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10 S P R I N G /S U M M E R

KO B E B R YA NT

W U -TA N G C L A N HARDY BLECHMAN GOSHA RUBCHINSKIY NASIR MAZHAR CRAIG GREEN MAXIME BUCHI BRODINSKI

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LIZZY JAGGER

BEIJING BERLIN DUBAI DÜSSELDORF FRANKFURT LONDON MÜNCHEN NEW YORK PARIS SEOUL SHANGHAI TOKYO ZÜRICH


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P R E F A

C E 2015 marks a decade of Highsnobiety. What started as a simple Blogspot webpage has evolved into a global publishing company with bureaus in Berlin, New York City and beyond. As part of our 10-year celebration, we’re taking a two-part approach with our magazine: Part one, the issue you’re now holding, tackles the idea of youth and the revolutionaries; part two, issue 11, examines the theme of longevity and the increasingly difficult status of achieving it in a world of “here today, gone tomorrow.” But back to the issue at hand: youth and the Revolutionaries. For the past 10 years, we’ve followed closely as the “streetwear” niche slowly but surely infiltrated all facets of the fashion industry. Along the way, we’ve witnessed numerous innovators and originators, many of whom were products of this same digitally-fueled, streetfocused zeitgeist we’ve been obsessing over for the past decade. Today, many of them are revered as the industry’s foremost modern creators. We’re living in an ever-evolving web of influence and inspiration. If there’s one constant with those who thrive today, it’s embracing the now. Young, international creators like the UK’s Nasir Mahzar, Switzerland’s Maxime Buchi, Germany’s Errolson Hugh, and even the ubiquitous American “weirdo” Ian Connor are each changing the look of modern fashion. We spoke with each of them, and others, to explore their stories and the roles they’ve played in revolutionizing the fashion landscape. In this issue we document the current works of genre-defying designers including J.W. Anderson, Craig Green, and Marcelo Burlon through a series of diverse and beautifully styled editorials. As a group that lead an evolution of street culture, we gathered (almost) all of the Wu-Tang Clan for a feature in New York City. We also explore the history of several past musical revolutions – namely jazz, hip hop and punk – and speak with modern music icon Brodinski.  

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Lastly, our cover stars: Kobe Bryant and Gosha Rubchinskiy – two individuals who couldn’t be more different at surface – reveal striking similarities. Bryant, a fierce competitor and one of the greatest basketball players of all time; Rubchinskiy, a Russian skater and photographer cum rising fashion designer. Each have earned the backing of category-defining brands (Bryant with Nike, Gosha with COMME des GARÇONS), while remaining obsessively dedicated to their ideals. Nike has just released Bryant’s 10th signature shoe – which, numerically we found only fitting for our 10th issue, in our 10th year – but digits aside, Nike Kobe designs are always provocative, risktaking, and boundary-pushing. On the Nike Kobe IV, he challenged the status quo with a low-top and with the new Kobe X, Bryant combined Nike Free technology with visible Air for the first time ever. With each iteration of his sneaker, Bryant refuses to chase trends. With the support of COMME des GARÇONS, Gosha Rubchinskiy creates an alluring range of youthful goods that blend Western looks with Russian culture, bringing us trend-defying styles with a distinctly original voice. Though worlds apart, Bryant and Rubchinskiy are both undeniably strong forces in culture today, and will continue to be for years to come.  Enjoy this issue as we celebrate the people and brands that continue to reinvent our culture, the radicals who are changing the rules, and those revolutionaries who have paved the way for the next wave. Thank you for reading and joining us on this journey.

Pete Williams


Filling Pieces | Amsterdam Footwear FP

SS15

Collection

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fillingpieces.com

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photo

Curtis

Jehsta


Contents

Contributors

LOOK

INTERVIEW

24 Editor’s Choice 44 adidas Ultra Boost Collective 48 Inner City Life 56 An Urban Garden 64 Denim Daze 78 Waiting for the Sun 86 Disruption, Distortion. 98 808 rue de Courcelle 106 Just Come As You Are 118 Stratum 134 Gavroche 142 Tres / Ne.Sense 158 #RoyalRyderz 166 An Eye for An Eye 196 Itinerant 204 Peace, Love, Empathy. 210 High Tech Low Life

66 Aimé Leon Dore 72 Nike ACG 94 The Curious Case of Ian Connor 112 Rafael Jimenez 126 Craig Green 150 Nasir Mazhar 172 Gosha Rubchinskiy 178 Wu-Tang Clan 186 Kobe Bryant 216 Hardy Blechman 230 The New Ideal: Maxime Buchi and the Future of High/Low

Luci Ellis

Graham Hiemstra

Stylist, UK

Writer, USA

Rupert Lamontagne

Vincent Levy

Photographer, Canada

Writer, UK

TA S T E 60 Laces Out 70 Converse Jack Purcell Signature

David Murray

Christina Paik

Illustrator, UK

Photographer, USA

CG Watkins

Moses Jazz Wiener

Photographer, France

Writer, UK

READ 50 Batman’s Rogues 222 Travel 236 From High Art to High Tops: The Impact of [Brand × Artist] Collaborations 240 Bertha Benz 246 Jazz, Punk and Hip Hop 250 Stay Weird, Stay Different

Photography Neil Bedford

Photography CG Watkins Art Direction Edward Chiu

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EDITORS’ CHOICE

U N D E R COVE R M O U NTA I N PA R KA

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The Chuck Taylor All Star

Made by Andy Warhol

Made by you


( M U LT E E ) P R O J E C T T Y P E-2 CA R A B I N E R – 24 K G O L D

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Spring / Summer

2015 COLLECTION

www.triwa.com


CA S I O G-S H O C K G DX 6900 H E AT H E R E D S E R I E S

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R A I S E D BY WO LV E S “ F U C K O F F ” S L I D E S

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BASE OBJECT 001, OBJECT 002 & OBJECT 003

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WINWEL COTTON BOUCLE BASEBALL CAP

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SHOPHEX.COM

I N S TA G R A M . C O M / S H O P H E X

TWITTER.COM/SHOPHEX

FA C E B O O K . C O M / S H O P H E X


G O S H A R U B C H I N S K I Y LO G O P R I N T T-S H I R T S

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ONEPIECE.COM

@ONEPIECE

#COMFORTBRINGSCONFIDENCE


ACNE STUDIOS × ALL_BLUES RING & BANGLE

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B E Y E R DY N A M I C T 51 I P O R TA B L E H E A D P H O N E S

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SUPREME/KIDDE速 FIRE EXTINGUISHER

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The Chuck Taylor All Star

Made by Mago Dovjenko

Made by you


ADIDAS.COM/ULTRABOOST

ADIDAS ULTRA BOOST COLLECTIVE PHOTOGRAPHY SAT Y & P R AT H A ART DIRECTION CHAD BURTON

DIRK SCHÖNBERGER & JAMES CARNES

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KOLOR / JUNICHI ABE

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STELLA MCCARTNEY

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KRIS VAN ASSCHE

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TIMBERLAND SPRING / SUMMER 201 5

INNER CITY LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY V I TA L I G E LW I C H STYLING MARC GOEHRING MAKE UP KRISTINA WAGENER P H OTO G R A P H Y AS S I S TA N T FILIZ SERINYEL MODELS C H R I S T O P H @ C O R E M A N A G E M E N T ( H A M B U R G ) R A P H A E L @ P M A P R O M O D M O D E L A G E N C Y ( H A M B U R G ) 

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R AT T L E R I V E R SKYE PEAK BOMBER TROUSERS TOMPSON LAKE 5-POCKET S H O E S  ABINGTON ARDELLE PLAIN TOE OXFORD SHIRT

JACKET


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MOUNT GREYLOCK BOMBER

S W E AT E R

WINHALL RIVER

SHIRT JACKET SHORTS BOOTS

HUBBARD RIVER MOUNT PIERCE MAC CANOBIE LAKE ABINGTON HALEY

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B A T M A

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N

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G U E S

THE HUMANE RISE TO INFAMY IN GOTHAM CITY WORDS LONDYN JACKSON I L LU S T R AT I O N S DAV I D M U R R AY

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While the near-invincible Superman fights omnipotent figures like Metallo and Doomsday in his brightly lit home of Metropolis, Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s 1939 pulp creation, the Batman, had human criminals and the grimy streets of Gotham City to contend with. From underground mob bosses to the psychologically deranged, Batman’s infamous rogues gallery has evolved over 75 years to speak to the gritty, grimy reality of human nature, comprised of outlandish faces that – at their very heart – are real people like you or I. Popular villains like the Joker, the Riddler, and Two-Face are all products of fundamentally mundane circumstances: an accident at a chemical factory, a man obsessed with intellectual superiority,

BAT M A N ’S R O G U E S

and a stressful job within the city legal system. Unlike so many other cartoon wrongdoers, these are relatable individuals, and we as the reader are invited to pity, rather than openly condemn them. At its core, humanity is Gotham’s defining characteristic, and it’s this that has made the Batman mythology one of the most praised and enduring properties in fiction. In tribute to this emotional complexity, we’ve decided to showcase some of these figures wearing key looks from this season’s Spring/Summer 2015 collections. Each choice has been made in an attempt to reflect both the character’s aesthetic style and emotional profile. Because, after all, what is fashion if not an extension of our personality?


THE JOKER IN HAIDER ACKERMANN

Celebrating his 75th birthday this spring, the Joker is as old as the Batman franchise itself. Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson’s unmistakable vision of criminal insanity still represents an unsettling take on personal anarchy, and was fleshed out with a backstory in February 1951 with Detective Comics #168. While trying to escape Batman in a playing card plant, the mysterious man in the Red Hood dives into a vat of toxins, only to emerge with green hair, white skin, and a devilish eternal smile. Over the following decades the two forces lock horns time and time again (with many tragic

consequences, such as the death of the second Robin) in a relationship that is both as simple as the fight between good and evil, yet as complex as trying to define sanity and morality. While countless depictions of the Joker have placed him in that unmistakable purple suit, we think a combination of the luxe finery of the Nicholsonera and Heath Ledger’s more disheveled take on the man of a thousand punchlines would be right at home in Haider Ackermann’s loosely draped satins and silks.

BAT M A N ’S R O G U E S

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T WO - FAC E I N M A I S O N M A R G I E L A

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of DC Comics first appeared with the release of Detective Comics #66 in August 1942. First named Harvey “Apollo” Kent by creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger, his name changed to Harvey Dent when he became the villain known as Two-Face. While his one-time obsession with the number two originally cast him as a gimmick “Silver Age” character, his origin changed with the Dark Knight’s sinister reinvention in Batman Annual Vol. 1 from 1990. In Andrew Helfer’s tragic tale, District Attorney Harvey Dent is horribly disfigured when crime boss Maroni splashes acid on

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BAT M A N ’S R O G U E S

his face – exasperating his longstanding bipolar disorder – leading him to make all moral decisions with the flip of a coin. Torn between right and wrong, Batman hopes to one day turn him towards the light for good. While Harvey Dent is traditionally known for his taste in sharp pinstripe tailoring, we feel his more ruthless side would sit comfortably in this rebel staple leather jacket from Margiela. The twotone jeans, meanwhile, reflect the split nature of his personality in the most graphic of manners – dark and light, on show for all to see.


T H E R I D D L E R I N B U R B E R RY P R O R S U M

Debuting in Detective Comics #140 back in October 1948, artist Dick Sprang and writer Bill Finger introduced a rogue that challenged Batman’s brilliant mind while simultaneously losing his own. The man once known as Edward E. Nygma adored riddles as a child, and was often ridiculed by his peers for his unorthodox passion for puzzles. What began as a harmless interest developed into a dangerous obsession later in life, as his transformation into the

Riddler led him to seek out ever more fiendish ways to outwit the brightest intellect of them all – Batman. For a man obsessed with mystery, choosing an outfit for the Riddler was surprisingly straightforward. Burberry Prorsum’s SS15 collection was awash with the emerald shades so favored by Nygma throughout his appearances in Gotham City, setting off that shock of orange hair in a clash of colors so bold it really does border on the insane.

BAT M A N ’S R O G U E S

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M R. F R E E Z E I N A L E X A N D E R WA N G

Hitting the comic book stands as “Mr. Zero” back in Batman #121 from 1959, then returning almost a decade later as “Mr. Freeze” in Detective Comics #373 from March 1968, Victor Fries originally stood as something of a novelty character: a scientist who accidentally spills cryogenic chemicals on himself, leaving him in need of perpetual subzero temperatures in order to survive. It wasn’t until writer Paul Dini and artist Bruce Timm reintroduced him in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 that he became a truly chilling character hell-bent on exacting revenge against GothCorp CEO

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BAT M A N ’S R O G U E S

Ferris Boyle – the man who caused the accident responsible for both Fries’ mutation and the terminal illness of his wife, Nora. Such a human aspect to his personal tragedy is typical of the Batman approach to good and evil, inviting empathy into the moral debate. Seen here in Alexander Wang – perhaps the “coolest” designer of 2014 – the tonal flurry of indigo is the perfect complement to Freeze’s own frosty complexion, while the military accents very much suggest a man who is on the warpath, ready for conflict.


BA N E I N B O R I S B I D JA N S A B E R I

For a rogue only in his 20s (according to Batman lore), Bane has made perhaps the biggest impact on the Dark Knight’s 75 years in DC Comics. A prisoner of the Peña Duro penitentiary, Bane was a medical test subject who became the ultimate strongman when injected with the experimental steroid Venom. Imbued with superhuman strength, he made it his mission to reign not only as king of the prison walls, but of Gotham City too, bringing down its protector in Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 from 1993. Notoriously, Chuck Dixon, Doug

Moench and Graham Nolan’s creation did what no one else could, becoming “The Man who Broke the Bat” by breaking Batman’s spine in a fierce headto-head fight that saw Bruce Wayne retire his cape and others take up the mantle. It’s not easy finding fashion to fit a frame such as Bane’s, but Boris Bidjan Saberi’s summer outerwear has proportions wide enough to accommodate his unfeasible physique, while the accented leather waistcoat bears strong resemblance to his own beloved body harness.

BAT M A N ’S R O G U E S

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ELEMENT SKETCH FLOR AL COLLECTION SPRING / SUMMER 201 5

AN URBAN GARDEN

PHOTOGRAPHY

CAP

DA M I E N VA N D E R V L I ST

JACKET SHIRT

STYLING

AT I P W MODEL

CO S TA K A R DA N A

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PA N TS

ORCHID ALDER TWO TONES GEARY LS CONROY


JACKET SHIRT

BRADY GONZO SS

JACKET S W E AT S H I R T

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CAP JACKET PA N TS SHOES S KAT E B OA R D

CAP JACKET

VERDANT TAY L O R

S W E AT S H I R T SHORTS SHOES

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SHIRT PA N TS

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The Chuck Taylor All Star

Made by Futura

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LACES OUT WORDS

ALEXANDER GWILLIAM PHOTOGRAPHY

DA M I E N VA N D E R V L I ST STYLING

AT I P W

Just like the wheel, conventional wisdom states anything as triedand-tested as the shoelace is beyond improvement. After all, mankind has been lacing its footwear for over 5,000 years – surely there’s a reason for that. But such “flat-world” thinking isn’t for everyone. Gastón Frydlewski and Mariquel Waingarten always believed there was a better way, and they were determined not to let themselves be tied down to tradition. Spurred on by the desire to shake up the sneaker industry, the young couple from Argentina founded HICKIES – a bold new vision for fastening footwear in the 21st century. Taking the place of conventional shoelaces, HICKIES are small, pliable bands made from a durable elastomer compound that fasten individually to hold your shoes tight. As each band fastens to a fixed point and is completely independent from the others, they never loosen, while the waterproof synthetic material means they won’t stain or fray. In short, they’re everything conventional laces aren’t. Aimed primarily at the active and leisure markets, HICKIES effectively transform any pair of sneakers into a slip-on. By using one of three different lacing techniques the wearer can achieve a regular, tight or loose fit using exactly the same set of bands – especially important for exercise lovers, where a good fit is crucial to both comfort and performance – while their inherent flexibility allows just enough travel to slide your feet in and out with ease. Both the bands themselves and the posts on which they fasten are available in a kaleidoscope of different colors (including metallic shades), so there’s untold potential for customization, accessorizing and color coordination. For those with a little imagination, the possibilities are as vast as your sneaker collection. Having successfully birthed their company via Kickstarter to the tune of 600 percent of their funding goal, Gastón and Mariquel soon moved to Brooklyn to take things to the next level. Now backed by a team of several staff, it’s from here in New York City – arguably the sneaker capital of the world – that they hope to bring HICKIES to the feet of the world. Who knows, perhaps we’re about to witness a revolution of the kind not seen since Velcro? That’s a big shoe to tie, but for an idea of how HICKIES might fit into your footwear collection, take a little look at our photoshoot. — hickies.com 60

HICKIES


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HICKIES


HICKIES

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LUISAVIAROMA.COM LVR.COM

JUMPSUIT SHIRT JEANS

LOVE MOSCHINO N O N C’È P I Ù DOLCE & GABBANA

DENIM DAZE

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LANVIN MCQ ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

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AIMÉ LEON DORE


AIMÉ LEON DORE AN HONEST APPROACH TO THE NEW YORK LOOK WORDS GRAHAM HIEMSTRA PHOTOGRAPHY THOMAS WELCH

In just over a year, Aimé Leon Dore has grown from a modest passion project into a legitimate, vertically integrated business operating from their own factory in Manhattan’s Garment District. Major collaboration deals have been signed with the likes of KITH and Filling Pieces (more are on the table), an NYC retail space is imminent, and womenswear may even be on the cards too. When you put it this way, it’s easy to forget that, just three months ago, founder and designer Teddy Santis and his team of four twenty-somethings were operating out of a one-bedroom apartment in Queens. Fifteen months ago, his beloved brand was little more than a screen-printed crewneck sweatshirt. Ah, the power of the internet. To backtrack, Aimé Leon Dore released their debut lookbook during the first few days of 2014, delivering familiar silhouettes with a clean, minimal and distinctly New York aesthetic (more on that to come). According to the menswear-critiquing corners of the internet, it was perfect. Fire. A clean 100. Three weeks later, in late January, the collection went on sale; it sold out in under 45 minutes... This was the moment Santis knew he had something real on his hands. “It got bigger than me a lot quicker than I thought,” he says. “There wasn’t a brand then, but the visuals were really good.” In fact, the visuals were exceptional. Not in any flashy way, but because they were, and are, honest. If you take a look at the first lookbook (or either of the handful that have come since) and you understand the brand, you know exactly how it’s supposed to be worn and you want more. Many have tried to capture the elusive and often ephemeral “New York look,” and a near equal number have failed. Simply put, it’s not an easy thing to define, much like the city it reflects. While certain aspects continue to evolve as the city itself changes both economically and generationally, at the core of New York style is a hard-nosed, no-bullshit attitude and a respect for cultural blending. Much in the same way James Jebbia drew inspiration from hip hop

and the downtown art and skate scenes in the 1990s, today Santis keeps his roots in mind while drawing from a more refined (yet just as varied) cultural palette. That a hardworking Greek kid born and raised in Queens, whose interests range from the Knicks to furniture design and painting, is Aimé Leon Dore’s founding inspiration reflects a very modern side of NYC. And it’s that which has allowed the brand to become the unofficial benchmark for the new New York aesthetic. “I’m 100 percent Aimé Leon Dore. It’s pretty much everything I ever loved as a young kid combined into one,” says Santis. “I love beautiful things, but I love the raw and rugged too. I love where I grew up. I love the five boroughs. I love dirty shit because it’s what I’ve been seeing all my life.” In short, the brand seems so comfortable in its skin because it’s being genuine, not attempting to be something it’s not. Though a man of many words amongst friends and family, the calculated entrepreneur has never been comfortable saying much online. That’s why platforms like Instagram and Tumblr have been hugely important in the development of his brand. “I speak through pictures, that’s always been my thing,” he says. Both his personal Instagram account and that of Leon Dore primarily post brandassociated content, whereas the Aimé Armée Tumblr page delves deeper into the aesthetically-obsessed brand narrative. It’s here, in these outward facing mood boards that the customer is able to build a deeper connection to the brand. Vintage Porsche 911s, colorful landscapes and decaying architecture rest side by side with portraits of Basquiat, George Harrison, Biggie and of course, Michael Jordan. Aimé Armée is a window into the soul of Aimé Leon Dore, and therefore that of Santis. “If you browse that page you’ll see exactly what I’m into, exactly how I feel. Every single question of yours will be answered just by browsing that platform,” says Santis with a grin showing he quite clearly sees this as a secret to his brand’s success. AIMÉ LEON DORE

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These lifelong interests go beyond simply inspiring the brand identity, they inform the design aesthetic as well. Each piece is simplified to the point of being as close to timeless as possible, hoping to attract individuals looking to invest in a wardrobe that will not only be relevant today, but 10 years from now too. “I’ve been buying Ralph Lauren oxfords all my life, since I was 15, 16 years old. I’m now 29 and I’m still gonna buy that exact same oxford. He has me as a customer forever. I have my own brand, but I’m still buying stuff because I love what they represent and they’ve made certain pieces that I could buy for the rest of my life. They’ll never change; it’ll always be perfect,” explains Santis. “I’m trying to build myself as a customer.” While it may seem like the brand’s trajectory has been a steady incline, there have been some hiccups along the way. In fact, the whole second collection almost didn’t happen. Setbacks with production in China caused the collection to arrive in July (rather than the intended April), forcing Santis to do some savvy PR work and dub the collection “Pre-Fall” to make sense of the heavily layered looks. “I was fucking devastated,” he explains, referring to the fact that fits were slightly off and the overall quality wasn’t what it could have been. “I mean, I was proud of the aesthetic, but it wasn’t what I expected. I took like 10 styles from that collection, trashed them and lost a shit-ton of money.” The product he was happy with was introduced online. And it sold, a lot. The headache experience lead to the exploration of domestic manufacturing. After two months spent roaming the Garment District knocking on doors and cold calling factories, he found one willing to take a chance on his young brand. And the first collection to come out of NYC was a significant improvement on the two previous. “We bumped up the quality tenfold,” Says Santis proudly. While many brands would prefer to hide such things, Santis will be the first to admit the past 15 months have been a tremendous learning experience. “I’m not trying to front as this fashion designer, because I’m not. I like to call myself a designer, but I feel like I’m part of this new wave of designers that are self-taught, and figuring out themselves and going out there and doing the legwork themselves. It’s all just trial and error. That’s the beauty of what we’re doing; we’re literally learning in front of everybody’s eyes.” In one hell of a business move, Santis recently assumed ownership of the factory by partnering with its proprietor, making Aimé Leon Dore completely vertical. Everything is now done in-house, from design and sampling to production and even shipping (after each item is hand-folded and sprayed with a specific scent for brand consistency). It’s really a rare thing to behold. Not to mention the little fact that Santis’ factory has long manufactured for some of the biggest names in menswear—here’s a hint, it’s one of the only factories in NYC with heat-sealing seam technology. No doubt about it, Aimé Leon Dore has hit their stride. “Everything we’re doing is representing the city where we’re from. We’re a force to be reckoned with, man.” Santis states. “We took a whole year to learn and I’m not scared to tell anybody that. But that year is gone and we’re in a spot right now where we have full control over everything. And I can damn right fucking promise that I’m not gonna let that happen any other way than the way that I think is best for the brand.” Here’s to 2015. 68

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CONVERSE


CONVERSE JACK PURCELL SIGNATURE THE ICONIC ALL-WHITE TRAINER GOES PREMIUM WORDS J E F F CA RVA L H O PHOTOGRAPHY THOMAS WELCH

Built from the ground up, the new Purcell signature is a modernized take on the 80-year-old classic. It addresses a longstanding criticism that the shoe is disagreeable for long wears by borrowing Nike Zoom Air technology. Converse also added a new Ortholite footbed, and eased touch points at the front of the shoe with the addition of a winged tongue. The result is a dramatic change to the overall ride and feel of the Purcell Signature shoe. This has opened the door for Converse to reassess the position of its signature shoe, and shift its place from a common in-line model to a sneaker that could catch the attention of consumers looking for a more premium, modern take on the age-old white low-top. John Heinrich was the designer tasked with reimagining the Jack Purcell Signature. As part of the process, he looked to very early models of the silhouette for inspiration (the original slim-line Jack Purcell blue “smile” returns), while utilizing new approaches in tooling to modernize the Purcell’s outer look. The new Purcell is intentionally similar to former models, with a few fairly subtle changes: higher two-piece sidewall (foxing), a more compact toecap, and the use of durable two-ply duck canvas on the upper to compliment interior changes and raise the Purcell Signature to top-shelf status. The resulting sneaker has set a new standard for Converse in 2015; one that we hope will start a trickle-down effect and encourage the brand to modernize other silhouettes in its arsenal. — converse.com CONVERSE

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NIKE ACG


NIKE ACG ALL CONDITIONS GEAR 2.0

Nike CEO Mark Parker grew impatient when he saw the first samples of the soon-to-be revived ACG label. Short for “All Conditions Gear,” the performance wear line was supposed to relaunch in October of 2015 after a long hiatus. But Parker, upon inspecting the samples, demanded to change the launch date. He wanted to move it forward, and move it forward a lot. Almost a year ahead of schedule and with less than a year of planning, Nike ACG relaunched in December of 2014 with a tight eight pieces: a two-in-one jacket, sweatshirt, T-shirt, fleece pant, trainers, boots, and a backpack. The concise range is meant to create one whole outfit for the active city dweller – one whose battleground is the concrete and metal jungle, his obstacles being fickle weather and fast pace. “Stealth” and “modern” are two words that Matthew Millward, senior design director of Nike Sportswear, uses to describe the new ACG. Instead of offering clothing and accessories designed for trekking, hiking or climbing in the wild like the original ACG, the relaunched line seems better suited to a lone survivor of a space age apocalypse. Only, instead of seeking any contribution from Michael Bay or Tom Cruise, Nike looked elsewhere. To realize ACG 2.0, the sports conglomerate called on Errolson Hugh, co-founder and principal designer of ACRONYM. With over 20 years of design experience, Hugh – whose skilled hands have graced the likes of Burton, Stone Island Shadow Project, Arc’teryx Veilance and Herno Laminar – was more than a natural choice. His expertise in technical materials, love of sports, and his signature “shadow ninja” style give ACG its largely black makeover and cutting-edge silhouettes with speed, mobility and flexibility in mind. “Making [the collection] black left the rest of the elements to be really ACG,” Hugh says as he walks me through the debut line.

WORDS E L A I N E YJ L E E PHOTOGRAPHY THOMAS WELCH AS S I S TA N T MADISON BLAIR MODEL BERNARD GIFFORD


When we see the clothes, they’re fitted on mannequins, but Hugh insists they hold their shape even when hanging on a rack. “The front of the jacket is smaller than the back, so it has a feeling of forwardness to it,” he points out, referring to how he cut the garment. Its fit block, the basic foundation of pattern-making, was meticulously shaped to portray a certain stance, a ready-topounce posture. “There’s this kind of universal stance, a ready stance,” Hugh adds, bending his knees and putting weight on the balls of his feet to show me. The soft-spoken designer’s expression shifts momentarily to one of menace, not unlike the kind he must put on when practicing karate – a sport he’s been committed to since age 10 and in which he plans to involve his 2-year-old daughter. It’s with this visceral excitement that he and Millward recreated ACG. Creating the fit block alone took three months, but the time was well spent. “Within an urban context, style is a function. You can’t divorce them,” Hugh told Highsnobiety, in a separate interview at ACG’s unveiling in London. The invested time and meticulousness with which Hugh and Millward approached the new foundations of ACG are precisely what allow the brand to possess an intensely futuristic direction, not only in function but also in form. Even the weight of everyday objects in pockets and their gravitational shifts are taken into account in the design process; Hugh and Millward experimented by tossing phones, tablets, and keys into pockets while moving around in the sample garments. Later, when I hold the jacket firsthand, I find that it does keep to shape on its own; it almost seems to emulate an aerodynamic shell of a sleek sports car.

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Despite the techwear designer’s penchant for forward thinking, redoing ACG was not devoid of challenges. “It’s hard sometimes for people from the outside to come in and immediately assimilate with [our] very complex matrix system,” Millward divulges. “There’re a lot of moving parts.” Understandably, Nike, being the corporation that it is, requires at least a year of environmental impact study and human rights violation inspection before taking on a source vendor or manufacturing partner. This hindered Hugh from experimenting with brand new materials, forcing him to stick with Nike’s preexisting trademarks like Tech Fleece, Dri-FIT Wool, and Flyknit, given the CEO’s tight deadline. “I never encountered [this] with any of the other companies I worked with,” Hugh continues with eyebrows slightly raised, as if addressing an endearing older sibling. In totality, ACG’s relaunch is successful. With plans to deliver collections roughly four times a year, Hugh and Millward will continue to churn out movement-ready gear for the modern city man. Perhaps as the new ACG expands, Nike will add more innovative, unseen materials. What we can count on for now, however, is that Hugh and Millward will experiment as much as they can. “Most designers start with pen and paper but that [doesn’t] come until later for us,” says Hugh. “This is the most physical project I’ve ever done.”

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VISVIM KNICKERBOCKER MFG CO. CONVERSE

PHOTOGRAPHY THOMAS WELCH

AS S I S TA N T S MADISON BLAIR & SEUNGSOO LEE

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MODEL SEAN RISLEY

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THE CURIOUS CASE OF IAN CONNOR WORDS MOSES JAZZ WIENER PHOTOGRAPHY SUNNY LAU SPECIAL THANKS EJDER

Ian Connor is a curious creature – both in terms of the interest he receives and the interest he conveys in the world around him. He’s also a highly conspicuous character; in this instance arriving later than scheduled for an in-store appearance at EJDER and Highsnobiety’s collaborative pop-up in London. With crew in tow, he asks aloud upon entering the store “what would happen if I just fucked this display up?” Not much would’ve happened apart from irritating the shop staff (which is probably why he didn’t in the end), but that kind of exuberance and “fuck this shit” attitude seems to resonate through what Ian Connor does. “But who’s Ian Connor, and what is it that he does?,” you’d be forgiven for asking. In fact, yours truly was nearoblivious prior to meeting him, and made a sizable faux pas in the course of finding out. After his pronounced arrival and the subsequent swarm of snapping hypebeasts that followed, I introduced myself when things had settled down slightly. Not long into my introduction, I pointed to one of the kids that had shown up to the shop wearing a black waterproof jacket with a strip around the waist reading “fuck off” over and over, and then entertained the idea of him showing up to a job interview with it on. Ian’s response? “I designed that.” Once I had removed my toes from my teeth, Ian and I moved ourselves into the less-busy setting of the stock room downstairs. I asked him directly who he was, since my first attempt to feign familiarity had gone down in flames, and he responded “I’m Ian Connor, I’m human, and I like to do random things.” So I pressed for more details for the sake of anyone who, like me 48 hours prior, didn’t really know who he was. “I’m Ian Connor, Wiz Khalifa’s assistant, personal stylist, creative director. Creative director for A$AP Rocky, and I have one child by the name of Shane Gonzales” (better known as the L.A.-based designer Ian collaborated with and modeled for on his Midnight clothing brand). 94

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I want someone to want to be me so bad that they feel as if they’re the real Ian Connor, that they feel that they should be in my position, to a point that they have to kill me. No in between. They either really got to love me, or they really got to hate me, and then they can kill me.

So that’s some context. Ian Connor is seemingly a “go to” guy

right places at the right times with the right talent, and surely can’t

when it comes to the sartorial choices of hip hop superstars, but I already had this information after a cursory search on Google. That in addition to information about his other collaborations with cool brands like Wil Fry and Stussy, I also encountered lots of envious online posts questioning his position as an arbiter of style. But, as Ian explains, it comes with the territory. Recalling that his interest in fashion started at around 13 or 14, he tells me “I realized I was ugly and my style had to save me,” and when I ask where he wants to be in 10 years’ time, without a second’s hesitation he responds: “dead.” “I want to die by hater. I want somebody to get so mad at my existence that like, I fuck with their mental so hard that they feel like for them to be at ease, they need to take me out. Or! Or, I want to die like, I want someone... I’m a big fan, big supporter of being yourself, but of course that’s never really going to happen when internet culture exists and everyone copies each other and shit. So I want someone to want to be me so bad that they feel as if they’re the real Ian Connor, that they feel that they should be in my position, to a point that they have to kill me. No in between. They either really got to love me, or they really got to hate me, and then they can kill me.” An envious position Ian has, and he’s aware of it. Needless to say, making money through doing something that he loves alongside public figures invites people (especially online) to vent their issues with him. While we discuss the rare position he finds himself in, I ask for his thoughts on the famous Confucius quote “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” and he smiles in agreement. “I’m living proof of that. I enjoy clothes so much, and my style, when I have to dress Wiz, or dress myself, it’s like ‘Damn, this is cool.’ Because, I mentally dress everyone I come across in the first place. So it’s cool that I actually get to get paid for doing it and, on top of that, it’s like... the only thing about all that is deadlines. Deadlines kinda get to me. But besides that? My job is cool. And using my brain, me having a position as a creative director, it basically saved me. I probably would have had a mental breakdown if I couldn’t bring the things that I have to life. Having the resources or the funding for it; I was lucky to be put in that position. So it doesn’t really feel like work, it just feels like living. But with deadlines.” With that said, Ian can just as easily be described as a very lucky boy who’s been in the

be blamed for taking full advantage, riding a wave of internet fame. “I like to fuck, I like to shop, and I like to create. I’m not trying to be clichéd like, ‘life is so, there’s so much to it just, like, live it’, but I mean there’s so much for you to do in this world; so much. So why not? Why not go outside your zone? Why are people sitting content in their hometown? Yo, there’s a fucking world out there. How could you not want to see the world? Even if say you don’t necessarily have the funds or the means or any of that. With the world as you know it, even in your town, why not just randomly just start talking to homeless people that live downtown, or why not just randomly, like, go to the fucking grocery store and hang with the old lady behind the register for a little while on her break or whatever. It seems weird, but it’s a new perspective. Even if you don’t really like it afterwards, at least you tried.” Although, as many before him have discovered, recognition is also something that has its drawbacks. He explains to me, “it’s got to a point where, the bigger and bigger I get, sometimes I’ll just fall back on social media, or don’t [feel] like going out, or even the times where I feel like ‘alright, I’m safe’ or whatever... It’s always that there’s someone that fucking knows me, everywhere. And that kinda sucks.” There’s an irony there, as somebody who courts public attention but doesn’t do well with crowds. “I wouldn’t say that I’m awkward, but I kind of like being to myself. I enjoy meeting strangers more than I like meeting people who ‘know’ me”. My earlier error of inadvertently criticizing a jacket he helped design suddenly didn’t seem so bad. “I feel that people already have a perception about me, already pre-judged. For me, now it’s becoming more of a social disorder, where I just can’t fuck with people but I have to force it. Like ‘Alright, I’ll take a picture with this kid’ or ‘I’ll give this kid some conversation,’ based off of not knowing if the three or four words I share with that kid, or rather the three or four minutes that I spend with that kid... who knows what that kid could fucking become? He could become one of the biggest designers out there! So that’s the only hope I have at the back of my mind, but besides that, I hate fucking with crowds of people. Like, I really hate it. It makes me very uncomfortable.” And so, as somebody who enjoys fashion but hates crowds, he succinctly ends our interview with a timeless sentiment: “fuck Fashion Week.”

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PHOTOGRAPHY R U P E R T L A M O N TAG N E STYLING FRÉDÉRIQUE GAUTHIER HAIR & MAKE UP CAMILLE SABBAGH S T Y L I N G AS S I S TA N T GABRIEL MORENCY MODEL MELIZANNE @ DULCEDO

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RAFAEL JIMENEZ CRAZY EIGHTS WORDS EILEEN SOMMERMAN PHOTOGRAPHY KARL HAB

Rafael Jimenez is a creative engine, a force of creativity who acts as a force behind creativity. He comes to fashion sincerely if not directly; from Venezuela and political science, he made a deliberate turn toward fashion. Jimenez operates Plan 8 showrooms in Paris, a combination of laboratory and stage. Here he harnesses ‘talent,’ moves createurs in the right direction. Designers come to him at the early stages or when they’re at crossroads: “I complete their speech, I guide them.” He hones in and pans out, tapping into his kaleidoscope of ideas, and theirs, and then maps the way. Jimenez started out working with COMME des GARÇONS, where he spent eight years and left only after launching the iconic  Guerrilla stores.  The Guerrilla stores sort of inverted the rules of retail – unpredictable locations, inexperienced staff, seasonless clothes – and they worked. They opened in various cities as the propositions met the criteria, and each lasted only one year. It’s a story of radical thinking inside the box. Jimenez has a clear and original vision while he relies strongly on his intuition and makes the unlikely likely.   He went on to develop IQONS, a fashion social media site that cultivated a fashion world online. In many ways it was like the real world but with more opportunity. Jimenez developed IQONS in the time of Myspace and before Facebook. He recognized the potential of the internet as a virtual and fecund community space that he could use to build a discrete hyper-real world. It worked as long as it lasted. Jimenez hovers between fashion and art, old school, new schools, and a kind of futures research. He makes no claims to an ideology, other than freedom and independence. He’s in the business of liberating creativity.

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At Plan 8 you often work with designers who have studied fine art. What’s different about these designers? It’s not something that has been planned but rather an organic process. I guess I get along more with the designers who are not pre-formatted by schools. The people I admired the most were selftrained or learned directly as an apprentice.  I tend to get excited by people who are not following the rules. We talk more freely about ideas and the outcome is always more fresh, even raw. We do work with quite a few designers that graduated from Central Saint Martins and other schools with an artistic approach but it’s true that most of the brands I manage have more of a vision than a technique. Our role is to help them, to complete them. The liberty of art is that it’s ambivalent to selling, for better or worse. Artists are often oblivious to capital and market. It’s different with fashion, where selling is always part of the story. AF Vandevorst is one of those great labels you feel lucky to find when you do find it. They kind of confuse the selling issue even if that’s not the intention. The Smallest Travelling Store In The World (TSTSITW) is an interesting example of how to sell without necessarily being complicit. Can you say more about it?    Sure. It’s often difficult for designers who are not hyped up by the mainstream Fashion Press to get attention. AF Vandevorst is the perfect example of a brand that remains confidential but highly appreciated by its own customers. I work with some of these kind of brands. Bernhard Wilhelm, Eley Kishimoto are good examples. They are cult to their own customers so it makes sense that the place where the special actions happen are the places where the customers can be in contact with the brand: the stores. We have then been focusing on working on the retail experience as the vector for word of mouth communication. TSTSITW was very successful in this sense. Do you systematically bring art into the conversation? Who are some of the artists you’re interested in? I like to look a lot at the art market because it’s so similar to the fashion I admire, but I also find inspiration in diverse disciplines, whether it be music or literature. I don’t think that what we do at the moment is particularly linked to the art world but there are crossovers, and there have always been. Right now, I’m fascinated by Ryan Trecartin. I discovered him recently and I think he’s incredibly interesting. Ryan Trecartin is mad. He subverts bigger issues spinning wild dystopian narratives without any apparent inhibition. He shows how it can work (and it really has worked for him) when you play by your own rules. Isn’t this what Rei Kawakubo has done in fashion? Isn’t COMME des GARÇONS one of the unlikeliest fashion giants if we compare her to what other commercially successful designers are doing? You spent the first seven years of your career at COMME... what’s the thinking that goes on there? I think you cannot talk about history of fashion and aesthetics without dedicating a very important chapter to Rei Kawakubo. Her work

through CDG has been very influential since the very beginning. Even now, you can still feel her ongoing influence. I do agree that ignoring the rules was key to her immense contribution. It’s not that simple though, but it is definitely one important part. I considered CDG almost like a university for me. I am very grateful for this experience. I think the thinking there is, yes you need to ignore the rules and create through accident but in order to do this, you must achieve a high discipline and distance to your projections.  You were part of the team that conceived the COMME des GARÇONS guerilla stores. Famed by their elusiveness (there was no signage and no marketing) and playing on the fickle natures of desire and access, knowing and not knowing, you came up with an original retail concept. Guerilla stores were a kind of pop-up with their own rules. How did you come up with the idea and what were the conditions of the concept? I don’t think there was any isms as such in the Guerrilla Stores project. As I remember it, there was a will to create a new retail experience using what was available while disregarding high-end retail rules, but I think we were more seduced by the energy of the idea than by any self-proclaimed mission. We didn’t see them as proper pop-up stores… I thought of them more as a community, a network. And that was the magic of it. Pop-ups existed already in the mid and low market but the parallel doesn’t do justice to the Guerrilla spirit. It’s the mix of people and locations and passions that was exciting. A mythic house like CDG doing something so unexpected.  It was a team thing. For an official version of the story, you should ask the CDG PR department. I can only share with you my personal anecdote on the process: I was asked to find a solution for a store in the up-and-coming area of Mitte, Berlin to carry main lines for men’s, who were far too expensive for the market then. I thought it was a very challenging task but when I understood I was expected to find a solution so I suggested a solution so that was the initial idea. It consisted of partnering with someone and creating an unusual retail experience including old collections and some new ones. This way we could have a presence. The direction loved this draft and completed it with the name and the manifesto carrying the rules of the concept. They were keen to open in Berlin so I suggested we did it with Christian Weinecke, who was working with me in the sales of Junya Watanabe. After some meetings, everybody was sure Christian was the right person to start and the Berlin Guerrilla store opened in February 2004. Many others came after. That was more than 10 years ago, but this experience consolidated a work process that applies often now. We look at an objective and try to achieve it in an unorthodox manner using the available tools. We requisition the commonly accepted process. When I started Plan 8, most of these unorthodox tools were products of internet - whether it was e-commerce or social media - but those were the ’00s. Now it’s something different, we work in ways to develop and straighten the spirit, the authenticity. I think this is what matters now. Our stories are more closed, more confidential. They unveil progressively and we communicate less. All the internet ventures have become big game for big groups. Same as the popups, it’s a ’00s thing. RAFAEL JIMENE Z

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Pop-ups were seductive until they were hijacked. The spirit was in the spontaneity which obviously expires. What’s the current form of seduction? I think showing the spirit and doing what you are good at is the best way to stand out and the boldest form of seduction. Pop-up stores, retail concepts, and so on are just a tool to express this and they work better coming from the same brain. And when the team is so spiritually connected that it comes alive, it becomes tangible. It’s the spirit that makes things different. The more visible it is the more difference there is. However, people in business are often afraid of this idea. It’s hard to understand…This is what made Guerrilla so interesting, along with my other projects such as TSTSITW (The Smallest Travelling Store in The World) by AF Vandevorst or IQONS.COM. Each one has their own level and singular mission.

You work without a template, with the shifting dynamics of each designer and project. Can you describe the experience of working with a designer from Bogota and how the political nature of her place ultimately shaped the collection? I met a friend who owns the best gallery in Bogota casually and I complemented her dress. She introduced me Laura Laurens who is a self-trained fine arts designer. She was looking into starting to present in Paris and open to the international market. However, the collections she manufactures for her local market were not ideal for the international market, especially because it’s not easy to find good fabrics and Laura wanted to work with what she finds locally. We then decided to create a new line to be presented in Paris. The kind of stores that come to Plan 8 are keen in discovering strong collections so when we thought how could you tell a story that could feel authentic and unique. The only interesting material and manufacturing facility

When McSweeney’s, the San Francisco publishers started out, they had one condition: publish only rejected manuscripts. As it goes they are now considered one of the most innovative publishers in the U.S. You also tend to find talent on the margins and have the vision and know how to conjure critical mass. How does this work?  In consulting I worked with big brands, some of whom I can’t disclose here. However, I really love working with new labels. In London, I was helping organizations who worked with new designers, some of them whom are world renowned like Mary Katrantzou, Eley Kishimoto, Marios Schwab and Peter Pilotto. It was fresh and exciting. Although the limited resources were always a problem, I found there was such a rich exchange at every level that at some point I missed that and decided to open Plan 8 Showrooms to work with these types of people who had this energy. So in a way, I can relate to McSweeney’s. I always admired their approach but this didn’t cross my mind until you mentioned. I tend to just look each situation and find an applicable solution for each problem and locate any available resources. Plan 8 started because there was a massive influx of interest and I picked the three most relevant brands at the time whom I felt had the talent that I could use to promote them, and I guess I must have been on the something as 2 of the 3 brands have nearly doubled in size, while the designer of the third is now the creative director of a major French luxury house.

that we found was military, which is paradoxically an ongoing classic theme in fashion for a very long time. We then used these facilities and combined it with Laura’s shapes and finishes and took it to Paris. The first season we had a dozen stores buying it. People like Opening Ceremony, Penelope from Italy, Linda Dresner and some really good stores. Laura has been presenting at Plan 8 ever since. She only presents small capsules with special pieces in Paris that we distribute very selectively but her local market has tripled in size.

Do the designers prefer that you keep their names confidential?   Some yes, others don’t. It depends on who and what we do. You are part coach, part visionary and part strategist. How does this work? I think now more than ever interesting brands are led by creatives who use both sides of their brains and understand that creativity and commerce go hand in hand. Think of Saint Laurent, Burberry or Comme. They are all very different but what all share is a uniqueness in everything they produce. I’d like to think that we help polish and complete the vision to the brands we work for. This is usually very different from one label to another but the outcomes are not dissimilar.

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Is there anything you consider taboo in fashion? I think taboo’s more an issue of societal constraints than fashion ones. If all women wore saris what would your work be? I hope I would be helping brands make and sell saris that were unique, different or better. What’s your take on uniforms and the idea of wearing the same thing everyday? If you wore one what would it be? I don’t know. I think the same process of uniforms apply to a crowd wearing all colorful and distinctive outfits. When I was in school, I realized that during the day everyone was wearing little details that made a big difference to their uniforms. A pin, a twist, or a different way of wearing it. It made a big difference. When you wear the same thing everyday something amazing happens. The personality emerges. There is something that happens that it becomes part of you.  However, if I had to wear an outfit everyday it would be a white shirt and denim. How is good style in Paris different than good style in London? Or New York? In Paris everybody is trying to look good in what they consider is the commonly accepted tasteful way. Very little risk so as a result the average crowd looks nicer than anywhere else. In winter, the crowds are dressed in black, in summer light colors. In London, there is everything and anything. It’s a big lab with lots of levels of outcomes but when it’s good it can be extraordinary. New York is a mix of both but a bit more aspirational on one end, more groomed, more labeled, and a bit more sportswear on the other end.


You continue to work from Paris even though it’s not the most exciting playground for fashion. When asked about his recent move from Paris to LA, Bernhard Willhelm notes that his aesthetic wasn’t entirely appreciated by the French. From where you stand, is tasteful boring?   I have been living in Paris on and off since more than 20 years. For the past 10 years I was mostly living in London where I started Plan 8 and recently moved to Paris full time for personal reasons. Once here I decided the best thing to do was to open our showroom division to present new talent we nurture. In this sense, there is not a better city in the world. Paris is definitely the world’s fashion capital for distribution. Didier Grumbach, who was my teacher at IFM and Paris Fashion Week president for many years used to say

fashion is designed in London, manufactured in Milan, presented in Paris, and bought in New York, which is still true although I guess now you can add more cities as the places where fashion is bought. However, coming back to your question, Paris is an exciting platform for showcasing designers while remaining a very conservative place. It’s the city of resistance. People resist to new trends until they just give in, usually much later than anywhere else. There is good and bad in this. I personally like the fact that people don’t go hysterical about new things but sometimes this can also turn into something negative and sterile. In this sense, it is not an ideal playground for creativity. Someone like Bernhard Wilhelm breathes better in a place with less clichés and boundaries but he will bring that back to Paris to present it. That is the way it works.

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PHOTOGRAPHY JUSTIN BRIDGES STYLING ADRIAN MANUEL GROOMING NICOLE CERRO F I R S T AS S I S TA N T PIERCE HARRISON S T Y L I N G AS S I S TA N T GEORGINA PENA MODEL DIMA DIONESOV @ FUSION MODELS

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WORDS DAV I D H E L LQV I ST PHOTOGRAPHY J O OST VA N D E B R U G STYLING DAV I D H E L LQV I ST GROOMING SUSANNE LICHTENEGGER USING MARIA ÅKERBERG S T Y L I N G AS S I S TA N T R YA N L E E MODELS CASSIAN & GEORGE @ SELECT MODELS — FOOTWEAR ADIDAS GAZELLE

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A “fashion moment” is an event of unparalleled sartorial importance. Its impact can be felt on different levels across the fashion industry, and can last for varying amounts of time, but ultimately it’s something to which people will refer and allude for quite some time. To be able to say “I was there” becomes a badge of honor. In 2015 – a time when fashion is riddled with new brands, fashion weeks, mid-season collections and other, vaguely fashion-related events – it’s difficult to spot the ‘real’ fashion moments. There’s just so much product out there that the clothes themselves have become devalued. But, in this sea of substandard fashion, it’s also easier to spot the real gems – the designers, events, and clothes that make you sit up and really pay attention. One of those eye-openers took place at Victoria House at 11 a.m. on June 17, 2014, during London Collections: Men. Craig Green, a well-liked but still relatively unknown designer, was showing his Spring/Summer 2015 collection. There were editors weeping in the front row. When Green’s barefoot, color-blocked models marched down the catwalk that June there were several people who actually cried, so taken were they with the serene atmosphere and Zen-like beauty of the collection. And, even for those who didn’t weep, there’s no doubt the show had a profound impact on most attendees, myself included. Once LC:M was over and the fashion circus headed first to Pitti in Florence, then to Milan – before finishing up the season in Paris – people talked constantly about Green’s show. While the collection was an obvious highlight of the London program, as time progressed it became clear it was one of the better ones from the entire season. This is unusual for a London show (that kind of praise is often reserved for the Prada collection in Milan, or a few of the heavyweights showing in Paris), but most people agreed this had been a real fashion moment. Tim Blanks even used those exact two words in his influential Style.com review the day after. When I meet Green seven months later (almost to the day), he’s just shown his Fall/Winter 2015 collection and is in Paris to sell it in the London Showroom. The famous SS15 collection is at the stores, and it’s been a hectic and emotionally

draining six months for the friendly, soft-spoken Londoner. Sat in the basement of the showroom Craig begins to unpick the success of his brand, which he runs with co-designer Helen Price. “Every season is a reaction to the previous one,” Green explains. “So, as FW14 was full of handpainted heavy layers and had an over-worked and opulent feeling, we wanted to do something that was very stripped-back, almost minimal. We had no shoes… It was about the movement of the clothes.” That FW14 season referred to by Green was his last as part of the MAN platform. Sponsored by Topman and co-organized by Fashion East (an organization run by Lulu Kennedy that supports young, London-based designers), MAN showcases the work of three upcoming designers each season. Participants are allowed to be part of it for three seasons, and that’s how Craig Green made his catwalk debut. Over the years designers like Christopher Shannon, Agi & Sam, Shaun Samson and Astrid Andersen have all graduated into catwalk fashion this way. So the SS15 season was not only special for its magnificent clothes, but because it was Green’s first standalone runway show. Without doubt, the SS15 collection was clean and simple compared to his previous season. For FW14 Green had pursued his now-signature boxy silhouettes and extensive layering, but he did it draped in colorful tie-dye patterns. “We did the color pieces for a whole year,” he says. “We handpainted and dyed every single garment ourselves in the studio. Every piece of fabric had to be worked on twice to achieve that effect.” Given his reactionary approach, it was clear Green was always going to turn around and produce something completely new for his summer collection, but no one expected it to be so different. “We wanted to move away from the extreme colors of the previous collection and focus on just one color: the electric blue. We were looking at Zen, movement and traditional dress, both here and in Asia [his inspiration was ‘East meets West’]. There was a femininity about the clothes, but they were meant to be masculine in their femininity, if that makes sense. It was a nod to the fact that once upon a time it was OK to wear such pieces in a masculine way.”

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As seen in previous seasons, the show featured several models strapped to wooden constructions as they came down the catwalk, but this artistic element was less obvious than in the past. “They turned out to be the focus,” Green admits. “People couldn’t see past them even though there was only six of them in a 20-look collection. Now people think I use less of them, but there was still five of them in SS15, so I suppose people just notice them less and less and focus on the clothes, which is a good thing.” For Green, aspects like this were never meant to dominate the shows. “They’re there for framing more than shielding,” he insists. “Those collections were very much about creating a visual statement; the last two seasons have been more emotional. We wanted something romantic for SS15.” Romantic, yes, but more than anything Craig Green has managed to find creative consistency with his most recent work. From his first show (FW13) to the present day, Green has developed his own, unique look balancing long-term coherence with fresh, seasonal ideas. While those multilayered pieces seen in early collections are still on show today, many of them have since been developed and refined to be worn in a new and more relevant way. “There was lots of tight tops and wide trousers for SS15,” he explains. “Which is very different from the old boxy silhouette. It was a reaction to what we had done before with all the layering. We just thought, ‘when was the last time anyone wore skin-tight tops and baggy trousers?’”

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For Green and Price, this new approach was a reference to their youth, when kids went clubbing in clothes by brands like Cyberdog: “Yeah, we looked back to the early ’00s, when everyone were trying to be spiritual and levitate and so on. Straight men would wear that kind of clothing at the time and it wasn’t a big thing.” In the recent show, baggy jeans came with untied strings down the side of each leg, allowing the wearer to decide how directional and wearable they wanted their trousers to be. The Eastern influences, meanwhile, were seen once again in an open kimono-style jacket and several oversized martial arts uniform-inspired outfits. However, it was the humble simplicity of Green’s black and white sweatshirts that anchored the collection in reality – that and the expertly layered long shirts.


There was lots of tight tops and wide trousers for SS15... Which is very different from the old boxy silhouette. It was a reaction to what we had done before with all the layering. We just thought, ‘when was the last time anyone wore skin-tight tops and baggy trousers?’

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The best thing CSM teaches you is to be resourceful and to get on with it yourself. You see a tutor once in a while, you don’t attend classes every day, and if you don’t turn up no one’s gonna call and see where you are. If you want to make it happen you have to do it yourself.

To understand Green’s current aesthetic, it’s important to trace his short but already influential career back to his school days. Green was educated at Central Saint Martins, studying at the school for over seven years as part of a Foundation course and then his BA and MA degrees. Though the Saint Martins approach to teaching doesn’t fit everyone, it laid the foundation for Green’s current business. “The best thing CSM teaches you is to be resourceful and to get on with it yourself. You see a tutor once in a while, you don’t attend classes every day, and if you don’t turn up no one’s gonna call and see where you are. If you want to make it happen you have to do it yourself. A lot of people start their brands because they’ve been taught to go out and find the people they need to make something and find the fabrics they want.” Still, leaving university was a tumultuous experience: “All of a sudden I was no longer a student but an unemployed designer… It was scary when your student travel card stopped working and they wouldn’t let you into the school building anymore.” Straight after graduation, though, Green was offered a space at the Fashion East installation at LC:M for the SS13 season. “I quickly made some beige muslin tops, paneled together with bandages.” Comparing the clothes, there’s a big jump between this and the MAN show that followed the season after. “It was a weird time… I only had seven weeks to prepare and it was odd because I thought maybe I should do some actual clothes instead of the conceptual work I had done at CSM with papier mache bags, etc.” Looking back, it was definitely an ‘in between’ collection. Green was trying to wean himself off conceptual school projects and actually design clothes. “School was all about fantasy, no one was supposed to wear it. But at the same time

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the Fashion East presentation was quite normal. Maybe too normal. And then, when we had time to prepare an actual collection for the MAN show, we found a balance between the two.” Now, five seasons in, you can tell that Green is in a good space. There are enough statement pieces in his collections to keep the press engaged, while his more commercial garments attract the buyers. “It’s a constant battle between the need for sellable and crazy pieces,” he admits. “It’s become more of a focus to make actual clothes, which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along. At CSM I was a print student, and they’re often the ones who do the most out-there stuff. Now we’re trying to figure out what Craig Green shoes would look like, or a Craig Green T-shirt, etc. – we actively work on that.” One such signature piece that Green has made his own is the workwear jacket, designed loosely in the shape of an oversized trucker jacket. “We always do a workwear jacket every season,” he explains. “It’s also getting easier and easier to wear, as we’re modifying the fabrics as we go along.” This workwear connection is totally authentic in Green’s case; he grew up around craftsmen. “I’ve had a workwear DNA ever since the New Era cap project [the first brand competition Green won while studying at CSM]. My dad is a plumber, my uncle is a carpenter, and my godfather is an upholsterer. The house was always full of wood when I grew up. My dad said it was valuable stuff and my mum tried to throw it away!” While, as far as I know, no one cried at Green’s most recent January show, really there wasn’t any need. The designer had his big ‘fashion moment’ last season, and while he definitely has it in him to give us more of those, perhaps it’s good that we, the audience, get a slight breather in between them.


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PHOTOGRAPHY SY LVA I N H O M O STYLING L AU R A WA LT E R S GROOMING BJORN KRISCHKER @ FRANK AGENCY P H OTO G R A P H Y AS S I S TA N T JOSHUA GOODING RETOUCHING LO U I S A S S E N AT MODEL CALLUM ROCKALL @ MODELS 1

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NASIR MAZHAR OUTFITTING THE RESISTANCE

WORDS

HAIR

VINCENT LEVY

KOTA S U I Z U @ CA R E N

PHOTOGRAPHY

GROOMING

S A M B AY L I S S I B R A M

BUNNY GOODCHILD

STYLING

S T Y L I N G AS S I S TA N T

N A S I R M A Z H A R

C O R A D E L A N E Y

There’s always a palpable tension among editors attending Nasir Mazhar’s fashion shows. Each one sits waiting for the inevitable ground-throbbing bassline drop – the kind that’ll stop anyone tending their social media accounts on the sly dead in their tracks. These are sit-up-and-take-notice sounds designed to spark flashbacks to moments of strobefueled abandon, and they’ve been a trademark of Mazhar’s for some time now. In fact, since the Spring/Summer 2010 collection, in which guests were invited to a live DJ set in a tunnel filled with models, the relationship between his runway shows and their soundtracks has become increasingly symbiotic. While initially focused on headwear design, Mazhar’s vision has grown more complete through the years to include accessories and a full range of ready-to-wear, and along with it have his depictions of a no-holds-barred type of nightlife. Though urban in its attitude, Mazhar’s work is set apart from the spate of other young designers who’ve shown hip hop-inflected collections in recent years. While his clothing has been sported by stars ranging all the way from Erykah Badu to Chris Brown, his designs remain resolutely inspired by the music of his UK homeland. Growing up and going out in the East London suburb of Leytonstone during the UK Garage scene’s heyday, Mazhar followed the scene’s transformation from underground entity to chart-topping force, including its eventual lambasting by the media as something that somehow incited violence among its fans. In his North London studio, bathed in the glow

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of a MacBook screen littered with YouTube and SoundCloud windows, Mazhar describes the movement as one of the most significant elements of his personal history. “I’m not sure the first time I heard it, but I do remember me and my brother recording pirate radio with cassette tapes all the time. Then, when I was older, I’d go to the Cowley Arms, which had a garage night on till 2 a.m., and then onto Warehouse, which was literally on an industrial site off the A406 motorway. It’s difficult to pinpoint what it is that drew me into it all, but isn’t it always like that with the things you love? It isn’t any one thing.” Making its way to the masses via aerials illegally attached to the tops of council housing estates, garage had a working-class authenticity way stronger than punk but was never celebrated within the realms of art or high fashion in the same way. Rectifying this in some respects, Mazhar’s work is now strongly concerned with depicting the beauty of grime – a genre which, in its lyricism and electronic beats, carries much of garage’s legacy. The impressive roster of MCs who have played a part in his fashion shows testifies to this effect. “The first artist I worked with was Shystie” remembers the designer. “I’m not sure how we got in touch, but I couldn’t believe she was up for it,” he laughs suddenly, seemingly still awestruck. “The scene has opened up a bit now, but back then people seemed a bit scared of it. Not everyone gets that unapologetic, ‘well, fuck you’ thing, but I always have.”


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Mazhar’s most notable grime collaborator to date is veteran of the scene, Skepta, with whom he cocreated a show-specific soundtrack and after-party for Spring/Summer 2015. The show opened with a remix of Blood Orange’s “Highstreet” featuring Skepta, a song that holds deep appeal for the designer. “It’s about a young man you can easily picture. He wants to be good, but comes from an environment that’s seen as troubled. There’s some quite specific information in there that only certain people will get, but it’s told in a way that’s beautiful and heartfelt, so really anyone should be able to understand it. It’s a story that’s being told well, and is believable and I suppose that’s what I want to do with my work. I want all kinds of people to engage with what I do, but I also want to represent my experience.” As part of their collaboration, Mazhar and Skepta co-designed the hooded Rdman jacket. With a zipper that fastens high enough to only reveal the eyes, wearers of the Rdman cut an intimidating figure. Its threatening energy immediately recalls

Mazhar’s first forays into fashion, creating one-off works of wearable art for fashion editorials. Specifically, a muzzle-style mask composed of expensive sports shoes used by stylist Nicola Formichetti for a story in AnOther Man back in 2006. This was around the time the term “chav” – demonizing portions of the British working class with a designer label-clad caricature – was still being freely bandied around. Although Mazhar denies that this work contained any deliberate sociopolitical statement, he does concede that within the context of this shoot, which features looming high rises, “there are maybe a few questions being asked.” Much like punk, this confrontational aesthetic developed in the designer’s collections plays up to the preconceived notion of a marginalized group. A look that says think twice before you “hug a hoodie” (a phrase attributed to Prime Minister David Cameron in a botched attempt to break down stigma surrounding the nation’s youth).

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I understand that these kind of pieces were originally intended for track and field, but they’ve now developed into something totally different. I think calling them tracksuits almost undermines what we do.

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Having explored the idea that “the brands we used to wear were never really intended for us,” Mazhar has gradually developed a language of his own that finds a solution to the issue. The focus of his collections now falls on establishing an aspirational brand that can fill the void. If Skepta’s song “That’s Not Me” – in which he spits, “Yeah, I used to wear Gucci/Put it all in the bin cause that’s not me” – is anything to go by, it’s something the scene has been crying out for. Resisting garage’s longstanding tradition of wearing the flashiest offerings from European fashion houses, grime seems ready to be outfitted by a label that genuinely expresses elements of its identity. As if to cement the foundations of his brand, Mazhar has moved away from strong themes for his collections. Instead, each new show offers variations on an established set of styles, all aimed at reinforcing overall brand identity. This allows his loyal customer base to identify their favorites and continue buying into the label in a uniform way. You don’t have to look too far to find the root of this concept, as Mazhar takes the same approach to dressing himself. “I do wear a lot of my own work,” he explains. “I tend to stick with the sweaters, trousers, and jackets and update them each season. I’d like to wear a lot of the newer stuff at the moment, but I’m trainer-less,” he laughs, pointing down to a pair that look just less than box fresh. “I have to wait till I have some new ones because when you wear brand new clothes with old trainers, it looks like you’ve just got your pay check.” This careful kind of pride in appearance was injected into Mazhar’s latest collection for Fall/Winter 2015, which presented “the wardrobe essentials of a man relentlessly obsessed with looking fresh.”

Signaling a conscious effort to design beyond the realms of straightforward club wear, this latest collection considered the gaps left in the Mazhar man’s wardrobe by a succession of past “look-atme” collections. While the boldness of branding was dialed down and the collection’s palette rooted in blacks and midnight blues, the approach should by no means be considered simple or everyday in its thinking. The description of “tracksuits” that’s still often used by journalists describing Mazhar’s designs, does little to defend this. “It’s just an outdated term,” he says with obvious frustration. “I understand that these kind of pieces were originally intended for track and field, but they’ve now developed into something totally different. I think calling them tracksuits almost undermines what we do.” Further evading definition, Mazhar’s recent collections have strayed further and further away from standard sportswear-inspired shapes. Most significant has been the introduction of a “sculpted” jacket intended as a piece of occasion wear – “something you’d wear to look a little smarter. Maybe to a wedding,” he says. Removed from the context of this show, the close-fitting design, which accentuates a v-shape torso, actually has more in common with the work of Antony Price or Thierry Mugler than anything that’s ever been produced by Nike or adidas. Though less obviously, other garments have also adopted a slimmer cut. Mazhar explains that “it’s only subtle, but it’s still important for us to change things up in this way. It’s a look that people have taken well to. It just sort of makes sense.”

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I’m definitely interested in the idea of inviting people into a world they’ll want to belong to. People say there are no scenes anymore, but I’m not sure that’s true. Things are probably just a bit more tangled now, as everyone is so connected.

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Reinforcing the message that Mazhar’s ideal customer is always at the forefront of his vision, his runway shows have become increasingly street-cast affairs, favoring bonafide fans of the brand. The backstage areas of menswear shows are rarely filled with models that feel a real affinity to the clothes they’ll be sporting, but the fact is always obvious in Mazhar’s. Beyond the models that will arrive for their call time in full looks from previous seasons, the amount of selfie taking that goes on is the clearest testimony. It’s a party atmosphere that’s invariably followed by actual partying, as in Spring/ Summer 2015 when outfits were deliberately kept on for post-show celebrations. “It definitely makes a difference when you see them out there (on the runway),” explains Mazhar. “They should feel as

I’ve used in other shows that I’ll continue to use. Some I’ve met randomly on nights out, some are musicians, some just friends of friends. We started using Jay and Jerome a while back and they’re both signed now, but they always make sure their agencies have freed them up for the show. They’re almost like family actually.” From the endless inspiration he finds in the “togetherness of clubbing,” to the blurring of work and play in his music-filled-home-cum-studio, the notion of family seems integral to Mazhar’s practice. “I suppose there’s a reason the company is officially registered as Family Mazhar,” he agrees. “I’m definitely interested in the idea of inviting people into a world they’ll want to belong to. People say there are no scenes anymore, but I’m not sure that’s

good as when they’ve just gotten ready for a night out, because if they like the clothes they’re wearing they’ll naturally model them better.” While Fall/Winter 2015 saw the most open casting call to date, attracting international attention with an invitation for would-be models to submit photos via Instagram, a small contingent of familiar faces was also in place. “There’s a few guys that

true. Things are probably just a bit more tangled now, as everyone is so connected. Maybe that’s a good thing. If I hadn’t been lucky and found something so inspiring by chance, just listening in on the radio, I’d be out there looking for it. The search is a little easier these days, but that doesn’t make what you find in the end any less important.”

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#ROYALRYDERZ PHOTOGRAPHY SAM HISCOX STYLING NAZ & KUSI (TZARKUSI) HAIR ANTONIO DE LUCA MAKE-UP ADAM DE CRUZ MODEL JESTER @ SELECT — ( R OYA L RY D E R Z ) @ONEWHEELWAVEY @BIKELIFE_T

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GOSHA RUBCHINSKIY CULTURE CLASH

Youth culture is all the rage these days. As streetwear becomes more and more accepted among the upper echelons of high fashion’s elite, those designers harking back to their misspent youths find themselves in the perverse situation of being considered today’s most relevant designers. While Raf Simons will forever be drawing inspiration from a fantasy of rebellious adolescence, and Shayne Oliver’s Hood By Air channels the spirit of a tribe of self-determined outcasts and nonconformists, Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy portrays youth with a more pragmatic approach. First a photographer renowned for his gritty, candid portraits of Russia’s skate kids, Rubchinskiy’s eclectic juxtaposition of styles and subcultural influences reflects the volatile tastes of a generation coming of age in the ever-changing era of Instagram and Tumblr. Since his debut collection in 2008, Gosha has channeled everything from Black Metal to classic skate iconography in his streetwear-inspired collections, all while remaining staunchly proud of his Russian roots. Now stocked in some of the world’s most discerning boutiques – from Tokyo’s United Arrows to Paris’s colette – and with production carried out under the expert eye of COMME des GARÇONS, the designer has simultaneously wooed both high fashion and streetwear worlds with his alluring and individual riff on youth cultures and their uniforms. “The ’80s had their own sub-cultures, as did the ’90s… the borders were much more rigid,” he speaks. “If you were a metalhead, you were metalhead all the way. If you were into hip hop, you stuck with that. Now there don’t seem to be any real subcultures.” Today, youths across the globe are simultaneously blessed and cursed with what Gosha calls “fast changing priorities and interests,” digesting a plethora of influences simultaneously via the Internet. Take Tolya, one of Moscow’s skate kids who has worked with Rubchinskiy since he was 14. “It’s fascinating to me to see how he has developed over time,” Gosha describes. “In the beginning he was into hip hop. Later he moved to punk, and now he is traveling around the world, doing the Supreme thing.” Rubchinskiy’s own formative years were spent in a similarly temperamental era: the cultural revolution that gripped Russia at the end of the Cold War. “After the fall of Soviet power, Muscovites started to demand Western culture: new clubs, new music, new drugs, new everything. It was crazy because it came so suddenly,” he says of the East-meets-West melting pot that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Russians had their own culture to build on from the ’80s, but with the sudden addition of Western influences. You had all these new independent magazines, like Om and Ne Spat… I loved that mix of everything.”

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This upheaval has obviously made its mark, and Rubchinskiy’s fondness for his motherland is paired with a broadly cosmopolitan cultural lens; Spring/Summer 2015 merged the iconography of Severodvinsk’s Pomors with Vans Slip-Ons and primitive drawings depicting urban myths of aliens landing in Siberia. Fall/Winter 2015, on the other hand, clashes the colorful flamboyance of Italy’s fashionloving Paninaro kids with the intimidating uniform of the now-outlawed National Bolshevik party. The show took place in the serene environs of a Parisian Protestant church. “This is a peaceful message. That’s why the boys walked under the Chi-Rho symbol for Christ,” he elaborates. “I wanted to show how all these various influences can inhabit the mind of a teenager in the information age,” he says of the season’s innocent, almost naive collision of influences. When asked about how his nationality influences his collections, the designer jests “I want to speak internationally but with a Russian accent.” As figuratively as that was intended, you can hear this accent everywhere in his collections – if you know where to look. Socks are pulled over trousers in tribute to Russia’s troublemaking Gopnik youths; fur-lined coats are left raw and unfinished, like the rugged jackets favored by Russia’s working classes; boxy cuts of washed denim hark back to the ’80s, when the fabric was so coveted it had to be smuggled in from the West. Nevertheless, the Russian’s national pride is kept under tasteful control, manifesting itself in subtle winks and nods throughout his collections rather than brash proclamations of patriotism. “We want everyone around the world to understand us but we want to remain interesting as well,” he says of his crew of collaborators and subjects. Take Rubchinskiy’s upcoming collaboration with Vans, an icon of American skate culture. Rather than overtly brand the sneakers or rehash existing motifs from his mainline, the upcoming Fall/Winter 2015 high-tops simply pay tribute to ’80s skatewear. “Nothing Russian,” he quips. The parallels between Rubchinskiy’s work and those of legendary Japanese labels like WTAPS and NEIGHBORHOOD are plain to see: they have similarly embraced Western culture whilst staying true to their national heritage. While those aforementioned Tokyo icons welcomed American cultural imports with open arms, executing their collections with typical Japanese craftsmanship and eye for detail, Gosha adds Russian idiosyncratic cues to otherwise familiar motifs. “When things come to Russia, we make them our own. We use them in our own way,” he describes. “You see a mutation of sorts when it comes to sub-cultures. I wanted to show how the Russian youth had adapted these influences to make them their own… In the ’00s you saw skaters combining metal and hip hop with Gopnik culture. Sportswear was the common element for these kids, so they tried to make it original. The pants in socks thing that you see in my collection was inspired by that.”

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Now many of them are interested in the Soviet ’80s, rediscovering the music from that time… They try to look like kids did before there was a Western influence on clothes. Now they have everything, so they copy the poor Soviet style…Soviet Normcore!

This open cultural door is not just limited to fashion: the talented Muscovite paints a vivid picture of his hometown’s thriving underground scene of designers, musicians and partygoers, defying the stereotype of their nation as a bleak, unforgiving place. “There’s a blossoming techno scene here, inspired by the early ’90s Detroit and Berlin scenes… It’s very DIY – they use some very weird electronic instruments.” And, of course, Gosha’s much beloved skate kids are changing all the time, too. “Now many of them are interested in the Soviet ’80s, rediscovering the music from that time… They try to look like kids did before there was a Western influence on clothes. Now they have everything, so they copy the poor Soviet style… Soviet normcore!” It’s this collision of influences inhabiting Gosha’s collections that makes him so fascinating as a designer, where the familiar streetwear language of graphic tees, sportswear and sneakers is spoken in a distinctly Russian voice. It’s not just the Cyrillic lettering that appears alien to the Western viewer; the socks over trousers, the acidsplattered jeans, the patchwork furs, and the awkwardly clashing colors all add an unfamiliar allure to a label that shines light on a diverse, countercultural aspect of Russia beyond the West’s clichés of fallen Communism, inhospitable winter and billionaire oligarchs. So what does the future hold for Gosha Rubchinskiy? More collections – of course – but more photography too. Later in the year, he will be venturing to Krasnoyarsk in Sibera, returning to his eternal muse: Russia’s community of skate rats. Gosha will no doubt be seen by many as the great white hope of Russian fashion, but his unassuming demeanor is characteristic of a man of few words – one who prefers to let his work speak for him. When asked if he finds his nationality a help or hindrance when working on the global fashion stage, he simply replies “I stay true to my roots. I love living in Russia, and it’s very inspiring to me… I want to show what’s happening in Moscow, because that’s what interests me.” We think it’s safe to say it interests a lot of other people right now too.

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WORDS DOUGLAS BRUNDAGE PHOTOGRAPHY ROBERT WUNSCH

Hip hop started as an East Coast sound. Since its inception, the genre has given rise to infamous beefs over regional supremacy, the establishment of California as its own bastion, and the creation of new sounds in the American South. From the socially conscious rap of Public Enemy to the lush production of Kanye West, hip hop has flourished and grown all over the United States. The influence of American MCs has spread across the globe so that kids now rap in places as far flung as Azerbaijan and Zanzibar. Simply put, in the last 25 years hip hop culture became close to synonymous with popular culture. Nevertheless, the glory belongs to New York, the genre’s birthplace. Hip hop is as intrinsic to New York as jazz is to New Orleans, or the blues is to Mississippi. It’s one weapon in the Big Apple’s arsenal of soft power that permeates every corner of the planet. Hip hop’s NYcentric origins might also be the only thing that the living members of the Wu-Tang Clan would agree on. That, and the fact that money changes everything. Hip hop was the result of an unlikely revolution. It was the late 1970s, and amateur DJs had risen to prominence on the glitter and sweat-stained coattails of disco. At the same time the American Dream was hitting a wall with rampant stagnation leading to a crippling financial crisis. New York was not spared. The city was also gripped with terror by the Son of Sam, a revolver-wielding serial killer who claimed to take orders from his Brooklyn neighbor’s demon-possessed dog. In that loaded atmosphere all it would take to ignite the city was a spark, and in the blistering summer of 1977 lightning struck. Literally. The proverbial bolt struck a substation on the Hudson, two circuit breakers tripped, and ConEd’s grid shut down, leading to a devastating blackout. As the already oppressive atmosphere hung over the five boroughs the lights went out, fans stopped spinning, and the Bronx began to burn. Looting proliferated, with over 50 Pontiacs stolen from a single dealership. Grandmaster Caz would later recall fellow rappers taking advantage of the chaos to lift high-tech mixing boards from premium technology retailers. “After the blackout, all this new wealth was found by people, and… opportunity sprang from that,” he told Slate some years later. “You could see the differences before the blackout and after.” Disco might have been dead but something boisterous and new was preparing to seize the throne. In subsequent years, as drum machines and turntables became smaller, cheaper and more advanced, block parties from the Bronx to Harlem, Brooklyn to Queens became bigger. Burgeoning producers slowed down soul and R&B tracks to create symmetric beats that aspiring MCs could spit rhymes over. Rhyming quickly developed into 178

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rapping, an all-out attempt to best one another in terms of cadence, creativity and substance. These young street poets wrote of the struggles of life while boasting of their own inherent talent. Studios did not wait long to capitalize on the newest offering from the streets – Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 track “Rapper’s Delight” is considered by musical scholars to be the first-ever official hip hop record. It sounds far from threatening. Over the course of the next 20 years hip hop would garner an unshakeable reputation for seditious malice that has inspired waves of hysteria ever since, epitomized by Tipper Gore’s declaration of war against the genre. Her Parents Music Resource Center’s claim that rap music provokes violence, glorifies criminality, endorses drug use, promotes disrespect towards women, and corrupts the youth still finds advocates on both sides of the aisle. How did a whimsical neighborhood art form, steeped though it was in the city’s history of racial tension, become the voice of a nation, and public enemy #1 of the white establishment? Artists like Ice-T and N.W.A certainly helped lay the foundation for hip hop’s evolution from its comparatively innocent origins to gangster rap, but the real answer stems from one perpetually forgotten corner of New York City. Staten Island is the ghost borough. A specter of a town floating off the New York Bay. Abrasive accents. No subway service. Regional cuisine consists of pizza that isn’t as good as Brooklyn’s, and Italian that isn’t as good as Jersey’s. It is home to what was once the world’s largest landfill. In 1993 the island, along with its Stapleton Projects, was an afterthought to most New Yorkers, and virtually nonexistent to those living outside the city. The Wu-Tang Clan changed that. In the early 1990s the concept of a hip hop crew was nothing new, and many had already achieved success as a group. Most of them operated like rock bands – they consisted of clear stars and doomed losers. The Wu-Tang Clan set out to change that. Although innovation is a buzzword of monumental over-use, and has become almost meaningless in today’s vernacular, it lays at the core of the Wu-Tang Clan’s success in 1993. A confederation of nine rappers, some of whom were close and some of whom had never met before, the Clan chose Staten Island for a home. The whole was anchored by control freak, musical genius and marketer-extraordinaire RZA. Under his guidance the Wu-Tang Clan eschewed the traditional musical group model by seeking to create the most powerful debut album possible, and then spinning off nine equally dominant solo albums. A plan was drawn up, and a home base established: Staten Island became Shaolin.


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It is nearly impossible to discuss the Wu without delving into the extensive and varied mythology of 1980s exploitation cinema, especially kung fu movies. If the word Wudang described a style of fighting before, through rap it came to symbolize a lifestyle that encompasses everything from chessplay to racketeering. Although not all members were born and raised in Staten Island, they all recognized the borough’s isolation as an untapped resource. Their adopted home reminded the crew of the intentionally remote Shaolin Monastery – a legendary martial arts hub and Buddhist spiritual site, nestled in the mountainous forests of China’s fog-covered Henan province. Like the monks of old, the Clan sought to create “an artistic and financial community.” In many ways they succeeded. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Genius (GZA) and RZA linked up to form the group’s progenitor FOI: Force of the Imperial Master. Soon the rest of the crew followed, the name was changed, and an album was recorded. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was a tremendous success despite the fact that none of the participants knew how, or even if their verses would be incorporated into the master production. RZA furtively controlled the entire project, a habit that would lead to ever more mainstream fans beginning to worship at the Abbot’s church of minimal samples, rumbling instrumentation and hardcore hip hop beats. Subsequent solo efforts Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (1994), Tical (1994) and Liquid Swords (1995) solidified the group’s cultural power, while less high-profile members managed to run with the pack, even if some of them never stood out like Ghostface Killah. By 1998 one member had begun to gain attention for reasons unrelated to music. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who had become the unofficial mascot for the Wu-Tang Clan began to cycle through a pattern of increasingly bizarre behavior. Long before Kanye West crashed an awards ceremony, ODB interrupted Shawn Colvin’s acceptance speech at the Grammy’s in order to proclaim that his group should have won the award for Best Rap Album. Like Kanye, he might have been right but reception to his outburst was, as in the aftermath of Kanye’s outburst, overwhelmingly negative. After the incident, he changed his name to Big Baby Jesus, was shot during a home invasion of his girlfriend’s Brooklyn house, and was arrested for failing to pay child support for three of his 13 children. Soon thereafter, The Bastard came under scrutiny for drug possession, involvement in weapons dealing, and threats of domestic terrorism. In 1999, NYPD officers fired eight shots at ODB who was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Later that year he was arrested for possession of crack cocaine. While a fugitive from a court-mandated drug treatment facility, he met up with RZA for a quick recording session, and appeared on-stage at Hammerstein Ballroom for the Clan’s third studio album launch party. He was finally apprehended in Philadelphia, while signing autographs outside of a McDonald’s. It was confirmed in 2012 that the FBI had kept an enormous file on ODB. The U.S. government claimed that the rapper had been involved in murder plots, had laundered money through Wu-Tang’s

record label, and had maintained ties to the Bloods. The Wu’s Golden Age ended in 2004, over a decade after their debut, when their beloved, eccentric, and supremely talented core member died from an overdose of cocaine and tramadol at the age of 36. Fast-forward 10 years to Highline Stages. Today’s shoot takes place on an unseasonably warm winter day in the ultra-fashionable no-man’s land between Manhattan’s Chelsea and Meatpacking districts. The Wu-Tang Clan has agreed to gather today to film the video for “Ruckus in B-Minor,” the opening song on their new album. By noon, none have appeared. PR professionals, editors, photographers and industry executives scurry around the set nervously. Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, and GZA are not confirmed to appear but there is chatter that they might show up anyway. Craft services has ran out of mini-quiche. Masta Killa is the first to show up, an imposing yet jovial figure, comically schlepping a small travel bag behind him. Soon some of the others shuffle in – U-God, Cappadonna and Inspectah Deck. RZA is purportedly on set but has entered as covertly as one of the ninjas he so frequently references. His presence is felt rather than seen. Rumor has it that RZA has once again fallen into discord with Raekwon after a very public reconciliation. He would later tell The New Yorker that Raekwon considered him “a hip hop hippie with a guitar.” Nobody seems to know whether any other members of the group will appear. As it turns out, they won’t. Still, for several hours we wait. The set inverts the standard of what a hip hop music video set looks like in most pop culture depictions. No video vixens scurry about, and no decadent demands are made. Nobody drinks or smokes. There’s barely any talking. Chinese takeout arrives for the rappers. What light there is remains dimmed, enshrouding the studio in a calming obsidian glow. Cellphone reception is poor. The crew whispers, reviews notes or simply waits in Zen-like reflection. In contrast, the Wu-Tang Clan has plenty to say. Sometimes considered marginal, Cappadonna and U-God represent the hardworking heart of the Wu, and provide some of the most insightful commentary on the trajectory of hip hop’s first super group. When asked what inspired their inception, answers were as authentic as hoped for. “I grew up when the shit started.” U-God recalls. “I caught The Cold Crush [Brothers], [DJ Grand Wizzard] Theodore and the Fantastic 5, Busy Bee Starski. All the old stuff I could pull up on YouTube right now.” The style and realities of the hip hop world have changed drastically. “It wasn’t always about rhyming. The culture was breakdancing, B-boys, trying to get down with a graffiti crew. Your shoelaces was tied a certain way, you wore your PUMAs a certain way, you rocked your Kangol, your Gazelles was on… To wear a gold chain back then you had to be knockout artist or a stone-cold gangster to not be fucked with. Times were different.” When asked about the current state of affairs in New York and hip hop, U-God is characteristically blunt. W U -TA N G C L A N

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“This is like Walt Disneyland. Super soft. Even the hard motherfuckers are soft. Right now, kids are quick to shoot. Back then we’d fight that shit out. These kids don’t know how to fight. They don’t know how to move. And if they do fight, and they lose, they’re going to grab their gun. We used to have to deal with a loss. I had to deal with losses… Our lyrics are different [too]. We don’t just talk about bitches and hoes. We talked about real shit.” At this point U-God embarks on an impromptu rendition of his “Impossible” verse: “United Nations, gun fire style patient,
 Formulatin’ rap plural acapella occupation,
 Conquer land like Napoleon, military bomb fest,
 We want sanitary food, planetary conquest,
 Thug peoples on some hardcore body shit,
 Get your shit together ’fore the fuck Illuminati hit,
 Dreams is free in escape of sleep,
 For a fool peep jewels, keep tools for tough time, The rule of rough mind, elevate, stay behind,
 The sun gotta shine, keep on, cremate,
 the whole Babylon, times up, move on,
 Kings on your pawn, checkmate, no fakes…” Cappadonna, head wrapped in a traditional keffiyeh, is equally nostalgic about the Wu-Tang Clan’s beginnings. “At the start of Wu-Tang, I was wondering who was gonna be the next rapper. It’s amazing how it happened to be my neighborhood. Who would’ve ever thought? I had no idea that I would be on ‘Winter Warz’ and ‘Ice Cream’ and all of this Purple Tape stuff [the Purple Tape is a street name for Raekwon’s Only Built for Cuban Linx…, due to the original cassette’s uncharacteristic purple wrapping]. We’ve been in the rap game successfully for 20 years, and it’s worldwide now. They call it pop now. We’re like the Rolling Stones of hip hop. Hip hop started on the East Coast, in New York, and we’re the pioneers. We helped pave the way.” The path he helped pave has led to the meteoric rise of one-hit (viral video) wonders, and “Backpack Rap.” Unlike some of his group-mates who have prospered greatly from the popularity of rap in the Internet age, Cappadonna has stayed outside of the limelight. He remains more skeptical about the World Wide Web’s positive effects on music. “Life today has become desensitized. We put all of our trust, and all of our emotions into our computer. We don’t even come to see each other no more. The stuff that’s missing [in modern music] is the snap, crackle and pop. The shit that makes Rice Krispies Rice Krispies. The more accessible something becomes the more watered down it becomes. So you’re not really getting what was once an iconic thing to be able to obtain. To hear a Wu album was like the beginning of a new chapter in your life. Now, you can just download it. You don’t get that homegrown spirit.”

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For anyone who has kept their ears open in 2014, Cappadonna’s point becomes abundantly clear. The spirit of inspiration that imbued the Wu-Tang Clan with fire has largely dissipated. The act of creating music today is inherently data-driven, designed to garner downloads and radio plays, rather than feelings or actions. Nonetheless, U-God finds solace in an unexpected place. When confronted with the fact that the only album to go platinum in 2014 was Taylor Swift’s 1989, he responds with respect for the star. “She’s a lyricist. She’s a songwriter that touches. She has very good lyrics. And that’s what I’m talking about. Lyrics drive the [music] game. Not bullshit.” On that note we’re interrupted so that shooting can begin. Although RZA is not the official director of the clip, he intends to dictate its aesthetic. Drawing on his experience as a Hollywood filmmaker, he organizes every aspect of the shoot. He draws intense performances out of his co-members, reminiscent of their raw, emotional beginnings. Ironically, the lyrics of the song – no matter how impeccable the delivery – fall short. It’s worth noting that no popular rapper alive, from Jay Z to J. Cole, spits harder or writes more eloquently than U-God or RZA but times have changed. It’s a new dawn: Talk of inequality, martial law and segregation is interspersed with references to American Idol, The Mentalist, and The Big Bang Theory. A hodgepodge of cultural touch-points spews forth; some of the barbs are on point, while others miss their mark by a mile. Lines like “Youngin’ – I can see your drawers / Pull your pants up” are almost comically irrelevant in an age of drug dealers who rock skinny jeans. Still, after hearing “Ruckus in B-Minor” over and over again, one realizes that the Wu-Tang Clan, weathered and torn as they are, will always exist in the realm of poetry. “Ruckus” is certainly not the best track on A Better Tomorrow, the Wu’s first album in seven years. Played repeatedly it begins to build a deeper meaning, unlike many of today’s popular songs. Like a Zen kōan, listening to the Wu-Tang Clan can trigger a “Great Doubt” about the world’s state of affairs. This feeling is voiced on the track “Felt,” by the elusive Masta Killa who intones “The first time you heard Protect Ya Neck / The way you felt / Like no other hip hop record every made you felt.“ A Better Tomorrow is not the Wu-Tang Clan’s best album. It is, however, surprisingly cohesive, and a small miracle for getting finished in the first place. Perhaps it will stand, alongside D’Angelo’s surprise album Black Messiah, as a necessary salve for a nation that still suffers under tense racial, cultural and socioeconomic conditions. In the words of U-God, “They want to hear rhymes. And they’re not getting it.”

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KOBE BRYANT 24 FRAMES PER SECOND WORDS ALEC BANKS PHOTOGRAPHY NEIL BEDFORD

Everyone knows Father Time is undefeated; his winning streak has dismantled many a bodily temple once worshipped by millions. For most people, his effects are minor. Bones ‘crick’ and ‘crack,’ or it’s slightly harder to get out of that La-Z-Boy from which you’ve been playing armchair quarterback. But, for a professional athlete, the aging process can strip away not only a passion, but the life that surrounds it – corroding, eroding, and leaving nothing but box scores and eBay listings for old, game-worn jerseys. Kobe Bryant moves through Los Angeles’ Milk Studios with smile radiating, intermittent Nike Swooshes picked out on his dark clothing as he shakes hands and prepares for the day’s events. While a torn Achilles tendon and subsequent lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee back in 2013 revealed a fragility never before associated with the perennial All-Star, on this day, his inperson exuberance has reduced trained media professionals to hysterics. As he settles behind a table, with elbows resting and hands pressed together in prayer, those in attendance steal glances and snap sneaky iPhone shots as if their own eyes aren’t enough proof that he’s actually here. “I love storytelling,” he belts out without the need for a microphone. Camera shutters open and close with every change of his even-keeled demeanor. Nike’s Eric Avar, equal parts engineer and inventor, sits at his side. The design co-pilot and innovation consigliore has met nearly all of Kobe’s footwear demands throughout their long partnership together – even the infamous “going low” on a basketball shoe, a move considered by many pundits to be like attempting to play ice hockey without skates. We’re all here for the announcement of the KOBE X – a trifecta of innovation and further proof that behind every Nike product is a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s said that good storytelling boils down to equal parts tragedy and triumph, yet no one in attendance had any idea that the retina popping KOBE Xs might never be game worn, and

that we were days away from yet another play by old man Father Time. As of January 22, 2015, Kobe Bryant’s illustrious basketball career is in serious jeopardy after suffering a torn rotator cuff against the New Orleans Pelicans. While Bryant’s competitive spirit is well documented, seeing him have to revert to playing left handed in the fourth quarter following the injury felt like we were witnessing the beginning of the end. After the game he told fans, “I’ve played with a torn labrum, so I’m not too concerned.” But that’s Kobe. Before the season had even started he’d logged 45,225 minutes of play in his career. That means he could have circled the globe nearly 11 times during his actual time on court. When he was younger he always seemed to have another weapon he could call on in his personal arsenal – one that’s morphed from an above-the-rim practitioner as a teenage phenomenon, into what he has become with age. Something closer to the ground and altogether more deadly, like his moniker, the Black Mamba, might suggest. The miles were finally starting to catch up. On January 22, 2006, nine years earlier to the day, Kobe Bryant took a serious run at Wilt Chamberlain’s longstanding, almost unfathomable, single game record, which has stood since 1962. Bryant’s 81 points at the Staples Center remains the second highest tally in league history, behind Wilt’s 100. Still, it’s perhaps considered more impressive than Wilt the Stilt’s benchmark as it’s the highest scoring output ever recorded by televised media and Kobe outscored the Toronto Raptors 55-41 in the second half all by himself. When he checked out of the game with 4.2 seconds left on the clock holding a single, bandaged index finger overhead, it didn’t need any Hollywood theatrics or pyrotechnics to punctuate the moment. When he ponders the imagery, he gets quiet. It’s not a “fish story,” so there’s really no need to embellish. Rather, he chooses to bask in the precise and undistorted nature of the performance, letting that speak for itself.

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Whether you’re laying bricks or playing basketball, the rules are the same. It’s commitment. It’s attention to detail.

When the time came to launch the latest chapter in his signature shoe line, Avar and Bryant settled on a familiar strategy, albeit with an added twist. “There’s a simple formula that we try to achieve with all of our designs, and it’s not rocket science,” Avar says. He’s got the look of a high-level marathon runner, with a shaved head and taut facial muscles, who speaks slowly, as if each syllable is a part of some larger design. “It’s about finding the balance between science and art. And we’ve amended that. We’ve added this element of storytelling also. I think that’s also very important in design.” In the past, the duo have infused elements of storytelling onto products like the Zoom KOBE V, when Avar borrowed an idea from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (which Bryant was reading at the time) and generated a linear code that secretly spelled out the word “heart.” Kobe is eager to talk about the cohesiveness of their relationship. “He’s a psychopath [about] designing, as I am about basketball,” he says. “We speak the same language. His approach to design is my same approach to basketball.” In design, it’s easy to veer off course in an attempt to distinguish a product within a crowded sartorial sector, but Avar and Bryant refuse to chase trends. “We’re not fundamentally reinventing the wheel every time. Even if we go high to low, [back to] high [and] amplify some different technologies, [we] fundamentally want something low to the ground, lightweight and highly responsive. That’s been the performance architecture,” says Avar. Of course, that “high to low” thinking is perhaps the biggest risk of their design partnership. The KOBE IV, released in 2008, was Bryant and Avar’s most notable challenge to the basketball shoe status quo. Avar was tasked with creating “the lowest, lightest weight basketball shoe we can make.” Bryant cracked, “When I scored 60 points, everyone believed in this shit.” The transition to a lower silhouette was further vindicated when Bryant won the NBA title in a pair of equally low-cut KOBE Vs in 2010.

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“There are definitely moments of satisfaction,” Avar says. “Through the 12 years that I’ve worked with Kobe, it’s almost like you don’t have a second to look back. Sometimes you have to look backwards to move forwards in order to learn, but in terms of any real, deep satisfaction, there’s always this quest of ‘what could be’ and ‘what we can do better’ and ‘what’s next,’ and that’s always been the driving force with the Kobe process.” The KOBE X is the first shoe with both Nike Free technology and visible Air – a move that blends the three essential performance elements of hybrid cushioning, advanced traction, and a seamless textile upper. “Tinker Hatfield always says that good design should illicit somewhat of a “love/hate” response,” remarks Avar. “It should fundamentally take a risk, at times be provocative and at times make people uncomfortable. It’s generally then when you know you’re doing something [and] pushing the needle. That’s just intrinsic to Kobe. That’s what he wants to do. He’s challenged us time and time again through different products – and the X was no different. Normally we’ll have the technology and it’s ‘okay, this is a Zoom shoe, or this is a Free shoe, or this is a Lunar shoe.’ This is the notion of bringing the best elements together. At first, I think it made a few people uncomfortable, but that’s what we do. We listen to the voice of the athlete and we try and push the needle in terms of performance design.” Bryant is steadfast in his agreement. “The KOBE X is fun because the challenge was, ‘How do we take some of these amazing, game-changing technologies that are used to operating in an individual space and create a shoe where they talk to each other and work seamlessly with each other?’” As a sneaker enthusiast at heart, he points to the Jordan 11, Jordan 3, Air Trainer SC, Air Penny and Air Max 93 as being on his Mount Rushmore of basketball shoes. “Whether you’re laying bricks or playing basketball, the rules are the same. It’s commitment. It’s attention to detail,” Bryant says.


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For two men who express themselves in two different ways, it all comes down to finding out what drives them (besides the obvious). “When we come together, it’s just this culmination of a lot of points of inspiration,” Avar recalls, “There’s a lot of open conversation, and that’s traditionally been my relationship with Kobe. The very first meeting we ever had we talked about anything and everything but product, and everything but basketball – that was kinda unique. [We talked about] movies, other design industries, cars, all types of things. That’s generally how our meetings go. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent some extended periods of time with Kobe,” he continues. “One in particular was a deep-sea fishing trip that we went on off the Newport coast. It was almost a Stand By Me moment, with four kids hanging out on a boat – deep-sea fishing.” Avar outlines a game of one-upmanship between the two, with Bryant launching himself off various parts of the boat and into the water – getting higher and higher each time – and challenging Avar to do the same. I guess sometimes “getting your feet wet” and “making a splash” require the physical act. It seems only fitting that the original colorway for the KOBE X, dubbed “5AM Flight,” returns to the notion of storytelling as a point of inspiration and involves a leap of faith. Following his 2013 Achilles injury, Bryant launched himself off a 40-foot diving platform into a pool as a symbolic act to illustrate his commitment to overcome the odds and face fear head-on. As his career progresses, Bryant has been quick to point out what drives him both on and off the court. “I’ve become more transparent and more candid,” he says. “The product is an extension of myself.”

It’s that same sense of being candid that lends itself to Bryant’s evolution as a person. While his desire to be quicker and more explosive were on the checklist for the KOBE X, he also sought inspiration from outside sources. “Frank Lloyd Wright’s building ‘Fallingwater’ is something that really inspired me, because the building itself was put in a natural environment and built to fit perfectly with the environment that it’s in,” Bryant says. “It was unnatural in its creativity. But [Wright] didn’t try to resist the nature. He didn’t try to resist where the building was being placed. He worked in conjunction with it. That inspired me because at this stage in my career, players normally try to fight Father Time. I’m not in it to do that. I’d rather work in conjunction with it, and that building is something that inspired me.”

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There’s a great photo that Andy Bernstein captured when I was checking out of the game after scoring 81 points – walking out with my finger raised up. I think that pose is probably it.

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“I’ve been very lucky,” he continues. “To start playing the game at six. Those first passions are easy. I remember having a meeting with Giogio Armani when I was 20 and I was kinda asking him about how he started his company – and he started it at 40 – and that scared the shit out of me. I was expecting that if I played 19 or 20 years I’d be 36-37 [and think] ‘what the hell am I going to do then?!’ This guy built an empire at 40. So that really got me thinking ‘at that age, what am I going to do next?’ So I started trying different things. It took me 14 or 15 years to figure out what it really is. I love telling stories that move people and inspire people.” Despite Kobe’s initial reaction to his shoulder injury following the game, surgery followed soon after, as well as an announcement that his season was over. While no one believes that Bryant has plans on calling it a career, we’re a long way from the time when he could put up 81 points and leave with a single finger in the air, like some maestro leading an orchestra. Inevitably, there will be a tribute for Kobe outside the Staples Center, matching Michael Jordan’s The Spirit in front of Chicago’s United Center. A quote from the film,

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A River Runs Through It, accompanies Jordan’s piece, which reads, “At that moment I knew, surely and clearly, that I was witnessing perfection. He stood before us, suspended above the Earth, free from all its laws like a work of art, and I knew, just as surely and clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last.” Bryant seems comfortable acknowledging that an artistic tribute will accompany his retirement – whenever that may be. “There’s a great photo that Andy Bernstein captured when I was checking out of the game after scoring 81 points – walking out with my finger raised up. I think that pose is probably it.”


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ITINERANT

PHOTOGRAPHY NEIL BEDFORD

SET DESIGNER REBECCA HERNANDEZ

STYLING DAV I D H E L LQV I ST

S E T D E S I G N AS S I S TA N T JEMMA JAMIE SKIDMORE

GROOMING AIMEE HERSHAM

MODELS GEORGE @ PREMIER, LEWIS @ SUPA & TOM @ D1

P H OTO G R A P H Y AS S I S TA N T S JAMES PROCTOR & N I C K M AT T H E W S — S T Y L I N G AS S I S TA N T R YA N L E E RETOUCHING OLIVER CARVER

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PEACE, LOVE, EMPATHY. PHOTOGRAPHY

ANNA VICTORIA BEST STYLING

L U C I E L L I S HAIR & MAKE UP

DANIEL WUTZ GROOMING

AMY BRANDON @ LOV E LY M A N AG E M E N T P H OTO G R A P H Y AS S I S TA N T

DAN DOUGLAS CASTING

REBECCA KNOX MODEL

JAKE L @ T O M O R R O W I S A N O T H E R DAY

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KOMAKINO SPRING / SUMMER 201 5

HIGH TECH LOW LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

V I TA L I G E LW I C H STYLING

MARC GOEHRING HAIR & MAKE UP

DANIEL WUTZ MODEL

RINGO LUKAS

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HARDY BLECHMAN THE PACIFIST REBEL

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PAUL BL ACK PHOTOGRAPHY

JON MORTIMER

Writing a clear introduction about a man who is part accidental fashion designer, part avid collector, part historian, part author, part documentary filmmaker and part rebel with a pacifist cause is not an easy task. His name is Hardy Blechman, founder and creative director of maharishi. I consider him a friend. Hardy and I met in London while I was researching a piece on technofabrics for Issue 8 of this publication. We quickly discovered we have a lot in common: Not only do we share a mutual friend who sadly passed too young, we’re born a year apart, in the same place, and have both grown up with the notion that wearing military is one of the best ways to make a strong pacifist statement. From our first conversation, it was obvious that Hardy is a studied font of knowledge when it comes to technofabrics, “disruptive pattern material” (otherwise known as camouflage), the origins of military in streetwear, and its overall impact on fashion design. When I told him the theme of this issue was “Rebels and Revolutionaries” he pointed me to one of the greatest living visionaries under that banner, William Gibson. Gibson was the author of Neuromancer, a debut novel published in 1984 that birthed the subgenre of science fiction known as “cyberpunk.” Conversing over email, Hardy tipped his hat to the man: “I guess camo is now officially the new plaid (thanks William Gibson), or the new check.” Intrigued, I dug a little further. Plaid originated in the Highlands of Scotland, entirely military and tribal in its function. It was originally a marshal fabric, worn around the waist as a kilt, that has since become plaid as we know it today – something that speaks of civility and elegance. But what is civilized and elegant about a blood-splattered male skirt? Plaid was worn to

battle, to kill, not in any polite or tidy manner. “And now we’ve turned camo into the future’s plaid,” says Gibson. Hardy goes on to explain further: “This happened as a direct result of rebel subcultures adopting camo (’60s Vietnam Vets Against War, ’70s skins and punks, ’80s hip hop). Rebels to streetwear, streetwear to runway… the cycle completes in around 20 years. Rebels make the mainstream. Will camo become so mainstream that we need to rebel and stop wearing it?” It’s an interesting cycle, considering the historical origins of militarywear as a symbol of nobility. Hardy explains: “The common man was turned onto elegance by the military uniform, the promise of nobility, a tailored suit that made you look (and feel) noble. Not to mention, red fabric was otherwise impossible for the peasants to achieve in their own garb.” Has camo become a new kind of nobility? maharishi is on the runway, after all… All this talk of camo brings us to “part author.” In 2004, Hardy published a 720-page encyclopedic art book called DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material), into which almost seven years of his fastidious research was poured, charting the history of camouflage from its roots in nature to its development by post-Cubist artists, its adoption by the military, and onto its current explosion of popularity within modern civilian culture. The 224-page supplementary book, DPM: Military Camouflage Patterns of the World, includes a comprehensive historical guide to the camouflage patterns issued by 107 nations around the world. With a strong anti-war sentiment throughout, it also charts and thoroughly documents the rise of camo outside of the armed forces, instead placing emphasis on camo’s natural and artistic beauty. HARDY BLECHMAN

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The premise was to create clothes with an absolute requirement for utility and function. They had to be useful, not just pretty... It started as an adaptation of everything I was wearing and all the stuff I was interested in, and it continues like that through everything I lay my hands on. It’s not for me, it’s not for you; it’s for you and me.

The books themselves (dressed in the British Bonsai camouflage pattern) are dated in five calendar years – Chinese year of the Wood Monkey, AD 2004 Georgian, 5764 Jewish, 1425 Islamic and 2061 Hindu Vikram Lunar – and contain an almost unfathomable collection of facts and images on this one subject. It’s beyond geek and could only come from a man who is “part collector.” Hardy’s parents were antique dealers, and he caught the collecting bug at age three with rare stamp collections that people discarded in estate sales. There were coins, postcards, medals, medallions. He enjoyed cataloging. It consumed him. As a collector myself, I know the value of having multiples of things, exploring the nuances, the details, creating collections that resound as universal representations of particular facets of our existence. As Hardy got older, the collecting turned to LPs (of course), military parkas (he has over 500 in his archives) and Asian swastikas. Swastikas? But he’s Jewish. “Yeah, but that negative association is just one little piece of that puzzle. The swastika is a sacred and auspicious symbol, a lucky charm. I’m a pacifist,” he elucidates. “Whilst it wasn’t clear back in ’94 when I started maharishi, we can now clearly appreciate that the symbolic value of camouflage really has dramatically changed in just 20 years. Whilst in truth camouflage has always been owned by natural historians and artists, it appeared that the military had taken over. That balance really has changed and will continue to. I see the symbolic values of the symbol of the swastika, or the country Vietnam, as having suffered a similar fate to the camouflage pattern – they originally represented good, yet became distorted in the 20th century through a well-documented association with war. If we celebrate these things outside the context of war for long enough, they will regain their former positive reputations.”

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Born in West London in the late ’60s, Hardy grew up switched-on, with the pulse and soul of the golden era of English dub reggae, the throbbing Notting Hill Carnival soundsystem (when it was still edgy and kind of sketchy to be there after dark), Thatcher, poll-tax riots, punk rock, collectible colored vinyl LPs, and the real explosion of the military and industrial clothing surplus trade. This is where his collecting passion really turned him into the man who was named Streetwear Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council in 2000. What started with a uniform collection, produced almost on a whim, and an alchemic mash-up of utility and attention to detail, led to the famous Snopants (copied ad nauseam) with those fantastic embroidered dragons up the back of the legs. It was Blechman’s appreciation for longevity, however, that pushed the brand on to where it is today, singling it out from the swathes of watered-down, celebrity-endorsed garb that feels obsolete after just one season. “The premise was to create clothes with an absolute requirement for utility and function. They had to be useful, not just pretty,” he explains. “It started as an adaptation of everything I was wearing and all the stuff I was interested in, and it continues like that through everything I lay my hands on. It’s not for me, it’s not for you; it’s for you and me.” As is so often the case with maharishi, when you choose the right pieces, it feels like Hardy Blechman made them especially for you. That’s his special gift: making that connection. maharishi is not cheap, but these days it seems a snip compared to some of the other stuff that populates the market – a market where quality and price are no longer relative measures you can rely upon. Perhaps the maharishi price point can best be summed up by the old Bill Blass adage, “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.” I ask Hardy if he agrees. He smiles.


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I had a responsibility to exploit the vehicle that is maharishi to inspire positive change in the industry – whether that was through the use of natural fibers like hemp, pushing for the change in the symbolic value of camouflage or ensuring that the desire to wear utilitarian and durable clothing was entirely disassociated from any celebration of, or even acceptance of, the military machine.

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“At the outset, or at least since it became clear that I had any voice, I decided I had a responsibility to exploit the vehicle that is maharishi to inspire positive change in the industry – whether that was through the use of natural fibers like hemp, pushing for the change in the symbolic value of camouflage or ensuring that the desire to wear utilitarian and durable clothing was entirely disassociated from any celebration of, or even acceptance of, the military machine.” So what about “part documentary filmmaker?” It’s a small piece of the Blechman puzzle, but worth a mention. A couple of years ago Hardy made a short documentary at the behest of (Blur lead singer) Damon Albarn in Kinchasa, capitol of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project was part of Albarn’s DRC Music initiative to produce an album for Oxfam, in which 11 different producers made an album with dozens of Congolese musicians in just seven days. Hardy also took care of the artwork, along with conceptual menswear designer Aitor Throup. “I met Damon through my brother-in-law (Richard Russell) who had been on previous Africa Express missions and was co-producing the Bobby Womack album with Damon (and a couple of years later produced [Albarn’s] first solo album, Everyday Robots). Being invited to direct a couple of short films was all good, until I discovered the Oxfam budgets demanded I also handled the filming too! It’s challenging and interesting to get out of your comfort zone.” The (very decent) results can be found on YouTube. But that’s not where the Blechman side projects end. Last month he did a project with dub legend Lee Scratch Perry for release early 2015. He recently collaborated with Undefeated and adidas. He has

designed camouflage patterns for Nike, The North Face, Penfield, Quiksilver and more. He’s a family man. He’s often at the factory that he established in India back in 1994 in order to ensure a consistent high level of quality and make manifest his mantra “Respect Nature. Utilise Technology.” He’s more in-demand than ever. He’s still regarded as King Hardy to many streetwear enthusiasts. Rebel? Revolutionary? I’d say so. A kid from the punk era, no stranger to hedonism, no time for fools, frank and honest, warm and giving, knows what he wants, always willing to struggle to find it. His clothes remain totally original, just like they were in ’94, and maybe, just maybe, his 20-year friendship with Camilla Arthur (who basically invented “street casting”) had something to do with his knack for capturing the zeitgeist. He didn’t invent streetwear; that started back in the ’70s and ’80s with names like Shawn Stussy, Ruslan Karablin, Eli Bonerz, Adam Silverman and Dame Vivienne Westwood. But Hardy is a founding member of the ’90s streetwear crew, with James Jebbia, Shinsuke Takizawa, Keith Hufnagel, Fiberops and the like. He’s cool, sharp, focused, generous and encyclopedic-smart – a creative, intuitive, yogi spirit. A dude. A rebel with a cause. Nice, man. When the (pacifist) revolution comes you’ll probably want to wear something useful. It should look fly. It should have soul woven into its very fabric. It should have a message. For all these things, look no further than maharishi by Hardy Blechman. — Dedicated to the memory of our friend Chris Landoni.

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When describing what makes Cape Town one of the more unique travel destinations in South Africa, conversation usually begins with the locales it most resembles – its hilly, windy roads are compared to San Francisco; its beachlined Atlantic seaboard to Big Sur; its downtown City Bowl to Los Angeles; its mountainous terrain to Colorado. It is true, in a day’s time you can take breakfast in the City Bowl, drive up to Table Mountain for an expansive view, ride down to the beaches of Camps Bay, or head to Cape Point – one of the southeastern most points on the African continent – while enjoying the vineyards along the hour’s drive. Even with all its natural allure, Cape Town is much more than its diverse landscape. It is a multicultural city that opens its arms to travelers, and one that promises to keep visitors in awe of everything and everyone. This travel journal guides you through some of our favorite stops along the way.

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J E F F CA RVA L H O PHOTOGRAPHY

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KLOOF STREET CONNECTING CITY BOWL WITH CITY CENTRE IS KLOOF STREET, A VIBRANT PATHWAY OF BARS, RESTAURANTS AND SHOPS THAT CERTAINLY DRAWS IN TOURISTS. HOWEVER, IT’S FAR FROM A TYPICAL TOURIST TRAP; DON’T LET ITS NOTORIETY STOP YOU FROM EXPLORING THREE OF THE AREA’S BEST DESTINATIONS.

LIM LIM stands for “less is more,” and when you walk into their storefront you’ll understand why. LIM occupies a former multi-story home on Kloof, and features a very well-considered collection of home goods for all rooms. Many of its most popular objects are created by the neighborhood’s designers, using locally sourced materials. LIM is a treasure trove of South Africa’s finest emerging design. — W lim.co.za A 86 Kloof Street

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Melissa’s The Food Shop It’s tough to stay away from Melissa’s. A staple destination for all those visiting Kloof Street, Melissa’s offers a delicious assortment of freshly-made goods – both of savory and sweet persuasion – along with an excellent variety of provisions. Do try their baked goods – seriously amazing. — W melissas.co.za A 94 Kloof Street

Mabu Vinyl Made famous by the movie Searching for Sugar Man, Mabu Vinyl sits just off Kloof Street. The store is home to a deep collection of new and used vinyl, CDs and cassettes, covering just about every genre of sound. Visit for their wide selection of South African releases and other acts that span the massive continent. — W mabuvinyl.co.za A 2 Rheede Street

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CONSTANTIA

Alphen Boutique Hotel The Alphen, a heritage landmark in Constantia – aka the Cape’s oldest wine-growing valley – is a preserved Cape Dutch Manor House dating to the late 17th century. Though the architecture is splendorous to behold, history buffs will be even more pleased to learn that it previously hosted the likes of Mark Twain and Captain Hook. If these whitewashed walls could speak, they’d no doubt tell stories of the political intrigue and hedonistic parties for which the property was known. The Alphen is a tucked-away hedonist destination with a hint of tongue-in-cheek design inspiration. Only 20 minutes from the middle of Cape Town, The Alphen boasts modern décor with playful design twists that still preserve its rich history. Cape Town’s leading restaurateur, Paul Kovensky, was the major force behind The Alphen’s restoration, but its decadent interiors were handled by renowned designers Antoni Associates. Today’s guests enjoy the finest hospitality, contemporary plush interiors, exceptional facilities, and unrivaled food and drinks – all within the charming setting of a bygone era. The restored hotel boasts nothing less than all the trimmings expected of a five-star property. It has 19 individually-designed suites complete with his and her bathrooms that have been stocked with locally-made toiletries by Charlotte Rhys, along with three-tier minibars and private terraces, just to name a few highlights. Old and new elements are juxtaposed to dramatic effect: eccentric design features such as Moooi lighting meld with the hotel’s extensive private collection of antique furniture and privately commissioned oversized contemporary works. The result is a visual eruption of glamor, opulent fun and surreal fantasy. — W alphen.co.za A Alphen Estate, Alphen Drive

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CAMPS BAY The Marly Hotel Nestled in the well-heeled seaside neighborhood of Camps Bay, the five­-star Marly Boutique Hotel offers 11 luxury suites with unparalleled views of the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, and the iconic Twelve Apostles mountain range. The whimsical decor is bright, modern and sleek. A glistening rooftop pool-bar and well­-stocked library await when you emerge from your room. If you’re up for adventure, beachfront cafes, restaurants and nightlife, are for the most part, only steps away. — W themarly.co.za A 201 The Promenade

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THE OLD BISCUIT MILL, WOODSTOCK THIS CONVERTED MILL IN THE INDUSTRIAL WOODSTOCK SUBURB OF CAPE TOWN IS WELL KNOWN FOR ITS NEIGHBORHOOD MARKETS AND SMALL INDEPENDENT RETAILERS. HOWEVER, WE RECOMMEND VISITING FOR TWO EXCEPTIONAL EXAMPLES OF THE CITY’S EMERGING CULINARY AND COFFEE OFFERINGS.

Espresso Lab Microroasters There are plenty of coffee shops in Cape Town, but none take their craft as serious as this ground-level destination in the old Mill. Baristas clad in all-white tops and black aprons work their magic using fully-traceable beans from farms in El Salvador, Kenya and Tanzania. The best part, though, is that they’re happy to share the lineage of the coffee you’ll enjoy. Our favorite: a classic cappuccino. — W expressolabmicroroasters.com A 375 Albert Road

The Pot Luck Club Atop the Old Biscuit Mill in the Woodstock District of Cape Town sits this fantastic gastro destination. Known for an innovative small-plate menu, The Pot Luck Club is a win for those who can get themselves a reservation. We recommend booking a few months in advance. — W thepotluckclub.co.za A The Old Biscuit Mill, The Silo, 6th floor

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WOODSTOCK EXCHANGE, WOODSTOCK JUST DOWN THE ROAD FROM THE OLD BISCUIT MILL SITS ANOTHER MULTI-USE RETAIL AND CREATIVE WORK DESTINATION. A SECOND HOME TO AN ESTABLISHMENT OF CAPE TOWN’S CREATIVES AND TASTEMAKERS, WOODSTOCK EXCHANGE PROVIDES PLENTY OF SMALL SHOPS TO VISIT AND EXPLORE WHILE IN THE AREA.

Starling & Hero Bicycle Café Half bicycle repair shop, half coffee shop, Starling & Hero keeps your bicycles lubricated and your soul caffeinated. The destination reminds us of all the things we love about old Williamsburg and East London. — W starlingandhero.co.za A Shop AG04, The Woodstock Exchange, 66 Albert Road

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THE NEW IDEAL : MAXIME BUCHI AND THE FUTURE OF HIGH/LOW WORDS

NICK SCHONBERGER INTERVIEW

GARY WARNETT PHOTOGRAPHY

SUNNY LAU

The eccentric, heavily tattooed art critic Etienne Dumont describes equally tattooed Maxime Buchi’s output as “gesamtkunstwerk.” Coined in 1827 by German philosopher K.F.E. Trahndorff, the word translates roughly in English to “total art work” – a synthesis of all arts in unity. One may think of modernist architect Peter Behrens as a fine example; he considered everything from the structural aesthetics of buildings to the typefaces of the companies that would reside within. Buchi follows suit, but with an outsider’s eye. He turns seemingly disparate cultural products into perfect mates. Swiss-born Buchi studied graphic design and typography at the Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ECAL). Rather than pursue the prescribed path of the professional designer, Buchi gravitated towards tattooing, apprenticing under the renowned Filip Leu while simultaneously founding his own art project, Sang Bleu. The print publication explores all of Maxime’s interests, functioning as a cultural mixing pot of art, fashion and tattoo, with a focus on finding new paths and locations for creative debate. Buchi is also co-founder of B+P Swiss Typefaces, a foundry that offers bespoke typefaces and has placed fonts on the pages of Wallpaper and at the renowned Harvard Art Museum. Additionally, it is via B+P that Buchi most explicitly creates for the fashion industry. In 2010, the foundry produced logos for Damir Doma, Balenciaga and Rick Owens. It also provided typefaces for Vogue Turkey and L’Officiel Paris. Buchi walks a tightrope of ivory tower erudition and street corner vernacular in an unmatched virtuoso step. A hip hop head (and member of the Zulu Nation) with a keen sense of human psychology, Buchi mixes high and low not to shock, but to produce startlingly new graphic ideas. Currently rooted in London, Buchi commands a series of projects — an art space, clothing line, publishing arm and tattoo shop — under the Sang Bleu banner. He’s recently launched TTTNews, an amalgam of a free local newspaper and cutting-edge tattoo ’zine. All things connect, each combining to further the establishment of Buchi’s unique worldview. In a conversation with Gary Warnett, the grounding of what makes the impossible so plausible in Buchi’s work is discussed and dissected to explore the definition of art and the importance of viewing trap music in terms of post-modernist verse.

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You’ve got a Gucci Mane tattoo. What incited that addition to your body? Gucci Mane as a rapper is pushing what I think is postmodern. He represents my idea of postmodernism in rap. Even before the albums, he was representing something extreme and new in the same way as N.W.A back then. If you listen to it now, late 1980s rap was so theatrical. And then, in the early 1990s, tension started building up. If you listen to N.W.A going into The Chronic and if you listen to Ice Cube’s solo albums you can feel that it’s getting more and more serious. It reaches an apex around 1992. With the LA Riots. When’s the first time you saw tattooing in hip hop? Tone Loc’s Crip tattoos were early. There were a lot of shoulder tattoos, but Treach from Naughty by Nature seemed to be on forearms early. You know what? I just remembered the other day that the first rap tattoo I remember was a French rapper from the group NTM. What was the tattoo? It was a logo that MODE2 designed. MODE2’s and Chrome Angelz’s work lends itself to a tattoo very well. MODE2 designed that logo and it was the cover of their very first single. It was a mini CD. Joey Starr had it tattooed at the top of his shoulder. You can see it in the video of Le Monde De Demain. If I remember well, I even got it as a sticker in one of the early issues of infamous French rap fanzine Get Busy. I am not talking about the watered-down 2000 resurrection, but about the early ’90s photocopied ones. The first copy I got — the one with the sticker — had a MODE2 illustration on the cover too. I still have it. It’s amazing. I used to think that the first rap-related tattoo I was struck by was in the Warren G “Regulate” CD booklet. The ‘Long Beach’ back piece? Yes. It’s so good. You grew up in Switzerland. What was the hip hop scene like there? Is it like Germany, where people really get into things? Yes. I have a feeling that hip hop kicked off in France and Germany as a very serious cultural thing. Switzerland came early too. Bambaata used to visit. We had the Zulu Nation, of which I was a member. Those who could were traveling to NY as if it was going to Mecca. If you can only get certain things sent over, you’re going to get serious. What got you into hip hop? Rap. I grew up in a very political environment and my parents were very left wing.

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Were they bohemians? Kind of. In a Swiss way, whatever that means! They had strong values. I read The Communist Manifesto when I was a teenager. I declared I was a communist when I was 12. Obviously, I didn’t know what it really meant, but I could understand and agreed people should generally be more equal. My grandmother was an Italian protestant. We had that obsession with America right out of post-war Italy. And also because of the hippie culture my parents were into. Did your parents have any interest in the Black Panthers? Absolutely. My parents didn’t like punk. For them it wasn’t an option. It influenced me. For them, rap was that fight in America for civil rights. Obviously they couldn’t understand the lyrics – then they might have had another opinion! The first rap I heard was Run-D.M.C.’s “Tougher Than Leather,” which was pretty hardcore. Rhythmically and lyrically it’s pretty tough. From then onwards I was only interested in things that were tough sounding. Getting a backpiece as a first tattoo is a bold move. Don’t most people end with that? In Japanese tattooing you start with your back then expand to your entire body and that’s totally how I approached it. I was totally ready for such a commitment. I had been considering my tattoo for a long time. That’s just the way I am. A backpiece is a personal and symbolic investment. It’s like having a good watch. Not a lot of people know, but those that know appreciate. Have you always been into hardcore approaches to art forms? Do you always go in feet first? Yes, usually. Ironically, for graffiti I did things the other way around. I started super young. I was 11 or 12. There was no way I could go paint trains or such, so I started doing petty graffiti and then moved onto a more “vandal” approach. I did start with tagging though. Before I even touched a spraycan, we used to go around my village and tag anything we could with a marker. But generally, I made pretty radical life-changing decisions. Like quitting university to study art and quitting working as a graphic designer to apprentice as a tattooist. What did you used to write? I started as DEAL; that was my name. Some old school guys in Lausanne still call me that. Like, “Hey DEAL!” Were you always into clothes? Yeah, always. Brand names, like YSL? That was one of my graffiti names. Were you into the big Nikes? No. That’s the strange thing.


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With leftist parents it sounds like one thing they wouldn’t approve of. Exactly - especially as a kid in the ’80s in an upper-middle class Swiss countryside village. I grew up in the middle of young kids with brands everywhere. Switzerland is a very wealthy place, but my parents were not well off, plus they came from that left-wing mentality. The whole brand thing did not fit with their culture at all. They would knit the things themselves! Going to school was a shock because I realized that the outside world was on an opposite. I felt that I couldn’t belong to the world because I was forbidden to use brands as a social acceptance thing. In reaction, it made me super brand-aware. But there was a craftsmanship and DIY in what your parents were doing. Yeah. They were all about just doing it and having ecological values. Brands were a capitalistic thing for them. Even when I joined the Zulu Nation it was part of all that political legacy from my upbringing. I was a member of the city council of my town at 18, in the Socialist Party. I was pretty serious about it, but I realized that I had to find my very own way of applying these values because at the same time I couldn’t identify with an older generation and the way they were implementing their values. I then joined non-traditional and alternative political groups – the politicized branches of squatting communities, you know what I’m talking about. That was my first experience in publishing actually. Back in the late ’90s, very early ’00s, we had a self-published political zine called Soma. It took me awhile to consolidate all these contradictory experiences. At age 33, I’ve found where I stand with all these ideologies and how to behave in a somewhat coherent way. Going to Fashion Week in Paris probably wouldn’t be your parents’ thing. Would they be more annoyed by that than your tattoos? Yes and no. Yes, in theory, but no because they’re not 25 anymore and their own lifestyles and values have evolved. They don’t fully understand my artistic life but, at the same time, if I worked in advertising or marketing, THAT would be something they couldn’t support. They can definitely appreciate that fashion can be beautiful and they’ve always had a respect for art. Do you see fashion as art? Is it disposable to you? My official position on art is pretty straightforward and post-Duchamp: if something’s not made by an artist, it’s not art. Fashion is just fashion. Tattooing is tattooing. From a purely theoretical point of view, tattooing is the closest that any applied or popular art has got to fine art. But, as far as I’m concerned, if it’s not an artist, it’s not art. You wouldn’t consider yourself a tattoo artist then? I prefer to consider myself a tattooist. I make tattoos, which makes me a tattooist. Are there tattoo artists? My Swiss intellectual rigor makes me suspicious, but I think Scott Campbell has successfully entered the art world coming from tattooing.

For now, his tattoos are still tattoos. Maybe he’ll end up being an artist who makes tattoos. That’s up to him. Artists like Douglas Gordon or Santiago Sierra, who use tattoos, are making art – excellent artists making bad tattoos but good art. On the magazine front, do you think the aesthetics you helped create have been reappropriated elsewhere? Of course they have. But I am careful with notions such as “appropriation“ or “copy.” When you create something like Sang Bleu, it doesn’t just come out of nowhere, so some people might have had the same idea as you at the same time, and then some people might see bits here and there without knowing where it came from. There is a Sang Bleu aesthetic though. Yeah. It’s based on a fanzine, collage, punk approach to graphic design, laced with traditional typography. What subcultural magazines were you reading growing up? Were there local hip hop fanzines? When I was growing up we had extremely limited access. The first time I saw The Source it was probably 1994. But before that there were a couple of local graffiti and rap fanzines such as Get Busy and Tuff Times. I knew every word of them! It fell off by the time you discovered it. We’ve talked about the influence Tougher Than Leather had on you, but did the album art influence you? Yeah. That and also skateboard magazines. The first cultural magazines I had access to were Transworld Skateboarding magazine and Thrasher — they had a big impact on me visually. Then a couple of French magazines arrived too, such as NoWay, which then became AnyWay. Thrasher’s logo is amazing. Big Brother was a big influence from that culture too. I still have the very first issue of Big Brother. It’s A5 size! It was given for free and I’m so happy that I have it. Did any board graphics from that time have an impact on you? Some but not major. Comic books and television much more so. In my early skateboard days we had very little notion of what the “skateboard culture” was. VHS tapes of “Ban This” were hard to come by. It didn’t really look like a coherent visual culture. Obviously, I used to draw Bones Brigade, BBC, Powell Peralta and Santa Cruz logos. I was obsessed by them. But not the boards themselves, except for a few legendary ones like Natas, Rob Roscop and Mark Gonzales. Later I loved the H Street logo and I cherished my Matt Hensley deck. I wish I had kept it. I have also had a very nice Danny Way board with a kind of jigsaw puzzle design full of animals. I had a revelation with the first Plan B video. I was old enough and still interested in skateboarding enough to appreciate it. I didn’t even have a video player at home! I could only watch it at my friend Mathieu’s house, but we knew it by heart from A to Z… the tricks, the soundtrack. Everything.

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FROM HIGH ART TO HIGH TOPS : THE IMPACT OF [ BRAND × ARTIST ] COLLABORATIONS WORDS

A N YA F I R E S T O N E

LANDSCAPE WITH CHARON CROSSING THE RIVER STYX (C. 1515-1524) B Y J OAC H I M PAT I N I R

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On the world-map of today’s creative brands, we increasingly find collaborations with art — contemporary or otherwise — where × marks the spot: Don Perignon × Jeff Koons Perrier × Andy Warhol Supreme × Damien Hirst Raf Simons × Sterling Ruby COMME des GARÇONS × Ai Weiwei Lacoste × Zaha Hadid Opening Ceremony × René Magritte adidas × Jeremy Scott “Keith Haring” And so the formula of [Brand by Artist] is written, etched onto skateboards and sneakers, from H&M to Hermés, on Perignon to Perrier, strutting down catwalks and stacking grocery aisles at a prolific rate. While art’s value continues to rise in its own market (this past November, a Christie’s auction brought in a record-breaking $850 million for 75 lots of contemporary art), today it is stepping onto a new stage. Popular culture figures like Jay Z, who refers to himself as a “modern day Picasso,” help to usher in the trend by articulating the creative zeitgeist to possess, see and experience fine art: “I wanna row of Christie’s with my missy, live at the MoMA/Bacons and turkey bacons, smell the aroma.” (A piece of Jay’s “Bacon,” Francis Bacon’s 1961 painting Seated Figure sold for $45 million at the aforementioned auction). With artists’ names being dropped as often as (and often with) sneaker drops, we cannot dismiss the phenomenon as an ephemeral hyper-trend, nor label it another Warholian revolution. For while we may hem and haw if we are convinced by the effects of these artsy collaborations in mainstream markets — do they upgrade a brand? Do they undermine art? —the fact remains that these liaisons, dangerous or otherwise, are not only influencing the retail world, but art history itself. Damien Hirst’s iconic butterfly artwork, fluttering from museum conversations and onto Converse sneakers, may signify art’s natural and unavoidable evolution in contemporary culture. On a superficial level, it is easy to appreciate why any brand would want to join forces with an artist – an icon known for creating visually stimulating, unique objects. Strategic branding is, after all, heavily reliant upon producing aesthetic magnetism and a distinctive, effective “image.” Yet if they were only after launching top-tier style, brands could continue to team up with cutting edge fashion houses, brushing the dirt off the shoulders of a… what’s that jacket? H&M ×

Margiela. That art is being called upon as branding’s new muse, signifies a drive to create something more complex than that which can be achieved through fashion. It is logical that this nouveau artistic collaborative wave hits hard today, an epoch when magic is no longer required to see almost anything and everything thanks to the world’s new beloved fairy godmother: #socialmedia. With the advent of digital platforms comes the collective impulse to display not only a style, but perhaps more importantly, lifestyle. Look at any creative company’s Instagram and we find not only pictures of its gadgets and gizmos, but a cultivated existence around them — tastes and sensibilities, filtered through specific lenses: urban landscapes, graffiti, perfectly frothed lattes, Pharrell’s hat, Kanye’s pout, and various other facades of society that visually amalgamate to project a brand’s metaphysical culture in time and space. It is no wonder then why brands are increasingly seduced by art; it is not only a visual cultural product but also a producer of culture itself. Therefore, alignment with it can potentially procure not only an image, but also the imaginary – power, history, philosophy, a moment, a mojo – and all the conceptual sophistication that art entails. Of course, granted its notorious high costs in its own fancy marketplace, a product’s financial value can also increase when associated with art. This last point is especially true of partnerships where the artist’s hand is actually present, like on a hand-painted canvas parka by Raf Simons × Sterling Ruby from their Fall 2014 collaboration. Such an item, which raises the question is it art or fashion?, also manages to raise its cost — egging us on to answer that it’s likely closer to art, by virtue of its $30,000 price tag. That high fashion and high art occupy the same space is old news (here, we think happily about Schiaparelli’s dress with a Dali lobster crawling on its front). The new news is that high streetwear, sneakers, tech, and even beverage brands are putting on their berets to paint a pretty picture with artists. While it’s clear how a brand’s look and reputation may appear “upgraded” post-collaboration, we might wonder now about the original art itself. What happens when art jumps off of its museum pedestal, lands down onto Jay Z’s stage, and then Ubers over to the Gap pop-up store at the Frieze Art Fair? The answer, may not be so pretty. While a mainstream brand may be jumping for joy over its beautiful business muse, art is left with its historic tale between its legs, looking back at a rack of Basquiatdoodled Uniqlo T-shirts, wondering where its future, quite literally, will hang next.

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“THESE LIAISONS, DANGEROUS OR OTHERWISE, ARE NOT ONLY INFLUENCING THE RETAIL WORLD, BUT ART HISTORY ITSELF.”

When H&M announced its first artist collaboration in 2014 with the renowned Jeff Koons, coiffed eyebrows across the art world were raised — ironically, by the same gallerinas who were lured into the retailer’s doors when it partnered with fashion houses like Lanvin and COMME des GARÇONS’ Rei Kawakubo to create cost-effective lines. But art would be different. Adapting high-end garments to be ready-to-wear could not follow the same logic as high art becoming, what… ready-to-see? For H&M × Koons, the attempt to transport art’s psychological baggage onto a special product resulted, quite literally, as baggage itself: a leather bag with a printed image of the artist’s Toy Balloon Dog (Yellow) sculpture on its front. To which we,

scale, materials and composition, his sculpture visibly distinguishes itself from the commodity upon which it is based, palpably claiming: I am Art. So then how terribly ironic it is, how critically amusing, that an art whose very essence is to declare itself as anything but a mass-produced object, would end up printed and sold upon one! From an art theoretical viewpoint, H&M, intending to manipulate a “limited edition” good to become obtainable “art” into the collective consciousness, instead yields an object that overtly announces itself as the opposite, art’s nemesis: pure commodity. Perhaps Koons was in on the joke all along. Perhaps not. Either way, it is clear that the challenge to make a powerful [Brand × Artist]

on behalf of art history, are obliged to ask: what is that messenger bag truly the messenger of? According to the store’s website, it is affordable art: “If you can’t afford a $58 million dog sculpture, why not have the next best thing?” But is this bag really the next best thing? Likely not, and how unfortunate, granted that Koons and H&M actually had potential to procure something meaningful. Despite the fact that Koons’ egregious auction prices make his work inaccessible for almost anyone to buy, his repertoire relies on a level of accessibility, usually public display, for everyone to see — “The people’s artist.” And the company itself follows a similar “for the people” mission to make that which is highend become newly available. On the partnership Koons explained, “The chance to showcase one of my most popular works to a new generation of people was inspiring.” But showing a preexisting artwork to the public as opposed to making new art, are two different gestures. The choice to reproduce an already known image instead of to create something specific for the brand tainted this collaboration for both parties involved. That is not to say that reproduced art cannot provide for successful results. But mixing the right artwork with the right brand and on the right piece is a delicate juggling act. Opening Ceremony × René Magritte magnificently struck this balance with the French artist’s surrealist paintings reprinted on sweaters, dresses, Vans, and even Manolo Blahnik’s classic BB heel. Yet in this example, the selection of paintings — such as Magritte’s Hegel’s Holiday, which features an umbrella under a glass of water above a warm pink ground — manages to extend the very heritage of surrealism itself, which revolves around irrational juxtaposed images and the body: when worn, the umbrella’s wings sprawl across the shoulders, and the water glass visually balances on the chest. The impact is just as trippy and intriguing as the artwork itself, and the collection successfully resonates both with Opening Ceremony’s own penchant for whimsicality, as well as with Magritte’s artistic movement. Yet in the case of H&M, no such harmony was struck — and not necessarily because a preexisting artwork was used, but because the very image of that artwork comes into conceptual conflict with the brand. Specifically, because the subject matter of Koons’ original 12-foot chromium stainless steel, color-coated artwork is a massproduced thing: a toy balloon dog. Yet by virtue of its blown-up

collaboration is as follows: how can a brand elevate and enhance itself and its products through art, without art being commodified and the artist undermined in the process? Historically, this is not the first time art found itself threatened due to the advent of modern consumerism. In the 19th century, as a result of the political cataclysms of the French Revolution and the subsequent Franco-Prussian war of 1870, France’s social fabric experienced two significant alterations which greatly affected art history; firstly, the creation of a new republican parliamentary democracy under the third republic, and secondly, the unbridled bouts of urbanization, progressive economies, and new mechanics consequential of Europe’s industrial revolution. Due to advancing technologies that allowed for infinite reproductions, art was being copied and commodified to satiate the collective’s taste for consumption. In response, artists and art enthusiasts such as dandies, aesthetes and intellectuals panicked, picked up and packed up. An urgency to conserve art ensued, which kindled various artistic movements (Aestheticism and Decadence, among others), art salons and most importantly, the emergence of public galleries. Enter, the museum: a saving grace to allow for art to remain art, framed and famed, far from reproducing forces (like those in the lower level gift shop). It is also the space where objects — from religious relics to toilets — can become newly named “art” by virtue of their curation. This is because historically, when museums opened after imperial conquests, pillages of non-European cultures, and revolutions, the curator had allowed for all types of “beautiful” objects with heretofore religious or political contexts — a Byzantine cross, the Venus de Milo, the great Sphinx of Tanis — to become de-functionalized upon their entrance into the museum. Then, when Marcel Duchamp in 1917, took a urinal, signed it, and placed it on display, rather than performing the aforementioned iconoclastic gesture by de-sanctifying something holy to become art, he performed an iconophilic one by elevating an everyday mass-manufactured thing to be artwork as well. In both instances, the strategic approach of the curator and his museum determine an object’s fate as art. A urinal outside of a museum is only a thing into which one urinates, not an art that one confronts and contemplates.

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As art today faces a similar contemporary culture shock as it did in the 19th century, brands should learn from its history by turning to the curatorial once more. Let us be mindful that today “curating” has become an overused and hackneyed term. In actuality, one cannot curate a pizza nor one’s Facebook timeline in the full and proper sense of the word. In the museological platform from which it originated, curation entails the placement and mediation of objects across a space. It is the conceptualization and management of aesthetics, usually art, based on the curator’s predetermined ideas for the effects that will arise at the moment of retinal reception. So if a curator is able to strategize objects to be art, as well as

inventory. Firstly, it takes as its subject a mass-manufactured object: the lightbulb. But unlike Koons who created something after the idea of an everyday thing in order to differentiate itself from it, this installation actively uses that object to create anew. Within a retail location, this art installation boldly acknowledges mass-production, but then exquisitely defies it by displaying the way by which that object can be reconfigured into a sphere of art. And is this not precisely what the goal of [Brand × Artist] is? Ah, the lightbulb really does signify a good idea. Another strong example of a well-curated approach to [Brand × Artist] is KITH’s New York SoHo store. Like UNDERCOVER,

to protect art from being commodified, then should brands not be following a curatorial approach when attempting to use it? In other words, may we be so bold as to suggest that the best way for a brand to work with art is not through collaboration but rather through curation? This is not to propose that we put Nike sneakers in the MoMA and see if their value increases (they would…). Rather, we should consider putting the MoMA into the Nike retail space by choosing artworks or commissioning art to be made that correspond to the brand and its products. In an experiential environment with art, products will naturally be elevated by virtue of the fact that they are surrounded by the aura of art, but also because well-chosen art will make those objects part of the artistic process of seeing, looking, contemplating and appreciating. In turn, the artworks present will remain free from any undermining mechanical forces, displayed instead true in their unique states. UNDERCOVER’s newest store in Hong Kong perfectly exemplifies how a brand can use art to meaningfully curate their space, elevate their goods, and maintain the artwork’s prestige. Serving as the backdrop to the store is a 16th century painting by Flemish Renaissance painter Joachim Patinir, Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx. Although a Renaissance work may seem a bizarrely anachronistic transplant around brands like Paul Harnden, White Mountaineering, ACRONYM and Porter Classic, its very presence epitomizes the essence of the art renaissance taking place today. While the painting references Virgil and Dante, thereby adding a hint of intellectual clout to the space, its presence has been hyperstrategized, or curated, and does not appear in the least bit pretentious nor out of place. The artwork has been made relevant to the brand, in two ways. Aesthetically, the bold image offers a striking and dramatic palette of rich colors and tight geometric composition that plays off the muted hues and architectural store design. Secondly, the themes within it resonate with those of UNDERCOVER. Its creative director Jun Takahashi explains that the brand is inspired by the very opposing forces found within the painting, such as good and evil, heaven and hell. The other work of art, a shimmering installation made of 20,000 lightbulbs, both technically, but also conceptually, illuminates the

KITH collaborated with artists not to make their products, but to make art around them. In a similar mode by which the lightbulb installation operates, Daniel Arsham’s hanging ceiling installation, composed of a slew of all-white Air Jordan 1 sneaker molds, stunningly greets visitors for an experiential shopping experience. Lucas Monroe, the store’s manager explains, “I work in a space that blows people away the minute they walk in here. Everyone looks up and takes pictures, as if they were in a museum.” On the art installations in the store he notes, “Everything that is in here makes sense. We don’t have molds of dogs hanging from the ceiling. It’s an Air Jordan 1, one of the most iconic shoes of all time.” The artwork in situ is visually captivating: Airs float in the air above us, forming a white cloud in a concave hall reminiscent of the Louvre’s Greek wing. Furthermore, the piece resonates with the brand’s own cultish disposition for street culture and sneaker drops. Lastly, Arsham’s work professes the sneaker as a cultural icon, capable of operating like a work of art itself. The result is that every other shoe in that store stands up a little bit taller, proud of its prospective status, and shining under the artistic light ready to make an imprint — or rather, footprint — in contemporary culture. As brands like UNDERCOVER and KITH continue to artfully strategize their goods through a curatorial approach with both historic and new works, they verify new capabilities to upgrade their spaces and all that resides within them. If intelligently curated, both products and art are able to coexist in a beautiful, symbiotic relationship. If this trend takes flight and persists onwards – if art continues to be placed not onto products, but around them – then our next question may no longer concern the future of art but, instead, the fate of the museum. For if art is both a product of our culture as well as a producer of it, then contemporary works may no longer need to rely upon the museum for its validation – a space which may become less relevant to the economically powered retail world we live in. As we lace up our Air Jordan 1s and grab our missy to head to MoMA to see a shiny piece of Koons, we might wonder instead if we should stop by the latest store opening: rumor has it that there is a retrospective on [Brand × Artist] that is not to be missed.

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BERTHA BENZ

THE WOMAN BEHIND THE WORLD’S MOST RESPECTED AUTOMAKER

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JOE CHEN IMAGE COURTESY OF

MERCEDES-BENZ USA

Around nine in the morning, just a few hours after sunrise, they were packed, fueled and ready to go. Bertha had had enough of her husband’s obsessive perfectionism and she was hitting the road, if only to make a point. They had been through this before and last time his partners forced him out of the business. Bertha wouldn’t let that happen to Karl again. But she wasn’t making the point to Karl. In fact, she didn’t even tell him that she was leaving and taking their sons, Eugen and Richard, with her. Even though Eugen and Richard were 15 and 13 years old respectively, this would be their first road trip. Indeed, it would be the very first road trip ever via automobile. It was early in August 1888 and Bertha Ringer was married to Karl Benz. She came from a wealthy family and was left with a large inheritance allowing her to invest in Karl Benz’s failing iron construction company. They married a couple of years later and, after being forced out of his company, Benz – who was a talented, hard-working engineer – began experimenting with cars. In spite of his ability and intellect, he was a dreadful salesman who believed that his invention’s sheer brilliance would convince the world of its merit. In short, he knew nothing of marketing. That’s why Bertha decided to leave him. However, she wasn’t running off with one of his inventions. Bertha realized that if she demonstrated the Patent-Motorwagen’s ability by staging a publicity stunt, the news of this invention would spread throughout the countryside and attract buyers. So she packed up, grabbed her sons, and headed for her mother’s house in Pforzheim about 106 kilometers away. A stunt that, in retrospect, proved to be revolutionary. Living in a traditionally patriarchal society, Bertha was a woman who embarked on a then-unheard-of journey, and did so as both the driver and mechanic! In a word, it was scandalous. But the drive bore little resemblance to what we’d consider a hundred-or-so kilometer road trip today. Over 125 years ago, it wasn’t as easy as hopping into your C-Class, cranking up the air conditioning and setting the on-board navigation. The trip took Bertha and her sons about 12 hours, covered “roads” that were frequently rutted and unpaved, and they encountered several mechanical issues along the way. For instance, when the fuel lines became clogged, Bertha cleaned them with a hatpin. An emergency with the car’s ignition system was resolved using part of her garter. When fuel ran low, she found a pharmacy to purchase ligroin, the solvent that powered the car. And

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most ingeniously, when the Patent-Motorwagen’s wooden brakes began failing, she asked a local cobbler to fit leather shoe soles to the brakes, thereby inventing the world’s first brake lining. Along the way she scared a few onlookers who were wholly unprepared to see a car rumbling through their town. But most people seemed amazed and impressed at the endeavor and the relative safety in which it was undertaken. Bertha and her sons arrived in Pforzheim just before dusk. Upon reaching her mother’s home, Bertha sent a telegram back to Karl informing him of the trip and their safety. After a couple of days with her mother, Bertha headed back home. News of the trip spread quickly through the local towns and reached the press, who were eager to cover the sensational event and present it to the world. Suddenly, everyone knew of Karl Benz’s PatentMotorwagen. The publicity was not only welcome and necessary for the struggling company, but the trip had a direct impact on the product itself. The 2.5-horsepower engine had been insufficient to propel the car over steeper hills, forcing Bertha and her sons to push the car at times. This induced Karl to develop the first automotive gear system so that sufficient torque would reach the wheels to power them over hills. By the end of her trip, Bertha drove over 200 kilometers at a time when most people had driven one or two at most. The publicity Bertha was able to generate resulted in immediate orders pouring in and, during the subsequent decade, Bertha and Karl Benz’s company became the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, churning out over 600 units per year. Karl passed away in 1929 and had been serving in an advisory role to the company he founded, which by then had merged to become Daimler-Benz, parent of Mercedes-Benz. Bertha survived him by 15 years, until her death in 1944, having received the honorary title of Honorable Senator from the Technical University of Karlsruhe, Karl’s alma mater. Today, over 125 years after Bertha Benz’s fateful, visionary trip demonstrating the usefulness of her struggling husband’s invention, the route has been memorialized in Germany. One can follow Bertha’s original route from Mannheim through Heidelberg to Pforzheim and back. Even the world’s first filling station, where Bertha bought ligroin, still exists and the memory of her purchase is preserved with a statue commemorating the event. It’s safe to say that without Bertha’s support and dogged determination, there would be no Mercedes-Benz today.


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BRODINSKI CREATE AND REDEFINE

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MAUDE CHURCHILL PHOTOGRAPHY

TUUKKA LAURILA

Being an international DJ is an inherently contradictory profession. For all its moments of glory and adulation, there are just as many spent in solitude in the studio, or retreating back to the sterile emptiness of a hotel room with temporary tinnitus as your only companion. It’s of little surprise, then, that so many in the industry turn to a friend to help them set up a record label of their own given their chosen career is so devoid of regular teamwork. For French DJ Brodinski, friends and family are at the heart of his vocational ethos. Brodinski discovered the sounds that were to eventually catalyze his professional interest in music during the millennial revolution that swept through youth culture, as platforms such as Napster made music free and easy to download (albeit in dubious legal standing). When asked what it was that first inspired a young Louis Rogé to get into music, he attributes the desire largely to the internet. That unprecedented accessibility gave him the opportunity to listen to and learn from a wide variety of music. Encouraged by contemporaries such as the Ed Banger Records crew, Ivan Smagghe, 2manyDJs and DJ Mehdi, it wasn’t long before Louis became Brodinski and started DJing full-time. Setting up a record label was, in Brodinski’s words, “a story of friendship from the very beginning.” That’s something that has been integral to both the input and output of Bromance Records. The end game isn’t solely about the physical release or a club night. It’s about creating a story between friends, weaving together a different way of creating music, and redefining how it’s presented. With his debut album, Brava, fresh off the press, we were interested to learn more about the collective consciousness that defines Bromance, Brodinski’s own productions and his dalliances with fashion. Who or what inspired you to first get into music? I started discovering music when I was 17. A lot happened because of the internet, and I feel like everyone who is my age or younger will inevitably be part of the post-internet generation. I felt like I wanted to do more with it, start making my own music and playing it, so I started DJing.

When you say it started with the internet, what sort of platforms were you using? At the time the internet was not as easily accessible. I could only spend about an hour on the internet every day so I would download as much as possible in that time. Everything was free – or illegal – and easy to download. I had the opportunity to listen to a lot of music and learn from it in a small amount of time. In two or three years I had learned a lot, so I started going to a studio, playing at clubs and bars. While I was studying I began to start touring, and one day I realized that maybe I could live off it. What other kinds of musicians and DJs were you listening to at the time? When I started out, I was listening to a lot of other DJs who influenced me, like Ivan Smagghe, 2Many DJs, DJ Mehdi. I was living in Reims, in the East of France, and I met this older producer named Yuksek, and we worked together for a couple of years. We are still friends today but at some point I moved to Lille, and then from Lille to Paris. When I moved to Paris I started working with other people as well. I like collaborating a lot, and I don’t like to be in the studio by myself. Do you think that your tendency to work with others inspired your label, Bromance? Yeah, Bromance was a story of friendship from the very beginning. We – Gesaffelstein and I – decided to create a label. We were really close then, and at the time were playing a lot of music together. We started Bromance, and I told him that we should do it all together, so it became our adventure. I never wanted to do my own thing; I always wanted to share with people. When I was touring before, I was often alone and I felt like I couldn’t share any experiences with anybody. So that’s why I like working with people, collaborating and touring with them.

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around you who do so many different things; it’s inspiring, because I always see them from the perspective of a fan.

That makes a lot of sense, since you lead this dual life as a DJ where you play to a lot of people but then go back to an empty hotel room afterwards. It’s nice to have a record label that counters that disconnection and brings people together. I didn’t want it to just be about the music. I wanted to be able to create a story between friends. Just going around with people you like. It’s just a different way of making music. After three years of Bromance, I feel like it’s now a success story because everything on the label is made by people who love each other. It’s more like a family than a record label.

How did your collaboration on Kanye West’s Yeezus come about? His team came to us because he liked some of our (Bromance) music. They wanted to meet so that he could listen to some more of our productions, so we organized a session at the studio. After that, for about three or four weeks, Gesaffelstein and I helped him with the record.

That energy, the community spirit, comes through on the records that you put out as well. How do you feel that the concept of Bromance compares to the record label market

How did the production process compare to producing your own music? It’s very different. When someone like Kanye West comes to you,

on a wider scale? I’m not actually that well-versed in other record labels, but from the ones that I do know and like, I took the best elements for Bromance. Labels like Ed Banger, XL, Def Jam. I wanted to be open-minded and help the people that I sign to make the best possible content. Every week we see each other so that we can keep up with the latest projects. I think that communication is the first step to doing things the right way, and it’s always going to be easier to communicate with people that you like.

you always try to give your best. When you play music for yourself, it can become too personal. It’s great to make music for other people because you can remain objective about it. Some stuff you like, some you don’t, and you don’t have to pretend otherwise. I learned a lot from being in the studio with Kanye – it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the studio, and I’m very thankful.

Who makes all of the executive decisions for Bromance? Is it you and Manu (Brodinski’s manager and the owner of Paris’ social club), or is it more of a collective decision? Manu and I always make the final decision. Even if I’m working on another project, like my most recent album, I always try to have a hand in Bromance. That’s very important to me. You’re quite heavily involved in fashion as well. Do you see any parallels between the music and fashion industries at the moment? I don’t see any difference between the two of them. For me, it’s the same job: I like working with people who have new ideas – it’s always exciting. It’s even more exciting when you try it, be that in fashion or in music. Every time somebody comes to me with a new fashion idea, it’s not going to be my first priority because the music always comes first. But I’m always going to look at it, and a lot of the people who work in one field cross over to the other. There seem to be a lot of people at the moment who are both fashion designers and musicians or DJs. I’m thinking here of Virgil Abloh. I know you’ve done some work with him. Could you explain that a bit? We met when I worked on Kanye’s album Yeezus. We talked a lot about music, and he wanted to know more about what we did. So, naturally, I became interested in what he was doing as well. At the time he was doing HBA, as well as Kanye’s artwork. We stayed in touch and became friends over time. It’s not just about the music, it’s also about the friendship. It’s great to have so many different people

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And who are some of your favorite designers and brands at the moment? Our Legacy, Armes, Cav Empt and Japan’s Phire Wire. Going back to Bromance, you’ve hosted the Homieland tour; how does the vibe of the club compare to the Bromance releases? I think they’re all as important as one another. Music is always about music, but now it’s about the visuals, covers and titles. People want to look at something nice. It’s good to have an artistic direction for a musical project. The more you do for it, the more it comes together. I look up to a lot of French and European designers that are really good right now. It’s good to see new ideas – they inspire me. When I work with them, we are on the same page, even though I work in music. And the same goes for the club; it’s an experiential event which brings the vibe of Bromance to life. Could you tell us a little more about your upcoming album, Brava? I worked on it for 18 months in Paris and Miami. I worked a lot in the U.S. because we recorded a bunch of rappers and singers there; the album features a lot of cameos. I wanted to do something new, and find the link between my music and Southern rap music. It comes out in less than two months, so I’m super excited for it. We’ll see. The album is a huge story, a story of friendship. What’s in the pipeline for Bromance beyond that? In 2015, Bromance will release a bunch of new EPs and new music. My album is coming out on March 2, so we’ll go on tour around that. It’s going to be a busy year!


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I L LU S T R AT I O N S

CHRIS DANFORTH

CLARA LACY

JAZZ, PUNK AND HIP HOP MUSICAL REVOLUTIONS ARE DESTINED FOR COMMODIFICATION

As the cultural course of the 20th century has so often revealed, revolutionary movements in music are destined for commodification into the mainstream. Throughout history there have been periods when jazz clubs flourished in Harlem, when hip hop still thrived on the street corners of the Bronx, and punk rock music was only deemed adequate for dingy London dive bars – each of these genres was closely tied with the notion of revolt and societal change. Today, jazz is considered the de-facto elevator soundtrack; hip hop has largely been co-opted into pop culture; and as the saying goes, punk is dead. Beginning as untapped

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grassroots musical entities, somewhere along the way the message behind each of these movements became lost. This effect has been amplified further in 2015. Post-millennial cultural movements in particular have far less time and space to incubate; the second something is assigned any level of “cool currency,” it is instantly blogged, remixed and transmitted through the web, before being devoured. Issues of authenticity abound in popular music today, and repeatedly we must attempt to examine what real culture is.


JAZZ “Jazz is the big brother of Revolution. Revolution follows it around.” - Miles Davis From its early beginnings, jazz has birthed several offshoots. The free jazz movement of the 1960s was a radical departure from many accepted conventions of music; the fundamentals of tempo and confluence were consciously disregarded by performers and an experimental musical language was built. The bass and the drums were no longer seen as reference points for timekeeping; rather, they were at liberty to create rhythmic abstractions. Comparisons have been drawn between the significance of free jazz for black musicians and the Italian Renaissance for 14th century painters and sculptors, as both brought about a climate of modern thought that renewed the importance of individual artists over rigid, structural guidelines. Not only was the decay of concrete musical frameworks a characteristic of free jazz, but the sound was more open to interpretation than any musical genre before it.

Decades later, free jazz and the general jazz umbrella have taken a backseat in the contemporary musical landscape, and the sound is almost considered arcane in the context of the dance and pop music-driven billboard charts. Arguably there has been no real milestone in the genre since Miles Davis’ 1975 sabbatical. In 2015, discourse of the genre’s considerable legacy remains whisper quiet, and surely Davis never could have predicted that his life’s work would become the name of a family automobile in Honda’s compact category. What images are conjured by jazz today? The sound is oftentimes associated with intellectualism, whitetablecloth restaurants and jewelry commercials. Simply put, jazz no longer possesses the rebellious connotations that it once did.

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PUNK ROCK “Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible, but don’t let them take you alive.” - Sid Vicious Punk rock could be considered one of the most insurrectionary social motions of the modern era. Throughout the ’70s, the anti-establishment, anticonsumerist, renegade sentiments manifested weekly at iconic venues like CBGB in New York or The Roxy and the 100 Club in London, where groups like the Ramones, The Clash, and the Sex Pistols played out rebel anthems for a sweaty, ripped-jean and leather-clad working class youth. Early punk was about social dissent, shock factor, challenging the status quo, and calculated anger. In fact, the rise of punk itself was something of a response to the commodification of rock ’n’ roll, which had been wholeheartedly integrated into the mainstream by the 1970s. See the pattern? The reputation of punk rock today belies its origins as a subversive vanguard in the English and American scenes at the three-quarter century.

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The economic and social landscape has obviously evolved over the past 40 years, and punk simply doesn’t have the same contextual importance that it once did. While the criteria for “punk credentials” has always been muddily defined, in 2015 we have even more of a difficult time in assessing the genre’s pertinence. Henry Rollins has his own podcast, Black Flag’s iconic four bars logo evokes about the same sense of rebelliousness as the McDonald’s golden arches, the Ramones guest appeared on The Simpsons, and studded dog collars being sold at Hot Topic only enforce the downfall of punk’s counter-conformist sentiment. Many traces of the genre that exist now are largely thanks to nostalgia. Some opinions may persist with the rhetorical axiom that punk will never die, however, it is far from the same radical force it once was.


HIP HOP “In a world where white is right but not tonight. This is a black man’s might.” - KRS-One The first hip hop venues were nothing more than local neighborhood parties. Artists quickly began to utilize hip hop as a vehicle for community organization, and later for socio-political commentary, largely using the genre’s lyrical content as a key platform for artists to articulate on a range of socially-charged topics. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police” and Tupac’s “Changes” all express a sincere criticism of social conditions, and these select artists were a driving force when bringing the pressing issues of many inner-city black communities into the popular consciousness. Mainstream awareness of the genre followed, and the politically volatile nature of groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A quickly diffused, while corporate record labels and radio stations consciously made the choice to co-opt the genre. The culture that hip hop was built on swiftly transformed into

a tradable commodity, and when musical entrepreneurs like Jay Z and Puff Daddy rose to prominence, this positioned them to swap street credibility for business acumen. In the Ronald Reagan, artists made allegations toward the government for saturating black communities with crack cocaine. Today, Obama has Ludacris and Q-Tip on his iPod. While the matter is not so simple, arguably the biggest issue is the perceived disconnect between the roots of the genre and white artists like Iggy Azalea or Miley Cyrus adopting hip hop without full and complete acknowledgement of its origins, instead peddling something with an increasingly diluted meaning and message. Let us not forget Kendrick Lamar’s raw, biographical commentary on his upbringing in Compton losing out to the painfully middlebrow “Thrift Shop.”

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WORDS

I L LU S T R AT I O N S

IMAGES COURTESY OF

PAUL BL ACK

CLARA LACY

PUNK! NOT ANOTHER PUNK & DEREK RIDGERS

STAY WEIRD, STAY DIFFERENT NO ONE HAS STYLED THIS ATTITUDE QUITE LIKE VIVIENNE WESTWOOD

When you think of the great names in streetwear, do you think of Vivienne Westwood? You should. She’s certainly in your closet, somewhere, somehow. This woman is the mother of streetwear, the reigning queen, an immortal god(dess) who brought punk and new-wave fashion to the mainstream – to the street. With Malcolm McLaren’s King’s Road boutique “SEX” as her trading post, the Sex Pistols as her canvas, and a period of British history that screamed “CHANGE” as her backdrop, Dame Vivienne designed and styled the UK punk scene of the late ’70s. What she did back then underpins practically everything we call “streetwear” right now, and she’s still blazing a trail, setting an example, making noise.

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When you look at today’s hipster-grade “punks” and consider all their “uniqueness” – all this punkinfused, clean over-styling, the Uniform of the New Mediocrity – you might think Westwood’s punk style has become too mainstream. But ’70s punk was itself a mashup of so many fashion movements that it can never grow old. Think 19th century Belle Époque, with its tight corsets, lace and feathers. Spin that with tartan plaid and what do you have? Punk. The flapper of the 1920s, with its short bobbed hair, short shift dresses, pantyhose, Mary Janes and scarlet lipstick? Put a tear in the pantyhose, add girls looking like boys, boys looking like freaks, and you’ve got punk. Fifties glam? Swinging sixties? Those too. All punk.


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Punk reached back across disco and powerdressing, reiterating and borrowing from the past in order to say “OY!” to the excesses and social

epitaphs, the bomber jacket, and fused them with the requisite bad attitude. She twisted them, ripped them and draped them over her Pistols to turn out

disharmony of the late ’70s and early ’80s. This was a time of disenfranchised youth, with its infamous punk epitaph, “NO FUTURE!” Punk was an antiauthoritarian, anti-racist, left-wing, blind, nihilistic rebellion that was about making noise and telling them all to FUCK OFF. It was simple. Punk had no manifesto, and as a political movement it didn’t last, but it holds on today because it offers us the chance to raise a finger without being locked out. Punk is arguably the most influential fashion movement of modern times, and – unlike others – it has evolved with the times. It has never stopped gathering influences and reinventing itself. Minimalism, grunge, ghetto, preppy, pacifist military, new wave, and now the big deconstructionist/glam/slim jean/statement tee/’80s revival confusion – all of these owe their existence to punk. And punk style is Dame Vivienne Westwood. Dame Vivienne took hold of tartan plaid, outrageous hair and make-up, bondage-inspired pleather, safety pins, chains, Doc Martens, oversized Burberry trench coats, cutoff T-shirts with snarling

the uniform of a cultural revolution – one born on the streets, amongst the youth, that has never lost steam. Punk is in almost everything in fashion today; look at some of our great designers and it’s obvious what has influenced them. Martin Margiela’s perpetual deconstruction – the painted surfaces, the iconic symbolism. Raf Simons’ idiosyncratic collage artwork, sharp and noisy, often on the edge. Rick Owens, all chunky boots and copious leather. Jerry Lorenzo’s Fear of God, with its skinheadinspired lookbooks and MA-1 jackets. And, of course, the other mother: Rei Kawakubo, founder and creative director of COMME des GARÇONS, with its austere vision of bleak anti-fashion. But now, what was once shocking has become common. Does that mean the original, ’70s punk look was the last bastion of true shock dress? Has Dame Vivienne herself become mediocre by virtue of the fact that she created the punk style, or will there always be a valid argument for the legitimacy of punk in the mainstream?

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Maybe it’s all down to the realness of the style and the seriousness of the attitude. As Graham Moore (writer of the film The Imitation Game) said

a 73-year-old original with more props and street cred than any punk kid of today. In 1992 she famously collected her Order of the British

so beautifully in his Oscar acceptance speech, “Stay weird, stay different…” That’s punk, and punk-style has something for everyone who wants to stay weird and different. There are the subtle numbers, like a diaper safety-pin, that can raise a smile at your own private little irony. Or the grand gestures, like a studded leather jacket, that just shout, “Look, motherfucker!” Westwood brought all this to the fore, and it still rocks right now on so many different levels. Just look at Pharrell Williams and his Westwood Buffalo Hat (originally part of her ’82-’83 fall/winter collection “Buffalo Girls”), worn at the 2014 Grammy Awards. The way he pulled off that ridiculous lid with the classic adidas track jacket and black jeans… You had to admire the power of such an item. 30 years after it was first made, Vivienne Westwood was still pulling off crazy original like it was perfectly normal. That’s the touch of a true fashion alchemist. But then, when you look at the woman herself, it’s not hard to see how that’s the case. Style and attitude, it’s still there by the bucket-load –

Empire (OBE) from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace wearing no underwear (a secret captured by a photographer in the palace courtyard while she was showing off her outfit with a twirl). She is still married to her former fashion student – Andreas Kronthaler, 25 years her junior – 23 years after they tied the knot. She’s an active political campaigner. Having once posed on the cover of Tatler in 1989 dressed as then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with the caption, “This Woman Was Once a Punk,” today she can be found touring universities giving lectures for the left-wing Green Party. In 2014 she cut off her hair to raise awareness for climate change, while last year she dedicated an entire collection to WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning. All of that speaks to a woman who doesn’t quit – just like the movement she helped spawn. She doesn’t rest on her laurels. She’s street. She’s radical. She basically dressed a revolution. And she don’t wear knickers!

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M A S T

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Highsnobiety Magazine 10 - Summer 2015  

Kobe Bryant

Highsnobiety Magazine 10 - Summer 2015  

Kobe Bryant

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