your life. In essence, you are not screaming “I AM DIFFERENT” as you sashay down the street. You are whispering to others to come closer, listen to your stories, make some mischief, and offer just a sliver of a window into your interior life, which makes everyone realize that you are much more rich and complex than your preppy uniform suggests. It’s about subtlety and the slow reveal.

I find it immensely appealing in both men and women when conservative clothes on the outside sheath avant-garde leanings (whether Left or Right) on the inside. It’s only once you talk to this person that you realize they are a true original, or a weirdo. These are the people who are so comfortable with their originality that they don’t have to wear it on their sleeve. Preppy Edge is irresistible because it defies visual expectation. (Preppy Edge, by the way, is not to be confused with the disastrous, over-used phrase “classic with a twist,”  used of late by influential interior designers and celebrities.) Lord, bring me a severe preppy in plaid pants. But give him a rebellious interior life filled with knowledge of obscure 1960s reggae groups and a penchant for reciting naughty bits from important literature. Or deep knowledge of astrophysics. Edge preppy is preppy on the outside, 100% original on the inside. This is what style in America needs right now. A little more substance, a little more humor, and a little more reserve.


August 20, 2013

The Vigilante Way to Lose Your Hair


This is a post about Marianna Sachse, a case study in Vigilante Style and it’s power. Marianna’s husband is my longtime childhood friend from summer camp. Even as a teen, he was an erudite, badass little Beastie Boy with big plans. He married his equal: Marianna is brainy, creative and nurturing, with street smarts and a dancer’s graceful body. She is an amazing woman with ideas and the energy to implement them. Last year, Marianna was diagnosed with cancer. This is her account of true Vigilante Living — namely, the unconventional approach she took to dealing with hair loss after chemo.

When you get kicked in the face by a cancer diagnosis, you expect that tough roads are ahead and that you will have to say goodbye to your talisman of beauty: your hair. Nine months into my cancer journey I finished chemo and lost my hair at the same time. No one told me that my hair might continue to fall out after I finished treatment. So there I was, watching my hair pile up in the drain and scatter on my pillowcase, wondering what to do about my hair post-chemo.

I was done with treatment and finally feeling better, the last thing I wanted was to look sick. I’d had enough of that, thank you. I’d beat cancer and come out the other side stronger. I needed to look like it. So what to do? Classic chemo solutions just didn’t seem my style. I didn’t want to futz with wigs and scarves. My solution: rock the ‘hawk. When cancer kicks you in the face, fight back like a punk with a Mohawk.

I admire you, Marianna. You are fierce and elegant.

You can read more about Marianna here:




June 18, 2013

The Vigilante Hall of Fame

Pssst….have you heard about our AMAZING, INSPIRATIONAL, FREE publication The Vigilante Hall of Fame: Trendy is Boring and Other Lessons in Stylish Living? Volume No.1 is available as a download here, via the right side of our homepage. Yes, we firmly believe that following trends leads to certain style death. At Vigilante Living we seek out the opposite: an eclectic sampling the most unconventionally stylish men and women (in home and personal dress), both alive and long-gone,  and put them up on a pedestal so we can all bow and drool reverently in unison. This issue includes none other than Isabella Blow, Tilda Swinton, Olya Thompson, Hamish Bowles, and many more vigilantes! Check it out.

June 13, 2013

Learning from David Bowie

bowie-david-bowie-32025052-360-500Does it get any more Vigilante Living than David Bowie? Talk about inventing yourself on your own terms! Of course there is Bowie, the colossal figure in 20th Century rock music; and then there is Bowie the inventor of fashion shock-value (and gender ambiguity) as a tool for branding and marketing.  I’m sure some music historian would correct me, declaring some obscure baroque violinist the first shock-artist-musician. But in  contemporary times, David Bowie is the pinnacle of modern self-expression. Bowie is famous for harnessing “glam weirdness” as part of his performance art; he broke as many rules in fashion as he did in rock music. Bowie’s invention of the androgynous Ziggy Stardust — his alter ego — is a particularly captivating creative device: by playing off his face’s delicate feminine features, he turned himself into a canvas for exploratory fashion, makeup, and gender expectation. He looks like he’s posing for an avant garde fashion shoot — and in my book usually nails ‘Beautiful’. You can tell I’m not alone in my admiration. When you see a performer donning such an artful ensemble now, its just plain derivative. (Imitation is the highest form of flattery.) But the idea of being liberated and ballsy enough to invent who you want to be (even if it’s fake and temporary) takes cojones. So the next time you’re about to take a big creative risk that could potentially make you feel like a big ninny, think of Bowie in his Ziggy unitard with striped jodphur thighs and go for broke. The worst that can happen is you sober up and lay claim to a colorful past. Normal is boring.

david bowie




david-bowie_via rollingstone

Photos:/ Rolling Stone archive

June 3, 2013

Barbie vs. Dita von Teese

Dita-Von-Teese-Valentino-Couture-ELRC-5Trashy sex appeal is ubiquitous and boring. Want to know what is truly sexy? Learn from the mistress of old fashioned mystery, Dita von Teese.  Von Teese is a modern day burlesque artist with an impressive following in part due to her majestic fashion sensibility and refusal to adhere to contemporary fashion norms. Von Teese dresses in 2013 through the lens of 1940s vintage glamour, with dyed jet-black hair and porcelain skin, and in many of her civilian (non stripping clothes) she is positively prim in how much she covers up. None of her skirts hit above the knee. She avoids all common Hollywood Barbie expectations (i.e. tousled hair, clothes that reveal everything, conforming to a Barbie Doll silhouette.) And let me tell you, her visage is smoking hot. She is, of course a person who takes her clothes off for a living, is in great shape, and is groomed to the hilt — but her stylized sense of self-expression is admirable in its fierce f-you to the expected norms of contemporary life. She might not align with my own aesthetic, but I admire her deeply for staying true to herself. Barbie is still the role model for most Hollywood pin-up types. But I’d argue that Dita von Teese is the most eye-catching and seductive sex symbol to emerge in the last decade: she understands that leaving a little to the imagination is what’s truly captivating.

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ELLE Style Awards 2006 - Awards Room


Dita Von Teese wearing her own make up range

Dita von Teese photographed by Ellen von Unwerth, 2005

May 30, 2013

Missoni: Pattern Perfection

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a fashionista. Don’t get me wrong, I love fashion…but I’ve never been obsessed…a la Carrie Bradshaw. But one fashion house that has always intrigued me is Missoni. The Italian fashion house known for it’s multitude of patterns such as stripes, geometrics, and abstract florals, in a kaleidoscope of colours, is still thriving since it’s inception in 1953. This year’s spring and summer 2013 collection does not disappoint. I love the bold, ombre effect combined with their exquisite use of pattern play. It takes a true vigilante to rock these frocks, and one day this Spitfiregirl will too!



Many thanks to Olivia for asking me to contribute! Be sure to check out her post on Spitfiregirl today as well.

Colorfully yours,

More Missoni perfection can be found here

May 21, 2013

How to Not Be a Sissy

A Vigilante's Purse

Small rebellions can begin in the most common of places, like your bag. Of course most of us need a wallet to get by in society, and increasingly, a phone. However, the rest of the contents in your purse are entirely up to you. Vigilante Living encourages you to think outside your bag. Put something in there that you find amusing, or reminds you of your childhood, or is just plain old whimsical. Everyone is so busy these days that there is no room left over for a little poetic license or random nonsensical fun. Throw a surprise for yourself in your bag, so that months later you can rediscover it. Only sissys have practical purses. Life is too short. If there is not something ugly, perverse or a little inappropriate in your bag, you are not having enough fun.