Heart-to-Art: Senior Lake Garsten breaks fashion’s boundaries


Bella Piacente and Gemma Strauss

“Heart to Art” is a column highlighting artists in the Redwood community. The column was created to represent the arts on a broader scale, appreciating student artists and their craft.

There are not many circumstances where Marin is deemed conservative. With 84 percent of the county voting for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, Marin is arguably one of the most liberal places in the country. Despite this, there is one area where Marin is pointedly more reserved: fashion. This is where senior Lake Garsten wants to elicit change. Lake doesn’t conform to fashion’s typical boundaries; he challenges them with his non-conformative approach to style. 

Lake began embracing his individual look towards the beginning of his junior year. 

Lake advocates for change and acceptance within the fashion community. (Courtesy of Lake Garsten)

“I went from jeans and a sweatshirt to cargo pants and a button-down which wasn’t crazy, but it was a pretty big step for me. Since then, I [have been] slowly developing [my style] over quarantine,” Lake said.

According to his mom, Teri Garsten, Lake has had an eye for beauty long before developing a love for fashion.  

“[Lake is] extremely intuitive and aware of his surroundings. [He has always been] in touch [with] all of those things. He looks at the world in a creative way. [He’s an] observer; he’ll sit back and really see the world,” Teri said.

Natalie Pemberton, Lake’s friend, is another pillar of support for his art. Pemberton has been consistently impressed by Lake’s talent, whether it be painting, photography or fashion.

 “Seeing the wheels turning in his brain and seeing him make [art] is really magical for me,” Pemberton said. “Him being able to translate his thoughts and emotions into a photograph or onto an art piece is really special and rare.” 

As his passion for art grew, so did Garsten’s confidence in his clothing style. He followed the example of fellow fashion connoisseurs, such as David Bowie and Harry Styles, and even drew inspiration from an upperclassman whose style spoke to Lake. Seeing this person’s confidence and individuality in the Redwood hallways inspired him.

“I would say he was very fashionable, and you could tell [that] he was definitely putting in a lot of effort. I thought [the upperclassman] looked really cool, and I totally looked up to him. Seeing [him] definitely inspired me to go [further] and maybe start pushing myself,” Lake said. 

While he cultivated his fashion identity from unique style icons in his community, Lake’s initial interest in fashion came from his mom. He began to play with his mom’s wardrobe last year, experimenting with different clothing articles and breaking through traditional gender stereotypes. 

“Of the clothes that I go out in, I would say 75 percent [are my mom’s]. She [has] collected tons of amazing skirts, pants, bags and [other pieces],” Lake said.

Lake embraces different styles, especially those that are typically considered “feminine.” (Courtesy of Lake Garsten)

Teri has also encouraged him to embrace his own taste and wear what he wants. He also advocates for men to embrace styles that are inherently considered feminine.

“She helped me push a little bit about getting more into fashion because I just wanted to stand out,” Lake said.

With Teri and Pemberton’s support, Lake has been able to portray his most authentic self through his outfits. Pemberton believes the way he carries himself is an inspiration to others around him, prompting them to have more confidence as well. 

“Because the way he presents himself is so confident and so unapologetic, I think he touches other people,” Pemberton said. 

Typically, what makes people standout is also threatening to those who value traditional men’s clothing. Lake is faced with backlash because of his unique style, whether that was negative comments online or at school. As a mother, Teri was also concerned if Lakes style would elicit negativity. Although she was worried, this never discouraged her from supporting her son. 

 “I think [that] he’s probably been bullied [and] had people saying things to him that are really negative. I caution [him] a little bit, but at the same time, it’s like ‘go for it and be who you want to be. Be your authentic self,’” Teri said. 

Although art and fashion are currently a significant part of Lake’s life, nothing has been set in stone for his future regarding college or an art career. But even with an undetermined future, Lake knows that he wants to continue pursuing art in any way he can. Others around him, including Pemberton, not only see art as his lifelong passion but as his identity. 

“I wouldn’t say that his everyday life is art. I would say that he is art himself,” Pemberton said.