By Josh Duboff
I have very little in common with Blake Lively, biographically speaking. She is female; she is a famous actress; she has been on the cover of Vogue three times. Meanwhile, I am male; I am not a famous actor; and I … have eaten at Chipotle this week three times. We are roughly the same age, however, and as such, I feel, in a certain way, I have “grown up with” Blake. I watched her debut in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants at about the same time as I grappled with moving to a different city from my own cadre of teenage best friends (I definitely did notexcessively cry throughout the entire last third of the film, no way!); and I religiously tuned in toGossip Girl each week during my first years living in New York (every week believing, even if just for a moment, that all my problems could be solved with a well-chosen clothing item). The way in which everything seemed to come so easily for Blake held a certain appeal and fascination to me. She wanted to star in a prestige Oscar-y movie, so she got herself a role in The Town; she liked Florence and the Machine, so she got Florence Welch as a best friend. Blake was a continual topic of conversation in my life; a search for “blake lively” in my Gmail inbox garners 423 results.
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But Blake’s latest venture, the creation of a lifestyle Web site, seemed … difficult for me to relate to. Titled “Preserve,” the site is, as Vogue put it, “part digital monthly magazine, part e-commerce venture, part video blog.” There is a central, yet hazy, focus on building things with your own hands and engaging with the world (“I’m hungry for experience,” Blake writes in hereditor’s letter). The aesthetic of Preserve is—perhaps surprisingly, given Blake’s California Girl sunshine-and-cupcakes vibe—quite dark, in a Southern gothic, folk-rocker kind of way. The men featured have tattoos and greased hair; the women look more Vanessa Abrams than Serena van der Woodsen; the food appears dreamy and overripe. If Goop is a Taylor Swift song, Preserve is a Paramore ballad.
This splashy debut of Preserve, and Blake’s attempt to reposition herself as a Martha- or Gwyneth-like lifestyle guru, took me aback. It seemed that Blake may have diverged from a path I could identify with; in meandering through the articles and features on the site, I had trouble finding myself anywhere in Preserve. I am not a person who can throw together a whimsical summer barbecue. The closest I come to “baking” is when I re-assemble store-bought cupcakes that have come apart in the bag. I have never re-purposed a wooden stump into a chic stool. But, I wondered, was there anything I could learn from Preserve? Did Blake—as I had always suspected, ever since studying her expression in that picture of her biking in a bucket hat with Leonardo DiCaprio—know something about me that even I didn’t know? Using the pages of Preserve as my religious text, I decided to spend a day attempting to live a life of handcrafted, homemade authenticity as best I could; I thought, perhaps, this could result in the sense of bliss and calm that Blake appears to have found in her own picturesque life.
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But how does someone on a first-name basis with at least three different Seamless deliverymen go about channeling the earthy, fanciful gracefulness that Blake’s site so enthusiastically celebrates?
I knew that if I wanted to reach the Preserve plateau, I had to look the part. So I began my odyssey in the “Shop” section of the site, looking for the right outfit for my day of Preserve-ing. I settled on a $132 “Twombly crew” T-shirt, pictured on a LaBeouf-ian model (the description of the shirt read: “distressed/destroyed/holes”). For an accessory, I ordered a $70 printed bow tiewhich promised to make me “the stocky sailor to swoon over” (all of the items for sale on Preserve are made by third-party vendors, artisans purportedly handpicked by Blake). I felt somewhat deflated when my choices arrived a few days later in an ordinary, unremarkable brown box (where’s the lavender ombre ribbon and tobacco-scented wrapping paper, Blake??), but, my outfit in hand, I felt eager and prepared to begin my Preserve journey.
To start my day, I tore the T-shirt, which unarguably resembled a dirty kitchen rag, out of its packaging. “This single piece of cotton is meant to be lived in, loved in, tattered, worn in, sworn in, destroyed, sweat in, slept in. let it become you,” I was instructed, via a small note card. I let the shirt become me, and felt immediately like an extra in a Mumford & Sons music video.
Read the rest of the Blake Lively adventure, exclusively at VanityFair.com!