LETTER FROM THE
EDITOR IN CHIEF Dear Reader, Time… Relentless, unforgiving, the great equalizer. From a western cultural standpoint, time is as central to our lives as power, wealth, and even love. As members of society, whether it be in Los Angeles or the world at large, time dominates our days. Some may feel in this particular cultural moment that the days cannot seem to pass fast enough. Perhaps others feel as though they don’t cease to pass, and before the blink of an eye another day is gone, another goal not met. But with the rise of digital connection, in what seems more and more like a globally future-oriented world, this moment offers pause: A global standstill that forces – not asks, forces – society to look at ourselves and others in a more human light. By eerie coincidence, “Future Shock” explores what it truly means to be human in a time when humanity is vital. Humanity, an intangible je ne sais quoi that plagued the minds of Plato, Voltaire and Rousseau, simultaneously differentiates us from and inextricably connects us to other organisms. As we experience the ultimate future shock, the simple value of humanity may be what rescues us from ecological destruction, war outbreak, or global pandemic. We may be our own salvation. As I write this, I try stringently to avoid preachy discourse or add to an echo chamber of “politically correct” optimistic messaging – which, while well-intentioned, can lack political action to back it up. If anything, this letter is a form of personal processing as well. Nevertheless, there is a sense of urgency that neglects the importance of the stock market, shrinks the scope of the economic downturn and deems futile the luxury of our everyday comforts. Thousands of people are dying from a global pandemic, which threatens humanity. To some extent, this issue presents the morbid outcome of when our collective forgetfulness gets the best of us: Robotic dystopias are vividly illustrated, impending technological crisis predicted, and the underlying past taken for granted throughout these pages. Yet, at the same time, we manage to make it work. This issue was created, for me, entirely remotely. As I studied abroad in Paris, nine hours ahead of the remarkable Haute team back at USC, we made it work. We trusted in one another. We discarded all judgment, created to the best of our ability and believed in our purpose. When the outbreak began, all we could do was understand each unique situation and do what we could to keep us all afloat. We did not choose to delay this issue release; in fact, completely the opposite. The magazine was a comforting sanctuary in the face of an uncomfortable reality, and we found it all the more urgent to share its latest production with the world. This is what makes us human. While it is a tedious process, we adapt. We create, we share, and we laugh through the fear. We cherish time as a respected power, caring for strangers in crisis as much as our loved ones. Gradually, the impenetrable fear of losing our humanity presents a clear solution. As with our predecessors in times of great war and global conflict, we are our own salvation. If humanity means making it work, then here’s to us. Warmly,
Diana Fonte 3
NOTE FROM THE
CREATIVE DIRECTOR It has only been six short months, but it feels as though we have made a lifetime’s worth of memories here at Haute since our previous issue. The release of “Out of Context” and the response it garnered was one of the most humbling moments I have ever experienced. Following our debut, Haute Magazine was featured on the front page of our university’s official newspaper, Daily Trojan, for being “the magazine that is taking USC by storm”. Shortly after this, we were given the opportunity to collaborate with Vans on their “Spirit of DIY” campaign, which featured ten ambassadors from across the country who are manifesting creative expression and influencing the communities around them. Our team of photographers shot original content for the global skate brand at a photoshoot of our own design, which then was assembled by our visual designers into a DIY mini-magazine for the company. After the beautiful side project that was Haute x Vans, we dove head-first into creating the second chapter of our magazine’s overall story. Our Spring 2020 issue is something I could write a lengthy message about how much it means to my heart and soul, but I feel like it speaks for itself. It is the creation of months spent in a cramped classroom space every Monday evening, where we often found ourselves entering flow states of equal parts creativity and brilliance. We had no plan, no expectation for this issue. All we knew is that we wanted to make something meaningful. For this issue, I had the privilege of working closer than ever with all who are included in it. Throughout this process, there definitely have been some “pinch me” moments. I remember during our freshman year, Diana asked if I wanted to go with her to an intimate concert for an emerging artist by the name of Billie Eilish. The then silver-haired 15-year-old was someone we both were huge fans of, but I actually passed on attending (I know, it is one of the only regrets I still live with to this day). Regardless, you can imagine what it is like, three years later, to be able to say that you will soon flip a few pages and find the now-superstar included in our magazine. When Diana and I founded Haute Magazine, we wanted to create a platform that would serve as a voice for the unspoken stories. A space for those who, through their art, are sculpting selfless energy into this earth and healing the ground beneath our feet with humility and grace. Therefore, I want to thank every single human being who brought this invisible art into physical form. You know who you are. I love you all beyond words and worlds. At this very moment, I am feeling humbled, grateful and overwhelmed with emotion as usual. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for choosing to support our publication. It is my privilege to present to you this body of work that all of us here at Haute Magazine are so incredibly proud of. Until next time, please enjoy “Future Shock”.
Jason Cerin 4
Le plus grand chapiteau
when the party’s over
Flesh without Blood
FKA twigs feat. Future
Audrey Nuna feat. Jack Harlow
Comme de Garcons Sweet
BROCKHAMPTON High Beams
Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now Life on Mars?
Black Moth Super Rainbow
Mr No One
Mura Masa feat. A$AP Rocky Fake ID
Drake feat. Black Coffee & Jorja Smith
Get It Together
A Breath Away
SCAN FOR SPOTIFY PLAYLIST
Riton & Kah-Lo
LIS T ca
dt oo .” ―
Editor in Chief Diana Fonte Creative Director Jason Cerin Director of Writing Awo Jama Director of Photography Alyssa Kyle Director of Visual Design Sydney Loew Director of Marketing Naiya Ross Director of Finance Christine Du
Lizzie Schneider Emily Chen Camille Rougier Ariann Barker Ashara Wilson Kitty Guo Nicole Falk Yuri Yim Terrell Shaffer Alexander Barnes Josh Code
Sachita Jasani Joyce Ni Natalie Derovanessian Layla Ali Emanuel Rodriguez Karla Leung Angelika Bibikova Tyrese Shaffer Anusri Mittal Sean Bui Shreya Gopala
VISUAL DESIGN STAFF
Drew Brilliant Izzy Lux Alexia Romani Jaron Fabular Nathan Phillips Saul Singleton Josh Lin
Max Kofman Jessica Wang Sarah Chan Chloe Pyron Leslie Hwang Maya Gotthard Sara Heymann
Skyler Melnik Sabrina Chen Layla Yun Eujue Lee Sophia Stone Lauralee Harper Ewa Zheng
Jaz Ho Taylor Crawford Kimberly Grabiec Crisanto Nevarez Sophie Tan Jesse Walk Eden Tokatly
TABLE OF CONTENTS
9 27 47 75 85 103 109 121 127 147 163 169 187 203 227 233 247 259 281 287 293 309 315 325 339 347 357 369 383 395
Billie Eilish Magdalena Wosinska Cyborg Love Story Ariann Barker + Blake Kathryn 2100 Life on Mars Ellie Pritts Miquela: The Commodification of Social Connection in the 21st Century Alice Han + Diana Fonte Visual Scientist Thisset On the Cutting Edge: Student-Founded Startups Making Waves in the Tech Industry Awo Jama + Sydney Loew Color, Balance & Emotion Aeforia The Bravest Woman Sara Sturek + Melania Brescia Hungry Robert Bartholot Remi Wedin: The Young Artist Pushing the Boundaries of Code Jason Cerin + Eden Tokalty Karla Leung Jaron Fabular The Second Coming of the Playboy Mansion Anonymous + Geoffrey Yahya Vargas Ariana Kalamaros Eden Tokalty Eden Numosis Support Student Films: A Dive Into the Creative Voice of David Grannum Ashara Wilson + Kiera Smith Artificially Intelligent CyberpunkChris Verisium: The Future of Authenticated Fashion Diana Fonte To Be Distorted Maboharusameari Trojan Gear: A Rhetorical Chronology Drew Brilliant SYZYGY NOISES Get Your Thrift On Nathan Phillips + Nia Baker MAGDALENE FKA Twigs + Matthew Stone Use My Code Lizzie Schneider + Josh Lin Day Zero FRAEMWERK Left Is Right and Right Is Wrong: My First Gay Earring Josh Code + Joshua Mcknight Tomorrow Will Be Lighter Than Air Rane Jiang Kid Hastings Terrell Shaffer + Maria Takigawa Miss Anthropocene Grimes + Ryder Ripps An Interview With the Artists Behind VFXFREEK Hala Ozgur HAUTE X VANS Haute Staff
Billie Eilish is… well, Billie Eilish. She’s the eighteen-year old singer-songwriter that has taken the entire world by storm and simply refuses to be defined or put in a box. Eilish rose to fame in 2016 with the release of her song “Ocean Eyes” and skyrocketed into stardom from there. With melodies that draw inspiration from ethereal indie electronic and dark alternative pop genres paired with angsty, introspective lyrics, Eilish quickly endeared herself to a devoted fanbase. In 2019, she released her debut studio album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”. Instantly charting at number one on the Billboard 200, the album became one of the most critically lauded records of the year. This achievement was paired with a sold-out headlining world tour, sweeping the four major categories at the 2020 Grammy Awards, performing the official theme song for the forthcoming James Bond movie, and gracing the cover of publications such as Vogue, ELLE, Rolling Stone, Variety, V Magazine, Billboard, Fader and more. Billie Eilish is a tour-de-force who is undoubtedly shaping the future of music and pop culture at large. Magdalena Wosinska is a Los Angeles-based photographer who captures a youthful energy, spontaneity & authentic sense of fun. She shoots all the time, carrying a camera on her shoulder and preferring to be part of the moment, placing her lens in the middle of it all. Her maturing style transfers an undeniable edge and vibrancy to her commercial and editorial work. Magdalena’s tough yet sunny California aesthetic encapsulates a mood of endless summers. She uses ambient light and an uncluttered approach, creating images that retain the truth and rawness of impulsive snapshots.
CYBORG LOVE STORY Writing by Ariann Barker Designs by Blake Kathryn 27
ARIANN BAKER + BLAKE KATHRYN
rain like bullets shoot down to split against concrete. it curtains centimeters before everyone’s face, the horizon invisible to the naked eye. what shields bustling clumps of figures from the cataclysmic outside are peeling walls and smeared windows inside the hills cafe. it’s not much of a café, moreso what could be called a ‘diner’— a staple late night curbstop along the getaway from the night’s events. patrons crack on, pass out, dig in. it’s social incubation before the ‘come-down’ of saying goodbye. an umbered waitress idles the counter of this ‘café,’ lithe fingers teasing the page corners of her ordering notepad. she peers over slick lashes to take in the present clientele. her face is nondescript, betrays no communicable thought, she’s playing poker with the room. two layers deeper, though, she’s searching. not consciously, her eyes move guided by some force besides intention, fueled by the moon that stirs inside her. dilated pupils, that’s how the moon betrays her when it gets what it wants. the door of the diner opens. irises vanish, lips twitch— the moon has betrayed her now. Her high aperture eyes follow the figure as it navigates the tiled floors and buoying people. The purple fluorescence of her under-eye triangle parts crowds like seas.
CYBORG LOVE STORY
“Eve.” ‘Eve’ isn’t accepting this as her name right now. She’s entangled in more pressing matters. “Eve,” The whisper katanas through the sound barrier. “Your table.”
ARIANN BAKER + BLAKE KATHRYN
Right. This is work. “Yeah.” She hard resets to normal, dusts herself off. As if she’s trying to convince herself, she says it again. “Yeah, I know.” Eve faces the source of the voice, a small also-uniformed girl with coarse, blonde hair. Below her lidded eye is a greenlit incision of a triangle. Her nametag plays billboard to the numbers ‘3141’: Cada. “You can’t keep spacing like that. It’s not cute anymore.” She says it with a smile, which is supposed to make it nicer. Cada’s got sarcastic firmware that updates a soft interface. None of what she says is genuine, so Eve takes it as she’s meant to. Smile included. “Shut up.” One maneuver around the counter and she’s at the order window. Two fulfilled sandwich orders, nothing too alluring, slip into each one of her hands. “You’re lucky my hands are full.” To the tune of smoothied conversations, Eve’s heels click as they carry her through narrow margins of chairs, intoxicated imperialists of the jukebox, and boomeranging colleagues to reach the final destination of a booth immersed in some Szechuan-hot discussion. No words from their inebriated tongues come off as coherent, but they still exchange them with each other as if all is understood. They wear the clothes that will trickle down into the general population eventually, rigid and cubic with too-many-zeroes price tags.
Steely plates skid onto the patchy veneer of their booth table. The noise barely dents their battling voices. “Two ‘Tomato Vines.’” A stupid name. “Anything else I can get you?” Nobody’s listening. Eve lingers In front of the table but the chatter captures every agent of the party. Take your time, do not rush, this is the perfect vantage point for what needs to be done. She’s seated alone, two booths away, stirring a needlehead’s worth of oil into her steamy coffee. This has played in front of Eve for months now, on a strict itinerary. Always at 10 p.m., always one black coffee, always deep breaths between sips, always 20 percent tip. If anybody were crazy enough to ask, she’d be crazy enough to tell them that she could map out where the wrinkles in her face show as she drinks. Organic grey eyes flit up from the marbled swirl of greased coffee. They lock with Eve’s and fix in place. Neural waves ravage a cerebral shore. The disco ball of a moon dreidels inside her. There’s little she wouldn’t do to walk the tightrope between their gaze— “Can you grab the check, please?” Scissors to the line.
CYBORG LOVE STORY
ARIANN BAKER + BLAKE KATHRYN
A week of shared glances catapults by with no upset in the routine they’d settled into. 10 P.M, the woman would enter. Not earlier, not later, always seated in Cada’s section. And Eve would just stare. And the woman would stare back. Cada would tsk. “You’re the strangest couple I’ve ever seen.” They were. The ‘relationship’ the two had cultivated over the course of the week strengthened. It strengthened, then it plateaued. The next ‘base’ beyond eye contact, that’s what Eve fixated on. Origin, interests, wiring, name. So many questions necessary to dismantle the enigmatic woman with the purple triangle under her eye. Purple. That’s also all Eve could think about. Green for the masses, red for the rogues, blue for the wealthy. But purple.. It’s an LED that she’s never seen before. “You don’t think it’s unfair? That we’re here and they’re.. there?” The furtive whisper darts over to graze Eve’s ear. “Am I really the only one who thinks it’s fucked up?” The words dodge pink bubblegum to slip through the thin lips of Victoria, who slouches in front of the order counter. She’s perceiving another rowdy table of sloshed patrons. Regulars, Blue light illuminates each one of their cheeks. “What’s fucked up?” Eyes on the clock. 9:57.
“Look at us. They order ‘Motor Milkshakes’ and we have to prance on over in an apron. Serve them. You’re telling me that’s not humiliating?” “Find another job, if you hate it so badly.” “Yeah, well, it’s not just here. When I worked at the mall it was the same fucking thing. Can’t buy jack shit from Macey’s, but a fucking Tronic can. And you’re supposed to smile in their face. Tell them to ‘come again.’ Bullshit.” Eve can only give a pre-packaged hum. She has to microdose engagement with this girl. The clan at the table picks up the energy. One hand missiles up, accompanied with the familiar soundbyte of “Waitress!” “Your table,” Victoria’s breath is light as she says this. “Thank God.” It’s 9:59 now, but the seconds hand inches towards ’12.’ Speed is of the essence here. Eve’s at the table before the hand comes down. “Anything else?” “Just the check, thanks.” The audible shift of the doors cuts her eyes away from the smile he offers. Her heart jostles itself into her ribcageFor no reason. In comes a heavy-breathed Cada, shouldering the bag that houses her uniform. This is her last allotted ‘late clock-in,’ Eve remembers on her journey to retrieve the bill. Her eyes can’t help but spare a glance at the clock.. 10:01. Someone else is late. Just as Eve deals up the tab, a uniformed Cada pops out from the stickered bathroom door. She sidles up to the black woman, whose eyes refuse to excise themselves from the uncomfortably absent purple-cheeked elephant. “Vic forecast?” she says. Any millisecond now.. “Bigot levels read moderate. Blues are today’s problem.” “She’s my favorite radical.” Cada spits up the last two words like they’re Pepto Bismol. Chuckle for a response, but not much else. The blonde’s eyes trail right behind Eve’s.
CYBORG LOVE STORY
“Is tonight the night your mouth does some work?” She doesn’t even wait for a reaction. “She’s cool. I talked to her yesterday.” Hitched breath exposes an otherwise steady, “About what?” “Her LED. I said I thought it was cool she kept it, then she said ‘Thanks.’” “Kept what?” “The colour. It’s some weird RGB factory error. Not crazy rare, but most people born with it tweak it back to normal, so you don’t see it much nowadays.” She traces her fingertip over her cheek’s edge. “Aia—that’s her name—kept hers.” Aia. She mentally weighs the name. 191. “When did this happen?” “When you were busy,” she substitutes ‘busy’ in for ‘taking a deliberately long, wage-wasting bathroom trip,’ “I peeped at her signature, because I’m a good friend.” Eve couldn’t argue otherwise. The blue table crowds through the doors, exiting just as animated as they came. Chatter tumbles out of their mouths, they smile ear to ear, and one holds the door open... Her eyes dilate before anything else. Aia.
“Consider our sections switched.” The two watch as she settles into the all-too-familiar seat that their eyes know too well. “Don’t ever say I don’t do anything for you.” Cada vanishes to the other side of the grass before so much as a ‘thank you’ can be said. The Eve of present is not the same as the Eve of five minutes ago. She white-knuckles the ceremonial menu, drags her breath as she takes one deliberate step at a time. Electromagnetic anxiety coats her body. It’s a pointillist experience. Aia lifts her hand to brush away layered hair from her now visibly cracked LED. When she does, Eve notices the hole on her ring finger, how veiny wires poke out from inside it. Junkyard chic, one of the few styles she’s managed to keep up with. One final footstep of the journey and, in an instant, the silver irises reconcile with brown. The bond doesn’t dissolve, even as the menu slaps against the table. Her ‘service smile’ hangs over her lips. “Welcome.” “Thanks.” She dishes back an upturned corner of her lip. “Just a black coffee, for me, Eve.” No one’s said her name like that, and Eve doubts that anyone else ever will. It’s teasing, baiting, the beckoning call of a siren at sea. She procures a coffee in lightning speed. Any slower would be criminal. Lithe, amber fingers encircle the handle. The steam that bellydances into the air and warms the cup is no obstacle. One steady breath later and Aia sips from the drink without problem. It’s all magnified. The wrinkle atop her forehead, the rise and fall of her chest, the glimmer of her eyes...
ARIANN BAKER + BLAKE KATHRYN
“Consider our sections “Should switched.” I be offended The two that watch you as haven’t she settles sat down into the yet?” all-too-familiar seat that their eyes know too well. “Don’t ever say I don’t do anything for you.” --- Besides rats and overpacked dumpsters, the back alley behind The Hills loves to house frantic bodies delving in Cada vanishes to the other andside out of the each grass other. before It’s not so the much most as asanitary ‘thank you’ of placcan be said. es, but the beacon of night blankets any couple with an aura that makes lovers into muses of the moon. The Eve of present is not the same as the Eve of five minutes ago. She white-knuckles the ceremonial menu, drags Eve’s her head breathhas as found she takes shelter onein deliberate the crookstep of Aia’s at a time. Electromagnetic anxiety coats neck.her Her body. head lolls back and the cool light refracts over her purple to umbrella them under It’s a pointillist experience. Aia lifts aher lavender hand tohalo. brush away layered hair from her now visibly cracked LED. When she does, Eve notices the hole on her ring finger, how veiny wires poke out from inside--it.“Vic?” Junkyard chic, one of the few styles she’s managed to keep up with. It’s the typical Sunday slump. Only a One final footstep of the journey and, in an instant, handful the of figures silver irises have reconcile reprised their with brown. The bond doesn’t dissolve, even as the roles menu as customers. slaps againstEve thelaps table. up a Her ‘service smile’ hangs over her lips. “Welcome.” toddler stain from the tabletop, Cada cross-armed behind her. “Thanks.” She dishes back an upturned corner of her lip. “Just a black coffee, for me, Eve.” “Levels are astronomical. Don’t even look at her.” No one’s said her name like that, and Eve doubts that anyone else ever will. It’s teasing, baiting, the beckoning call of a siren at sea. She “Andprocures the subject a coffee of toin lightning speed. Any slower would be criminal. day’s manifesto?” Lithe, amber fingers encircle the handle. The steam that bellydances into the air and warms the cup is no obstacle. One steady breath later and Aia sips from the drink without problem. It’s all magnified. The wrinkle atop her forehead, the rise and fall of her chest, the glimmer of her eyes... “Should I be offended that you haven’t sat down yet?” --- Besides rats and overpacked dumpsters, the back alley behind The Hills loves to house frantic bodies delving in and out of each other. It’s not the most sanitary of places, but the beacon of night blankets any couple with an aura that makes lovers into muses of the moon.
“Internetic relationships. Her boyfriend botted her, yesterday. She keeps telling me to make sure you stay away from my men.” “Like I’m some crazy threat. Has it ever crossed her mind that maybe she’s just a bitch?” She snaps like Victoria is there to receive it. “Does she know about you and—” Hand up to silence the thought. After the fifth ‘fingers-up-her-skirt-in-the-alley’ encounter, Aia and Eve figured their lives could stand some semblance of a ‘relationship.’ “We’re girlfriends,” Aia lent during pillowtalk, “if you want to assign a label on it that badly.” And Eve did. ‘Girlfriend’ rings better than any other. “She’d have a stroke if she found out. Then, she’d stop talking to me completely and you’d have to find someone else to brief you on all the shit she says.” Fair enough. Cada smiles. “Is Aia coming today?” Innumerable employment opportunities made themselves available to the grey-eyed woman. She took one up in a warehouse only one block away from the café, which Eve had hoped would make visits more frequent than once a night. Somehow, though, the new job reduced Aia’s presence to one check-in and one coffee a week. “Hopefully.”
CYBORG LOVE STORY
Ariann Barker is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Screenwriting. Blake Kathryn is a Los Angeles-based artist crafting designs with a vibrant palette and surreal undertones. Touching upon themes of nostalgia and states of consciousness â€“ her aesthetic is inspired by surrealism and futurism, with a utopian twist.
ARIANN BAKER + BLAKE KATHRYN
A bearded man shoulders his way through the doors. His face is a lithograph of wrinkles, furrowed deep into his face. With each labored breath, the lines intensify. “Is there an ‘Eve’ in the building? Eve? Eve?” Yes, this is her name. The eponymous character cracks her neck like a pepper shaker. “I’m an Eve.” He takes his breaths in intervals, to the point where one could take out a stopwatch to time the contractions. In between every intake of oxygen, he sandwiches his words— they form one coherent thought: “Your girlfriend. In the alley. She’s—” The statement lingers for a bit, swirls and swirls down the brain drain. The sink spits it up, though, for her to parcel and comprehend and.. She’s out the door, throwing her body against whatever force dares to act against it. The alleyway is just one sharp pivot away, but it feels more like a marathon. The world goes black and white.
2100: LIFE ON MARS
2100: LIFE ON MARS
IT’S THE YEAR 2100 and planet Earth has become mostly uninhabitable by humans. After decades of research and preparation, NASA is spearheading the effort to colonize Mars by sending Science Pilot Brax to be the first human to live there. “2100” is a satirical scientific case study photo essay following Science Pilot Brax through their day to day, sometimes mundane, tasks all performed in the name of preserving the human race. I was inspired to create this project in the wake of NASA cancelling the first all female spacewalk due to not having the proper space suits for women. I wanted to challenge people’s gender-biased perceptions of scientists, explorers and astronauts in a clever and comical way.
2100: LIFE ON MARS
2100: LIFE ON MARS
2100: LIFE ON MARS
2100: LIFE ON MARS
2100: LIFE ON MARS
Ellie Pritts is an internationally-recognized photographer, director and producer based in Los Angeles. Her imaginative work has captured the attention of esteemed publications such as WIRED and TIME Magazine, who in 2016 named her one of the top photographers to follow in the U.S. Photographerâ€™s Assistant Dave Valdez
THE COMMODIFICATION OF SOCIAL CONNECTION IN THE 21ST CENTURY A Thinkpiece by Alice Han + Diana Fonte
ALICE HAN + DIANA FONTE
“Change-seeking robot with the drip” is the Instagram bio that greets the 1.9 million followers of Miquela Sousa’s — or Lil Miquela’s — profile page, some of which include the likes of Bia, Jacquemus, Rosalía, Salem Mitchell, the MOCA and many more. Miquela is a computer-generated human robot who lives in Los Angeles, likes fashion and goes to In-N-Out with her friends. If the Instagram bio and nickname perplex you, a scroll through her feed will leave you completely baffled. The Miquela franchise has acquired upwards of $125 million through brand deals, paid sponsorships, collaborations, clothing range, and, oh yeah – a booming music career. In the past four years, the 19 year-old digital It-Girl has been the face of everything from Vogue covers to fashion shows. Since posting her first “selfie” on June 9th, 2016 of her in Santa Monica with her very real bestie, Molly Soda, Miquela has sported Louis Vuitton for PAPER Magazine’s “Break the Internet” 2017 issue, has been Pat McGrath’s makeup model in 2018, has launched a clothing collaboration with High Snobiety in 2018 and has featured product endorsements for streetwear and luxury brands. An infamous one is a paid partnership with Calvin Klein, in which Miquela stands arm-in-arm with Bella Hadid, labeled with the caption “No one else can define our own truths. #MYTRUTH #MYCALVINS”. She even starred in an Instagram takeover campaign for Prada during Milan Fashion Week. Miquela can often be seen sporting her high-end designer clothes such as Chanel, Supreme, and Balenciaga and giving shoutouts to various beauty brands. Miquela also uses her platform for activism and has partnered with several charity organizations to raise money for Black Girls Code and others, and has voiced her opinion defending and supporting social causes including LGBTQ+ causes, reproductive rights, and Black Lives Matter. Her photo captions seldom indicate that she is any different from the next social media influencer, with the occasional “I am so excited I’m gonna short circuit” scattered throughout project announcement posts. Her Instagram stories feature her going “Live” at album release parties and filming YouTube confession videos. She poses next to various celebrities in her photos, such as Millie Bobby Brown and Diplo, and attends exclusive or popular events like Coachella. Miquela even seems to have a romantic relationship with model Nick Killian.
Despite not being real, she has also been involved in drama that is not uncommon for Instagram stars and celebrities. Back in April 2018, Miquela’s Instagram account was allegedly hacked by Instagram influencer Bermuda — or BermudaIsBae — spurring drama on the Internet for days. Bermuda took over Miquela’s Instagram and deleted all her posts, then shared six posts of her own with ranting captions. Eventually, Bermuda gave Miquela’s account back with all posts restored, giving her an ultimatum that she had 48 hours to “tell the world the truth”. Miquela, in her next post, then dramatically revealed that she was indeed not human, but rather a computer generated image — a CGI — built in Silicon Valley. The “hack” was orchestrated by her management company, BRUD, as a publicity stunt; it was designed to attract the attention of the media and to entertain people scrolling through their feeds with drama. With this conflict, another artificial influencer Blawko, also created by BRUD, was introduced and famed into the social media scene. Bermuda, Miquela’s supposed hacker, is also a computer-generated avatar made by BRUD like Miquela herself. BRUD lets these three CGIs interact to capture media attention, using conflict to loop in more characters of their own, growing their established platform. Since then, Miquela regularly posts about and with now fellow digital best friends Bermuda and Blawko. Miquela has redefined what it truly takes to have an online persona, which includes not being a person. In fact, her widespread reach and loyal fanbase is a reflection of powerful companies and entities who view virtual reality as a lucrative idea. Miquela is a hot commodity for major brands, not in spite of her online-only presence, but because of it. BRUD has done a spectacular job in turning identity into currency. It is now valued at more than $125 million and it continues to grow. They have gained more than $6 million in funding by various Silicon Valley investors as well. So what attracts big brands and investors towards using her and other digital models as marketing tools? Using CGIs is appealing to companies because there is more control over the image, rather than if they were to partner with a person. Nothing about a CGI influencer could potentially put the brand’s name in danger. They don’t come with any of
ALICE HAN + DIANA FONTE
the inherent issues that come with being human: they don’t say no, use drugs, commit crime, boycott, or hold conflicting opinions. They are posed and angled the perfect way, with no room for human error. They don’t need to do 150 takes just to find the perfect one. It’s also a great way for these brands to show that they can be visionary and are able to keep up with the ever-changing technological modernization. Brands can reach niche audiences in a cutting-edge, authentic way compared to traditional billboard-type advertising. Miquela’s follower base consists mainly of Millennials and Gen Z individuals: if companies want to reach those audiences, virtual influencers may be the fit. Most importantly, CGIs don’t need to be paid — why pay real people to do the job when you can make and control one of your own? The usage of CGIs as models and influencers seems to be rising in popularity in the market. A leading example is the fashion label Balmain; they commissioned British artist Cameron-James Wilson to design a diverse group of digital models, creating a white woman (Margot), a black woman (Shudu), and an Asian woman (Zhi). The most popular amongst them is the model Shudu, the world’s first digital supermodel, who was mistaken for a real consumer by Rihanna’s fashion line Savage X Fenty. Wilson says to VOGUE that “Once someone is scanned, they are, in a way, immortalized. A person’s career could last decades, centuries [...]. If the technology to scan and capture Marilyn Monroe had been around then, her career could very much be still going today.” Wilson is the founder of The Diigitals — the world’s first all-digital modeling agency. However, despite its growing prevalence in social media and the fashion industry, many conflicting opinions shroud around the topic of digital models. It mainly raises a question regarding authenticity — for example, it has been known that the modeling industry lacks racial diversity. Miquela is a half Brazillian and half Spanish “POC” — a person of color. But individuals argue that this is not an actual presence of a POC as she is a digitally engineered non-authentic person, and therefore, does not contribute towards the representation of POCs in the modeling world. Her identity also shows blatant commodification of social progress for capital gain. Brands and other companies are willing to work with a person of color or others of diverse backgrounds without actually having to work with one. Miquela also does not face the cultural or social struggles that come with being from a mixed or different cultural background
â€” after all, sheâ€™s not real. There remains a tinge of dystopian aftertaste in the discussion of advances in artificial intelligence and its intertwinement into our daily lives. How much of it is real, and how much of it isnâ€™t? Is it only a matter of time before digital people are integrated into society and push real models out of their jobs? Will we even be able to tell the difference between real and non-real people? Just where do we draw the line between technology and humanity, if there is one at all? One thing is for sure: as technology innovation advances, so do our Instagram stars.
Alice Han is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Business Administration. She is also a member of the Spring 2020 Haute E-Board team serving as the Director of Copy. Diana Fonte is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Public Relations. She is the Editor in Chief of Haute Magazine.
Slava Thisset is an artist, graphic designer and photographer based in Sochi, Russia. He describes himself as “a VISUAL SCIENTIST, in constant search of the beautiful in the ordinary around him. He’s an EARTHMAN among aliens. He creates juicy pictures with BOLD colors.”
ON THE CUTTING EDGE STUDENT-FOUNDED STARTUPS MAKING WAVES IN THE TECH INDUSTRY
A game of word association in front of a gym mirror seems like an unlikely catalyst for the launch of a beauty app, but for Executive MBA student Staci Dao, it was the push she needed to begin developing her dream company, beauty platform Tammira. Tammira acts as a sort of booking service where users can schedule one-on-one appointments with makeup artists and beauty experts to receive product recommendations, guided tutorials, and general beauty advice. “It’s almost like you’re getting your own virtual personalized beauty advisor who’s going to help you identify things that you want to work on and ways to enhance your features...you get to have a more authentic relationship with someone who’s going to give you products that are applicable to you,” said Dao. Getting Tammira off the ground was no easy feat, but with a clear vision of the end product in mind, Dao was able to assemble a team that could help her ideas become a reality. Her first mission was to find a group of developers fluent in the open-source mobile application framework React Native, which Dao believed was essential to making Tammira a cutting-edge application; luckily, she was able to connect with developers at the Viterbi School of Engineering who were eager to join the project. Tammira’s core team is now composed of USC Viterbi students, with the exception of several contract
Writing by Awo Jama Drawings by Sydney Loew
UX and graphic designers. One of Dao’s primary motives for starting Tammira was to combat the lack of diversity in the online beauty community, especially on platforms such as YouTube. Ultimately, her goal was to create a more inclusive space where “people can connect and come together with like-minded values.” “We want to focus on diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender...making people feel accepted and appreciated and that they have something they are worth,” said Dao. Having been recently honored as one of eight finalists in South by Southwest’s Student Startup Madness competition, Tammira has already begun to garner some attention in the startup world. As the company continues to expand its reach and make a name for itself, Dao hopes that, on a micro level at least, Tammira can help users truly feel like they are a part of a community. “If someone can just say, ‘I went on Tammira and I made a new friend, I learned something fun and effective’... I think I’m successful.”
In this new age wave of mindfulness and self-discovery we find ourselves in, some individuals may be hard-pressed to find an application that is tailored to their unique wellness needs. For second year law student Arsh Haque, a solution to this was to bring control back to the user through one of the most tried and true mindfulness methods out there: journaling. Haque was first struck with the inspiration for his journaling application Wellsayer after witnessing a decline in his own happiness following a stint working for various startups in the Bay Area. As he began to track his day-to-day levels of satisfaction in his own well-being journal with a friend in a similar situation, Haque realized that he was not alone in his struggles to achieve mindfulness, and began developing an application that could assist individuals in a journey to self-discovery similar to his own. After moving to L.A and reconnecting with the co-founder of one of his past startups, Haque got to work on getting Wellsayer off
AWO JAMA + SYDNEY LOEW
of the ground. He and his team spent around a year and a half researching well-being economics and trends in the journaling industry before settling on a suitable design and sending out mockups of the app. “What we arrived at after a ton of iterations was basically a journaling app where you can sign up to different paths, and each one explores different parts of your life.” While Haque aims for Wellsayer to come out as a category leader within the journaling market, a larger goal of his is for Wellsayer to be adopted as a public service which governments can use to gauge the wellbeing of their citizens more holistically, beyond income alone. “As we shift to that type of government and an economy that is more accountable and inclusive, we’re trying to build the economic infrastructure to make that happen,” said Haque.
OVERLOOKED Having dominated news headlines in the months leading up to the historic 2016 election, fake news is an entity that continues to uproot democratic values and hinder individualâ€™s access to information directly impacting them. Aiming to put a stop to this phenomenon is recent USC Marshall graduate George Sehremelis, whose online news company Overlooked serves to combat the spread of misinformation. An avid consumer of news in high school, one of Sehremelisâ€™s first exposures to fake news was learning of a World War 2 massacre that took place in the small Greecian village of Distomo that his family hails from; the attack was instigated largely by false reports. After learning of similar genocides such as that perpetuated against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Sehremelis became determined to do his part to crush misinformation, and founded Overlook in 2017 while still a student at USC. Awo Jama is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Journalism. She is the Director of Writing for Haute Magazine.
Overlooked functions by pulling up to date news articles from numerous reputable sources such as NBC, The New York Times, and the Associated Press, and allowing users to vote on whether each respective article leans to the left, the right, or is neutral. Additionally, the company gives each article a score out of 100 that determines how opinionated it is, according to Overlooked’s official website. A unique feature of Overlooked is that it does not allow users to post on the platform, which Sehremelis says makes it a “bot firewall” that prevents outside parties from spreading misinformation on the site. Moving forward, Overlooked aims to play a considerable role in the 2020 election, as it hopes to be a go-to source for internet-goers to access accurate news. In doing so, the company will be one step closer to ending fake news for good, a mission that has driven Sehremelis throughout his passion project. Sydney Loew is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation in the Iovine and Young Academy. She is the Director of Visual Design for Haute Magazine.
COLOR, BALANCE, AND EMOTION
Alexy PrĂŠfontaine, who goes by the creative name Aeforia, is a 3D artist from Montreal, Canada. With his combination of surreal imagery and digital portraiture, the 24-year-old artist manages to transport viewers to an alternate, dream-like world that is painted in pastels and rooted in emotion.
COLOR, BALANCE, AND EMOTION
COLOR, BALANCE, AND EMOTION
Contributors Alexy Prefontaine Fvckrender Dorian Legret
THE BRAVEST WOMAN
Poem by Sara Sturek Photography by Melania Brescia 122
SARA STUREK + MELANIA BRESCIA
the bravest woman i ever met was the wind watching her whisper to silver knights, two steak knives that marched along with her breath ordered to sing and stab the base of my neck (you may want to look away) she whistled with the knives as they whittled down each side of my spine, now sliced i do not remember who started screaming first (it is okay that you cannot look at me) i remember twelve total slashes in between my twenty four vertebrae, vibrating as she licked the blood frantically as a childâ€™s eager hands wipe away sandâ€™s skin at the beach to hopefully see the current of the ocean pulsing underneath it was her new ladder (you can ask me if i was in pain) the answer is yes it was excruciating but it did not exist without wish fulfillment and the adrenaline of being so savagely seen touched and torn into there was something lyrical and lionheart about her first stinging footstep that i bit my lip in ecstasy as i knew she too was climbing somewhere other than heaven.
THE BRAVEST WOMAN
Sara Sturek is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing degrees in Creative Writing and Communication. Melania Brescia is a Chattanooga-based artistic photographer who specializes in conceptual work for anything visual, from cinematography and storyboarding to surrealist retouching.
Hungry is a Berlin-based artist and performer who has pioneered the alternative drag scene. Through what she refers to as “distorted drag”, Hungry has created her own reality with her insect-like makeup and avant-garde fashion. With nearly half a million followers and past collaborations with Bjork and American Vogue, Hungry has undoubtedly become one of the most influential drag queens when it comes to breaking creative barriers and redefining drag standards. Robert Bartholot is a Berlin-based photographer who crafts carefully styled and edited compositions. Often with a sculptural, staged and graphic approach: Robert’s photography focuses on renditions of humans, human-like creatures, animals or objects.
Writing by Jason Cerin Photography by Eden Tokatly
THE YOUNG ARTIST PUSHING
THE BOUNDARIES OF CODE
Art and technology have had a complex yet coupled relationship, simultaneously evolving to arrive at their place in the world today. We find ourselves in a digital age that allows for them to integrate and collectively push our prior understandings of both fields to new extremes. Artists and technologists are currently forging a new path in the art world governed by new inventions, perspectives and aesthetics. There are certain individuals that have chosen to join this revolution, and Remi Wedin is one of them. She is a student currently pursuing a degree in Media Arts + Practice (MA+P) within the USC School of Cinematic Arts. It is here that she has been able to take the programming skills she learned at a young age and apply them in new and innovative ways. Her roots are in the fine arts, drawing and sculpting to be specific, but her body of work has grown far beyond these traditional mediums. Taking part in what is known as creative coding, Remi has become a Renaissance woman of integrating art and technology. Her primary focus is algorithmic art, and she codes to create prints, static objects and motion graphics. While she mainly creates her work using Processing and Illustrator, Remi has displayed her fluency in other digital art and design technologies such as Arduino, HTML, CSS, C++, and more. Her experiential pieces include utilizing interactive sculpture, projection mapping, and sound visualizers. Regardless of the medium she is creating with, one common thread that runs throughout Remiâ€™s body of work is the unique aesthetic she displays that is inherently and unapologetically her own. Whether itâ€™s sculpting pink 3D dinosaurs in ZBrush or modeling tangerine-colored spaceships in Maya, Remi crafts whimsical and surreal designs that center on playful and nostalgic themes. With lush pastel color palettes and structured geometric subjects, Remi has introduced a style of creative code that has not been extensively seen before. Now, one might ask themselves, how could someone so young learn and advance an art form so quickly? To answer this, the twenty-year-old multi-media creator sat down to discuss her story, her art, and her future.
JASON CERIN + EDEN TOKATLY
Jason How would you describe your work? Remi Well, I like to do a lot of things, but they’re all centered around technology. I am not into doodling or drawing that much anymore because it takes too long. I just like it when things can be done quickly because it gives me more time for experimentation. In terms of my visual style, I like to describe it as bright and fun, which I don’t believe is usually associated with algorithmic art. This is because a lot of other code-based designers, or at least the ones I see the most, were programmers first and didn’t come from an art background. So, I think that’s where I differ from the rest. I don’t know where my style is going to go from here, but that’s the exciting part. I’ve gotten a good response to what I’m doing right now from you all and people on the Internet. So, I like it. It’s really fun and it’s very me. J I was reading this article that said many digital artists prefer that they are considered artists first and technologists second. Do you view technology as just something that is used in the service of your art or are you equally as interested in that aspect of the process as well? R I would say I’m equally interested in both. As I mentioned before, one interesting thing about algorithmic art is that a lot of people who are doing it weren’t artists first and instead have a very strong programming background. Those people, now I don’t want to say they irritate me, but they definitely push me to be a better artist. Personally, I consider myself to be more of a designer than a programmer and that’s how I want it to be. In my opinion, being an innately creative person is more important than having pre-existing programming skills because those can always be learned and is a tool that anyone can master.
J Where did your interest in technology stem from and when did you see that it could be applied in an artistic context? R Well, I’ve been fascinated by art from a very young age, but originally it was more so fine art such as drawing and sculpting. I remember going to Barnes & Noble as a child and receiving a book on stop motion animation. I thought that was really cool and that was one of the first times I can recall using a piece of technology to make art. It wasn’t anything fancy. I just used the webcam on our family laptop to make a little clay blob man walk around a stage and jump off staplers. You know, now that I think about it, it was pretty sweet. From there, I got into coding more heavily when I was in high school. There was a program called GITA, or the Global IT Academy, where students were able to learn a different computer coding language every year. However, by the end of it, I actually hated it because it taught us practical coding. Things like “here is a list of fruit and I want you to make a program that alphabetizes it” and I was like yeah... this is not cool nor what I want to be doing. It just was very logic-heavy and I was missing out on the visual part of it. So, coming into college and the MA+P program, I wasn’t too fond of code. I knew there was going to be a coding requirement for the major and I was really afraid of it, so much so as I told the professor “I did this in high school and I didn’t like it” and he said “I think I know what you’re talking about, but I can assure you that this is different and that you’re going to like it” and I was like “...okay.” I still felt a little bit lost throughout the semester, until we got to the final project where I made artworks that were generated based off of sound. This was the first time where I really understood what creative coding was. I was able to see how code could be so much more than I learned in high school and was exploring its various possibilities, which was very exciting. From here, I continued to take creative coding classes both in and outside of MA+P, as well as started learning more about it in my free time. I started [coding] everyday in hopes of getting better at it, which was really fun. It was somewhat a part of my morning routine for me to work on a small coding exercise. I then made an Instagram account to share my code art with random people on the Internet. It was here that I started seeing what other people were doing, was able to draw on new sources of inspiration and began talking with people about something that felt a bit niche.
JASON CERIN + EDEN TOKATLY
J You mentioned that a sound-based project was your first, formal introduction into creative coding. You and I have also talked about why you like sound and specifically why you believe it is one of the most versatile artforms. Do you want to elaborate on that? R In my opinion, sound is the most accessible art form due to the fact that it’s something that can be seen, heard and felt. With forms of art that are visual, you need to be able to see and not everyone has the ability to do that. This is something I think about often because art has been such a huge part of my life and if I didn’t have the privilege of sight, I don’t know what I would be doing or what my life plan would look like. Therefore, I think it’s critical to have forms of art such as sound that aren’t just for sighted people. On its own, I don’t think sound is currently getting the attention it deserves; maybe paired with something visual it is. I don’t believe many people have fully explored the whimsy of things such as tactile sound projects, which could be an avenue to explore in the future. Overall, artwork that is generated based on sound is deeply underrated. It is a medium that needs to be explored further and looked at more closely, as it has the potential to create a wide variety of projects that a larger group of people can enjoy. J If anyone was to look at your Instagram, they could see how you’ve undoubtedly established an aesthetic for yourself, which I think is very important. I believe that when it comes to successful artists across any medium, the people you remember are those who you can look at their work without them being in the room and you know it’s theirs; and I think you’ve done that. How, throughout this process, were you able to find ways to make this medium your own? R I don’t think I would’ve discovered my art style without Processing, which is the programming language that all of my pieces are made in. I don’t want to say it was a constraint, but in Processing, all I would use were basic shapes like rectangles and circles. Now, most people would probably ask, what are you going to do with just those? However, once I was able to move beyond 2D primitive shapes and started to play with things like scale, rotation and even putting them into a 3D space, I learned that a lot of interesting things can be done with them. I also found that once I stopped trying to copy what other people were doing, I was finally able to figure out what I personally like to do.
JASON CERIN + EDEN TOKATLY
J You mentioned that your professor is a big source of inspiration for your work. Do you feel as though your academic discipline as a Media Arts and Practice major has encouraged you to take these creative approaches to code? R I think it has. I do wish there were more opportunities to learn about creative code or just to talk about it because we only have two classes, which out of an entire major, isn’t that many. However, I would say they definitely encourage it. We just hosted Processing Community Day a couple weeks ago and that was great because it served as a real space for a group of individuals who live a lot of their lives online to meet. So, SCA is doing things like that to get us connected with other people who are also interested in creative code. There’s also a group in MA+P called the Creative Code Collective that aims to bring people together who maybe haven’t explored creative code previously and then encourage them to learn it in an accessible and non-intimidating way J I’ve asked you this before, but maybe you’ve thought about it since then. What do you hope the future entails? Whether that be in a career sense, as an artist, in terms of your style. What do you see the future holding for you? R I definitely would like to continue creating generative art in my free time and sharing that work online. One thing that Dimitri recently did that resonated with me was he had a fundraiser where he made prints of his work and then he sold them for $40. He then donated all of the money to Black Girls Code, which is an organization that aims to increase the number of women of color in code. He also was able to match the money that he raised selling his work and ended up donating around $2,000 to that group, which is incredible. So, it would be very special if I was also able to make creative code art that people would like to buy that can then be donated to empower minorities to enter the field as well. Code is very intimidating and if you are going into it as a minority, it can be even more challenging. For myself, I know I sometimes feel insecure as a woman who is interested in coding. Therefore, if I am ever able to build confidence in other people to explore code through my own work, that would be a dream come true.
Where do you see the projection of creative coding going in the future?
R I have a lot of conflicting feelings about it in terms of its applications in the art world. However, it’s one that I’m really excited to explore and can hopefully become more involved with. I think we will see more of it as new media art becomes more popular. I don’t know if it will ever become mainstream, but we may begin to see small steps being made. I went to a gallery where pieces were being displayed on digital screens, which you wouldn’t expect in a museum, as work is usually hand done. So, we’ll most likely start to see more things like that in the future. There are a handful of new media art galleries, I believe most of them are moving, that people can go to to experience work made with Processing. However, if you can’t make it to one of those, Instagram is an epicenter for code art. That’s where I find most of the work I look at and am inspired by. I mean, it’s just right there. It’s on your phone. So, I encourage people to check it out. For people who are interested in exploring creative code themselves, there are resources such as The Coding Train, which is a YouTube channel run by Daniel Shiffman who is a NYU professor in their Media Art program. He has tutorials starting all the way from the beginning with things like “Hello World” and takes you all the way into pretty advanced stuff. There’s this whole part of the art world that people aren’t getting involved with that I believe they should be. If they’re like me, they may have a less than favorable view of code due to a bad experience with it or they feel like they can’t do it. However, code is definitely for everyone and organizations such as Processing do a great job of encouraging people to get into it. At the end of the day, more people adding to the age of art automation in the world would be a wonderful thing.
Jason Cerin is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in International Relations and Global Business. He is the Creative Director of Haute Magazine. Eden Tokatly is an Australian photographer based out of Los Angeles, studying Law and Multimedia Design. She is also a member of the Spring 2020 Haute E-Board team serving as the Director of Multimedia.
JASON CERIN + EDEN TOKATLY
Featuring Karla Leung
Jaron Fabular is an LA-based photographer studying business and design at the University of Southern California. He primarily shoots in film and particularly enjoys taking portraits of people. Karla Leung is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Communication.
“When I was little, I remember going to Portland Chinatown once every couple of months to buy a roasted duck because it was my favorite food. Now wherever my family goes, we make a point to go to whatever Chinatown is in the area and get a roasted duck, no matter what. Although Chinatowns aren’t representative of how I grew up, going to Chinatowns and random dim sum restaurants makes me feel like I fit in -I feel comfortable.” “The bandages in this shoot represent a fragmentation of myself with my culture. My parents and family are very traditional, yet I don’t even know my language or my culture beyond these memories and experiences that supposedly make me Chinese.” Karla Leung
Model Karla Leung Hair and Makeup Karla Leung Styling Jaron Fabular
Y O B Y A L P O G IN
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OM C D
N O C E SE
GEOFFREY YAHYA VARGAS
S N A M IT R W
BY N TE
US O M
Y N O AN
GEOFFREY YAHYA VARGAS
“Fishnets are impossible to put on!” My roommate’s voice reached me through the hallway, cutting through the dance-pop music she blared from her speaker––a playlist nostalgic of our middle-school era. I was sitting by the desk in her room, my hair scorched with a flat-iron by our second roommate. The unnatural heat sent bits of frizz sticking upwards in protest before they settled down again. “You have to scrunch them up from the bottom,” a voice called from the living room, where a fourth girl was desperately completing a forgotten computer science assignment. A fifth girl was sprawled on the bedroom floor, adjusting her bunny ears in a portable mirror. Rejected outfits lay limp on the two beds nearby, their corpses lacy and black. Make-up products cascaded from the desks to the carpeted floor, like a herd of ants marching down a hill. It was Friday night. One broken glass and too many pictures later, we departed the apartment. Splitting up into two separate Lyfts, we made plans to rendezvous at the venue––to meet on the Row. Stepping out of our respective Lyfts, we reached the low, sprawling fraternity house. It would typically be an unassuming structure, neutral-toned and modernistically blocky with subdued light filling its square windows, but not tonight. At this moment, music was pulsing inside, like a siren’s call to students in want of lukewarm drinks and a heaving dance floor. Separate lines of young men and women snaked around outside––a mass of figures in the dark, moving towards a shared beacon. They were as much an accessory of the house as the flag draped across its front––stark black with a white, bowtie-adorned bunny. Their biggest party of the semester, the fraternity house’s theme was that of the Playboy Mansion, a club infamous for its Playboy Bunnies. As described by Vanity Fair, these are “the glorified waitresses who braved skimpy, pinching, corset-like costumes to serve and titillate patrons of
Playboy Clubs throughout the world, and who...rank among the most iconic of 20th-century American sex objects, eclipsed only by Marilyn Monroe.” At Playboy’s helm was Hugh Hefner, a man as controversial as he was wealthy. Upon first hearing about the Playboy theme, I didn’t want to go. True, this was not the first year the fraternity had outfitted itself this way for their register, and I knew that my decision to not wouldn’t sway them to leave the Mansion behind. Throngs of lingerie-clad girls and robe-wearing boys would still flow in and out of the house all night, rendering my presence insignificant. And yet, I felt odd throwing myself in with the supporters, as if I were standing behind something bigger than a fraternity party––as if my lack of protest was interchangeable with advocating for Hefner. Despite his empire’s reliance on women, Hefner is reported to have shown neither respect nor compassion for the female sex. The most obvious proof of this may be Hefner’s own words; he was quoted by The Independent as saying, “The notion that Playboy turns women into sex objects is ridiculous. Women are sex objects.” Hefner’s objectification of women is made all the more clear by abuse allegations from a series of Playboy Bunnies. In her autobiography Ordeal, Linda Lovelace details being pimped out to Hefner, who then sodomised her and wanted her to engage in beastiality with a dog. According to the book The Killing of the Unicorn by Peter Bogdanovich, his late partner Dorothy Stratten was raped in a jacuzzi by Hefner on her first night working for him. Hefner refuted this allegation, saying, “I am, publisher of Playboy or no, a very shy man. And I could no more force myself on a woman, psychologically or physically, than could the man on the moon.” Hefner fought back by accusing Bogdanovich of child molestation, though he later shared words of empathy for Bogdanovich after Stratten’s tragic murder.
While there is now no way to fully confirm if Lovelace’s or Stratten’s assaults happened, Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson’s accounts of life in the Mansion do paint a picture of a man capable of such violations. In a 2015 interview, Holly Madison told Buzzfeed that she had been assured sex with Hefner was not a requirement for living in the house, only to soon discover this was false. In truth, sex was an unwritten requirement, with orgies serving as a big part of life in the Mansion. In her book Down the Rabbit Hole, Madison describes the affairs as detached and unintimate, with the newer girls pushed and urged into participating. Unlike Madison, Wilkinson claims to have had a good relationship with Hefner. Yet, she struggled to endure the required sex. She once said, “I had to be very drunk or smoke lots of weed to survive those nights,” adding, “It was like a job. Clock in, clock out. It’s not like I enjoyed having sex with him.” Not only was Hefner expecting women to sleep with him, despite their lack of desire to do so, but Wilkinson was a mere teenager when she was initiated; at the age of 78, Hefner was having sex with a girl of only 19 years old. Hefner also subjected the Bunnies to psychological abuse. The women were robbed of their agency, as evidenced by Madison’s recount of Hefner’s imposed regulations in Down the Rabbit Hole; they
GEOFFREY YAHYA VARGAS
had a 9 p.m. curfew, were prevented from seeking therapy, and had no control over their appearances, from what lipstick to wear to which haircut to get. Failure to meet Hefner’s beauty standards meant scorn and belittlement. In Madison’s book, she shares that Hefner said red lipstick made her look “old, hard and cheap.” Wilkinson’s book Sliding into Home reveals similar denigration: after hearing about her bodily insecurities, Hefner said she did “look a little bigger” and could “maybe...go to the gym,” which left her crying herself to sleep. In an environment where a woman’s worth and identity were tied to her appearance, Hefner’s words became all the more cutting. Of course, some people vouch for Hefner, pointing to the progressiveness of Playboy. According to a Time article by American lawyer and journalist Jill Filipovic, Hefner’s publication was indeed a champion for gay rights, birth control rights, abortion rights, and freedom of speech. However, Filipovic suggests this was not out of concern for the wellbeing of women or the LGBTQ community. Rather, it was spawned from a desire to improve men’s sex lives by limiting the potential consequences of their sexual encounters. Birth control and abortion, for example, ensured that men wouldn’t have to worry about a woman becoming pregnant. In this sense, Hefner’s championing of certain rights was more
self-serving than altruistic. So there I stood at a certain fraternity party, looking down at a dance floor so congested that the people were one mass of captain’s hats and bunny ears. And I couldn’t help but recall the unforgivable things I had heard of Hefner, and the crimes he is said to have committed. Were we paying tribute to this man? Some might argue that Hefner is no longer with us; if this party was a tribute to his life’s work, he is not around to gain any sort of validation from it. But Playboy goes beyond Hefner. It is a cultural institution that lives on today. The Mansion still stands, though its future is unclear. Meanwhile the symbol of the Bunny is still relevant in popular culture, being adopted by clothing brands such as Missguided, which has an entire collection dedicated to the Playboy franchise. Their website describes this clothing line as “[t]he essential collection for a new generation of rebellious females who dress by their own rules.” So not only does Playboy survive, but its symbol is being used as part of a feminist statement. Clothing has long been representative of a woman’s freedom, and as society has progressed, we have moved from restrictive corsets and hoop skirts to wearing nearly whatever we want. With apparel becoming less societally restricted, women have gained the power to use it as a form of self-expression, linking dress to one’s identity. My friends attended the Playboy party in black lace bodysuits, sheer or silky slips, fishnets, and bunny ears. And they weren’t the only ones; at the event itself was an array of female party-goers clad in lingerie, appearing to be having the time of their lives. From what I observed, no young woman seemed to feel uncomfortable or objectified by the theme––in fact, they were embracing it wholeheartedly. I, however, couldn’t bring myself to dress with the theme. Rather than pull on the black slip dress that I admittedly own, I wore a baggy, ob
scuring t-shirt. And as I looked at the women around me, I couldn’t help but wonder how a cultural institution like the Playboy Mansion fits in with the concept of feminism. Before diving further, I have to clarify what I mean by “feminism.” The term has garnered a negative connotation over the years; it has become associated with man-hating and bra-burning, when in fact, feminism is merely the belief that women and men are equal––that the sexes should be treated squarely on every front, from social to political to economic issues. If that’s the case, feminism has nothing to do with the way a woman dresses. It is her right to wear a corset and thigh-high boots as it is a man’s right to wear nothing but briefs and an untied silk robe. The girls around me weren’t anti-feminist for showing up in their Bunny-inspired outfits. It is their right to do so. So if the Playboy theme was just informing how the partygoers were dressing, and if the young women wanted to be there and play into that theme, then why did I feel unsettled? Why did part of me feel as though I shouldn’t be at the fraternity house, and why hadn’t I chosen to dress in theme as well? Here’s the thing: the symbol of the corseted, bunny-eared woman has become so intrinsically tied to the figure of Hugh Hefner that I couldn’t distance myself from it. It’s not the outfits––it’s the context of Playboy. I couldn’t consider the party theme without remembering the reports of what actually happened in the Playboy Mansion. And I felt that the second I pulled the white bunny ears out from the costume bin, I’d be supporting the legacy of a man who I strongly believe abused women. It’s not just Hefner who’s problematic, but the Playboy institution overall––the very image of the Bunny bears a history of suppression and objectification. Upon auditioning to work at the Mansion, Gloria Steinem––who was doing an undercover report on Playboy––was told by the Bunny Mother, “We don’t like our girls to have any background, we
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just want you to fit the Bunny Image.” This image, of course, is of immaculate beauty. A Bunny manual from the 60s reveals that costumes were to be perfectly cleaned and fitted, nails manicured, and pantyhose wetted with cold water and refrigerated before wear so they would last; Bunnies were not to eat in front of customers, nor were they to smoke while standing or sitting, but rather “‘take a puff’ and set the cigarette in an ashtray.” More importantly, the Bunny image must be upheld, even while off the clock. Personality was less important than a fresh manicure, fresh tan, and freshly colored hair. It was what was on the outside that counted. Steinem’s report reveals further disregard for a woman’s humanity: though Hefner claimed to protect his girls with a policy preventing customers from touching them, they were expected to go on dates with Number One Keyholders. The “keyholders” were paying members of the Playboy Mansion, which was not accessible to the general public. Number One Keyholders were men of status, whose money set them up as exceptions to the no-dating, no-touching rules. Some may argue that it is a woman’s choice to work as a Playboy Bunny, just like it is a girl’s choice to wear lingerie and attend a fraternity party. However, a 19-year-old girl looking for a way to make money may not be entering the Playboy lifestyle in a healthy, grounded mindset; she may not have the autonomy and agency needed for her work to actually be empowering. But what about the frat party? If the girls were happy to be there, why should I take issue with it? These college girls may have dressed like Bunnies, but they were not obligated to partake in group sex with a 78-year-old man. And as my friends pointed out to me, the boys in the house are our friends; we weren’t dealing with Hugh Hefners and Number One Keyholders. Though the theme may seem objectifying, there didn’t seem to be a fear among my friends that we would actually be
treated that way. As for the other girls at the party, there are a vast array of reasons as to why they might have attended: a lack of knowledge about Hefner, detachment from his world or the issues he brings up, or the desire to just have a good time. I do think we deserve a good time. But where do we draw the line? When is a party just a party? When do we let go of icons from the past in favor of our updated social and cultural knowledge? Maybe most people don’t have enough information about Hugh Hefner, and that’s the problem. Or maybe most college students would rather enjoy the present without thinking too much about what everything means. Perhaps people are growing weary of this politically charged time––of always worrying about what’s politically correct––and just want to enjoy something for enjoyment’s sake. Yet, these times are politically charged for a reason. I can’t help but fear that an inability to problematize Playboy is a larger representation of an inability to learn from history, and recognize the ways in which women have been and continue to be mistreated. The fraternity meant no harm in their theme, and those at the party appeared thrilled to be there. I can admit to being on the dance floor with my friends, and I know many of the boys there were simply proud of the production they’d put on; as far as events go, it was objectively well-organized. The boys seemed largely to look at their Playboy Mansion recreation through the eyes of proud event planners; to them, the party was just a party. But that’s it: this can’t be a party judged merely by enjoyment. Its theme is too intrinsically entwined with history, and charged by our current cultural, social and political climate. And there is surely something to be said about the significance of cultural icons, symbols and legacies. I think sometimes the past should be left in the past. Yes, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to always think about what’s politi-
cally correct and to let go of what we thought was a borderline-acceptable icon. But if we’re going to see change, that’s the type of work that needs to happen. It can’t happen through the efforts of isolated groups––men and women, yacht hats versus bunny ears––it has to happen collectively. Regardless of demographic, we’re all in charge of learning from the past and helping others to do so. I’m not strictly demanding the fraternity give the Mansion up; the truth is, I don’t know what the right answer is. On one hand, I have seen how many girls are unbothered by the theme. On the other, students who have survived sexual assault or other forms of objectification may feel ignored and unseen––to them, this party may embody a larger lack of respect for or recognition of women and sexual assault survivors, especially as these issues pertain to Greek life and college campuses. The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that we need to talk about the Playboy theme and at least put it into question. Moreover, I think we have to look at it within the broader context of Greek life, and ask ourselves what’s next for fraternities (fraternities in particular because they throw the majority of parties, which is the specific area I am calling into question). Are they to sacrifice their traditional themes and face definite backlash in order to adhere to our cultural climate? In a way, I understand where the Playboy theme’s attractiveness comes from; it has an inherent sex appeal, and it’s easily recognizable, with everyone knowing exactly what type of party to expect and how to dress for it. In fact, I once asked a member his thoughts, and he even said he’d brought up the problems of the theme many times, but that the fraternity chose to continue with it because it’s easy. Regardless of whether that’s the most honest reason or not, perhaps we can consider whether “easy” should be prioritized above paying tribute to an institution that was cruel to women. I don’t think a change could hurt, but I do think it could help, especially in a time where the sustainability of frat culture and Greek life as a whole, is being questioned. A big factor in such scrutiny is the prevelance of sexual assault within the Greek system. By no means are comitting rape and throwing a Playboy themed frat party the same offenses, and one does not imply the other. However, perhaps giving the Playboy Mansion up could be a sign of recognition as to what is happening, challenging as it may be to accept. A study done by The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators finds that girls in sororities are 74% more likely to be victims of rape than college women outside Greek life. This is a startling number, considering that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their time at college.
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I’m going to take a quick moment to acknowledge that it’s not just female college students who face such violations. The Campus Sexual Assault Study found that one in sixteen cisgender college men experience sexual assault. The Association of American Universities conducted a survey at 27 colleges in which 75% of LGBTQ students reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. There is no denying that the numbers mentioned above are devastating. Some might claim the Greek-life specific assault rates (sorority girls being 74% more vulnerable to rape than non-sorority girls) are a natural consequence of joining a heavily social environment, surrounded by people and alcohol and other substances much more frequently than those who are not in Greek life. But in a just world, shouldn’t young women be able to participate in this culture without being made more susceptible to rape? I like to think there is enough good in Greek life––social networking and meeting lifelong friends, philanthropy events, career opportunities, encouragement to keep one’s grades up and stay in school, a home within the overwhelming environment that might be college––that it can be saved. But something needs to change. In November
of 2017, at least seven major universities that had strong Greek life decided to suspend all Greek activities to step back and scrutinize the issues running rampant within it, from assaults to student deaths resulting from hazing. Of course, it will take more than changing a party theme to see a radical transformation in the nature of Greek life, but it is the amalgamation of small adjustments that might lead to this. Maybe an important step in preserving Greek life is for fraternities to recognize the need for sympathy. Celebrating the legacy of a man known for unethical treatment of women only adds to an environment that allows for sexism to fester. Getting rid of the Playboy theme, for example, does not have to be a defeat, or a submission to what some consider an overemphasis on political correctness. It could simply be the right thing to do out of recognition for the many who face sexual victimization and objectification, especially on college campuses. It appears to me that by prioritizing compassion, respect, and social and political awareness, fraternities can do what the Playboy Mansion did not.
Geoffrey Yahya Vargas is a Paris-based director and photographer who specializes in capturing moody and sensual imageries on digital or film.
Featuring Ariana Kalamaros
Lesson 102: Donâ€™t give a fuck about anything. Lesson 101: Give everything for those your care for. Featuring model, stylist and make up artist, Ariana Kalamaros, this work captures a first impression, and the simple lessons that can be learnt through interaction, whatever that may be for the individual. From an aesthetic view, it utilises geometry and minimal surroundings to create a futuristic feel. While the piece was shot on campus, the aim was to create a work that embodied high fashion.
Eden Tokatly is an Australian photographer based out of Los Angeles, studying Law and Multimedia Design. She is also a member of the Spring 2020 Haute E-Board team serving as the Director of Multimedia. Ariana Kalamaros is a student at the University of Southern California.
VELVET Mo Elkholti, who goes by the creative name Numosis, is a Cincinnati-based 3D visual artist specializing in illustrations, album art and motion design.
Photography by Kiera Smith Writing by Ashara Wilson
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Each day as I walk to class, I pass by the large black gates that hold the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Behind them lay the George Lucas and Steven Spielberg buildings, and the vast potential of SC’s talented film students. I am reminded of how much I love movies and their ability to not only keep me entertained for an hour and a half, but also broaden my worldview. Had I not seen Crazy Rich Asians, I would have no idea why international students drip so hard in class. Had I not seen Black Panther, positive Black representation on screen would continue to seem like a far off wish. While the directors of both films graduated from SCA, their work done on campus is not nearly as well-known. Sitting in the green courtyard of USC’s film school, the Los Angeles sun shining on my face, I had trouble coming up with the names of any of our student films. I thought maybe I was the uncultured outlier who just wasn’t plugged into student life, but as I asked my friends, neighbors, and peers about what they knew about SCA, they didn’t know much on the matter either. This left me thinking, how does one of the country’s best film schools not have more of a presence on campus? Is it a lack of interest in or a lack of awareness of these student filmmakers that forces them to remain unknown? Both seem improbable to me, considering USC’s close proximity to Hollywood and the amount of interest the entertainment industry garners. Considering that these students are the game changing filmmakers of tomorrow, I am surprised that there is so little spotlight on them today. It is late at night when I sit down with David Grannum, a vibrant and budding sophomore majoring in Film & Television production at USC. He shares with me his own story of filmmaking, what he accomplishes in his films, and his aspirations for student film in its entirety. I am immediately drawn to his story. David is from a small town called Fall River, located about an hour outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He refers to his hometown several times throughout our forty-five minute conversation, making it clear that it had a large impact on who he is today.
Speaking candidly about his upbringing, David is quick to share that he at times felt like an outcast in his community. As an African American male raised by a single mother in a tight-knight non-Black community, he faced the racial hardships most minorities know all too well. “As a low income Black child in a Portuguese city, I had to go through a lot of what I now realize are microaggressions .” Yet, David did not let the backhanded compliments or ignorant comments dissuade him. Rather, he found solace in another artistic discipline: storytelling. His first endeavor was in the world of rhythmic movement. “I love my dance studio. That was my escape. I was accepted wholeheartedly. Like, I was the only boy and not only was I the only boy, I was the only Black boy.” Instead of allowing his hardships to overcome him, David translates his difficulties into his filmmaking. “I like to show that life is hard, it’s difficult. It can be frustrating. You can’t look at those things as negatives. You have to see the positive in them..I try to always give a little message, like this is beautiful, just have a nice little moment. Whatever it is, even during the sad ones. ” His choice to see the beauty in life’s difficult situations is refreshing, and David adds that it comes from practice. He shares that he learned to persevere and dream bigger from his two closest mentors from Fall River, Marybeth and Sharon. They were his teachers in middle school, and always pushed him to work through his pain. If it had not been for them, David explains that he might very well still be in Massachusetts, studying at a local college. Though Sharon and Marybeth continue to watch all of David’s work, I am compelled to ask how big of an audience he actually has. With slightly slumped shoulders, David tells me that this is where his primary problems as a student filmmaker lie. Once he has created his masterpiece, he has trouble gaining eager eyes to watch it.
ASHARA WILSON + KIERA SMITH
“Some people are just like, ‘People that don’t care about college won’t care about student films.’ That’s maybe where the gap is… And like I think it’s that unpolishedness that turns people off. So I think whether it’s the turning them off or not even caring about the college community, there’s not enough people watching student films.” In hearing this, I think that my initial question has been answered. Perhaps if people watched these films with understanding eyes, they would acknowledge that the makers are still learning. As our conversation comes to a close, I ask David for his final insights and hopes for the future of student film. “I think my hope for it is that there are more platforms and more areas and more outlets that students can feel that when they’re making something they can put it out there for someone to watch, for someone to validate if it’s good or not… Film is expensive, there are a lot of rich white people doing it. But there are also a lot of broke Black people doing it. And all the other races and their incomes. So there’s a lot of diversity out there and I want to make sure everyone’s being supported with what they need.” We agree that it is insane that a large majority of USC’s student body is blind to the potential and artistry within SCA. It is clear that more help is needed in publicizing these student films, whether that takes the form of an SCA Twitter profile that tweets sneak peaks of student works, or a USC film festival that takes over McCarthy quad for a weekend. I am not sure, but something must change. David ends our chat with a final remark: “I’m a dancer if you need me to dance, I’m an actor if you need me to act. I sing, I split, and I twirl.” With one last sincere smile, he saunters off into the rest of his night.
Ashara Wilson is a student at the University of Southern California pursuing a degree in Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation in the Iovine and Young Academy. Kiera Smith is a student at the University of Southern California pursuing a degree in Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation in the Iovine and Young Academy.
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Christian Hubbard is a Los Angeles-based photographer who creates imagery inspired by the cyberpunk aesthetic. Chris tends to shoot portraiture and cityscape scenes, with an added dystopian twist. Bathed in vivid neons and interwoven with technological elements, once-traditional images are suddenly transformed into Blade Runner-esque stills.
CYBERPUNKCHRIS CHRISTIAN HUBBARD + DUSTIN WANG
Model Dustin Wang
The Future of Authenticated Fashion
by Diana Fonte
On the first Tuesday of Paris Women’s Fashion Week, three long rows of colorful mannequins sit in the center of the SPHERES showroom of the Palais de Tokyo. Adorned in the beautiful pieces of young fashion designer Thebe Magugu, they sit watching a film that flashes scenes of Magugu’s inspiration for his AW20 ‘Anthro 1’ collection, his township of Ipopeng in Kimberley, South Africa. His impressive mix of eclectic pieces with a comforting, homey feel earned the THEBE MAGUGU brand the LVMH Prize in September of 2019, making him the first African designer to be awarded the prize. Through the award, Magugu was granted 300 thousand euro and a year-long mentorship from LVMH. Oversized frames line the spherical walls of the showroom with images from the collection’s lookbook. Besides each...
frame is a small black plaque with a white cross that says, “Scan Me,” so as an iPhone user, I instinctively open my camera to scan it as one would with a QR code. But this is not a QR code by any means. The chip inside each plaque is an NFC or Near-Field Communication chip, which is where it all started for Verisium. Eldar Khayretdinov and Vadim Kostomarov founded the Russian IoT company in 2017, just as Apple was debuting the capabilities of NFC chips via their new Apple Pay integrated mobile feature. In the THEBE MAGUGU showroom, each garment on each mannequin contains a miniscule chip, which is easily applicable and durable, capable of being embedded into the collar, label or the seams of any item. The water resistant and heat resistant chips can be added during the manufacturing stage, which is exactly what Magugu chose to do in the brand’s partnership with Verisium. Using blockchain technology, this unique idea to introduce tracking chips into the fashion landscape stemmed from the clear need for protective measures in the evolving luxury fashion market. Fashion has been one of the largest victims of counterfeit, online duplication and rip-offs, facilitated by the rise of third-party marketplaces such as Amazon, Shopify and countless others. Mass production and distribution of duplicated items hurts both brands and customers. Magugu and Khayretdinov initially met in South Africa, and Magugu enjoyed the idea of using technology not only to protect every item that was created, sold and shipped through a noninvasive tracking system, but also to inform customers about all that goes into the process. Through the Verisium app, all lookbook images, fabrication details, available retailers, and a short synopsis about each item in the collection are instantly made available to customers who scan. The NFC technology allows for items to link directly to virtually any interactive source, including audio and video files. Khayretdinov sat down with me to explain how this problem is digitally solvable – and how the solution allows room for a community of loyal customers to connect with each other more deeply. Khayretdinov has just returned from a reunion at LVMH with Magugu,
the LVMH prize jury and the short list of designers – he is celebrating. As the waiter approaches the table to pour a beer bottle into a glass, Khayretdinov stops him. In true product design-fanatic fashion, he stops the waiter, pulls the lime wedge off of the glass and pushes it into the bottle. “I don’t like when they use a glass because you know the beer company put so much time into making the bottle perfect.” “I was working for Kaspersky Lab in their IT department,” Khayretdinov says. Kaspersky is one of the top four global cybersecurity vendors in the world, offering business to business protection for large enterprises, small businesses and consumers. “There was like a business incubator, so each employee could send in an idea [to the investment board] each week. If you could prove that there was a need in the market, they would give you funding so that you can start to find a team, develop the market and all of that stuff. Previously, when I was in university, I had one idea, I wanted to create such a small chip–” He pauses and begins to rummage through a sleek, bulky fanny pack. “–I think I have one here.” He presents a strip of laminate paper with a circular metallic NFC chip in its center, paper thin and about the size of a quarter. “They don’t have any source of power, so it’s impossible to track people with it. It’s like the same chip that you have in a credit card,” Khayretdinov clarifies. that the chips can only be read it at a distance of three centimeters away (or 1.2 inches away), so the data from the scan is untraceable aside from the location in which the item was scanned. “There isn’t any source of power here,” he says, pointing to the chip. “But your phone provides the energy through the antenna to the chip, and the chip gives back the information, which is there,” pointing to my phone, which now pulls up a demo jacket item on my Verisium app. Khayretdinov says that the challenge was to create a GPS chip, which was small and thin but still requires long-lasting power. “My idea was to create those chips and applications, and the end customer could buy those chips and put them on things that are important to them, like a passport or a notebook.” The tech businessman toyed with the idea of solar battery in his first presentation to the board. “I am not an engineer, so I didn’t know how
to do that, but they said, ‘If you can find a way to do that, then good.’” Unfortunately, that idea was unfeasible, but another option occurred to Khayretdinov during an inventory project at Kaspersky. “They used RFID chips, which is quite useful for supply chain and logistics, because from the warehouse you can track each step from the production to the end customer. You don’t need to scan each particular product like with a barcode or a QR code, you just touch it,” Khayretdinov explains. On top of this, there is an integration system in the chip reader, so in 15 minutes you can have information about which products should be on the floor of the warehouse or find some other item on another floor of the warehouse. “I was surprised that there was no other source of power in this chip, you can just scan it at a distance of up to 50 meters. So, I started to Google these chips [and I found NFC technology],” Khayretdinov says. “I found out that the NFC chip can be created as an antivirus chip and I sent in a new presentation with this idea. After that, my partner called me to say happy birthday, we were studying in university together and participating in some [incubator challenges], and I told him about the idea.” After agreeing on its potential, they started presenting their idea to incubator investment committees at Kaspersky. Using business-oriented pitches from Kostomarov’s experience as a consultant with Deloitte and McKinsey & Company, the company idea was funded. “We told [the funders that Verisium] is for luxury and fashion because our technology is convenient for anti-counterfeit and end-customer business,” Khayretdinov describes the expenses that go into a two-thousand-dollar purse. The way Khayretdinov sees it, Verisium is tailored to adapt to the needs of these brands in particular, and to do it in a creative way. Through the Verisium app, the customers can create accounts on the app and share their name, profile and location with the app – or not create accounts and only share their scanning location. Regarding consumer data, what companies see differs greatly from what customers see, starting with the web interface component offered to companies that partner with Verisium. Khayretdinov whips his laptop onto the table for a further demonstration. “Do you know the Wi-Fi password?” He opens up a digital inter
face that is reserved exclusively for brands, showing scanner data for people with profiles and anonymous data about scanning location and time. With bigger brands, Verisium offers the option of a blind partnership in which all data stays between the end customer and the brand – Verisium is just the medium. Verisium also offers an embedding option for collaborators to embed the application into their interface. The system will show whether an item has been scanned multiple times by the same device, another nuance that NFC chips have above QR chips. While nonregistered user information is helpful for tracking, the real creative insights and benefits come from registered profiles. These users can register themselves as owners of specific items, which, based on their profile, the brand can creatively connect with the user through. “The idea is that to push the customer to scan and register ownership of an item, the brand has to provide some motivation,” he says. This is true – customers are lazy and encouraging engagement with the brand post-purchase is difficult without incentive. Khayretdinov expands on this through the idea of loyalty points. Customers receive a certain amount of loyalty points for each piece that they purchase, and this unlocks additional gifts, events hosted by the brand, or sales that are reserved for this specific population. Khayretdinov states that this system has been more enticing to bigger brands with a large inventory, based on the idea of using an item protection app for creative marketing, such as audio links, private event information, and external discounts that can be unlocked through customers’ scans and registrations. Knowing what living among the Los Angeles fashion scene has taught me, I bring up street style, which may be attractive for an app that seeks to unite people around certain fashion and make private shows and events based around exclusive rewards. “So actually, LVMH has a fund, and they could invest in our project, for example. If they are interested in it, we are open,” he jokes. Currently, the Verisium team’s idea is to work with all types of companies, from fashion, to automotive, to lifestyle brands. The company has recently partnered with monster automotive Russian brand 3M and established a partnership with Moncler. “These brands know how to make great products, they [know how to do] great marketing, but they do not know
Diana Fonte is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Public Relations. She is the Editor in Chief of Haute Magazine.
the technology behind these programs. Many brands have made apps to buy their products, but why make an app just to buy products?” He mentions that the brands know their audiences the best, so true partnerships are key for the company to maximize growth. “We would like to make particular loyalty programs for different brands. The loyalty reward for streetwear brands like Supreme is not convenient for Chanel customers at all. But for Chanel, if you provide a Michelin star dinner, a guest-list only private party, or a free month of Uber Black is much more convenient.” Looking into the future of Verisium, Khayretdinov rationalizes that “It doesn’t make any sense for us to be a part of [Kaspersky] because our product isn’t useful for their portfolio. We need to go to our own marketing departments because [this isn’t their business or their product],” Khayretdinov explains. The fashion market is heavily dominated by Europe and the U.S., but there is not a large fashion following in Russia. “It was a really great thing that they funded our business, but we need to grow our own business and our own product.” The company is in talks about opening an entity in Europe and in the U.S., to make shareholder rights convenient for brands that are interested in collaboration. Interestingly, the desire for a transparent tracking system for high fashion brands and customers is one that Khayretdinov knows well. He mentions VK or VKontakte, which is a sort of Russian Facebook, and Telegram, which is a protected chat application that allows people to make secret chats that are visible to no one except the correspondents, and do not provide encryption keys like most American chatting apps like Messenger. “Russian people use Telegram so that the government can’t track it, which the government says is dangerous because terrorists could use it, but the argument is that anyone can use a chat service and it is private.” The innovator’s inspiration combines a need for preventing counterfeit and protecting customers in a world that is not very familiar to fashion companies. Khayretdinov asserts that sometimes, “for fashion people, it’s like, ‘no, no, what are you talking about,’” he waves his hand to swat the idea away. “But you should speak with them in their language. They’ll say fashion is not about technology, but when you show them, you can prove it to them. You can explain the system and how it’s shaping the future.”
Photography by SAKURA
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Maboharusameari is a Kyoto-based experimental pattern artist who specializes in design and painting.
Designer Maboharusameari Photographer SAKURA Model Akago
TO BE DISTORTED
A Rhetorical Chronology by Drew Brilliant
Fashion is potent in our society. It represents our values, reveals our personalities, affects how we perceive the world, and influences how we are perceived. In many ways, what we choose to present to the world is a direct reflection of us. Thus, fashion is one of the strongest forms of visual rhetoric. In the context of the college campus, the way a university chooses to present itself with fashion, or “gear,” speaks to what kind of public perception it desires. USC has consistently sold more gear than nearly all colleges and universities in the country; Trojans really love wearing cardinal and gold. As a student, I’m curious about the way that USC apparel has evolved throughout the decades. Consider the collection of photos below that I’ve taken and curated. I urge you to think about how these juxtaposed pictures represent USC’s shift in culture, and moreover, how USC uses its apparel to make rhetorical statements about the university.
Drew Brilliant is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Business Administration.
NOISES is a Bucharest-based fashion brand that revolves around clothes as means of telling stories, its design philosophy being focused on the idea of both linguistic and non linguistic harmony between garments and humans. Each product metaphorically has its own noises, set of sounds, building up a mood or story. Hence, the name, which to most may sound like an uncommon choice for a clothing brand.
The most prominent theme is the placement of the human being in a future time, being surrounded by an alien, vast place. Alone in the unknown, the human must be able to enjoy the physical and aesthetical functionality of his clothes and to use them as an aid for their communication and adaptability. Therefore, one of the main criteria most of the products have to follow is being resizable, easily adjustable, so that the wearer and product can merge.
SYZYGY, the latest collection, aims to achieve a “space bureau” look. The pieces are following a more simple line, merging a futuristic look, sprinkled with office elements, with a sustainable attitude, by experimentally exploring the creation of resizable templates. Overall marked by cold, holographic shades and a textural game, the silhouettes vary from a fluid aspect to a geometrical one. Designer and Editor Elena Predişteanu Artwork Afterfuture
Featuring Nia Baker
GET YOUR THRIFT ON
Thrifting has been around for many years and recently it has made a resurgence in fashion where many people view it as an outlet that allows one to create their own hip style. This piece highlights the process through which people thrift and slay in their daily life. While thrifting is once again increasing in popularity, it may soon become one of the main stylistic means of expression for this decade.
GET YOUR THRIFT ON
GET YOUR THRIFT ON
GET YOUR THRIFT ON
Nathan Phillips is a sophomore at USC where he studies Human Biology and minors in Cinema and Health Professions. He grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland where he got his first camera from his mother. His passion for photography began in his junior year of high school. His goal is to create content that goes beneath the surface and stems from many themes that revolve around the young adult experience. He hopes that anyone who views his work can #GetPhillips. Nia Baker is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Theatre. Look Curator Jerome Rucker
FKA TWIGS 309
FKA TWIGS + MATTHEW STONE
FKA twigs is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who rose to fame in 2014 with the release of her debut studio album, LP1, which peaked at number 16 on the UK Albums Chart and number 30 on the US Billboard 200. In November of 2019, she released her highly-anticipated follow-up album, Magdalene, of which the imagery of this feature was created for. Her work has been described as “genre-bending”, drawing on various genres including electronic music, trip hop, R&B and avant-garde. Matthew Stone is a London-based artist and shaman. Stone’s work uses 3D modeling software and paint to break the traditional process of paining on a flat surface. By redefining the relationship between painting, photography and computer generated imagery, Stone pushes the visceral experience of fine art forward.
USE MY CODE
“Fast fashion emits 1.2 billion tons of of CO2 equivalent per year”, “[it] is responsible for 20% of global waste” are just two of many horrible facts that describe the impact of fast fashion and the fashion industry in general. Especially as a college student, fast fashion is everywhere in our closets and through this opportunity we wanted to give it the attention and draw the concern that it needs.”
Written by Lizzie Schneider Photography by Josh Lin
LIZZIE SCHNEIDER + JOSH LIN
An influencer is defined as “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media,” according to the Oxford dictionary. A few years ago, influencers were mocked and not taken very seriously. Now, being an influencer is a full time job for the rare few who are in the upper echelons of the Instagram and Youtube communities, and a sought after profession for social media users across the globe. Influencing is such a serious pursuit that fresh content is required daily, and with this comes fresh outfits that have never been seen by the followers that these individuals reach. On my typical morning scroll through Instagram, I see no less than ten influencers plugging products from fast fashion brands such as Romwe, Zaful, and Shein, as well as other “trendy” brands who have offered them discounts or free items in exchange for a post showing off the products. Already plugging brands that are cheap, Instagram models and fashion and beauty Youtubers contribute an incredible amount of publicity and eventual growth to these brands, and inspire the hundreds of thousands of their followers to spend their money on clothing that is ultimately made in unsustainable facilities. Sydni Layne (@sydnilayne on Instagram) is a 19 year old freshman at the University of Missouri with a following of 30.2 thousand. She often models items that she makes available to her followers for a small discount of 10-30%, that is, if they use the code given to her by whichever brand is sponsoring her haul. According to Layne, most of the time stores will reach out to her for collaborations through Instagram, and from there she decides whether or not their products and philosophy fit with her own preferences . What results from these partnerships are free products to promote and social media exposure. On the ethics of these sorts of partnerships, Layne believes that they are ethical because they provide her with a way to show her followers “a different thing they might be interested in”. According to Layne, the brands she promotes are sustainable, and she doesn’t promote any well-known “fast fashion” labels. To provide some context as to what fast-fashion is, the term rose to prominence in the 1990’s when the Spanish retailer Zara first landed in
New York. The founding principal of Zara and H&M, another fast-fashion retailer, was to get clothing from runways to stores in 15 days or less, and they have more than delivered. A secondary but central aspect of fast fashion is how it is â€œnot only about quickly moving from runway to store to consumer, but also to the garbage,â€? according to Trusted Clothes. Some brands receive shipments of new products daily, and due to the quick turnovers, the quality of the clothing and products being sold tend to be severely lacking. Today, legacy brands such as H&M, Zara and Forever 21 have become somewhat obsolete, as more and more online retailers and smaller shops with the same mission have popped up. Due to the oversaturation of online retailers on the Internet, smaller fast fashion brands can be lost in the crowd, which has led to them building bonds with social media users and influencers.
USE MY CODE
While fast fashionâ€™s many harmful environmental impacts have prompted some to steer clear of it, it remains difficult for the average American to simply give up on purchasing cheap clothing. The over publicized nature of events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well as the excessive inundation of social media with influencer-endorsed fast fashion products, make it tough to resist buying cheaply made products. While some influencers and company partnerships have adapted to promote more eco-friendly products, ads promoting fast fashion boutiques or websites continue to float around social media platforms. One brand that could be considered a higher end fast fashion label but still engages in sustainable practices is Reformation. It has been an up and coming label for some time ,and due to its sustainability efforts, has garnered a large following of both social media influencers and consumers. Their slogan, which is as fitting as their company name,
reads: “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option, Reformation is #2”. USC freshman Business major Adrienne Gao is a retail manager for the Culver City location of Reformation, and feels that the clothing line is something of a middle ground between textbook fast fashion, eco-friendliness, and high quality designer clothing. “People don’t often realize that Reformation is in fact a fast fashion company by all standards, except for the sustainability factor. Reformation is spearheading the sustainable fast fashion effort. From the materials to the manufacturing, the fabric dye to the factory working conditions, all the way down to the wallpaper, lighting fixtures, clothing hangers, and energy sources in our brick-and-mortar store locations, Reformation truly has all of its bases covered when it comes to being an eco-friendly clothing company.” The brand, according to Gao, accomplishes the difficult task of creating pieces that are both timeless and on-trend, which is why they are able to measure up to typical fast fashion stores that are constantly peddling the next big clothing trend to the masses. “Ultimately, it’s up to the customer to decide whether a $100 blouse or dress or jacket is worth it or not because admittedly, it doesn’t sound like the most affordable thing in the world. But the way I see it, if you wear that piece ten times, it’s just the same as buying ten different versions of that item every time trends change, but you can keep wearing it for years and years to come, all while contributing to a good cause and giving back to Mother Nature.” Despite the prevalence of fast fashion on social media platforms, some influencers have begun to promote healthier and more eco friendly ways of living. Companies like Pura Vida Bracelets, founded in Costa Rica, provide jobs to the artisans who make their bracelets and will often make special edition bracelets to benefit worldwide crises. Recently, environmentally conscious natural deodorants, recycled tote bags and even upcycled and reworked vintage pieces from large brands like Urban Outfitters have been showcased by online influencers. The fashion world is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly, but moving all the same.
LIZZIE SCHNEIDER + JOSH LIN
Lizzie Schneider is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Communication. Josh Lin is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Business Administration. Moving from Taiwan at the age of 5 and growing up in Victoria, Canada, has allowed Josh to develop a deep appreciation for culture and nature. He takes inspiration from the surrounding environment to capture the precious glimpse of time for unique individuals. Josh enjoys a variety of styles including portrait, fashion, food, architectural photography, and more.
USE MY CODE
FRAEMWERK is a self-taught futuristic dystopian artist realising visions of a future world that has turned against us and is no longer on our side. Their artwork is a surreal prediction of the inevitable.
Left is right and right is wrong
Writing by Josh Code Photography by Joshua Mcknight 340
JOSH CODE + JOSHUA MCKNIGHT
When I was 19, I decided I needed to look more gay. So I pierced my left ear. But I didn’t always need it to let people know. I didn’t need it to be called a faggot on the playground in fifth grade because of the way my arm moved when I hit the tetherball. I didn’t need it to be told that I had a “girl voice” by someone in my seventh grade math class. In grade school, the earring would have spelled a social death sentence — and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my dad’s meltdown that would almost certainly have occurred in response to anything that looked “a little flowery.” So it wouldn’t have happened in the first place. But now that I’m older, my earring provides a challenge to gender norms and what it means to be “straight-passing.” It is an expression of my identity that is open to interpretation, allowing me to be visible within the LGBTQ community. Many people still read my physical appearance as heterosexual even if my earring draws attention, but standing out with my gay earring is a step towards unlearning all of the ways I muted my queerness to survive public school, my family, and myself. My dad had a few earrings when he was my age. I’ve seen some pictures from when he was in college rocking bleached hair and a couple piercings — and much to my amusement — he looked pretty damn gay. My dad is straight, but many people from peers to strangers called him gay through the years — from childhood all the way up until he became a dad. In 2000, my father was finishing up seminary in Texas, and I was a little baby swaddled in my mother’s arms finishing up whatever tantrum I was probably throwing that afternoon. My dad was walking back to the car to retrieve my mother and me after scoping out a place for the three of us to eat lunch. His silk shirt and wire frame glasses made him look like an out-of-towner, and he walked past a group of two men and a woman in the parking lot.
“Nice shirt, fag,” one of them sneered. My father ignored them, and walked past them again on the way back to the restaurant, this time with my mother and me in tow. He says he stopped in front of them — wife and baby standing beside him — and asked, “Do you have anything to say now?” Growing up, I learned my dad’s perspective on queerness through this story and others. His view of gay people seemed to be at least partially shaped by a staunch discomfort with being identified as one of them. It’s not a huge secret why three earring holes — one on the right and two on the left — closed for business long before I was born. Even then, he wasn’t safe from a shot of good ol’ Texas homophobia. I was barely ten years old when I first heard that story, but I knew that I had to hide my questions about my sexuality from my peers and family; it seemed more or less essential to surviving Pennsylvania public school and home life in a fundamentalist Christian family. I mean, we weren’t that extreme — besides the family prayer four times a day, the mandatory church service every Sunday, and the mandatory youth group every Sunday afternoon. In small-town Pennsylvania, kids policed heteronormativity without knowing they were. Middle school kids are mean, and if you stand out even a little bit, there is usually an insult waiting for you. Even at my table of friends in the school cafeteria, I found myself changing the pitch of my pre-pubescent voice when I talked. Less girly. Less gay. On the soccer field, my dad pulled me aside one day to tell me that my wrists dangled when I ran. “Just try to keep them straight,” he told me with a concerned look in his eyes. I started policing the way I moved my body in certain spaces to look as straight as possible — and I got pretty good at it. By the end of middle school, no one was calling me gay or any related slur. I passed as straight, and to be straight-passing was to survive. When I moved to California at age 14, I entered a new school where my peers policed heter-
MY FIRST GAY EARRING
onormativity in a more subtle way. One kid in my grade was the only “out” queer person at school, and I was quick to observe how others treated them. No one referred to them with slurs, but when they would crossdress or wear jewelry, people would look at them differently. Stares of disdain. Uncomfortable shifting around them. Never “faggot,” never “fairy.” “Why does he have to rub it in everyone’s face?” That was what it meant to not pass as straight in a “progressive” California suburb. So I thanked my false god for puberty’s two-octave gift to my larynx and inundated my wardrobe with flannels and Hawaiian shirts. And I passed. Coming out to my friends and family was a gradual band-aid tear. By the end of senior year, I was out to all of my close friends. But people expected me to look and act straight, so I gave them the muted version of myself that I had been showing for years. Pre-earring, I was forced to code-switch between my gay, straight, and even-more-straight selves. No one else at school knew. Right before I came out to my parents, I knew that I had to start sowing a different expectation in my appearance. I pierced my left ear and started to peel back the facade of straightness. The earring made it pretty obvious, at least to the people who knew me and cared about me. As queer people, we can choose to varying extents how much we conceal our identities, but any sort of concealment will take an emotional toll. Even after attending my third Pride parade this summer, I still feel as though my identity is somewhat fragmented by remnants of this code-switching instinct I developed to survive public school. I wanted to be proudly gay, but most days I struggled and came up short. These days, I often absentmindedly fiddle with my earring. Sometimes it reminds me of the compliments I received on it; other times
I think about all of the moments in which I panicked over whether or not my voice was too shrill when I called out the answer in class, or if my facial expressions emphasized too much of my lips when I reacted to a friend’s story, or if there was quiet disdain towards my limp wrists coming from the soccer field sidelines. I internalized a lot of resentment toward the parts of my gay self that stuck out. In truth, every gay person goes through childhood trying to mute aspects of their physical appearance, because attracting suspicion to one’s sexuality doesn’t typically get the most positive feedback. Even the earring allows me to cling to an appearance of straightness by the ambiguity of the dated “gay earring” heuristic. A 1991 New York Times article commented on this change in visual cues of sexuality: “So many heterosexual men have begun wearing earrings — often in both ears — that the placement no longer suggests anything about sexual preference.” My earring, a small rhinestone stud, can still be misunderstood as an assurance of straightness — that is, if I’m not sporting my dangly lightning bolt earring, or wearing shorts with an inseam that would make a nun blush, or peppering a conversation with Nicki Minaj lyrics. The most unmistakable communication of the earring is that I am toying with gender expression. A more specific communication of the earring is that I am gay, which is less open to interpretation when I express other cues of my identity in addition. I believe these two ideas go hand in hand, as to be queer is to understand one’s gender and sexuality as intrinsically linked facets of identity which cannot exist independently of one another.
Josh Code is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Journalism. Joshua Mcknight is a Baton Rouge-based portrait and fashion photographer who specializes in photojournalism, capturing exceptional visual stories about local creatives.
JOSH CODE + JOSHUA MCKNIGHT
Nowadays, I still sometimes catch myself altering my wardrobe or vernacular to meet others’ expectations that I create inside my own head. The earring is a fashion statement and a subtle defiance of gender norms to my peers and strangers — if they take it to mean something more —a statement about my sexual orientation—they’re correct. I find that I am happier when I don’t actively wonder if I appear gay or straight to strangers. To my LGBTQ friends, I feel that the earring grants me a feeling of belonging in that community — and that belonging feels really, really good. But I still have to work every day at shedding the armor I cobbled together to seem less gay, and that takes more than an earring. This is to say that queerness, to me, is a constant performance to which I tether my confidence. The days I feel, look, and act more gay are usually the days I feel more authentically myself. It’s an electric confidence, and someday, I won’t need an earring to feel it.
TOMORROW WILL BE LIGHTER THAN AIR
RANE JIANG 348
Rane Jiang is a costume designer, stylist and performance designer based in London. She graduated from BA (Hons) Costume for Performance course at London College of Fashion. Currently pursuing MA Performance Design & Practice at Central Saint Martins, she is experienced in costume design and making for theatre, film, TV and dance performances. She enjoys experimenting with fabrics, creating sculptural shapes and discovering unusual materials.
TOMORROW WILL BE LIGHTER THAN AIR
TOMORROW WILL BE LIGHTER THAN AIR
An interdisciplinary performance as an outcome of the artistâ€™s residency at Reinbeckhallen in Berlin. Costumes designed and made by Rane Jiang.
Writing by Terrell Shaffer Photography by Maria Takigawa
TERRELL SHAFFER + MARIA TAKIGAWA
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Walking into the off-campus apartment that Jake McEvoy calls home, the young artist’s uniquely charming spirit becomes incredibly evident. Two wig-bearing mannequins, one metallic silver, the other black with red paint strokes radiating from the joints stand side by side at one corner of the apartment. Occupying the rest of the space are various state license plates hanging by the kitchen, vintage posters above the couch, and a stack of Sopranos DVD collections on the TV stand. Along the hallway sit a series of expertly minimalist paintings made by the musician’s friend. Jake McEvoy, stage name Kid Hastings, is a sophomore studying music industry at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. Originally from Hastings, England (his musical namesake), he relocated to New Jersey at the age of six, moving around the area a few times before traveling to Los Angeles for college. From a young age, McEvoy found a home in music. “My very first path into [music] was… a lot of choir, school choir, and that’s where I developed an affinity for enjoying the sound of a lot of voices together,” said McEvoy. As a tribute to his childhood, McEvoy likes to use this harmony of voices in the background of some of his tracks, such as “Mid July’’ and “Business Cycles.” Later on in his schooling, he also picked up jazz guitar from playing and singing with jazz groups. The genre had a considerable influence on McEvoy, as the artist considers jazz musicians such as Wes Montgomery and George Benson to be some of his musical inspirations.
His alternative roots, on the other hand, are apparent in his admiration for singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston and modern indie-rock legend Mac DeMarco. “I just watched a documentary of [DeMarco] and his home studio, and I never realized that that was a possibility before, but I think that’s almost every, or a lot of those bedroom pop/indie artists nowadays,” said McEvoy. “It feels like we’re all born out of Mac DeMarco.” When deciding where to go to college, McEvoy took what he considered to be the more challenging route: leaving his home in the Northeast to come to LA. “I was either going to go to New York City or Los Angeles because… I wanted to be in a place with just a lot of people and a thriving music scene. I decided against going to New York because that had kind of been a second home for me,” said McEvoy. “I chose Los Angeles—and I was so right. It was so uncomfortable—and I didn’t like it at first-but I’m really glad that I did it.” In Los Angeles, McEvoy was able to explore who he really was and what he wanted out of his time in college. The move to Los Angeles also challenged McEvoy in the ways he thought about and created music. He describes moving to California as a “culture shock” of sounds and influences compared to his environment in New Jersey. “When I was in New Jersey making music, I didn’t really have anyone to make it with,” said McEvoy. “[Now] my homie down the street is another musician, [so] I can just go over to his house, and then we can make something.” As a student learning about the music industry from the classroom, McEvoy finds it easier to break free from the norm by collaborating with his friends. “I feel like I have learned more from just hanging out with people,” said McEvoy. Beyond the music, McEvoy collaborates with his friends on other elements of his creative projects, from album visuals to live performances. On a recent rehearsal of his song “Mid July,” McEvoy said, “We ended up making part of it just sound so out [there] and just weird but in a way that I never would have thought… People can go into a show kind of knowing if they’ve listened to your music, know what you’re about, and then they can leave the show with something new… I want someone to leave the show and be like, okay, I want to listen more closely to that song and see why they did that.” It’s this energy that makes a Kid Hastings show so lively; the dedicated artist finds a way to make every aspect of his music a new, thought-provoking experience for the audience. In addition to his creative friends, McEvoy also finds inspiration in his move to L.A. in the feelings of discomfort it initially brought him. . This theme is evident in his latest project Golden, which McEvoy describes as a soundtrack to leaving “the period where you felt most comfortable” in life. “You kind of realize that you never really can tell when a period is the best time of your life until you’ve left it,” said McEvoy.
TERRELL SHAFFER + MARIA TAKIGAWA
TITLE OF ARTICLE
The eccentric yet timeless spirit of Golden comes through in the title track’s visual, which was produced in collaboration with videographer and McEvoy’s high school classmate Josh Charow. Based on Martin Scorsese’s 1967 short The Big Shave, Golden pairs scenes of a sunny day with friends with cuts of McEvoy shaving his face until it bleeds. McEvoy describes the visual as a metaphor for “just doing something that you think is good for you, and then it’s ripping you up, literally.” He compared this to the way that he initially felt about his move from New Jersey to Los Angeles. Listening to the five-track EP, one immediately feels the painfully nostalgic tone that McEvoy puts forth. One playful yet moody example, “I Should Cut My Hair,” perfectly captures the sentiment of Golden, as a tired McEvoy reminisces about the stronger days of a young relationship that he realizes is no longer what it used to be. Like many artists, McEvoy found himself comparing his own work to that of more experienced musicians when he entered college. While he considers himself a confident person, he particularly felt this sense of imposter syndrome in one of his music production classes. “I was like, man, I don’t really know what I’m doing…” As he continued to work with his professor and classmates, however, McEvoy’s independent spirit shone through. “I kind of left the class being more confident in my ability to produce in a different way…” This increased confidence now seems undeniable, as McEvoy had a hand in producing every song on the Golden EP.
TERRELL SHAFFER + MARIA TAKIGAWA
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When it comes to producing , McEvoy exemplifies his belief that there is no one right way to create music. “There wasn’t a right method for me. If I’m liking it, then I’m going to keep it going. And if I’m not, then I’m just gonna kind of drop it. I think that’s coming from the side of me that can’t really tell if I’m more of a songwriter or producer.” He also emphasizes the collaborative nature of his new work. “I’m really excited about moving forward with working with other producers and songwriters, because we could kind of combine heads and make it less strenuous to make something that complements [the] other.” Moving forward, McEvoy would like to put on more live performances as well. “I want to be able to just play shows with people that I like, musicians that I enjoy, get [to] open for them, and also just be able to play more concerts.” McEvoy plans to start performing a new set in early 2020 that he describes as “super interesting and really fun.” He is also working on new music after taking a break following the release of Golden, and exploring new genres to inform his sound. “It’s 70s funk in the back of my mind and definitely influencing how the sound comes out.” As his career progresses, McEvoy hopes to make his own path in the “really cool lane of indie pop and funk that’s emerging right now.” From the sound of his most recent release, the young artist is well on his way.
Terrell Shaffer is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Communication. Maria Takigawa is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Communication.
GRIMES + RYDER RIPPS
GRIMES + RYDER RIPPS
GRIMES + RYDER RIPPS
Grimes is a internationally-acclaimed musician, singer and visual artist. Her music has been described as “dark and ethereal” and is know for blending various styles such as dream pop, electronic music, nu metal and avant-garde. Most recently, Grimes released her fifth studio album, Miss Anthropocene, which is a conceptual project that follows War Nymph, an anthropomorphic goddess of climate change. Grimes explains that each song on the record is a different embodiment of human extinction. She ultimately hopes that this album allows for people to look at global warming in a new light and not just perceive it as an abstract doom. Ryder Ripps is a Los Angeles-based artist and creative director who has developed projects for the likes of Kanye West, Marc Jacobs, Pusha T, Barbara Lee, Gucci and more. Most recently, he designed the cover art for techno-electronic artist Grimes’s new album, Miss Anthropocene, which was released on the 21st of February, 2020. Lena and Katya Popovy are the creators of War Nymph, Grimes’s avatar doll.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTISTS BEHIND
Q How has your childhood upbringing shaped the artist you are today? ANGEL I had a pretty tough childhood, especially without any support but I believe those rough times shaped the artist I am today. I also loved to watch Sci-Fi movies and series and playing games which really inspired me to explore the digital artist realm and I’m very thankful for that. ELLIE One of the main aspects that definitely shaped this path was my parents understanding and supporting me. Without that I suppose it would’ve been more difficult to face my dreams. On top of that I was pretty much into every form of art and expression, be it cinematography, books, dancing or visual arts it was impossible for me to say no to them.
Q Why did you decide to focus your art on futuristic aesthetics? ANGEL I’m a huge fan of tech stuff basically and I resonate with the futuristic style, especially our pieces being aesthetically pleasing as well. As Ellie said it’s something that comes from within. We don’t see the future in a dark, doomed way, we prefer to express ourselves in a positive version of it. ELLIE I think it’s something that comes from within. As art is a means of expressing ourselves we simply focused on what is inside of us and less on what is outside. It comes as a natural thing for our art to appear futuristic or fantasy also because a lot of it is based on the dreams we have.
Interviewed by Hala Ozgur
Q Explain your collaboration with one another. How did you find each other? ANGEL It was on Instagram, after a few messages I was pretty sure that we’ll become partners in the near future and mix our mediums and it was definitely unexpected. I was more into VFX back then and was studying 3D, while Ellie was doodling and discovering her own style. She pushed me to continue chasing that medium and here we are today. I’m truly happy things went that way and forever grateful for it. ELLIE Frankly, it was such an unexpected happening for both of us. We found each other online, on Instagram and Facebook and Angel suggested we collab. At that time I was doodling and he was just starting a 3D page, basically two beginner artists. We then naturally became part of each other’s creative process and I am forever thankful for that for it definitely helped me grow a lot as a person and as an artist. Q What is your design process like? How do you get your inspiration? ANGEL We follow a story and then throw a couple of ideas that are very useful in the process, then we decide how to link everything, is it colour based or through different visions we always manage to create something amazing and expand the story of it. ELLIE Lately, our design process is mostly based on a story we are writing, hence a high percentage of the artworks are linked to one another through concepts, places, characters, etc. It includes a lot of brainstorming, writing, sketching and changes for us to be happy about both the visual and conceptual parts of our work whilst they blend. As for inspiration, two of the things that occupy leading roles in my creative process are the Universe and dreams, they both have distinct, but rather unknown rules in which beauty stands.
Q How do you get over a creative block? ANGEL If we both have a creative block it’s pretty simple, we take a break. But usually when I have a creative block she gives me a couple of ideas and we try them, the other way for me is through games or watching some tv series. ELLIE We usually try our best to inspire each other during a creative block, but the biggest issue is when we both suffer from it at the same time. At that point the only thing we can do is take a break. I have a sketchbook for creative blocks, it’s filled with ideas and random drawings. Depending on my mood I either get to fill it with more uninspired drawings or try to overcome the block by bringing to life one of the ideas written there. Q What makes you feel empowered? ANGEL Being able to express myself through art, feeling creative, making a transition from my visions to my monitor, this is what truly makes me feel empowered. ELLIE For me it’s definitely creativity and being able to manifest it both digitally and traditionally. Most of my work is based on illustrating, painting and there are days in which I simply cannot draw. These are the days I realise that I feel empowered when I can wield the pen. Q What is one thing you want people to know about your work? ANGEL There’s always a message hidden in them. ELLIE That it is more than it seems to be, it is both a conceptual and personal journey.
Q When you are not creating art, what do you like to do in your free time? ANGEL Talking with my friends, playing games, going outside and watching tv series. ELLIE I enjoy filling that time with movies, good conversations, gym, books or going out. FOR ELLIE Q How did you get into designing fashion? ELLIE I was in highschool when I decided I wanted to study fashion as I felt attracted to costumes, especially SF ones. It was a rough, sudden start especially because I never studied arts before. Undoubtedly, I felt at home while creating clothes and alongside with it the feeling of being able to shape my own ideas and moods into real clothes and let them speak for myself and for other people; feels incredibly rewarding. Q How does your work in digital art influence your design process in clothing? ELLIE Digital art has become an indispensable part of my fashion design process. Itâ€™s in my sketches, photos, fabric prints. Everything became more intuitive and with the help Angel offers me we are able to make 3D scenes to fit the mood. I cannot imagine the struggle I would have to face searching for a real life place that would look exactly like I imagined it, or for a fabric that has the print that I am looking for. Therefore, without digital art I would not be able to fully illustrate the concepts I pick for the collections as they are supposedly happening in a world that is fundamentally different than ours.
Hala Ozgur is a student at the University of Southern California currently pursuing a degree in Journalism.
Inspired by the â€˜70s DIY movement that the Vans brand was built on, Haute immersed members in a 2-day photo shoot and design workshop. The weekend offered hands-on experience with the magazine-making process, start to finish. Day One
DIY pop-up photo shoot using materials, clothes and backdrops found around us, guided by lead photographer Riley Taylor.
Bring our photos to life through an interactive workshop, each page coming together to make a 30-page, hardcopy DIY-ed zine.
Directors of Production Diana Fonte and Jason Cerin Directors of Styling Christine Du, Awo Jama and Sydney Loew Director of Photography Naiya Ross Director of Hair & Makeup Alyssa Kyle Lead Photographer Riley Taylor Event Photographer Yong Loh Event Videographer Same Sikora Vans Student Marketing Manager Sean Bui
Models Ephrata Abate, Jing Wei Feng, Gulet Isse, Sunny Liu and Tyler Mazaheri Staff Photographers Andrew Brilliant, Ariann Barker, Sarah Chan, Jaron Fabular, Sara Heymann, Maxwell Kofman, Karla Leung, Alexia Romani, Josh Lin and Saul Singleton Staff Stylists Layla Ali, Maya Gotthard, LaPaula Parker, Emanuel Rodriguez, Lizzie Schnieder, Terrell Shaffer, Tyrese Shaffer and Jesse Walk Staff Hair & Makeup Artists Emily Chen and Izzy Lux
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Brellias is a Chile-based digital artist. Avolition and Overstimulation are two images from his series, “Symptoms of a Declining Individual”. This series seeks to bring light to topics that are often the most difficult to talk about in today’s society, such as depression, anxiety and mental disorders.
HAUTE MAGAZINE Based at the University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA Follow us on Instagram at @hauteusc Visit us at hauteusc.com