Oh Coachella…where do I begin? One of the windiest Coachellas to date truly was a whirlwind.
There is a reason why seasoned festival fanatics and free-spirited fashionistas consider this place the Holy Land. There is truly nothing like it. Coachella seemed like a far-off fantasy for this Canadian chickie, despite embodying the Coachella Boho-chic dress code in the every day, as climate impractical as that may have been at times. While on The Yacht week last summer in Croatia, a boat of Californian frat boys nicknamed me, “Chella,” since I refused to ascribe to the nautical stripe classic crew wear in favour of my layered pirate vibes making me more fit for a festival. Every day can’t be a music festival, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pretend!
After hearing stories of tickets selling out in minutes, I figured my desert dreams would remain a far-off fantasy. Until one day on a whim, I entered a contest for one of my all-time favourite brands, Pacific & Driftwood. They totally embody the vintage rock-and-roll Coachella lifestyle, and are one of the most unique, and innovative brands I have ever seen. I have been following their Instagram since the beginning and they are the type of company I would love to work with. Now, I enter many contests on social media, and surprisingly I have been lucky enough to win a few for concert tickets in the past. Still when I found out my entry, which naturally came pouring out of me in a short 15 minutes by the television had won the Pacific and Driftwood competition for two tickets to Coachella I did a double-take. Sitting in my dad’s conservative law office, I had to excuse myself after yelping to go jump up and down outside. For the contest you had to relate the brand to Coachella. Here was my winning entry:
“Whether it is at a music festival, or with intricate, unique fashion (like your entire line) we are all just looking to spread our wings and fly away. Escape to a fantasy, live in a beautiful way, with beautiful things and beautiful sounds. Much of your line features cutouts of birds, or a pheonix, representative of this freedom that an incredible music festival like Coachella, or a gorgeous piece of art (albeit a swimsuit) can make you feel. When you wear a piece from Pacific and Driftwood or go to Coachella that fire and confidence in your spirit is ignited. Your line exudes everything Coachella represents: art, music and free-spirited individualism. The Navajo style desert, hippie vibes run boldly through your designs and have become synonymous with Coachella fashion. Coachella seeks to bridge the gap between old and modern, retro and new, whether it is with old rock and roll bands playing alongside up-and-coming electronic DJs; holographic Tupac after new rap acts; 16-year-old instagram celebs dancing alongside Boho babely model moms in the audience. There is a respect for the old among an array of all that is cutting-edge and new. Your rock & roll swimsuits featuting vintage prints of Van Halen and Led Zepellin graphics are classic, but have modern cuts. This is also the new and cutting-edge respecting the beauty of the old, of a simpler, perhaps freer time. Paul McCartney headlined last year and one of your very first suits was a Beatles one-piece. As Van Halen would say: @pacific_and_driftwood and @coachella are the “best of both worlds” and “a little bit of heaven right here on earth.”
Still in disbelief, it began to sink in and I immediately started to plan. Priorities – I immediately began going through all my e-commerce wish-lists and started clicking “add to bag.” Then I had to decide who to bring… this was one of the hardest parts. My initial thought, was my little brother, who is as big of a festival fiend as me, but unfortunately he would be doing final papers for his Masters at that time, next I considered my many girlfriends, but how could I pick just one? It would be the whole squad or nothing. So, trusting my gut and the strong feelings I already had for my new boyfriend I told him pretty much immediately. I could not have made a better choice. We both are such avid Guns & Roses fans that we had dressed up as Slash on many a Halloween, and the fact they were headlining this year made the win all the more sweet (child of mine).
Next I began actually planning. It is no secret that, at a festival where the fashions of its patrons are chronicled just as closely as the music and followed by the entire world, this was going to require some skilled packing. Pacific & Driftwood sent me these two incredible pieces that I wore on the first day were total hits!
The Ziggy one-piece and jumpsuit pay homage to the recent late David Bowie and seemed very appropriate for the first day when Coachella was honouring another fashion trailblazer, Prince.
Our very first day at Coachella, Eric and I experienced some of the windiest weather the Polo fields have ever seen apparently. We initially seriously considered making the trip a cross-country road trip in my Jeep and camping there to have the full experience. When car camping passes proved impossible to come by, we bought a travel package and decided to fly and stay at the Marriott Desert Springs. This choice ended up being a lifesaver.
Our hotel was beautiful, and after the long very dusty walks each day we could not be more grateful for a shower and a bed. Not to mention the security of having all of our fashionable valuables locked away. The shuttles were very efficient, despite getting hopelessly lost on the vast grounds the first night, while in full hippie mode after the most hilarious game of glow in the dark dodgeball that we stumbled upon in the campground, we still somehow made it back to our hotel shuttle every night. Despite regularly being an avid after partier who enjoys the night ending when the sun rises, even I was more than happy to call it a night when the shuttle buses stopped. You walk such long distances over the course of the day, that you really have to maximize your time efficiently by picking and choosing which sets to go to and using downtime to recharge those dancing boots. That being said, the first day we went ham! We shared a bottle of duty-free overproof vodka with everyone on our shuttle bus and made friends very quickly. We invited a fellow Canadian couple to be our Newfie compadres as we set off to explore the campground and meet up with my Yacht week friends from San Francisco at their campsite. A Canada vs. The USA flip cup tournament with jungle juice ensued and things got very wavey in the desert. Next we met up with a group I met through the Coachella forum, who couldn’t be more welcoming. Throughout the entire festival, we consistently met caring, kind, hospitable people who were eager to pass the blunt and dance with us. I felt like I was in Neverland where positivity, joy and gratitude radiated through everyone, even in this massive group of people on this great expanse of desert in the middle of nowhere. That being said the desert is not for the faint of heart. Reading the Coachella forums before our adventure I took some of the many pieces of advice into consideration when planning for desert weather, but mostly fashion trumped function and I assumed many of these suggestions aired on the side of being overly prudent. I am a hearty Canadian viking woman after all. Day 1, when I experienced my first desert storm, I had some sense knocked into me. When our local friends started calling Coachella 2016, “Windchella,” we knew this wasn’t your average techno-fueled Darude sandstorm. This was Prince, laying down his heaviest guitar riff in the skies to shake things up a bit! A$AP Rocky had to stop in the middle of his set because parts of the stage and screens were falling down. The crowds seemed to only dance harder when this happened as the sun set and by the time we saw JackÜ, I felt like I had entered some sort of surreal pandemonium with my scarf tied across my face with all the other bandits. After Ellie Goulding surprised us with an incredibly beautiful Prince tribute, we decided to wander the campground and catch our breath. It looked akin to a war zone. Tents had blown up and gone through car windows, every rig was down. The scene looked skeletal compared to its original state of vibrant gypsy refuge in the heat of the day. People very calmly reassembled their ravaged campsites and continued partying, while we were grateful to be heading home to a fresh bed that night. The drama made the scene all the more magical.
We learned quickly how to adapt our wardrobes for the weather, and since we plan to go back every year with more friends in tow, here are some tips I can pass along to any of my fellow festival dreamers:
1) Prepare for costume changes. You need three outfits over the course of the day. Or three different looks to layer upon. This may seem extreme, but the weather drastically changes over the course of the day. I am a woman who ascribes to the philosophy of always carrying a bikini in my purse in the summer, because well you never know what type of wet and wild adventure the day will bring. At Coachella, you may start in your bikini at one of the pool parties, then end up heading off to the festival in some sort of swimsuit + shorts or cover-up combo for the heat of the day when the sun is blazing and temperatures are around 35°C. You need another outfit for the early evening, maybe it is a cute Guns & Roses crop top and leather shorts or a matching set by For Love and Lemons. Finally, it will start to get really cold around 8 p.m. this is when you should bust out the bell bottoms and a jacket or sweater. Even then you may still be shaking since your sweat from dancing earlier in the day will have cooled you. So get good at changing in public, rompers are a challenge, especially if you plan to use the facilities. And that big crossbody fringe purse to fit everything is essential.
2) Footwear… As cute and quintessentially Chella as my Free People gladiator sandals were, they were not the most enjoyable option. Rocks and sand are going to be forever embedded in your feet if you wear any type of open-toe shoe and since you will be walking long distances, it is generally not worth it. Kicks or boots are truly the only way to go.
3) Accessories are essential!!! I knew I would have to bring many, many accessories. The Boho look requires a lot of layering and on any given day my jewelry corner looks nothing short of organized chaos. I brought bags of scarves, bags of necklaces, rings, bangles, belts because as Rachel Zoe would say, “more is more.” I now understand why she once carried seven suitcases through the airport for a weekend. Not only does that layered Boho gypsy vibe make your dance moves all the more enjoyable, it completes your outfit. Scarves tied as headbands are not only for Axl Rose, and you will be grateful to have them as your hair gets filled with dust and sweat. Pro tip: tie an extra scarf or bandana to your purse, this will be a lifesaver when the wind starts to blow and a desert storm hits.
4) Beauty and the Bohemian: this is also a challenge. Your makeup is probably going to be melted off your face pretty quickly, so as cute as that face jewel trend is, don’t expect it to last too long. Get your selfies in early. Setting spray is your friend. Since wearing much makeup is more of a burden than it is worth it is key to prepare before and be sure to give your face some TLC at the end of the night. Dust is going to get everywhere and I mean everywhere. By the end of the night your eyes will be red from it, make sure if you are blind like me you take your contact lenses out (this will be one of the best feelings ever, akin to clipping your weave out) and have lots of clean extra pairs. You will probably need to shower every night and so treating yourself to a moisturizing face mask will do wonders. On that note, take really good care of your skin and immune system before you leave so your skin can easily repair once you get to the desert. Get a spray tan before you leave and bring more with you to apply each morning to your whole body before doing the same with sunscreen. Just do not pack that in your carry-on luggage. I learned that lesson the hard way on a trip to Miami when I pleaded with an unsimpathetic TSA officer that my expensive St. Tropez tan was in fact a mousse, so not technically a liquid. Faking a dark tan and going for a higher level SPF is a good choice because you are super exposed on the fields and a sunburn will hurt your energy levels and comfort. Don’t forget lip balm with SPF, chapped lips are not ideal for kissing your beau during Calvin Harris’ set. Finally, treat yourself to eyelash extensions. Applying fake eyelashes will cut into your poolside pregame and the glue will just melt in the heat anyways. So extensions are the way to go. The splurge is worth it for the long weekend and with long lashes and golden skin you can basically get away with not wearing any other makeup.
5) Drink tons of water! Vodka water works too. The weekend is really a marathon, so you need to stay hydrated. Lying on the ground and taking dreamy eyed selfies is totally acceptable and often necessary to regroup before the next set.
Eric and I had so many perfect moments on the trip. Making it to the front of the stage for Guns & Roses, while Axl, despite being confined to a robotic chair with his broken leg, showed us he still really has insane vocal chops and ditched his Diva attitude to play a marathon 3+ hour set. Sweating our faces off dancing to Bauer, while he brought out one of my favourite female rappers, the very fierce Leikeli47. Riding on Eric’s shoulders during Ice Cubes quintessential California Love party where he brought out guests that could have been headliners in my mind, Dr Dre (who killed some classic N.W.A. fire starters), Kendrick Lamar (who blew me away with his stage presence at Way Home) spit some sparks yet again, The Game (another one of my favourite rappers), and Little E to make us all feel we were actually in Compton at a tailgate party. Spinning in the field dancing to Rancid made me feel like I was back in the 90s at the birthplace of SKA. Run the Jewels was gold. Major Lazor brought the house down, even though I’ve seen them perform even more intimately so many times. And Calvin Harris was the perfect touchy, feely finale where he abandoned his radio hits for his classic nostalgia triggering magical house music and more heavy hitting bangers with beauties like Big Sean by his side. Obviously, no matter what set we were at, there was as Zeppelin would say, “A Whole Lotta Love.” For video clips of the madness see my instagram account @l_gibby.
I cannot really describe how amazing this weekend was without sounding cliché, but I think I felt a sense of calm and pure joy with feeling like you are exactly where you should be at that moment. Like you would not change your circumstance, or where you are in the world for anything at that time. Every day, I felt like I made the most of every second. I lived by one of my favourite quotes: