Reflekt Muse: Simon Sotelo
Known for her ornate vintage coke bottle glasses and a key figure in the arts and diy community Simon Sotelo is a true Zine Queen. The co-founder of the extremely popular L.A Zinefest and a talented graphic designer and illustrator. 50's vintage dresses mixed with skeletons and skulls reflects Simon's creative and independent lifestyle. Read the rest of her style story in Issue º8 DISTINCT.
How did you grow up?
My life's story in a nutshell. I was born in Pasadena in the late 1980s and I spent a lot of my childhood accidentally hurting myself and watching a lot of TV. I was raised in a small part of central Los Angeles nicknamed "Frogtown" because it resides along the L.A. River and decades ago frogs would overpopulate the streets when it would rain heavily and the river would flood. It was the closest thing you could find to a suburb near downtown. Even though its along the interstate 5 its very isolated. The river separates it from North East L.A., and the Elysian hills separate it from everything else. I have not so fond memories waiting and riding the ONLY bus that we through my neighborhood, so even though the area was near the bustle of downtown L.A., it felt like I grew up in a calm suburb. Fortunately unlike a small suburb, I was minutes away from the more exciting parts of the city, so long as I could get a ride from my mom. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't really allowed to walk around the neighborhood at night because of gang activity.
I was raised my mother and my great aunt Lili. While my mother was at work or night school, my sister and I were left in the care of our great aunt. She's lives adjacent to the Silverlake dog park and has been there since the mid 60s. I spent a lot of my youth in Silverlake and Echo Park watching the neighborhood change drastically from the time I was a kid to the time I became a teenager.
Growing up in towns that neighbored Hollywood, I often felt like I was surrounded by weirdos: the good, the bad, the sad, and it was all fascinating! When I was a child my father would want to watch horror movies with me and my mother wanted to take me to the pride festivals in West Hollywood. At that early age certainly got my fill of shocking imagery, and it raised the bar for what I considered to be weird.
How did your style develop?
I wore uniforms all the way through middle school and I didn't give my clothing that much thought until the 8th grade when I started to listen to a lot alternative music and I was trying to find clothing that matched my intense teenage angst and frustration. That took me to lots of thrift stores and I was drawn to anything that was black or a dark color. This was the same time that my puberty teamed up with /The Rocky Horror Picture Show/ and lead me on a path to dozens of mini skirts with fishnet stockings. At that time it was very important for me to be shocking and somehow win the title of the strangest person in the room.This went on for years until I starting taking public transportation more and I found myself uncomfortable because of my short skirts or knee high boots. That's when I started incorporating a lot of dresses into my wardrobe, some of which I still have and fit surprisingly well.
I went to an art college where a lot of the students were using their wardrobe to stand out from the crowd. It was closer to me finishing college that I realized I wasn't just trying to be the weirdo in the room, I was trying to be creative with my clothing choices. I felt like I was consciously refining my style for the first time.Close to finishing college I started riding my bike to...everywhere! I started to put an emphasis on practical wear and clothing that was comfortable to wear riding a bike, and that meant learning which style dress won't fly up when your on a bike.
Early style influences?
Like I mentioned, I was OBSESSED with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and The Angry Inch. To sum it up, flamboyant musicals and goth/punk music lead me to experiment with my clothing. There was no limit to what I could do with a sewing kit and a trip to Out of the Closet. It was easy to stereotype my style; there was a lot of stripes, plaid, and black lace.
Do you dress for yourself or others?
I dress for myself most of the time. Fortunately my recent jobs have been in very comfortable environments that let me choose how I want to dress in the office. Most of the time my co-workers wear t-shirts and sweat pants because that's how they are comfortable. I preferred to dress up a little bit, it might be because it made me feel like a grown up. The only people who seem to disapprove of my style are in fact people I'm related to. They let me know about it all the time. No one besides me in my family prefers to do their shopping at thrift stores and I often get a raised eyebrow from them when I put together an interesting outfit.
Personal styling trick?
Know your body type. There are lots of ways I describe myself: broad shoulders, small waist, big hips, big calves, and even bigger feet. If something catches my eye because of the color or print, I can often tell whether or not I'll like the way it fits based on its shape. Certain cuts of clothing just make me feel better when I wear them and that's a big part of my style, meaning things like tight shirts and full skirt dresses. An unchanging part of my style since I was young.
What are your hobbies?
I like to draw and listen to podcasts. As someone who grew up listening to a ton of radio, the transition to the world of podcasts wasn't hard to obsess over.Recreationally I really like activities outdoors too! I ride my bike at the beach or around the neighborhood, running at Griffith Park, and hiking up Echo Mountain. Whenever I visit my grandparents in Northern AZ, I'm always hoping I get to go hiking in Sedona. To me Sedona is an eerie kind of beauty. I also co-founded the L.A. Zine Fest, an annual independent publishers expo. It started out as a hobby and turned into one of my biggest responsibilities.
What are your current projects?
I just finished up a few fine art pieces for a Dr. Who themed art show at Meltdown Comics. I'm very excited to be apart of the show and see the work from other artist. I saw that there are dozens participating! Currently I'm working on an installation for a collective called Heart On who produces a calendar every year featuring 13 installations. My month is September and I have the majority of the larger parts worked out but its those smaller details that I'm still working out.
How do you think people react to your style?
I've gotten a lot of positive reactions to the way I dress when I'm paying attention. Then again I realize that I tune out negativity so from my perspective it always positive! But seriously, I do put thought into how I'm wearing different pieces of clothing. I know how I like to match particular shirts with a certain pair of shorts or shoes.
Do you feel your personal style reflects who you are?
I very much feel my style in a reflection of myself because of how little I think I've changed. I'm not saying that I dress exactly the same as as did when I was thirteen, but I knew what I liked at a young age and I like to think my style was refined over the years. There are a lot similarities in my wardrobe now and my wardrobe ten years ago. I prefer to wear lots of dark clothing with hints of color, particularly black clothing with hints of color. I find comfort in darker clothing, they make she feel grounded and it kinda ties everything together in my mind's eye. As a girl who likes dark humor and morbid curiosities, the clothes I choose express who I am and what I like.
Any last words?
I'm not trying reinvent fashion styles or start my own movement, not anymore. I applaud appreciate those who do but I'm not interested in doing that. I know what I like and what clothes makes me comfortable on my own body, that's where I am having fun exploring my options and being creative. There's no end to your evolution and it shouldn't be pleasing anyone but yourself.
Follow Simon's work here and L.A zinefest