Natasha Stagg and I meet at the Odeon, her favorite place in New York, to talk about her new book over dirty martinis and French fries. The book, titled Sleeveless: Fashion, Image, Media, New York 2011–2019—which comes after her 2016 debut, Surveys, a fictional account of an influencer’s bizarre, parabolic rise and fall—is an uncategorizable collection of writing that feels like a combination of short stories, party reports, diary entries, and cultural analysis. “In my mind, none of these things are reportage. Some are more based in reality than others. I could see them being called essays,” she says, though she’d “rather not even make the distinction.”
In the foreword, Stagg, who moved to New York from Tucson in 2011, calls the book “a personal account of a very strange time.” It applies at various levels: personally (being in her 20s and earliest 30s), but also professionally (working in media at a particularly precarious moment), and politically (see: our current president). Throughout Sleeveless,Stagg delivers searing analysis with tossed-off ease. On wealth, she writes: “I love expensive things but I hate being around the people who can afford them.” On book publishing parties: “Everyone is reading something they don’t really want to read and then that’s how everyone ends up hating everything and saying that there’s nothing good out there. That or they’re jealous.” One chapter, “Two Stops,” in which Stagg addresses #MeToo with the murky, mixed feelings that most people reserve for private conversations, has gotten a particularly strong response. “It wasn’t what I set out to do, but it was nice that it accidentally gave some people an antidote to one type of writing,” she says.