FIRST DIMERS: Harling Ross Anton

Interview by Brynn Wallner, photos by Cobey Arner 
MARCH 2023 
            Harling Ross Anton lives her life in full-bleed color, and when we met outside of the Guggenheim on a rainy day this past February, she was a cherry blossom blooming in varying shades of pink. Having sartorially come of age during the golden days of fashion blogging, she now contemplates the state of personal style in the context of the attention economy. As an introvert, she uses clothing to start conversations for her – and her watch, coincidentally, achieved just that when we were first introduced in 2021. Our entire chit-chat revolved around the two-tone Cartier Panthère on her wrist, allowing us to dodge the typical “so… what do you do for work?” that inevitably arises in New York City small talk.

But, to answer that question, Ross is working with the agency she just launched, building out creative campaigns for brands in the fashion, jewelry and CPG spaces. Many will recognize Harling from her days working at Man Repeller, where she developed a public-facing voice tied to her sense of style and infectious, sun-drenched attitude. Even still, with Man Repeller shuttered (and as the internet is weighed down by depressing headlines and predictable click-bait), she uses her clothing, writing and expertise to convey a certain wholesomeness that feels all but endangered. In Harling’s world, trends are distractions, fashion is art and it’s cool to be nice. And if you’ve got a great watch on your wrist, all the better – it’ll tell the time and do some talking for you.

Brynn Wallner: What have you been up to?

Harling Ross Anton: Workwise, I just launched an agency in the fall with two former colleagues called Nice Thing Going. It's a brand marketing agency, and we deal in the creative side of things versus paid advertising. Concepting campaigns, producing activations.... Basically a make it happen vibe. You may have an idea, but you’re not really sure how to get it from A to Z. We come in and do everything for you, soup to nuts.

BW: That sounds fun.

HRA: It's really fun. I was just saying earlier that the best thing about it has been having other people around who know exactly what's going on in your work life again, which I was really missing as a freelancer. It was just so much pressure to have every buck stop with me. I'm not built for that lifestyle, I realized. I still do some stuff on my own – I write, I do straightforward copy editing and branding projects, but I love having other people to share the burden of more large-scale client-facing work with [laughs].

BW: What are you still writing about?

HRA: I've been doing some writing for The Cut on their new vertical The Cut Shop, which is shopping focused but not through an aggressive affiliate lens. It's more personally driven content: This is the sweater I'm obsessed with, this is the niche Etsy find that people should know about. And then I’ve also recently written pieces for Air Mail and the UK Times.

BW: So what's up with your personal style these days?

HRA: I’ve had a bit of a revelation when it comes to personal style. I want to write about this. I think that maximalism has gotten corrupted by Instagram. Because it’s such a look at me, look at me platform, maximalism has become associated with that. For the readers at home… I’m wearing an aggressively colorful outfit right now, so I definitely veer toward maximalism. That’s not to say that I don’t like the classic white tee and jeans. But I’m really introverted, so I let my clothing take some of the burden off being a person in the world. That, to me, is the purpose maximalism serves. However, it's become skewed to the point that it feels almost the opposite of this… Maximalism now conveys, in the public imagination, a very I want to be the center of attention, click-bait vibe. This is not a finished thought yet, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about… How to reclaim maximalism in this age with the reputation it’s developed. I want to parse out what I think the next iteration of it will be.

BW: For you personally, or at-large?

HRA: For me personally, but also for anyone who naturally gravitates toward color. Social media has made it seem more childish, but, simply, the act of wearing what makes you feel good and what you like regardless of whether it’s Instagrammable – I think that’s maturity when it comes to style, whether it’s a really colorful outfit or not.

BW: I get why you’re hesitant to even state that this is a fully formed thought and that you want more time to articulate it. Style is so personal. When I think of you, I also think about your clothing. You’re tied to what you wear.

HRA: It’s tricky because fashion is such a materialistic medium associated with consumption. But at the same time, it’s an art form. It’s a vehicle for self expression. How to do this without adding to the consumerist churn is a challenge and something that I’m trying to work towards. I shop a lot of vintage. I’m a Real Real obsessive, like so many people. I have 100 Etsy tabs open at once. I'm also a big outfit repeater. I get a lot of satisfaction out of rewearing something I got a decade ago and knowing I still love it. Getting creative with stuff you already own is a big part of the equation too.

BW: So where does your watch fit into all of this?

HRA: It’s kind of a funny story. My Cartier Panthère belonged to my mom, and I let her know that I was doing this interview, wanting to know more about the origins of it – because she continues to be very elusive. She’s a little withholding about how it came into her possession [laughs]. Basically, what I've gathered is that a former suitor gave it to her. He had some kind of wholesale Cartier hookup.

BW: Okay!

HRA: This was sometime in the ‘80s. The way she describes him is that he was this man who would throw really big parties. She told me she tried to refuse the gift because she wasn’t interested in him, but he insisted she take it. So, yeah, that’s how I’m wearing this watch now. Before I was born, a random suitor insisted my mom accept it as a gift. This was many years before my dad, for the record [laughs].

BW: Lucky you!

HRA: My mom used to wear it all the time when I was little, and I remember thinking it was very much a mom watch. It’s classic, it’s a little old-fashioned. If you’d asked me what I thought of it when I was thirteen, I would have said that I hated it. But then sometime in the last six years, I became obsessed with it. These vintage, old-school watches have come back in style. I did a 180 in terms of my perception of it, I think, due to the newer conversations that have been had about watches; and, in that respect, my mind must be very influence-able [laughs]. But I convinced her to loan it to me, and I haven’t given it back!

BW: What do you like about it now that you’ve warmed up to it?

HRA: It's so lightweight and durable and goes with everything.

BW: It’s kind of controversial that you stack it.

HRA: Is stacking not allowed [laughs]?

BW: Well, whenever I post photos of people stacking, all the watch guys get mad because it leads to scratching.

HRA: The whole point of having a watch like this is, you know, within reason, there’s meant to be some wear and tear. It’s like an engagement ring that you wear every day. It’s going to get a little dinged up in a loving way.

BW: You also wear it pretty loose.

HRA: I love it loose, like it’s a bracelet. I don’t like it when it feels glued to my wrist. That makes me feel like I’m a teenager wearing a Baby G.

BW: So, your mom hasn’t asked for it back yet…

HRA: I think it’s indefinitely mine and she may have even forgotten about it. It’s not her main watch anymore. We’ll see if one of my sisters swoops in to claim a turn…

BW: Which sister are you?

HRA: I’m the oldest. And I’m definitely the most style conscious of the three of us. I am the type who would scout this out in the jewelry drawer. But my mom really tries to be fair, so I can see one of my sisters taking a turn, wearing it for the next five years.

BW: Do you have your eyes set on any other watches, or are you good with the Panthère?

HRA: I really like this one. I don’t know that much about watches, so maybe this is not a “cool” watch to like, but I do love that spiral Bulgari one…

BW: The Serpenti!

HRA: Yes, but specifically the vintage models with the round case. Not the head that looks like a snake. That’s too much. Maybe I like the Serpenti because it looks like a bracelet. I also love looking at vintage watches online, I love when they have inscriptions. My wedding band has our initials and the date, but I wish we had some corny saying to put inside of it. So, my goal is to eventually buy my husband a watch for a big birthday and inscribe it with something really dumb like, I wish time moved slower with you. Something cheesy.

BW: That’s so cute.

HRA: I’ve also gotten really into jewelry lately. I have quite a few fine jewelry clients, and I’m sure that world is very similar to watches in the sense that it’s so different from fashion. Crazy characters, lots of drama... There’s been a learning curve in terms of how I navigate it. I’ve definitely not even scratched the surface there, but what I love about jewelry and watches is that they are inherently bigger purchases due to their price point. There is a lot more thought that goes into them. They’re more sentimental and often associated with an occasion or a big moment in life. I think that's really special – more things should be like that because it would probably make us buy less.

BW: There’s so much intention behind buying a watch. Rarely are people spontaneously, like, I’m going to buy a Rolex today!

HRA: If that’s you, I’m impressed.

BW: So where did you grow up?

HRA: I grew up in this neighborhood, on the Upper East Side.

BW: You said you’re an introvert… What’s your sign?

HRA: My sign is Saggitarius. I really don't know anything about astrology. I'm one of those freaks.

BW: Or you’re just normal.

HRA: I think that because I worked in media from 2016 to 2020, I have a particular aversion to astrology because it was, by far, our top performing content every month. I was just like, why? We’re putting so much work into other stories. But astrology always did the best.

BW: What do you think about the state of fashion media right now?

HRA: I don't know. It's so tough because of when I “grew up” in media and started really consuming it. Of course, I read magazines in high school. But I became passionate about fashion when blogs came out in the early 2010s. That era is now dead and gone, which is really sad because I think blogs were the best conduit for that kind of content. Instagram sort of scratches the itch, and now newsletters are performing that function to some extent... But there was a wholesomeness to the internet back then – it felt like the wild, wild West. People were pretty nice to each other, and it was such a joy to discover fashion in that environment. I’m probably a little bit cynical about the state of fashion media today, or the internet in general, which is pretty grim.

BW: Absolutely.

HRA: There's been, like, a smoothening – is that even a word? – but everything feels very same same same, and it's hard to discover those little pockets of nicheness and weirdness that you really could a decade ago.

BW: You’ve been in it for so long.

HRA: I do feel like I’ve lived the cycle.

BW: But where are we headed?

HRA: I have TikTok, but I don’t post on it. I'm curious how long that boom will last. Do you have TikTok?

BW: No.

HRA: There's something fun about the discovery of it… and the anonymity of it. I'm just scrolling, and the algorithm is serving me, serving me, serving me. It feels a little bit mindless. There’s not as much intention behind it as there was when you would open up your web browser and physically type in WWW dot, and you had your list of websites you would visit every morning. Your wardrobe once felt like something you curated for yourself, and now it’s overwhelming. There’s so much to absorb. Maybe I just sound old [laughs].

BW: With watches, were you into them at all before recently? Did you ever notice them in the blog world, or even when you were reading magazines as a teenager?

HRA: I mentioned my Baby G earlier. That was a watch obsession that swept my middle school. I needed one. But then, for a long time, people didn’t need a watch because they had their phones. I was one of those people. But now I love them for the aesthetic, but also the meaning behind them. They’re literal timepieces! There aren’t many accessories that can claim a true function like that. They are antithetical to a lot of what we were just talking about… That churn. There’s something very grounding about a watch.  

BW: Well, it’s cool to see you wear your mom’s Panthère. That was one of the first things we talked about when we initially met.

HRA: They’re conversation pieces. I was walking down the street the other day, and I was wearing this quilted coat. Three strangers, all of different ages and vibes, stopped me on the sidewalk to say something about it. It’s so corny, but it felt like the real-life version of (and so much more satisfying than) an Instagram comment beneath a photo of myself. It was such a mood boost. There’s a purity to that kind of interaction that you don’t get as much anymore. I think anything that sparks something like that is important. At least, that’s what I like the best about getting dressed. It’s a way of putting yourself out there in a very low-key format. You’re not having to clash a cymbal together. As someone who has walked into many fashion-y events and felt intimidated… Having something you’re wearing be your introduction to others is such a comforting relief.

BW: That justifies why people care about what they wear so much.

HRA: There are superficial aspects to clothing and watches, but there’s a humanness to them as well. There's a reason why we're drawn to conversations around getting dressed – the act of it, much like any other art form. This is literally what you’re wearing out in the world, so in that sense, it’s even more tangible. And important.