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Miranda July could probably do anything. She has made work as an artist, film director, writer, app creator, musician and actress. In all these fields, she has received immense praise. July has exhibited at the Venice Biennale, published five books including a novel and a book of award-winning short stories, created online projects, released two albums and wrote, directed and acted in two feature films. Yet somehow across it all, she makes things that feel authentic, intimate and truly unique. It is impossible not to like Miranda July.
July has been in London for much of the two months working on her latest project, a multi-faith charity shop created with Artangel, installed in the basement of the London department store Selfridges. July brought four charities together - Islamic Relief, the Jewish charity Norwood, the London Buddhist Centre and the Spitalfields Crypt Trust - to create an amalgam shop that celebrated the charities sense of hope.
Speaking on the phone from LA, where she lives with her husband director Mike Mills, July enthused about how her Artangel project was reaching an audience beyond the art world. “Someone could have a very emotional response to the piece without ever conceptualizing it as art. That’s an achievement to me,” July explains. “I think people sometimes worry about what they should think or feel when they realize it is art. Because it’s a fully functioning store, it could swerve around that. Yet still be meaningful and surprising.”
The accessibility of her approach is what makes July so interesting. “I feel like a lot of my ideas are actually pretty weird and could be done in a totally alienating way. My job is to invite people in. Making it accessible. Making things cheap, Making them in places where people already are. That gets really exciting.” Whether it is sculptures that work when people stand in them or interviewing strangers discovered through classified ads, July’s work only makes sense because of its everyday realness.
The 43-year-old artist was brought up in Berkeley, California. She dropped out of University of Santa Cruz and moved to Portland in 1995, where she worked as a performance and video artist. It was a decade later that she had her international breakthrough, with the touching and romantic indie film ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know’. The film won four prizes in Cannes and the special jury prize at Sundance. July never looked back.
Thrift stores are familiar territory for Miranda. “I grew up shopping in the thrift stores like the Goodwill and the Salvation Army. That’s where me and my mom shopped and could afford. My first job was at a Goodwill store,” she remembers. July first discovered British charity shops in her early 20s, when she came to London to perform at the ICA and LUX. What blew her away was their breadth. “There are many little ones on every street for every cause, for every phase, for every kind of suffering. It seemed so British to me.” July’s ideas often emerge from real, lived experiences and responses to a place.
The Artangel project followed a creative collaboration with Miu Miu, where she created the art app Somebody which connected strangers through their phones. She wanted to try working with something unbranded in the context of the luxury store. “I think there is something political about making a utopic space,” July considers. She has spent up to eight hours a day in the store, watching people make friends and return with the families. Many have given the staff food in thanks. “They return again and again. Charity shops are not just a capitalist space. They function as a community space, for all different kinds of people,” July enthuses. On average the shops is earning £1200 a day - more than most charity shops make in a week.
July’s own taste in fashion - a fusion of vintage and independent labels - initially influenced her take on the project. All the goods were stockpiled in a warehouse and pieces were pulled weekly to restock the shop. Just before the opening, July went through thousands of items and pulled her favourites. “The funny thing I realized right away was that the audience was so diverse that a lot of my ‘special’ curated picks would just sit there day after day! And the Zara faux-leather, studded thing would get snapped up immediately. And it looked really good! I now have such a respect for peoples’ ability to find what’s right for them and for all the different vernaculars. A charity shop can speak to all of them.”
July’s living, breathing store also has a sense of narrative built into it. Stories come naturally to July in all mediums. The boundary between fiction and reality is very thing and loose for her. “It’s clear I’m making a real fiction from the ground up with books and movies. But a lot of times I’m interested in real people. I’ve cast real people in movies like someone I met through the PennySaver.” July explains. “I still am really interested in how you can make a narrative with strangers.”
When the shop closes its doors of October 22, July will return to LA to work on her third feature film. She has finished the writing and is currently casting the leads. July herself isn’t stepping in front of the camera this time, but like everything she creates you can guarantee her honest, open and individualistic take on life will exude from every scene.
By Francesca Gavin for Semaine.
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Womens Designer Inspired Two Piece Suit
Setting Up and Running Charity Shops: An Essential Guide
Post-it - Pop-up Note Dispenser
Womens Designer Inspired Pearl Button Strap Wool Knitwear Cardigan
Red, Wooden Arms Conran Maclamp 20th Century Desk Lamp
“I grew up shopping in the thrift stores like the Goodwill and the Salvation Army. That’s where me and my mom shopped and could afford. My first job was at a Goodwill store”
Celine - Rare Vintage 1960s Burgundy Velvet Skirt Suit
The First Bad Man
Erdem - Luxurious Pink Bordeaux Rose Floral Jacquard Skirt Jacket Suit
Strenesse - Women leather skirt genuine leather
Joules - Womens Laurel Long Line Shirt in Blue and Pink check
New Balance - U220 Mens Sneakers Suede Retro Running Shoes
Moschino - Grey virgin wool skirt suit
Dries Van Noten - Silver Knit Blue Kaleidoscope Print Chunky Sweater Jumper
Dust Bag in Black
Daisy Daisies Black Flower Blossom Floral Phone Case Cover
Converse - Classic Chuck Taylor Low Trainer Sneaker All Star OX
Hermes - Silk Scarf
The book aisle
Miranda currently has six published books in circulation. She's also working on her third feature film... We're not sure if her creative brain ever stops, but we're extremely glad it is so high functioning.
Come as You Are: the surprising new science that will transform your sex life
No One Belongs Here More Than You
Learning to Love You More
Man V. Nature: Stories
The First Bad Man
It Chooses You Hardcover
Strike it gold
Her first ever job was at a Goodwill store and she's spent an extensive amount of time in Britain's charity shops. If anyone knows how to strike it gold whilst charity shopping, it's Miranda... Follow these tips to become a charity shop champion.
I think it’s important to move quickly around to what catches your eye and just quickly keep pulling things out that catch your eye initially. If there’s a fabric or a color just like pull it out, because sometimes then you can move very instinctually.
Go through the racks one by one, which is really what you have to do if you’re hardcore.
Sometimes things that you find together you would never usually buy them if you found them apart, but they make sense together. Often, I’m like ‘Is this going to hold water when I leave this place? Do these two kind of ugly things make magic together?’ And they do. I would trust that instinct and just always wear them together and think of them as a set.
It often doesn’t work out to buy shoes in charity shops. Just really make sure. Even though they’re cheap and you feel like ‘oh, it doesn’t really matter if they don’t really fit,’ for that one thing it actually does.
If I’ve gotten an incredible deal, then I can spend some of the money I’ve saved on a good tailor.
Books from border to border
Miranda listed us her favourite bookstores that she has ever visited, all over the world. Now you can lose yourself in the same places that she has birthed her own thoughts and ideas.
Chanel - Vintage Red Wool Tweed Jacket Skirt Suit
850ml Double Layer Lunch Box
Barracuda - Delphinus Ladies 26" Wheel Single Speed Vintage Heritage Bike
BXT - Ultimate Travelling Pillow Comfort-U Inflatable Velour Aeroplane Neck
Vintage Gorgeous Silk Haori Kimono Jacket
Leica - M Monochrom Type 246 Digital Rangefinder Camera Body Black
Sushi Towel set Futomaki x2 Japanese cusine Sushi Roll Norimaki & Tamagomaki
GANT - Classic Peacoat Ladies Jacket
Suck UK - Bear Skin Gingham Picnic Blanket
Small Vintage Constellation Suitcase c. 1970's
A6 Luxury Fine Italian PU Leather Ruled Lined Notebook
Miranda's movie marathon
After the Artangel project has finished, Miranda will be heading back to Los Angeles to work on her third feature film. She had her first international breakthrough, the indie film ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know’. The film won four prizes in Cannes and the special jury prize at Sundance. I think it's safe to say her selections below are ones to watch.
"BRIGHT STAR" BY JANE CAMPION, 2009
A minute with Miranda's mind
Have you ever wanted to see what it would be like if you probed Miranda July with quickfire questions? Well, today is very much your lucky day. Read below for some very insightful answers.
I’m really into suits like anything with a matching top and bottom, so I go for that these days and like, of course, most of them are not good but occasionally they’ll be just thrown in there some really great, high-quality like wool suits. (The pantsuit never works out, really. That has to be made.) I recently got one that is a terrible polyester material but it’s such a good cut that I’m going to have it remade in like a silk jersey.
Maybe going to the heart of the matter.
I really enjoy @balletrusse. I think she’s from Russia. She has great, original style but she’s also just an amazing ballerina. I get very inspired watching her.
I remember someone telling me and my husband early on in our marriage that if you were looking for resolution, like trying to resolve everything when you fought, that you just wouldn’t last in a relationship and that you had to get comfortable with things, with resolution not being the goal.
Maybe ask them a question that you think they’re going to know the answer to.
This is kind of boring but I was googling Frieze because I’m doing like a Frieze VIP event. I was looking to see if that was on the website if that had been announced, but subsequently, someone told me that the VIP events are not announced ever so I stopped looking.
The new Blow album Brand New Abyss.
This is sort of embarrassing but a movie I’ve seen a lot - A Room with a View. It’s so romantic, and she’s so wonderful. It just all revolves around her at her. I could just watch her forever, and I love how that movie ends. It’s just one of those things that’s like shaped me.
The first thing up is someone I love and my greatest style-maker Please and Thank You Store (@pleaseandthankyoustore). It’s a picture of this woman Jenny. It looks like she’s splattering paint on clothes, and her dog is kind of getting in the way. Jenny curates vintage clothes for select, secret clients and famous designers who need references. And also for some people like me. She’s open to the public once in a while and she’s just the most lovely person.