Models wave at Elena Velez’s fashion salon on the Upper East Side this past Sunday. (Courtesy of Maya Spangler)

The First Post-Woke Designer

Elena Velez says ‘the only way to be punk in 2024 is to have a component of dissent.’ Plus: The 22-year-old using AI to unlock ancient texts.

It’s easy to think that everyone in their twenties is lost in their screens and beholden to a predictable set of politics. But today we bring you two stories of twentysomethings pushing the envelope in their respective fields. 

Up first, meet Elena Velez, the bold young designer—and mother of two—pissing off the New York fashion establishment. “I am a reflection of their own professional demise,” Velez, 29, tells Free Press reporter Olivia Reingold. “There is a henhouse of fashion editors who gate-keep and are still living their Sex and the City ‘best life,’ who moved to New York to pursue their dream of being a snob.”

Come for her biting critique of today’s fashion crowd; stay for Velez’s soft steampunk-meets-Southern belle wares: 

If you’re a tech nerd who decides to drop out of school to pursue software engineering full-time, chances are you’ve discovered a way to solve some futuristic problem: turning carbon emissions into rocket fuel, or figuring out how to deliver pet food to your door in under twenty minutes. Luke Farritor, a 22-year-old coder, found his niche in translating 2,000-year-old scrolls. 

The Herculaneum Papyri scrolls were recovered from a villa belonging to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law in the eighteenth century, but the delicate pages couldn’t be touched without turning to ash. Fast-forward to 2023, and Farritor and his teammates were able to read the text using AI. They’re only 5 percent through one of the scrolls, but this small breakthrough could unlock a whole library of classical texts that, Farritor predicts, “will completely upend our understanding of the ancient world.” 

Read Julia Steinberg’s interview with the whiz, and find out the message he uncovered from the ash: 

And now to the different, but no less important, work of finding love. First off, if you missed me (Suzy) discussing on Honestly what it’s like to date while being canceled—how could you?—you can do so here

On Valentine’s Day we played Cupid, inviting anyone looking for open-minded, heterodox-leaning love to contact us—and The Free Press inbox was inundated with responses. Today, we are featuring three single readers who make their pitch. If you think they might be a match, drop them a line via the email provided. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

We will continue to feature more reader messages to help them find love. And if you want to submit your own lonely heart, find out more here

Happy courting!

Bonnie Sherman, 72, San Diego, California 

I am Bonnie Sherman, a subscriber in the South Bay area of San Diego. I was married for 44 years to my high school sweetheart and have been widowed for too long. Though I can’t believe it, I am 72, but I still work and travel a great deal.

Given how much I travel, I would only consider meeting someone who also has global entry. I grew up in suburban Chicago and lived there for the first 37 years of my life. I was fixed up with my husband by a close relative, and that was it, history! As a couple since the ages of 15 and he 18, we grew up growing together, with the same family values and respect. He had a very dry wit, and we laughed our way through much of our lives. Basically, I have not been on a date since 1967!

Preston McKee, 22, Fort Worth, Texas

Hello world, my name is Preston McKee. I am 22 years old, and I’ve decided it’s time to be desperate. I’ve tried the dating apps, I’ve gone to a bar (all the ladies are taken by overprotective guys in boots, cowboy hats, and hulking belt buckles), I asked out a friend and an acquaintance at church. I know at 22 y’all will say I have plenty of time left, which is true. But now my younger brother has a girlfriend and that struck a nerve. 

After all that melodrama, here’s a little about me: 

I live in Fort Worth, Texas.

I love the outdoors and playing sports. 

I’m a sucker for verbal abuse; the more you roast me, the better. 

My love language is touch and quality time. I will give you free massages. 

I’m a Christian guy looking for a lady around my age (+ or − three years) who loves Jesus and is reasonably active.

Claire Ashmead-Meers, 29, Ann Arbor, Michigan 

My name is Claire Ashmead-Meers, I am 29, and while my hometown is Cleveland, Ohio, I am based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I attend medical school. I have a dog and a busy life and find it difficult to meet people outside of medicine. I hope you can help!

I’d love to meet a guy who values reading and discussions, takes care of his health, does not look down on religion (whether or not he believes), and is kind and trustworthy. I am drawn to men who are straightforward, nonjudgmental, and very competent in some area, though what that area is doesn’t matter so much: it could be music or surgery, so long as they value excellence and have goals. I am quite playful, so a partner would need to match that. I don’t have many qualifications physically because I have been attracted to all sorts of people before. People who are very, very handsome scare me. 

Something I’ve changed my mind about: each Sunday I meet with a few friends over Zoom to discuss philosophy. Most recently we read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation Now. That plus a few other experiences have convinced me that I should try to be vegetarian. Now, I am not even close to being 50 percent vegetarian at this time, in part because whenever my mom visits, she brings me every cut of meat known to man (apparently turkey, skirt steak, roast chicken, and duck “do not count”), but also because I love cooking and so many fabulous dishes involve The Murdered. But my diet now involves more tofu and vegetables with tasty sauces, and I think that’s the right thing to do, given how we treat animals. 

My politics are “Be Open-Minded and Wear Comfortable Shoes.”

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