This blog post is a collaboration between Pia Cortez and Madolyn Ropell,
a partnership of two women with a passion for literature and fashion
inspired by our weekend at the Abercrombie & Fitch Home Office.
Fast, new and trendy. Tap and scroll. Viral, breaking–this just in, you in? (All I need are emojis to complete this picture.)
If you’re like me, guilty of doing, buying and/or playing into the new norm of our overwhelming (but fun, for the most part) media landscape, you know what I’m talking about. Whether we’re talking about fashion, music, news or even books, it seems like there’s always something new just right around the corner.
I’m thinking about all of these things after wrapping up a too-good-to-be-true weekend in New Albany, Ohio, where I spent a couple of days going behind the scenes at the Abercrombie & Fitch Home Office. At over 125 years, the brand has undergone a sea of changes. From its beginnings as a sporting goods and clothing retailer in Manhattan to an apparel-focused brand with stores around the world, I got to know more about Abercrombie.
With everything I learned about the design process, the craftsmanship and the great folks behind every beloved pair of denim, what resonated with me the most was how they valued and embodied timelessness with their products. The fact that a piece of clothing from the brand can still look good and be functional after 10 years is astounding. Planned obsolescence (where products are designed to last a limited time and which requires replacing) is a real thing, so anything that stands the test of time is a big deal. And as a bookish person, this reminded me of books that have stood the test of time themselves, titles that are still as wildly popular as when they first came out.
I’m working on a new blog around books and looks, infusing my love for literature and fashion so my A&F weekend couldn’t have been timelier. Meeting folks who shared an equal passion for books and looks themselves was a dream. I met Madolyn Ropell who runs Gentlewoman of the Road, a kindred spirit with exquisite style and asked her to collaborate on a list of books inspired by our weekend.
I am honored to talk about my journey as I start to work with Abercrombie & Fitch. I am proud to say that I am an official Brand Agent for Abercrombie working for Archrival Agency. What in the world does that mean you ask? It pretty much means I will spreading my new found love with this 126 year old brand with you lovely people on this platform, but also hosting super fun events in my city! As someone who never connected with the brand in my younger years – I was floored to find how much this brand now felt like home. The passion they have for the clothing they make and who they are making it for is evident and contagious. The pieces are thoughtfully made for an inclusive group and they last a lifetime. Honestly what more could ya want?!
To truly encompass how special this weekend was I was asked to collaborate with one of the lovely ladies I met, Pia Cortez of Libromance, to create a book recommendation list inspired by our weekend with Abercrombie & Fitch.
Pia & Madolyn’s Picks: Timeless Reads
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
If you know Madolyn, you know that this is the perfect combination for her. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen has been her favorite book for as long as she can remember. As a younger girl she found it incredibly inspiring how Elizabeth could be elegant and soft yet still raw and unforgivingly authentic to herself.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking is a newer read for Madolyn, but definitely life-changing. She read this memoir while feeling rather heartbroken and Didion’s words on grief and surviving through heartache felt like armor for her. As she is someone who is known for her clarity, reading this book compacted with questions felt like a safe space.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One of Pia’s favorite books is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the story of Nigerian friends-turned-lovers Obinze and Ifemelu which is also in the running for PBS’s The Great American Read. Ifemelu moves to the U.S. to study and as she navigates new territory, Pia sees parallel struggles with the character around immigration and long-distance love. Ifemelu is tough, facing hurdles fearlessly as she finds her voice as a blogger on racial issues and pop culture. Pia envisions Ifemelu as a character with a lot of softness, but also with a lot of grit.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Call A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf the quintessential female fire-starter book, a classic that calls for the urgency of women’s voices in literature. When Pia read this, she knew she had found a title that she would keep coming back to. Woolf spoke of writing not just a tool for self-expression, but also as an art at a time when most female writers weren’t seen as legitimate authors of their work (that they had to use different names).
Reborn: Journals and Notebooks 1947-1963 by Susan Sontag
Pia would call Susan Sontag’s series of journals and notebooks (published posthumously) soon-to-be-classics, specially Reborn. Reading her journals was an incredibly immersive experience for her, one that begs the reader to ask how they can contribute to a sensibility that not only benefits oneself but also others. Sontag’s musings span a myriad of different things: from love to music to film to literature, and her journals continue to be a trove of depth–enough to warrant all the feelings.
Have you read any of these books? Do share if you have any to add to this list!
Pia Cortez is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She runs a book blog called Libromance where she reviews books and publishes literary features with a queer Filipino immigrant lens. She is a contributor at Hella Pinay, an online magazine for Filipino-American women and at New Life Quarterly, a literary magazine based in Oakland, California. She is currently working on her first novel.