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A WRITTEN PORTRAIT
Abbot Kinney, tobacco tycoon and developer, spun the romantic swirling Venetian smoke of his pipe dream into the winding canals lit by the golden sun of Venice Beach, California. The smoky atmosphere of his dreams never quite dissipated as Venice Beach decades later is freckled with eclectic people across the shoreline soaking up different cultures and styles. Alexandra Ginnold, visual artist, stylist, model and content curator, inhales the silky air-filled fantasies of transporting to another place, upon which her home was built. Alexandra yearns for the emerald green mossy air of Moher, the golden low lights illuminating tall silhouettes in Parisian cobblestone, and the 1920s women’s romantic fantasies etched in notebooks that could never leave the smoke-filled parlor. She is a storyteller through art, fashion, and beauty as some of her earliest memories are of creating life stories for characters who would come alive on paper as she drew. Through fashion and beauty, she is her own canvas creating stories for herself in various time periods and cities. She looks like she stepped out of a 1920s art deco poster, trailed by sweet orange scented wisps of fog, with her dark bobbed hair, bright red lip, and golden jewelry. Her image, however, is not in any way contrived- she is the most genuine form of herself giving her PORTRAY-T a vintage-inspired outline.
Alexandra describes herself as a “sustainable siren from another era;” a very fitting description as she mostly shops sustainably in vintage thrift shops finding hidden gems. Her signature look is captivating while her personality makes her even more magnetic and colors her portrait in deep jewel tones of ruby, emerald, and gold. Read below for a full PORTRAY-T of Alexandra Ginnold as she vibrantly details her French New Wave inspirations, her favorite sensory memories, her view of herself, and how that perception is reflected in her art and styling!
I just wanted to start with a general overview of how you got started doing the work you’re doing now in visual arts from modeling and styling to art and content creation.
I’ve been doing sketches and art for a very long time since I was 5. I used to think about stories and then I would talk out loud and draw these girls that matched the characters that I wanted to create. It was kind of like a coping mechanism for life and for school because I always struggled with ADHD and learning disabilities. I could never really concentrate and I thought in a different way than a lot of other people in my class. So, it was really helpful to be able to draw and think about these characters that didn’t exist in the world. It was an escape for me. And then with modeling, I was scouted at a shopping mall in Los Angeles by a boutique agency. When I was growing up, I did a bit of modeling. I had a few jobs as a teenager and then when I was 18, I got signed with an agency and I did a lot of smaller, editorial things like lookbooks. I did a lot of smaller lookbooks and catalogs for Korean and Japanese brands which is really cool. Now, I’m not signed, but I do a lot of freelance modeling for brands that I align with because now I don’t just work with any brand. I try to only model for brands that are sustainable and have values that align with mine. Now, it’s just a fun thing that I do sometimes to make a little extra money when the opportunity presents itself.
Living in Venice Beach, California, how do you think the city has fostered your creativity and influenced your style?
Yes, I actually grew up here and lived in Germany for a while. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Venice, but it’s a very eclectic, odd place. There’s a certain cosmopolitan lifestyle you can lead here because a lot of foreigners are attracted to Venice, so there’s a lot of great restaurants and artistic things that people from all over the world have created. So growing up here, I’ve always had some access to other cultures because of it being a very popular tourist destination. It’s very international which a lot of people wouldn’t expect. I think that influenced me to think in a broad way because I knew there was a lot out there. On the other hand, it’s very funky and kind of odd. There are a lot of weird characters who wear weird things. I grew up with a mixture of the two - a cosmopolitan veneer with eclectic, interesting, odd artists inside. It’s kind of like anything’s accepted and anything goes. There is also a lot of disparity in wealth - there are a lot of unhoused people - which is very American and easy to see here. So, there’s a mixture of very opposing personalities in Venice which made me see things in an odd way. Everyone’s so odd that it’s embraced to be kooky and wacky. I kind of am a bit wacky, so I attribute that to Venice. I also grew up skating and surfing which you might not be able to tell from my current aesthetic. The surf and skate culture lends an air of casualness - a casual Californian spark. Anyone who grows up here is bound to be an interesting person. Everyone I’ve grown up with is now an interesting person in their own way because we had access to opposing lifestyles and opposing opinions.
Do you feel like you have any German style?
I feel like I have a lot of European style influences. More so than Venice, I’m actually very influenced by Scandinavian style, French style, and German style. In Germany, I learned the art of minimalism. Before that, I used to be such a maximalist. I would wear bright colors like an orange jumpsuit - anything to stand out the most that I could. Then after being in Germany, I saw these beautiful women that were so chic and simple but they stuck out in their own way. I kind of mixed the two. I was like “I can add elements that are unique but keep silhouettes and colors to a minimum.” I learned to not be too tame or wild with my style. Also, French New Wave is a really big inspiration of mine as well as old Italian films.
Do you feel like you gravitate towards a specific color palette or aesthetic? I saw your train station palette and it seems like you like oranges, yellows, reds - the warm colors.
Thanks so much no one has ever told me that they’ve seen that palette! Yeah, definitely. When I was traveling through Europe, it was kind of crazy. I dropped out of school and went to Europe with just savings from retail jobs - basically nothing. I didn’t have support from my parents or anything like that. It was just on a whim. I was just traveling through Europe on trains and subways and metros and I just really liked how bright and weird the colors were. In the US, we don’t have great public transport, so I was so excited to be able to take trains and I really liked how yellow, red, and orange were the main colors in most German cities. In France, there was a lot of yellow, orange, and purple too. I started to notice that and I would get really excited. It sounds weird, but it would make my day. I started to view things through yellow and orange, so I would go out of my way to look for it and whenever it appeared, it was almost like a sign or confirmation - like I’m on the right path. I just like the way those colors look together. I like primary colors because they are very pure and pop - they are minimal but they say so much. I think humans are really attracted to those colors because they represent vitality, sunlight, and happiness. I always think of those colors as happy colors. It’s the same thing with red lipstick. Now, I wear red lipstick and it’s because I like the pop it provides to your face. It draws the eyes.
"I started to view things through yellow and orange, so I would go out of my way to look for it and whenever it appeared, it was almost like a sign or confirmation - like I’m on the right path. I just like the way those colors look together. I like primary colors because they are very pure and pop - they are minimal but they say so much. I think humans are really attracted to those colors because they represent vitality, sunlight, and happiness. It’s the same thing with red lipstick. Now, I wear red lipstick and it’s because I like the pop it provides to your face. It draws the eyes."
How did you develop your signature style?
For the bob, I was always obsessed with the 1920s. I loved Ernest Hemingway’s book A Moveable Feast which was basically about his experience in Paris during that time. I grew up reading a lot about the 1920s and I love The Great Gatsby and Midnight in Paris. There’s something about that period of time that’s very empowering. Obviously, for women, it wasn’t so great but we always glamorize the past. For me, the bob is a feminist statement. Long hair has always been considered the most beautiful on women in modern society and your hair is your beauty a lot of the time. I had long hair most of my life and the first time I cut it, it was kind of an accident because it was damaged and I felt really free and like me. I felt like nothing was covering who I was. The bob was coming home to who I actually was. I always loved these 1920s icons with their bobs and they were free and sassy and vibrant, so I felt like the bob for me is a very vibrant haircut. You’re not hiding behind anything. It’s also kind of an accessory because a lot of fashion fits with it very well in a unique way. It’s a great fashion haircut. It’s modern but also vintage depending on how you dress it. I always try to convince my friends to cut their hair off. I just think it’s one of the most empowering things you can do. You realize you’re so much more than these beauty standards. As women, we are so connected to our hair, so every time I cut it, I still get nervous. I love the thrill of it. It’s like an adrenaline rush. For the matching red lips and nails, both of them are so intimate. Your hands and lips are special parts of your body that are sensual but seen all the time, so I’m really drawn to the movement of having red on my lips and on my nails. I think it puts any look together because there’s always this common factor. There’s a comfort in sticking to that.
Do you have any specific style icons or artistic inspirations?
Marion Cotillard’s character in Midnight in Paris. She’s a French woman with a bob and she’s Picasso’s muse. I first watched that film when I was 10 and I remember being so drawn to her. I remember thinking, “she’s a different type of woman than I’ve ever seen.” Most girls want role models that we can be inspired by, especially since so many of us are insecure. I remember thinking that she was so vibrant and I loved her free spirit. Also, Zelda Fitzgerald. She is described as being a stubborn, crazy woman who wasn’t tameable. I liked her energy from how she is described. I’m influenced more by the spirit than the actual aesthetic.
"For me, the bob is a feminist statement. Long hair has always been considered the most beautiful on women in modern society and your hair is your beauty a lot of the time. I had long hair most of my life and the first time I cut it, it was kind of an accident because it was damaged and I felt really free and like me. I felt like nothing was covering who I was. The bob was coming home to who I actually was."
Moving into social media, do you feel like social media ever impacts your mental health in a negative way?
It does negatively impact my mental health. I get a lot of hate. It’s really hard not to take it personally even though you know these people don’t know you so their attacks aren’t based on much except some videos. It’s hard when people attack physical things and personality traits because they make assumptions about your life. That’s been really hard. It’s hard to feel hated by people you don’t know. At the same time, it’s made me a lot stronger because I am a really sensitive person and being an artist, the only way I can survive in this world is by putting my art out there. Obviously, I can survive, but what I mean is to thrive and be happy, I do need to gain a following and some sort of appreciation for my art. I just knew the only way I can do that in this modern age is through social media. I made the decision this year actually to just put the stuff that I did out there more. It is really scary but it’s also empowering. In your 20s, you’re like “Who am I? What do I bring to the table?” There are all these questions and before, I wasn’t putting my most authentic content out there. Now I am. So, there’s a tradeoff, but it’s worth it.
Do you have a favorite art piece of yours?
I have a few. I call my profile picture “sad girl,” but that’s basically me. It’s very simple but it’s a portrait of me and it feels like one of the most authentic things I’ve ever made. There’s something about it that just feels very me. Not everything I’ve done has felt that way. It’s not on my website, but I also have a collage that I made that I really like because I mixed different photos and train tickets and memorabilia from my time traveling. It represents a feeling. I consider it a mashup of a dream. I also consider outfits to be art. There are definitely a few outfits I created that I’ve thought represent a feeling that I really wanted to convey. I love when people get the references. I love when people say, “You’re going for French New Wave, but I can also see a 90s edge to that.” I’m like, “Yes! You get it!” It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s great confirmation.
What advice would you give to people wanting to start shopping sustainably?
I obviously acknowledge that depending on where you are, it's not as easy. It’s not one-size-fits-all and it's definitely a privilege to find thrift shops. There are a lot of different layers to it. I would say you don’t have to find everything in one day. I think people feel this pressure when thrifting like “I have to find an entire outfit” or “I have to be so good at it and know what I’m doing right away,” but you should go again and again and build a wardrobe that way rather than go one day and agonize over finding everything you want. I think it’s good to have a list of clothes that you want. For example, I wanted a leather coat and I had it in the back of my head for months and I was like “I’ll know it when I see it.” I found it two weeks ago and it was really reasonable and I was super happy. It was in the back of my head and I was patient about it. I feel like patience is a big thing we lack in this modern age because we are so used to ordering from Zara or Shein and getting everything we want right away. With thrifting, it’s almost like you’re going back in time when you had to really search for something. It’s almost like rewiring your brain to think of clothes in a different way. We often view clothes as trends but that’s bad for shopping sustainably because sustainability is about keeping your clothes for a long time and focusing on timeless pieces. It’s just about shifting your values. I would also recommend people watch The True Cost. That’s what made me shop sustainable.
If you could pick two vintage/thrifted items of yours that you think describe your personality best, what would they be?
That’s such a great question! I have these silk neck scarves. I have a printed red silk neck scarf from Japan. Once I got that, it put together so many outfits. Growing up, my mom was a fan of neck scarves but I hadn’t really worn them. Every time I’d leave the house with a tank top, she’d be like, “Add a neck scarf! Add some pizzazz!” and I’d be like, “That’s kind of an old lady thing.” But then when I started to get into vintage style, I realized that she was really onto something. Neck scarves can elevate any look and make any look seem vintage or unique. I feel like this red neck scarf that I have has really shaped my personality in a way. It sounds dramatic, but I feel like it really did. I have so many bags but there is this one vintage crocodile bag that I also felt really put things together for me. It was from the 1940s - I think it was called a naturalizer handbag and it was this faux crocodile brown purse. I just felt like it got me into handbags because before, I just had one or two bags that I would carry. I didn’t understand the concept of having so many bags. But when I found that bag, I was like “Wait. Bags can change everything.” So now I collect bags and I have so many vintage bags - probably 25 thrifted bags that I alternate.
If you could bottle three scents, what would they be and what do they remind you of?
One that just came to mind is the Berlin metro. There’s this smell about German metro stations - it’s not a beautiful smell - but it’s so sentimental to me. It’s a mixture of pretzels because they have pretzels everywhere mixed with some weird underground scent mixed with everyone’s perfumes mingling. I just love that smell. It’s not even a good smell but it's so sentimental. I’d love to bottle it. I think I’d cry if I smelled it right now. I really like a seaside scent - not because I’m from California - but the smell of a different type of sea. More northern. I’ve always had this connection to Ireland, It’s always been this mystical place for me. I’ve always felt like “I have to go there. That’s my home” which is really random but I’ve always felt that way. As a kid, I would literally be like, “All I want to do is dance without shoes on a hilltop in Ireland with rabbits when I’m old. I don’t even want to get married. I just want to do that. I know that’s what I need to do.” So, I kind of created this fantasy of Ireland, so for my 21st birthday since I was already in Europe, I went there for a few days. I took this secret hike near the cliffs of Moher and it was just me and my ex at the time. We took this hike and I remember the smell. It was so fresh - a mixture of moss and sea greens or something, seaweed, the air, and it was March so it was still cold. It just smelled so spiritual. The third one is...there’s this hotel in Paris called Le Hotel and it’s where Oscar Wilde died which was pretty cool. People like to go there for drinks, so I went there for drinks. They have all these drinks for different writers. It was so expressive and the smell in there was a mixture of orange, bitter, a general perfume, and everyone’s perfume mingling as they walked by. It just smelled elegant and exciting and like another time period.
Image: Cliffs of Moher
"I’ve always had this connection to Ireland, It’s always been this mystical place for me. I’ve always felt like 'I have to go there. That’s my home' which is really random but I’ve always felt that way. As a kid, I would literally be like, 'All I want to do is dance without shoes on a hilltop in Ireland with rabbits when I’m old. I don’t even want to get married. I just want to do that. I know that’s what I need to do.'"
Do you have a favorite piece of advice that someone has told you or words you live by?
Yeah. I got really into Existentialism and I read Camus. I really like the concept of existentialism because it’s kind of like realizing that nothing matters. The things we place importance on aren’t actually important, a lot of them are just societal constructs and norms. It’s not a piece of advice, but the mantra of “nothing matters” is really helpful to me. I could see how it could be depressing for some people, but for me as someone who has really bad anxiety and overthinks decisions I make, it's so helpful. I’m like “Wait. No one cares. Nothing matters.” We’re just molecules so there’s no purpose to what we’re doing, so we can create a purpose. There’s no preordained purpose and I like that.
Is there a difference between the way you view yourself and the way others view you?
Wow these questions! I almost have goosebumps! I feel like I see a lot more of my flaws. I don’t always show that part of myself but I have a lot of self-criticism and perfectionism. Even if it doesn’t show in the content I put out which is not perfect by any means - that’s kind of the point - it’s a little messy and I wasn’t classically trained, but in my head, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I hold myself to a really high standard. People around me don’t know that about me. In my TikTok comments, some people say, “She gives me ‘I think I’m better than you’ vibes” or “she comes across as very arrogant” because I use a lot of references from French New Wave. People think I’m this pseudo-intellectual because I like French New Wave and Existentialism. I get a lot of comments like that and I feel like people really misunderstand what those things mean to me. For me, they’re not for anything but joy. There’s definitely a disconnect about how I might express my passions for those things. I also have a lot of layers to me. I don’t just love fashion. There are a lot of things I’m interested in. Growing up, I was a pretty big nerd. I got obsessed with random concepts like pandemics and diseases. I used to want to be an epidemiologist, which is so random. I might come across as just one thing, but I’m a lot more than that. I’m just showcasing one aspect of myself that I think is fun to play into.
@alexarndra on Instagram
@preraphaelitequeen on TikTok
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