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15 FAL L / WI N T E R

G U C C I M A N E & P L AY B O I C A R T I ALEXANDER WANG FUTURE TINASHE JADEN SMITH

MAISIE WILLIAMS

2 01 7


WWW.STONEISLAND.COM


WWW.STONEISLAND.COM


TRIGENIC EVO

@clarksoriginals | #theworldneedsoriginals


TRIGENIC EVO

@clarksoriginals | #theworldneedsoriginals


Preface Editor-in-Chief

Pete Williams

If you spend a lot of time online, which is inevitable given that over 3 billion people are on social media, it can feel as though the things we see and read are being filtered through algorithms in a way that puts personal preference ahead of substance. With “fake news,” clickbait and Photoshop fixes permeating worldwide, hype, controversy, and shock value are seemingly winning out over authenticity and deeper meaning and even reality. As I write this, the Supreme/Louis Vuitton collection has invaded our world at an almost comical level. Rich kids who aren’t even old enough to drive are wrapping luxury cars in the over-the-top print in the name of achieving “clout” in the all-knowing cloud. The once niche “street” culture Highsnobiety was founded on has spread so wide and evolved in such unexpected ways that it can at times feel like it all has become a mockery of itself. But sometimes that’s the point, as Vetements’ designer Denma Gvasalia’s “office core” reinvention of high fashion label Balenciaga so boldly illustrates (as featured in this issue on page 34). At the same time, there are still swaths of young brands and individuals dedicated to a creative purity that transcends a desire for “Likes.” Even if the output doesn’t look quite the same, and the execution skews towards the digital, there’s still that same rebel spirit, open mindedness and borderless approach to culture that remains at the core of what resonates most powerfully today. With that in mind, issue 15 of Highsnobiety Magazine explores the theme of “forever young” through the lens of the new frontier versus the old guard. At a time where luxury houses are more inclusive than ever, snapping up “influencers” to promote and design their garms, tapping into niche culture and breaking piles of old rules, we examine the ways the approach of the new generation is pushing our scene forward as a whole, and how the old masters are staying relevant. Highlighting today’s culture clash, we look to how top fashion designers like NY’s Alexander Wang (featured in this issue via 19th-century tintype photography by Driely S.) are creating and replicating the clothing worn in the streets—and on social

media—and at the same time, how young creatives like David Casavant and the new wave of New York youth are disrupting the system, taking style into their own hands, and democratizing the trend spectrum. Looking to the past, we explore storied London venue 100 Club, best known as a pioneering force in the punk movement; catch up with Harlem DIY fashion originator Dapper Dan (along with modern Harlem style icon A$AP Ferg); and speak with Takahiro Miyashita of legendary Japanese labels Number (N)ine and TheSoloIst. We also sit down with Atlanta rap kingpin Future to learn how he’s crafted a world all his own and is giving back to the next generation. Additional features include a look into the current Chinese fashion scene, a deep dive into the hardcore music influenced label Stray Rats (complete with an exclusive sticker sheet), an allnew Arkitip zine illustrated by UK-based artist and director Danny Sangra, and we explore a tale of two yoga-obsessed travelers, in a short story entitled “The Excruciants.” Expanding our horizons further, we looked towards a range of young cultural leaders who are all making waves in their own distinct ways. Maisie Williams has made a name for herself as Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark and is now pushing to support the next generation of young UK actors. Jaden Smith is inspiring the youth to push limits aside with his approach to life. Twenty-fouryear-old model and songstress Tinashe talks going it alone while taking her time to do it right. Last but not least, we brought trap music icon Gucci Mane together with burgeoning 20-year-old rapper Playboi Carti in Miami for a look at what the old guard can learn from the new wave. Thanks to all for reading, contributing and being a part of our collective experience. Even as we grow older and our tastes change, staying true to the attitude and spirit of the youth is integral in staying “forever young.” I hope this selection of written and visual work inspires you on your journey. Enjoy.

10


Preface Editor-in-Chief

Pete Williams

If you spend a lot of time online, which is inevitable given that over 3 billion people are on social media, it can feel as though the things we see and read are being filtered through algorithms in a way that puts personal preference ahead of substance. With “fake news,” clickbait and Photoshop fixes permeating worldwide, hype, controversy, and shock value are seemingly winning out over authenticity and deeper meaning and even reality. As I write this, the Supreme/Louis Vuitton collection has invaded our world at an almost comical level. Rich kids who aren’t even old enough to drive are wrapping luxury cars in the over-the-top print in the name of achieving “clout” in the all-knowing cloud. The once niche “street” culture Highsnobiety was founded on has spread so wide and evolved in such unexpected ways that it can at times feel like it all has become a mockery of itself. But sometimes that’s the point, as Vetements’ designer Denma Gvasalia’s “office core” reinvention of high fashion label Balenciaga so boldly illustrates (as featured in this issue on page 34). At the same time, there are still swaths of young brands and individuals dedicated to a creative purity that transcends a desire for “Likes.” Even if the output doesn’t look quite the same, and the execution skews towards the digital, there’s still that same rebel spirit, open mindedness and borderless approach to culture that remains at the core of what resonates most powerfully today. With that in mind, issue 15 of Highsnobiety Magazine explores the theme of “forever young” through the lens of the new frontier versus the old guard. At a time where luxury houses are more inclusive than ever, snapping up “influencers” to promote and design their garms, tapping into niche culture and breaking piles of old rules, we examine the ways the approach of the new generation is pushing our scene forward as a whole, and how the old masters are staying relevant. Highlighting today’s culture clash, we look to how top fashion designers like NY’s Alexander Wang (featured in this issue via 19th-century tintype photography by Driely S.) are creating and replicating the clothing worn in the streets—and on social

media—and at the same time, how young creatives like David Casavant and the new wave of New York youth are disrupting the system, taking style into their own hands, and democratizing the trend spectrum. Looking to the past, we explore storied London venue 100 Club, best known as a pioneering force in the punk movement; catch up with Harlem DIY fashion originator Dapper Dan (along with modern Harlem style icon A$AP Ferg); and speak with Takahiro Miyashita of legendary Japanese labels Number (N)ine and TheSoloIst. We also sit down with Atlanta rap kingpin Future to learn how he’s crafted a world all his own and is giving back to the next generation. Additional features include a look into the current Chinese fashion scene, a deep dive into the hardcore music influenced label Stray Rats (complete with an exclusive sticker sheet), an allnew Arkitip zine illustrated by UK-based artist and director Danny Sangra, and we explore a tale of two yoga-obsessed travelers, in a short story entitled “The Excruciants.” Expanding our horizons further, we looked towards a range of young cultural leaders who are all making waves in their own distinct ways. Maisie Williams has made a name for herself as Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark and is now pushing to support the next generation of young UK actors. Jaden Smith is inspiring the youth to push limits aside with his approach to life. Twenty-fouryear-old model and songstress Tinashe talks going it alone while taking her time to do it right. Last but not least, we brought trap music icon Gucci Mane together with burgeoning 20-year-old rapper Playboi Carti in Miami for a look at what the old guard can learn from the new wave. Thanks to all for reading, contributing and being a part of our collective experience. Even as we grow older and our tastes change, staying true to the attitude and spirit of the youth is integral in staying “forever young.” I hope this selection of written and visual work inspires you on your journey. Enjoy.

10


Contents 10 Preface

148 JUUN.J

14 Selections

156 Tinashe

24

166 KANGHYUK

Dapper Dan & A$AP Ferg

34 Balenciaga

172

42 Future

182 SANKUANZ

54 Recess

190

62

Stussy Women

198 Boi

70

Gucci Mane & Playboi Carti

206

Jaden Smith Made in China Stray Rats

80 Decoded

216 Arkitip + Danny Sangra

88

Takahiro Miyashita

218

Jeff Horton

96

Flea Market

226

Robin Rhode

104 SportMax

234

The Kids Are All Right

112

Maisie Williams

242

Richie Hawtin

122 Stance

248

LOOK MoMA, NO HANDS!

130 VHS

254

The Excruciants

138

Alexander Wang

Covers

Future

Gucci Mane &

Maisie Williams

Alexander Wang

Tinashe

Jaden Smith

Photography by

Playboi Carti

Photography by

Photography by

Photography by

Photography by

Thomas Welch

Photography by

Kenneth Cappello

Driely S.

Alexander Bortz

Kenneth Cappello

Gunner Stahl

12


Contents 10 Preface

148 JUUN.J

14 Selections

156 Tinashe

24

166 KANGHYUK

Dapper Dan & A$AP Ferg

34 Balenciaga

172

42 Future

182 SANKUANZ

54 Recess

190

62

Stussy Women

198 Boi

70

Gucci Mane & Playboi Carti

206

Jaden Smith Made in China Stray Rats

80 Decoded

216 Arkitip + Danny Sangra

88

Takahiro Miyashita

218

Jeff Horton

96

Flea Market

226

Robin Rhode

104 SportMax

234

The Kids Are All Right

112

Maisie Williams

242

Richie Hawtin

122 Stance

248

LOOK MoMA, NO HANDS!

130 VHS

254

The Excruciants

138

Alexander Wang

Covers

Future

Gucci Mane &

Maisie Williams

Alexander Wang

Tinashe

Jaden Smith

Photography by

Playboi Carti

Photography by

Photography by

Photography by

Photography by

Thomas Welch

Photography by

Kenneth Cappello

Driely S.

Alexander Bortz

Kenneth Cappello

Gunner Stahl

12


Selections

ALASKA

Photography & Art Direction Benjamin Robinson @ MACHINE17 Styling Atip W

Special Thanks James Boughton, Dominik Prosser, Nicholas Walter & Simon @ Palace Skateboards

REEBOK CLASSICS NYLON OG, BALENCIAGA TRIPLE S

14

SINCE 1830 AMERICA'S OLDEST OUTDOOR CLOTHING COMPANY woolrich.eu


Selections

ALASKA

Photography & Art Direction Benjamin Robinson @ MACHINE17 Styling Atip W

Special Thanks James Boughton, Dominik Prosser, Nicholas Walter & Simon @ Palace Skateboards

REEBOK CLASSICS NYLON OG, BALENCIAGA TRIPLE S

14

SINCE 1830 AMERICA'S OLDEST OUTDOOR CLOTHING COMPANY woolrich.eu


Selections

CASIO G-SHOCK MR G, LOUIS VUITTON TAMBOUR SMART WATCH

16


Selections

CASIO G-SHOCK MR G, LOUIS VUITTON TAMBOUR SMART WATCH

16


Selections

66NORTH FISHTAIL PARKA, U.S. ARMY M51 FISHTAIL PARKA

18


Selections

66NORTH FISHTAIL PARKA, U.S. ARMY M51 FISHTAIL PARKA

18


Selections

highsnobiety

POLAROID 600, IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT L1

20

Multiroom speakers that complement your style


Selections

highsnobiety

POLAROID 600, IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT L1

20

Multiroom speakers that complement your style


Selections

KAWS × MEDICOM TOY COMPANION, VINTAGE MICKEY MOUSE PLUSH DOLL

22


Selections

KAWS × MEDICOM TOY COMPANION, VINTAGE MICKEY MOUSE PLUSH DOLL

22


From Harlem to the World Dapper Dan & A$AP Ferg Words Jian DeLeon Photography Thomas Welch

Tailor Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan, is known for outfitting ’80s hip-hop icons in custom kits riffing on high fashion brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci, who eventually sued his independent shop out of business for copyright infringement. But decades later, Dapper Dan’s memorable pieces are influencing what goes down the runways more than ever.

24

The New Yorker’s version of the American Dream is only slightly different than the overarching ideal of owning a house that your family can pass down from generation to generation. The city has long praised the self-made individual, whether it’s a hustler who goes legit after a few brushes with the law, or the street-smart smooth talker who works his or her way up from the bottom of the ladder to the corner office.

Kirkland’s basketball talent caught the eye of the NBA, and the Chicago Bulls attempted to draft him in 1969, but he turned down the offer because the streets were already paying him in full. The drug game had a more handsome immediate payoff than professional basketball could. And this was the underworld where he and Daniel Day would cut their teeth, playing craps, gambling, and hobnobbing with uptown gangster greats like Nicky Barnes.

Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan, occupies a space between those two archetypes. He grew up in Harlem, on 129th Street and Lexington, in humble means. He went to a mostly white Catholic school, three blocks away from where poet Langston Hughes lived. Whenever his mom won some money from scratch-offs, she’d treat him to a new pair of shoes. Soon, he was taking matters into his own hands, running the streets and shoplifting with a crew that included Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland, who would go on to become a street ball legend.

In fact, Dapper Dan earned his name not just from his signature sense of personal style, but because he hustled it from its previous owner—an older gambler who Day bested in craps. In a New York Times profile, Day says the man crowned him “the new Dapper Dan.” As for the older gentleman, he decided to go by “Tenor Man Dan,” since he happened to be a tenor saxophonist.

25


From Harlem to the World Dapper Dan & A$AP Ferg Words Jian DeLeon Photography Thomas Welch

Tailor Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan, is known for outfitting ’80s hip-hop icons in custom kits riffing on high fashion brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci, who eventually sued his independent shop out of business for copyright infringement. But decades later, Dapper Dan’s memorable pieces are influencing what goes down the runways more than ever.

24

The New Yorker’s version of the American Dream is only slightly different than the overarching ideal of owning a house that your family can pass down from generation to generation. The city has long praised the self-made individual, whether it’s a hustler who goes legit after a few brushes with the law, or the street-smart smooth talker who works his or her way up from the bottom of the ladder to the corner office.

Kirkland’s basketball talent caught the eye of the NBA, and the Chicago Bulls attempted to draft him in 1969, but he turned down the offer because the streets were already paying him in full. The drug game had a more handsome immediate payoff than professional basketball could. And this was the underworld where he and Daniel Day would cut their teeth, playing craps, gambling, and hobnobbing with uptown gangster greats like Nicky Barnes.

Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan, occupies a space between those two archetypes. He grew up in Harlem, on 129th Street and Lexington, in humble means. He went to a mostly white Catholic school, three blocks away from where poet Langston Hughes lived. Whenever his mom won some money from scratch-offs, she’d treat him to a new pair of shoes. Soon, he was taking matters into his own hands, running the streets and shoplifting with a crew that included Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland, who would go on to become a street ball legend.

In fact, Dapper Dan earned his name not just from his signature sense of personal style, but because he hustled it from its previous owner—an older gambler who Day bested in craps. In a New York Times profile, Day says the man crowned him “the new Dapper Dan.” As for the older gentleman, he decided to go by “Tenor Man Dan,” since he happened to be a tenor saxophonist.

25


For Dapper Dan, style wasn’t just about self-expression. It was about embodying power and masculinity. As he puts it, a lot of the influence comes from the Southern United States, where prominent families ended up settling in the North. “Those are the ones that said, ‘I’m gonna make it here, and I’m not gonna go back,’” he says. “A greater sense of fashion evolved among us that became like a powerful vehicle to all the people in the different areas of the South that we came from.” In Harlem, masculinity informed the uniforms of some of the neighborhood’s most influential groups. The Black Panthers were usually clad in black leather blazers, powder blue shirts, black trousers and black berets, and their nattier counterparts, the Nation of Islam, often wore suits over crisp white shirts with bow ties and acetate-framed glasses. But in terms of burgeoning hip-hop style, underworld antiheroes like gangsters and drug dealers were the original style icons, using their gains to outwardly express their financial success.

“T he rappers wanted to be like the gangsters, because the gangsters is the ones that had money. Then the hip-hop artists became rich, and they became the ones who everybody wanted to be like.” — Dapper Dan

uncommon to customize tees and jackets with iron-on letters to symbolize what crew you were representing. Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, and Eric B. and Rakim were all known for their flamboyantly masculine sense of style, pairing luxurious Bally shoes with layers of gold chains, cozy sweaters and casual sportswear from Nike, Fila and adidas. But the high fashion houses they aspired to wear weren’t even speaking to the same audience as their music. Enter Dapper Dan, who opened his boutique at 43 125th Street in 1982. Like many of his customers that happened to be rappers, he was sampling street-ready silhouettes and mixing in pops of high fashion. “The clothes just didn’t match the message and the sampling that the young people were bringing about,” says Dap. “They needed something that was consistent with the attitude and the approach toward their reality. And that wasn’t there for them.” Brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, MCM and Fendi were already popular amongst the hip-hop community, but many of its members couldn’t even fit into the ready-to-wear offerings. So what Dapper Dan did was put these brands in a new context, combining covetable fashion houses with more generous fits and shapes that spoke to a younger, more discerning audience. And more importantly, he turned the clothes into wearable status symbols. “The symbol of success is in the logo. I mean you could wear the fine garments, but kids would need to know that these garments cost money,” he explains. “The more of the logo you have, the more expensive the garment seems, and it looks like you arrived. The logo was saying: ‘Okay, I made it.’”

“Hip-hop was influenced by the gangsters,” explains Dapper Dan. “The rappers wanted to be like the gangsters, because the gangsters is the ones that had money,” he continues. “Then the hip-hop artists became rich, and they became the ones who everybody wanted to be like.” Indeed, in the early ’80s, hip-hop and braggadocio went hand-in-hand. Rappers wanted to look powerful and successful, so their outfits had to convey the same messages as their lyrics. A strong DIY aesthetic inspired by graffiti writers led to pioneers like Shirt King Phade gaining attention for his eye-popping airbrushed T-shirts and jeans, turning street art into early streetwear. It wasn’t

In addition, as Nas points out in the 2015 documentary Fresh Dressed, what Dapper Dan offered his customers was a certain unpretentiousness, and like any good tailor, a more accurate understanding of what his clients wanted. Sure, there were people in the hood fortunate enough to be able to step into a Louis Vuitton or Gucci boutique and cop some gear, but, at the time, they were treated much differently than the labels’ typical old-money customer. In the same documentary, Dap describes what he did as “black-inizing” the appeal of these labels, making them look even better on his customers than the brands themselves.

26


For Dapper Dan, style wasn’t just about self-expression. It was about embodying power and masculinity. As he puts it, a lot of the influence comes from the Southern United States, where prominent families ended up settling in the North. “Those are the ones that said, ‘I’m gonna make it here, and I’m not gonna go back,’” he says. “A greater sense of fashion evolved among us that became like a powerful vehicle to all the people in the different areas of the South that we came from.” In Harlem, masculinity informed the uniforms of some of the neighborhood’s most influential groups. The Black Panthers were usually clad in black leather blazers, powder blue shirts, black trousers and black berets, and their nattier counterparts, the Nation of Islam, often wore suits over crisp white shirts with bow ties and acetate-framed glasses. But in terms of burgeoning hip-hop style, underworld antiheroes like gangsters and drug dealers were the original style icons, using their gains to outwardly express their financial success.

“T he rappers wanted to be like the gangsters, because the gangsters is the ones that had money. Then the hip-hop artists became rich, and they became the ones who everybody wanted to be like.” — Dapper Dan

uncommon to customize tees and jackets with iron-on letters to symbolize what crew you were representing. Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, and Eric B. and Rakim were all known for their flamboyantly masculine sense of style, pairing luxurious Bally shoes with layers of gold chains, cozy sweaters and casual sportswear from Nike, Fila and adidas. But the high fashion houses they aspired to wear weren’t even speaking to the same audience as their music. Enter Dapper Dan, who opened his boutique at 43 125th Street in 1982. Like many of his customers that happened to be rappers, he was sampling street-ready silhouettes and mixing in pops of high fashion. “The clothes just didn’t match the message and the sampling that the young people were bringing about,” says Dap. “They needed something that was consistent with the attitude and the approach toward their reality. And that wasn’t there for them.” Brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, MCM and Fendi were already popular amongst the hip-hop community, but many of its members couldn’t even fit into the ready-to-wear offerings. So what Dapper Dan did was put these brands in a new context, combining covetable fashion houses with more generous fits and shapes that spoke to a younger, more discerning audience. And more importantly, he turned the clothes into wearable status symbols. “The symbol of success is in the logo. I mean you could wear the fine garments, but kids would need to know that these garments cost money,” he explains. “The more of the logo you have, the more expensive the garment seems, and it looks like you arrived. The logo was saying: ‘Okay, I made it.’”

“Hip-hop was influenced by the gangsters,” explains Dapper Dan. “The rappers wanted to be like the gangsters, because the gangsters is the ones that had money,” he continues. “Then the hip-hop artists became rich, and they became the ones who everybody wanted to be like.” Indeed, in the early ’80s, hip-hop and braggadocio went hand-in-hand. Rappers wanted to look powerful and successful, so their outfits had to convey the same messages as their lyrics. A strong DIY aesthetic inspired by graffiti writers led to pioneers like Shirt King Phade gaining attention for his eye-popping airbrushed T-shirts and jeans, turning street art into early streetwear. It wasn’t

In addition, as Nas points out in the 2015 documentary Fresh Dressed, what Dapper Dan offered his customers was a certain unpretentiousness, and like any good tailor, a more accurate understanding of what his clients wanted. Sure, there were people in the hood fortunate enough to be able to step into a Louis Vuitton or Gucci boutique and cop some gear, but, at the time, they were treated much differently than the labels’ typical old-money customer. In the same documentary, Dap describes what he did as “black-inizing” the appeal of these labels, making them look even better on his customers than the brands themselves.

26


“The more of the logo you have, the more expensive the garment seems, and it looks like you arrived. The logo was saying: ‘Okay, I made it.’” —

Dapper Dan

29


“The more of the logo you have, the more expensive the garment seems, and it looks like you arrived. The logo was saying: ‘Okay, I made it.’” —

Dapper Dan

29


Dapper Dan claims his boutique stayed open 24/7 for eight years, and had an after-hours window where late night clients could come get work done. The store was shut down in 1992 after cops raided his shop and multiple labels hit him with copyright infringement lawsuits. Among the myriad of people that worked for him was Darold Ferguson Sr., another hip-hop clothing legend known for screen printing T-shirts for labels like Bad Boy and artists like Heavy D, Bell Biv DeVoe and producer Teddy Riley. He met Dapper Dan when he was just 13, and at the time was a graffiti writer. Dap mentored him and even allowed him to put his work on some of his clients’ clothes. That relationship enabled Dap to serve as a mentor to Darold Ferguson Jr., better known as A$AP Ferg. “My generation—that’s what we did, mentor the young guys,” says Dap. He’s seated in the salon of the Harlem brownstone he bought in the mid-’80s. The decor includes a bust of Barack Obama, and African art he picked up during a trip to the continent in 1974. It’s tasteful and homey, accented with forest green velvet couches and a dark walnut brown spiral staircase that frames photos of his family in the vestibule. It aligns with his personal sense of style—classic suits, shirts and furnishings of his own design. The way Dap dresses now couldn’t be more far removed from the ostentatious logomania gear that helped him buy the house. He calls A$AP Ferg on his cell phone, addresses the younger Ferguson as “nephew,” and asks him to come over for his Highsnobiety shoot. Ferg literally has just landed back in New York after a trip to Los Angeles to promote his third studio album, Still Striving, but promises Dap that he’ll make his way there as soon as he can. Dapper Dan’s original boutique is now a school, but that’s appropriate considering he’s still teaching the next generation. To walk around Harlem with Dap is to be in the presence of a mayor, perhaps even a king. He loves pointing out the history hidden in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood, motioning to a corner building that once housed Mike Tyson’s pigeon coop. During lunch at Street Bird, a restaurant by Harlem chef Marcus Samuelsson, Dap’s brand manager, his son Jelani, points out

the numerous nods to his father in the interior design. A corner features a photo of one of Dap’s more famous pieces, a furpaneled, balloon-sleeved jacket with Louis Vuitton monograms on the sleeve designed for Olympian track-and-field athlete Diane Dixon. This same jacket would come back into prominence when Gucci’s Alessandro Michele presented a similar design on the runway in its 2018 Resort collection. In response, Gucci has contacted Dap, but he remains tight-lipped about the conversation, only telling The New York Times that he’s currently “at the table” with the label. It’s ironic that his logo-laced designs are finally being proven as ahead of their time. But there are two main reasons Dap thinks that super-prominent branding is so relevant in modern fashion. “There’s nothing that over the last 30 years that has been able to replace the logo. Logomania, it’s almost like it’s here to stay,” he says. “Nothing signals success more than your logo. I mean, if you had a Rolls-Royce and you didn’t have ‘RR’ on it, it’s not a Rolls-Royce.” Dap also reasons that with plenty of minorities coming up in the world and getting more disposable income, they are forever tempted to display their newfound wealth. And savvy brands are picking up on this new market. “They not only recognize that, they recognize the influence that the minorities have because of social media and hip-hop music on [culture],” he asserts. “So it was a natural evolution for them to reach down. Old money doesn’t need culture.” A$AP Ferg meets Dapper Dan outside his Harlem brownstone, clutching a Fendi pouch and wearing a beat-up pair of checkerboard Vans Old Skools, a white vintage Nelson Mandela shirt, and white sweatpants from Ice Studios—a brand run by his girlfriend, photographer Renell Medrano. Though best known for music, Ferg has been carrying his father’s torch in fashion since 2005 when he launched his first brand Devoni Clothing. He made luxurious belts and bracelets that ended up on celebrities like Chris Brown and Swizz Beatz.

31


Dapper Dan claims his boutique stayed open 24/7 for eight years, and had an after-hours window where late night clients could come get work done. The store was shut down in 1992 after cops raided his shop and multiple labels hit him with copyright infringement lawsuits. Among the myriad of people that worked for him was Darold Ferguson Sr., another hip-hop clothing legend known for screen printing T-shirts for labels like Bad Boy and artists like Heavy D, Bell Biv DeVoe and producer Teddy Riley. He met Dapper Dan when he was just 13, and at the time was a graffiti writer. Dap mentored him and even allowed him to put his work on some of his clients’ clothes. That relationship enabled Dap to serve as a mentor to Darold Ferguson Jr., better known as A$AP Ferg. “My generation—that’s what we did, mentor the young guys,” says Dap. He’s seated in the salon of the Harlem brownstone he bought in the mid-’80s. The decor includes a bust of Barack Obama, and African art he picked up during a trip to the continent in 1974. It’s tasteful and homey, accented with forest green velvet couches and a dark walnut brown spiral staircase that frames photos of his family in the vestibule. It aligns with his personal sense of style—classic suits, shirts and furnishings of his own design. The way Dap dresses now couldn’t be more far removed from the ostentatious logomania gear that helped him buy the house. He calls A$AP Ferg on his cell phone, addresses the younger Ferguson as “nephew,” and asks him to come over for his Highsnobiety shoot. Ferg literally has just landed back in New York after a trip to Los Angeles to promote his third studio album, Still Striving, but promises Dap that he’ll make his way there as soon as he can. Dapper Dan’s original boutique is now a school, but that’s appropriate considering he’s still teaching the next generation. To walk around Harlem with Dap is to be in the presence of a mayor, perhaps even a king. He loves pointing out the history hidden in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood, motioning to a corner building that once housed Mike Tyson’s pigeon coop. During lunch at Street Bird, a restaurant by Harlem chef Marcus Samuelsson, Dap’s brand manager, his son Jelani, points out

the numerous nods to his father in the interior design. A corner features a photo of one of Dap’s more famous pieces, a furpaneled, balloon-sleeved jacket with Louis Vuitton monograms on the sleeve designed for Olympian track-and-field athlete Diane Dixon. This same jacket would come back into prominence when Gucci’s Alessandro Michele presented a similar design on the runway in its 2018 Resort collection. In response, Gucci has contacted Dap, but he remains tight-lipped about the conversation, only telling The New York Times that he’s currently “at the table” with the label. It’s ironic that his logo-laced designs are finally being proven as ahead of their time. But there are two main reasons Dap thinks that super-prominent branding is so relevant in modern fashion. “There’s nothing that over the last 30 years that has been able to replace the logo. Logomania, it’s almost like it’s here to stay,” he says. “Nothing signals success more than your logo. I mean, if you had a Rolls-Royce and you didn’t have ‘RR’ on it, it’s not a Rolls-Royce.” Dap also reasons that with plenty of minorities coming up in the world and getting more disposable income, they are forever tempted to display their newfound wealth. And savvy brands are picking up on this new market. “They not only recognize that, they recognize the influence that the minorities have because of social media and hip-hop music on [culture],” he asserts. “So it was a natural evolution for them to reach down. Old money doesn’t need culture.” A$AP Ferg meets Dapper Dan outside his Harlem brownstone, clutching a Fendi pouch and wearing a beat-up pair of checkerboard Vans Old Skools, a white vintage Nelson Mandela shirt, and white sweatpants from Ice Studios—a brand run by his girlfriend, photographer Renell Medrano. Though best known for music, Ferg has been carrying his father’s torch in fashion since 2005 when he launched his first brand Devoni Clothing. He made luxurious belts and bracelets that ended up on celebrities like Chris Brown and Swizz Beatz.

31


Even after the launch of his debut album Trap Lord in 2013, Ferg continued his career in fashion, starting a clothing line with the same name. He and Dapper Dan exchange pleasantries before sitting down in the salon. They start talking about life, Harlem, and how the A$AP Mob is taking what Dapper Dan and his contemporaries started to a new level. Mentioning how Harlem style has always been linked to the South, Ferg points out that A$AP Rocky grew up in Harlem, moved to the Bronx, then moved down South, helping form his unique identity. Ferg meanwhile is a trained artist, and went on to major in fashion and minor in fine arts in school. These disparate elements form the backbone of what makes A$AP Mob so unique. For Ferg, his relationship with Dap isn’t just important because of the fact that he mentored his father, but because he believes that the younger generation needs to learn more from the old guard. Knowing about the past is a great way to learn about how to shape the future, especially when someone like Dapper Dan is more than willing to pass on his generation-spanning knowledge.

“You don’t got the OGs that wanna be an OG, like what [Dapper Dan’s] telling me: ‘I’m passing the torch to you so you can run with it. You run with the baton.’ Everybody wanna be in the game.” — A$AP Ferg

“We was showing the world how we did it. And paying homage at the same time to what we grew up seeing, but at the same time adding our twist to it,” adds Ferg. “We just wanted to be noticed. It went from us taking over Harlem and being young up-and-coming celebrities to saying: ‘If we did this to Harlem, we could do it to the world.’” Ferg explains what the A$AP Mob was initially doing as “dressing for sport,” wanting to flex on other people when they went out to events. It harkens back to what Dapper Dan said about style being inextricably linked to an expression of masculinity. But now, it’s not enough to dress well—you have to dress better than everyone else. In another callback to Dapper Dan’s generation, Ferg recalls how for A$AP Rocky’s “Peso” music video, they were still a bunch of kids from Harlem rolling dice and hitting up the corner store, but now decked out in their own signature style. In those days, the A$AP Mob was known for wearing all-black outfits with an exaggerated gothic edge, accented by aggressive kicks from Raf Simons, Rick Owens and Jeremy Scott for adidas. “We formed like Voltron. Not only did we form, we transformed. A$AP was just a street thing. We all came together and made it a business,” says Ferg. “That’s when it just exploded.”

“We have no guidance. And the thing is, you got the old niggas trying to be young. So that’s what’s messing it up too,” says Ferg. “You don’t got the OGs that wanna be an OG, like what [Dapper Dan’s] telling me: ‘I’m passing the torch to you so you can run with it. You run with the baton.’ Everybody wanna be in the game.” “My generation needed to give your generation your chance to shine,” replies Dap. Dap is practically beaming as he speaks to Ferg, complimenting his current success and what the A$AP Mob has managed to build. They’ve made Harlem style a universal language, and more importantly, they’ve put the neighborhood on the digital map. “They took swag and made it virtual reality. They took it around the world, man,” says Dap.

Dapper Dan’s DIY approach to fashion aligns with how Ferg and the A$AP Mob have taken the garments available to them, and put that clothing in a new context. Dap was taking symbols and pieces and translating them for the streets, while A$AP Mob’s legacy is taking runway garments and wearing them in their own way. And it’s exactly why A$AP Rocky has collaborated with labels like Guess and J.W.Anderson and has been the face of a prestigious house like Dior. Dap couldn’t be prouder of the ascension of Harlem’s new fashion guard. They’re expanding the path that pioneers like him paved, and hip-hop culture has gone from looking up to fashion labels to one of the most important influences in modern style. Dapper Dan may have been the first to translate the language of fashion into hip-hop vernacular, but the A$AP Mob is expanding the lexicon. “Let’s imagine A$AP Rocky never ever mentioning clothes,” posits Dap. “How much substance would that take away from his presence and from his artistry? They go hand in hand.”

32


Even after the launch of his debut album Trap Lord in 2013, Ferg continued his career in fashion, starting a clothing line with the same name. He and Dapper Dan exchange pleasantries before sitting down in the salon. They start talking about life, Harlem, and how the A$AP Mob is taking what Dapper Dan and his contemporaries started to a new level. Mentioning how Harlem style has always been linked to the South, Ferg points out that A$AP Rocky grew up in Harlem, moved to the Bronx, then moved down South, helping form his unique identity. Ferg meanwhile is a trained artist, and went on to major in fashion and minor in fine arts in school. These disparate elements form the backbone of what makes A$AP Mob so unique. For Ferg, his relationship with Dap isn’t just important because of the fact that he mentored his father, but because he believes that the younger generation needs to learn more from the old guard. Knowing about the past is a great way to learn about how to shape the future, especially when someone like Dapper Dan is more than willing to pass on his generation-spanning knowledge.

“You don’t got the OGs that wanna be an OG, like what [Dapper Dan’s] telling me: ‘I’m passing the torch to you so you can run with it. You run with the baton.’ Everybody wanna be in the game.” — A$AP Ferg

“We was showing the world how we did it. And paying homage at the same time to what we grew up seeing, but at the same time adding our twist to it,” adds Ferg. “We just wanted to be noticed. It went from us taking over Harlem and being young up-and-coming celebrities to saying: ‘If we did this to Harlem, we could do it to the world.’” Ferg explains what the A$AP Mob was initially doing as “dressing for sport,” wanting to flex on other people when they went out to events. It harkens back to what Dapper Dan said about style being inextricably linked to an expression of masculinity. But now, it’s not enough to dress well—you have to dress better than everyone else. In another callback to Dapper Dan’s generation, Ferg recalls how for A$AP Rocky’s “Peso” music video, they were still a bunch of kids from Harlem rolling dice and hitting up the corner store, but now decked out in their own signature style. In those days, the A$AP Mob was known for wearing all-black outfits with an exaggerated gothic edge, accented by aggressive kicks from Raf Simons, Rick Owens and Jeremy Scott for adidas. “We formed like Voltron. Not only did we form, we transformed. A$AP was just a street thing. We all came together and made it a business,” says Ferg. “That’s when it just exploded.”

“We have no guidance. And the thing is, you got the old niggas trying to be young. So that’s what’s messing it up too,” says Ferg. “You don’t got the OGs that wanna be an OG, like what [Dapper Dan’s] telling me: ‘I’m passing the torch to you so you can run with it. You run with the baton.’ Everybody wanna be in the game.” “My generation needed to give your generation your chance to shine,” replies Dap. Dap is practically beaming as he speaks to Ferg, complimenting his current success and what the A$AP Mob has managed to build. They’ve made Harlem style a universal language, and more importantly, they’ve put the neighborhood on the digital map. “They took swag and made it virtual reality. They took it around the world, man,” says Dap.

Dapper Dan’s DIY approach to fashion aligns with how Ferg and the A$AP Mob have taken the garments available to them, and put that clothing in a new context. Dap was taking symbols and pieces and translating them for the streets, while A$AP Mob’s legacy is taking runway garments and wearing them in their own way. And it’s exactly why A$AP Rocky has collaborated with labels like Guess and J.W.Anderson and has been the face of a prestigious house like Dior. Dap couldn’t be prouder of the ascension of Harlem’s new fashion guard. They’re expanding the path that pioneers like him paved, and hip-hop culture has gone from looking up to fashion labels to one of the most important influences in modern style. Dapper Dan may have been the first to translate the language of fashion into hip-hop vernacular, but the A$AP Mob is expanding the lexicon. “Let’s imagine A$AP Rocky never ever mentioning clothes,” posits Dap. “How much substance would that take away from his presence and from his artistry? They go hand in hand.”

32


F/W

Balenciaga

BIG IDEAS

Photography Lola Paprocka & Pani Paul @ Bernstein & Andriulli Styling Vincent Levy Hair & Make-up Maki Tanaka Photography Assistant Cameron Willimson Model Agnieszka Szczotka

2017


F/W

Balenciaga

BIG IDEAS

Photography Lola Paprocka & Pani Paul @ Bernstein & Andriulli Styling Vincent Levy Hair & Make-up Maki Tanaka Photography Assistant Cameron Willimson Model Agnieszka Szczotka

2017


Mask Off — Future

Words Stephanie Smith-Strickland

Producer Taylor Spong

Photography Thomas Welch

Photography Assistant Bryan Luna

Styling Bobby Williams

Production Assistants Noah Thomas & Arianna Zaidenweber

MASK & JACKET IH NOM UH NIT


Mask Off — Future

Words Stephanie Smith-Strickland

Producer Taylor Spong

Photography Thomas Welch

Photography Assistant Bryan Luna

Styling Bobby Williams

Production Assistants Noah Thomas & Arianna Zaidenweber

MASK & JACKET IH NOM UH NIT


TOP AIMÉ LEON DORE EARPHONE BEATS X

ALL REEBOK

EYEWEAR CHRISTIAN DIOR

Future has created a musical path so recognizable that other artists have followed in his sonic footsteps. But in the wake of his record-breaking albums, FUTURE and HNDRXX, what’s evident is that he’s become his only true competition. In a candid interview, the artist talks about the work ethic that got him to where he is. It’s a sleepy Friday afternoon on a tree-lined street in Clinton Hill, barring the burst of activity along a stretch of road where quietly ostentatious million-dollar brownstones sit alongside immaculately renovated prewar apartments. The man of the hour is running late, but Future’s staggeringly efficient team arrives well in advance of his Plutonian descent, heralding his coming with a flurry of last minute preparations. The 33-year-old’s stylist, Bobby, whom he started working with a little under two years ago, hangs up thousands of dollars in garments while his two assistants line dozens of pairs of Reeboks—including Future-endorsed silhouettes like the Zoku Runner, Furykaze and Instapump Fury—directly below a largeformat Kehinde Wiley painting; it is just one of many pieces of priceless art decorating the private location. For a musician whose lyrics seem equally as besotted with the trappings of wealth as actual financial capital, the deceptively grand home brimming with aged wood and specially commissioned work, feels like a natural extension of the hedonist fantasy Future has managed to make a personal reality. Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn was born November 20, 1983, in Atlanta, Georgia’s Kirkwood neighborhood. Though his mother found work as a 911 operator, the Honest rapper’s earliest mixtapes offer a glimpse into an extended family of street-savvy grifters and hustlers. In high school, he discovered he had a first cousin in the music industry—Rico Wade of the legendary production trio Organized Noize, the Southern icons behind TLC’s “Waterfalls,” OutKast’s genre-defying debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, and most recently, several tracks on Big Boi’s latest project, Boomiverse. The two connected at a family funeral. The future Future honed his craft in Wade’s studio, affectionately referred to as “the Dungeon,” sharpening his innate songwriting abilities. Eventually, Wade who facilitated his first major songwriting credit—the hook of Ludacris’ 420-friendly single, “Blueberry Yum Yum.” Later, Future would also pen the infectious hook to YC’s one-off smash “Racks.” Most notably, the Dungeon is where the perennially jewelryornamented rapper earned the name “Future,” a much more fitting moniker than “Meathead,” his one-time nickname of choice. As Bobby builds outfits—speculatively pairing an oversized Balenciaga puffer with a studded T-shirt and a set of shades (sunglasses have become an omnipresent part of every Future Hendrix look)—Future’s longtime brand manager, Ebonie Ward, pre-screens questions, deftly rejecting any that hold even the slightest danger of being taken out of context. “Don’t worry he’s super chill,” she says, having relegated a handful to the “don’t ask or this interview will be over” pile. Given the level of scrutiny that followed his very public relationship, engagement, and 2014 breakup with R&B singer Ciara, with whom he shares a 2-year-old son, it’s not difficult to intuit why such safeguards might have naturally developed. Not only do they minimize speculative theories, they give Future a comforting level of autonomy over his image. Still, speculation is arguably central to his career, particularly because he has managed to exist between the fringes and the mainstream with a longevity few others can claim. The DS2 rapper’s influence in popular culture is as vast as it is ubiquitous, and it’s certainly not constrained to his Atlanta stomping grounds. All the way on the East Coast, in Brooklyn and Paterson, New Jersey, respectively, Desiigner and Fetty Wap became two of the biggest names in music in 2016. Ironically, each of their breakthrough singles distilled the very essence of Future’s 2012 debut album, Pluto. From its hazy, melancholic, pharmainduced sonic quality to Future’s permanently aggrieved sing-rap style, both wielded his avant explorations of emotive melody and auto-tune firmly to their own ends. Desiigner managed to do it with such eerie effectiveness that Mike WiLL—one of Future’s frequent collaborators—initially thought “Panda” was a Future single.


TOP AIMÉ LEON DORE EARPHONE BEATS X

ALL REEBOK

EYEWEAR CHRISTIAN DIOR

Future has created a musical path so recognizable that other artists have followed in his sonic footsteps. But in the wake of his record-breaking albums, FUTURE and HNDRXX, what’s evident is that he’s become his only true competition. In a candid interview, the artist talks about the work ethic that got him to where he is. It’s a sleepy Friday afternoon on a tree-lined street in Clinton Hill, barring the burst of activity along a stretch of road where quietly ostentatious million-dollar brownstones sit alongside immaculately renovated prewar apartments. The man of the hour is running late, but Future’s staggeringly efficient team arrives well in advance of his Plutonian descent, heralding his coming with a flurry of last minute preparations. The 33-year-old’s stylist, Bobby, whom he started working with a little under two years ago, hangs up thousands of dollars in garments while his two assistants line dozens of pairs of Reeboks—including Future-endorsed silhouettes like the Zoku Runner, Furykaze and Instapump Fury—directly below a largeformat Kehinde Wiley painting; it is just one of many pieces of priceless art decorating the private location. For a musician whose lyrics seem equally as besotted with the trappings of wealth as actual financial capital, the deceptively grand home brimming with aged wood and specially commissioned work, feels like a natural extension of the hedonist fantasy Future has managed to make a personal reality. Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn was born November 20, 1983, in Atlanta, Georgia’s Kirkwood neighborhood. Though his mother found work as a 911 operator, the Honest rapper’s earliest mixtapes offer a glimpse into an extended family of street-savvy grifters and hustlers. In high school, he discovered he had a first cousin in the music industry—Rico Wade of the legendary production trio Organized Noize, the Southern icons behind TLC’s “Waterfalls,” OutKast’s genre-defying debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, and most recently, several tracks on Big Boi’s latest project, Boomiverse. The two connected at a family funeral. The future Future honed his craft in Wade’s studio, affectionately referred to as “the Dungeon,” sharpening his innate songwriting abilities. Eventually, Wade who facilitated his first major songwriting credit—the hook of Ludacris’ 420-friendly single, “Blueberry Yum Yum.” Later, Future would also pen the infectious hook to YC’s one-off smash “Racks.” Most notably, the Dungeon is where the perennially jewelryornamented rapper earned the name “Future,” a much more fitting moniker than “Meathead,” his one-time nickname of choice. As Bobby builds outfits—speculatively pairing an oversized Balenciaga puffer with a studded T-shirt and a set of shades (sunglasses have become an omnipresent part of every Future Hendrix look)—Future’s longtime brand manager, Ebonie Ward, pre-screens questions, deftly rejecting any that hold even the slightest danger of being taken out of context. “Don’t worry he’s super chill,” she says, having relegated a handful to the “don’t ask or this interview will be over” pile. Given the level of scrutiny that followed his very public relationship, engagement, and 2014 breakup with R&B singer Ciara, with whom he shares a 2-year-old son, it’s not difficult to intuit why such safeguards might have naturally developed. Not only do they minimize speculative theories, they give Future a comforting level of autonomy over his image. Still, speculation is arguably central to his career, particularly because he has managed to exist between the fringes and the mainstream with a longevity few others can claim. The DS2 rapper’s influence in popular culture is as vast as it is ubiquitous, and it’s certainly not constrained to his Atlanta stomping grounds. All the way on the East Coast, in Brooklyn and Paterson, New Jersey, respectively, Desiigner and Fetty Wap became two of the biggest names in music in 2016. Ironically, each of their breakthrough singles distilled the very essence of Future’s 2012 debut album, Pluto. From its hazy, melancholic, pharmainduced sonic quality to Future’s permanently aggrieved sing-rap style, both wielded his avant explorations of emotive melody and auto-tune firmly to their own ends. Desiigner managed to do it with such eerie effectiveness that Mike WiLL—one of Future’s frequent collaborators—initially thought “Panda” was a Future single.


ANORAK SANKUANZ

T-SHIRT & PANTS VINTAGE TOMMY HILFIGER EARPHONE BEATS X

FUTURE and HNDRXX, the rapper’s latest LPs, were released a mere week apart and promptly broke multiple Billboard records. In February, he became the first artist to have two number one albums in consecutive weeks. He also holds the distinction of being the first artist in the chart’s 61-year history to replace himself at number one in consecutive weeks. Such levels of commercial success make it difficult to reconcile how mainstream music managed to remain out of touch with the depths of Future’s influence for so long. Consider this: Fetty Wap and Desiigner received Grammy nods in 2016. Future has never been nominated. This uniquely insider-outsider status contributes to the endless explorations of who Future is outside of music. He’s repeatedly been referred to as “emo,” and his more despondent lyrics have been dissected with the intensity of a researcher pouring over a rare folio. More than a few journalists have even put on their psychologist caps to write lengthy opinion pieces on whether his codeine-soaked output is truly indicative of a mental health crisis. The reality of existing under a microscope is something Future has managed to harness to his advantage. What Future thinks, feels, likes and dislikes is often left open to interpretation—largely, it would seem—by his own design. Since his defining run of early mixtapes—released in such rapid-fire succession even Lil Wayne would be impressed—the rapper has cultivated a sense of approachable mystery, which we quickly learn is underscored by a streak of mischief. When Future emerges from the set into temperate afternoon weather, none of his entourage seems surprised that he immediately starts cracking jokes. First, he can’t believe his eyes when an exceedingly burly delivery man putters by on a moped that could be the two-wheeled equivalent of a clown car—it looks positively dainty in relation to his bulk. “Nah, that’s the weirdest shit I’ve seen in New York,” Future proclaims between bouts of astonished laughter. “That nigga like 400 pounds, all muscle, ridin’ around on a scooter. He need to be on goddamn Ninja or a Kawasaki.” Moments later, a car full of people recognize who is casually smoking a blunt on a nondescript Brooklyn stoop. Naturally, they pull over to wheedle Future’s security for “just one picture, man.” Though the beefier of the pair says the set is closed, Future indulges them with a smile and quick pose. Later, he sits nestled between the legs of a hairstylist who systematically parts his blonde-tipped dreadlocks before braiding them neatly down his back. “I want you to ask me the realest shit,” he says inhaling a thick cloud of smoke. “Don’t ask me something about somebody else. I can’t answer unless they’re right here to really respond to my answer. Ask me something that can’t be debated on, just ask me about me.” It’s a sentiment echoed by the people who have become part of his extended inner-circle—his brand manager, his manager, his stylist, his independent publicist, and photographer. By extension of their constant proximity, they have access to a much more private side of Future, one they describe as gregarious; deeply family-oriented; a mentor to young musicians; and a consummate jokester. By the time the shoot has wrapped, the sun has set and Future’s team is discussing plans for a group dinner. Future doesn’t care where they go as long as it’s private and not too far away. “Any chance I could get you to say sensational IRL?” I ask before we part ways. “That’s gonna cost you a mil,” he says rising to his feet with a laugh. It’s just the sort of answer you’d expect. So, conjecture aside, here’s Future, in his own words, discussing the things he feels like talking about.

T-SHIRT FAITH CONNEXION

SHIRT CHRISTIAN DIOR

JACKET BALENCIAGA

EYEWEAR CALVIN KLEIN


ANORAK SANKUANZ

T-SHIRT & PANTS VINTAGE TOMMY HILFIGER EARPHONE BEATS X

FUTURE and HNDRXX, the rapper’s latest LPs, were released a mere week apart and promptly broke multiple Billboard records. In February, he became the first artist to have two number one albums in consecutive weeks. He also holds the distinction of being the first artist in the chart’s 61-year history to replace himself at number one in consecutive weeks. Such levels of commercial success make it difficult to reconcile how mainstream music managed to remain out of touch with the depths of Future’s influence for so long. Consider this: Fetty Wap and Desiigner received Grammy nods in 2016. Future has never been nominated. This uniquely insider-outsider status contributes to the endless explorations of who Future is outside of music. He’s repeatedly been referred to as “emo,” and his more despondent lyrics have been dissected with the intensity of a researcher pouring over a rare folio. More than a few journalists have even put on their psychologist caps to write lengthy opinion pieces on whether his codeine-soaked output is truly indicative of a mental health crisis. The reality of existing under a microscope is something Future has managed to harness to his advantage. What Future thinks, feels, likes and dislikes is often left open to interpretation—largely, it would seem—by his own design. Since his defining run of early mixtapes—released in such rapid-fire succession even Lil Wayne would be impressed—the rapper has cultivated a sense of approachable mystery, which we quickly learn is underscored by a streak of mischief. When Future emerges from the set into temperate afternoon weather, none of his entourage seems surprised that he immediately starts cracking jokes. First, he can’t believe his eyes when an exceedingly burly delivery man putters by on a moped that could be the two-wheeled equivalent of a clown car—it looks positively dainty in relation to his bulk. “Nah, that’s the weirdest shit I’ve seen in New York,” Future proclaims between bouts of astonished laughter. “That nigga like 400 pounds, all muscle, ridin’ around on a scooter. He need to be on goddamn Ninja or a Kawasaki.” Moments later, a car full of people recognize who is casually smoking a blunt on a nondescript Brooklyn stoop. Naturally, they pull over to wheedle Future’s security for “just one picture, man.” Though the beefier of the pair says the set is closed, Future indulges them with a smile and quick pose. Later, he sits nestled between the legs of a hairstylist who systematically parts his blonde-tipped dreadlocks before braiding them neatly down his back. “I want you to ask me the realest shit,” he says inhaling a thick cloud of smoke. “Don’t ask me something about somebody else. I can’t answer unless they’re right here to really respond to my answer. Ask me something that can’t be debated on, just ask me about me.” It’s a sentiment echoed by the people who have become part of his extended inner-circle—his brand manager, his manager, his stylist, his independent publicist, and photographer. By extension of their constant proximity, they have access to a much more private side of Future, one they describe as gregarious; deeply family-oriented; a mentor to young musicians; and a consummate jokester. By the time the shoot has wrapped, the sun has set and Future’s team is discussing plans for a group dinner. Future doesn’t care where they go as long as it’s private and not too far away. “Any chance I could get you to say sensational IRL?” I ask before we part ways. “That’s gonna cost you a mil,” he says rising to his feet with a laugh. It’s just the sort of answer you’d expect. So, conjecture aside, here’s Future, in his own words, discussing the things he feels like talking about.

T-SHIRT FAITH CONNEXION

SHIRT CHRISTIAN DIOR

JACKET BALENCIAGA

EYEWEAR CALVIN KLEIN


What inspired your nonprofit, Free Wishes? My nonprofit was inspired by the kids. I have a fan base that looks up to me. Being able to go back and see them and take pictures with them and listen to some of their jokes and stories, it’s just nice. I grew up sometimes not having things and wanting to be in a position to be able to give. I’m always happy to see a smile on someone’s face. I love seeing other people happy; it makes me happy to bring joy to someone else’s family. You know, maybe someone wasn’t able to get a pair of shoes or wasn’t able to afford a jacket when it was cold outside. Having the chance to get them a jacket to wear to school is a great thing. It’s also a way for me to give back to my neighborhood. I always go home during Christmas but normally I’m on the road. Free Wishes gives me a chance to see everyone, and get my family and friends together to give back.

SNEAKERS REEBOK

Is dedication and sheer force of will how you maintain your prolific pace? I’m always making music. I feel like that’s the key. Music will change in just three months, so if I go to Europe for a whole three months and come back, the music scene will be completely different. I just try to stay in tune with what’s going on: I keep my eyes open for the new artists, listen to new melodies on the radio; pay attention to the tempos playing in the clubs. There can be a song that’s a hit for me and then another hit end[s] up coming out two months later that changes the whole sound. There might just be a different tempo and it’s a smash. At the end of the day you just have to find the tempo. Find something good about it, but still stay true to yourself. Being yourself [musically] is the most important thing because if you think your shit ain’t working and stop trying and then somebody else tries it and it starts working for them, you’re going to be mad. Some people try to be everybody, so that’s why they burn out. There’s longevity in being yourself and not trying to be 10 other people.

NECKLACE CHANEL

Gucci Mane commends your work ethic in his autobiography, specifically in reference to the Free Bricks mixtape. He said he’d never met anyone who stayed in the studio the way you did. What’s the longest you’ve ever recorded? Without leaving? I used to stay in there for a week or two. I wouldn’t let nobody leave either. I got in an argument, I remember, this is a true story. I got in an argument with a dude, he really got mad because I wouldn’t let the engineer leave the studio. He got mad at me, but he wasn’t complaining, he was scared. He was like, “Yo, that shit ain’t right, that shit ain’t right. You just had him recording you for a whole fucking week, he never even went outside.” I was like, “Nigga, we was in the house the whole week too, we never even went outside. Why you want to go outside when I’m recording?” Then he was like, “You need to feed him.” I told him he’d been eating. There was a Wendy’s up the street so we just got people to bring us Wendy’s every day. That was [the engineer’s] excuse for leaving the house. Eventually he was like, “I need to eat something else. I want to eat my mama’s food.” I think he was trying to find a reason to leave. If it ain’t about the food, it had to be the name of the place or something. I ate Wendy’s every day too. Man survived on a double stack. Two pieces of meat on it, it was 99 cents; it was cheap. It was cheap as a motherfucker. Wendy’s owe me some promo now too (laughs). Do you ever feel like your music is misinterpreted? Yeah, but that’s supposed to happen because I’m smarter than people think. At the end of the day they’re not going to know I’m smarter than them until 10 years, 20 years from now when they’re still listening to me like “I’m just now getting what he said.” Longevity, that’s what makes music classic. It’s not a classic when you hear it the first day and get everything you heard right then. It’s a classic when you go back 20 years from now and it can still relate to you. I said things in Pluto five years ago that people are just now talking about. There’s not nothing wrong with that, it just takes time for some people to catch on. I want it to happen that way. If you knew what my next move was going to be or what I meant by hiding certain meanings in a song, it would burn me out. People would just be onto me from the beginning. It means more when you find out later on in life and you’re like, “Damn, he was thinking that deep.”


What inspired your nonprofit, Free Wishes? My nonprofit was inspired by the kids. I have a fan base that looks up to me. Being able to go back and see them and take pictures with them and listen to some of their jokes and stories, it’s just nice. I grew up sometimes not having things and wanting to be in a position to be able to give. I’m always happy to see a smile on someone’s face. I love seeing other people happy; it makes me happy to bring joy to someone else’s family. You know, maybe someone wasn’t able to get a pair of shoes or wasn’t able to afford a jacket when it was cold outside. Having the chance to get them a jacket to wear to school is a great thing. It’s also a way for me to give back to my neighborhood. I always go home during Christmas but normally I’m on the road. Free Wishes gives me a chance to see everyone, and get my family and friends together to give back.

SNEAKERS REEBOK

Is dedication and sheer force of will how you maintain your prolific pace? I’m always making music. I feel like that’s the key. Music will change in just three months, so if I go to Europe for a whole three months and come back, the music scene will be completely different. I just try to stay in tune with what’s going on: I keep my eyes open for the new artists, listen to new melodies on the radio; pay attention to the tempos playing in the clubs. There can be a song that’s a hit for me and then another hit end[s] up coming out two months later that changes the whole sound. There might just be a different tempo and it’s a smash. At the end of the day you just have to find the tempo. Find something good about it, but still stay true to yourself. Being yourself [musically] is the most important thing because if you think your shit ain’t working and stop trying and then somebody else tries it and it starts working for them, you’re going to be mad. Some people try to be everybody, so that’s why they burn out. There’s longevity in being yourself and not trying to be 10 other people.

NECKLACE CHANEL

Gucci Mane commends your work ethic in his autobiography, specifically in reference to the Free Bricks mixtape. He said he’d never met anyone who stayed in the studio the way you did. What’s the longest you’ve ever recorded? Without leaving? I used to stay in there for a week or two. I wouldn’t let nobody leave either. I got in an argument, I remember, this is a true story. I got in an argument with a dude, he really got mad because I wouldn’t let the engineer leave the studio. He got mad at me, but he wasn’t complaining, he was scared. He was like, “Yo, that shit ain’t right, that shit ain’t right. You just had him recording you for a whole fucking week, he never even went outside.” I was like, “Nigga, we was in the house the whole week too, we never even went outside. Why you want to go outside when I’m recording?” Then he was like, “You need to feed him.” I told him he’d been eating. There was a Wendy’s up the street so we just got people to bring us Wendy’s every day. That was [the engineer’s] excuse for leaving the house. Eventually he was like, “I need to eat something else. I want to eat my mama’s food.” I think he was trying to find a reason to leave. If it ain’t about the food, it had to be the name of the place or something. I ate Wendy’s every day too. Man survived on a double stack. Two pieces of meat on it, it was 99 cents; it was cheap. It was cheap as a motherfucker. Wendy’s owe me some promo now too (laughs). Do you ever feel like your music is misinterpreted? Yeah, but that’s supposed to happen because I’m smarter than people think. At the end of the day they’re not going to know I’m smarter than them until 10 years, 20 years from now when they’re still listening to me like “I’m just now getting what he said.” Longevity, that’s what makes music classic. It’s not a classic when you hear it the first day and get everything you heard right then. It’s a classic when you go back 20 years from now and it can still relate to you. I said things in Pluto five years ago that people are just now talking about. There’s not nothing wrong with that, it just takes time for some people to catch on. I want it to happen that way. If you knew what my next move was going to be or what I meant by hiding certain meanings in a song, it would burn me out. People would just be onto me from the beginning. It means more when you find out later on in life and you’re like, “Damn, he was thinking that deep.”


SWEATER FENDI

SUIT PAUL SMITH

EYEWEAR CARTIER SOCKS VETEMENTS × REEBOK

“Some people try to be everybody, so that’s why they burn out. There’s longevity in being yourself and not trying to be 10 other people.”


SWEATER FENDI

SUIT PAUL SMITH

EYEWEAR CARTIER SOCKS VETEMENTS × REEBOK

“Some people try to be everybody, so that’s why they burn out. There’s longevity in being yourself and not trying to be 10 other people.”


MASK IH NOM UH NIT

You’ve spoken pretty extensively about the role of strip clubs in breaking music in Atlanta. Is that a phenomenon centric to the city and you? I don’t know because I don’t really know other people’s branding and marketing strategies, or even how they approach their shit. I only know what I did. It can be happening around me and I don’t even know it. I haven’t even paid attention to the influence I’ve had on things around me. I haven’t had a chance to just slow down and pay attention. Somebody could have been tweeting, ‘Man, I love Future’ for the last two years and even if it was another artist I couldn’t tell you. Right now I want to make music I never thought I could make. I’m trying to perform in ways I never thought I could perform. I’m trying to go places I never thought I would go. This is the first time I’m experiencing certain things so I don’t even have time to pay attention to everything. Music has been my driving force since day one. There are certain things that I’m still trying to achieve in music, maybe when I do that I’ll be able to focus on something else. Right now, my music has been the driving force to get me where I wanted to get to in life. Where do you ultimately want to be after music? Still working on the plan. What about interviews? Why is it so important for you to do them on your terms? Being misunderstood happened a lot early on. I wanted to stop that from happening again. I know there are certain questions that need to be answered, I get that. I just don’t want to be asked about somebody else. That’s like a two-part question and then I end up answering the shit and other person gets mad about it. I had to learn to slow down with everything and just take a day to think about if I wanted to say yes [to an interview]. If you don’t, you might end up involved with something you said yes to because of what was going on at the time. Maybe you really didn’t have your mind right. Maybe you just wanted to respond because they told you to respond and then you respond wrong. I just take my time now, because I have so much going on throughout the day and I don’t want to respond to the wrong shit. What about social media? How closely do you control your image there? If I tweet something that makes you mad, I want you to be mad. I’m conscious enough to know like “man, don’t do it,” but at the end of the day, at certain times, people need to know how I feel. I want you to know I’m real, I’m human. I don’t want it to seem like everything is artificial to me. I don’t want it to seem like I don’t get mad, or this didn’t offend me, or that don’t affect me. I also just want my fans to know what I really think because people print shit all the time that’s not true. They just printed some stuff about my son. He was in a Gap commercial and they said that commercial came from a certain thing. The information was wrong and people was really still printing that on the blogs anyway. I’m looking at it and I’m not mad that it’s wrong because it is what it is. But some of them [blogs] put an ignorant title next to my son’s name though. If it was just about me and I’m going through certain shit, it’s whatever. But you can’t say certain stuff because he [Future’s son] might look at it one day like, “What was they talking about?” I don’t want him to read dumb shit because people are going off the wrong information. I actually got him that Gap campaign because I have a campaign with Gap. We both do—me and my son. I want people to understand that. Let the truth reveal itself before you going off of the first thing you read or see. What about your business relationships? You’ve been working with Reebok most recently. How did that come about? Just being fly (laughs). It’s a great partnership. They’re good people and it’s been like family so far. Music worked itself out so it’s a blessing that it put me in the position I am now. If I knew certain things that I know now, I would have handled certain situations differently. Even with knowing what I know now, I would have still dealt with Reebok. I feel like this partnership is me growing in my career. When I got to a point that I was ready to get this kind of deal, I was also able to understand the type of deal I was getting myself into. From the front to back I knew exactly what I was getting into. The fine print, I could read it and understand the language.


MASK IH NOM UH NIT

You’ve spoken pretty extensively about the role of strip clubs in breaking music in Atlanta. Is that a phenomenon centric to the city and you? I don’t know because I don’t really know other people’s branding and marketing strategies, or even how they approach their shit. I only know what I did. It can be happening around me and I don’t even know it. I haven’t even paid attention to the influence I’ve had on things around me. I haven’t had a chance to just slow down and pay attention. Somebody could have been tweeting, ‘Man, I love Future’ for the last two years and even if it was another artist I couldn’t tell you. Right now I want to make music I never thought I could make. I’m trying to perform in ways I never thought I could perform. I’m trying to go places I never thought I would go. This is the first time I’m experiencing certain things so I don’t even have time to pay attention to everything. Music has been my driving force since day one. There are certain things that I’m still trying to achieve in music, maybe when I do that I’ll be able to focus on something else. Right now, my music has been the driving force to get me where I wanted to get to in life. Where do you ultimately want to be after music? Still working on the plan. What about interviews? Why is it so important for you to do them on your terms? Being misunderstood happened a lot early on. I wanted to stop that from happening again. I know there are certain questions that need to be answered, I get that. I just don’t want to be asked about somebody else. That’s like a two-part question and then I end up answering the shit and other person gets mad about it. I had to learn to slow down with everything and just take a day to think about if I wanted to say yes [to an interview]. If you don’t, you might end up involved with something you said yes to because of what was going on at the time. Maybe you really didn’t have your mind right. Maybe you just wanted to respond because they told you to respond and then you respond wrong. I just take my time now, because I have so much going on throughout the day and I don’t want to respond to the wrong shit. What about social media? How closely do you control your image there? If I tweet something that makes you mad, I want you to be mad. I’m conscious enough to know like “man, don’t do it,” but at the end of the day, at certain times, people need to know how I feel. I want you to know I’m real, I’m human. I don’t want it to seem like everything is artificial to me. I don’t want it to seem like I don’t get mad, or this didn’t offend me, or that don’t affect me. I also just want my fans to know what I really think because people print shit all the time that’s not true. They just printed some stuff about my son. He was in a Gap commercial and they said that commercial came from a certain thing. The information was wrong and people was really still printing that on the blogs anyway. I’m looking at it and I’m not mad that it’s wrong because it is what it is. But some of them [blogs] put an ignorant title next to my son’s name though. If it was just about me and I’m going through certain shit, it’s whatever. But you can’t say certain stuff because he [Future’s son] might look at it one day like, “What was they talking about?” I don’t want him to read dumb shit because people are going off the wrong information. I actually got him that Gap campaign because I have a campaign with Gap. We both do—me and my son. I want people to understand that. Let the truth reveal itself before you going off of the first thing you read or see. What about your business relationships? You’ve been working with Reebok most recently. How did that come about? Just being fly (laughs). It’s a great partnership. They’re good people and it’s been like family so far. Music worked itself out so it’s a blessing that it put me in the position I am now. If I knew certain things that I know now, I would have handled certain situations differently. Even with knowing what I know now, I would have still dealt with Reebok. I feel like this partnership is me growing in my career. When I got to a point that I was ready to get this kind of deal, I was also able to understand the type of deal I was getting myself into. From the front to back I knew exactly what I was getting into. The fine print, I could read it and understand the language.


Recess Photography Rio Romaine Styling & Creative Direction Jay Hines Hair Stefan Bertin @ Frank Agency using Bumble and Bumble Make-up Violet Zeng using MAC Cosmetics Photography Assistant Ashley Verse Styling Assistants Charlotte Rubenstein, Taija Leorelle & Rhys Marcus Make-up Assistant Michelle Leandra Casting Terrance Sambo Models Emmanuel @ AMCK Models, Milo Barker, Maxim Baker, Ed Philpot-Dodds, Eric Choules, Luke Bridle & Louis Philpot-Dodds Special Thanks Vernon Hines & Corelli College

[MILO] COAT, JUMPER & SHOES A.P.C., TROUSERS KENT & CURWEN, SUNGLASSES HOOK LDN

[ERIC] BLAZER & TROUSERS THOM SWEENEY, HOODIE BLITZ LONDON,

CARDIGAN ACNE STUDIOS, SUNGLASSES HOOK LDN, SHOES GRENSON

ALL GUCCI, SHOES MONCLER


Recess Photography Rio Romaine Styling & Creative Direction Jay Hines Hair Stefan Bertin @ Frank Agency using Bumble and Bumble Make-up Violet Zeng using MAC Cosmetics Photography Assistant Ashley Verse Styling Assistants Charlotte Rubenstein, Taija Leorelle & Rhys Marcus Make-up Assistant Michelle Leandra Casting Terrance Sambo Models Emmanuel @ AMCK Models, Milo Barker, Maxim Baker, Ed Philpot-Dodds, Eric Choules, Luke Bridle & Louis Philpot-Dodds Special Thanks Vernon Hines & Corelli College

[MILO] COAT, JUMPER & SHOES A.P.C., TROUSERS KENT & CURWEN, SUNGLASSES HOOK LDN

[ERIC] BLAZER & TROUSERS THOM SWEENEY, HOODIE BLITZ LONDON,

CARDIGAN ACNE STUDIOS, SUNGLASSES HOOK LDN, SHOES GRENSON

ALL GUCCI, SHOES MONCLER


TRACKSUIT RUSSELL ATHLETIC, JACKET YEEZY SEASON 4

[EMANUEL] TOP & TROUSERS KAPPA, SNEAKERS RAF SIMONS [MILO] TOP ADIDAS, SHORTS WEEKDAY, SNEAKERS NIKE [MAX] TOP KAPPA, TROUSERS ADIDAS, SNEAKERS NIKE [ERIC] TOP ADIDAS, SHORTS & SNEAKERS VERSACE

[LUKE] TOP & SHORTS ACNE STUDIOS, SNEAKERS NIKE

[ED] JUMPER A.P.C., TROUSERS MAISON MARGIELA, SNEAKERS REEBOK


TRACKSUIT RUSSELL ATHLETIC, JACKET YEEZY SEASON 4

[EMANUEL] TOP & TROUSERS KAPPA, SNEAKERS RAF SIMONS [MILO] TOP ADIDAS, SHORTS WEEKDAY, SNEAKERS NIKE [MAX] TOP KAPPA, TROUSERS ADIDAS, SNEAKERS NIKE [ERIC] TOP ADIDAS, SHORTS & SNEAKERS VERSACE

[LUKE] TOP & SHORTS ACNE STUDIOS, SNEAKERS NIKE

[ED] JUMPER A.P.C., TROUSERS MAISON MARGIELA, SNEAKERS REEBOK


[MAX] HOODIE & TROUSERS BLITZ LONDON, SCARF BALENCIAGA, SNEAKERS NIKE [MILO] HOODIE BLITZ LONDON, TROUSERS & SNEAKERS NIKE, SCARF MISBHV

SHIRT THEORY, JUMPER BALENCIAGA, TROUSERS THOM SWEENEY, SHOES MARCELO BURLON


[MAX] HOODIE & TROUSERS BLITZ LONDON, SCARF BALENCIAGA, SNEAKERS NIKE [MILO] HOODIE BLITZ LONDON, TROUSERS & SNEAKERS NIKE, SCARF MISBHV

SHIRT THEORY, JUMPER BALENCIAGA, TROUSERS THOM SWEENEY, SHOES MARCELO BURLON


SHIRT THEORY, TROUSERS ENLIST, JACKET BALENCIAGA, SHOES MARCELO BURLON

[LOUIS] HOODIE MARKUS LUPFER, JACKET & TROUSERS KAPPA, SHOES MARCELO BURLON [LUKE] JUMPER & TROUSERS MARCELO BURLON × KAPPA, SHOES MARCELO BURLON [ERIC] HOODIE A.P.C., JACKET & TROUSERS KAPPA, SHOES PAUL HELBERS


SHIRT THEORY, TROUSERS ENLIST, JACKET BALENCIAGA, SHOES MARCELO BURLON

[LOUIS] HOODIE MARKUS LUPFER, JACKET & TROUSERS KAPPA, SHOES MARCELO BURLON [LUKE] JUMPER & TROUSERS MARCELO BURLON × KAPPA, SHOES MARCELO BURLON [ERIC] HOODIE A.P.C., JACKET & TROUSERS KAPPA, SHOES PAUL HELBERS


F/W

Stussy Women

Last Minute

Photography Stefano Carloni Styling Silvia Vinci Hair Mara Casasola @ Les Garรงons De La Rue Make-up Serena Congiu Hair Assistant Marta Schiavone Models Perla @ The Fabbrica & Allegra @ The Lab Models

2017


F/W

Stussy Women

Last Minute

Photography Stefano Carloni Styling Silvia Vinci Hair Mara Casasola @ Les Garรงons De La Rue Make-up Serena Congiu Hair Assistant Marta Schiavone Models Perla @ The Fabbrica & Allegra @ The Lab Models

2017


When Carti Met Gucci —G  ucci Mane & Playboi Carti

Words Stephanie Smith-Strickland

Styling Assistant [Gucci Mane] Daniel Jones

Styling [Gucci Mane] Jason Rembert

Styling Intern Junior Deschamps

Photography Gunner Stahl

Styling [Playboi Carti] Aleali May

Styling Assistant [Playboi Carti] Jordan Boothe

[GUCCI MANE]

SUIT RALPH LAUREN PURPLE LABEL

[PLAYBOI CARTI]

SWEATER HELIOT EMIL

PANTS DRKSHDW BY RICK OWENS BAG FRAGMENT DESIGN × LOUIS VUITTON


When Carti Met Gucci —G  ucci Mane & Playboi Carti

Words Stephanie Smith-Strickland

Styling Assistant [Gucci Mane] Daniel Jones

Styling [Gucci Mane] Jason Rembert

Styling Intern Junior Deschamps

Photography Gunner Stahl

Styling [Playboi Carti] Aleali May

Styling Assistant [Playboi Carti] Jordan Boothe

[GUCCI MANE]

SUIT RALPH LAUREN PURPLE LABEL

[PLAYBOI CARTI]

SWEATER HELIOT EMIL

PANTS DRKSHDW BY RICK OWENS BAG FRAGMENT DESIGN × LOUIS VUITTON


SUIT RALPH LAUREN PURPLE LABEL SHOES JIMMY CHOO

Both artists’ names pay homage to luxurious fashion houses, but each has established a unique name and sound for himself that represents two generations of Atlanta-born h i p - hop. Together, they’re weaving the future of the city’s musical legacy. Few careers have been as tumultuous as that of Radric Delantic Davis. Through sheer grit, shrewd intelligence, and a stubborn unwillingness to be counted out, he transformed himself from a street hustler, drug dealer, and occasional strong-armed robber into a modern day Zone 6 prophet. Even while incarcerated, Gucci remained a cult hero to a generation that reached far beyond the Southern city where his influence first blossomed. His is a story of overcoming adversity, taming internal demons and rejecting the imposed labels of others. Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1980, the young Gucci relocated to Atlanta, Georgia with his mother when he was only 9 years old. Throughout his childhood, financial instability was a recurring theme, and from a young age the enterprising future rapper adopted a myriad of side hustles to earn extra money. In fact, he met his longtime friend and former collaborator OJ Da Juiceman as a middle-schooler—the two would collect bottles and cans together for extra pocket change. The discomfort of poverty is something that would leave a lasting psychological impression and follow Gucci throughout his young life. Eventually, the desire to never again be money-less would motivate his early flirtations with drug dealing. Furthermore, it would inspire his gritty, street-centric musical output, motivating him to make music for hustlers, gangsters and others on the fringes who ultimately had dreams of a better quality of life. His upcoming album, Mr. Davis, builds on his existing oeuvre while demonstrating how he's evolved as an artist. This raw, unfiltered soundscape, which blossomed during the heyday of BMF (who provided the reallife examples of “thug motivation” those like Gucci, Jeezy, T.I. and others) eventually commercialized— and brought to even the furthest flung suburbs—also inspired Atlanta’s new generation. That included a young Jordan Carter, who released his first mixtape—Young Misfit—in 2012, under the name Sir Cartier, a nod to another luxury fashion label. A year later, he re-christened himself Playboi Carti, coming into prominence under the wing of Atlanta’s Awful Records, with his first breakout song being “Broke Boi.” Soon he found his way to New York, ingratiating himself in the city’s vibrant fashion culture, finding a place with the A$AP Mob, and gaining clout as one of the artists effortlessly mixing high fashion with a street edge. He released his eponymous debut mixtape in April 2017 under Interscope Records and AWGE, featuring appearances from Lil Uzi Vert and A$AP Rocky. The song “Magnolia” was an instant standout, and went on to become Carti’s highest-charting single, landing at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. Clearly, Carti is no longer a broke boi. But as he continues to progress in his career, it only makes sense that he could use guidance from one of Atlanta’s most prolific rappers. Sonically and aesthetically, the duo represent two very distinct generations of hip-hop culture, one that’s recently been marked by the friction between the new guard and the old guard. But as their conversation—that took place in Gucci’s new home base of Miami—shows, there’s far more to be gleaned when the OGs impart their knowledge to the young guns.


SUIT RALPH LAUREN PURPLE LABEL SHOES JIMMY CHOO

Both artists’ names pay homage to luxurious fashion houses, but each has established a unique name and sound for himself that represents two generations of Atlanta-born h i p - hop. Together, they’re weaving the future of the city’s musical legacy. Few careers have been as tumultuous as that of Radric Delantic Davis. Through sheer grit, shrewd intelligence, and a stubborn unwillingness to be counted out, he transformed himself from a street hustler, drug dealer, and occasional strong-armed robber into a modern day Zone 6 prophet. Even while incarcerated, Gucci remained a cult hero to a generation that reached far beyond the Southern city where his influence first blossomed. His is a story of overcoming adversity, taming internal demons and rejecting the imposed labels of others. Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1980, the young Gucci relocated to Atlanta, Georgia with his mother when he was only 9 years old. Throughout his childhood, financial instability was a recurring theme, and from a young age the enterprising future rapper adopted a myriad of side hustles to earn extra money. In fact, he met his longtime friend and former collaborator OJ Da Juiceman as a middle-schooler—the two would collect bottles and cans together for extra pocket change. The discomfort of poverty is something that would leave a lasting psychological impression and follow Gucci throughout his young life. Eventually, the desire to never again be money-less would motivate his early flirtations with drug dealing. Furthermore, it would inspire his gritty, street-centric musical output, motivating him to make music for hustlers, gangsters and others on the fringes who ultimately had dreams of a better quality of life. His upcoming album, Mr. Davis, builds on his existing oeuvre while demonstrating how he's evolved as an artist. This raw, unfiltered soundscape, which blossomed during the heyday of BMF (who provided the reallife examples of “thug motivation” those like Gucci, Jeezy, T.I. and others) eventually commercialized— and brought to even the furthest flung suburbs—also inspired Atlanta’s new generation. That included a young Jordan Carter, who released his first mixtape—Young Misfit—in 2012, under the name Sir Cartier, a nod to another luxury fashion label. A year later, he re-christened himself Playboi Carti, coming into prominence under the wing of Atlanta’s Awful Records, with his first breakout song being “Broke Boi.” Soon he found his way to New York, ingratiating himself in the city’s vibrant fashion culture, finding a place with the A$AP Mob, and gaining clout as one of the artists effortlessly mixing high fashion with a street edge. He released his eponymous debut mixtape in April 2017 under Interscope Records and AWGE, featuring appearances from Lil Uzi Vert and A$AP Rocky. The song “Magnolia” was an instant standout, and went on to become Carti’s highest-charting single, landing at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. Clearly, Carti is no longer a broke boi. But as he continues to progress in his career, it only makes sense that he could use guidance from one of Atlanta’s most prolific rappers. Sonically and aesthetically, the duo represent two very distinct generations of hip-hop culture, one that’s recently been marked by the friction between the new guard and the old guard. But as their conversation—that took place in Gucci’s new home base of Miami—shows, there’s far more to be gleaned when the OGs impart their knowledge to the young guns.


JACKET & PANTS PALM ANGELS

What does youth mean to each of you? Particularly in an industry where longevity is so incredibly rare. [Playboi Carti] The younger generation is the turn-up crowd, you know what I’m saying? We’re the people kids look up to. We are the party so we do things that set that dream. [Gucci Mane] Youth means learning. It’s a time in life when you’re taking in a lot of information and finding yourself. With music, I feel like youth is the most important generation; it’s what pushes everything forward. Every new generation gets more creative and smart. The old guard, we’ve been doing it for so long we kind of get stuck in our ways, but the younger generation they’re willing to just try stuff. What can an industry OG and a newcomer from the same city learn from each other? [Gucci] I feed off of the energy of young artists. It takes me back to the time when I was trying to get in the game, trying to get heard and just trying to build a fan base. Sometimes it’s hard for me to feel the same hunger, but if I keep them around me, they’re so eager and they’re ready to make their next home run record. It makes me want to be in the studio, it makes me want to perform. I just feed off the energy. They keep me going. [Carti] I’m all ears whenever I’m around somebody who’s been doing this before. You have to be all ears because they can teach you. They can tell you what mistakes not to make and how to do things in certain situations. I just sit back and learn as much as I can. [Gucci] You also have to remember you can’t teach nobody without them teaching you. If I try to tell you something good, as I’m telling you that, I’m reinforcing it to myself. If I’m telling you what you need to be doing I have to stand on what I told you. Gucci, in your autobiography you talk about how you wanted your music to connect with people who were in situations similar to your own. Carti has called you one of his influences. How does it feel to know that your music served its intended purpose? [Gucci] I feel honored. I’m a fan of Playboi Carti. I’m a fan of all these young artists who are talented enough to get the attention of fans. There are so many people putting out music; so many people want to be rappers. Everybody done bought into hip-hop now, so everybody wants to be a rapper. I salute anybody that can get noticed and keep people’s attention. Getting attention is almost like the underground again. You’re throwing a shot out there and hoping that people find it and take to it. People overlook how hard it is to get noticed. There are billiondollar corporations putting huge staffs together to find the next artist or build the next artist, and look at Carti. He came in and just put records out. People are already waiting on what he’s going to do next. That takes genius. There tends to be a recurring mentality in hip-hop that younger artists need to “respect their elders.” How do you feel about that? [Carti] Coming up from Atlanta, you can’t tell people that you don’t know certain music because your mama and dad was playing that shit too crazy. You cannot be from Atlanta and not know who Gucci Mane is, period. I know so many singers and shit just based off my parents. So seeing rappers saying they don’t know who Tupac is, like what the fuck you talking about? How you a rapper? That’s like saying you don’t know who Michael Jackson is. I know who Michael Jackson is, I know who Prince is, I know the Isley Brothers, all that. Still, I got my own thing going with this music. You have to know certain shit. That’s just how you get respect as an artist. [Gucci] I respect my elders, but at the same time I feel like the elders need to respect the youth, too. They write them off so much. When you’re young and people telling you that you’re trash or clowning you about how you dress or what you do with your hair or saying your lyrics ain’t up to par, that makes people get defensive. Part of being young is that ‘I don’t give a fuck anyway, fuck the old generation’ attitude. If I wear a 7X white T-shirt then Carti and ‘em are going to wear theirs medium. That’s just facts. The people who are mad are just mad because it’s the best time in the world to be a rapper. There’s so much money. Even when I got out of jail, it’s like ‘damn, damn, I’m making so much money off of streaming and festivals and concerts.’ Honestly, I feel like a lot of these rappers are frustrated because they were so dope, they were so talented, they were so articulate and they never got to make the money that these young boys are making now. It makes them bitter.

SANDALS VISVIM


JACKET & PANTS PALM ANGELS

What does youth mean to each of you? Particularly in an industry where longevity is so incredibly rare. [Playboi Carti] The younger generation is the turn-up crowd, you know what I’m saying? We’re the people kids look up to. We are the party so we do things that set that dream. [Gucci Mane] Youth means learning. It’s a time in life when you’re taking in a lot of information and finding yourself. With music, I feel like youth is the most important generation; it’s what pushes everything forward. Every new generation gets more creative and smart. The old guard, we’ve been doing it for so long we kind of get stuck in our ways, but the younger generation they’re willing to just try stuff. What can an industry OG and a newcomer from the same city learn from each other? [Gucci] I feed off of the energy of young artists. It takes me back to the time when I was trying to get in the game, trying to get heard and just trying to build a fan base. Sometimes it’s hard for me to feel the same hunger, but if I keep them around me, they’re so eager and they’re ready to make their next home run record. It makes me want to be in the studio, it makes me want to perform. I just feed off the energy. They keep me going. [Carti] I’m all ears whenever I’m around somebody who’s been doing this before. You have to be all ears because they can teach you. They can tell you what mistakes not to make and how to do things in certain situations. I just sit back and learn as much as I can. [Gucci] You also have to remember you can’t teach nobody without them teaching you. If I try to tell you something good, as I’m telling you that, I’m reinforcing it to myself. If I’m telling you what you need to be doing I have to stand on what I told you. Gucci, in your autobiography you talk about how you wanted your music to connect with people who were in situations similar to your own. Carti has called you one of his influences. How does it feel to know that your music served its intended purpose? [Gucci] I feel honored. I’m a fan of Playboi Carti. I’m a fan of all these young artists who are talented enough to get the attention of fans. There are so many people putting out music; so many people want to be rappers. Everybody done bought into hip-hop now, so everybody wants to be a rapper. I salute anybody that can get noticed and keep people’s attention. Getting attention is almost like the underground again. You’re throwing a shot out there and hoping that people find it and take to it. People overlook how hard it is to get noticed. There are billiondollar corporations putting huge staffs together to find the next artist or build the next artist, and look at Carti. He came in and just put records out. People are already waiting on what he’s going to do next. That takes genius. There tends to be a recurring mentality in hip-hop that younger artists need to “respect their elders.” How do you feel about that? [Carti] Coming up from Atlanta, you can’t tell people that you don’t know certain music because your mama and dad was playing that shit too crazy. You cannot be from Atlanta and not know who Gucci Mane is, period. I know so many singers and shit just based off my parents. So seeing rappers saying they don’t know who Tupac is, like what the fuck you talking about? How you a rapper? That’s like saying you don’t know who Michael Jackson is. I know who Michael Jackson is, I know who Prince is, I know the Isley Brothers, all that. Still, I got my own thing going with this music. You have to know certain shit. That’s just how you get respect as an artist. [Gucci] I respect my elders, but at the same time I feel like the elders need to respect the youth, too. They write them off so much. When you’re young and people telling you that you’re trash or clowning you about how you dress or what you do with your hair or saying your lyrics ain’t up to par, that makes people get defensive. Part of being young is that ‘I don’t give a fuck anyway, fuck the old generation’ attitude. If I wear a 7X white T-shirt then Carti and ‘em are going to wear theirs medium. That’s just facts. The people who are mad are just mad because it’s the best time in the world to be a rapper. There’s so much money. Even when I got out of jail, it’s like ‘damn, damn, I’m making so much money off of streaming and festivals and concerts.’ Honestly, I feel like a lot of these rappers are frustrated because they were so dope, they were so talented, they were so articulate and they never got to make the money that these young boys are making now. It makes them bitter.

SANDALS VISVIM


What about social media? How has that played a different role in each of your careers? [Carti] That’s easy. Now you can just go crazy with the shit and share your music everywhere. Back in the day, you knew where to find Gucci’s shit because there was only one place for mixtapes and that’s all you knew. Now you can find anything anywhere. Even growing up—as soon as we got to school we already had our math books on computers and shit. I never had to sell CDs out of stores or nothing like that. My first phone was an iPhone. [Gucci] That’s crazy. My first phone was a rotary phone. [Carti] What’s that? [Gucci] The house phone with the cord. [Carti] I thought you were talking about the Sidekick. [Gucci] When the Sidekick came out that was like some high tech shit to me. So has social media made things harder or easier? [Gucci] I didn’t have social media or Twitter or SoundCloud. We had gatekeepers so there were more opportunities to blackball somebody. Let’s say you did just so happen to rub the wrong person the wrong way, they could shut doors on you because you were going to need their help. You still wanted to be in the record store because we had CDs back then. You wanted to have that prime position—prime real estate—in the store, even if it’s a mom-and-pop store. If you didn’t know the right people, you’d never get exposure. [Carti] Now all you gotta do is be dope enough and put it up yourself and people—because there’s so much money in the game now they will just pay because everybody want to get on the rap train. Has the structure of the actual music industry changed or have people just realized what a cultural phenomenon rap music is? [Gucci] Hip-hop is the culture. It’s our time. The record business, they try to adapt to it, but it’s more geared to the artist right now. It still ain’t a hundred percent right for us, but it’s better than it ever was for a rapper now. We were getting pennies compared to what we’re getting now. There were people like Master P and Puff making all kinds of crazy money in the ’90s, but it was just a select few. Now Carti can just make a song and put it out and start getting booked immediately. It wasn’t like that for me. When Soulja Boy came out, that’s when we started being like, “Okay, you can upload your stuff and get your own fan base from your house. Waka was recording and putting those songs out by himself; he was finding producers from his garage. Nobody helped him. He found Lex Luger [“Hard in the Paint” producer] on MySpace with a Sidekick. [Carti] It was different for me. I used to sit over at my homeboy’s house and he would make beats. I’d lay some shit down, but my voice was real light because I was only 14. By the time I was 16, my voice got a little deeper and I started dropping tracks and shit. Like Gucci said, it was hard. Niggas don’t want to hear that. I’d drop it on Facebook but people wasn’t hearing it. It took time. After I graduated high school, I went to South by Southwest and that’s where I got the most exposure. I know he [Gucci] didn’t really have shit like that. [Gucci] I just went to South by Southwest for the first time this year.

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SUNGLASSES ANDY WARHOL × RETROSUPERFUTURE

Gucci, there was a point you were churning out mixtapes to keep your name buzzing. Do you think people like Carti who cite you as an influence are using rapid-fire SoundCloud outputs in the same way you once used mixtapes? [Gucci] I hope that people saw my blueprint and use SoundCloud in that way. I feel like the actual song content is in the eye of the beholder. What you might feel like is not dope or not lyrical or doesn’t have a lot of substance—for another person, that’s all they want to hear. Every morning I go work out and the music I choose to play is mixtapes. I’m going to Carti, I’m going to 21 Savage, I’m going to find the newest tape on SoundCloud. So if you can give me 20 of those tapes in two years I’m good. The quicker you can give me another Carti tape, I want it. Seriously. [Carti] That’s fire because every time I make a song I want to drop it. Every time. That’s how I really be, if you want me to be honest. I wanted to drop a mixtape back in high school, but I didn’t get a chance. After I got signed to my label and started hitting studios—they started booking studios for me and shit—and that’s when I made my tape. I started in studios, found my producer, got comfortable. By the time I got done, I dropped the shit.


What about social media? How has that played a different role in each of your careers? [Carti] That’s easy. Now you can just go crazy with the shit and share your music everywhere. Back in the day, you knew where to find Gucci’s shit because there was only one place for mixtapes and that’s all you knew. Now you can find anything anywhere. Even growing up—as soon as we got to school we already had our math books on computers and shit. I never had to sell CDs out of stores or nothing like that. My first phone was an iPhone. [Gucci] That’s crazy. My first phone was a rotary phone. [Carti] What’s that? [Gucci] The house phone with the cord. [Carti] I thought you were talking about the Sidekick. [Gucci] When the Sidekick came out that was like some high tech shit to me. So has social media made things harder or easier? [Gucci] I didn’t have social media or Twitter or SoundCloud. We had gatekeepers so there were more opportunities to blackball somebody. Let’s say you did just so happen to rub the wrong person the wrong way, they could shut doors on you because you were going to need their help. You still wanted to be in the record store because we had CDs back then. You wanted to have that prime position—prime real estate—in the store, even if it’s a mom-and-pop store. If you didn’t know the right people, you’d never get exposure. [Carti] Now all you gotta do is be dope enough and put it up yourself and people—because there’s so much money in the game now they will just pay because everybody want to get on the rap train. Has the structure of the actual music industry changed or have people just realized what a cultural phenomenon rap music is? [Gucci] Hip-hop is the culture. It’s our time. The record business, they try to adapt to it, but it’s more geared to the artist right now. It still ain’t a hundred percent right for us, but it’s better than it ever was for a rapper now. We were getting pennies compared to what we’re getting now. There were people like Master P and Puff making all kinds of crazy money in the ’90s, but it was just a select few. Now Carti can just make a song and put it out and start getting booked immediately. It wasn’t like that for me. When Soulja Boy came out, that’s when we started being like, “Okay, you can upload your stuff and get your own fan base from your house. Waka was recording and putting those songs out by himself; he was finding producers from his garage. Nobody helped him. He found Lex Luger [“Hard in the Paint” producer] on MySpace with a Sidekick. [Carti] It was different for me. I used to sit over at my homeboy’s house and he would make beats. I’d lay some shit down, but my voice was real light because I was only 14. By the time I was 16, my voice got a little deeper and I started dropping tracks and shit. Like Gucci said, it was hard. Niggas don’t want to hear that. I’d drop it on Facebook but people wasn’t hearing it. It took time. After I graduated high school, I went to South by Southwest and that’s where I got the most exposure. I know he [Gucci] didn’t really have shit like that. [Gucci] I just went to South by Southwest for the first time this year.

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T-SHIRT & PANTS B.STROY

BELTS PRADA & HOMME BOY BAG FRAGMENT × LOUIS VUITTON

SUNGLASSES ANDY WARHOL × RETROSUPERFUTURE

Gucci, there was a point you were churning out mixtapes to keep your name buzzing. Do you think people like Carti who cite you as an influence are using rapid-fire SoundCloud outputs in the same way you once used mixtapes? [Gucci] I hope that people saw my blueprint and use SoundCloud in that way. I feel like the actual song content is in the eye of the beholder. What you might feel like is not dope or not lyrical or doesn’t have a lot of substance—for another person, that’s all they want to hear. Every morning I go work out and the music I choose to play is mixtapes. I’m going to Carti, I’m going to 21 Savage, I’m going to find the newest tape on SoundCloud. So if you can give me 20 of those tapes in two years I’m good. The quicker you can give me another Carti tape, I want it. Seriously. [Carti] That’s fire because every time I make a song I want to drop it. Every time. That’s how I really be, if you want me to be honest. I wanted to drop a mixtape back in high school, but I didn’t get a chance. After I got signed to my label and started hitting studios—they started booking studios for me and shit—and that’s when I made my tape. I started in studios, found my producer, got comfortable. By the time I got done, I dropped the shit.


[GUCCI MANE]

SHIRT TOM FORD

SUIT SAKS 5TH AVENUE

How has the music community in Atlanta influenced your work? [Carti] I live in LA now but as soon as I go home I make my own tapes. That’s where everything started, so there’s really nothing like home. [Gucci] I live in Miami but I still record in my studio in Atlanta. I get a better vibe in Atlanta. All of the producers I mess with, they’re from Atlanta. They can email me a bunch of beats, but it ain’t the same thing as if I go in the studio and we vibing together. [Carti] It’s like a team effort. You feed off of everybody’s energy and it just makes the music better because you got somebody there—you got two or three other people—who really know about music, really know what’s going on giving their opinion like, “That was hard. That was dope. Keep that going.” Have you thought about what it might feel like to have fans turn on you, Carti? Gucci, for instance, has experienced both adoration and being the underdog. [Carti] Honestly, if my fans turn on me, then they’re not my fans. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen to me or any other artist. When my tape dropped, I didn’t read any reviews. I don’t read reviews on other people’s stuff either. As I got to the limelight, I learned to just walk away from shit because you make the wrong step and people can sue you and other bad things can happen. [Gucci] I guess I’ve just matured to that point where I read reviews, but even if it’s super good or it’s bad, you can’t pump me up. I really don’t care. You say you don’t like it—it’s not that I don’t care—it’s just I kind of stay even. Shit, if somebody write something about me, I’m going to read it. But if they say something I don’t like, it don’t hurt my feelings. I don’t take it personal anymore. I’m making the money. I got the freedom to do what I want to do, but on the other hand, people got access to say stuff to me. That’s just the trade-off. If right now is the best time to be a rapper, where do you see hip-hop in five years? [Gucci] The hip-hop community has some of the most creative minds in the world so it can only grow from here. Atlanta in particular is just a mecca for the culture. That’s where all the great minds are because there are so many colleges there. All these kids from all over come and they go to all the schools down there. That’s where all the producers and the photographers and the writers meet. They provide the soundtracks to what we’re rapping about. [Carti] Yep, taking the pictures, making the beats, writing about the people—they are an important part, too. They spread the culture. What are some of the soundtracks that still influence you guys today? [Gucci] Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and B.G. Chopper City in the Ghetto. When he left Cash Money, I remember what I was doing that day. I loved them albums. I used to be trappin’ to all of them. I had those CDs alternating back and forth when I was going from Birmingham, Alabama to Atlanta. That was my life. Them songs right there? I made a lot of money to them. [Carti] I started getting money when I got older, so I’d say I’m more of a mixtape dude. What changed my life was when I started smoking. It was probably weird shit back then but I loved Wiz Khalifa’s Kush and Orange Juice. I was in 7th grade when I started smoking and that hit in 11th grade. I remember everybody started wearing the camouflage shorts and getting the blonde patch. [Gucci] I remember that. I went to a career day, and I didn’t even know that was happening. I did not know why the whole school had dyed a patch in their heads. It messed me up so bad. I didn’t even know that was the trend because it was just the kids. Any other fashion moments that inspired you guys? [Gucci] Cash Money with the soldier rags. Gang culture was in Atlanta back then and it is now, but back then people didn’t wear a lot of flags. That was an LA thing or a rural country thing, but when Cash Money happened, everybody started doing it. That just took over for a minute though. [Carti] I remember when I first saw Cam’ron. I remember Gucci had some fur coats too. [Gucci] I was definitely inspired by Dipset. Cam’ron is one of my favorite artists to this day. [Carti] That’s the truth.

[PLAYBOI CARTI]

SHIRT INNITE ARCHIVES JACKET GREG LAUREN × MONCLER


[GUCCI MANE]

SHIRT TOM FORD

SUIT SAKS 5TH AVENUE

How has the music community in Atlanta influenced your work? [Carti] I live in LA now but as soon as I go home I make my own tapes. That’s where everything started, so there’s really nothing like home. [Gucci] I live in Miami but I still record in my studio in Atlanta. I get a better vibe in Atlanta. All of the producers I mess with, they’re from Atlanta. They can email me a bunch of beats, but it ain’t the same thing as if I go in the studio and we vibing together. [Carti] It’s like a team effort. You feed off of everybody’s energy and it just makes the music better because you got somebody there—you got two or three other people—who really know about music, really know what’s going on giving their opinion like, “That was hard. That was dope. Keep that going.” Have you thought about what it might feel like to have fans turn on you, Carti? Gucci, for instance, has experienced both adoration and being the underdog. [Carti] Honestly, if my fans turn on me, then they’re not my fans. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen to me or any other artist. When my tape dropped, I didn’t read any reviews. I don’t read reviews on other people’s stuff either. As I got to the limelight, I learned to just walk away from shit because you make the wrong step and people can sue you and other bad things can happen. [Gucci] I guess I’ve just matured to that point where I read reviews, but even if it’s super good or it’s bad, you can’t pump me up. I really don’t care. You say you don’t like it—it’s not that I don’t care—it’s just I kind of stay even. Shit, if somebody write something about me, I’m going to read it. But if they say something I don’t like, it don’t hurt my feelings. I don’t take it personal anymore. I’m making the money. I got the freedom to do what I want to do, but on the other hand, people got access to say stuff to me. That’s just the trade-off. If right now is the best time to be a rapper, where do you see hip-hop in five years? [Gucci] The hip-hop community has some of the most creative minds in the world so it can only grow from here. Atlanta in particular is just a mecca for the culture. That’s where all the great minds are because there are so many colleges there. All these kids from all over come and they go to all the schools down there. That’s where all the producers and the photographers and the writers meet. They provide the soundtracks to what we’re rapping about. [Carti] Yep, taking the pictures, making the beats, writing about the people—they are an important part, too. They spread the culture. What are some of the soundtracks that still influence you guys today? [Gucci] Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and B.G. Chopper City in the Ghetto. When he left Cash Money, I remember what I was doing that day. I loved them albums. I used to be trappin’ to all of them. I had those CDs alternating back and forth when I was going from Birmingham, Alabama to Atlanta. That was my life. Them songs right there? I made a lot of money to them. [Carti] I started getting money when I got older, so I’d say I’m more of a mixtape dude. What changed my life was when I started smoking. It was probably weird shit back then but I loved Wiz Khalifa’s Kush and Orange Juice. I was in 7th grade when I started smoking and that hit in 11th grade. I remember everybody started wearing the camouflage shorts and getting the blonde patch. [Gucci] I remember that. I went to a career day, and I didn’t even know that was happening. I did not know why the whole school had dyed a patch in their heads. It messed me up so bad. I didn’t even know that was the trend because it was just the kids. Any other fashion moments that inspired you guys? [Gucci] Cash Money with the soldier rags. Gang culture was in Atlanta back then and it is now, but back then people didn’t wear a lot of flags. That was an LA thing or a rural country thing, but when Cash Money happened, everybody started doing it. That just took over for a minute though. [Carti] I remember when I first saw Cam’ron. I remember Gucci had some fur coats too. [Gucci] I was definitely inspired by Dipset. Cam’ron is one of my favorite artists to this day. [Carti] That’s the truth.

[PLAYBOI CARTI]

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[NAO] GILET & BELT UNDERCOVER, JACKET NEIGHBORHOOD, TROUSERS CHRISTOPHER NEMETH [HARUKA] HOODIE DOUBLET, BRACES UNDERCOVER


JACKET HYSTERIC GLAMOUR, PANTS ENHARMONIC TAVERN, BAG AROUND NECK UNDERCOVER

SHIRT ENHARMONIC TAVERN, TROUSERS & KEYCHAIN MODEL’S OWN, SNOOD NEIGHBORHOOD, SCARF UNDERCOVER

[NAO] GILET & BELT UNDERCOVER, JACKET NEIGHBORHOOD, TROUSERS CHRISTOPHER NEMETH [HARUKA] HOODIE DOUBLET, BRACES UNDERCOVER


Tender Age In Bloom Takahiro Miyashita

Takahiro Miyashita has been designing clothing for two decades now, but despite his tenure, his collections still capture the essence of teen spirit. Despite his 20-year tenure as a fashion designer, it’s hard to think of Takahiro Miyashita as one of the “old guard.” His clothes, whether for his iconic Number (N)ine label that made waves in the ’90s and the ’00s, or for his current TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist label, remain perennially young. His obsession with youth culture is so ingrained into his psyche that it is impossible to imagine him designing anything other than clothes infused with references to Kurt Cobain, Gus Van Sant and David Bowie; and that’s only scratching the surface. A lesser designer would have already tired himself out through repetition, but Miyashita’s frenetic mind finds ingenious new ways of rendering old themes in new forms, season after season. Sometimes Miyashita is not exactly sure whether his mind and him are one. In one of our prior interviews, when I asked him where his inspiration comes from, he said, “I don’t know, ask my brain.” In an answer to another question, he told me that when he sometimes looks at some of his old garments, he does not remember designing them. Along with his friend Jun Takahashi of UNDERCOVER, Miyashita became one of the defining designers of the “new” Japanese wave that has grown up in the ’90s in the shadow of success of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo’s COMME des GARÇONS. But, unlike Yamamoto and Kawakubo, both of whom went straight for the couture crown, UNDERCOVER and Number (N)ine drew inspiration firmly from Tokyo’s streets. And though that milieu was thoroughly steeped into Western youth culture, it was filtered through a Tokyo lens. As a matter of fact, you’d be hard pressed to find much that’s “Japanese” in their work, nor would they want you to. What matters is the filter of their singular minds. Coincidentally, both designers also make music—Miyashita has done music for UNDERCOVER shows. When I first encountered Number (N)ine in 2005, the clothes were a revelation. They were at once familiar and alien. They were not simply an elevated version of the rock ’n’ roll gear I wore as a teenager; there was a transcendental quality in Miyashita’s work, whether in the way he mixed materials, added details or reshaped the garments, like when he made a cape modeled after the Schott’s Perfecto motorcycle jacket.

Words Eugene Rabkin Photography Edward Chiu Interview Translation Natsumi Oh

Karlo Steel, who bought Number (N)ine for his iconic menswear boutique Atelier, had a similar experience. “Often Taka used the color black as a foundation for beautification. And as someone who sharpened his aesthetic sensibilities in the ’80s on a diet of COMME, Yohji and Grace Jones, this was something I connected with,” he says. “I also liked how he used items we were already familiar with, like skinny jeans and combat boots, and put his own spin on them, making them seem fresh and desirable.”

Number (N)ine’s short-lived New York boutique, located in the then still industrial corner of TriBeCa and closed on Tuesdays (as I found out the hard way), became one of my favorite destinations, to which I sneaked out during my office lunch breaks. It was different than other stores—dimly lit, raw, with unfinished furniture and old TVs playing N(N) shows and rock music videos. You had to be committed in order to find it, but that desire to stand apart from other stores did not strike me as pretentious. Miyashita started designing while working at Nepenthes, a store in Harajuku, in the mid ’90s. Currently the company is known for its Japanese-tinged Americana line, Engineered Garments and Needles, the brainchild of Nepenthes founder Keizo Shimizu. Needles’ 1970s lilt has found a new audience today, and its track pants have attracted a new breed of celebrity clientele like A$AP Rocky. He’s not a classically trained designer by any means. Miyashita didn’t go to fashion school, but had a natural taste for what constitutes “good” clothing. But he also admits that same lens could have been applied to other creative platforms, like music or architecture. He was in his late teens when he began working for Nepenthes, which solidified his desire to pursue a career in fashion. “By the time I met the owner of Nepenthes, my mind about working in the fashion industry was made up,” he says. The store’s owner had a mind to do his own line, and he tapped Miyashita, who was already in the habit of deconstructing and reconstructing clothes for himself, to design 20 styles. “My previous boss is not an outspoken type of person, so he didn’t explain or show me what to do step by step,” Miyashita says. “Instead, he expected me to learn from watching his job. He’d say: ‘Be free. Do what feels right for you.’” That first collection came out well, and Miyashita began thinking of his own line. In 1997 he launched Number (N)ine. The name was inspired by The Beatles experimental track, “Revolution 9.” The cacophonous, atonal track’s only lyrics are “number nine” on repeat. At Number (N)ine, Miyashita decided that his direction would be applying that multidisciplinary creative ‘lens’ by manifesting youth culture in fashion design. He quickly began developing a reputation for putting out quirky mashups of references from alternative rock to indie films. At some point, Jun Takahashi, who was curious about Miyashita, knocked on the door of his studio. UNDERCOVER was already one of the hottest brands in Tokyo at the time, and Miyashita, who is quite shy by nature, remembers being frozen with awkwardness. He simply said hi to Takahashi and dashed out the door. But Takahashi returned and the two since have become close friends.

89


Tender Age In Bloom Takahiro Miyashita

Takahiro Miyashita has been designing clothing for two decades now, but despite his tenure, his collections still capture the essence of teen spirit. Despite his 20-year tenure as a fashion designer, it’s hard to think of Takahiro Miyashita as one of the “old guard.” His clothes, whether for his iconic Number (N)ine label that made waves in the ’90s and the ’00s, or for his current TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist label, remain perennially young. His obsession with youth culture is so ingrained into his psyche that it is impossible to imagine him designing anything other than clothes infused with references to Kurt Cobain, Gus Van Sant and David Bowie; and that’s only scratching the surface. A lesser designer would have already tired himself out through repetition, but Miyashita’s frenetic mind finds ingenious new ways of rendering old themes in new forms, season after season. Sometimes Miyashita is not exactly sure whether his mind and him are one. In one of our prior interviews, when I asked him where his inspiration comes from, he said, “I don’t know, ask my brain.” In an answer to another question, he told me that when he sometimes looks at some of his old garments, he does not remember designing them. Along with his friend Jun Takahashi of UNDERCOVER, Miyashita became one of the defining designers of the “new” Japanese wave that has grown up in the ’90s in the shadow of success of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo’s COMME des GARÇONS. But, unlike Yamamoto and Kawakubo, both of whom went straight for the couture crown, UNDERCOVER and Number (N)ine drew inspiration firmly from Tokyo’s streets. And though that milieu was thoroughly steeped into Western youth culture, it was filtered through a Tokyo lens. As a matter of fact, you’d be hard pressed to find much that’s “Japanese” in their work, nor would they want you to. What matters is the filter of their singular minds. Coincidentally, both designers also make music—Miyashita has done music for UNDERCOVER shows. When I first encountered Number (N)ine in 2005, the clothes were a revelation. They were at once familiar and alien. They were not simply an elevated version of the rock ’n’ roll gear I wore as a teenager; there was a transcendental quality in Miyashita’s work, whether in the way he mixed materials, added details or reshaped the garments, like when he made a cape modeled after the Schott’s Perfecto motorcycle jacket.

Words Eugene Rabkin Photography Edward Chiu Interview Translation Natsumi Oh

Karlo Steel, who bought Number (N)ine for his iconic menswear boutique Atelier, had a similar experience. “Often Taka used the color black as a foundation for beautification. And as someone who sharpened his aesthetic sensibilities in the ’80s on a diet of COMME, Yohji and Grace Jones, this was something I connected with,” he says. “I also liked how he used items we were already familiar with, like skinny jeans and combat boots, and put his own spin on them, making them seem fresh and desirable.”

Number (N)ine’s short-lived New York boutique, located in the then still industrial corner of TriBeCa and closed on Tuesdays (as I found out the hard way), became one of my favorite destinations, to which I sneaked out during my office lunch breaks. It was different than other stores—dimly lit, raw, with unfinished furniture and old TVs playing N(N) shows and rock music videos. You had to be committed in order to find it, but that desire to stand apart from other stores did not strike me as pretentious. Miyashita started designing while working at Nepenthes, a store in Harajuku, in the mid ’90s. Currently the company is known for its Japanese-tinged Americana line, Engineered Garments and Needles, the brainchild of Nepenthes founder Keizo Shimizu. Needles’ 1970s lilt has found a new audience today, and its track pants have attracted a new breed of celebrity clientele like A$AP Rocky. He’s not a classically trained designer by any means. Miyashita didn’t go to fashion school, but had a natural taste for what constitutes “good” clothing. But he also admits that same lens could have been applied to other creative platforms, like music or architecture. He was in his late teens when he began working for Nepenthes, which solidified his desire to pursue a career in fashion. “By the time I met the owner of Nepenthes, my mind about working in the fashion industry was made up,” he says. The store’s owner had a mind to do his own line, and he tapped Miyashita, who was already in the habit of deconstructing and reconstructing clothes for himself, to design 20 styles. “My previous boss is not an outspoken type of person, so he didn’t explain or show me what to do step by step,” Miyashita says. “Instead, he expected me to learn from watching his job. He’d say: ‘Be free. Do what feels right for you.’” That first collection came out well, and Miyashita began thinking of his own line. In 1997 he launched Number (N)ine. The name was inspired by The Beatles experimental track, “Revolution 9.” The cacophonous, atonal track’s only lyrics are “number nine” on repeat. At Number (N)ine, Miyashita decided that his direction would be applying that multidisciplinary creative ‘lens’ by manifesting youth culture in fashion design. He quickly began developing a reputation for putting out quirky mashups of references from alternative rock to indie films. At some point, Jun Takahashi, who was curious about Miyashita, knocked on the door of his studio. UNDERCOVER was already one of the hottest brands in Tokyo at the time, and Miyashita, who is quite shy by nature, remembers being frozen with awkwardness. He simply said hi to Takahashi and dashed out the door. But Takahashi returned and the two since have become close friends.

89


After building his reputation in Japan, Miyashita decided to take Number (N)ine to Paris. The first collection he showed there was for A/W 2004 called “Give Peace a Chance.” Hits like the Spring/Summer 2005 “Night Crawlers” and the Fall/Winter 2006 “Noir” followed, in which Miyashita offered a unique point of view on rock music and goth subculture.

But the shows weren’t only about darkness, and Miyashita’s later references hewed closer to the shabby style of alternative music, the West Coast of the U.S., Portland youth and Gus Van Sant. These were reflected in shows like “My Own Private Portland” and “About a Boy.” Like Kurt Cobain, the label also burnt out in its prime.

“The first show I attended by Number (N)ine was ‘Night Crawlers,’ and it made a massive impact on me,” says Steel. “It was all about the excitement, and possible danger, that went with rock ‘n’ roll nightclubbing; that spiky allure of youthful abandonment in the moonlight. Some of those collections were oddly ahead of their time, and not unlike what Hedi Slimane did at Dior by combining the casual, the street, and music culture in a youthful and energetic way.”

Number (N)ine’s last show, Fall/Winter 2009’s “A Closed Feeling,” was the first Paris fashion show I ever attended. As the veiled models came out, walking slowly to Beth Gibbons’s gut-wrenching soundtrack in what looked like pirate jackets intricately constructed from repurposed upholstery fabrics, an elegiac mood took over the room. Little did we know that the elegy was real and that we were witnessing the end of Number (N)ine.

In retrospect, Steel notes, those Number (N)ine collections have aged remarkably well, and still remain as youthful as ever. Perhaps the most iconic example of combining the elements Steel mentions was the Fall/Winter 2005 collection, called “The High Streets,” set to an aggressive Nirvana soundtrack, in which Miyashita mixed plaid and denim with tuxedo jackets and tailored coats. This was a continuation of a revolution started in the late ’90s by Raf Simons, which is so familiar to us by now that we take it for granted. But back then it was only beginning to be acceptable to see these things on the runway. What spoke to me as a fashion fan was the continuous negation of all that was bourgeois about designer fashion. Miyashita showed that you could wear a tailored coat with a hoodie and give both completely new meaning by subverting the context of one and elevating the other.

“T he Soloist is more personal for me. What feels right for me at the moment is to express what’s closer and more private.” After Miyashita finally extricated himself from Number (N)ine, he spent a year soul-searching and building up to his new line, TheSoloist. The name symbolized his desire to create with complete and newfound freedom. While Number (N)ine has become a company in which Miyashita had to contend with other parties, just as band members do, at TheSoloist he would do exactly as he pleased. “The Soloist is more personal for me. What feels right for me at the moment is to express what’s closer and more private,” he says.

90


After building his reputation in Japan, Miyashita decided to take Number (N)ine to Paris. The first collection he showed there was for A/W 2004 called “Give Peace a Chance.” Hits like the Spring/Summer 2005 “Night Crawlers” and the Fall/Winter 2006 “Noir” followed, in which Miyashita offered a unique point of view on rock music and goth subculture.

But the shows weren’t only about darkness, and Miyashita’s later references hewed closer to the shabby style of alternative music, the West Coast of the U.S., Portland youth and Gus Van Sant. These were reflected in shows like “My Own Private Portland” and “About a Boy.” Like Kurt Cobain, the label also burnt out in its prime.

“The first show I attended by Number (N)ine was ‘Night Crawlers,’ and it made a massive impact on me,” says Steel. “It was all about the excitement, and possible danger, that went with rock ‘n’ roll nightclubbing; that spiky allure of youthful abandonment in the moonlight. Some of those collections were oddly ahead of their time, and not unlike what Hedi Slimane did at Dior by combining the casual, the street, and music culture in a youthful and energetic way.”

Number (N)ine’s last show, Fall/Winter 2009’s “A Closed Feeling,” was the first Paris fashion show I ever attended. As the veiled models came out, walking slowly to Beth Gibbons’s gut-wrenching soundtrack in what looked like pirate jackets intricately constructed from repurposed upholstery fabrics, an elegiac mood took over the room. Little did we know that the elegy was real and that we were witnessing the end of Number (N)ine.

In retrospect, Steel notes, those Number (N)ine collections have aged remarkably well, and still remain as youthful as ever. Perhaps the most iconic example of combining the elements Steel mentions was the Fall/Winter 2005 collection, called “The High Streets,” set to an aggressive Nirvana soundtrack, in which Miyashita mixed plaid and denim with tuxedo jackets and tailored coats. This was a continuation of a revolution started in the late ’90s by Raf Simons, which is so familiar to us by now that we take it for granted. But back then it was only beginning to be acceptable to see these things on the runway. What spoke to me as a fashion fan was the continuous negation of all that was bourgeois about designer fashion. Miyashita showed that you could wear a tailored coat with a hoodie and give both completely new meaning by subverting the context of one and elevating the other.

“T he Soloist is more personal for me. What feels right for me at the moment is to express what’s closer and more private.” After Miyashita finally extricated himself from Number (N)ine, he spent a year soul-searching and building up to his new line, TheSoloist. The name symbolized his desire to create with complete and newfound freedom. While Number (N)ine has become a company in which Miyashita had to contend with other parties, just as band members do, at TheSoloist he would do exactly as he pleased. “The Soloist is more personal for me. What feels right for me at the moment is to express what’s closer and more private,” he says.

90


Sometimes when I look at Miyashita’s complicatedly constructed clothes in sumptuous fabrics I wonder at his ability to be free from commercial constraints. In a sense, he seems like one of the last auteurs in fashion, meaning that he does whatever he wants, practical considerations be damned. Doublefaced cashmere coats with leather piping that will retail for over $10,000? Why not? Miyashita is not out to cater to everyone. “I’m a type of person who desires a true appreciation from one person, instead of nine people out of ten,” he says. Having learned his lesson at Number (N)ine, at TheSoloist Miyashita runs a skeleton crew. He designs everything himself, without a single assistant. What would carry over from the Number (N)ine days were the youth culture references that for Miyashita always stay fresh. “My relationship and understanding of the things that inspire me has not changed over the years,” Miyashita says. “It might be different from the initial encounter, but inspiration from those musicians or artists are certainly not fading.” Kurt Cobain quoted Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” in his 1994 suicide note, writing: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” For Miyashita, those eerie words ring true. In some ways, the spirits of the artists that inspire him live on inside his head, and his relationships with them are only reinforced over time. You can see this in the latest collection Miyashita presented in Paris, in which hoodies were embroidered with notes from the Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt,” the Nine Inch Nails single, and T-shirts that featured a hand-drawn portrait of the recently deceased Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden and Audioslave singer. Miyashita would be hard pressed to draw a parallel, say from Kurt Cobain to Johnny Cash, except that they all have had an effect on him that he has thoroughly internalized. When I ask

him whether it is rebellion or romanticism that unites his heroes, or their originality, he answers, “I rarely use the word ‘rebel,’ because those icons of mine are only slightly off-track. Are they romantic? Maybe. It’s important to be romantic. Original? I can never be, because everything has been done.” Like Jack Kerouac, the only people for Takahiro Miyashita are the mad ones. He describes Kurt Cobain as someone who “was only slightly abnormal,” though not quite an outlaw. He goes on to say that Cobain is a perfect example of who he is— just a few degrees removed from mainstream conformity, and surreptitiously subversive. But Miyashita’s multitudes are not so clearly defined, as he also says he could easily identify with someone like Katherine Hepburn. Perhaps by now a hint of nostalgia also affects him. The current wave of nostalgia is caught up in the ’90s, as the generation of kids who grew up in that decade now hold many key posts in the creative industries. “I do think there is a nostalgic feeling in my work,” Miyashita says. “The clothes I was wearing back when Nirvana came out were not so different from what Kurt was wearing. I saw the similarity. Levi’s, Converse. Without knowing how Nirvana looked, its music felt almost like heavy metal. Though the looks were what made me realize that they are different. And that was exactly where I was at. I was only slightly different from others.” This sounded spot on to me, since I have lately been revisiting the early Smashing Pumpkins records, and I realized that some of the songs sounded pretty much like heavy metal, the genre which alternative rock opposed, but also which it learned from. How they looked mattered greatly to those musicians’ ethos. As Frank Zappa once said, “No change in musical style will survive unless it is accompanied by a change in clothing style.”

93


Sometimes when I look at Miyashita’s complicatedly constructed clothes in sumptuous fabrics I wonder at his ability to be free from commercial constraints. In a sense, he seems like one of the last auteurs in fashion, meaning that he does whatever he wants, practical considerations be damned. Doublefaced cashmere coats with leather piping that will retail for over $10,000? Why not? Miyashita is not out to cater to everyone. “I’m a type of person who desires a true appreciation from one person, instead of nine people out of ten,” he says. Having learned his lesson at Number (N)ine, at TheSoloist Miyashita runs a skeleton crew. He designs everything himself, without a single assistant. What would carry over from the Number (N)ine days were the youth culture references that for Miyashita always stay fresh.

him whether it is rebellion or romanticism that unites his heroes, or their originality, he answers, “I rarely use the word ‘rebel,’ because those icons of mine are only slightly off-track. Are they romantic? Maybe. It’s important to be romantic. Original? I can never be, because everything has been done.” Like Jack Kerouac, the only people for Takahiro Miyashita are the mad ones. He describes Kurt Cobain as someone who “was only slightly abnormal,” though not quite an outlaw. He goes on to say that Cobain is a perfect example of who he is— just a few degrees removed from mainstream conformity, and surreptitiously subversive. But Miyashita’s multitudes are not so clearly defined, as he also says he could easily identify with someone like Katherine Hepburn. Perhaps by now a hint of nostalgia also affects him. The

“My relationship and understanding of the things that inspire me has not changed over the years,” Miyashita says. “It might be different from the initial encounter, but inspiration from those musicians or artists are certainly not fading.” Kurt Cobain quoted Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” in his 1994 suicide note, writing: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” For Miyashita, those eerie words ring true. In some ways, the spirits of the artists that inspire him live on inside his head, and his relationships with them are only reinforced over time. You can see this in the latest collection Miyashita presented in Paris, in which hoodies were embroidered with notes from the Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt,” the Nine Inch Nails single, and T-shirts that featured a hand-drawn portrait of the recently deceased Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden and Audioslave singer. Miyashita would be hard pressed to draw a parallel, say from Kurt Cobain to Johnny Cash, except that they all have had an effect on him that he has thoroughly internalized. When I ask

current wave of nostalgia is caught up in the ’90s, as the generation of kids who grew up in that decade now hold many key posts in the creative industries. “I do think there is a nostalgic feeling in my work,” Miyashita says. “The clothes I was wearing back when Nirvana came out were not so different from what Kurt was wearing. I saw the similarity. Levi’s, Converse. Without knowing how Nirvana looked, its music felt almost like heavy metal. Though the looks were what made me realize that they are different. And that was exactly where I was at. I was only slightly different from others.” This sounded spot on to me, since I have lately been revisiting the early Smashing Pumpkins records, and I realized that some of the songs sounded pretty much like heavy metal, the genre which alternative rock opposed, but also which it learned from. How they looked mattered greatly to those musicians’ ethos. As Frank Zappa once said, “No change in musical style will survive unless it is accompanied by a change in clothing style.”

93


I wondered whether the old references that drive Miyashita are there because he has found no new ones. As you get older, it sometimes becomes harder to relate to contemporary culture, and going back to some of the old cultural markers feels natural. Newness no longer holds the same appeal. Perhaps when so much has already been done, it becomes difficult for the next generation to make an impact. At least that’s what I thought on my last two visits to Japan, where the work of the generation of designers that came after Miyashita and Takahashi has left me largely unimpressed. I was struck by the formulaic uniformity of what was on offer. It looked as if someone sat down and said, “Okay, we need a bomber jacket here, a pair of sweatpants there, and a Perfecto to boot. Perhaps we make different zippers.”

“All those great designers, who we call pioneers and originals, made it easy for us,” says Miyashita. “We are fortunate to use this chance to create something amazing. There’s clearly a path we can follow.” And yet to create something new in our thoroughly postmodern world has become increasingly difficult. The intractable march of the casualization of fashion has gone from being revolutionary in the Number (N)ine days to cringe-worthy today, when everyone seems to make the same basic stuff only with different logos on it. TheSoloist also has a line of “basics,” only they are anything but that—you can clearly see the deliberate thought process Miyashita has put into designing contemporary menswear wardrobe staples like a hoodie or an MA-1 jacket.

Miyashita sounds more optimistic. “The young designers could seem uninspiring at the moment, but the same impression was also true for us back then,” he tells me, also referring to UNDERCOVER. “I would say that just like today, our time was also full of mistakes. It may not sound nice to say that young designers have less imagination, but perhaps they are better at making clothes.” Modern designers have access to more help and skilled staffs. In Miyashita’s early days, he didn’t have as wide a variety of materials to choose from, and that forced him to be more creative in his designs. He describes his process as “creating freely based on misunderstandings and mistakes.” In some ways, he thinks clothing feels a little too immaculate now. In an age where we have remastered editions of seminal studio albums, the crackles and imperfections that gave the original recordings character are sorely missed. “What I see is that young designers don’t seem to try harder or go beyond what they know,” says Miyashita. “They decide that what they know is enough. Meanwhile, you see that designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo are still aiming higher.” Perhaps it is hard for young designers to follow in the footsteps of those giants. Or on the contrary, easier, since they have brought Japanese fashion to global attention.

“It’s been too long since anybody did anything genuinely new, so I believe it’s about time somebody did something. I can feel it. There could be a new Kurt Cobain.” Miyashita, for one, is ready for something new. “The clear difference between the new generation and us is that we have tried to create something freely while being not so free, solutions from mistakes, whereas people nowadays do the opposite,” he says. “It’s been too long since anybody did anything genuinely new, so I believe it’s about time somebody did something. I can feel it. There could be a new Kurt Cobain.” Towards the end of our interview, I mention to Miyashita that he is considered by some a veteran of fashion. He is surprised. “I’ve never been called a veteran,” he says. “I’m no different from a designer who only started yesterday. My curiosity towards fashion and clothes-making has not changed since I was 19. It’s over when you’re called a veteran.”

94

95


I wondered whether the old references that drive Miyashita are there because he has found no new ones. As you get older, it sometimes becomes harder to relate to contemporary culture, and going back to some of the old cultural markers feels natural. Newness no longer holds the same appeal. Perhaps when so much has already been done, it becomes difficult for the next generation to make an impact. At least that’s what I thought on my last two visits to Japan, where the work of the generation of designers that came after Miyashita and Takahashi has left me largely unimpressed. I was struck by the formulaic uniformity of what was on offer. It looked as if someone sat down and said, “Okay, we need a bomber jacket here, a pair of sweatpants there, and a Perfecto to boot. Perhaps we make different zippers.”

“All those great designers, who we call pioneers and originals, made it easy for us,” says Miyashita. “We are fortunate to use this chance to create something amazing. There’s clearly a path we can follow.” And yet to create something new in our thoroughly postmodern world has become increasingly difficult. The intractable march of the casualization of fashion has gone from being revolutionary in the Number (N)ine days to cringe-worthy today, when everyone seems to make the same basic stuff only with different logos on it. TheSoloist also has a line of “basics,” only they are anything but that—you can clearly see the deliberate thought process Miyashita has put into designing contemporary menswear wardrobe staples like a hoodie or an MA-1 jacket.

Miyashita sounds more optimistic. “The young designers could seem uninspiring at the moment, but the same impression was also true for us back then,” he tells me, also referring to UNDERCOVER. “I would say that just like today, our time was also full of mistakes. It may not sound nice to say that young designers have less imagination, but perhaps they are better at making clothes.” Modern designers have access to more help and skilled staffs. In Miyashita’s early days, he didn’t have as wide a variety of materials to choose from, and that forced him to be more creative in his designs. He describes his process as “creating freely based on misunderstandings and mistakes.” In some ways, he thinks clothing feels a little too immaculate now. In an age where we have remastered editions of seminal studio albums, the crackles and imperfections that gave the original recordings character are sorely missed. “What I see is that young designers don’t seem to try harder or go beyond what they know,” says Miyashita. “They decide that what they know is enough. Meanwhile, you see that designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo are still aiming higher.” Perhaps it is hard for young designers to follow in the footsteps of those giants. Or on the contrary, easier, since they have brought Japanese fashion to global attention.

“It’s been too long since anybody did anything genuinely new, so I believe it’s about time somebody did something. I can feel it. There could be a new Kurt Cobain.” Miyashita, for one, is ready for something new. “The clear difference between the new generation and us is that we have tried to create something freely while being not so free, solutions from mistakes, whereas people nowadays do the opposite,” he says. “It’s been too long since anybody did anything genuinely new, so I believe it’s about time somebody did something. I can feel it. There could be a new Kurt Cobain.” Towards the end of our interview, I mention to Miyashita that he is considered by some a veteran of fashion. He is surprised. “I’ve never been called a veteran,” he says. “I’m no different from a designer who only started yesterday. My curiosity towards fashion and clothes-making has not changed since I was 19. It’s over when you’re called a veteran.”

94

95


TOP LIU CHAO, BOMBER Y/PROJECT, TROUSERS OFF-WHITE, EARRINGS AMBUSH, SNEAKERS PIERRE HARDY

Flea Market Photography Nicolas Robin Hobbs Styling Yaya Moo Hair Eduardo Bravo Make-up Vera Dierckx Stylist Assistants Katherine Kou & Rong Model Marie Fofana @ IMG


TOP LIU CHAO, BOMBER Y/PROJECT, TROUSERS OFF-WHITE, EARRINGS AMBUSH, SNEAKERS PIERRE HARDY

Flea Market Photography Nicolas Robin Hobbs Styling Yaya Moo Hair Eduardo Bravo Make-up Vera Dierckx Stylist Assistants Katherine Kou & Rong Model Marie Fofana @ IMG


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SportMax Photography Jake Jones Styling Jenny Haapala Hair Kabuto Okuzawa Make-up Ayaka Nihei Photography Assistant Paul Strouse Styling Assistants Delia Socorro Hernandez & Joel Norman Digital Tech Craig Rockwell Models Jaylin Carlson @ Muse & Jacob @ Request

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Stark Honesty — Maisie Williams

Words Alec Banks

Make-up Ayaka Nihei using Urban Decay

Photography Kenneth Cappello

Photography Assistant & Tech Tucker Leary

Styling Jenny Haapala

Styling Assistants Delia Socorro Hernandez & Lydia Triano

Hair Nero using Amika

SHIRT FRAME

SWEATER ZADIG & VOLTAIRE

BELT & KEYCHAIN PIERRE HARDY

EARRINGS EDDIE BORGO


Stark Honesty — Maisie Williams

Words Alec Banks

Make-up Ayaka Nihei using Urban Decay

Photography Kenneth Cappello

Photography Assistant & Tech Tucker Leary

Styling Jenny Haapala

Styling Assistants Delia Socorro Hernandez & Lydia Triano

Hair Nero using Amika

SHIRT FRAME

SWEATER ZADIG & VOLTAIRE

BELT & KEYCHAIN PIERRE HARDY

EARRINGS EDDIE BORGO


In season 1 of Game of Thrones, Arya Stark is described as being like a sword. In the context of the character, it’s proven to be an apt description. Over seven seasons, revenge, retribution and bloodshed have all become hallmark attributes of Stark’s evolution from innocent waif to a cunning, strong young woman. For the 20-year-old actress who has effortlessly inhabited the role, Maisie Williams, the metaphor is equally accurate. Williams arrives in Boston by herself—unsheathed—cutting through the red tape of publicists, managers, and agents as she readies herself to be transformed in garments ranging from a Maria ke Fisherman leather corset top to a Zadig & Voltaire sweater which appropriately reads “muse.” She’s in town shooting X-Men: New Mutants where she has been cast in the role of Wolfsbane– a transformative Scottish entity with a furry alter-ego—who will battle evil alongside a diverse set of other teens. She’s sort of like a Stark who becomes her own dire wolf, so it seems like a natural transition for Williams as far as tent-pole franchises go. It also furthers her pursuit to portray female characters that aren’t cliché and defy conventional attitudes about femininity and beauty. “It’s nice to be a part of this sort of new wave of characters being written and actresses coming into fame that don’t really stick to the norm,” she says. “I believe that my generation is one of the most accepting generations that there is, and I sort of see that reflected in film.” Most young actors and actresses toil in commercial work and graduate to embarrassing cameos on short-lived TV series or score bit parts in low budget films before making the jump to more substantial work. However, when Game of Thrones creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff scoured 300 female actresses across England for their vision of Arya Stark, they plucked Williams from absolute obscurity in her hometown of Bristol. The youngest of four children, Williams was raised by her mother and stepfather who encouraged her first passion: dance. The discipline lends itself to the strict rule of choreography where a single step doesn’t happen by chance. But when Williams was 11, she and her company found themselves exploring how improvisation classes could aid in their overall imagination as dancers. It was there where talent agent, Louise Johnston, became impressed by Williams’s charm and encouraged her to consider trading in her ballet slippers for acting. With Johnston serving as her first agent, Williams auditioned for a part in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang—the sequel to the 2005 film starring Emma Thompson—but she ultimately missed out landing the gig because she looked too young. Johnston could sense that Williams was already frustrated. Yet, she and Maisie’s mother still sold her on the aforementioned HBO series which would potentially allow her to portray a tomboyish character enamored by her brother’s exploits in battle.

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BLAZER & PANTS HUGO BOSS

EYEGLASSES RETROSUPERFUTURE

CHOKER & EARRINGS EDDIE BORGO RINGS COACH & EDDIE BORGO

The only problem: the audition interfered with a class trip to a local pig farm, which was particularly appealing to Williams because she absolutely adored animals, aided by a Noah’s Ark-esque upbringing which included 13 dogs, rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, birds, and a hedgehog. Fortunately for Williams, her mother persuaded her to pursue the opportunity.


In season 1 of Game of Thrones, Arya Stark is described as being like a sword. In the context of the character, it’s proven to be an apt description. Over seven seasons, revenge, retribution and bloodshed have all become hallmark attributes of Stark’s evolution from innocent waif to a cunning, strong young woman. For the 20-year-old actress who has effortlessly inhabited the role, Maisie Williams, the metaphor is equally accurate. Williams arrives in Boston by herself—unsheathed—cutting through the red tape of publicists, managers, and agents as she readies herself to be transformed in garments ranging from a Maria ke Fisherman leather corset top to a Zadig & Voltaire sweater which appropriately reads “muse.” She’s in town shooting X-Men: New Mutants where she has been cast in the role of Wolfsbane– a transformative Scottish entity with a furry alter-ego—who will battle evil alongside a diverse set of other teens. She’s sort of like a Stark who becomes her own dire wolf, so it seems like a natural transition for Williams as far as tent-pole franchises go. It also furthers her pursuit to portray female characters that aren’t cliché and defy conventional attitudes about femininity and beauty. “It’s nice to be a part of this sort of new wave of characters being written and actresses coming into fame that don’t really stick to the norm,” she says. “I believe that my generation is one of the most accepting generations that there is, and I sort of see that reflected in film.” Most young actors and actresses toil in commercial work and graduate to embarrassing cameos on short-lived TV series or score bit parts in low budget films before making the jump to more substantial work. However, when Game of Thrones creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff scoured 300 female actresses across England for their vision of Arya Stark, they plucked Williams from absolute obscurity in her hometown of Bristol. The youngest of four children, Williams was raised by her mother and stepfather who encouraged her first passion: dance. The discipline lends itself to the strict rule of choreography where a single step doesn’t happen by chance. But when Williams was 11, she and her company found themselves exploring how improvisation classes could aid in their overall imagination as dancers. It was there where talent agent, Louise Johnston, became impressed by Williams’s charm and encouraged her to consider trading in her ballet slippers for acting. With Johnston serving as her first agent, Williams auditioned for a part in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang—the sequel to the 2005 film starring Emma Thompson—but she ultimately missed out landing the gig because she looked too young. Johnston could sense that Williams was already frustrated. Yet, she and Maisie’s mother still sold her on the aforementioned HBO series which would potentially allow her to portray a tomboyish character enamored by her brother’s exploits in battle.

T-SHIRT 6397

BLAZER & PANTS HUGO BOSS

EYEGLASSES RETROSUPERFUTURE

CHOKER & EARRINGS EDDIE BORGO RINGS COACH & EDDIE BORGO

The only problem: the audition interfered with a class trip to a local pig farm, which was particularly appealing to Williams because she absolutely adored animals, aided by a Noah’s Ark-esque upbringing which included 13 dogs, rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, birds, and a hedgehog. Fortunately for Williams, her mother persuaded her to pursue the opportunity.


COAT JIL SANDER

RINGS COACH & EDDIE BORGO

Her audition tape revealed a 12-year-old girl, cropped brunette hair framing her oval face, with that “it” factor that embodied Arya’s mischievousness and bravery. For Weiss and Benioff, she was their Arya. But for Maisie Williams, she just hoped to finally afford a new laptop. Game of Thrones debuted in 2011—two days after her 14th birthday—and met with near-universal acclaim thanks to the ambitious scope of the series, rich characters, sprawling locales and its sheer unpredictability (well, for those that hadn’t read the books). As a novice in the entertainment business, Williams was initially baffled by the success. She recalls sitting in interviews with her older cast members, who would praise the show’s writing. But it’s not that she didn’t think the writing was good, she was just in a stage where her own tastes were being informed. In the same way kids who grow up listening to seminal bands and artists instead of spoon-fed bubblegum pop usually turn out much more culturally savvy than their peers, Williams’s early exposure to GoT’s Emmy-winning scripts informed her level of discernment for future projects.

“For a long time I was just so in love with Arya. I just thought she’s the best thing ever and that no one else could touch her, and she was just incredible.” In retrospect, she feels a little spoiled having had the privilege of working on such a game-changing show, and now she admits it’s a bit difficult for her to find scripts of the same caliber. It’s through this same adult lens that Williams can reinterpret not only her approach to acting, but is also able to reconcile the lingering connection she has to the youngest Stark daughter. “For a long time I was just so in love with Arya. I just thought she’s the best thing ever and that no one else could touch her, and she was just incredible,” she says. But as she grew up—both as a young adult and an actress—she began to explore a more vivid emotional range, and through that developed an appreciation for her on-screen older sister, Sansa Stark. Williams is quick to clarify that she wouldn’t have done as admirable a job portraying the scarlet-haired Sansa as her castmate, Sophie Turner. However, she relishes finding a similar character in her post-Game of Thrones career that has to endure similar obstacles. Whereas Sansa and Arya Stark’s physical and emotional journeys are fictionalized, Maisie Williams saw the show’s success take a real toll on her real life. Specifically, online bullying and real-life bullying from her school peers sullied what should have been some of the happiest moments of her young life. She was particularly brutalized by the anonymous app, Formspring. Williams wasn’t the only one experiencing the vitriol. Prior to her own experience, Formspring taunts notably led to two suicides in New York City and another in England in which a girl become so overwhelmed that she stepped in front of a train rather than continue experiencing the torment. As Game of Thrones rose in popularity, Williams ultimately opted for tutors in lieu of school and eliminated parts of her social media footprint to avoid any lingering problems.


COAT JIL SANDER

RINGS COACH & EDDIE BORGO

Her audition tape revealed a 12-year-old girl, cropped brunette hair framing her oval face, with that “it” factor that embodied Arya’s mischievousness and bravery. For Weiss and Benioff, she was their Arya. But for Maisie Williams, she just hoped to finally afford a new laptop. Game of Thrones debuted in 2011—two days after her 14th birthday—and met with near-universal acclaim thanks to the ambitious scope of the series, rich characters, sprawling locales and its sheer unpredictability (well, for those that hadn’t read the books). As a novice in the entertainment business, Williams was initially baffled by the success. She recalls sitting in interviews with her older cast members, who would praise the show’s writing. But it’s not that she didn’t think the writing was good, she was just in a stage where her own tastes were being informed. In the same way kids who grow up listening to seminal bands and artists instead of spoon-fed bubblegum pop usually turn out much more culturally savvy than their peers, Williams’s early exposure to GoT’s Emmy-winning scripts informed her level of discernment for future projects.

“For a long time I was just so in love with Arya. I just thought she’s the best thing ever and that no one else could touch her, and she was just incredible.” In retrospect, she feels a little spoiled having had the privilege of working on such a game-changing show, and now she admits it’s a bit difficult for her to find scripts of the same caliber. It’s through this same adult lens that Williams can reinterpret not only her approach to acting, but is also able to reconcile the lingering connection she has to the youngest Stark daughter. “For a long time I was just so in love with Arya. I just thought she’s the best thing ever and that no one else could touch her, and she was just incredible,” she says. But as she grew up—both as a young adult and an actress—she began to explore a more vivid emotional range, and through that developed an appreciation for her on-screen older sister, Sansa Stark. Williams is quick to clarify that she wouldn’t have done as admirable a job portraying the scarlet-haired Sansa as her castmate, Sophie Turner. However, she relishes finding a similar character in her post-Game of Thrones career that has to endure similar obstacles. Whereas Sansa and Arya Stark’s physical and emotional journeys are fictionalized, Maisie Williams saw the show’s success take a real toll on her real life. Specifically, online bullying and real-life bullying from her school peers sullied what should have been some of the happiest moments of her young life. She was particularly brutalized by the anonymous app, Formspring. Williams wasn’t the only one experiencing the vitriol. Prior to her own experience, Formspring taunts notably led to two suicides in New York City and another in England in which a girl become so overwhelmed that she stepped in front of a train rather than continue experiencing the torment. As Game of Thrones rose in popularity, Williams ultimately opted for tutors in lieu of school and eliminated parts of her social media footprint to avoid any lingering problems.


“You don’t really get a day off from being famous,” she reasons. She channels her experiences with trolling into the 2015 film, Cyberbully, which chronicles the dangers and effects of online hate—allowing the public to see Williams as a vulnerable character rather than just as the fearless Arya Stark.

“ [On Arya & Eleven] It’s made it okay to see little girls not just in dresses, and it’s okay for little girls to look like little boys, and it’s not quite so shocking and awful anymore.”

Williams creates a sense of balance in her life by devoting her time to causes she believes in. In 2015, she joined thousands of protestors in London’s Trafalgar Square to voice their displeasure with dolphin culling. She insinuates that even her charitable spirit and concern over animal welfare has ruffled feathers because there are those that can’t understand creating change beyond human rights. But considering she grew up surrounded by animals—and has to work with a variety of digital and fictional creatures in her day job—she remains a champion of animal welfare. “If we all fight for the same thing, then all these other causes don’t get solved,” she says. That same year, she made a “kill list” of politicians, entertainers and media magnates—including David Cameron, Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, Nigel Farage, Gary Barlow, Jeremy Clark, Boris Johnson, Rupert Murdoch, Kanye West and Russell Brand—in an effort to encourage the youth to vote in the UK election in order to fight back against men who had “kicked their future in the teeth.” She’s also been a staunch advocate for women’s rights, something encouraged by her mother’s own battle with breast cancer, as well as her own experiences seeing the over-sexualization of young actresses in Hollywood. Williams’s philanthropy and activism stems from an example set by fellow Game of Thrones castmate, Lena Headey, who portrays Queen Cersei Lannister. She has watched Headey champion women’s rights for Plan International and was invited by her to experience firsthand the challenges the International Rescue Committee (IRC) faced when dealing with the refugee crisis in Greece. “I think that any activist’s main goal is to be put out of business,” she says of working tirelessly to solve the world’s ills. The actors involved with Game of Thrones have seen their performances become so convincing that the public have had a hard time separating their fictional actions from the real people behind the characters. Jack Gleeson—who portrayed the devious Joffrey Baratheon—was often chastised for being a real monster. Similarly, Lena Headey echoed that people always expected her to be a “wicked witch” in real life just like her character, despite her extensive charitable background. When she appeared on Conan in 2013, Headey recalled a situation when someone approached her as she was buying a table and asked: “Are you that bitch?!” However, Williams isn’t so quick to dispel the similarities between herself and Arya Stark. She describes both herself and the character as being hot-headed, jumping to conclusions and often times being their own worst enemies. ”You see that a lot this season,” she hints. “She gets herself into trouble a few times.” Emmy voters validated Williams’s portrayal of Arya Stark in 2016—where she was honored alongside co-stars Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke for their work as Supporting Actresses in a drama series. It’s rather fortuitous that in the subsequent months after she was recognized, the world latched onto another pre-teen female character—Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven from Stranger Things—who like Arya Stark, emotes a similar adult intensity, has lost her mother, and finds kinship with a wicked man. The similarities aren’t lost on Williams.


“You don’t really get a day off from being famous,” she reasons. She channels her experiences with trolling into the 2015 film, Cyberbully, which chronicles the dangers and effects of online hate—allowing the public to see Williams as a vulnerable character rather than just as the fearless Arya Stark.

“ [On Arya & Eleven] It’s made it okay to see little girls not just in dresses, and it’s okay for little girls to look like little boys, and it’s not quite so shocking and awful anymore.”

Williams creates a sense of balance in her life by devoting her time to causes she believes in. In 2015, she joined thousands of protestors in London’s Trafalgar Square to voice their displeasure with dolphin culling. She insinuates that even her charitable spirit and concern over animal welfare has ruffled feathers because there are those that can’t understand creating change beyond human rights. But considering she grew up surrounded by animals—and has to work with a variety of digital and fictional creatures in her day job—she remains a champion of animal welfare. “If we all fight for the same thing, then all these other causes don’t get solved,” she says. That same year, she made a “kill list” of politicians, entertainers and media magnates—including David Cameron, Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, Nigel Farage, Gary Barlow, Jeremy Clark, Boris Johnson, Rupert Murdoch, Kanye West and Russell Brand—in an effort to encourage the youth to vote in the UK election in order to fight back against men who had “kicked their future in the teeth.” She’s also been a staunch advocate for women’s rights, something encouraged by her mother’s own battle with breast cancer, as well as her own experiences seeing the over-sexualization of young actresses in Hollywood. Williams’s philanthropy and activism stems from an example set by fellow Game of Thrones castmate, Lena Headey, who portrays Queen Cersei Lannister. She has watched Headey champion women’s rights for Plan International and was invited by her to experience firsthand the challenges the International Rescue Committee (IRC) faced when dealing with the refugee crisis in Greece. “I think that any activist’s main goal is to be put out of business,” she says of working tirelessly to solve the world’s ills. The actors involved with Game of Thrones have seen their performances become so convincing that the public have had a hard time separating their fictional actions from the real people behind the characters. Jack Gleeson—who portrayed the devious Joffrey Baratheon—was often chastised for being a real monster. Similarly, Lena Headey echoed that people always expected her to be a “wicked witch” in real life just like her character, despite her extensive charitable background. When she appeared on Conan in 2013, Headey recalled a situation when someone approached her as she was buying a table and asked: “Are you that bitch?!” However, Williams isn’t so quick to dispel the similarities between herself and Arya Stark. She describes both herself and the character as being hot-headed, jumping to conclusions and often times being their own worst enemies. ”You see that a lot this season,” she hints. “She gets herself into trouble a few times.” Emmy voters validated Williams’s portrayal of Arya Stark in 2016—where she was honored alongside co-stars Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke for their work as Supporting Actresses in a drama series. It’s rather fortuitous that in the subsequent months after she was recognized, the world latched onto another pre-teen female character—Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven from Stranger Things—who like Arya Stark, emotes a similar adult intensity, has lost her mother, and finds kinship with a wicked man. The similarities aren’t lost on Williams.


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“Millie’s work was so great, and the character is so amazing. It is just wonderful to see more young girls in those sort of roles. I know that Arya was part of that,” she says. “It’s made it okay to see little girls not just in dresses, and it’s okay for little girls to look like little boys, and it’s not quite so shocking and awful anymore.” It may seem rather gloomy to broach the idea of the “end” to an actress who is only 20 years old. But with her time on Game of Thrones nearing its conclusion, she’s acutely aware that it’s appropriate to begin formulating next steps. One element that excites Williams is her newly-formed production company with partner Dom Santry, Daisy Chain Productions, whose goal is to develop and produce UK-originated short films, theatrical features and high-end television dramas. Her hope is to give young screenwriters, directors, and actors an outlet for expression who will in turn provide fresh eyes and unique perspectives that you don’t get with industry veterans.

“There are so many members of my generation that have all the talent and just no platform.” “I want to give other people the opportunity to make incredible things,” she says. “There are so many members of my generation that have all the talent and just no platform.” Daisy Chain’s first production, Stealing Silver, a film focusing on a young woman’s relationship with a mysterious man across the road from her, finds Williams serving as both executive producer and as the female lead. Williams also seems to understand that no matter what she accomplishes as an actress or behindthe-scenes-creative—having notably earned a European Shooting Star Award (which also helped launched the career of Daniel Craig) at the Berlin Film Festival for her role in Carol Morley’s feature The Falling— there may be no escaping her Game of Thrones past. She admits playing Arya Stark has been one of the most successful things she’ll ever do despite new projects on the horizon like Mary Shelley opposite Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth, Early Man with Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston, and plans to write and direct her own short film in 2018. But there is no sadness in her blunt assessment. She seems eager to recoup a lifestyle similar to her Bristol upbringing. There’s even talk of traveling for years on end if she felt so inclined. “I could do anything, and I haven’t had that feeling for a long time,” she says. As for the one question planted in the minds of Game of Thrones fans everywhere: what’s going to happen to Arya Stark by the end of the series? She doesn’t give any definitive answers, but rather offers a wistful view of what she hopes Arya’s fate is. “I just want her to be happy and be safe and for someone to look out for her,” she says. “She’s become so independent, and she’s got quite a hard-ass attitude. I think that it’d be nice to have peace of mind that she’s being protected by an elder. Not sure who that would be. But she’s had it rough, and it’d be nice for her to have a nice hunk. Can’t imagine that really happening—this is Game of Thrones—but in my world that’s what I would like for her.” Williams doesn’t answer like she’s talking about a fictional character; there’s a sense that in some ways, she’s also talking about herself, and the many female GoT fans that have seen a bit of themselves in Arya Stark. What’s evident is that as an actress and a fan-favorite character, Maisie Williams has certainly helped sharpen a stronger point of view for women everywhere.

PANTS ELLERY

EARRINGS JENNIFER FISHER

RINGS COACH & EDDIE BORGO


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SWEATSHIRT RE/DONE

COAT DOLCE & GABBANA

“Millie’s work was so great, and the character is so amazing. It is just wonderful to see more young girls in those sort of roles. I know that Arya was part of that,” she says. “It’s made it okay to see little girls not just in dresses, and it’s okay for little girls to look like little boys, and it’s not quite so shocking and awful anymore.” It may seem rather gloomy to broach the idea of the “end” to an actress who is only 20 years old. But with her time on Game of Thrones nearing its conclusion, she’s acutely aware that it’s appropriate to begin formulating next steps. One element that excites Williams is her newly-formed production company with partner Dom Santry, Daisy Chain Productions, whose goal is to develop and produce UK-originated short films, theatrical features and high-end television dramas. Her hope is to give young screenwriters, directors, and actors an outlet for expression who will in turn provide fresh eyes and unique perspectives that you don’t get with industry veterans.

“There are so many members of my generation that have all the talent and just no platform.” “I want to give other people the opportunity to make incredible things,” she says. “There are so many members of my generation that have all the talent and just no platform.” Daisy Chain’s first production, Stealing Silver, a film focusing on a young woman’s relationship with a mysterious man across the road from her, finds Williams serving as both executive producer and as the female lead. Williams also seems to understand that no matter what she accomplishes as an actress or behindthe-scenes-creative—having notably earned a European Shooting Star Award (which also helped launched the career of Daniel Craig) at the Berlin Film Festival for her role in Carol Morley’s feature The Falling— there may be no escaping her Game of Thrones past. She admits playing Arya Stark has been one of the most successful things she’ll ever do despite new projects on the horizon like Mary Shelley opposite Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth, Early Man with Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston, and plans to write and direct her own short film in 2018. But there is no sadness in her blunt assessment. She seems eager to recoup a lifestyle similar to her Bristol upbringing. There’s even talk of traveling for years on end if she felt so inclined. “I could do anything, and I haven’t had that feeling for a long time,” she says. As for the one question planted in the minds of Game of Thrones fans everywhere: what’s going to happen to Arya Stark by the end of the series? She doesn’t give any definitive answers, but rather offers a wistful view of what she hopes Arya’s fate is. “I just want her to be happy and be safe and for someone to look out for her,” she says. “She’s become so independent, and she’s got quite a hard-ass attitude. I think that it’d be nice to have peace of mind that she’s being protected by an elder. Not sure who that would be. But she’s had it rough, and it’d be nice for her to have a nice hunk. Can’t imagine that really happening—this is Game of Thrones—but in my world that’s what I would like for her.” Williams doesn’t answer like she’s talking about a fictional character; there’s a sense that in some ways, she’s also talking about herself, and the many female GoT fans that have seen a bit of themselves in Arya Stark. What’s evident is that as an actress and a fan-favorite character, Maisie Williams has certainly helped sharpen a stronger point of view for women everywhere.

PANTS ELLERY

EARRINGS JENNIFER FISHER

RINGS COACH & EDDIE BORGO


Stance Photography Yves Borgwardt Styling Saskia Schmidt Hair & Make-up Sina Velke & Helena Narra Models Brad, Zaire, Jannik, Franziska Frings @ M4 Models, Nicole @ Supermodel Management & Daniel @ Modelwerk

ALL KENZO

ALL VERSACE


Stance Photography Yves Borgwardt Styling Saskia Schmidt Hair & Make-up Sina Velke & Helena Narra Models Brad, Zaire, Jannik, Franziska Frings @ M4 Models, Nicole @ Supermodel Management & Daniel @ Modelwerk

ALL KENZO

ALL VERSACE


ALL DRIES VAN NOTEN

ALL LOUIS VUITTON


ALL DRIES VAN NOTEN

ALL LOUIS VUITTON


ALL GUCCI

ALL GUCCI


ALL GUCCI

ALL GUCCI


ALL KENZO

ALL GUCCI


ALL KENZO

ALL GUCCI


VHS Photography Cameron Mcnee @ Sarah Laird & Good Company Styling Atip W Hair Takuya Morimoto using L’Oreal Professional Make-up Andjelka using Bobbi Brown Photography Assistant Willy Cuylits Casting Sarah Bunter @ Bunter Casting Models Thomas @ Savalas, Elfy @ The Squad Management & Sam @ AMCK VHS Imagery Charlie Behrens

ALL GIVENCHY


VHS Photography Cameron Mcnee @ Sarah Laird & Good Company Styling Atip W Hair Takuya Morimoto using L’Oreal Professional Make-up Andjelka using Bobbi Brown Photography Assistant Willy Cuylits Casting Sarah Bunter @ Bunter Casting Models Thomas @ Savalas, Elfy @ The Squad Management & Sam @ AMCK VHS Imagery Charlie Behrens

ALL GIVENCHY


SHIRT TIM COPPENS, DENIM TRENCH, COAT CHARLES JEFFREY, TROUSERS CRAIG GREEN, SHOES KICKERS

ALL KENZO


SHIRT TIM COPPENS, DENIM TRENCH, COAT CHARLES JEFFREY, TROUSERS CRAIG GREEN, SHOES KICKERS

ALL KENZO


HOODED SWEATER TIM COPPENS, JACKET KENZO, PANTS SUPREME

JUMPSUIT MARCO DI VICENZA, JUMPER JW ANDERSON


HOODED SWEATER TIM COPPENS, JACKET KENZO, PANTS SUPREME

JUMPSUIT MARCO DI VICENZA, JUMPER JW ANDERSON


TURTLE NECK KNIT TIM COPPENS, CARDIGAN JW ANDERSON

JACKET CRAIG GREEN


TURTLE NECK KNIT TIM COPPENS, CARDIGAN JW ANDERSON

JACKET CRAIG GREEN


The Wang Way or the Highway — Alexander Wang

Words Nico Amarca & Jian DeLeon

Collodion Darkroom Technician Sam Dole

Photography & Creative Direction Driely S.

Lighting K&M Rental

Styling Alexander Wang

Casting Anissa Payne

Grooming Lisa Aharon 

Assistants T om Vogel, Rachel Czajkowski, Maksim Axelrod, Elijah Craig,

Creative Consultants Peter Freleng & Haris Fazlani

Silas Vassar, Sharena Chindavong & Daniel Topete


The Wang Way or the Highway — Alexander Wang

Words Nico Amarca & Jian DeLeon

Collodion Darkroom Technician Sam Dole

Photography & Creative Direction Driely S.

Lighting K&M Rental

Styling Alexander Wang

Casting Anissa Payne

Grooming Lisa Aharon 

Assistants T om Vogel, Rachel Czajkowski, Maksim Axelrod, Elijah Craig,

Creative Consultants Peter Freleng & Haris Fazlani

Silas Vassar, Sharena Chindavong & Daniel Topete


Luxury fashion has undergone one of the most significant structural disruptions in recent memory. In a time where heritage houses are striving for innovation to stay relevant, Alexander Wang, whose eponymous imprint dates just over 12 years, embraced youth culture, social media and brand lifestyle from the get-go. The designer reveals how his nonconformist ethos has bolstered the company’s success in today’s wavering consumer climate. Every industry today is experiencing some form of structural disruption, as ceaseless advancements in technology, consumer behavior, socioeconomics and generational acuity continue to dictate how businesses create and distribute product to their respective consumers. For fashion, an institution that has undergone some of the most substantial commercial and cultural shifts in recent memory, reinvention is no longer just a marketing ploy used to sell a trend—it’s a means of survival. Though democratization is a hefty term when describing the state of fashion right now—let’s be honest, the industry has a long way to go before it achieves absolute inclusivity—the potent influence of youth culture and social media has forced many a legacy brand to modernize their mode de faire in order to remain relevant in the larger conversation. Why is it, then, that fashion week still remains an increasingly lackluster affair? Whether they’re scrambling to decide on the “befitting” city to debut their seasonal rotations, merging gender-specific collections to show all in one go, opting for rogue presentations outside of the traditional fashion calendar, or simply pulling out of the event altogether, designers seem to be in a tumultuous state when choosing the most appropriate method of displaying their creations to the masses. Monetary burdens aside, conventional fashion shows appear to be waning in significance these days, and it’s safe to factor in tedium as at least one of the leading causes. After all, how much cab-hopping, seat-shuffling and head-turning does one have to endure to see back-to-back, 15-minute performances of models walking up and down a platform before it all seems indistinguishable? Of course, there’s always that one designer who manages to triumph in delivering a truly memorable show; one that not only adds substance and meaning behind the narrative of their designs, but also provides a refreshing boost of excitement to an audience whose morale is otherwise jaded. “It’s always been more than just about product,” says Alexander Wang, a designer who places a strong emphasis on the experiential component of his eponymous label’s catwalk presentations. “With shows, everything from the music, to the lighting, to the venue has equal importance, because it’s the experience. Being able to communicate it, deliver it, and present it in a way that the audience really understands the context is important to me. It’s not just, ‘Okay, here you go, 30 looks. Write your order.’ I like giving people a certain kind of escape, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes.” Wang was born in San Francisco to Taiwanese-American parents. His Bay Area upbringing helped inform his laid-back, super casual aesthetic, as well as his equally relaxed sense of personal style. You’re more likely to see Wang wearing slim jeans and a black T-shirt than a suit. When he was three, he was already sketching shoe designs on restaurant napkins. He got his first taste of the fashion industry at 15, when he attended a summer course at London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins just before he started his freshman year of high school. There, he designed a collection of 33 evening dresses.


Luxury fashion has undergone one of the most significant structural disruptions in recent memory. In a time where heritage houses are striving for innovation to stay relevant, Alexander Wang, whose eponymous imprint dates just over 12 years, embraced youth culture, social media and brand lifestyle from the get-go. The designer reveals how his nonconformist ethos has bolstered the company’s success in today’s wavering consumer climate. Every industry today is experiencing some form of structural disruption, as ceaseless advancements in technology, consumer behavior, socioeconomics and generational acuity continue to dictate how businesses create and distribute product to their respective consumers. For fashion, an institution that has undergone some of the most substantial commercial and cultural shifts in recent memory, reinvention is no longer just a marketing ploy used to sell a trend—it’s a means of survival. Though democratization is a hefty term when describing the state of fashion right now—let’s be honest, the industry has a long way to go before it achieves absolute inclusivity—the potent influence of youth culture and social media has forced many a legacy brand to modernize their mode de faire in order to remain relevant in the larger conversation. Why is it, then, that fashion week still remains an increasingly lackluster affair? Whether they’re scrambling to decide on the “befitting” city to debut their seasonal rotations, merging gender-specific collections to show all in one go, opting for rogue presentations outside of the traditional fashion calendar, or simply pulling out of the event altogether, designers seem to be in a tumultuous state when choosing the most appropriate method of displaying their creations to the masses. Monetary burdens aside, conventional fashion shows appear to be waning in significance these days, and it’s safe to factor in tedium as at least one of the leading causes. After all, how much cab-hopping, seat-shuffling and head-turning does one have to endure to see back-to-back, 15-minute performances of models walking up and down a platform before it all seems indistinguishable? Of course, there’s always that one designer who manages to triumph in delivering a truly memorable show; one that not only adds substance and meaning behind the narrative of their designs, but also provides a refreshing boost of excitement to an audience whose morale is otherwise jaded. “It’s always been more than just about product,” says Alexander Wang, a designer who places a strong emphasis on the experiential component of his eponymous label’s catwalk presentations. “With shows, everything from the music, to the lighting, to the venue has equal importance, because it’s the experience. Being able to communicate it, deliver it, and present it in a way that the audience really understands the context is important to me. It’s not just, ‘Okay, here you go, 30 looks. Write your order.’ I like giving people a certain kind of escape, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes.” Wang was born in San Francisco to Taiwanese-American parents. His Bay Area upbringing helped inform his laid-back, super casual aesthetic, as well as his equally relaxed sense of personal style. You’re more likely to see Wang wearing slim jeans and a black T-shirt than a suit. When he was three, he was already sketching shoe designs on restaurant napkins. He got his first taste of the fashion industry at 15, when he attended a summer course at London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins just before he started his freshman year of high school. There, he designed a collection of 33 evening dresses.


At 18, he moved to New York to pursue a degree at Parsons School of Design, and started to work on his own collection in his spare time. After two years in school, he felt he was finally ready. So he left to start his eponymous label along with his brother Dennis. His first collection was shown at New York Fashion Week in 2007, and it fomented a new idea for women’s luxury collections: the uptown woman with a downtown sensibility.

“As a brand, we’ve always been very purposeful in making sure that we share content and we communicate with our audience in a very nonconformist way,” he says. “Once we had established this method of communication, it just became really fun because I felt that the more that I would read the comments, the more I would get this sort of high off of people just being able to react to the content that we were sharing. It just felt like I began to build a really strong, direct relationship.”

Wang’s clothing emanated an innate sense of effortless cool. His inspirations combined hip-hop with Yves Saint Laurent in a time when Kanye West was still figuring out his fashion identity. Curved-brim ball caps, slim leather biker pants and oversized slouchy leopard-print sweaters redefined aspirational fashion a full decade before Louis Vuitton even considered collaborating with Supreme. Wang pioneered that wave in the space where it matters: women’s fashion. He was making the type of clothes basic women would steal from their cool quasi-skater boyfriend, and then made the boyfriend superfluous.

This notion of nonconformity would also, of course, mirror in Wang’s designs. In a move the San Franciscan native describes as a desire to “dress his friends,” Wang crafted the crux of his creations around street culture and New York City’s thriving nightlife scene in a way that high-fashion hadn’t been accustomed to.

In her 2015 memoir, Tales From the Back Row, writer and Cosmopolitan editor Amy Odell recalls, “If I had learned anything going to his runway shows, it was that young women could be made instantly hip by owning a piece of Wang.” For several seasons now, the 33-year-old designer’s larger-than-life shows, followed by his equally elaborate afterparties, have mustered up enough theatrics to garner legendary status among the New York Fashion Week roster—and you’ll be damned if you’re not invited. Wang’s afterparty venues have included strip clubs and malls buried deep in Chinatown. At the designer’s Spring/Summer 2017 show, which debuted his collaboration with adidas Originals, he created a sense of continuity between the show and afterparty. He closed the fashion show with models decked out in pieces from his adidas collaboration, then carted them away in the back of a semi trailer. That night, in the setting of New York’s Pier 94, the same trailer was converted into a pop-up shop for the first pieces of the collab, featuring graphic tees and sweatshirts emblazoned with Wang’s nondisclosure agreement. The pop-up was complemented by similar trucks serving late night staples: everything from McDonald’s burgers and fries to 7-Eleven Slurpees, candy bars and even condoms were up for grabs. Wang’s seamless merging of business with pleasure through events and collaborations has enabled consumers to feel as though they are buying into a brand culture and lifestyle, not just cold wearable commodities. “I like the element of surprise. The element of spontaneity. The element of not knowing what might happen and kind of being inspired,” says Wang. “I think it’s important to constantly have that kind of motivation to be able to give people something new to experience.” In an age where heritage luxury houses are aggressively pushing for innovation, Wang’s eponymous imprint, a relatively new enterprise at just over 12 years old, embraced youthful vitality from the get-go— years ahead of Gucci’s #TFWGucci meme campaign or the irony-laden slogans found on Balenciaga’s (a house Alex would himself take a three-year creative director tenure at back in 2013) uber-hyped hoodies and baseball caps. Though he claims that he was a “late comer” to social media—he debuted his personal Instagram, @alexwangny, on his 32nd birthday in 2015—Wang’s sharp wit and playful pop culture references have already garnered his personal account over 100,000 followers. Part meme aggregator, part self-aware look at Wang’s offbeat personality, the account affirms a designer that’s naturally “with it” when it comes to an ever-evolving social climate. Though his label’s official accounts—@alexanderwangny on both Twitter and Instagram—are a little less off-the-cuff than his personal one, there’s still a bit of Wang’s true self that informs the tone. The more he explored social media, the more he understood how to fluently speak on each different platform.

“I tend to look for places to go where people are really uninhibited and kind of let their hair down. What I love most about nightlife is how people become free and liberated. People don’t go there to hate on other people,” he explains. “I think generally the energy and the vibe is very positive and that’s something I’ve always reacted off of and been inspired by.” The “Wang Squad,” as they were once dubbed in the label’s Fall/Winter 2016 campaign, has become synonymous with the designer’s clique of edgy, party-loving cool kids, who cull together their sartorial aesthetic from the Big Apple’s gritty downtown vigor and a svelte “model off-duty” provocativeness boasted by the designer’s love of dark color palettes and slim-fitting silhouettes. “I was always looking at Japanese fashion magazines because they were the pioneers of street style in my opinion,” Wang asserts. “That was always a big influence for me, being able to mix high and low and have a dynamic and juxtaposition. I think now it’s become even more disruptive because luxury brands are really playing in this realm and doing a lot of collaborations, and it kind of feels confusing for the industry, however, it’s exciting because it’s really pivoting people and pushing brands to think differently.”

“I think now it’s become even more disruptive because luxury brands are really playing in this realm and doing a lot of collaborations, and it kind of feels confusing for the industry, however, it’s exciting because it’s really pivoting people and pushing brands to think differently.” For many brands, collaborations play a crucial role in addressing different demographics or funneling varying aesthetics. The practice has been so commonplace in the industry now that the element of surprise or excitement whenever a new brand partnership is announced has near evaporated, with many falling short on coming across as genuine creative alliances (especially in the luxury sector). So when expectation rules out, the biggest factor people look for now with collaborations is authenticity—and, of course, the finished product. “I always think about people who are leaders in their field or who do things that we can’t do,” says Wang, who has previously collaborated on a smartphone with Samsung and headphones with Beats by Dre. “I want to do something that me as a fan or a consumer would get really excited about. That would be the first thing, followed by realizing what the next chapter of the brand is. What haven’t we said or done yet that’s different yet still authentic? We just try to uncover those line by line.”


At 18, he moved to New York to pursue a degree at Parsons School of Design, and started to work on his own collection in his spare time. After two years in school, he felt he was finally ready. So he left to start his eponymous label along with his brother Dennis. His first collection was shown at New York Fashion Week in 2007, and it fomented a new idea for women’s luxury collections: the uptown woman with a downtown sensibility.

“As a brand, we’ve always been very purposeful in making sure that we share content and we communicate with our audience in a very nonconformist way,” he says. “Once we had established this method of communication, it just became really fun because I felt that the more that I would read the comments, the more I would get this sort of high off of people just being able to react to the content that we were sharing. It just felt like I began to build a really strong, direct relationship.”

Wang’s clothing emanated an innate sense of effortless cool. His inspirations combined hip-hop with Yves Saint Laurent in a time when Kanye West was still figuring out his fashion identity. Curved-brim ball caps, slim leather biker pants and oversized slouchy leopard-print sweaters redefined aspirational fashion a full decade before Louis Vuitton even considered collaborating with Supreme. Wang pioneered that wave in the space where it matters: women’s fashion. He was making the type of clothes basic women would steal from their cool quasi-skater boyfriend, and then made the boyfriend superfluous.

This notion of nonconformity would also, of course, mirror in Wang’s designs. In a move the San Franciscan native describes as a desire to “dress his friends,” Wang crafted the crux of his creations around street culture and New York City’s thriving nightlife scene in a way that high-fashion hadn’t been accustomed to.

In her 2015 memoir, Tales From the Back Row, writer and Cosmopolitan editor Amy Odell recalls, “If I had learned anything going to his runway shows, it was that young women could be made instantly hip by owning a piece of Wang.” For several seasons now, the 33-year-old designer’s larger-than-life shows, followed by his equally elaborate afterparties, have mustered up enough theatrics to garner legendary status among the New York Fashion Week roster—and you’ll be damned if you’re not invited. Wang’s afterparty venues have included strip clubs and malls buried deep in Chinatown. At the designer’s Spring/Summer 2017 show, which debuted his collaboration with adidas Originals, he created a sense of continuity between the show and afterparty. He closed the fashion show with models decked out in pieces from his adidas collaboration, then carted them away in the back of a semi trailer. That night, in the setting of New York’s Pier 94, the same trailer was converted into a pop-up shop for the first pieces of the collab, featuring graphic tees and sweatshirts emblazoned with Wang’s nondisclosure agreement. The pop-up was complemented by similar trucks serving late night staples: everything from McDonald’s burgers and fries to 7-Eleven Slurpees, candy bars and even condoms were up for grabs. Wang’s seamless merging of business with pleasure through events and collaborations has enabled consumers to feel as though they are buying into a brand culture and lifestyle, not just cold wearable commodities. “I like the element of surprise. The element of spontaneity. The element of not knowing what might happen and kind of being inspired,” says Wang. “I think it’s important to constantly have that kind of motivation to be able to give people something new to experience.” In an age where heritage luxury houses are aggressively pushing for innovation, Wang’s eponymous imprint, a relatively new enterprise at just over 12 years old, embraced youthful vitality from the get-go— years ahead of Gucci’s #TFWGucci meme campaign or the irony-laden slogans found on Balenciaga’s (a house Alex would himself take a three-year creative director tenure at back in 2013) uber-hyped hoodies and baseball caps. Though he claims that he was a “late comer” to social media—he debuted his personal Instagram, @alexwangny, on his 32nd birthday in 2015—Wang’s sharp wit and playful pop culture references have already garnered his personal account over 100,000 followers. Part meme aggregator, part self-aware look at Wang’s offbeat personality, the account affirms a designer that’s naturally “with it” when it comes to an ever-evolving social climate. Though his label’s official accounts—@alexanderwangny on both Twitter and Instagram—are a little less off-the-cuff than his personal one, there’s still a bit of Wang’s true self that informs the tone. The more he explored social media, the more he understood how to fluently speak on each different platform.

“I tend to look for places to go where people are really uninhibited and kind of let their hair down. What I love most about nightlife is how people become free and liberated. People don’t go there to hate on other people,” he explains. “I think generally the energy and the vibe is very positive and that’s something I’ve always reacted off of and been inspired by.” The “Wang Squad,” as they were once dubbed in the label’s Fall/Winter 2016 campaign, has become synonymous with the designer’s clique of edgy, party-loving cool kids, who cull together their sartorial aesthetic from the Big Apple’s gritty downtown vigor and a svelte “model off-duty” provocativeness boasted by the designer’s love of dark color palettes and slim-fitting silhouettes. “I was always looking at Japanese fashion magazines because they were the pioneers of street style in my opinion,” Wang asserts. “That was always a big influence for me, being able to mix high and low and have a dynamic and juxtaposition. I think now it’s become even more disruptive because luxury brands are really playing in this realm and doing a lot of collaborations, and it kind of feels confusing for the industry, however, it’s exciting because it’s really pivoting people and pushing brands to think differently.”

“I think now it’s become even more disruptive because luxury brands are really playing in this realm and doing a lot of collaborations, and it kind of feels confusing for the industry, however, it’s exciting because it’s really pivoting people and pushing brands to think differently.” For many brands, collaborations play a crucial role in addressing different demographics or funneling varying aesthetics. The practice has been so commonplace in the industry now that the element of surprise or excitement whenever a new brand partnership is announced has near evaporated, with many falling short on coming across as genuine creative alliances (especially in the luxury sector). So when expectation rules out, the biggest factor people look for now with collaborations is authenticity—and, of course, the finished product. “I always think about people who are leaders in their field or who do things that we can’t do,” says Wang, who has previously collaborated on a smartphone with Samsung and headphones with Beats by Dre. “I want to do something that me as a fan or a consumer would get really excited about. That would be the first thing, followed by realizing what the next chapter of the brand is. What haven’t we said or done yet that’s different yet still authentic? We just try to uncover those line by line.”


In celebration of its 10-year anniversary of designer collaborations, Swedish fast fashion giant H&M tapped Wang in what marked the company’s debut pairing with an American designer. The collection, which dropped in the fall of 2014 to massive commercial hysteria, was filled with a bevy of monochromatic, tech-influenced sportswear, reflecting the market’s growing interest in innovative fabrics and sophisticated casual wear (or as the media frequently calls it, “athleisure”). Fast forward to September 2016, Alex introduced yet another athletic-tinged collaborative line on the catwalk of his Spring/Summer 2017 show during New York Fashion Week, this time with adidas Originals. “I’ve always loved sportswear; it’s something that’s always been interjected within our collections,” says Wang, who teamed up with the Three Stripes for a sophomore collection this summer. “I was able to get the whole performance wear thing out of my system with H&M… and then after that, to be able to kind of go into adidas and be like, ‘Okay, you know what? We don’t want to do strictly performance wear. We want to do something that’s different and that really has kind of a uniqueness compared to the other collaborations that you guys are doing and as well as their main line.’ So, I was glad that it happened in that sequence.” Wang’s recently-released second collaboration with adidas Originals includes offbeat pieces like cycling jerseys, a neon green cycling-inspired bodysuit, and a beanie that transforms into a balaclava. While creative endeavors have always been Wang’s forte, ideating business strategy has assumed equal time and value for the designer. In late June 2016, Wang announced that he’d be taking on the roles of CEO and chairman, positions previously held by his sister-in-law, Aimee Wang, and his mother, Yin Wang, respectively, in addition to remaining the company’s creative director. Similar moves have prompted skepticism in the past, as leading both the creative and business sides of a house can risk compromise, but the consistent clarity of his brand messaging and continuous support from consumers prove that Wang can effectively balance both responsibilities. “I think it’s important to understand the parameters and ideas [of your brand] from different channels. You need to know how they’re different and know where [your] audience lives to really kind of grasp everything and say, ‘Oh, you know what, this is the right messaging and the right tone.’” In the end, it’s not difficult to grasp the success of Alexander Wang. Of course there’s the spectacle of it all: the dazzling parties, celebrity endorsements and an effortlessly cool clique of supermodel glitterati. But more so, there’s the sentiment of a designer who’s never shied away from celebrating his youthful spirit and thrill for good times, which makes the brand’s ethos all the more relatable, though the price point remains decidedly aspirational. This is the designer who ushered in the “high/low” movement, after all. “It’s important to be sincere when you need to feel very genuine about the product that you’re putting out there. But if you’re sincere too consistently, it just becomes boring. I think the thing about our brand is that in terms of the irony, it’s always there to be able to provoke conversation but not just to be provocative. But you commit to the irony with the sincerity. There always has to be a why and I think that’s where the sincerity comes into place. So yeah, I think both are equally important. They really balance each other out and I think that’s what makes the conversation interesting.”


F/W

JUUN.J

2017

South Rd - 8 Photography Olya Oleinic Styling Kusi Kubi Grooming Celine Bernaerts @ House of Orange  using YSL Beauty, Dermalogica & Radken Models Noah @ New Generation & Sakua @ Brooks

DENIM JACKET & JEANS GIVENCHY


F/W

JUUN.J

2017

South Rd - 8 Photography Olya Oleinic Styling Kusi Kubi Grooming Celine Bernaerts @ House of Orange  using YSL Beauty, Dermalogica & Radken Models Noah @ New Generation & Sakua @ Brooks

DENIM JACKET & JEANS GIVENCHY


Cruise Control — Tinashe

Words Alec Banks

Hair Patricia Morales

Photography Alexander Bortz

Make-up Alexx Mayo

Styling Maeve Reilly @ TheOnly.Agency

Casting Anissa Payne

ALL ALEXANDER WANG

SUNGLASSES LE SPECS

HOOPS JENNIFER FISHER


Cruise Control — Tinashe

Words Alec Banks

Hair Patricia Morales

Photography Alexander Bortz

Make-up Alexx Mayo

Styling Maeve Reilly @ TheOnly.Agency

Casting Anissa Payne

ALL ALEXANDER WANG

SUNGLASSES LE SPECS

HOOPS JENNIFER FISHER


SHIRT GUCCI

SUNGLASSES ROBERT AND FREUD HOOPS JENNIFER FISHER

Tinashe’s career has been a tortuous road full of lessons about the music industry. But with her latest album, she may finally be on the right track. When I enter the space in Downtown Los Angeles that’s serving as the photo studio for a session with rising songstress, Tinashe, she is already being ushered by her glam squad from the matte black backdrop into the hallway to switch into another look. Tinashe emerges minutes later in an all-black, leather ensemble that is finished off with a pair of matching black sunglasses. She takes her mark near studio ephemera that ranges from a neon “open” sign that you’d see outside of a corner bodega, and a painting of Tupac Shakur holding up his iconic “Westside” pose. As a total package, she looks like Jackie Brown meets Johnny Cash; sexy, confident and with an outlaw’s swagger. The photographer’s lights pop with each frame taken—creating a rhythm not unlike a hi-hat on a drum kit—that she uses as a prompt to effortlessly change poses. She later admits that photo shoots still excite her, but the repetitiveness of doing interviews grates on her nerves. It’s certainly understandable after feeling that her comments were taken out of context in a June 2017 profile by The Guardian which insinuated that she believed that the music industry only allowed for a certain number of women of color on the top of the pop charts. At only 24 years old and fresh faced—with auburn highlights peppering her curls—Tinashe is challenging for a top spot. Her Hollywood aspirations began when she was quite young after relocating to Los Angeles from Chicago with her college professor parents, Michael and Aimie. Even her grandparents were educators. Thus, there was already an established precedent for her to enter and excel in the world of academia. But there was never a thought of pursuing such a path. “God no!” she states of the prospect. In the moment, it’s like asking an airline pilot to roll down the window. She wanted gold records, not golden rules. Whereas this disinterest in a career in education may have created conflict in certain family dynamics, her parents have always been advocates of her quest to entertain—whether as a child model, actor or singer. “I’ve always wanted to do music and entertain. They’ve always been supportive in everything since I was young,” she admits. During middle school, Tinashe fed her acting bug with parts on Cartoon Network and CBS that often took her out of class for months on end. As kids that age tend to do, her peers channeled their jealously into anger and began bullying her. She went from a near straight-A student to becoming completely disenfranchised with her entire school existence. By the time she was in ninth grade, school and acting were both afterthoughts as she honed in on her love of music; opting to test out of high school to pursue her ultimate goal of landing a record deal. In 2007, her dreams were no longer deferred when she was signed to Columbia Records as part of the all-girls group, The Stunners, alongside members Allie Gonino, Hayley Kiyoko, Marisol Esparza and Kelsey Sanders. The brainchild of Colleen Fitzpatrick, who was perhaps better known to a music crowd as Vitamin C— a singer/songwriter who charted on Billboard in the late 1990s—she had already swung and missed with 2007’s ill-fated group, T-Squad, which came and went like chewed bubblegum.


SHIRT GUCCI

SUNGLASSES ROBERT AND FREUD HOOPS JENNIFER FISHER

Tinashe’s career has been a tortuous road full of lessons about the music industry. But with her latest album, she may finally be on the right track. When I enter the space in Downtown Los Angeles that’s serving as the photo studio for a session with rising songstress, Tinashe, she is already being ushered by her glam squad from the matte black backdrop into the hallway to switch into another look. Tinashe emerges minutes later in an all-black, leather ensemble that is finished off with a pair of matching black sunglasses. She takes her mark near studio ephemera that ranges from a neon “open” sign that you’d see outside of a corner bodega, and a painting of Tupac Shakur holding up his iconic “Westside” pose. As a total package, she looks like Jackie Brown meets Johnny Cash; sexy, confident and with an outlaw’s swagger. The photographer’s lights pop with each frame taken—creating a rhythm not unlike a hi-hat on a drum kit—that she uses as a prompt to effortlessly change poses. She later admits that photo shoots still excite her, but the repetitiveness of doing interviews grates on her nerves. It’s certainly understandable after feeling that her comments were taken out of context in a June 2017 profile by The Guardian which insinuated that she believed that the music industry only allowed for a certain number of women of color on the top of the pop charts. At only 24 years old and fresh faced—with auburn highlights peppering her curls—Tinashe is challenging for a top spot. Her Hollywood aspirations began when she was quite young after relocating to Los Angeles from Chicago with her college professor parents, Michael and Aimie. Even her grandparents were educators. Thus, there was already an established precedent for her to enter and excel in the world of academia. But there was never a thought of pursuing such a path. “God no!” she states of the prospect. In the moment, it’s like asking an airline pilot to roll down the window. She wanted gold records, not golden rules. Whereas this disinterest in a career in education may have created conflict in certain family dynamics, her parents have always been advocates of her quest to entertain—whether as a child model, actor or singer. “I’ve always wanted to do music and entertain. They’ve always been supportive in everything since I was young,” she admits. During middle school, Tinashe fed her acting bug with parts on Cartoon Network and CBS that often took her out of class for months on end. As kids that age tend to do, her peers channeled their jealously into anger and began bullying her. She went from a near straight-A student to becoming completely disenfranchised with her entire school existence. By the time she was in ninth grade, school and acting were both afterthoughts as she honed in on her love of music; opting to test out of high school to pursue her ultimate goal of landing a record deal. In 2007, her dreams were no longer deferred when she was signed to Columbia Records as part of the all-girls group, The Stunners, alongside members Allie Gonino, Hayley Kiyoko, Marisol Esparza and Kelsey Sanders. The brainchild of Colleen Fitzpatrick, who was perhaps better known to a music crowd as Vitamin C— a singer/songwriter who charted on Billboard in the late 1990s—she had already swung and missed with 2007’s ill-fated group, T-Squad, which came and went like chewed bubblegum.


TOP & PANTS ARRIVE JACKET JUUN.J

HOOPS JENNIFER FISHER

SHOES SCHUTZ

However, the all-female dynamic with The Stunners struck a chord with audiences. They found instantaneous success that would only be intensified with their inclusion on Justin Bieber’s 2010 ‘My World Tour,’ which found the group playing arenas before they had managed to even conquer more intimate nightclub settings. Although The Stunners increased her exposure, Tinashe doesn’t reflect fondly on her four years with the group—which mercifully ended for her in 2011. She found the very nature of how they were conceived, the songs that were written for them, and the overall direction as a creative prison. “Being in a group, you just don’t really have any kind of creative freedoms or control,” she says. Free of the confines of the group just as she was coming into adulthood, Tinashe was now free to explore the songwriting process where she could expand upon themes and topics that may have been viewed as provocative from a group who had shilled songs like “Santa Bring my Soldier Home” and “Spin the Bottle.” Utilizing a self-starter mentality and tireless hustle, Tinashe turned to YouTube tutorials to begin to produce her own music so that nothing was left in the hands of anyone that could change her newfound direction. “I like to be able to have the ability to produce my own music, record myself, mix my own vocals,” she says. “I think that’s definitely a huge tool for sure.” The result was her 2012 independently released mixtape debut, In Case We Die, which was splashed with sensuality and moodiness and marked her official arrival as a solo artist. While Tinashe felt a sense of release and liberation, she also realized that she couldn’t hide behind other group members’ shortcomings or poor managerial decisions. “As a solo artist, obviously that’s much more fulfilling to be able to create your own path, do your own thing, and be the boss of yourself,” she reasons. “But, there’s also a lot more pressure in that as well.” As the saying goes, “No pressure, no diamonds.” Tinashe followed up her debut mixtape with her first official project, Aquarius, where she recorded over 200 songs over a two-year period, to finally get down to the final 18 tracks which drew comparisons to luminaries like Aaliyah and Janet Jackson. Although she admits she doesn’t toil away behind the boards like she once did as an independent artist, she clearly has the spirit of a producer as she seeks out perfection. “I think it’s important for me to be hands-on in all the creative aspects,” she says. The subject of “process” is near and dear to Tinashe’s heart. She’s particularly passionate about the underrepresentation of females in every facet of the music business where male collaborators permeate the technical, creative and ownership sides of the industry. “I only worked with two or three female engineers ever,” she recalls, which is a particularly alarming figure, considering she’s a self-proclaimed studio rat. Her desire for inclusion is not merely reserved to issues relating to gender. She wants to empower all young people to get involved—especially in areas that may be unseen and unnoticed by the general public.

“...when I see people that have been affected by my music, or my art, or anything that I’ve created, that’s where the value comes in.”


TOP & PANTS ARRIVE JACKET JUUN.J

HOOPS JENNIFER FISHER

SHOES SCHUTZ

However, the all-female dynamic with The Stunners struck a chord with audiences. They found instantaneous success that would only be intensified with their inclusion on Justin Bieber’s 2010 ‘My World Tour,’ which found the group playing arenas before they had managed to even conquer more intimate nightclub settings. Although The Stunners increased her exposure, Tinashe doesn’t reflect fondly on her four years with the group—which mercifully ended for her in 2011. She found the very nature of how they were conceived, the songs that were written for them, and the overall direction as a creative prison. “Being in a group, you just don’t really have any kind of creative freedoms or control,” she says. Free of the confines of the group just as she was coming into adulthood, Tinashe was now free to explore the songwriting process where she could expand upon themes and topics that may have been viewed as provocative from a group who had shilled songs like “Santa Bring my Soldier Home” and “Spin the Bottle.” Utilizing a self-starter mentality and tireless hustle, Tinashe turned to YouTube tutorials to begin to produce her own music so that nothing was left in the hands of anyone that could change her newfound direction. “I like to be able to have the ability to produce my own music, record myself, mix my own vocals,” she says. “I think that’s definitely a huge tool for sure.” The result was her 2012 independently released mixtape debut, In Case We Die, which was splashed with sensuality and moodiness and marked her official arrival as a solo artist. While Tinashe felt a sense of release and liberation, she also realized that she couldn’t hide behind other group members’ shortcomings or poor managerial decisions. “As a solo artist, obviously that’s much more fulfilling to be able to create your own path, do your own thing, and be the boss of yourself,” she reasons. “But, there’s also a lot more pressure in that as well.” As the saying goes, “No pressure, no diamonds.” Tinashe followed up her debut mixtape with her first official project, Aquarius, where she recorded over 200 songs over a two-year period, to finally get down to the final 18 tracks which drew comparisons to luminaries like Aaliyah and Janet Jackson. Although she admits she doesn’t toil away behind the boards like she once did as an independent artist, she clearly has the spirit of a producer as she seeks out perfection. “I think it’s important for me to be hands-on in all the creative aspects,” she says. The subject of “process” is near and dear to Tinashe’s heart. She’s particularly passionate about the underrepresentation of females in every facet of the music business where male collaborators permeate the technical, creative and ownership sides of the industry. “I only worked with two or three female engineers ever,” she recalls, which is a particularly alarming figure, considering she’s a self-proclaimed studio rat. Her desire for inclusion is not merely reserved to issues relating to gender. She wants to empower all young people to get involved—especially in areas that may be unseen and unnoticed by the general public.

“...when I see people that have been affected by my music, or my art, or anything that I’ve created, that’s where the value comes in.”


ALL PUBLIC SCHOOL

JEWELRY JENNIFER FISHER

Although she’s since satiated her fans’ desires for more music with the release of her sophomore album, Nightride—which felt more like a pit stop than a destination—it’s her long gestating third project, Joyride, which has had everyone clamoring for a release since it was first teased in 2015. She asserts that Joyride isn’t collecting dust on a shelf. It’s also not serving as “exhibit A” in the court of public opinion to illustrate a feud with her record label. Rather, it’s simply a work in progress.

“I think sometimes you just have to step away, and take a break, and recharge yourself emotionally, and spiritually because the creative process isn’t something that you can force.” “I think sometimes you just have to step away, and take a break, and recharge yourself emotionally, and spiritually because the creative process isn’t something that you can force,” she says. “Sometimes it takes longer, sometimes it just comes to you instantly, sometimes songs take weeks, months or years for people to complete.” There have been setbacks—most notably when Rihanna nabbed the title track “Joyride” for her own album, Anti—before ultimately relinquishing the song back to its rightful owner. Tinashe addressed subsequent album delays in a letter to her fans on Facebook dated April 5, 2016, stating “trust me, I am as eager to get it out to you as you are to hear it. I will be wrapping up the finishing touches on Joyride by the end of May.” Over a year has passed since that announcement. Tinashe is aware that there is a difference between evolving as an artist and over-tinkering. She likens releasing the project to the bittersweet feeling of parents watching a child head off to their first day of school and feeling equal parts happiness as they do a sense of loss. “You have to disconnect from it and obviously it’s very precious, because you listen to it obsessively and you’ve created this,” she says, adding, “sometimes that can be a daunting thing when a new project comes out, because it’s not your own anymore. It’s open to criticism, and everyone can shit on it.” With years’ worth of recordings compiled for Joyride, she’s now forced to reckon with how the passage of time could potentially impact the project. “Some songs can cut through for years, and months, and months, which are obviously awesome songs if they can do that,” she says. These same songs which continue to make the final tracklist indicate to her that she’s not chasing any fleeting musical trends and is instead relying on instinct above all else. The actual album title, Joyride, is a reference to the emotional journey that Tinashe has taken in the industry where she equally notes the thrilling and fun moments as the instances that feel debilitating. “It’s embracing all those things that make it an adventure,” she reasons.


ALL PUBLIC SCHOOL

JEWELRY JENNIFER FISHER

Although she’s since satiated her fans’ desires for more music with the release of her sophomore album, Nightride—which felt more like a pit stop than a destination—it’s her long gestating third project, Joyride, which has had everyone clamoring for a release since it was first teased in 2015. She asserts that Joyride isn’t collecting dust on a shelf. It’s also not serving as “exhibit A” in the court of public opinion to illustrate a feud with her record label. Rather, it’s simply a work in progress.

“I think sometimes you just have to step away, and take a break, and recharge yourself emotionally, and spiritually because the creative process isn’t something that you can force.” “I think sometimes you just have to step away, and take a break, and recharge yourself emotionally, and spiritually because the creative process isn’t something that you can force,” she says. “Sometimes it takes longer, sometimes it just comes to you instantly, sometimes songs take weeks, months or years for people to complete.” There have been setbacks—most notably when Rihanna nabbed the title track “Joyride” for her own album, Anti—before ultimately relinquishing the song back to its rightful owner. Tinashe addressed subsequent album delays in a letter to her fans on Facebook dated April 5, 2016, stating “trust me, I am as eager to get it out to you as you are to hear it. I will be wrapping up the finishing touches on Joyride by the end of May.” Over a year has passed since that announcement. Tinashe is aware that there is a difference between evolving as an artist and over-tinkering. She likens releasing the project to the bittersweet feeling of parents watching a child head off to their first day of school and feeling equal parts happiness as they do a sense of loss. “You have to disconnect from it and obviously it’s very precious, because you listen to it obsessively and you’ve created this,” she says, adding, “sometimes that can be a daunting thing when a new project comes out, because it’s not your own anymore. It’s open to criticism, and everyone can shit on it.” With years’ worth of recordings compiled for Joyride, she’s now forced to reckon with how the passage of time could potentially impact the project. “Some songs can cut through for years, and months, and months, which are obviously awesome songs if they can do that,” she says. These same songs which continue to make the final tracklist indicate to her that she’s not chasing any fleeting musical trends and is instead relying on instinct above all else. The actual album title, Joyride, is a reference to the emotional journey that Tinashe has taken in the industry where she equally notes the thrilling and fun moments as the instances that feel debilitating. “It’s embracing all those things that make it an adventure,” she reasons.


TOP AALTO

PANTS, SCARF & HEAD WRAP BALENCIAGA HOOPS JENNIFER FISHER

Her voice radiates positivity, but the look on her face makes it abundantly clear that she is growing frustrated with not only the lack of an album, but also the inability to promote it and also interact with her passionate fan base. “The most fulfilling thing to me is hearing feedback from people that my music meant something to them,” she admits. “So, when I see people that have been affected by my music, or my art, or anything that I’ve created, that’s where the value comes in.” It’s sometimes hard for her to rationalize the rabid support she has; having amassed 2 million Instagram followers and another 707,000 on Twitter where she regularly retweets those she affectionately refers to as “SweeTees” who identify with her poignant lyrics and are entertained by her live shows. Clearly, there are plenty of Tinashe fans riding hard for her. As a fan growing up, she didn’t have artists that moved her to tears. But she always had the utmost respect for artists who could bring their albums to life in a concert setting.

“That’s why I love Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, or all these people that could really fucking just get up there and put on an amazing performance.” “The people that I grew up loving the most were people that were amazing entertainers, and put on an amazing show,” she says. “That’s why I love Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, or all these people that could really fucking just get up there and put on an amazing performance.” When people use Janet Jackson’s career as comparison to her own, she views it as a huge compliment because she believes people are interpreting her as a genre-less singer who is well-rounded. “That’s always been the ultimate goal,” she says. There comes a point in every long car ride when a driver has been on the road so long that everything starts to look the same. Even though they’re barreling down the highway at 80 miles per hour, they start questioning whether or not they’re making any progress. Tinashe gives off the impression that she’s enjoying the wind in her hair, but she’s sick of all the bugs smashed against the windshield. She is trying to cultivate her own creativity while staying in the lane she’s chosen to navigate. Along the way, her pit stops include exerting more control over her videos, music, and other aspects of her artistry that can make her more like the entertainers she grew up adoring. Ultimately, Joyride might not prove to be the destination everyone thinks it will be for her career. But perhaps even more importantly for Tinashe, it’s definitely not the end of the road. In the interim, she is keeping focused on what makes her happy. “I’m just being creative, really focused on just making dope shit.”


TOP AALTO

PANTS, SCARF & HEAD WRAP BALENCIAGA HOOPS JENNIFER FISHER

Her voice radiates positivity, but the look on her face makes it abundantly clear that she is growing frustrated with not only the lack of an album, but also the inability to promote it and also interact with her passionate fan base. “The most fulfilling thing to me is hearing feedback from people that my music meant something to them,” she admits. “So, when I see people that have been affected by my music, or my art, or anything that I’ve created, that’s where the value comes in.” It’s sometimes hard for her to rationalize the rabid support she has; having amassed 2 million Instagram followers and another 707,000 on Twitter where she regularly retweets those she affectionately refers to as “SweeTees” who identify with her poignant lyrics and are entertained by her live shows. Clearly, there are plenty of Tinashe fans riding hard for her. As a fan growing up, she didn’t have artists that moved her to tears. But she always had the utmost respect for artists who could bring their albums to life in a concert setting.

“That’s why I love Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, or all these people that could really fucking just get up there and put on an amazing performance.” “The people that I grew up loving the most were people that were amazing entertainers, and put on an amazing show,” she says. “That’s why I love Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, or all these people that could really fucking just get up there and put on an amazing performance.” When people use Janet Jackson’s career as comparison to her own, she views it as a huge compliment because she believes people are interpreting her as a genre-less singer who is well-rounded. “That’s always been the ultimate goal,” she says. There comes a point in every long car ride when a driver has been on the road so long that everything starts to look the same. Even though they’re barreling down the highway at 80 miles per hour, they start questioning whether or not they’re making any progress. Tinashe gives off the impression that she’s enjoying the wind in her hair, but she’s sick of all the bugs smashed against the windshield. She is trying to cultivate her own creativity while staying in the lane she’s chosen to navigate. Along the way, her pit stops include exerting more control over her videos, music, and other aspects of her artistry that can make her more like the entertainers she grew up adoring. Ultimately, Joyride might not prove to be the destination everyone thinks it will be for her career. But perhaps even more importantly for Tinashe, it’s definitely not the end of the road. In the interim, she is keeping focused on what makes her happy. “I’m just being creative, really focused on just making dope shit.”


The Pursuit of a Material Consistam KANGHYUK Words Barbara Grispini Photography Stephane Yu

Exploring mass production, manmade materials, partnership, taste, and a year journey from the Royal College of Art, to a multi-platform launch, installations and events in London, Paris, Los Angeles and Seoul; in conversation with Barbara Grispini, Director of D /ARK and D /ARK /CONCEPT. Kanghyuk Choi has been one of the most talked-about graduates from the Royal College of Art’s menswear master’s program of 2016 due to his sleek, contemporary silhouette, skillful conceptual tailoring and craftsmanship. His first collection mainly utilizes car airbags, which are manually disassembled from their oxygen chamber and their fabric components, unpacked and re-contextualized in his garments. Some pieces require up to 40 airbags and the implementation of a new construction process, which is intensely laborious, belying the extraordinarily effortless result. Kanghyuk started his label after graduating from RCA, and his first collection is an extension of his senior year line. Lately, Kanghyuk’s work has been featured in a solo exhibition in Seoul, housed in a meat market container. He followed that up with a special collaboration and multi-platform launch online on SHOWstudio, with working with Nick Knight, London’s Machine-A boutique and H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles. His most recent installations include esteemed shop Leclaireur Sevignée in Paris, where he created trees made out of a combination of his pieces and airbags, as well as an installation at Boon The Shop in Seoul, where his pieces are displayed in plugged-in commercial refrigerators.

167


The Pursuit of a Material Consistam KANGHYUK Words Barbara Grispini Photography Stephane Yu

Exploring mass production, manmade materials, partnership, taste, and a year journey from the Royal College of Art, to a multi-platform launch, installations and events in London, Paris, Los Angeles and Seoul; in conversation with Barbara Grispini, Director of D /ARK and D /ARK /CONCEPT. Kanghyuk Choi has been one of the most talked-about graduates from the Royal College of Art’s menswear master’s program of 2016 due to his sleek, contemporary silhouette, skillful conceptual tailoring and craftsmanship. His first collection mainly utilizes car airbags, which are manually disassembled from their oxygen chamber and their fabric components, unpacked and re-contextualized in his garments. Some pieces require up to 40 airbags and the implementation of a new construction process, which is intensely laborious, belying the extraordinarily effortless result. Kanghyuk started his label after graduating from RCA, and his first collection is an extension of his senior year line. Lately, Kanghyuk’s work has been featured in a solo exhibition in Seoul, housed in a meat market container. He followed that up with a special collaboration and multi-platform launch online on SHOWstudio, with working with Nick Knight, London’s Machine-A boutique and H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles. His most recent installations include esteemed shop Leclaireur Sevignée in Paris, where he created trees made out of a combination of his pieces and airbags, as well as an installation at Boon The Shop in Seoul, where his pieces are displayed in plugged-in commercial refrigerators.

167


You were born in Seoul, but you also travelled a lot in your youth, and studied in Seattle and London. Which of these places had the most impact on you? London for its modern and contradictory beauty had a deep influence on me—it’s difficult but definitive cultural cross-breeding and blending, with its undercurrents of uncertainty, which are at the same time destabilizing and exciting—because it poses you a question and forces you to take into consideration one proposition and its polar opposite, to never settle, to always question every surface of reality. Also London had a big impact of me because of the Royal College of Art, and the amazing people I met there, like fellow designers, the College’s Head of Fashion Zowie Broach, and the tutors like Brian Kirkby and Lee Roach. Which place informs your approach to design more? Seoul, South Korea, where I’m based. The city of the mass production and reproduction.  You seem to be working mainly with synthetic materials. How come?  I’m mainly drawn to manmade and mass-produced materials. I’m drawn to the human intervention and the fact that to me, artificial materials stand for people’s mass-produced taste in real life. You have worked a lot with air bags, sometimes to realize entire collections. What drew you to this fabric? It›s as if the material came knocking at my door and stood in front of me. I believe once people are interested in things, they come at a random moment, and it’s the start to the expanding into certain forms.  When you design, does it start from the material, or the form? Which one informs the other?  Everything starts from the material. Material screams when it comes. It’s like hide-and-seek. Amazing material is always hiding. I mainly spend a lot of time to get the right material. Our team is extremely small and we go to the carpark, junkyards, woodcutters, almost everywhere. To make a garment, I have to think about specific weight and thickness, and also the form of the yarns. I call this “balance.” The material has a purpose, then my work alters it. Though the original purpose should not be lost, so I keep the characteristics that the original objects have and duplicate them into the garment. Of course, certain fabrics cannot be used, even though they are beautiful. Is it scary when you go searching for materials in the junkyards? Nope. It’s seriously exciting. I never expect what will be there, because every junkyard has different categories. Everything starts from there and finishes there. There are always certain orders. I picture random orders behind the junkyard, piled up with same materials, similar figures and volumes from one big factory and people repeating to do same things over and over. It’s like Jia Zhangke’s film. It’s the beauty of the mass production. It is very difficult for designers to make it on their own, particularly if it is only one person handling everything; this is very often a critical factor for success. One of your closest friends and fellow designers from RCA, Sanglak Shon, has worked with you from the start. What’s your dynamic like? We were close friends at uni. After graduation, Collection1 had a chance to be in Machine-A and H.Lorenzo. He produced the garments in UK and sent material from there. After I finished Collection 2, I asked him to be my business partner and join my creative team at KANGHYUK. He is more than just a business partner and he is deeply inside the brand with me. Because he also graduated from RCA as menswear designer, he understands fashion and myself deeply. He has a really good eye and smart perspective on the fashion and design fields. The idea came naturally from chatting together. Sanglak and I used to chat about rough ideas of collections, development, item selection and general fashion. We shared the same codes. Then I focused more on designing and the collection and he focused more on managing everything around it, like branding, running the business, communication with buyers and D /ARK, sales, production, and accounting. When some garments are made, we edit them together. It helps to bring balance in the brand. Also, we set all the installations up together in LA, Paris and Seoul. Our close friendship makes it easier to share ideas and sustain a brand. 

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You were born in Seoul, but you also travelled a lot in your youth, and studied in Seattle and London. Which of these places had the most impact on you? London for its modern and contradictory beauty had a deep influence on me—it’s difficult but definitive cultural cross-breeding and blending, with its undercurrents of uncertainty, which are at the same time destabilizing and exciting—because it poses you a question and forces you to take into consideration one proposition and its polar opposite, to never settle, to always question every surface of reality. Also London had a big impact of me because of the Royal College of Art, and the amazing people I met there, like fellow designers, the College’s Head of Fashion Zowie Broach, and the tutors like Brian Kirkby and Lee Roach. Which place informs your approach to design more? Seoul, South Korea, where I’m based. The city of the mass production and reproduction.  You seem to be working mainly with synthetic materials. How come?  I’m mainly drawn to manmade and mass-produced materials. I’m drawn to the human intervention and the fact that to me, artificial materials stand for people’s mass-produced taste in real life. You have worked a lot with air bags, sometimes to realize entire collections. What drew you to this fabric? It›s as if the material came knocking at my door and stood in front of me. I believe once people are interested in things, they come at a random moment, and it’s the start to the expanding into certain forms.  When you design, does it start from the material, or the form? Which one informs the other?  Everything starts from the material. Material screams when it comes. It’s like hide-and-seek. Amazing material is always hiding. I mainly spend a lot of time to get the right material. Our team is extremely small and we go to the carpark, junkyards, woodcutters, almost everywhere. To make a garment, I have to think about specific weight and thickness, and also the form of the yarns. I call this “balance.” The material has a purpose, then my work alters it. Though the original purpose should not be lost, so I keep the characteristics that the original objects have and duplicate them into the garment. Of course, certain fabrics cannot be used, even though they are beautiful. Is it scary when you go searching for materials in the junkyards? Nope. It’s seriously exciting. I never expect what will be there, because every junkyard has different categories. Everything starts from there and finishes there. There are always certain orders. I picture random orders behind the junkyard, piled up with same materials, similar figures and volumes from one big factory and people repeating to do same things over and over. It’s like Jia Zhangke’s film. It’s the beauty of the mass production. It is very difficult for designers to make it on their own, particularly if it is only one person handling everything; this is very often a critical factor for success. One of your closest friends and fellow designers from RCA, Sanglak Shon, has worked with you from the start. What’s your dynamic like? We were close friends at uni. After graduation, Collection1 had a chance to be in Machine-A and H.Lorenzo. He produced the garments in UK and sent material from there. After I finished Collection 2, I asked him to be my business partner and join my creative team at KANGHYUK. He is more than just a business partner and he is deeply inside the brand with me. Because he also graduated from RCA as menswear designer, he understands fashion and myself deeply. He has a really good eye and smart perspective on the fashion and design fields. The idea came naturally from chatting together. Sanglak and I used to chat about rough ideas of collections, development, item selection and general fashion. We shared the same codes. Then I focused more on designing and the collection and he focused more on managing everything around it, like branding, running the business, communication with buyers and D /ARK, sales, production, and accounting. When some garments are made, we edit them together. It helps to bring balance in the brand. Also, we set all the installations up together in LA, Paris and Seoul. Our close friendship makes it easier to share ideas and sustain a brand. 

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It’s been a busy year for you and KANGHYUK as a brand! Does it feel just a bit more than a year since you left the Royal College of Art? So much has happened since. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and some other times feels like it must have been years. Stavros Karelis from Machine-A has been one of your biggest supporters. How has it been to meet Stavros and work with him? I love him as a person and a professional, he’s such a nurturing individual; any designer would be incredibly lucky to work with him. How did it feel to see Nick Knight shooting your collection? I didn’t know that Nick Knight himself was shooting a video with my collection, so I was really surprised, excited and very grateful.  For Collection 1, you did an installation at H.Lorenzo gallery in LA. Can you describe it? It comprised the use of 34 car airbags un-picked and displayed in the different stages of the extraction of the fabric from the oxygen tank. 4 airbags were displayed at the stage just after the metal part has been removed; while 5 bunches of 6 airbags strips, representing the stage of unpicking the fabric patterns, were hanging from the sealing with the garments partially attached, using different types of industrial meat market hooks. And for Collection 2, then as you mentioned, you did an installation at Leclaireur Sevignée. What was it like? I tried to visualize three series of artificial trees. It was my own collection of materials found in various places. The store is incredible, both architecturally and technology-wise. The video we made for them was showing on more than 50 screens inbuilt in the walls! Can you tell us about your upcoming installation in Seoul at Boon The Shop? “Repeat-repeat-repeat” are the words I can use to describe it so far. I’m so excited to do another exhibition in Seoul, particularly because this one is with Boon The Shop. Your previous exhibition in Seoul last April was in a meat market, where you rented a freezer meat storage and you froze all your collection on the floor. Where you not afraid all your pieces would be ruined? Or was that an integral part of the process? It was part of my process. After my friend Youngsoo Lee found the place, I looked at it first to establish the environment that I could create with my garments, and form a deep relationship. Even though it couldn’t be touched because of the ice, I wanted to make people feel something aside from my garments. I was not afraid of the pieces will be ruined, because treating my garments roughly is also part of my idea. Everything is connected. Did it take long to take the exhibition down? It must have been a very physical process! It was incredibly physical, it took us two days! Lastly, what’s next? We are working on an installation at Machine-A in London...

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It’s been a busy year for you and KANGHYUK as a brand! Does it feel just a bit more than a year since you left the Royal College of Art? So much has happened since. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and some other times feels like it must have been years. Stavros Karelis from Machine-A has been one of your biggest supporters. How has it been to meet Stavros and work with him? I love him as a person and a professional, he’s such a nurturing individual; any designer would be incredibly lucky to work with him. How did it feel to see Nick Knight shooting your collection? I didn’t know that Nick Knight himself was shooting a video with my collection, so I was really surprised, excited and very grateful.  For Collection 1, you did an installation at H.Lorenzo gallery in LA. Can you describe it? It comprised the use of 34 car airbags un-picked and displayed in the different stages of the extraction of the fabric from the oxygen tank. 4 airbags were displayed at the stage just after the metal part has been removed; while 5 bunches of 6 airbags strips, representing the stage of unpicking the fabric patterns, were hanging from the sealing with the garments partially attached, using different types of industrial meat market hooks. And for Collection 2, then as you mentioned, you did an installation at Leclaireur Sevignée. What was it like? I tried to visualize three series of artificial trees. It was my own collection of materials found in various places. The store is incredible, both architecturally and technology-wise. The video we made for them was showing on more than 50 screens inbuilt in the walls! Can you tell us about your upcoming installation in Seoul at Boon The Shop? “Repeat-repeat-repeat” are the words I can use to describe it so far. I’m so excited to do another exhibition in Seoul, particularly because this one is with Boon The Shop. Your previous exhibition in Seoul last April was in a meat market, where you rented a freezer meat storage and you froze all your collection on the floor. Where you not afraid all your pieces would be ruined? Or was that an integral part of the process? It was part of my process. After my friend Youngsoo Lee found the place, I looked at it first to establish the environment that I could create with my garments, and form a deep relationship. Even though it couldn’t be touched because of the ice, I wanted to make people feel something aside from my garments. I was not afraid of the pieces will be ruined, because treating my garments roughly is also part of my idea. Everything is connected. Did it take long to take the exhibition down? It must have been a very physical process! It was incredibly physical, it took us two days! Lastly, what’s next? We are working on an installation at Machine-A in London...

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The Darkest Knight

As other people his age contemplate college and beyond, Jaden Smith sits awake at night and considers a much larger purpose than simply fulfilling the expectations placed on those on the cusp of adulthood. That isn’t to say he doesn’t value higher learning. Rather, he’s opted for a pursuit of knowledge that transcends traditional academic institutions. At just 18, Smith is already a student of the world. The ilCaffè in Downtown Los Angeles has all the makings of a scene. A French bulldog nuzzles up at the foot of its owner, hoping to catch any pastry scraps that fall off the table. An entrepreneur delivers freshpressed juices through the sturdy door inside the Eastern Columbia Building and waits for her bounty like a gold miner keen for a reward for her hard work. Finally still, the shop itself is physically connected to the Swedish brand, Acne Studios, where thousand-dollar coats bearing men’s names like “Garret,” “Charlie” and “Matthew” waft in the caffeine aroma. This is where multi-hyphenate, Jaden Smith, wants to meet. He calls it his “favorite coffee shop” and arrives right on time for our 3 p.m. conversation — whirling through the entrance and offering his hand for a friendly introduction. “Hi. I’m Jaden.” He’s fresh-faced and handsome, with a head full of closely-cropped, bleached blonde hair which gives the impression of butter on top of a pancake. He’s wearing an oversized MSFTSrep hoodie (his own brand of unisex clothing) and a pair of black Tripp NYC trousers with an abundance of tentacle-like straps nonchalantly dangling from them. As a total package, he looks like he just rolled out of bed — but in a cool way. We settle at a small table near the bar. His manager has left us to it; Smith doesn’t need anyone to monitor anything controversial that he may or may not say.

— Jaden Smith

If an “open book” is a metaphor to describe someone unafraid of voicing various traits and beliefs, Jaden Smith is new media — “Command P” — ready to print and create visual documentation of how he views the world. “I love the fact that I can be on the cover because that means I can reach more people,” he says. “That’s my whole mission of what I’m trying to do.” With 6.4 million followers on Twitter and another 6.3 million on Instagram (and growing), he certainly has an active digital audience. But Smith wants much more than retweets and likes. He wants to inspire his fans to create unabashedly, and on their own terms. To him, the Internet is a conduit to fulfill that duty. “I hope to see more people start to love themselves and release music and products in general,” he says. “I hope to see people start to trust their vision more and to go full speed towards what they want in their life, and to really go and grasp what they want instead of just sitting back.”

T-SHIRT LANDLORD

Other entertainers might use their platform to provide aspirational examples of what being passionate and driven affords you in life. But Smith has a different outlook on social media. He sees himself as somewhat of a martyr, where he is willing to assume the burdens, hate, and vitriol associated with being different.

VEST ADIDAS YEEZY SEASON 1 NECKLACES MARTINE ALI 

Words Alec Banks

Hair & Make-up Anthony Merante

Photography Kenneth Cappello

Photography Assistant & Tech Tucker Leary

Styling Aleali May


The Darkest Knight

As other people his age contemplate college and beyond, Jaden Smith sits awake at night and considers a much larger purpose than simply fulfilling the expectations placed on those on the cusp of adulthood. That isn’t to say he doesn’t value higher learning. Rather, he’s opted for a pursuit of knowledge that transcends traditional academic institutions. At just 18, Smith is already a student of the world. The ilCaffè in Downtown Los Angeles has all the makings of a scene. A French bulldog nuzzles up at the foot of its owner, hoping to catch any pastry scraps that fall off the table. An entrepreneur delivers freshpressed juices through the sturdy door inside the Eastern Columbia Building and waits for her bounty like a gold miner keen for a reward for her hard work. Finally still, the shop itself is physically connected to the Swedish brand, Acne Studios, where thousand-dollar coats bearing men’s names like “Garret,” “Charlie” and “Matthew” waft in the caffeine aroma. This is where multi-hyphenate, Jaden Smith, wants to meet. He calls it his “favorite coffee shop” and arrives right on time for our 3 p.m. conversation — whirling through the entrance and offering his hand for a friendly introduction. “Hi. I’m Jaden.” He’s fresh-faced and handsome, with a head full of closely-cropped, bleached blonde hair which gives the impression of butter on top of a pancake. He’s wearing an oversized MSFTSrep hoodie (his own brand of unisex clothing) and a pair of black Tripp NYC trousers with an abundance of tentacle-like straps nonchalantly dangling from them. As a total package, he looks like he just rolled out of bed — but in a cool way. We settle at a small table near the bar. His manager has left us to it; Smith doesn’t need anyone to monitor anything controversial that he may or may not say.

— Jaden Smith

If an “open book” is a metaphor to describe someone unafraid of voicing various traits and beliefs, Jaden Smith is new media — “Command P” — ready to print and create visual documentation of how he views the world. “I love the fact that I can be on the cover because that means I can reach more people,” he says. “That’s my whole mission of what I’m trying to do.” With 6.4 million followers on Twitter and another 6.3 million on Instagram (and growing), he certainly has an active digital audience. But Smith wants much more than retweets and likes. He wants to inspire his fans to create unabashedly, and on their own terms. To him, the Internet is a conduit to fulfill that duty. “I hope to see more people start to love themselves and release music and products in general,” he says. “I hope to see people start to trust their vision more and to go full speed towards what they want in their life, and to really go and grasp what they want instead of just sitting back.”

T-SHIRT LANDLORD

Other entertainers might use their platform to provide aspirational examples of what being passionate and driven affords you in life. But Smith has a different outlook on social media. He sees himself as somewhat of a martyr, where he is willing to assume the burdens, hate, and vitriol associated with being different.

VEST ADIDAS YEEZY SEASON 1 NECKLACES MARTINE ALI 

Words Alec Banks

Hair & Make-up Anthony Merante

Photography Kenneth Cappello

Photography Assistant & Tech Tucker Leary

Styling Aleali May


TOP AIMÉ LEON DORE

EARPHONE BEATS X ALL A-COLD-WALL*

SNEAKERS ADIDAS ORIGINALS BY ALEXANDER WANG

“I hope that people can see me and say, ‘Oh, so he’s under a bunch of fire for wearing a skirt or saying something that was really wild. Now that everybody’s talking about him, I can be behind the scenes and do what I need to do,’” he says. “Jaden’s taking the fire. So I can stand behind him and not be burned by the fire of the world.” Even though it may be easier to simply say that harsh criticism doesn’t faze him, Smith is quite forthcoming with the backlash that comes with creative risk, like when he appeared in a skirt in Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2016 campaign alongside models Sarah Brannon, Jean Campbell and Rianne Van Rompaey. “It’s hard for me to bear it sometimes, you know?” he admits. “And I haven’t always been able to bear it in the way that I do.” Despite his fearless attitude, there were voices in his ear questioning if it was the right career move. “There were a lot of people after it happened that were like ‘yo, what are you doing?! That’s so freaking weird!’ And I was like, ‘Dude, I’m so weird, like what do you want me to tell you?’”But he found the resolve to rise above the criticism when he realized the value of questioning heteronormativity in fashion. There are plenty of street style stars and fashion acolytes who readily push the boundaries of clothing as selfexpression, but when Smith does it, it packs a certain gravitas.

“It’s taking a separation that was there, and then knocking it down and creating something completely new.” “It’s like knocking down the Berlin Wall,” he says. “It’s taking a separation that was there, and then knocking it down and creating something completely new. That’s what I was doing with that.” Smith represents a new kind of young fashion consumer. He once posted an Instagram from a Topshop fitting room where he was trying on women’s clothes, or as he called them, simply “clothes.” Rote categorizations between menswear and womenswear are obsolete; all that matters is whether or not these kids can see themselves in the pieces. In describing Smith’s approach to fashion, designer Nicolas Ghesquière told The New York Times that “Wearing a skirt comes as naturally to him as it would to a woman who, long ago, granted herself permission to wear a man’s trench or a tuxedo.” Or as Smith puts it: “There’s no bigger flex than doing something no one else would do.” He also represents a new approach to young celebrity. Instead of focusing on the privilege afforded to him as a youth born in the limelight, he prefers to focus on the relatable teenage angst that affects him as much as it does his peers. Instead of using Instagram to highlight life on a private yacht or the other extravagances he has access to, he uses it show he is just as vulnerable as any other kid trying to find her or his place in an increasingly complicated world. When he was younger, he cops to posting photos of himself crying on Instagram and Twitter to show that someone his position doesn’t necessarily feel less negative emotions than the average teen. It’s a selfaware message that resonates with a younger audience. During our chat, a 20-something girl dressed in all black ventures over to compliment Smith on his unique pants. He thanks her. In that moment, she appears as if she’s simultaneously been hit by Cupid’s arrow, and also seen a ghost.


TOP AIMÉ LEON DORE

EARPHONE BEATS X ALL A-COLD-WALL*

SNEAKERS ADIDAS ORIGINALS BY ALEXANDER WANG

“I hope that people can see me and say, ‘Oh, so he’s under a bunch of fire for wearing a skirt or saying something that was really wild. Now that everybody’s talking about him, I can be behind the scenes and do what I need to do,’” he says. “Jaden’s taking the fire. So I can stand behind him and not be burned by the fire of the world.” Even though it may be easier to simply say that harsh criticism doesn’t faze him, Smith is quite forthcoming with the backlash that comes with creative risk, like when he appeared in a skirt in Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2016 campaign alongside models Sarah Brannon, Jean Campbell and Rianne Van Rompaey. “It’s hard for me to bear it sometimes, you know?” he admits. “And I haven’t always been able to bear it in the way that I do.” Despite his fearless attitude, there were voices in his ear questioning if it was the right career move. “There were a lot of people after it happened that were like ‘yo, what are you doing?! That’s so freaking weird!’ And I was like, ‘Dude, I’m so weird, like what do you want me to tell you?’”But he found the resolve to rise above the criticism when he realized the value of questioning heteronormativity in fashion. There are plenty of street style stars and fashion acolytes who readily push the boundaries of clothing as selfexpression, but when Smith does it, it packs a certain gravitas.

“It’s taking a separation that was there, and then knocking it down and creating something completely new.” “It’s like knocking down the Berlin Wall,” he says. “It’s taking a separation that was there, and then knocking it down and creating something completely new. That’s what I was doing with that.” Smith represents a new kind of young fashion consumer. He once posted an Instagram from a Topshop fitting room where he was trying on women’s clothes, or as he called them, simply “clothes.” Rote categorizations between menswear and womenswear are obsolete; all that matters is whether or not these kids can see themselves in the pieces. In describing Smith’s approach to fashion, designer Nicolas Ghesquière told The New York Times that “Wearing a skirt comes as naturally to him as it would to a woman who, long ago, granted herself permission to wear a man’s trench or a tuxedo.” Or as Smith puts it: “There’s no bigger flex than doing something no one else would do.” He also represents a new approach to young celebrity. Instead of focusing on the privilege afforded to him as a youth born in the limelight, he prefers to focus on the relatable teenage angst that affects him as much as it does his peers. Instead of using Instagram to highlight life on a private yacht or the other extravagances he has access to, he uses it show he is just as vulnerable as any other kid trying to find her or his place in an increasingly complicated world. When he was younger, he cops to posting photos of himself crying on Instagram and Twitter to show that someone his position doesn’t necessarily feel less negative emotions than the average teen. It’s a selfaware message that resonates with a younger audience. During our chat, a 20-something girl dressed in all black ventures over to compliment Smith on his unique pants. He thanks her. In that moment, she appears as if she’s simultaneously been hit by Cupid’s arrow, and also seen a ghost.


T-SHIRT LANDLORD

VEST ADIDAS YEEZY SEASON 1 NECKLACES MARTINE ALI 

“This is the best day ever,” she states upon realizing who he is. “I was just watching you on YouTube all day yesterday.” “Really, why?” Smith asks. “This might be completely difficult for you to understand,” she answers, “but I’m really into dark shit. And you’re very nocturnal. And there’s probably like a 5% of the entire universe that understands that mentality. This is my favorite coffee shop in the entire world, because it’s Swedish. I’m really into black metal and shit. You have a really dark thing that you carry with you, that’s so fucking beautiful that the majority of the world can’t see. Don’t lose that. People don’t understand that. It sounds cheesy, but that’s my life.” The whole exchange is over in less than a minute. She seems equally as enthusiastic about the chance encounter as he does about her assessment of his personality. Despite his willingness to engage with fans, Smith makes it clear that he isn’t much for being out in the public eye. It’s not so much that he fancies himself a recluse; it’s simply that he has bigger things on his mind than restaurant openings, parties, and other lavish things that might be afforded to someone who grew up the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett. “If I have nothing to do, I’ll just stay home and really think about life,” he says. “‘Because there’s enough in life for me to just sit and like ponder what it’s really about.” Although he has been parodied in the media for his various existential musings, he’s often in on the joke. In a video for Vanity Fair titled “Jaden Smith Reads Mind-Blowing Facts About the Universe,” he plays up his astonishment over truths like human saliva containing opiorphin, a natural painkiller proven to be six times more powerful than morphine. Whether it’s Doomsday prophesies, a broken educational system, or the Precision Equinox, he seems genuine in his pursuit for knowledge. Smith clearly wants a better understanding of why things are or aren’t happening. “My job here is not to teach people — because that implies that you know something that other people don’t know,” he says. “Do I know things that other people don’t know? Absolutely. But that’s not my thing. I’m not here to teach people, I’m here to learn.” Smith clearly knows his audience. And they find the way that he carries himself to be an honest reflection of what it’s like to be a 20-something. “It’s just that I’m a witness to the world, and the world has a really dark side to it that I choose not to ignore,” he says. “Somewhere is always dark, somewhere is always light. You always have that duality, it’s just where do you choose to exist within your own mind.” That idea of duality is reinforced in the days after we spoke with the unveiling of his music video, “Batman,” from his forthcoming album, Syre. Smith’s intrigue with the Caped Crusader is certainly not a new phenomenon — having donned an all-white Batman costume to the nuptials of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. But after speaking to him, it seems less like a publicity stunt and more in tune with his worldview involving the duality of character within in his own life. “I love Batman because in the daytime he’s Bruce Wayne, and in the nighttime he’s Batman,” Smith says. “And I feel the exact same way because in the daytime I’m Jaden Smith, but in the nighttime I’m Syre — which is my middle name and the name of my album. That’s where I pull a lot of inspiration from — reminiscing on the past, thinking about the future, the world, about how far we’ve come with MSFTSrep, and everything that we’ve done.”


T-SHIRT LANDLORD

VEST ADIDAS YEEZY SEASON 1 NECKLACES MARTINE ALI 

“This is the best day ever,” she states upon realizing who he is. “I was just watching you on YouTube all day yesterday.” “Really, why?” Smith asks. “This might be completely difficult for you to understand,” she answers, “but I’m really into dark shit. And you’re very nocturnal. And there’s probably like a 5% of the entire universe that understands that mentality. This is my favorite coffee shop in the entire world, because it’s Swedish. I’m really into black metal and shit. You have a really dark thing that you carry with you, that’s so fucking beautiful that the majority of the world can’t see. Don’t lose that. People don’t understand that. It sounds cheesy, but that’s my life.” The whole exchange is over in less than a minute. She seems equally as enthusiastic about the chance encounter as he does about her assessment of his personality. Despite his willingness to engage with fans, Smith makes it clear that he isn’t much for being out in the public eye. It’s not so much that he fancies himself a recluse; it’s simply that he has bigger things on his mind than restaurant openings, parties, and other lavish things that might be afforded to someone who grew up the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett. “If I have nothing to do, I’ll just stay home and really think about life,” he says. “‘Because there’s enough in life for me to just sit and like ponder what it’s really about.” Although he has been parodied in the media for his various existential musings, he’s often in on the joke. In a video for Vanity Fair titled “Jaden Smith Reads Mind-Blowing Facts About the Universe,” he plays up his astonishment over truths like human saliva containing opiorphin, a natural painkiller proven to be six times more powerful than morphine. Whether it’s Doomsday prophesies, a broken educational system, or the Precision Equinox, he seems genuine in his pursuit for knowledge. Smith clearly wants a better understanding of why things are or aren’t happening. “My job here is not to teach people — because that implies that you know something that other people don’t know,” he says. “Do I know things that other people don’t know? Absolutely. But that’s not my thing. I’m not here to teach people, I’m here to learn.” Smith clearly knows his audience. And they find the way that he carries himself to be an honest reflection of what it’s like to be a 20-something. “It’s just that I’m a witness to the world, and the world has a really dark side to it that I choose not to ignore,” he says. “Somewhere is always dark, somewhere is always light. You always have that duality, it’s just where do you choose to exist within your own mind.” That idea of duality is reinforced in the days after we spoke with the unveiling of his music video, “Batman,” from his forthcoming album, Syre. Smith’s intrigue with the Caped Crusader is certainly not a new phenomenon — having donned an all-white Batman costume to the nuptials of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. But after speaking to him, it seems less like a publicity stunt and more in tune with his worldview involving the duality of character within in his own life. “I love Batman because in the daytime he’s Bruce Wayne, and in the nighttime he’s Batman,” Smith says. “And I feel the exact same way because in the daytime I’m Jaden Smith, but in the nighttime I’m Syre — which is my middle name and the name of my album. That’s where I pull a lot of inspiration from — reminiscing on the past, thinking about the future, the world, about how far we’ve come with MSFTSrep, and everything that we’ve done.”


T-SHIRT LANDLORD

VEST ADIDAS YEEZY SEASON 1 PANTS TRIPP NYC

NECKLACES MARTINE ALI SNEAKERS ALEALI MAY × AIR JORDAN 6

“It’s my world. It’s everything I want to do. It’s all of my rules, and I totally don’t care, except for what feels right.”


T-SHIRT LANDLORD

VEST ADIDAS YEEZY SEASON 1 PANTS TRIPP NYC

NECKLACES MARTINE ALI SNEAKERS ALEALI MAY × AIR JORDAN 6

“It’s my world. It’s everything I want to do. It’s all of my rules, and I totally don’t care, except for what feels right.”


TOP A-COLD-WALL* AIMÉ LEON DORE ALL EARPHONE BEATS X

In addition to his debut studio album and his clothing line, Smith’s also got a film, Life in a Year, which tackles cancer in young people — and was the major onus for cutting off his signature dreadlocks. “With acting in a movie that someone else is producing — I’m going to be more serious, because it’s not my idea. I’m just the actor; I’m just the model; I’m just the muse,” he says.

“I’m supposed to be here right now. If I would’ve come any earlier, people would’ve just tried to kill me.” Smith’s other major credit recently had been on Baz Luhrman’s hip-hop drama, The Get Down, which chronicled the rise of the genre in the Bronx in the early 1970s. Although the show was cancelled after only one season, it did allow Smith to reflect on his place in the contemporary world. His character, graffiti writer Dizzee, has an arc in which he explores his own sexuality in the context of the free-loving 1970s and fledgling hip-hop culture — a genre that’s only very recently started to feel more inclusive towards the LGBQT community. “I’m suited for right now,” he says. “I’m supposed to be here right now. If I would’ve come any earlier, people would’ve just tried to kill me.” In a sense, Jaden Smith’s acting career is akin to Bruce Wayne’s persona as a billionaire playboy philanthropist. It’s the mask he puts on to fit into the world at large. But music is the force that drives his inner Batman. In the same way the fictional caped crusader’s endless battle against crime fuels his existence, Smith’s approach to music gives him a platform to create something bigger than himself. “I created a new game,” he says. “It’s my world. It’s everything I want to do. It’s all of my rules, and I totally don’t care, except for what feels right.” He describes his style of music as “Pop Runk” — a hybrid of stylings inspired by the worlds of “rap, skate and punk.” “Pop Runk is the future,” he says, eyes lighting up. “Kurt Cobain inspired me. Kid Cudi inspired me, Kanye. All of my homies inspired me. But the biggest inspiration in my life would be Kid Cudi and Tycho.” The mention of Kurt Cobain seems rather apropos. Days prior, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy told music publication NME: “When I talk to like my rock friends, they’re like, ‘The next Nirvana is coming, the next Nirvana is coming’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, but the next Nirvana probably is coming, but not in the form of Nirvana. It might be like Jaden Smith.’” Smith takes it as a compliment, but doesn’t feel like he’s quite at that level yet. As he interprets it, Wentz means that when the next Nirvana comes, it’s going to come in a form that people won’t expect — perhaps someone like Jaden Smith. He admits there are probably other worthy successors in line to become the next Nirvana, but also admits there are people waiting in the wings waiting to become the next Will Smith. Jaden Smith is nearly the same age as his father was when he and DJ Jazzy Jeff released their debut album, Rock the House, in 1987 which sent them both on a Hollywood trajectory. He doesn’t shy away from comparisons. Much in the same way he studies various topics that keep him up at night, he has also examined the path his father took. “He started in music and transitioned to movies. I started with movies, and then I transitioned into making music,” he says. “I look at him and use it as a blueprint of how good of a person he is, but not necessarily the success that he reached.” Jaden Smith may ultimately never solve any major world crisis or become the next Kurt Cobain or Will Smith, but he may do all three. And as savior, savant and Renaissance man, who’s to say he’s not already Batman?


TOP A-COLD-WALL* AIMÉ LEON DORE ALL EARPHONE BEATS X

In addition to his debut studio album and his clothing line, Smith’s also got a film, Life in a Year, which tackles cancer in young people — and was the major onus for cutting off his signature dreadlocks. “With acting in a movie that someone else is producing — I’m going to be more serious, because it’s not my idea. I’m just the actor; I’m just the model; I’m just the muse,” he says.

“I’m supposed to be here right now. If I would’ve come any earlier, people would’ve just tried to kill me.” Smith’s other major credit recently had been on Baz Luhrman’s hip-hop drama, The Get Down, which chronicled the rise of the genre in the Bronx in the early 1970s. Although the show was cancelled after only one season, it did allow Smith to reflect on his place in the contemporary world. His character, graffiti writer Dizzee, has an arc in which he explores his own sexuality in the context of the free-loving 1970s and fledgling hip-hop culture — a genre that’s only very recently started to feel more inclusive towards the LGBQT community. “I’m suited for right now,” he says. “I’m supposed to be here right now. If I would’ve come any earlier, people would’ve just tried to kill me.” In a sense, Jaden Smith’s acting career is akin to Bruce Wayne’s persona as a billionaire playboy philanthropist. It’s the mask he puts on to fit into the world at large. But music is the force that drives his inner Batman. In the same way the fictional caped crusader’s endless battle against crime fuels his existence, Smith’s approach to music gives him a platform to create something bigger than himself. “I created a new game,” he says. “It’s my world. It’s everything I want to do. It’s all of my rules, and I totally don’t care, except for what feels right.” He describes his style of music as “Pop Runk” — a hybrid of stylings inspired by the worlds of “rap, skate and punk.” “Pop Runk is the future,” he says, eyes lighting up. “Kurt Cobain inspired me. Kid Cudi inspired me, Kanye. All of my homies inspired me. But the biggest inspiration in my life would be Kid Cudi and Tycho.” The mention of Kurt Cobain seems rather apropos. Days prior, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy told music publication NME: “When I talk to like my rock friends, they’re like, ‘The next Nirvana is coming, the next Nirvana is coming’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, but the next Nirvana probably is coming, but not in the form of Nirvana. It might be like Jaden Smith.’” Smith takes it as a compliment, but doesn’t feel like he’s quite at that level yet. As he interprets it, Wentz means that when the next Nirvana comes, it’s going to come in a form that people won’t expect — perhaps someone like Jaden Smith. He admits there are probably other worthy successors in line to become the next Nirvana, but also admits there are people waiting in the wings waiting to become the next Will Smith. Jaden Smith is nearly the same age as his father was when he and DJ Jazzy Jeff released their debut album, Rock the House, in 1987 which sent them both on a Hollywood trajectory. He doesn’t shy away from comparisons. Much in the same way he studies various topics that keep him up at night, he has also examined the path his father took. “He started in music and transitioned to movies. I started with movies, and then I transitioned into making music,” he says. “I look at him and use it as a blueprint of how good of a person he is, but not necessarily the success that he reached.” Jaden Smith may ultimately never solve any major world crisis or become the next Kurt Cobain or Will Smith, but he may do all three. And as savior, savant and Renaissance man, who’s to say he’s not already Batman?


F/W

SANKUANZ

Federal

Photography Xiangyu Liu Styling & Art Direction Coke Ho Hair Chiao Chanet Make-up Caroline Fenouil  Producer Zoé Martin  Model Harry Curran 

2017


F/W

SANKUANZ

Federal

Photography Xiangyu Liu Styling & Art Direction Coke Ho Hair Chiao Chanet Make-up Caroline Fenouil  Producer Zoé Martin  Model Harry Curran 

2017


China is one of the most important fashion markets in the world, and the country is home to many talented young designers, many of whom have trained at some of the world’s most prestigious design schools. So why haven’t Chinese fashion brands taken over the world yet?

Made in China: Awakening The Giant Words Alec Leach Photography Adam Katz Sinding

Rain pours down outside a nondescript shopping mall in Shanghai. Passersby clutch umbrellas or hail cabs to escape the downpour. A roll call of Chinese fashion brands on LED billboards signal that this is one of the official locations for Shanghai Fashion Week, but there are no photographers, hangers-on or event staff crowded outside, just a couple of guys in BAPE hoodies staring into their smartphones as they shelter from the rain. A Gucci billboard the size of a football pitch looms over them. Elsewhere in the city, the scene is much the same. There are enormous screens celebrating the city’s fashion week, but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s actually there to see it. There’s none of the buzz, crowds or mad rushes of photographers that you see on the streets of London, New York, Paris or Milan. That doesn’t mean the city is without its ambitions: Vivienne Westwood opened Shanghai’s SS12 season, and the week’s organizers are hoping the city will overtake Tokyo and Seoul as Asia’s fashion capital. It’s a strange paradox China finds itself in at the minute. Nearly half of all the world’s luxury goods — 46% to be precise — are bought by Chinese shoppers. Luxury stores across the world employ Chinese-speaking staff to cater for the countless retail tourists walking through their doors. Every high-ticket shop on the planet relies on China’s globetrotting nouveau riche to pay their bills, and luxury brands have invested so heavily in the country that the thought of another economic slowdown there makes executives shudder. When Chinese shoppers reined in their spending back in 2015, Burberry CEO and Creative Director Christopher Bailey had to take a 75% pay cut to offset the brand’s plummeting sales. It’s not just buying power that makes China the mightiest fashion consumer on the planet. It’s the workshop of the world, the country that makes the phone in your pocket and the clothes on your back. President Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ shtick promised to take back many of the countless jobs that have been outsourced to China in recent years. That won’t change the fact that pretty much every manufacturer on the planet has China incorporated into its supply chain in some way or another—and fashion brands are no exception. China’s manufacturing might have created a stupendous amount of wealth in the country, and like emerging middle classes all over the developing world, being seen spending your

190

money is a vital sign of success—hence all the luxury shopping. The world’s most populous nation is now flexing its muscles abroad—China is investing in vast infrastructure projects in over 60 countries, from a nuclear power plant in the UK to Africa’s first transnational electric railway. Oh, and its navy is currently building islands in the middle of the South China Sea to claim ownership of the seaways that carry a third of the world’s shipping. If China consumes, produces and exports such a vast amount of clothing, why are we still wearing clothes designed in America, Europe and Japan? Why aren’t we seeing Chinese fashion brands in shops all over the world? In the concrete bowels of a former abattoir, Sun Yun looks on at the ordered chaos before him. Clothes hang on rails, aides chatter into phones, and models loiter around killing time before the lights go down. Sun Yun—or “Mr. Sun” as he’s known here— is a softly-spoken man of indeterminate age, with a fine, wispy goatee, and long black hair tied back behind his ears. He and his team are dressed in the high fashion uniform that’s standardissue in this part of the world: lots of drape, lots of layers, and no color whatsoever. A white facemask is the only thing Mr. Sun wears that isn’t black. Mr. Sun made his name as an architect. He’s designed the corporate headquarters for Yahoo’s Chinese arm, and gargantuan e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba. His firm, IAD, is ranked in the top 100 in the world by Architectural Digest. Today, he’s a different kind of designer; he’s showing the debut collection for Cornerstone by Sun Yun, his new foray into fashion. Chinese designers aren’t short on talent or skill—many of them have trained at the world’s most prestigious design schools—but the biggest problem they face is that, broadly speaking, China isn’t interested in its own brands. The government and statecontrolled media would have you believe that the country is destined to one day usurp the West, but culturally speaking, the general public fawns over imports from Europe and America. Trap is all the rage, Swiss watches are an essential status symbol, and the country’s elite has developed a taste for high-end French wines. That makes things tough for emerging Chinese designers, who face an uphill struggle trying to make themselves relevant in the country. If Chinese designers can’t build a business in their own country, how are they supposed to make it abroad?

191


China is one of the most important fashion markets in the world, and the country is home to many talented young designers, many of whom have trained at some of the world’s most prestigious design schools. So why haven’t Chinese fashion brands taken over the world yet?

Made in China: Awakening The Giant Words Alec Leach Photography Adam Katz Sinding

Rain pours down outside a nondescript shopping mall in Shanghai. Passersby clutch umbrellas or hail cabs to escape the downpour. A roll call of Chinese fashion brands on LED billboards signal that this is one of the official locations for Shanghai Fashion Week, but there are no photographers, hangers-on or event staff crowded outside, just a couple of guys in BAPE hoodies staring into their smartphones as they shelter from the rain. A Gucci billboard the size of a football pitch looms over them. Elsewhere in the city, the scene is much the same. There are enormous screens celebrating the city’s fashion week, but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s actually there to see it. There’s none of the buzz, crowds or mad rushes of photographers that you see on the streets of London, New York, Paris or Milan. That doesn’t mean the city is without its ambitions: Vivienne Westwood opened Shanghai’s SS12 season, and the week’s organizers are hoping the city will overtake Tokyo and Seoul as Asia’s fashion capital. It’s a strange paradox China finds itself in at the minute. Nearly half of all the world’s luxury goods — 46% to be precise — are bought by Chinese shoppers. Luxury stores across the world employ Chinese-speaking staff to cater for the countless retail tourists walking through their doors. Every high-ticket shop on the planet relies on China’s globetrotting nouveau riche to pay their bills, and luxury brands have invested so heavily in the country that the thought of another economic slowdown there makes executives shudder. When Chinese shoppers reined in their spending back in 2015, Burberry CEO and Creative Director Christopher Bailey had to take a 75% pay cut to offset the brand’s plummeting sales. It’s not just buying power that makes China the mightiest fashion consumer on the planet. It’s the workshop of the world, the country that makes the phone in your pocket and the clothes on your back. President Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ shtick promised to take back many of the countless jobs that have been outsourced to China in recent years. That won’t change the fact that pretty much every manufacturer on the planet has China incorporated into its supply chain in some way or another—and fashion brands are no exception. China’s manufacturing might have created a stupendous amount of wealth in the country, and like emerging middle classes all over the developing world, being seen spending your

190

money is a vital sign of success—hence all the luxury shopping. The world’s most populous nation is now flexing its muscles abroad—China is investing in vast infrastructure projects in over 60 countries, from a nuclear power plant in the UK to Africa’s first transnational electric railway. Oh, and its navy is currently building islands in the middle of the South China Sea to claim ownership of the seaways that carry a third of the world’s shipping. If China consumes, produces and exports such a vast amount of clothing, why are we still wearing clothes designed in America, Europe and Japan? Why aren’t we seeing Chinese fashion brands in shops all over the world? In the concrete bowels of a former abattoir, Sun Yun looks on at the ordered chaos before him. Clothes hang on rails, aides chatter into phones, and models loiter around killing time before the lights go down. Sun Yun—or “Mr. Sun” as he’s known here— is a softly-spoken man of indeterminate age, with a fine, wispy goatee, and long black hair tied back behind his ears. He and his team are dressed in the high fashion uniform that’s standardissue in this part of the world: lots of drape, lots of layers, and no color whatsoever. A white facemask is the only thing Mr. Sun wears that isn’t black. Mr. Sun made his name as an architect. He’s designed the corporate headquarters for Yahoo’s Chinese arm, and gargantuan e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba. His firm, IAD, is ranked in the top 100 in the world by Architectural Digest. Today, he’s a different kind of designer; he’s showing the debut collection for Cornerstone by Sun Yun, his new foray into fashion. Chinese designers aren’t short on talent or skill—many of them have trained at the world’s most prestigious design schools—but the biggest problem they face is that, broadly speaking, China isn’t interested in its own brands. The government and statecontrolled media would have you believe that the country is destined to one day usurp the West, but culturally speaking, the general public fawns over imports from Europe and America. Trap is all the rage, Swiss watches are an essential status symbol, and the country’s elite has developed a taste for high-end French wines. That makes things tough for emerging Chinese designers, who face an uphill struggle trying to make themselves relevant in the country. If Chinese designers can’t build a business in their own country, how are they supposed to make it abroad?

191


It’s also a problem that Chinese designers are, to date, short on a compelling vision. Japanese labels have been enormously successful by reworking blueprints set by the West to create something new and exciting. More recently, Gosha Rubchinskiy has done the same with his quintessentially Russian take on streetwear, again to huge success. The Chinese designers you see showing in Paris, New York and London are certainly not bad, but they’ve not managed to really wow the world with an authentic story.

the belief that Chinese manufacturing was inferior, in order to support American producers. Wang also unveiled a Jordan collab on the runway—not bad for a designer who’s only on her second solo show. Sankuanz, founded by Shanguan Zhe in 2008, shows its hyperactive, schizophrenic luxe-street creations on the Paris schedule. For FW17, Zhe was on a B-movie vibe, mixing weirdo sci-fi elements with wacky fabrics and ghoulish lettering that looked like it was lifted from The Cramps.

Mr. Sun wants to change all that. Cornerstone’s FW17 collection takes traditional Chinese influences, and reworks them for the modern wardrobe. The silhouette is big, strong and masculine, and it draws heavily from military and workwear influences. A lot of the techniques reference Chinese tradition, like a mink coat that’s been crafted with centuries-old patchwork techniques, but then cut like a massive hoodie. Hand-printing methods that go back thousands of years have been used on technical polyester instead of silk. There’s a big market for Cornerstone’s luxe robes and fine coats in Asia already, but there’s enough contemporary street references—the army jackets, the pops of hi-vis color—to make a dent in the West. It certainly won’t hurt that Cornerstone’s aesthetic has faint hints of Kanye West’s YEEZY line to it, what with the dystopian vibes, massive silhouettes and overt military influence. It’s a powerful statement, and Mr. Sun is certainly confident in his new baby: He’s opening four flagships in China to debut the collection. Given that Shanghai Fashion Week is far off from breaking into the “big four”—London, Milan, Paris, New York—and that the country is yet to fully develop a taste for its own talent, it’s only natural that many Chinese designers have taken to showing in the West instead. Feng Chen Wang used her SS18 show to satirize the popular stigma that’s attached to Chinese goods. Wang plastered “Made in China” across her collection, which was unveiled during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. China is home to some of the most advanced textile factories in the world, and has a long legacy of artisanal craftsmanship, but the “Made in China” tag has wrongly been associated with cheap, disposable novelties. That’s a hangover from the Cold War, when the U.S. media propagated

“Kids born in the ’90s are more influenced by the internet than the government,” says Zhe backstage after the Sankuanz fashion show. “They have more information, they can choose more than the style that’s in the country, and they have access to information from international brands.”

“C hina has become more closely integrated into the global community over the past decades, which means that there is now a more enabling environment than ever for the fashion scene.” — Xander Zhou Zhe reported that 30-40% of Sankuanz’s sales are in the Chinese market, with Japan, America and Italy making up the bulk of the rest. “I believe fashion is a universal language,” Xander Zhou explains via email. “China has become more closely integrated into the global community over the past decades, which means that there is now a more enabling environment than ever for the fashion scene.” On the London Fashion Week Men’s schedule, Xander Zhou shows eclectic collections that have, in recent seasons, veered from Bowie-esque glitz and glam to rugged, army-inspired mega-grunge. For his SS18 show in the British capital, Zhou created a fake office—cubicles and all—in which to show his faux-corporate Matrix-wear. Given that A$AP Rocky wore one of Zhou’s jackets in a recent Mercedes ad, it’s safe to say that the Beijingbased designer—who was educated in China and then the Netherlands—is making headway in Western circles.

192

193


It’s also a problem that Chinese designers are, to date, short on a compelling vision. Japanese labels have been enormously successful by reworking blueprints set by the West to create something new and exciting. More recently, Gosha Rubchinskiy has done the same with his quintessentially Russian take on streetwear, again to huge success. The Chinese designers you see showing in Paris, New York and London are certainly not bad, but they’ve not managed to really wow the world with an authentic story.

the belief that Chinese manufacturing was inferior, in order to support American producers. Wang also unveiled a Jordan collab on the runway—not bad for a designer who’s only on her second solo show. Sankuanz, founded by Shanguan Zhe in 2008, shows its hyperactive, schizophrenic luxe-street creations on the Paris schedule. For FW17, Zhe was on a B-movie vibe, mixing weirdo sci-fi elements with wacky fabrics and ghoulish lettering that looked like it was lifted from The Cramps.

Mr. Sun wants to change all that. Cornerstone’s FW17 collection takes traditional Chinese influences, and reworks them for the modern wardrobe. The silhouette is big, strong and masculine, and it draws heavily from military and workwear influences. A lot of the techniques reference Chinese tradition, like a mink coat that’s been crafted with centuries-old patchwork techniques, but then cut like a massive hoodie. Hand-printing methods that go back thousands of years have been used on technical polyester instead of silk. There’s a big market for Cornerstone’s luxe robes and fine coats in Asia already, but there’s enough contemporary street references—the army jackets, the pops of hi-vis color—to make a dent in the West. It certainly won’t hurt that Cornerstone’s aesthetic has faint hints of Kanye West’s YEEZY line to it, what with the dystopian vibes, massive silhouettes and overt military influence. It’s a powerful statement, and Mr. Sun is certainly confident in his new baby: He’s opening four flagships in China to debut the collection. Given that Shanghai Fashion Week is far off from breaking into the “big four”—London, Milan, Paris, New York—and that the country is yet to fully develop a taste for its own talent, it’s only natural that many Chinese designers have taken to showing in the West instead. Feng Chen Wang used her SS18 show to satirize the popular stigma that’s attached to Chinese goods. Wang plastered “Made in China” across her collection, which was unveiled during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. China is home to some of the most advanced textile factories in the world, and has a long legacy of artisanal craftsmanship, but the “Made in China” tag has wrongly been associated with cheap, disposable novelties. That’s a hangover from the Cold War, when the U.S. media propagated

“Kids born in the ’90s are more influenced by the internet than the government,” says Zhe backstage after the Sankuanz fashion show. “They have more information, they can choose more than the style that’s in the country, and they have access to information from international brands.”

“C hina has become more closely integrated into the global community over the past decades, which means that there is now a more enabling environment than ever for the fashion scene.” — Xander Zhou Zhe reported that 30-40% of Sankuanz’s sales are in the Chinese market, with Japan, America and Italy making up the bulk of the rest. “I believe fashion is a universal language,” Xander Zhou explains via email. “China has become more closely integrated into the global community over the past decades, which means that there is now a more enabling environment than ever for the fashion scene.” On the London Fashion Week Men’s schedule, Xander Zhou shows eclectic collections that have, in recent seasons, veered from Bowie-esque glitz and glam to rugged, army-inspired mega-grunge. For his SS18 show in the British capital, Zhou created a fake office—cubicles and all—in which to show his faux-corporate Matrix-wear. Given that A$AP Rocky wore one of Zhou’s jackets in a recent Mercedes ad, it’s safe to say that the Beijingbased designer—who was educated in China and then the Netherlands—is making headway in Western circles.

192

193


“Do you know that story about the world’s biggest beer brand? No one outside of China has ever heard of Snow beer.” Zhou elaborates. “Which just goes to show that there is much room for a brand to grow and become famous within China before breaking through internationally. Whether it be beer or fashion brands, I believe that the world will see more famous brands emerging from China in the next decade than in the past century.”

Kayuet “Nicky” Chau, co-founder of niche Beijing retailer Anchoret, asserts that Chinese tastes are getting more sophisticated, and more informed by Western trends and K-pop.

Ng Chun Bon Julio trained at London College of Fashion, and works as a design consultant for Cornerstone. Dressed headto-toe in Haider Ackermann, he’s energetic and engaging, and speaks English with the ease and competence you’d expect from someone who learned their craft in London.

That would explain why Anchoret’s curation—which includes Vetements, Yohji Yamamoto and Alyx Studios—is becoming increasingly popular among savvy Chinese shoppers.

“Lots of designers here have graduated from European countries, so they have huge influence from Europe, but they need time to grow,” he says. “Consumers here are still finding their own way of buying. Most of the time they look to the outside world to see what’s on trend, instead of looking around them. That’s what’s driven China’s fashion industry.” If China’s domestic market hasn’t come around to homegrown brands yet, then it’s no surprise that they’re yet to find their feet abroad. Julio admits that it’s a process, and the market can’t expect consumers’ taste levels to come around in one day. But eventually, he’s confident it will get there. Chinese society is rapidly changing, and while the mainstream may be slowly growing out of the usual luxury labels, there’s a new generation of younger consumers hungry for brands that older shoppers have never heard of. When President Xi Jinpeng came to power back in 2012, he promised a wide-reaching crackdown on corruption among China’s politicians and civil servants. More than 100,000 people have since been indicted on corruption charges, and that’s had a big effect on the country’s buying habits. Government officials can no longer be seen visibly splashing their cash, so they’re moving away from the usual flashy designer labels. That means younger, wealthier Chinese shoppers—many of them the sons and daughters of government bureaucrats—have taken to buying comparatively low-key pieces from niche designers like Rick Owens and Paul Harnden. Thanks to Weibo, China’s allencompassing social media platform, many of these kids have now become influencers in the country, and their tastes have caught on with the rest of the market.

194

“Many Chinese luxury fashion customers stopped buying big names, because they prefer to be seen as more unique and fashion forward” she says. “For them, consuming only big names is old fashioned.”

“We get more and more young, working professionals who are highly educated and worked abroad with multilingual and cultural backgrounds” explains Han Lee, the co-founder of SANLIPOP, a Beijing retailer that specializes in Japanese-Americana labels like nanamica, Needles and Engineered Garments. “They often share their concern with us, which is: I don’t want to look like I just walked out from a luxury boutique or a department store, looking like an advert.” Lee believes that these new habits are a result of China’s fastchanging social climate.

“T hey often share their concern with us, which is: I don’t want to look like I just walked out from a luxury boutique or a department store, looking like an advert.” — Han Lee “We do not think it’s caused by a sudden change in people’s tastes, but rather a result of the growth of middle and upper classes in China,” he says. Distribution in mainland China for cult brands is tight, and the country slaps hefty import taxes on luxury goods, meaning domestic prices are way higher than those in the West. As of the latter half of 2016, luxury watches, for example, were subject to a 60% import tariff, 17% VAT, and in most cases an additional 20% consumption tax. That means high-end watches in China are 97% more expensive than those in Western markets.

195


“Do you know that story about the world’s biggest beer brand? No one outside of China has ever heard of Snow beer.” Zhou elaborates. “Which just goes to show that there is much room for a brand to grow and become famous within China before breaking through internationally. Whether it be beer or fashion brands, I believe that the world will see more famous brands emerging from China in the next decade than in the past century.”

Kayuet “Nicky” Chau, co-founder of niche Beijing retailer Anchoret, asserts that Chinese tastes are getting more sophisticated, and more informed by Western trends and K-pop.

Ng Chun Bon Julio trained at London College of Fashion, and works as a design consultant for Cornerstone. Dressed headto-toe in Haider Ackermann, he’s energetic and engaging, and speaks English with the ease and competence you’d expect from someone who learned their craft in London.

That would explain why Anchoret’s curation—which includes Vetements, Yohji Yamamoto and Alyx Studios—is becoming increasingly popular among savvy Chinese shoppers.

“Lots of designers here have graduated from European countries, so they have huge influence from Europe, but they need time to grow,” he says. “Consumers here are still finding their own way of buying. Most of the time they look to the outside world to see what’s on trend, instead of looking around them. That’s what’s driven China’s fashion industry.” If China’s domestic market hasn’t come around to homegrown brands yet, then it’s no surprise that they’re yet to find their feet abroad. Julio admits that it’s a process, and the market can’t expect consumers’ taste levels to come around in one day. But eventually, he’s confident it will get there. Chinese society is rapidly changing, and while the mainstream may be slowly growing out of the usual luxury labels, there’s a new generation of younger consumers hungry for brands that older shoppers have never heard of. When President Xi Jinpeng came to power back in 2012, he promised a wide-reaching crackdown on corruption among China’s politicians and civil servants. More than 100,000 people have since been indicted on corruption charges, and that’s had a big effect on the country’s buying habits. Government officials can no longer be seen visibly splashing their cash, so they’re moving away from the usual flashy designer labels. That means younger, wealthier Chinese shoppers—many of them the sons and daughters of government bureaucrats—have taken to buying comparatively low-key pieces from niche designers like Rick Owens and Paul Harnden. Thanks to Weibo, China’s allencompassing social media platform, many of these kids have now become influencers in the country, and their tastes have caught on with the rest of the market.

194

“Many Chinese luxury fashion customers stopped buying big names, because they prefer to be seen as more unique and fashion forward” she says. “For them, consuming only big names is old fashioned.”

“We get more and more young, working professionals who are highly educated and worked abroad with multilingual and cultural backgrounds” explains Han Lee, the co-founder of SANLIPOP, a Beijing retailer that specializes in Japanese-Americana labels like nanamica, Needles and Engineered Garments. “They often share their concern with us, which is: I don’t want to look like I just walked out from a luxury boutique or a department store, looking like an advert.” Lee believes that these new habits are a result of China’s fastchanging social climate.

“T hey often share their concern with us, which is: I don’t want to look like I just walked out from a luxury boutique or a department store, looking like an advert.” — Han Lee “We do not think it’s caused by a sudden change in people’s tastes, but rather a result of the growth of middle and upper classes in China,” he says. Distribution in mainland China for cult brands is tight, and the country slaps hefty import taxes on luxury goods, meaning domestic prices are way higher than those in the West. As of the latter half of 2016, luxury watches, for example, were subject to a 60% import tariff, 17% VAT, and in most cases an additional 20% consumption tax. That means high-end watches in China are 97% more expensive than those in Western markets.

195


As a result, many shoppers have to rely on daigou—Chinese resellers—to hook them up. Based overseas, daigou will purchase luxury goods on the behalf of friends, family and clients on the mainland, allowing them to take advantage of favorable exchange rates and lower luxury tariffs. Daigou are often spotted strolling around luxury boutiques, snapping pictures of pieces for their clients or posting them up on their own Weibo profiles. If anything takes their clients’ fancy, the daigou will buy it on their behalf and ship it back to the mainland—plus commission, of course. The Chinese government has recently tried to crack down on daigou activity, but that doesn’t seem to have curbed it. Successful daigou are social media-savvy, and that’s meant many resellers have since become influencers in China. “Most of them try very hard to be an opinion leader due to the big business opportunity,” explains Pita Cheng, from Hong Kong retailer INK, which sells brands like Rick Owens, Boris Bidjan Saberi and Acronym. Cheng reports that around 70% of the shop’s customers come from the Chinese mainland— hardly surprising given that Hong Kong is a tax-free shopping destination, which makes it a haven for resellers. “A cool photo could sell hundreds of products and bunch of photos mean lots of cash,” Cheng explains. “This has driven more and more people to become a fashion tastemaker.” Talk fashion with anyone in this part of the world though, and there’s an elephant in the room. Intellectual property rights are lazily enforced in China, and when you combine that with the country’s production prowess and consumers’ desire for the latest must-have piece to emerge from the West, you get a thriving market for counterfeit clothing. Yeezys, Supreme, Gucci and Off-White are some of the most common knockoffs these days, and it’s an inevitable side-effect of the streetwear scene’s obsession with exclusivity. The industry will have you believe that limited-edition products are the only ones that matter these days, so of course people are going to rip them off. That, combined with the prohibitively high tariffs, is one of the reasons the Chinese love shopping abroad so much—it’s safer, because there’s no risk of fakes. Seoul Fashion Week ran a week before Shanghai, and the level of counterfeiting on the streets of the Korean capital is stunning. People seemingly don’t know—or simply don’t care— if they’re wearing counterfeits, so long as what they’re wearing is

on-trend. In Seoul, there are some shockingly realistic knockoffs being sold in malls right across the road from the official fashion week show space. The only difference is in the details: lousy fabrics, misshapen cuffs and crap drawstrings. Nobody’s going to notice those on Instagram anyway.

“N ow I see more people wearing something that represents their identity instead of just following the trends. There will be designers that design with a similar aesthetic to main trends, but direct copies? It’s getting less and less.” — Ng Chun Bon Julio “It was really bad in China a couple of years ago,” Julio says of the region’s counterfeit culture. “Now I see more people wearing something that represents their identity instead of just following the trends. There will be designers that design with a similar aesthetic to main trends, but direct copies? It’s getting less and less. People understand it’s a copy, and they have the spending power to buy the real thing anyway.” Even then, it took all of five minutes to find a store in Shanghai selling knockoff Yeezys, Vetements, Marcelo Burlon and Acne Studios. Social media and the Internet have turned the world upside down, but the clash of old and new is especially pronounced in China. On the one hand, you have an ancient culture with centuries of history and traditions behind it, and on the other, you have a rapidly changing society with an enormous economy and a young generation that’s hungry to express itself in new ways. Many designers, like those in emerging markets all over the globe, are tempted to think short-term and play off Western trends and aesthetics, but that’s not the way to build a legacy in fashion. China is a mysterious, exotic place, one with a deeply complex history and culture. It’s got the talent, the ambitions, and the infrastructure to create some truly global brands, but in order to really make it, the country needs to tell a story—and it can only do that by looking in, not out.

196

197


As a result, many shoppers have to rely on daigou—Chinese resellers—to hook them up. Based overseas, daigou will purchase luxury goods on the behalf of friends, family and clients on the mainland, allowing them to take advantage of favorable exchange rates and lower luxury tariffs. Daigou are often spotted strolling around luxury boutiques, snapping pictures of pieces for their clients or posting them up on their own Weibo profiles. If anything takes their clients’ fancy, the daigou will buy it on their behalf and ship it back to the mainland—plus commission, of course. The Chinese government has recently tried to crack down on daigou activity, but that doesn’t seem to have curbed it. Successful daigou are social media-savvy, and that’s meant many resellers have since become influencers in China. “Most of them try very hard to be an opinion leader due to the big business opportunity,” explains Pita Cheng, from Hong Kong retailer INK, which sells brands like Rick Owens, Boris Bidjan Saberi and Acronym. Cheng reports that around 70% of the shop’s customers come from the Chinese mainland— hardly surprising given that Hong Kong is a tax-free shopping destination, which makes it a haven for resellers. “A cool photo could sell hundreds of products and bunch of photos mean lots of cash,” Cheng explains. “This has driven more and more people to become a fashion tastemaker.” Talk fashion with anyone in this part of the world though, and there’s an elephant in the room. Intellectual property rights are lazily enforced in China, and when you combine that with the country’s production prowess and consumers’ desire for the latest must-have piece to emerge from the West, you get a thriving market for counterfeit clothing. Yeezys, Supreme, Gucci and Off-White are some of the most common knockoffs these days, and it’s an inevitable side-effect of the streetwear scene’s obsession with exclusivity. The industry will have you believe that limited-edition products are the only ones that matter these days, so of course people are going to rip them off. That, combined with the prohibitively high tariffs, is one of the reasons the Chinese love shopping abroad so much—it’s safer, because there’s no risk of fakes. Seoul Fashion Week ran a week before Shanghai, and the level of counterfeiting on the streets of the Korean capital is stunning. People seemingly don’t know—or simply don’t care— if they’re wearing counterfeits, so long as what they’re wearing is

on-trend. In Seoul, there are some shockingly realistic knockoffs being sold in malls right across the road from the official fashion week show space. The only difference is in the details: lousy fabrics, misshapen cuffs and crap drawstrings. Nobody’s going to notice those on Instagram anyway.

“N ow I see more people wearing something that represents their identity instead of just following the trends. There will be designers that design with a similar aesthetic to main trends, but direct copies? It’s getting less and less.” — Ng Chun Bon Julio “It was really bad in China a couple of years ago,” Julio says of the region’s counterfeit culture. “Now I see more people wearing something that represents their identity instead of just following the trends. There will be designers that design with a similar aesthetic to main trends, but direct copies? It’s getting less and less. People understand it’s a copy, and they have the spending power to buy the real thing anyway.” Even then, it took all of five minutes to find a store in Shanghai selling knockoff Yeezys, Vetements, Marcelo Burlon and Acne Studios. Social media and the Internet have turned the world upside down, but the clash of old and new is especially pronounced in China. On the one hand, you have an ancient culture with centuries of history and traditions behind it, and on the other, you have a rapidly changing society with an enormous economy and a young generation that’s hungry to express itself in new ways. Many designers, like those in emerging markets all over the globe, are tempted to think short-term and play off Western trends and aesthetics, but that’s not the way to build a legacy in fashion. China is a mysterious, exotic place, one with a deeply complex history and culture. It’s got the talent, the ambitions, and the infrastructure to create some truly global brands, but in order to really make it, the country needs to tell a story—and it can only do that by looking in, not out.

196

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Boi

Photography Omar Khaleel Styling Naomi Gordon Model Ashton Shaw

JACKET RALPH LAUREN POLO, SWEATER & TROUSERS COMME DES GARÇONS, BAG CATERPILLAR, SNEAKERS CONVERSE


Boi

Photography Omar Khaleel Styling Naomi Gordon Model Ashton Shaw

JACKET RALPH LAUREN POLO, SWEATER & TROUSERS COMME DES GARÇONS, BAG CATERPILLAR, SNEAKERS CONVERSE


HOODIE A BATHING APE, OVERALLS CARHARTT


HOODIE A BATHING APE, OVERALLS CARHARTT


SWEATER CHAMPION, TROUSERS DIESEL, HAT KANGOL, BACKPACK MCM, SNEAKERS NIKE

T-SHIRT STUSSY, TROUSERS H&M


SWEATER CHAMPION, TROUSERS DIESEL, HAT KANGOL, BACKPACK MCM, SNEAKERS NIKE

T-SHIRT STUSSY, TROUSERS H&M


SWEATER & TROUSERS COMME DES GARÇONS, BAG CATERPILLAR

SWEATER SUPREME, TROUSERS RALPH LAUREN, SNEAKERS VANS


SWEATER & TROUSERS COMME DES GARÇONS, BAG CATERPILLAR

SWEATER SUPREME, TROUSERS RALPH LAUREN, SNEAKERS VANS


On the Stray and Narrow Stray Rats Words Naavin Karimbux Photography Nick Sethi Illustrations Julian Consuegra

Julian Consuegra’s brand continues to march to the beat of its own drum, and there’s no other way he would have it. Meeting Julian Consuegra in the back of Scarr’s, the small neighborhood pizzeria nestled in New York’s Chinatown at the very bottom of Orchard Street, is to meet him on his own turf. Behind the register by the entrance of the shop a cashier dons a blue Stray Rats cap, made by the brand that Consuegra started when he was 22 years old. Further back, a bartender in a long-sleeve that Scarr’s made in collaboration with Stray Rats stands in front of a mirror plastered with the brand’s stickers. Past the workers at the parlor, a steady trickle of patrons wearing T-shirts, shorts, hats, and lanyards all made by Stray Rats come in and out of the shop. Almost everyone in Scarr’s, employees and customers alike, greet Consuegra, who is seated in a booth alone with sunglasses on and headphones in, vigorously bobbing his head.

references, Stray Rats is the embodiment of the energy with which Consuegra moves.

Stray Rats has put together a program for Aaron Bondaroff’s pirate radio station Know Wave which is broadcasting live now, and Consuegra is listening “to make sure that I didn’t fuck anything up,” he says.

When it comes to clothes, Consuegra’s nature can be neurotic, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of old band, rap and streetwear tees. The designs he creates mix the context of the full history of modern graphic T-shirts with original touches from his own mind. Stray Rats’ style is grounded in pop culture, hardcore music and multiple generations of streetwear, all filtered through Consuegra’s lens. Drawing from authentic sources and the surrounding cultures Consuegra has immersed himself in, Stray Rats has emerged as one of the most prolific streetwear brands today, while still managing to avoid the spotlight of popularity and hype that has led to the demise of countless other labels.

Curated by Consuegra himself and frequent collaborator Chris Cadaver, The Stray Rats Variety Hour features an eclectic mix of music, from Virna Lindt’s Swedish synth pop, to Denzel Curry and Lil Ugly Mane’s “Zeltron 6 Billion,” to a song lifted from the soundtrack of the NES game Mr. Gimmick. Both Scarr’s Pizza and The Stray Rats Variety Hour are microcosms of the space that Consuegra has created with his brand. Tight-knit, local, and the product of a seemingly incoherent mix of pop culture

206

Over the past seven years, Stray Rats has maintained a slow and steady build, growing from its roots as a cult label worn by those in South Florida’s hardcore punk community into a fully realized brand that has managed to infiltrate international fashion retailers such as Opening Ceremony. Despite its widening audience, the brand has retained the potency it possessed when it was only known to locals in South Florida. Aesthetically, Stray Rats has remained largely consistent throughout its existence. This is not a signifier of lack of growth or innovation (graphically, the brand rarely repeats itself), but rather the result of Consuegra’s aversion to cashing in on short-lived trends.

207


On the Stray and Narrow Stray Rats Words Naavin Karimbux Photography Nick Sethi Illustrations Julian Consuegra

Julian Consuegra’s brand continues to march to the beat of its own drum, and there’s no other way he would have it. Meeting Julian Consuegra in the back of Scarr’s, the small neighborhood pizzeria nestled in New York’s Chinatown at the very bottom of Orchard Street, is to meet him on his own turf. Behind the register by the entrance of the shop a cashier dons a blue Stray Rats cap, made by the brand that Consuegra started when he was 22 years old. Further back, a bartender in a long-sleeve that Scarr’s made in collaboration with Stray Rats stands in front of a mirror plastered with the brand’s stickers. Past the workers at the parlor, a steady trickle of patrons wearing T-shirts, shorts, hats, and lanyards all made by Stray Rats come in and out of the shop. Almost everyone in Scarr’s, employees and customers alike, greet Consuegra, who is seated in a booth alone with sunglasses on and headphones in, vigorously bobbing his head.

references, Stray Rats is the embodiment of the energy with which Consuegra moves.

Stray Rats has put together a program for Aaron Bondaroff’s pirate radio station Know Wave which is broadcasting live now, and Consuegra is listening “to make sure that I didn’t fuck anything up,” he says.

When it comes to clothes, Consuegra’s nature can be neurotic, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of old band, rap and streetwear tees. The designs he creates mix the context of the full history of modern graphic T-shirts with original touches from his own mind. Stray Rats’ style is grounded in pop culture, hardcore music and multiple generations of streetwear, all filtered through Consuegra’s lens. Drawing from authentic sources and the surrounding cultures Consuegra has immersed himself in, Stray Rats has emerged as one of the most prolific streetwear brands today, while still managing to avoid the spotlight of popularity and hype that has led to the demise of countless other labels.

Curated by Consuegra himself and frequent collaborator Chris Cadaver, The Stray Rats Variety Hour features an eclectic mix of music, from Virna Lindt’s Swedish synth pop, to Denzel Curry and Lil Ugly Mane’s “Zeltron 6 Billion,” to a song lifted from the soundtrack of the NES game Mr. Gimmick. Both Scarr’s Pizza and The Stray Rats Variety Hour are microcosms of the space that Consuegra has created with his brand. Tight-knit, local, and the product of a seemingly incoherent mix of pop culture

206

Over the past seven years, Stray Rats has maintained a slow and steady build, growing from its roots as a cult label worn by those in South Florida’s hardcore punk community into a fully realized brand that has managed to infiltrate international fashion retailers such as Opening Ceremony. Despite its widening audience, the brand has retained the potency it possessed when it was only known to locals in South Florida. Aesthetically, Stray Rats has remained largely consistent throughout its existence. This is not a signifier of lack of growth or innovation (graphically, the brand rarely repeats itself), but rather the result of Consuegra’s aversion to cashing in on short-lived trends.

207


Although he is now New York-based, Consuegra grew up between Pembroke Pines and Miami Lakes, South Florida, before moving to Miami itself in 2000. The son of two first generation immigrants (his mother from Cuba, his father from Colombia), he turned to his elder brothers, rather than his parents, for cultural influence. “My one brother, Marcos, was into all kinds of different things,” explains Consuegra. “He spent a lot of time in front of computers designing and recording fake radio shows, making short films and drawing weird, gory Matt Groening-esque comics in his teen years. My other brother Danny was a South Beach drag queen who was obsessed with the entertainment world. Actors and actresses, movies, music, everything. He would always dance and put on a show in the house when I was younger.” Marcos, who is 10 years older than Consuegra, and Danny, who is 15 years older, have a visible influence on Stray Rats. Through all of its collections, the brand has riffed on computers, video games and comics, and powerful female figures have been featured prominently in graphics since Stray Rats’ earliest days. Upon entering middle school Consuegra realized that his interests were different from those of his classmates. “There was barely anybody into the shit that I was into because of what my brothers exposed me to,” he says. He began to experiment with different cultures and went through several identities, searching for what connected the most. “I kind of got a taste of every world, but as you get older, you start streamlining what you’re into and what you relate to the most.” Consuegra went through brief phases with rap, metal, posthardcore, alt-rock, and other musical scenes through middle and high school. One facet of each subculture Consuegra was constantly internalizing and analyzing was the styles and outfits that were used to self-identify members of the tribe. “I was really interested with how people dressed,” he recalls. “That was the gateway for all the things I got into. It was like, ‘Man, that guy looks fucking cool. What’s he into, what does he connect to?’ And even if they weren’t actually cool, I could still appreciate the kit. I was a very curious kid, and still continue to be just as curious.” Through all the cultures he experimented with, Consuegra would fully delve in, preoccupied with even the minutest details. “Sometimes I have to chill,” he admits. “If I’m really obsessed with a movie, I want to know everything about it. Sometimes I’ll leave all the extra stuff off for a later time, so I can come back and find new things to love. I never want the romance to end.”

This obsessiveness has made it so that Consuegra has a vast knowledge of obscure bits of culture, from which he can pull for designs. Occasionally references will be so deep that fans of the brand may go years without knowing where a design they have been wearing originated. This adds a true sense of discovery and reward to eventually making the connection to Consuegra’s source material. Towards Consuegra’s later years in high school he finally came across a subculture with which he became fully enamored. “After a while I wanted to listen to something faster and more aggressive, because I grew out of what Korn and Mushroomhead had to offer me,” he laughs. “I found hardcore punk music through Poison The Well. My cousin was dating their singer when I was in middle school, and he gave me a Trustkill sampler CD that I would fully listen to later on in high school,” he says. “That was the gateway into the hardcore bands I would get into and it really stuck with me. Then I found that participating at the shows felt a lot more tangible than any other scene I was in.” The ethos and unsaid rules that Consuegra absorbed in hardcore would later come to inform how he would operate Stray Rats, and in many ways how he would lead his own life. “I couldn’t connect with the rap shows that were happening in my area, it just wasn’t my world,” he continues. “With hardcore, it was cool because I would idolize these older guys in the bands and they were right there, a part of a scene which I was also participating in. There was no ego or hierarchy. I always felt like a bit of an outcast, and to me the scene was a second home. The bands were always bringing that up, saying ‘this is where we all belong, it’s us versus them.’” Part of Consuegra’s immediate attraction to hardcore was the straight edge philosophy practiced by some of those involved with the subculture, a mindset that he already carried prior to becoming engrossed in the scene. “It was a label to have, but it was mainly something I connected with,” he says. “Having other people who felt the same way was really important as a young kid because there are all those pressures to do drugs, to drink, to fuck up your brain as a means to escape—but my escape was music and the scene I was involved in.” These ideas around community, acceptance, and an “us versus them” mentality would come to be the foundation on which Stray Rats was built. Beyond the brand, Consuegra personally remains straight edge to this day and maintains strong ties to hardcore. He currently fronts New York hardcore band Liberty, which consists of Chris X, Hardy Algeria, Chandler Mercer, and Tim Peacock in addition to Consuegra.

208


Although he is now New York-based, Consuegra grew up between Pembroke Pines and Miami Lakes, South Florida, before moving to Miami itself in 2000. The son of two first generation immigrants (his mother from Cuba, his father from Colombia), he turned to his elder brothers, rather than his parents, for cultural influence. “My one brother, Marcos, was into all kinds of different things,” explains Consuegra. “He spent a lot of time in front of computers designing and recording fake radio shows, making short films and drawing weird, gory Matt Groening-esque comics in his teen years. My other brother Danny was a South Beach drag queen who was obsessed with the entertainment world. Actors and actresses, movies, music, everything. He would always dance and put on a show in the house when I was younger.” Marcos, who is 10 years older than Consuegra, and Danny, who is 15 years older, have a visible influence on Stray Rats. Through all of its collections, the brand has riffed on computers, video games and comics, and powerful female figures have been featured prominently in graphics since Stray Rats’ earliest days. Upon entering middle school Consuegra realized that his interests were different from those of his classmates. “There was barely anybody into the shit that I was into because of what my brothers exposed me to,” he says. He began to experiment with different cultures and went through several identities, searching for what connected the most. “I kind of got a taste of every world, but as you get older, you start streamlining what you’re into and what you relate to the most.” Consuegra went through brief phases with rap, metal, posthardcore, alt-rock, and other musical scenes through middle and high school. One facet of each subculture Consuegra was constantly internalizing and analyzing was the styles and outfits that were used to self-identify members of the tribe. “I was really interested with how people dressed,” he recalls. “That was the gateway for all the things I got into. It was like, ‘Man, that guy looks fucking cool. What’s he into, what does he connect to?’ And even if they weren’t actually cool, I could still appreciate the kit. I was a very curious kid, and still continue to be just as curious.” Through all the cultures he experimented with, Consuegra would fully delve in, preoccupied with even the minutest details. “Sometimes I have to chill,” he admits. “If I’m really obsessed with a movie, I want to know everything about it. Sometimes I’ll leave all the extra stuff off for a later time, so I can come back and find new things to love. I never want the romance to end.”

This obsessiveness has made it so that Consuegra has a vast knowledge of obscure bits of culture, from which he can pull for designs. Occasionally references will be so deep that fans of the brand may go years without knowing where a design they have been wearing originated. This adds a true sense of discovery and reward to eventually making the connection to Consuegra’s source material. Towards Consuegra’s later years in high school he finally came across a subculture with which he became fully enamored. “After a while I wanted to listen to something faster and more aggressive, because I grew out of what Korn and Mushroomhead had to offer me,” he laughs. “I found hardcore punk music through Poison The Well. My cousin was dating their singer when I was in middle school, and he gave me a Trustkill sampler CD that I would fully listen to later on in high school,” he says. “That was the gateway into the hardcore bands I would get into and it really stuck with me. Then I found that participating at the shows felt a lot more tangible than any other scene I was in.” The ethos and unsaid rules that Consuegra absorbed in hardcore would later come to inform how he would operate Stray Rats, and in many ways how he would lead his own life. “I couldn’t connect with the rap shows that were happening in my area, it just wasn’t my world,” he continues. “With hardcore, it was cool because I would idolize these older guys in the bands and they were right there, a part of a scene which I was also participating in. There was no ego or hierarchy. I always felt like a bit of an outcast, and to me the scene was a second home. The bands were always bringing that up, saying ‘this is where we all belong, it’s us versus them.’” Part of Consuegra’s immediate attraction to hardcore was the straight edge philosophy practiced by some of those involved with the subculture, a mindset that he already carried prior to becoming engrossed in the scene. “It was a label to have, but it was mainly something I connected with,” he says. “Having other people who felt the same way was really important as a young kid because there are all those pressures to do drugs, to drink, to fuck up your brain as a means to escape—but my escape was music and the scene I was involved in.” These ideas around community, acceptance, and an “us versus them” mentality would come to be the foundation on which Stray Rats was built. Beyond the brand, Consuegra personally remains straight edge to this day and maintains strong ties to hardcore. He currently fronts New York hardcore band Liberty, which consists of Chris X, Hardy Algeria, Chandler Mercer, and Tim Peacock in addition to Consuegra.

208


Aside from the sense of belonging that Consuegra gained from becoming a part of the hardcore scene in South Florida, there were several extremely practical connections and skills that he developed. Consuegra began to do design for several bands, creating album art, fliers and T-shirts. It was through a mutual adoration for hardcore music that he met Nathaniel Matthews online, who would later assist with lookbooks and design for Stray Rats. Whereas other young brand owners often initially struggle to figure out the mechanics of producing T-shirts, Consuegra already had that infrastructure in place from his participation in the hardcore community. “My friend Nick was starting up a new screen printing company in the garage of his house where he would print merch for most of the local bands and businesses,” he says. “He knew I was interested in starting a brand and because he was a friend from the hardcore scene it worked out perfect.” It was also through hardcore that Consuegra started to notice specific pieces of clothing that stood out to him. “I would see the older guys in touring bands wearing Nikes and Jordans pieced with band tees and Supreme hats. It was different than what the people were wearing in Miami and I was drawn to it.” He began to apply his obsessive temperament to streetwear, learning its history, going through the earliest brands’ archives, and figuring out how he could acquire pieces. He quickly realized that streetwear was flourishing in other cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo, but in his hometown there was a void. He cites Miami’s PERVERT as a particular influence, the brand founded in the early ’90s by Don Busweiler that was on the verge of widespread success prior to Busweiler joining a cult and disappearing from the public eye. “There wasn’t a brand I felt I could connect to in my own city,” he says. “I loved Supreme and what they stood for, but I had a lot of hometown pride. I wanted my friends to wear something from Miami that they could all relate to.” That sense of loyalty and pride is an intrinsic and constant component in Stray Rats’ character. Before the brand was even an idea, Consuegra had a support system and backbone in his hometown. “Miami made me,” he says. “The friends, the people, all of that is super crucial to the construction of the brand. Miami is home, and it was important to make sure I represented that with the brand because the city is so much of what and who I am today.”

To this day, many of those involved behind the scenes of Stray Rats are individuals Julian met early on in Miami, from his screen printer Nick Barry to photographer Devin Christopher who has shot photos for Stray Rats throughout the brand’s existence. For Consuegra, running a brand goes far beyond the act of simply producing garments. Stray Rats is intended to be a community, a space where those that feel otherwise alienated can come together. In 2014, that aspect of the brand manifested itself in the form of a show at Art Basel in Miami, where Consuegra was running a Stray Rats pop-up shop. Wanting to expose those at Basel to a world they might otherwise not be aware of, Consuegra put together a lineup that included Trash Talk and Denzel Curry, who were set to perform in the same space as his pop-up. The turnout was massive, consisting of a mix of fans of Stray Rats and the musicians as well as random passerby from Art Basel, and the show was shut down by the police before either act could perform. Consuegra conferred with Lee Spielman of Trash Talk, and the show was relocated the next day to a nearby cement lot owned by one of Spielman’s friends. “It was an all ages free show, so there were kids everywhere,” says Consuegra. “All different types of people from the street wandering in, it was crazy. I thought we were definitely going to get shut down again, but we pulled it off.” The show was a way to introduce fans of the brand to two different cultures, hip-hop and hardcore, and demonstrate that the energy was the same despite the musical and cultural differences. “That show was really special because I got to grab people who might have no association to either of those worlds,” says Consuegra. “And I think all those people took something away from it. Not just gear but an experience, and that’s the shit that I really like to do.” The most immediately striking characteristic of the Stray Rats brand is its name, which concisely captures brand’s essence. “I went through a ton of names,” recalls Consuegra. “I had Post-Its all over my wall trying to see what stuck. I wanted it to connect to some sort of ‘underdog’ or something from the punk and hardcore scene. And the punk and hardcore scene had many references to rats, like the Rat Music for Rat People compilation, Subhumans’ RATS EP, Rat Cage Records in New York, and even more recently to my era, the cover of No Warning’s album ILL BLOOD had rats drawn all over it. I connected with rats and felt the brand should reflect that.” Aaron Bondaroff, the legendarily shadowy figure operating behind the scenes of countless creative ventures in street culture, would help Consuegra get the brand off the ground with early

210

advice. The two met when Bondaroff opened the OHWOW gallery in Miami. “OHWOW was also operating a bar downtown, and artists like Neckface would deck the whole space out,” says Consuegra. “One month it would be FREEGUMS, and then the next month it would be Cody Hudson or Weirdo Dave, and that was sick for Miami. I’d run into Aaron there and I would show him new designs and ideas and he would always tell me, ‘Yo start the brand already—if not, I will. Hurry up.’ He gave me great guidance and put me on to a lot of different things.”

The energy at early Odd Future concerts was more comparable to that of a hardcore punk show than a typical hip-hop performance.

In April 2010, the Rodenticide tee—a flip of the warning signs adorning the walls of New York subway stations that have been baited with rat poison—would be Stray Rats’ first release. Consuegra began selling the label out of his trunk, at hardcore shows and at OHWOW’s Miami bar.

Throughout its history, Stray Rats has managed to connect to an extremely diverse array of artistic scenes. While its roots are in hardcore, Consuegra has made a concerted effort to ensure that the brand never becomes overly pigeonholed, so he doesn’t define it explicitly as a “hardcore” brand. Despite the wide pool of sources that Consuegra draws from, there is a coherency and consistency that he manages to find in each of the scenes that inspires him.

“Most of the people in the scene were familiar with me and were my friends from just being around all the time,” says Consuegra. “All my close friends would show up wearing the tees and people started to grow curious as to what Stray Rats was.” Around the time that the brand officially started, online message boards were still an important place where those with niche common interests could connect; Consuegra, who had been active on various forums, began pushing the brand on HYPEBEAST and the Bridge Nine message board. While the brand’s initial customer base was from Consuegra’s circle in South Florida hardcore, it was the forums that provided the brand a further national reach. Through the HYPEBEAST forums, Consuegra connected with Lucas Vercetti and Julian Berman. At the time, Berman was frequently photographing a teenage Tyler, The Creator in Los Angeles, who had just released his debut mixtape Bastard. Berman introduced Tyler to Stray Rats, and the brand immediately connected.

“W hen Odd Future started kicking off I was like, ‘This is the exact kind of energy that I love.’ It was dark and fucked up but also funny and colorful, and that made sense to me.” — Julian Consuegra

“When Odd Future started kicking off I was like, ‘This is the exact kind of energy that I love,’” says Consuegra. “It was dark and fucked up but also funny and colorful, and that made sense to me. Tyler’s energy and style was what I thought the ideal Stray Rats kid was. It all tied together so well.”

“You can just feel it. When that energy is right and it doesn’t feel like they’re out for your blood. It has all that same kind of weird, raw punk vibe about it. I’ve always found that those things strangely connect, all from very different worlds but you can find the same feeling, the same love and passion” he says. The brands Odd Future sported early on were quickly catapulted into the spotlight, a type of exposure that can prove destructive to a younger brand. Consuegra, however, understood that Odd Future backing Stray Rats was a sign of shared philosophy, rather than a relationship that could be used. “I’ve seen a lot of brands where those things happen and they start changing their whole identity, but Odd Future only made the Stray Rats identity more apparent,” he says. “It made sense to me, because Odd Future were the outsiders, and I felt that Stray Rats was the outsider compared to other brands.” Many celebrity endorsements in streetwear are extremely superficial, stemming from trends and the pursuit of quick popularity. Over the years, however, Consuegra would continue to build his relationship with Odd Future, eventually partnering creatively with the group in several ways. Recently, he assisted Tyler with the execution of his GOLF clothing line, had input and a cameo on Tyler’s Flower Boy album, and helped design the stage for Frank Ocean’s festival run.

“It was this tie-dye tee. He had STRAY, where the nipples were, the big rat in the middle where your abs are, and right on your belly button it said RATS. It was one of my favorite shirts ever, I fucking loved it,” says Tyler over the phone. “That was the start of me really noticing how amazing this man designs T-shirts. I still think he has the best T-shirts of anyone right now.” In the background of the call, Consuegra’s cackling laughter is audible.

“I’ve always respected him as an artist and a designer. He asked me to help with the GOLF brand, because he knows that I’m crazy, and that I could help him shape the brand in a way that challenges and compliments his ideas and world,” he says. The longstanding bond Consuegra shares with Tyler has afforded him a level of trust that allows Consuegra to push Tyler outside of his comfort zone.

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Aside from the sense of belonging that Consuegra gained from becoming a part of the hardcore scene in South Florida, there were several extremely practical connections and skills that he developed. Consuegra began to do design for several bands, creating album art, fliers and T-shirts. It was through a mutual adoration for hardcore music that he met Nathaniel Matthews online, who would later assist with lookbooks and design for Stray Rats. Whereas other young brand owners often initially struggle to figure out the mechanics of producing T-shirts, Consuegra already had that infrastructure in place from his participation in the hardcore community. “My friend Nick was starting up a new screen printing company in the garage of his house where he would print merch for most of the local bands and businesses,” he says. “He knew I was interested in starting a brand and because he was a friend from the hardcore scene it worked out perfect.” It was also through hardcore that Consuegra started to notice specific pieces of clothing that stood out to him. “I would see the older guys in touring bands wearing Nikes and Jordans pieced with band tees and Supreme hats. It was different than what the people were wearing in Miami and I was drawn to it.” He began to apply his obsessive temperament to streetwear, learning its history, going through the earliest brands’ archives, and figuring out how he could acquire pieces. He quickly realized that streetwear was flourishing in other cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo, but in his hometown there was a void. He cites Miami’s PERVERT as a particular influence, the brand founded in the early ’90s by Don Busweiler that was on the verge of widespread success prior to Busweiler joining a cult and disappearing from the public eye. “There wasn’t a brand I felt I could connect to in my own city,” he says. “I loved Supreme and what they stood for, but I had a lot of hometown pride. I wanted my friends to wear something from Miami that they could all relate to.” That sense of loyalty and pride is an intrinsic and constant component in Stray Rats’ character. Before the brand was even an idea, Consuegra had a support system and backbone in his hometown. “Miami made me,” he says. “The friends, the people, all of that is super crucial to the construction of the brand. Miami is home, and it was important to make sure I represented that with the brand because the city is so much of what and who I am today.”

To this day, many of those involved behind the scenes of Stray Rats are individuals Julian met early on in Miami, from his screen printer Nick Barry to photographer Devin Christopher who has shot photos for Stray Rats throughout the brand’s existence. For Consuegra, running a brand goes far beyond the act of simply producing garments. Stray Rats is intended to be a community, a space where those that feel otherwise alienated can come together. In 2014, that aspect of the brand manifested itself in the form of a show at Art Basel in Miami, where Consuegra was running a Stray Rats pop-up shop. Wanting to expose those at Basel to a world they might otherwise not be aware of, Consuegra put together a lineup that included Trash Talk and Denzel Curry, who were set to perform in the same space as his pop-up. The turnout was massive, consisting of a mix of fans of Stray Rats and the musicians as well as random passerby from Art Basel, and the show was shut down by the police before either act could perform. Consuegra conferred with Lee Spielman of Trash Talk, and the show was relocated the next day to a nearby cement lot owned by one of Spielman’s friends. “It was an all ages free show, so there were kids everywhere,” says Consuegra. “All different types of people from the street wandering in, it was crazy. I thought we were definitely going to get shut down again, but we pulled it off.” The show was a way to introduce fans of the brand to two different cultures, hip-hop and hardcore, and demonstrate that the energy was the same despite the musical and cultural differences. “That show was really special because I got to grab people who might have no association to either of those worlds,” says Consuegra. “And I think all those people took something away from it. Not just gear but an experience, and that’s the shit that I really like to do.” The most immediately striking characteristic of the Stray Rats brand is its name, which concisely captures brand’s essence. “I went through a ton of names,” recalls Consuegra. “I had Post-Its all over my wall trying to see what stuck. I wanted it to connect to some sort of ‘underdog’ or something from the punk and hardcore scene. And the punk and hardcore scene had many references to rats, like the Rat Music for Rat People compilation, Subhumans’ RATS EP, Rat Cage Records in New York, and even more recently to my era, the cover of No Warning’s album ILL BLOOD had rats drawn all over it. I connected with rats and felt the brand should reflect that.” Aaron Bondaroff, the legendarily shadowy figure operating behind the scenes of countless creative ventures in street culture, would help Consuegra get the brand off the ground with early

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advice. The two met when Bondaroff opened the OHWOW gallery in Miami. “OHWOW was also operating a bar downtown, and artists like Neckface would deck the whole space out,” says Consuegra. “One month it would be FREEGUMS, and then the next month it would be Cody Hudson or Weirdo Dave, and that was sick for Miami. I’d run into Aaron there and I would show him new designs and ideas and he would always tell me, ‘Yo start the brand already—if not, I will. Hurry up.’ He gave me great guidance and put me on to a lot of different things.”

The energy at early Odd Future concerts was more comparable to that of a hardcore punk show than a typical hip-hop performance.

In April 2010, the Rodenticide tee—a flip of the warning signs adorning the walls of New York subway stations that have been baited with rat poison—would be Stray Rats’ first release. Consuegra began selling the label out of his trunk, at hardcore shows and at OHWOW’s Miami bar.

Throughout its history, Stray Rats has managed to connect to an extremely diverse array of artistic scenes. While its roots are in hardcore, Consuegra has made a concerted effort to ensure that the brand never becomes overly pigeonholed, so he doesn’t define it explicitly as a “hardcore” brand. Despite the wide pool of sources that Consuegra draws from, there is a coherency and consistency that he manages to find in each of the scenes that inspires him.

“Most of the people in the scene were familiar with me and were my friends from just being around all the time,” says Consuegra. “All my close friends would show up wearing the tees and people started to grow curious as to what Stray Rats was.” Around the time that the brand officially started, online message boards were still an important place where those with niche common interests could connect; Consuegra, who had been active on various forums, began pushing the brand on HYPEBEAST and the Bridge Nine message board. While the brand’s initial customer base was from Consuegra’s circle in South Florida hardcore, it was the forums that provided the brand a further national reach. Through the HYPEBEAST forums, Consuegra connected with Lucas Vercetti and Julian Berman. At the time, Berman was frequently photographing a teenage Tyler, The Creator in Los Angeles, who had just released his debut mixtape Bastard. Berman introduced Tyler to Stray Rats, and the brand immediately connected.

“W hen Odd Future started kicking off I was like, ‘This is the exact kind of energy that I love.’ It was dark and fucked up but also funny and colorful, and that made sense to me.” — Julian Consuegra

“When Odd Future started kicking off I was like, ‘This is the exact kind of energy that I love,’” says Consuegra. “It was dark and fucked up but also funny and colorful, and that made sense to me. Tyler’s energy and style was what I thought the ideal Stray Rats kid was. It all tied together so well.”

“You can just feel it. When that energy is right and it doesn’t feel like they’re out for your blood. It has all that same kind of weird, raw punk vibe about it. I’ve always found that those things strangely connect, all from very different worlds but you can find the same feeling, the same love and passion” he says. The brands Odd Future sported early on were quickly catapulted into the spotlight, a type of exposure that can prove destructive to a younger brand. Consuegra, however, understood that Odd Future backing Stray Rats was a sign of shared philosophy, rather than a relationship that could be used. “I’ve seen a lot of brands where those things happen and they start changing their whole identity, but Odd Future only made the Stray Rats identity more apparent,” he says. “It made sense to me, because Odd Future were the outsiders, and I felt that Stray Rats was the outsider compared to other brands.” Many celebrity endorsements in streetwear are extremely superficial, stemming from trends and the pursuit of quick popularity. Over the years, however, Consuegra would continue to build his relationship with Odd Future, eventually partnering creatively with the group in several ways. Recently, he assisted Tyler with the execution of his GOLF clothing line, had input and a cameo on Tyler’s Flower Boy album, and helped design the stage for Frank Ocean’s festival run.

“It was this tie-dye tee. He had STRAY, where the nipples were, the big rat in the middle where your abs are, and right on your belly button it said RATS. It was one of my favorite shirts ever, I fucking loved it,” says Tyler over the phone. “That was the start of me really noticing how amazing this man designs T-shirts. I still think he has the best T-shirts of anyone right now.” In the background of the call, Consuegra’s cackling laughter is audible.

“I’ve always respected him as an artist and a designer. He asked me to help with the GOLF brand, because he knows that I’m crazy, and that I could help him shape the brand in a way that challenges and compliments his ideas and world,” he says. The longstanding bond Consuegra shares with Tyler has afforded him a level of trust that allows Consuegra to push Tyler outside of his comfort zone.

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“All the new GOLF shit, this nigga forced me to go in my notebook and use all these little drawings that I hate,” admits Tyler. “He gave them a home. And if it wasn’t for him, a lot of this shit wouldn’t have been made because I see it in such a negative, very childish way. Julian brought it to a place where I could appreciate it and throw it on a T-shirt or a hoodie and it works really well. It opened my eyes to look at shit way differently.”

“ All the new GOLF shit, this nigga forced me to go in my notebook and use all these little drawings that I hate... Julian brought it to a place where I could appreciate it and throw it on a T-shirt or a hoodie and it works really well. It opened my eyes to look at shit way differently.” — Tyler, The Creator When working with others, Consuegra explains his creative process as placing his own personal filter over the direction that they have already established. This is exemplified in his work with Drake, for whom Consuegra designed the ‘Summer Sixteen Tour’ merchandise and later the cover art for More Life. Consuegra’s friend Tommy Campos, who works for OVO, asked Consuegra to send some potential designs for Drake. Consuegra looked to components of his own personal experience that had crossover with Drake’s style. “Someone sent me a photo of Drake wearing a design that was identical to one of the tees we did, of the college arc design,” says Consuegra. “I’m sure he had no idea, but what I ended up doing was a rip of the rip he wore. At the time he had that diss track, ‘Summer Sixteen’ where he says ‘Looking for revenge’ on the hook, and that really stuck out to me. I wanted to encompass that same energy in the song in my own way. Nothing dramatic, but like what I would envision a hardcore band to do if they made that song.” The design was an immediate success, with Drake launching a series of pop-up shops carrying the merchandise and eventually using a massive version of the “Revenge” graphic as the backdrop for his set on tour. Consuegra’s work with Drake managed to use hardcore elements without compromising their integrity, as is often the case when popular artists attempt to draw from niche subcultures and communities. This is a testament to Consuegra’s personal authenticity and connection to hardcore, a bond that has been developed through a lifetime of involvement.

As Stray Rats grew, Consuegra realized that personally handling every facet of the brand’s operations was no longer feasible. He started using his screen printer to process and ship orders, moving the operation that had once existed entirely in the living room of his apartment to a warehouse in South Florida. He also became aware that he had hit a ceiling of sorts in Miami, and that to continue to grow the brand he would have to move elsewhere. Although the decision was difficult on a personal level, Consuegra understood that by expanding the brand, he was also exposing the values and Miami culture inherently embedded in Stray Rats to a wider audience. “I love Miami, but more than anything I wanted to learn more,” says Consuegra. “And I liked what New York was offering.” Consuegra moved to New York in 2014 along with his friend J.R. Ewing, now the only true employee at Stray Rats. At 37, Ewing exudes age beyond his years. He does not come across as old, but rather as someone who has witnessed a great deal. Born in El Paso, Texas, in 1980, his parents moved him to Federal Way, Washington, a rough surrounding suburb of Seattle. At 14, J.R. left a broken home and immersed himself in the subcultures that would come to birth streetwear: graffiti, skate and various music scenes. Ewing has an acute sense of modern street fashion gleaned from growing up through its genesis, but it would not be until later in his life that he would become involved with the branding side of things. “In 1994 we didn’t have eBay, sneaker exchanges or social media to come up on,” says Ewing. “Back then, with no parental guidance or financial backing, you had to get out in the shit and hustle to make a name for yourself. “Streetwear at the time was appealing to me, but hustling made much more money than I would have ever made doing a brand. Then at the 10-year mark in 2003 I saw a lot of friends and street family having problems with the stuff I had been involved in: people died, people went to prison and the pitfalls of that life just became apparent.” In an attempt to make a change, Ewing invested in a printing business and then a storefront in Seattle. The shop, called Winner’s Circle, carried several brands including IRAK and HOUSE33. In 2007 while under a lengthy house arrest sentence, Ewing reached out to FUCT and let them know that his shop’s order had to be delivered to his home rather than the storefront. The brand’s founder and owner Erik Brunetti found this predicament particularly amusing, and from there the two struck up a friendship. In 2011 Brunetti was looking to revive FUCT’s presence in the United States on the street level, and brought Ewing in as creative director and to largely be the face of the American branch of the brand. After he felt that his work with FUCT was complete, Ewing looked to take what he had learned and apply it to a younger venture with which he could grow.

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Ewing brings a palpable sense of authenticity to Stray Rats. While Consuegra possesses a thorough understanding of graphics and apparel, Ewing has lived the lifestyle that many streetwear brands attempt to emulate in their product. “Pre the internet you had to participate to be part of what this culture is,” says Ewing. “To be part of skateboarding you had to skate. To know what was up with graffiti you had to take part in it. To be in streetwear you had to be in the streets. Nowadays it’s completely different. Where there once was respect instilled by paying dues and earning stripes, there’s a lot more respect being given out just on pure visual presence and people’s knowledge of preexisting trends. It’s hard for me to have respect for somebody using something as a costume, because what is the costume without having some sort of substance underneath it? It’s just air covered by a balloon that can get popped.” Paying dues and earning stripes are the keys to garnering the respect of both Ewing and Consuegra. Stray Rats has only had a handful of collaborations, none of which have been with another streetwear brand. The most recent, with Scarr’s Pizza, is illustrative of the values under which Stray Rats is run. Ewing and Scarr Pimentel, the pizzeria’s owner, both eat breakfast at Dimes, a small restaurant around the corner from Scarr’s. It was there that they met, and realized that Pimentel attended the same high school as Consuegra for a year in Miami. He was struck by the fact that Consuegra had made it out of his hometown. “My little brothers grew up out there,” says Pimentel. “They went to the same high school as Julian, which is a school where no one ever makes anything out of themselves.” Consuegra and Pimentel bonded over their mutual past, and from there began to learn about each other’s craft. Scarr’s is an important neighborhood hangout, with a cast of regulars who form a community. Mainly, however, Scarr’s is known for making a product that is good. Pimentel’s approach to pizza was earned through a lifetime of working at staple New York pizzerias, including Joe’s, Artichoke and Lombardi’s. Beyond his proficiency when it comes to making pizza, Scarr Pimentel runs the shop with the understanding that too much hype can be fatal to a place where the community is central. “We’re not posting corny food photos on our Instagram; we don’t put arugula on the pizza,” says Pimentel “It’s just the stuff that I grew up eating, shit that I relate to. And it’s the same thing with Julian’s brand. They keep it simple; they don’t over promote it. People have to figure it out by themselves. I use the

best ingredients in the world, but I don’t promote it. People think I’m crazy, but I want this place to grow organically. You have to build a foundation.” The collaboration, which consists of a long-sleeve T-shirt in black and white, is a modernization of the preexisting Scarr’s logo. Pimentel trusted Consuegra to execute a design representative of the pizzeria. Similarly, Consuegra understood Scarr’s values to be in line with those of Stray Rats, and therein felt working together to be appropriate as one of the few collaborations Stray Rats has ever participated in. “Scarr’s has that feeling of just wanting to make a good product, and not trying to force it down anyone’s throat,” says Consuegra. “And it’s a good environment where people can come together and feel connected to something. It truly is like a second home to me. Aesthetically and logically, working together makes sense.” Stray Rats’ growth has remained calculated and measured throughout the brand’s lifespan. Despite high-profile celebrity endorsements and its close proximity to several movements surrounded by incredible amounts of hype, Stray Rats has managed to skirt the pitfalls that sink many streetwear brands once they are thrust into the limelight. Consuegra maneuvers based on a set of steadfast values which were instilled in him through real life experience, rather than an image he adopted online. The lessons he learned from his hometown of Miami and the hardcore community he grew up in have transferred into the brand, and given Stray Rats a true sense of integrity. Despite the brand’s rising popularity, it is clear that Consuegra has no interest in maximizing profits by letting investors in or making Stray Rats overly visible by selling to a large number of wholesalers. Rather, he is concerned with longevity and continuing to ensure that the community that has grown around the brand remains connected and participative. While maintaining such a tight grip over the brand means more work for Consuegra, the fact that he truly believes in what he is doing and has no ulterior motives outside of creating the best product possible makes the work part of the reward. “There are people who are like, ‘One day I’m going to win the lotto and my whole life is gonna change.’ And I’m just like, are you fucking crazy? Do you really want it that way? Are you going to be happy?” he says. “I love putting in this amount of work and having it be the way I want it to be. Nobody can control or shift Stray Rats in a direction I don’t want,” says Consuegra.

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Ewing brings a palpable sense of authenticity to Stray Rats. While Consuegra possesses a thorough understanding of graphics and apparel, Ewing has lived the lifestyle that many streetwear brands attempt to emulate in their product. “Pre the internet you had to participate to be part of what this culture is,” says Ewing. “To be part of skateboarding you had to skate. To know what was up with graffiti you had to take part in it. To be in streetwear you had to be in the streets. Nowadays it’s completely different. Where there once was respect instilled by paying dues and earning stripes, there’s a lot more respect being given out just on pure visual presence and people’s knowledge of preexisting trends. It’s hard for me to have respect for somebody using something as a costume, because what is the costume without having some sort of substance underneath it? It’s just air covered by a balloon that can get popped.” Paying dues and earning stripes are the keys to garnering the respect of both Ewing and Consuegra. Stray Rats has only had a handful of collaborations, none of which have been with another streetwear brand. The most recent, with Scarr’s Pizza, is illustrative of the values under which Stray Rats is run. Ewing and Scarr Pimentel, the pizzeria’s owner, both eat breakfast at Dimes, a small restaurant around the corner from Scarr’s. It was there that they met, and realized that Pimentel attended the same high school as Consuegra for a year in Miami. He was struck by the fact that Consuegra had made it out of his hometown. “My little brothers grew up out there,” says Pimentel. “They went to the same high school as Julian, which is a school where no one ever makes anything out of themselves.” Consuegra and Pimentel bonded over their mutual past, and from there began to learn about each other’s craft. Scarr’s is an important neighborhood hangout, with a cast of regulars who form a community. Mainly, however, Scarr’s is known for making a product that is good. Pimentel’s approach to pizza was earned through a lifetime of working at staple New York pizzerias, including Joe’s, Artichoke and Lombardi’s. Beyond his proficiency when it comes to making pizza, Scarr Pimentel runs the shop with the understanding that too much hype can be fatal to a place where the community is central. “We’re not posting corny food photos on our Instagram; we don’t put arugula on the pizza,” says Pimentel “It’s just the stuff that I grew up eating, shit that I relate to. And it’s the same thing with Julian’s brand. They keep it simple; they don’t over promote it. People have to figure it out by themselves. I use the

best ingredients in the world, but I don’t promote it. People think I’m crazy, but I want this place to grow organically. You have to build a foundation.” The collaboration, which consists of a long-sleeve T-shirt in black and white, is a modernization of the preexisting Scarr’s logo. Pimentel trusted Consuegra to execute a design representative of the pizzeria. Similarly, Consuegra understood Scarr’s values to be in line with those of Stray Rats, and therein felt working together to be appropriate as one of the few collaborations Stray Rats has ever participated in. “Scarr’s has that feeling of just wanting to make a good product, and not trying to force it down anyone’s throat,” says Consuegra. “And it’s a good environment where people can come together and feel connected to something. It truly is like a second home to me. Aesthetically and logically, working together makes sense.” Stray Rats’ growth has remained calculated and measured throughout the brand’s lifespan. Despite high-profile celebrity endorsements and its close proximity to several movements surrounded by incredible amounts of hype, Stray Rats has managed to skirt the pitfalls that sink many streetwear brands once they are thrust into the limelight. Consuegra maneuvers based on a set of steadfast values which were instilled in him through real life experience, rather than an image he adopted online. The lessons he learned from his hometown of Miami and the hardcore community he grew up in have transferred into the brand, and given Stray Rats a true sense of integrity. Despite the brand’s rising popularity, it is clear that Consuegra has no interest in maximizing profits by letting investors in or making Stray Rats overly visible by selling to a large number of wholesalers. Rather, he is concerned with longevity and continuing to ensure that the community that has grown around the brand remains connected and participative. While maintaining such a tight grip over the brand means more work for Consuegra, the fact that he truly believes in what he is doing and has no ulterior motives outside of creating the best product possible makes the work part of the reward. “There are people who are like, ‘One day I’m going to win the lotto and my whole life is gonna change.’ And I’m just like, are you fucking crazy? Do you really want it that way? Are you going to be happy?” he says. “I love putting in this amount of work and having it be the way I want it to be. Nobody can control or shift Stray Rats in a direction I don’t want,” says Consuegra.

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10 0 Not Out Jeff Horton Words Rachael J Vick Photography Lydia Garnett

The caliber and breadth of the UK’s musical heritage has ensured that, for a small island, it has always been at the epicenter of live music culture. But at a time when Britain’s music venues are facing closures at an alarming rate, Highsnobiety meets Jeff Horton, third generation owner of London’s 100 Club.  In the venue’s 75th  anniversary year, we find out how its history is informing the ways in which the 100 Club is staying ahead of the game to retain the crown as London’s most legendary live music club. The stretch between the stations of Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road has always been seen as the geographic northern border of Soho, traditionally London’s most illicit and culturally important area. But in these turbulent times, the threat of London’s most colorful neighborhood turning to demure shades of grey is all but concrete. With regeneration firmly on the menu, and the beckoning of the Cross Rail redevelopment opening in 2018, the rents—as well as the building heights—are rising apace. The easterly end of Oxford Street is cluttered with tourist trap shops peddling English-themed items not actually made in England, and identikit generic high street chain stores. This doesn’t feel like where a legendary music venue that’s been a bastion of London’s monumental musical heritage would be situated. But it is. Sitting in an unassuming position at 100 Oxford Street, its trademark red sign perched atop a shop-style gazebo in the same hue, lies the slightly confusing entrance to the world famous 100 Club.

London is at a crossroads in terms of live music venues and nightclubs. The great and the good have fallen around the vicinity of the 100 Club, such as Madame JoJo’s, The Astoria and The End. Further casualties across London include Turnmills in Farringdon, The Fridge in Brixton and most recently, Dance Tunnel in Dalston. At the same time London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has started to reinvest in London’s nightlife, appointing a London Night Czar (Amy Lamé) and introducing the Night Tube in the hopes of revitalizing what is seen as an ailing sector. Pulling back on glass doors and entering an office building, the red glow of the downward wood-paneled stairs is revealed, leading you past the oval entrance booth into the depths of the legendary venue. On gig nights, the floor is reassuringly sticky and the air comfortingly stale with the stench of beer. If it is a particularly busy night, you can expect the beads of sweat on your forehead to evaporate, hit the ceiling, and drop right back.

219


10 0 Not Out Jeff Horton Words Rachael J Vick Photography Lydia Garnett

The caliber and breadth of the UK’s musical heritage has ensured that, for a small island, it has always been at the epicenter of live music culture. But at a time when Britain’s music venues are facing closures at an alarming rate, Highsnobiety meets Jeff Horton, third generation owner of London’s 100 Club.  In the venue’s 75th  anniversary year, we find out how its history is informing the ways in which the 100 Club is staying ahead of the game to retain the crown as London’s most legendary live music club. The stretch between the stations of Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road has always been seen as the geographic northern border of Soho, traditionally London’s most illicit and culturally important area. But in these turbulent times, the threat of London’s most colorful neighborhood turning to demure shades of grey is all but concrete. With regeneration firmly on the menu, and the beckoning of the Cross Rail redevelopment opening in 2018, the rents—as well as the building heights—are rising apace. The easterly end of Oxford Street is cluttered with tourist trap shops peddling English-themed items not actually made in England, and identikit generic high street chain stores. This doesn’t feel like where a legendary music venue that’s been a bastion of London’s monumental musical heritage would be situated. But it is. Sitting in an unassuming position at 100 Oxford Street, its trademark red sign perched atop a shop-style gazebo in the same hue, lies the slightly confusing entrance to the world famous 100 Club.

London is at a crossroads in terms of live music venues and nightclubs. The great and the good have fallen around the vicinity of the 100 Club, such as Madame JoJo’s, The Astoria and The End. Further casualties across London include Turnmills in Farringdon, The Fridge in Brixton and most recently, Dance Tunnel in Dalston. At the same time London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has started to reinvest in London’s nightlife, appointing a London Night Czar (Amy Lamé) and introducing the Night Tube in the hopes of revitalizing what is seen as an ailing sector. Pulling back on glass doors and entering an office building, the red glow of the downward wood-paneled stairs is revealed, leading you past the oval entrance booth into the depths of the legendary venue. On gig nights, the floor is reassuringly sticky and the air comfortingly stale with the stench of beer. If it is a particularly busy night, you can expect the beads of sweat on your forehead to evaporate, hit the ceiling, and drop right back.

219


We find this illustrious venue’s current owner, Jeff Horton (or “Mr 100 Club” as Sir Paul McCartney refers to him), in his office within the subterranean walls. It’s covered floor-to-ceiling in photocopied A4 sheets of stage times, past and present—and also houses Horton’s Irish terrier, Stan, when he isn’t patrolling the floor. Experiencing the rumblings of passing tube trains beneath our feet, we settle in to the 100 Club’s graffiti-scrawled green room to celebrate its 75th year, and to discuss how it is negotiating the trickier waters of the live music industry. In an ever-changing market, is this old dog of a venue learning some new tricks? The 100 Club was started in October 1942 by Robert Feldman, as the Feldman Swing Club, hosting an assortment of jazz acts, including stars such as Louis Armstrong, George Melly and Ronnie Scott (who went on to open his own worldfamous jazz music venue). Even in its infancy, the venue conceived a reputation for breaking boundaries; this club allowed for the jitterbug to be danced openly at a time when many others banned it. Jeff Horton’s links to this first version of the 100 Club lay with his paternal grandmother Molly Horton, who became one of three shareholders. Horton’s father, Roger Horton, had his own Soho jazz record store, but sold it to buy into the club when another of the original shareholders pulled out. And in 1964 Roger Horton became the sole owner of the club. “The first thing my dad had the foresight to do was to change the name to the 100 Club, as it’s still named today,” he explains. “He knew in order to keep ahead of the game we needed to distance ourselves from jazz, as Soho had too many jazz venues at the time, so the ‘jazz’ connection had to be dropped from the name.” Whilst Horton was an infant at home in Crouch End, London, his father began to experiment with ways to push the traditional jazz venue into new waters. He started booking new bands, such as the relatively unknown rock ‘n’ roll groups The High Numbers (later known as The Who) and The Kinks for residencies, steadily building crowds each month, until queues would be around the block to see the next big thing—but knowing all the time to keep the venue’s more traditional jazz fans satisfied with continuing gigs from their favorite artists. The real milestone for the success of Roger Horton’s diversification was 1976’s now-infamous twoday event, the 100 Club Punk Special. Horton had been working with an array of promoters bringing in new genres over the previous 12 years, but nothing put the 100 Club onto the musical map like punk. Ron Watts was the promoter who shot this fledgling genre onto its seismic West End debut.

“Ron had been promoting these bands at some smaller venues… and in a very deliberate move approached my dad. It was a strange thing to choose us, as we were still a jazz club the majority of the time. But Ron just saw something in it,” Horton explains. The lineup included the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Damned, and the Buzzcocks, playing over two days in September 1976, forever weaving the club into the tapestry of London culture. “Of that Punk Special, those are probably the most famous two days of the club’s history. We’ve hit a lot of benchmarks and seen a lot of genres, but if you ask people what is the biggest thing to come from the 100 Club most would say punk, because of those gigs.” Against a backdrop of an unstable government and tense race relations, Horton continued to pursue envelope-pushing bookings. New audience members were pouring through the doors to see other bands that, before their break at the 100 Club, had been delegated to less central venues. “We had Burning Sphere, Toots and the Maytals, The Equals… seriously big bands. The place was rammed! And when you think of what was happening with the race riots across London at the time, it was an extraordinary thing. They were fantastic, bringing people together—but the police were funny about it,” he says. “In the end, my dad was pretty much forced to stop it because the police basically insinuated that they would take away his license if he didn’t.” Punk flows between the venue and Jeff Horton like communion blood. It became the catalyst that brought him back to London. Horton’s first epiphany came to him in his later childhood when he heard the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK at an underage disco in Dorset. The second occurred when he went to Scotland for a construction job and heard “Deny” by the Clash—a song which name-checks his father’s club (‘You said we were going out/To the 100 Club/Then you said it ain’t my scene’). After a stint with British Aerospace, he heard the call, and in 1985, became the third generation to be involved in running the 100 Club, working alongside his father Roger. Horton is the first to admit he felt a little uneasy about taking the joint ownership with his dad. For all the groundbreaking work his father had carried out in diversifying both the bands and audiences the 100 Club was pulling, he saw new ways of directing the venue forward into the more contemporary market. Working with Chris York in the early ’90s, he began to book bands like Suede and Oasis, garnering acclaim from influential music publications like NME.

220


We find this illustrious venue’s current owner, Jeff Horton (or “Mr 100 Club” as Sir Paul McCartney refers to him), in his office within the subterranean walls. It’s covered floor-to-ceiling in photocopied A4 sheets of stage times, past and present—and also houses Horton’s Irish terrier, Stan, when he isn’t patrolling the floor. Experiencing the rumblings of passing tube trains beneath our feet, we settle in to the 100 Club’s graffiti-scrawled green room to celebrate its 75th year, and to discuss how it is negotiating the trickier waters of the live music industry. In an ever-changing market, is this old dog of a venue learning some new tricks? The 100 Club was started in October 1942 by Robert Feldman, as the Feldman Swing Club, hosting an assortment of jazz acts, including stars such as Louis Armstrong, George Melly and Ronnie Scott (who went on to open his own worldfamous jazz music venue). Even in its infancy, the venue conceived a reputation for breaking boundaries; this club allowed for the jitterbug to be danced openly at a time when many others banned it. Jeff Horton’s links to this first version of the 100 Club lay with his paternal grandmother Molly Horton, who became one of three shareholders. Horton’s father, Roger Horton, had his own Soho jazz record store, but sold it to buy into the club when another of the original shareholders pulled out. And in 1964 Roger Horton became the sole owner of the club. “The first thing my dad had the foresight to do was to change the name to the 100 Club, as it’s still named today,” he explains. “He knew in order to keep ahead of the game we needed to distance ourselves from jazz, as Soho had too many jazz venues at the time, so the ‘jazz’ connection had to be dropped from the name.” Whilst Horton was an infant at home in Crouch End, London, his father began to experiment with ways to push the traditional jazz venue into new waters. He started booking new bands, such as the relatively unknown rock ‘n’ roll groups The High Numbers (later known as The Who) and The Kinks for residencies, steadily building crowds each month, until queues would be around the block to see the next big thing—but knowing all the time to keep the venue’s more traditional jazz fans satisfied with continuing gigs from their favorite artists. The real milestone for the success of Roger Horton’s diversification was 1976’s now-infamous twoday event, the 100 Club Punk Special. Horton had been working with an array of promoters bringing in new genres over the previous 12 years, but nothing put the 100 Club onto the musical map like punk. Ron Watts was the promoter who shot this fledgling genre onto its seismic West End debut.

“Ron had been promoting these bands at some smaller venues… and in a very deliberate move approached my dad. It was a strange thing to choose us, as we were still a jazz club the majority of the time. But Ron just saw something in it,” Horton explains. The lineup included the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Damned, and the Buzzcocks, playing over two days in September 1976, forever weaving the club into the tapestry of London culture. “Of that Punk Special, those are probably the most famous two days of the club’s history. We’ve hit a lot of benchmarks and seen a lot of genres, but if you ask people what is the biggest thing to come from the 100 Club most would say punk, because of those gigs.” Against a backdrop of an unstable government and tense race relations, Horton continued to pursue envelope-pushing bookings. New audience members were pouring through the doors to see other bands that, before their break at the 100 Club, had been delegated to less central venues. “We had Burning Sphere, Toots and the Maytals, The Equals… seriously big bands. The place was rammed! And when you think of what was happening with the race riots across London at the time, it was an extraordinary thing. They were fantastic, bringing people together—but the police were funny about it,” he says. “In the end, my dad was pretty much forced to stop it because the police basically insinuated that they would take away his license if he didn’t.” Punk flows between the venue and Jeff Horton like communion blood. It became the catalyst that brought him back to London. Horton’s first epiphany came to him in his later childhood when he heard the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK at an underage disco in Dorset. The second occurred when he went to Scotland for a construction job and heard “Deny” by the Clash—a song which name-checks his father’s club (‘You said we were going out/To the 100 Club/Then you said it ain’t my scene’). After a stint with British Aerospace, he heard the call, and in 1985, became the third generation to be involved in running the 100 Club, working alongside his father Roger. Horton is the first to admit he felt a little uneasy about taking the joint ownership with his dad. For all the groundbreaking work his father had carried out in diversifying both the bands and audiences the 100 Club was pulling, he saw new ways of directing the venue forward into the more contemporary market. Working with Chris York in the early ’90s, he began to book bands like Suede and Oasis, garnering acclaim from influential music publications like NME.

220


Roger Horton retired in 2001. By this point, the venue had re-cemented itself as the home of both emerging bands and established acts coming back to play more intimate showcases. In a tradition started by the Rolling Stones, Metallica, Alice Cooper, and Queens of the Stone Age have all performed warmup or secret gigs at the 100 Club, bolstering the venue status as a museum to the some of the greatest performances in musical history. In September 2010, Jeff Horton announced that the 100 Club would be closing its doors for good in a matter of weeks. Claims that his rates bill hit £4,000 a month and the landlord, Lazari Investments, had raised the rent by 45 percent meant the venue could only operate at a loss and would no longer be commercially viable. Following the initial shock, troops rallied at lightning quick speed. Two regular audience members at the 100 Club launched the ‘Save the 100 Club’ campaign which accumulated 19,000 members in the space of 10 days, raising £10,000. And then the heavies came calling. Bobby Gillespe, Liam Gallagher, Mick Jones and Mick Jagger all pledged their support, with Jagger expressing at the time the importance of what the 100 Club had to offer as a small, independent venue: “There’s a real need for these places—they have a connection with the past. And what is important is that you have places where bands can cut their teeth and places of a certain intimacy and size, that new bands can experiment in,” he told Thislondon.co.uk. The zenith of the campaign came when Paul McCartney played a one-off gig pledging his support on December 17th, 2010.

“W hen the godfather of rock ‘n’ roll says you need to save this place—he’s all the authority I need really. There were grown blokes crying, it was like a spiritual thing.” “This was the smallest venue he had played in 40 years,” says Horton. “When the godfather of rock ‘n’ roll says you need to save this place—he’s all the authority I need really. There were grown blokes crying, it was like a spiritual thing.”

To celebrate the union in 2012, Converse released the iconic Chuck Taylor in a limited-edition 100 Club colorway. The company was active in curating events and overseeing parts of the programming, obviously as a gain to their marketing output. What is evident is that it was done sympathetically towards both the venue and its legacy. The REPRESENT series of gigs over the summer of 2012 saw both new and established bands together in a series of free shows at the venue, with the marketing output securing an equal level of content for both club and company. Corporate sponsorship of live music venues is an avenue that has been explored before. From the smallest of independent venues to the largest arenas, very few exist today without injections of cash and investment from rich companies looking to glean cultural credibility. From Jack Daniels sponsoring the “Jack Rocks” series at small venues such as The Macbeth in Hoxton, to the mighty O2 group holding the monopoly of multiple venues throughout the UK (a roster, which it took in full from previous sponsors Carling in 2008), each company holds a certain levy over the venue or club, using events and shows as either bait or prizes for their many consumers. What was different in the way Horton secured and then worked with his sponsors was that he was instrumental in the way the venue was both seen and consumed by the new audiences Converse were bringing in. The history and stories behind the club were as important as the big name acts that Converse were curating on their roster. The Converse sponsorship ended in 2016, but Horton created a new opportunity as the venue hit its 75th anniversary. “The first thing I did was get in touch with Fred Perry. I’ve always had an amazing relationship with them, way before Converse,” he says. Fred Perry had started running promotional nights with the 100 Club back in 2007, continuing until the Converse sponsorship deal was established. “Fred Perry are very similar to us, they are a British brand, they have been around for years and have great music heritage. We have those things too.” Horton has a point, and made an excellent choice in Fred Perry, a company that has always been synonymous with music and subculture. Horton has used what he learned in the last sponsorship deal, creating an opportunity that seems even more beneficial than the previous one. Fred Perry’s company ethos, and size, are more in line with the 100 Club and Horton himself. “The possibilities of working with Fred Perry in some respects are even greater than working with Converse,” he says. “There is no risk of compromise,” he says.

Thankfully for the venue, plus the many thousands of music fans and industry members that had used and enjoyed the 100 Club over those 68 years, a new solution was cemented in the form of corporate sponsorship. Converse swung in under the guidance of Geoff Cottrill, the chief marketer at the time, to save the 100 Club’s future.

223

The flipside to Horton’s battle to keep the venue afloat over the


Roger Horton retired in 2001. By this point, the venue had re-cemented itself as the home of both emerging bands and established acts coming back to play more intimate showcases. In a tradition started by the Rolling Stones, Metallica, Alice Cooper, and Queens of the Stone Age have all performed warmup or secret gigs at the 100 Club, bolstering the venue status as a museum to the some of the greatest performances in musical history. In September 2010, Jeff Horton announced that the 100 Club would be closing its doors for good in a matter of weeks. Claims that his rates bill hit £4,000 a month and the landlord, Lazari Investments, had raised the rent by 45 percent meant the venue could only operate at a loss and would no longer be commercially viable. Following the initial shock, troops rallied at lightning quick speed. Two regular audience members at the 100 Club launched the ‘Save the 100 Club’ campaign which accumulated 19,000 members in the space of 10 days, raising £10,000. And then the heavies came calling. Bobby Gillespe, Liam Gallagher, Mick Jones and Mick Jagger all pledged their support, with Jagger expressing at the time the importance of what the 100 Club had to offer as a small, independent venue: “There’s a real need for these places—they have a connection with the past. And what is important is that you have places where bands can cut their teeth and places of a certain intimacy and size, that new bands can experiment in,” he told Thislondon.co.uk. The zenith of the campaign came when Paul McCartney played a one-off gig pledging his support on December 17th, 2010.

“W hen the godfather of rock ‘n’ roll says you need to save this place—he’s all the authority I need really. There were grown blokes crying, it was like a spiritual thing.” “This was the smallest venue he had played in 40 years,” says Horton. “When the godfather of rock ‘n’ roll says you need to save this place—he’s all the authority I need really. There were grown blokes crying, it was like a spiritual thing.”

To celebrate the union in 2012, Converse released the iconic Chuck Taylor in a limited-edition 100 Club colorway. The company was active in curating events and overseeing parts of the programming, obviously as a gain to their marketing output. What is evident is that it was done sympathetically towards both the venue and its legacy. The REPRESENT series of gigs over the summer of 2012 saw both new and established bands together in a series of free shows at the venue, with the marketing output securing an equal level of content for both club and company. Corporate sponsorship of live music venues is an avenue that has been explored before. From the smallest of independent venues to the largest arenas, very few exist today without injections of cash and investment from rich companies looking to glean cultural credibility. From Jack Daniels sponsoring the “Jack Rocks” series at small venues such as The Macbeth in Hoxton, to the mighty O2 group holding the monopoly of multiple venues throughout the UK (a roster, which it took in full from previous sponsors Carling in 2008), each company holds a certain levy over the venue or club, using events and shows as either bait or prizes for their many consumers. What was different in the way Horton secured and then worked with his sponsors was that he was instrumental in the way the venue was both seen and consumed by the new audiences Converse were bringing in. The history and stories behind the club were as important as the big name acts that Converse were curating on their roster. The Converse sponsorship ended in 2016, but Horton created a new opportunity as the venue hit its 75th anniversary. “The first thing I did was get in touch with Fred Perry. I’ve always had an amazing relationship with them, way before Converse,” he says. Fred Perry had started running promotional nights with the 100 Club back in 2007, continuing until the Converse sponsorship deal was established. “Fred Perry are very similar to us, they are a British brand, they have been around for years and have great music heritage. We have those things too.” Horton has a point, and made an excellent choice in Fred Perry, a company that has always been synonymous with music and subculture. Horton has used what he learned in the last sponsorship deal, creating an opportunity that seems even more beneficial than the previous one. Fred Perry’s company ethos, and size, are more in line with the 100 Club and Horton himself. “The possibilities of working with Fred Perry in some respects are even greater than working with Converse,” he says. “There is no risk of compromise,” he says.

Thankfully for the venue, plus the many thousands of music fans and industry members that had used and enjoyed the 100 Club over those 68 years, a new solution was cemented in the form of corporate sponsorship. Converse swung in under the guidance of Geoff Cottrill, the chief marketer at the time, to save the 100 Club’s future.

223

The flipside to Horton’s battle to keep the venue afloat over the


last seven years is that he realizes that standing alone is far less effective than banding together with others in a similar situation. Since 2012, he has worked alongside the Music Venue Trust charity and other independent club owners to address the future of small venues and, in part, inform local and national government decisions. Of all Horton’s strategies to ensure the survival of the 100 Club, this engagement with the wider community definitely feels the most valuable.

idiots who run the country have no bloody idea. If you think people are coming to this country because of Buckingham Palace and Big Ben you are very much mistaken—it’s for the UK’s music and arts heritage,” he says. “If you allow that to slide, everyone will be affected. Tourists want to see legendary places like this club, or what we are producing at theatres, on catwalks, or in galleries. If all this falls off a cliff, people aren’t going to come here. London is going to become bland and boring.”

“I delved into it because I knew what my situation was like seven years ago, and I thought, if it was that bad for me, it must be like that for everyone. I love live music and I want it to thrive. I don’t see other places as rivals. I’ve become good friends with other owners, and we look after each other,” he explains. “That’s the way it has to be for this to continue. We are a lot stronger together than we are alone just shouting at the sky independently.”

As Horton leads us out of the green room to have his portrait taken, the ghosts of great performances past stare back from the many candid photos framed on the walls. Yet tonight an unsigned band is taking the stage. Perhaps they will soon look on from the wall too, if the club survives.

Horton also sees how the safeguarding of the UK’s grassroots venues feeds into the bigger picture, from his lifetime of experience in the sector. He’s become a champion of forming organic partnerships, not just with corporations, but even the government. He’s even thought of changing the venue’s status to a nonprofit as they can no longer compete as a limited company. He is now particularly vocal on many panels, talks, and in government meetings.

The 100 Club has a survival instinct, having lasted through both political and real estate wars as well as a legendary stage smash-up or two. Does Horton ever feel the pressure of the legacy of this venue? “It means more to me now than it has before because of the way the industry is going, and the fact that there are so few grassroots music venues around. It feels there’s no room for independents anymore.”

which is what becomes the most unique selling point of the 100 Club. Through the diversification of bookings, business practice and political awareness, three generations of the Horton family have seen this iconic club through. Horton clarifies, “It’s not about bringing in new audiences,

“It’s not about bringing in new audiences, because it transcends that. Everyone hits an age where a place like this becomes very important.”

doing everything he can to secure it for the next 75 years. Does he ever manage to leave the club and its associated issues at the door when he goes home? “I guess I leave, still put on my punk records, but then get really riled up, angry and frustrated at the injustice of the system. Then I have to put on a bit of Masterchef to calm downward,” laughs Horton. “If I was interested in making money, I would have got a job in the city,” admits Horton. “What would you talk about though? Are you going to tell your grandchildren about this amazing hedge fund that you built up? Or are you going to talk about the night Oasis put 700 people in the 100 Club?”

because it transcends that. Everyone hits an age where a place like this becomes very important.”

“I wouldn’t swap anything. There really is more to life than money. I’ve met the most amazing people and had the most amazing experiences and I do not regret a thing.”

Essentially every generation brings a new audience, and the challenge then becomes catering for the new and the established audiences at once. This is something that feels like it has been particularly honed by the 100 Club, building from the experiences of the previous two generations. As owner of the 100 Club, you can tell he gives it his all. He’s

The business runs through the Hortons just as their blood, “We are talking about something that is in the UK’s DNA. The

224

225

Here’s to the next 75 years of learning new tricks.


last seven years is that he realizes that standing alone is far less effective than banding together with others in a similar situation. Since 2012, he has worked alongside the Music Venue Trust charity and other independent club owners to address the future of small venues and, in part, inform local and national government decisions. Of all Horton’s strategies to ensure the survival of the 100 Club, this engagement with the wider community definitely feels the most valuable.

idiots who run the country have no bloody idea. If you think people are coming to this country because of Buckingham Palace and Big Ben you are very much mistaken—it’s for the UK’s music and arts heritage,” he says. “If you allow that to slide, everyone will be affected. Tourists want to see legendary places like this club, or what we are producing at theatres, on catwalks, or in galleries. If all this falls off a cliff, people aren’t going to come here. London is going to become bland and boring.”

“I delved into it because I knew what my situation was like seven years ago, and I thought, if it was that bad for me, it must be like that for everyone. I love live music and I want it to thrive. I don’t see other places as rivals. I’ve become good friends with other owners, and we look after each other,” he explains. “That’s the way it has to be for this to continue. We are a lot stronger together than we are alone just shouting at the sky independently.”

As Horton leads us out of the green room to have his portrait taken, the ghosts of great performances past stare back from the many candid photos framed on the walls. Yet tonight an unsigned band is taking the stage. Perhaps they will soon look on from the wall too, if the club survives.

Horton also sees how the safeguarding of the UK’s grassroots venues feeds into the bigger picture, from his lifetime of experience in the sector. He’s become a champion of forming organic partnerships, not just with corporations, but even the government. He’s even thought of changing the venue’s status to a nonprofit as they can no longer compete as a limited company. He is now particularly vocal on many panels, talks, and in government meetings.

The 100 Club has a survival instinct, having lasted through both political and real estate wars as well as a legendary stage smash-up or two. Does Horton ever feel the pressure of the legacy of this venue? “It means more to me now than it has before because of the way the industry is going, and the fact that there are so few grassroots music venues around. It feels there’s no room for independents anymore.”

which is what becomes the most unique selling point of the 100 Club. Through the diversification of bookings, business practice and political awareness, three generations of the Horton family have seen this iconic club through. Horton clarifies, “It’s not about bringing in new audiences,

“It’s not about bringing in new audiences, because it transcends that. Everyone hits an age where a place like this becomes very important.”

doing everything he can to secure it for the next 75 years. Does he ever manage to leave the club and its associated issues at the door when he goes home? “I guess I leave, still put on my punk records, but then get really riled up, angry and frustrated at the injustice of the system. Then I have to put on a bit of Masterchef to calm downward,” laughs Horton. “If I was interested in making money, I would have got a job in the city,” admits Horton. “What would you talk about though? Are you going to tell your grandchildren about this amazing hedge fund that you built up? Or are you going to talk about the night Oasis put 700 people in the 100 Club?”

because it transcends that. Everyone hits an age where a place like this becomes very important.”

“I wouldn’t swap anything. There really is more to life than money. I’ve met the most amazing people and had the most amazing experiences and I do not regret a thing.”

Essentially every generation brings a new audience, and the challenge then becomes catering for the new and the established audiences at once. This is something that feels like it has been particularly honed by the 100 Club, building from the experiences of the previous two generations. As owner of the 100 Club, you can tell he gives it his all. He’s

The business runs through the Hortons just as their blood, “We are talking about something that is in the UK’s DNA. The

224

225

Here’s to the next 75 years of learning new tricks.


Robin Rhode gained attention in the art world for his wall drawings mixing graffiti culture with notions of performance art and social commentary. His next challenge is figuring out how to establish a more permanent legacy with his ephemeral art. South African artist Robin Rhode is known for his works that bridge the gap between performance art, graffiti and painting. Based in Berlin since 2002, his pieces use chalk, charcoal and paint to emulate objects like cars, skateboards and pianos. Through interaction with the simulacra, a practice culled from his days hazing students in primary school in South Africa, he melds his life experiences bullying other kids with graffiti culture and art as reclamation of spaces and the body. The self-described “urban nomad” sees himself as a modern day Bushman cave painter. Recently enamored with art history, his current challenge is reconciling the ephemeral nature of his art with establishing a visual legacy. In 2014, he even directed the music video for U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” depicting two ’80s Irish teens—a Catholic punk and a Protestant skinhead—falling in love to the backdrop of a violent neighborhood and Rhode’s signature wall drawings.

Off the Wall Robin Rhode Words Jian DeLeon

Youth culture is an important touchpoint in Rhode’s work. In 2016, he did a series of five skateboard decks with the Skateroom, a company that specializes in artist-collaborative boards to support the nonprofit organization Skateistan, a non-governmental organization that builds skate parks in troubled areas that double as classrooms. Rhode’s collaboration with Skateroom sits alongside work by legendary artists like Ai Weiwei, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. The decks only took one morning to design, because he felt his work easily translated to the medium of a skateboard deck. He drew a comparison to how well Basquiat’s work looked in the same format, but acknowledges that it’s quite difficult for some artists’ body of work to align with skate culture. “My work is able to resonate within the culture of skateboarding,” says Rhode. “There’s a resonance—the shift from photography or the physical performance, the documentation of a physical drawing act, transcends onto the skateboard as a medium, quite organically.” Growing up tagging in Johannesburg, South Africa, he would bomb walls with a life-size stencil of a soldier holding a gun. Unfortunately due to the nature of the work, none of it is archived. But now, Rhode is learning the value of being able to look back at his canon. “Over time I’ve learned to really understand my visual language,” says Rhode. “I have a good understanding of it, and I follow that.”

Interview Hakim Malema Photography Dominik Schulte

226

Working within the paradigm of street art, the work stays relatively young but the artists inevitably grow older, which affects their relationship with the medium. During a recent studio visit, Rhode discussed how much more difficult it is to create subversive art as you grow older, why he continues to value the contribution of youth culture, and how technology is empowering the next generation of creators.

227


Robin Rhode gained attention in the art world for his wall drawings mixing graffiti culture with notions of performance art and social commentary. His next challenge is figuring out how to establish a more permanent legacy with his ephemeral art. South African artist Robin Rhode is known for his works that bridge the gap between performance art, graffiti and painting. Based in Berlin since 2002, his pieces use chalk, charcoal and paint to emulate objects like cars, skateboards and pianos. Through interaction with the simulacra, a practice culled from his days hazing students in primary school in South Africa, he melds his life experiences bullying other kids with graffiti culture and art as reclamation of spaces and the body. The self-described “urban nomad” sees himself as a modern day Bushman cave painter. Recently enamored with art history, his current challenge is reconciling the ephemeral nature of his art with establishing a visual legacy. In 2014, he even directed the music video for U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” depicting two ’80s Irish teens—a Catholic punk and a Protestant skinhead—falling in love to the backdrop of a violent neighborhood and Rhode’s signature wall drawings.

Off the Wall Robin Rhode Words Jian DeLeon

Youth culture is an important touchpoint in Rhode’s work. In 2016, he did a series of five skateboard decks with the Skateroom, a company that specializes in artist-collaborative boards to support the nonprofit organization Skateistan, a non-governmental organization that builds skate parks in troubled areas that double as classrooms. Rhode’s collaboration with Skateroom sits alongside work by legendary artists like Ai Weiwei, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. The decks only took one morning to design, because he felt his work easily translated to the medium of a skateboard deck. He drew a comparison to how well Basquiat’s work looked in the same format, but acknowledges that it’s quite difficult for some artists’ body of work to align with skate culture. “My work is able to resonate within the culture of skateboarding,” says Rhode. “There’s a resonance—the shift from photography or the physical performance, the documentation of a physical drawing act, transcends onto the skateboard as a medium, quite organically.” Growing up tagging in Johannesburg, South Africa, he would bomb walls with a life-size stencil of a soldier holding a gun. Unfortunately due to the nature of the work, none of it is archived. But now, Rhode is learning the value of being able to look back at his canon. “Over time I’ve learned to really understand my visual language,” says Rhode. “I have a good understanding of it, and I follow that.”

Interview Hakim Malema Photography Dominik Schulte

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Working within the paradigm of street art, the work stays relatively young but the artists inevitably grow older, which affects their relationship with the medium. During a recent studio visit, Rhode discussed how much more difficult it is to create subversive art as you grow older, why he continues to value the contribution of youth culture, and how technology is empowering the next generation of creators.

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With the Skateroom project, do you think your work felt more organic in that format because of its inherent youthfulness? My work can translate very easily to the format of a skate deck. At the same time, how I approach my artmaking process is about openness to formatting. This is why I don’t have to embrace social media, because I’m aware of how easy it is to translate. You can Instagram my shit, you can Tumblr, you can do whatever. But how I approach the process is for openness and transcendence. That’s how I approach my working process. I’m trying to link art history, pop culture through a channel like skateboarding, or what symbols mean in the context of the skateboard culture. I also embrace subculture, I embrace youth culture. That’s why there’s a kind of parallel that develops between my work and popular culture like music and fashion. Do you think the time we’re living in right now is one where people really aren’t that creative, but have bigger platforms than ever before? I think that people are actually more creative than ever. Everybody is a photographer now, because of the quality of the phone apps. Everybody’s something. Everybody with GarageBand can be a producer. Because of technology, everybody is able to claim something. Everybody can post a photograph and people respond to that, and everybody can say “that’s a great image,” and people can like it. Even though they have no artistic inclination. I think through technology, we’re in a hyper-creative reality. Do you think that technology is diluting creativity? I think it’s challenging the creative sector. It’s challenging artists, because we have to see how technology is influencing our work, and our practice, so we have to adapt. If you’re a painter, and you create a painting, someone is going to come and photograph that painting. You cannot control the individuals in the gallery that are going to photograph it, and use it for something—a WhatsApp profile, or any kind of user page or blog. People write about it, people communicate about it. We have less control over the images that we create. We have to be conscious of that dynamic that’s happening now. How our work translates into the kind of visual culture that we’re living in. I’m really open with that. I embrace technology, but at the same time deny it by going in a lo-fi process. For example, I use cardboard cutouts to create those drawings on paper, but then I embrace technology again by how it’s photographed and how it’s multiplied into posters; how these posters are then utilized in architectural space. So you’re more analog in production, and digital in concept? I say I’m lo-fi, hi-def. Low fidelity, high definition. I want to keep it hi-def, but at the same time embrace a low fidelity means, if it’s possible. “Low fidelity” meaning I’m just using charcoal on canvas. But hi-def is that I’m using a skateboard to generate that mark on that surface. So there’s a sequential moment of me moving on the deck, across that space, and that’s the kind of trace. In the anime Dragon Ball Z, they use something called a “hyperbolic chamber,” where the characters train under extreme conditions to come out much stronger. Is that what Berlin is for you? Exactly. Berlin is the archive. It’s the space where I’m able to access architecture, design and actually the Internet, because in SA, I was like “where’s the optic fibers?” It’s so slow, you can’t access information. My son, who is 14, he’s a gamer. He couldn’t play League of Legends, he was like “I can’t, this is impossible, I can’t play League of Legends, I can’t scout with my homies.” One is in Italy, one is in the Netherlands, he was like, “I’m out the loop, I can’t play League of Legends in South Africa.” I embrace Berlin as where I’m able to take an idea, re-look at it, reflect on it, improve it, or allow it to evolve into something else. I have the time to investigate certain ideas. I have this possibility to research it thoroughly and to develop a discourse around it. Whereas in South Africa, it’s more about this physical execution of it. Use the space, use the light, use the vibe, the energy, channel that onto the streets, and do pieces there.

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With the Skateroom project, do you think your work felt more organic in that format because of its inherent youthfulness? My work can translate very easily to the format of a skate deck. At the same time, how I approach my artmaking process is about openness to formatting. This is why I don’t have to embrace social media, because I’m aware of how easy it is to translate. You can Instagram my shit, you can Tumblr, you can do whatever. But how I approach the process is for openness and transcendence. That’s how I approach my working process. I’m trying to link art history, pop culture through a channel like skateboarding, or what symbols mean in the context of the skateboard culture. I also embrace subculture, I embrace youth culture. That’s why there’s a kind of parallel that develops between my work and popular culture like music and fashion. Do you think the time we’re living in right now is one where people really aren’t that creative, but have bigger platforms than ever before? I think that people are actually more creative than ever. Everybody is a photographer now, because of the quality of the phone apps. Everybody’s something. Everybody with GarageBand can be a producer. Because of technology, everybody is able to claim something. Everybody can post a photograph and people respond to that, and everybody can say “that’s a great image,” and people can like it. Even though they have no artistic inclination. I think through technology, we’re in a hyper-creative reality. Do you think that technology is diluting creativity? I think it’s challenging the creative sector. It’s challenging artists, because we have to see how technology is influencing our work, and our practice, so we have to adapt. If you’re a painter, and you create a painting, someone is going to come and photograph that painting. You cannot control the individuals in the gallery that are going to photograph it, and use it for something—a WhatsApp profile, or any kind of user page or blog. People write about it, people communicate about it. We have less control over the images that we create. We have to be conscious of that dynamic that’s happening now. How our work translates into the kind of visual culture that we’re living in. I’m really open with that. I embrace technology, but at the same time deny it by going in a lo-fi process. For example, I use cardboard cutouts to create those drawings on paper, but then I embrace technology again by how it’s photographed and how it’s multiplied into posters; how these posters are then utilized in architectural space. So you’re more analog in production, and digital in concept? I say I’m lo-fi, hi-def. Low fidelity, high definition. I want to keep it hi-def, but at the same time embrace a low fidelity means, if it’s possible. “Low fidelity” meaning I’m just using charcoal on canvas. But hi-def is that I’m using a skateboard to generate that mark on that surface. So there’s a sequential moment of me moving on the deck, across that space, and that’s the kind of trace. In the anime Dragon Ball Z, they use something called a “hyperbolic chamber,” where the characters train under extreme conditions to come out much stronger. Is that what Berlin is for you? Exactly. Berlin is the archive. It’s the space where I’m able to access architecture, design and actually the Internet, because in SA, I was like “where’s the optic fibers?” It’s so slow, you can’t access information. My son, who is 14, he’s a gamer. He couldn’t play League of Legends, he was like “I can’t, this is impossible, I can’t play League of Legends, I can’t scout with my homies.” One is in Italy, one is in the Netherlands, he was like, “I’m out the loop, I can’t play League of Legends in South Africa.” I embrace Berlin as where I’m able to take an idea, re-look at it, reflect on it, improve it, or allow it to evolve into something else. I have the time to investigate certain ideas. I have this possibility to research it thoroughly and to develop a discourse around it. Whereas in South Africa, it’s more about this physical execution of it. Use the space, use the light, use the vibe, the energy, channel that onto the streets, and do pieces there.

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Has that changed your relationship with South Africa? I have a heightened awareness when I’m in South Africa because of the sterility of Berlin. The grayness of winters, it’s like this kind of cave that I’m training in, preparing myself to the point where I actually have a physical trainer now, in Berlin, that trains me based on my artwork. We use my artwork, so he looks at my books and my catalogs, and we design a physical training method based on the movements in my own art. Will that enhance the performance aspect of your work? Yes. I’m always up ladders and shit, so we do a lot of that kind of stuff. Simple shit, building core stuff, doing some crawling, or I have to run with a weight, or move in a different way. Do a squat, come up. He’s looking at my words, seeing my physical movement in the words, and then saying, “Okay, let’s do physical training based on that.” Like a fucking astronaut. What’s it like for you to work in Johannesburg now? The people are different, because there’s more accessibility to the public. When I’m working in Jozi, I work on a particular wall, and these street cats sit around. There are a lot of guys that see me, they see the process and they participate. A lot of these cats are school dropouts, a lot of them are on drugs, some of them are even homeless, some of them are in gangs. They start engaging with what I’m doing. They even become part of the process, they actually assist me in executing the work. I try and channel them to become part of the process. Once you engage in that space, there’s an emotional investment from the artist, with the people, with the community, that I’m not able to replicate in Berlin. I just can’t, it’s not the same.

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What’s the creative dichotomy between Johannesburg and New York? I have done street pieces in New York, many years ago. I dropped shit outside the NY motherfucking PD. I tagged a fucking police correctional services vehicle in 2003. I was like, “I’m not fulfilled. I’ve just done a show in SoHo, and I’ve still got this drawing vibe, and I’m not satisfied. I’m a fucking monster. Get your can, let’s go.” Just tagging up. Bam, bam, bam. I was constantly doing pieces. Now, I don’t do shit. I don’t react in the same way, because I’m old and fucking boring. Here’s the thing: back in the day, I would smash walls all the time, like I had no fear. Anywhere you take me, I’m going to slam. No problem. Over time, you become self-conscious about what you’re doing, and you develop certain barriers. When you’re young, you’re fearless. You’re brave; you want to do anything you want to do. Energy levels are off the radar. Is that how you started out, tagging? I started out tagging spray can, acrylic paint on walls. I wasn’t doing what I was doing now. I was just doing some simple wall paintings, and a bit of tagging as well. In some of my early graffiti pieces, I started doing the toy soldier. I had a stencil. You know the green toy soldiers? I stenciled that life-size. A solider with a gun, and I was tagging that up along the neighborhoods at night. But then, even when I was a young guy living in Johannesburg, I was very much interested in the international art world. I was always reading magazines like Flash Art, Art Forum, Art Newspaper, Art Info and Art in America, I was always looking at the international situation. I was one of the few students that was really focused on the international art world, even when I was at Wits Tech—that’s now UJ, University of Johannesburg. I was always checking what the global art landscape was.

231


Has that changed your relationship with South Africa? I have a heightened awareness when I’m in South Africa because of the sterility of Berlin. The grayness of winters, it’s like this kind of cave that I’m training in, preparing myself to the point where I actually have a physical trainer now, in Berlin, that trains me based on my artwork. We use my artwork, so he looks at my books and my catalogs, and we design a physical training method based on the movements in my own art. Will that enhance the performance aspect of your work? Yes. I’m always up ladders and shit, so we do a lot of that kind of stuff. Simple shit, building core stuff, doing some crawling, or I have to run with a weight, or move in a different way. Do a squat, come up. He’s looking at my words, seeing my physical movement in the words, and then saying, “Okay, let’s do physical training based on that.” Like a fucking astronaut. What’s it like for you to work in Johannesburg now? The people are different, because there’s more accessibility to the public. When I’m working in Jozi, I work on a particular wall, and these street cats sit around. There are a lot of guys that see me, they see the process and they participate. A lot of these cats are school dropouts, a lot of them are on drugs, some of them are even homeless, some of them are in gangs. They start engaging with what I’m doing. They even become part of the process, they actually assist me in executing the work. I try and channel them to become part of the process. Once you engage in that space, there’s an emotional investment from the artist, with the people, with the community, that I’m not able to replicate in Berlin. I just can’t, it’s not the same.

230

What’s the creative dichotomy between Johannesburg and New York? I have done street pieces in New York, many years ago. I dropped shit outside the NY motherfucking PD. I tagged a fucking police correctional services vehicle in 2003. I was like, “I’m not fulfilled. I’ve just done a show in SoHo, and I’ve still got this drawing vibe, and I’m not satisfied. I’m a fucking monster. Get your can, let’s go.” Just tagging up. Bam, bam, bam. I was constantly doing pieces. Now, I don’t do shit. I don’t react in the same way, because I’m old and fucking boring. Here’s the thing: back in the day, I would smash walls all the time, like I had no fear. Anywhere you take me, I’m going to slam. No problem. Over time, you become self-conscious about what you’re doing, and you develop certain barriers. When you’re young, you’re fearless. You’re brave; you want to do anything you want to do. Energy levels are off the radar. Is that how you started out, tagging? I started out tagging spray can, acrylic paint on walls. I wasn’t doing what I was doing now. I was just doing some simple wall paintings, and a bit of tagging as well. In some of my early graffiti pieces, I started doing the toy soldier. I had a stencil. You know the green toy soldiers? I stenciled that life-size. A solider with a gun, and I was tagging that up along the neighborhoods at night. But then, even when I was a young guy living in Johannesburg, I was very much interested in the international art world. I was always reading magazines like Flash Art, Art Forum, Art Newspaper, Art Info and Art in America, I was always looking at the international situation. I was one of the few students that was really focused on the international art world, even when I was at Wits Tech—that’s now UJ, University of Johannesburg. I was always checking what the global art landscape was.

231


How has growing older affected your relationship with graffiti and street art? The older you get, the more conscious you become of your actions, and the repercussions. The older I get, the less I do. I used to bang up walls with a piece of chalk or a can, I’ve done it for so long, I’ve done it so many times, now I’ve reached the point where I’m oversaturated. I don’t find the urgent need to just go and do a drawing, or do a piece on a wall somewhere. The drive isn’t there, because now I’m taking a step back, and now I have to analyze: “This line in this particular wall can mean that,” and I’m trying to knit this whole narrative together. When I was younger, I was still trying to establish the kind of aesthetic, and to establish that, you do. “Let’s go now, do a piece. Tomorrow, we’re doing another two pieces.” Now I’m a pussy. Now I’m like, “Fuck, I can’t do it now.” I wake up in the morning, and I’m demotivated. “I don’t know if I can do it, I don’t feel like doing this wall.” That’s why I love youth culture, the young people. The young guys are like, “What? Let’s go right now, let’s rock it,” and I’m like “…Okay.” They have no fear; they still have this hyper energy to them, where they’re not thinking about what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about costs and what happens if I’m caught by police, or what happens if certain people see me—all these kind of things build up in your mind. When you’re young, you don’t have any of those limitations. You have a purer imagination. The older we get, the more the imagination becomes tainted, or it becomes disaffected by issues in the world—politics, all social issues—you start becoming more conscious of all these other factors, and that begins to slow you down, in terms of just going about doing cool stuff. It was during my studies that I realized that the only way I’m going to succeed in my life as an artist, is if I look within my own world, if I look into my on cultural experience, and find something that I can grab onto, that can allow me to create an authentic visual language. Your interactions with your wall drawings stem from a hazing ritual in South Africa. Can you explain what that was like? In the public high schools in Johannesburg we had no art education, we had no cultural education whatsoever. We’re talking pre-apartheid, pre-1994. Part of the high school subculture was to initiate the Grade Eights into the high school subculture, and we used to do this very funny act of, first of all stealing the white chalk from the teacher’s classroom, going to the boys’ toilets, waiting for the break time, when the kids go to the toilet. We’d take them and then we would draw rudimentary objects on the walls, like a bicycle. Drawing it life size, and then forcing the young kid to interact with the drawing.

Sort of like a performance. It’s about depicting a social act on the wall. Box ticked. Amazing vibe. Second thing is, why chalk? We stole chalk, the most simplistic, the most cheapest, the most essential piece of communication. An educational tool stolen from the teacher’s classroom. We had nothing else. There was no art class, so the first medium is the piece of chalk, stolen from the classroom, and then used as the medium on the concrete wall of a toilet. There’s performance art happening within the idea—performing a physical act of actually riding a bike. This is performance art, the body in the art. Let me see if I can push this bike, let me see if I can move this. The seed of conceptual art history: taking the object from daily life, a urinal, a coat hanger, and then, that’s the artwork. I had that, so it’s like layers and layers building up in terms of how I decode. I’m a hacker. I hack contemporary art ideas. But I have this basic foundation of art history, and I just decode the whole thing. Break it down, and it’s tight, it’s tight, tight, tight. Why is it tight? Because I’ve got the codes. Now you don’t even need to use objects anymore. That’s why I embrace the historical narrative, you must know that. I had to have that code in order to decode the whole lived experience, from my childhood. That’s what it is, I draw on walls like our forefathers. Depicting lived experiences, and the desire to be in an infinitive space.

So he had to pretend to ride the bike? We’re humiliating him in front of a group of boys, so there’s an audience, and there’s a performer, that has to perform. He has to create this illusion that they are engaging with a three-dimensional object, yet it is a bicycle. Another object we drew was a candle, so we drew a candle on the wall and said, “Blow out the candle.” We’d force a young kid to blow out the chalk drawing. A lot of those things became artworks of mine. Art history is the code. You use art history to decode shit. You decode lived experience. I’m very much into art history, so I was reading on Marcel Duchamp, I was reading about the cave paintings of Lascaux, and also Bushmen cave paintings. I was reading about performance art from the 1960s. I was looking at the 1950s, 1970s performance art history, black and white photography. Vito Acconci, for example, a New York artist, did a piece where you were just following strangers. It’s an artwork, just following people. That’s the piece. Dennis Oppenheim, used his body in space, so he would put his hands and feet on a ladder and create a physical tension. Charles Ray had a piece of wooden plank, and put it on his chest, and then put himself against the wall. All this explored how the body could be used as a symbol, or as a medium. I was researching all of these ideas, then I used art history to decode the lived experience. What’s our first cultural reference? The Bushmen. The Bushmen cave painting depicted imagination. In disguise, they had masks, they were dressed as the animal, and the cave paintings depicted their hunting scene. It was also a ritual, the painting was a ritualistic thing, it was like a trance.

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How has growing older affected your relationship with graffiti and street art? The older you get, the more conscious you become of your actions, and the repercussions. The older I get, the less I do. I used to bang up walls with a piece of chalk or a can, I’ve done it for so long, I’ve done it so many times, now I’ve reached the point where I’m oversaturated. I don’t find the urgent need to just go and do a drawing, or do a piece on a wall somewhere. The drive isn’t there, because now I’m taking a step back, and now I have to analyze: “This line in this particular wall can mean that,” and I’m trying to knit this whole narrative together. When I was younger, I was still trying to establish the kind of aesthetic, and to establish that, you do. “Let’s go now, do a piece. Tomorrow, we’re doing another two pieces.” Now I’m a pussy. Now I’m like, “Fuck, I can’t do it now.” I wake up in the morning, and I’m demotivated. “I don’t know if I can do it, I don’t feel like doing this wall.” That’s why I love youth culture, the young people. The young guys are like, “What? Let’s go right now, let’s rock it,” and I’m like “…Okay.” They have no fear; they still have this hyper energy to them, where they’re not thinking about what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about costs and what happens if I’m caught by police, or what happens if certain people see me—all these kind of things build up in your mind. When you’re young, you don’t have any of those limitations. You have a purer imagination. The older we get, the more the imagination becomes tainted, or it becomes disaffected by issues in the world—politics, all social issues—you start becoming more conscious of all these other factors, and that begins to slow you down, in terms of just going about doing cool stuff. It was during my studies that I realized that the only way I’m going to succeed in my life as an artist, is if I look within my own world, if I look into my on cultural experience, and find something that I can grab onto, that can allow me to create an authentic visual language. Your interactions with your wall drawings stem from a hazing ritual in South Africa. Can you explain what that was like? In the public high schools in Johannesburg we had no art education, we had no cultural education whatsoever. We’re talking pre-apartheid, pre-1994. Part of the high school subculture was to initiate the Grade Eights into the high school subculture, and we used to do this very funny act of, first of all stealing the white chalk from the teacher’s classroom, going to the boys’ toilets, waiting for the break time, when the kids go to the toilet. We’d take them and then we would draw rudimentary objects on the walls, like a bicycle. Drawing it life size, and then forcing the young kid to interact with the drawing.

Sort of like a performance. It’s about depicting a social act on the wall. Box ticked. Amazing vibe. Second thing is, why chalk? We stole chalk, the most simplistic, the most cheapest, the most essential piece of communication. An educational tool stolen from the teacher’s classroom. We had nothing else. There was no art class, so the first medium is the piece of chalk, stolen from the classroom, and then used as the medium on the concrete wall of a toilet. There’s performance art happening within the idea—performing a physical act of actually riding a bike. This is performance art, the body in the art. Let me see if I can push this bike, let me see if I can move this. The seed of conceptual art history: taking the object from daily life, a urinal, a coat hanger, and then, that’s the artwork. I had that, so it’s like layers and layers building up in terms of how I decode. I’m a hacker. I hack contemporary art ideas. But I have this basic foundation of art history, and I just decode the whole thing. Break it down, and it’s tight, it’s tight, tight, tight. Why is it tight? Because I’ve got the codes. Now you don’t even need to use objects anymore. That’s why I embrace the historical narrative, you must know that. I had to have that code in order to decode the whole lived experience, from my childhood. That’s what it is, I draw on walls like our forefathers. Depicting lived experiences, and the desire to be in an infinitive space.

So he had to pretend to ride the bike? We’re humiliating him in front of a group of boys, so there’s an audience, and there’s a performer, that has to perform. He has to create this illusion that they are engaging with a three-dimensional object, yet it is a bicycle. Another object we drew was a candle, so we drew a candle on the wall and said, “Blow out the candle.” We’d force a young kid to blow out the chalk drawing. A lot of those things became artworks of mine. Art history is the code. You use art history to decode shit. You decode lived experience. I’m very much into art history, so I was reading on Marcel Duchamp, I was reading about the cave paintings of Lascaux, and also Bushmen cave paintings. I was reading about performance art from the 1960s. I was looking at the 1950s, 1970s performance art history, black and white photography. Vito Acconci, for example, a New York artist, did a piece where you were just following strangers. It’s an artwork, just following people. That’s the piece. Dennis Oppenheim, used his body in space, so he would put his hands and feet on a ladder and create a physical tension. Charles Ray had a piece of wooden plank, and put it on his chest, and then put himself against the wall. All this explored how the body could be used as a symbol, or as a medium. I was researching all of these ideas, then I used art history to decode the lived experience. What’s our first cultural reference? The Bushmen. The Bushmen cave painting depicted imagination. In disguise, they had masks, they were dressed as the animal, and the cave paintings depicted their hunting scene. It was also a ritual, the painting was a ritualistic thing, it was like a trance.

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The Kids Are All Right Words Jian DeLeon Creative Direction David Casavant Photography Matao Chamarorro Styling Assistants Dominik Halas & Levi Supo

In 1949, E.B. White penned one of the most quoted pieces of writing about New York City. Titled “Here Is New York,” the essay posits that there are really three distinct populations that comprise the city. The natives, who are born into the chaos and take all the city has to offer for granted; the commuters, who bridge-and-tunnel their way into the city, clock out, and return to the tri-state area’s numerous exurbs; and the settlers, those who willfully chose to find a way to tame the city and make it their own. As he wrote it, “Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.”

Despite rising rents and an increased homogenization of culture, New York still remains a creative hub for all ages. The city continues to cultivate tomorrow’s thought leaders, who have the advantage of residing in a place where the rules are rewritten every day. Meet the new wave of young NYC kids carving their own lane in the bustling metropolis.

234

Even JAY-Z has paraphrased Sinatra’s famous “New York, New York,” having rapped “since I made it here, I can make it anywhere” on “Empire State of Mind.” And that tenacious spirit is integral to why New York City continues to attract creative minds from all across the globe, from blue chip artists like Jeff Koons to acclaimed fashion designer Raf Simons—a recent settler himself—the siren song of the city is still inescapable. But of course, the established professionals aren’t what really makes the heart of the city beat—it’s the young dreamers;

the hopeful artists, designers and multidisciplinary creatives still chasing their dreams. Stylist and fashion archivist David Casavant, known for his personal collection of iconic pieces from designers like Helmut Lang and Raf Simons, sought to portray these passionate youngsters wearing some of his most covetable gear. Considering the oeuvre of a designer like Raf Simons— known for channeling youthful rebellion and subcultures in his clothing—it’s only fitting that this new creative breed lends its energy to otherwise lifeless garments. After all, the only thing that separates fashion from style is how something looks on a rack versus how the wearer adds his or her personality to it. Through this juxtaposition of young minds and vintage garments, we’re reminded of the transformative power of fashion, which in some ways, can be a wearable fountain of youth. But mostly, what these budding creatives show is how the very concept of “youth” is becoming as malleable as a roll of fabric. Ideas and ideals alike don’t have to grow old, even if the people thinking them must inevitably age. Here, five “new wave” New Yorkers explain why New York City continues to be relevant for the physically young, as well as the young at heart.

235


The Kids Are All Right Words Jian DeLeon Creative Direction David Casavant Photography Matao Chamarorro Styling Assistants Dominik Halas & Levi Supo

In 1949, E.B. White penned one of the most quoted pieces of writing about New York City. Titled “Here Is New York,” the essay posits that there are really three distinct populations that comprise the city. The natives, who are born into the chaos and take all the city has to offer for granted; the commuters, who bridge-and-tunnel their way into the city, clock out, and return to the tri-state area’s numerous exurbs; and the settlers, those who willfully chose to find a way to tame the city and make it their own. As he wrote it, “Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.”

Despite rising rents and an increased homogenization of culture, New York still remains a creative hub for all ages. The city continues to cultivate tomorrow’s thought leaders, who have the advantage of residing in a place where the rules are rewritten every day. Meet the new wave of young NYC kids carving their own lane in the bustling metropolis.

234

Even JAY-Z has paraphrased Sinatra’s famous “New York, New York,” having rapped “since I made it here, I can make it anywhere” on “Empire State of Mind.” And that tenacious spirit is integral to why New York City continues to attract creative minds from all across the globe, from blue chip artists like Jeff Koons to acclaimed fashion designer Raf Simons—a recent settler himself—the siren song of the city is still inescapable. But of course, the established professionals aren’t what really makes the heart of the city beat—it’s the young dreamers;

the hopeful artists, designers and multidisciplinary creatives still chasing their dreams. Stylist and fashion archivist David Casavant, known for his personal collection of iconic pieces from designers like Helmut Lang and Raf Simons, sought to portray these passionate youngsters wearing some of his most covetable gear. Considering the oeuvre of a designer like Raf Simons— known for channeling youthful rebellion and subcultures in his clothing—it’s only fitting that this new creative breed lends its energy to otherwise lifeless garments. After all, the only thing that separates fashion from style is how something looks on a rack versus how the wearer adds his or her personality to it. Through this juxtaposition of young minds and vintage garments, we’re reminded of the transformative power of fashion, which in some ways, can be a wearable fountain of youth. But mostly, what these budding creatives show is how the very concept of “youth” is becoming as malleable as a roll of fabric. Ideas and ideals alike don’t have to grow old, even if the people thinking them must inevitably age. Here, five “new wave” New Yorkers explain why New York City continues to be relevant for the physically young, as well as the young at heart.

235


Lucca Venezia - Model & Designer “I feel like the idea of staying young is like that young youthful mindset, where you’re thinking of new ideas and new things, not like—I know it sounds corny—but staying in the norm. I feel like the youth in general is creative, and it can be like building new things and new ideas. Being open-minded is a very youthful way of thinking, and that’s the way I personally think in general. Other than that, it’s being creative and not restricting myself.”

T-SHIRT HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 2003

HOODIE & NECKLACE RAF SIMONS SPRING-SUMMER 2002 PANTS RAF SIMONS FALL-WINTER 2005

BACKPACK RAF SIMONS SPRING-SUMMER 2008

BOOTS CALVIN KLEIN COLLECTION FALL-WINTER 2015

Jade Bolton - Animator “I do animation work. Not stop-motion though—the kind where you draw. I like shadowing with different colors and making things look really trippy. Youth to me is just being yourself, and having fun, really. Because when you get older, you need a job. You need to do a lot of things that you don’t need to do when you’re young. So you just do what you want, I guess.”

TOP & CHAIN VINTAGE HELMUT LANG LEATHER PANTS ACNE STUDIOS

METAL CHAPS HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 2003

BANDAGE GLOVE HELMUT LANG SPRING-SUMMER 2004

ARM BAG (AROUND LEG) DIOR HOMME BY HEDI SLIMANE SPRING-SUMMER 2004 BOOTS DR. MARTENS

236


Lucca Venezia - Model & Designer “I feel like the idea of staying young is like that young youthful mindset, where you’re thinking of new ideas and new things, not like—I know it sounds corny—but staying in the norm. I feel like the youth in general is creative, and it can be like building new things and new ideas. Being open-minded is a very youthful way of thinking, and that’s the way I personally think in general. Other than that, it’s being creative and not restricting myself.”

T-SHIRT HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 2003

HOODIE & NECKLACE RAF SIMONS SPRING-SUMMER 2002 PANTS RAF SIMONS FALL-WINTER 2005

BACKPACK RAF SIMONS SPRING-SUMMER 2008

BOOTS CALVIN KLEIN COLLECTION FALL-WINTER 2015

Jade Bolton - Animator “I do animation work. Not stop-motion though—the kind where you draw. I like shadowing with different colors and making things look really trippy. Youth to me is just being yourself, and having fun, really. Because when you get older, you need a job. You need to do a lot of things that you don’t need to do when you’re young. So you just do what you want, I guess.”

TOP & CHAIN VINTAGE HELMUT LANG LEATHER PANTS ACNE STUDIOS

METAL CHAPS HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 2003

BANDAGE GLOVE HELMUT LANG SPRING-SUMMER 2004

ARM BAG (AROUND LEG) DIOR HOMME BY HEDI SLIMANE SPRING-SUMMER 2004 BOOTS DR. MARTENS

236


Paloma Saint-Denis Lopez - Artist “I’m really into whole idea of rapid change, and the fact that New York City is so saturated with information and data is so stimulating. I think I don’t really have to face the idea of growing up unless I ever really leave New York City. It’s so easy to preserve youth and just be in a constant state of change alongside your environment, because everything’s happening all at once, all the time, everywhere. If you want to keep up, you have to be doing the same thing. I think it’s hard to be a settled-down adult in New York City, unless you’re ignoring a lot of your environment. I know a lot of regular and middle-aged parents who live normal, practical, convenient lives.”

POLO SHIRT VINTAGE HELMUT LANG

JACKET RAF SIMONS FALL-WINTER 2001

CARGO PANTS HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 1999

GOLD WATCHBAND BELT (AROUND LEG) HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 2004

MESH TOP VINTAGE HELMUT LANG

BELT DIOR HOMME BY HEDI SLIMANE SPRING-SUMMER 2005

GLOVE VEST MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA FALL-WINTER 2006

BOOTS DR. MARTENS

NET HOODIE & PANTS RAF SIMONS SPRING-SUMMER 2003 BOOTS RAF SIMONS FALL-WINTER 2006

Shane Smith Painter & Fashion Designer “When you’re young you get away with a lot of stuff and people look at you differently; you don’t get judged as much as if you were a bit older. I would say the way to keep up with that type of mentality is just to surround yourself with happier people, younger people, and anybody or anything that inspires you to live your life a different way or take on certain challenges that you wouldn’t usually. I think forever being youthful means realizing that fun has no age. It’s all about mentality and your perspective on life. As long as you view life with a positive attitude and an outgoing attitude, you’ll always be young.

239


Paloma Saint-Denis Lopez - Artist “I’m really into whole idea of rapid change, and the fact that New York City is so saturated with information and data is so stimulating. I think I don’t really have to face the idea of growing up unless I ever really leave New York City. It’s so easy to preserve youth and just be in a constant state of change alongside your environment, because everything’s happening all at once, all the time, everywhere. If you want to keep up, you have to be doing the same thing. I think it’s hard to be a settled-down adult in New York City, unless you’re ignoring a lot of your environment. I know a lot of regular and middle-aged parents who live normal, practical, convenient lives.”

POLO SHIRT VINTAGE HELMUT LANG

JACKET RAF SIMONS FALL-WINTER 2001

CARGO PANTS HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 1999

GOLD WATCHBAND BELT (AROUND LEG) HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 2004

MESH TOP VINTAGE HELMUT LANG

BELT DIOR HOMME BY HEDI SLIMANE SPRING-SUMMER 2005

GLOVE VEST MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA FALL-WINTER 2006

BOOTS DR. MARTENS

NET HOODIE & PANTS RAF SIMONS SPRING-SUMMER 2003 BOOTS RAF SIMONS FALL-WINTER 2006

Shane Smith Painter & Fashion Designer “When you’re young you get away with a lot of stuff and people look at you differently; you don’t get judged as much as if you were a bit older. I would say the way to keep up with that type of mentality is just to surround yourself with happier people, younger people, and anybody or anything that inspires you to live your life a different way or take on certain challenges that you wouldn’t usually. I think forever being youthful means realizing that fun has no age. It’s all about mentality and your perspective on life. As long as you view life with a positive attitude and an outgoing attitude, you’ll always be young.

239


Calvin Laporte Photographer & Model “People say age is just a number; you can be young whenever you want, but there are things that you can do now that you can’t do in your 20s, and there are things you can do in your 20s that you can’t do in your 30s. So even though you can stay young forever in your mind, your body just won’t let you be young. I want to try to stay in shape for as long as I can. Right now I have a fast metabolism so I’m skinny, but when I get older I’m probably going to start working out more. I think retaining your youth is kind of like being crazy, but also just retaining your ideas and following them. If you have an idea, just do it, especially if you live in New York, where it’s easy for a lot of things to happen progressively.”

T-SHIRT RAF SIMONS FALL-WINTER 2005

CARGO VEST RAF SIMONS SPRING-SUMMER 2003

ASTRO JACKET HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 1999 PANTS & ARMY BOOTS VINTAGE HELMUT LANG

240

241


Calvin Laporte Photographer & Model “People say age is just a number; you can be young whenever you want, but there are things that you can do now that you can’t do in your 20s, and there are things you can do in your 20s that you can’t do in your 30s. So even though you can stay young forever in your mind, your body just won’t let you be young. I want to try to stay in shape for as long as I can. Right now I have a fast metabolism so I’m skinny, but when I get older I’m probably going to start working out more. I think retaining your youth is kind of like being crazy, but also just retaining your ideas and following them. If you have an idea, just do it, especially if you live in New York, where it’s easy for a lot of things to happen progressively.”

T-SHIRT RAF SIMONS FALL-WINTER 2005

CARGO VEST RAF SIMONS SPRING-SUMMER 2003

ASTRO JACKET HELMUT LANG FALL-WINTER 1999 PANTS & ARMY BOOTS VINTAGE HELMUT LANG

240

241


Richie Hawtin may be taking his DJ sets to bigger and bigger stages, but he never strays far from the underground, aiming to bring his audiences closer and closer to his early rave days with new ways of performing, imbibing and empowering creative people.

Hypnotic Frequencies Richie Hawtin Words Bianca Giulione

Photography Dominik Schulte & Ahmed Chrediy

For the last half decade or so, countless journalists have made claims that DJs are the new rock stars. Despite traveling the world as an in-demand DJ and often playing massive festivals with thousands of people watching him perform, Richie Hawtin would respectfully disagree. Refuting the image many people have of contemporary DJs, “a floating torso pumping its fist,” as he describes it, Hawtin’s career has been marked by a desire to stay true to his underground roots while innovating the practice of DJing and constantly reexamining the nature of live performance. Growing up in Windsor, Ontario, Hawtin would frequently cross the Canada-U.S. border into Detroit to attend raves in their early, formative days. He was inspired by early techno pioneers Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, as well as Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, early German electronic music introduced to him by his father. Soon after experiencing the frequencies of this music of the future, he began mixing records with two turntables and a mixer in his parents’ basement. Increasingly, he traveled south into Detroit for his own DJ gigs. With a childhood love for computers and discovery of drum machines such as Roland’s TR-909 and 303, Hawtin found an intergalactic home on planet techno. He released his first record in the early ’90s, and soon gained international recognition for his unique take on hypnotic dance music. Hawtin formed the second wave of techno, pioneering its minimal subgenre with records on the Plus 8 and M-nus labels he founded with John Acquaviva. In some circles, he’s best known under his Plastikman moniker, producing techno that moved from acidic to ambient, always hypnotically resonating with visuals that would accompany his live performances. Possibly one of the first electronic artists to consider the fully immersive nature of a performance, Hawtin takes inspiration from his pleasantly disorienting rave days to remove the distance between himself, his machines, and the dancers to create unforgettable experiences. His latest endeavor is CLOSE, highlighting the art of DJing through spontaneity and synchronicity. Sat on the balcony in his Berlin home, where paper lanterns hang from the ceiling and an array of Japanese drinking vessels line the walls of the kitchen, Richie Hawtin discusses his techno upbringing; the frequencies he’s explored in fashion, technology and music; the electric oscillations of drinking sake; and where he hopes to venture next.

242

243


Richie Hawtin may be taking his DJ sets to bigger and bigger stages, but he never strays far from the underground, aiming to bring his audiences closer and closer to his early rave days with new ways of performing, imbibing and empowering creative people.

Hypnotic Frequencies Richie Hawtin Words Bianca Giulione

Photography Dominik Schulte & Ahmed Chrediy

For the last half decade or so, countless journalists have made claims that DJs are the new rock stars. Despite traveling the world as an in-demand DJ and often playing massive festivals with thousands of people watching him perform, Richie Hawtin would respectfully disagree. Refuting the image many people have of contemporary DJs, “a floating torso pumping its fist,” as he describes it, Hawtin’s career has been marked by a desire to stay true to his underground roots while innovating the practice of DJing and constantly reexamining the nature of live performance. Growing up in Windsor, Ontario, Hawtin would frequently cross the Canada-U.S. border into Detroit to attend raves in their early, formative days. He was inspired by early techno pioneers Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, as well as Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, early German electronic music introduced to him by his father. Soon after experiencing the frequencies of this music of the future, he began mixing records with two turntables and a mixer in his parents’ basement. Increasingly, he traveled south into Detroit for his own DJ gigs. With a childhood love for computers and discovery of drum machines such as Roland’s TR-909 and 303, Hawtin found an intergalactic home on planet techno. He released his first record in the early ’90s, and soon gained international recognition for his unique take on hypnotic dance music. Hawtin formed the second wave of techno, pioneering its minimal subgenre with records on the Plus 8 and M-nus labels he founded with John Acquaviva. In some circles, he’s best known under his Plastikman moniker, producing techno that moved from acidic to ambient, always hypnotically resonating with visuals that would accompany his live performances. Possibly one of the first electronic artists to consider the fully immersive nature of a performance, Hawtin takes inspiration from his pleasantly disorienting rave days to remove the distance between himself, his machines, and the dancers to create unforgettable experiences. His latest endeavor is CLOSE, highlighting the art of DJing through spontaneity and synchronicity. Sat on the balcony in his Berlin home, where paper lanterns hang from the ceiling and an array of Japanese drinking vessels line the walls of the kitchen, Richie Hawtin discusses his techno upbringing; the frequencies he’s explored in fashion, technology and music; the electric oscillations of drinking sake; and where he hopes to venture next.

242

243


Do you remember how you felt the first time you went to a rave? My first experiences were tied to how much I love music and love to dance—I didn’t go to be entertained visually, I didn’t go to watch the DJ. Later on, I would go in the booth to observe a bit of their technique. If I wasn’t there; I was on the dance floor and I would just want to be lost in my own mind, surrounded by frequencies, hypnotized with my eyes closed. I love to get lost in the type of electronic music I play, where there isn’t an obvious vocal narrative. Storytelling through frequencies and ups and downs and tension building—that’s what I want to give people. If I do my job right, at moments people should get so sucked into the visuals that they actually don’t even know what they’re looking at anymore. I want people to lose themselves, find themselves and inhabit their own special place. When did you start thinking about the visual aspect of your performances? Probably in the late ’90s, as I was moving outside the typical 500-person club to festivals and bigger raves. People are standing there looking at you, and so whether you like it or not, there’s a show going on. With a series of shows in the late 2000s called Contact and of course with Plastikman Live, I was exploring how I could work more closely with lighting designers. My friend Ali Demirel in particular helped visualize the kind of frequencies I was making with my music, going beyond the typical flashing strobe light, multicolor, visual orgasm porn. When you think about early raves, everything was hypnotic—just a dark room with a strobe light. There was very little visual information; it was mostly a sonic experience with a couple of things that really fucked with your brain and allowed you to get lost in the music. So how do you take that to the next level and still find a way to make it still hypnotic? Every component should have its own value. But the sum should be something that just makes complete sense. Was there a specific force that inspired you to create this new CLOSE experience? The original idea came maybe four or five years ago. I find that the whole DJ experience can be pretty visually uninspiring, especially as it scales up to larger audiences. You have big LED screens and a torso that kind of disappears in all these flashing visuals. No matter how good the visual programming and the lighting are, the DJ’s aesthetic and the festival’s aesthetic gets mashed together. It can be a great experience, but it’s never really aesthetically pleasing for me. It’s rarely synchronized or composed. For all of those reasons I wanted to create a show that was beautifully designed and that highlighted the human form and interaction between the machines; to let people get a little bit closer to the creativity of a modern DJ. I’ve always thought of DJing as an art form, it could elevate to an extreme form of creativity and spontaneity. CLOSE is my attempt to let people have a better understanding of what the art form can strive to be: through the cameras, by taking away the table and letting people see my form and how I’m interacting with my machines, even if someone’s at the very back of a field with 10,000 people. What was the first piece of gear that you used to make music? I spent about two years in the basement of my parents’ house with this Numark mixer, one Technics turntable, and another turntable that belonged to my father, which you couldn’t really change the speed. I was constantly trying to figure out how to mix and match beats with a not-so-perfect setup. The mixer had a five-band EQ similar to those used by DJs I would watch at that moment in Detroit. With that piece of equipment, you could drastically change the records you were playing by really carving out sound. It really inspired the style that I play to this day. The records I really loved in the late ’80s were Detroit techno records. Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, they all had this certain futuristic, metallic percussion. I remember being at my partner John Acquaviva’s house in London, Ontario and he had a Roland TR-909 drum machine. I was already kind of dabbling with music, but nothing was sounding right. When I turned that machine on, it opened up a whole new palette of sonic frequencies and sounds that those Detroit guys were using. Immediately, I said to myself, “Okay, this machine is part of my direction.”

244

245


Do you remember how you felt the first time you went to a rave? My first experiences were tied to how much I love music and love to dance—I didn’t go to be entertained visually, I didn’t go to watch the DJ. Later on, I would go in the booth to observe a bit of their technique. If I wasn’t there; I was on the dance floor and I would just want to be lost in my own mind, surrounded by frequencies, hypnotized with my eyes closed. I love to get lost in the type of electronic music I play, where there isn’t an obvious vocal narrative. Storytelling through frequencies and ups and downs and tension building—that’s what I want to give people. If I do my job right, at moments people should get so sucked into the visuals that they actually don’t even know what they’re looking at anymore. I want people to lose themselves, find themselves and inhabit their own special place. When did you start thinking about the visual aspect of your performances? Probably in the late ’90s, as I was moving outside the typical 500-person club to festivals and bigger raves. People are standing there looking at you, and so whether you like it or not, there’s a show going on. With a series of shows in the late 2000s called Contact and of course with Plastikman Live, I was exploring how I could work more closely with lighting designers. My friend Ali Demirel in particular helped visualize the kind of frequencies I was making with my music, going beyond the typical flashing strobe light, multicolor, visual orgasm porn. When you think about early raves, everything was hypnotic—just a dark room with a strobe light. There was very little visual information; it was mostly a sonic experience with a couple of things that really fucked with your brain and allowed you to get lost in the music. So how do you take that to the next level and still find a way to make it still hypnotic? Every component should have its own value. But the sum should be something that just makes complete sense. Was there a specific force that inspired you to create this new CLOSE experience? The original idea came maybe four or five years ago. I find that the whole DJ experience can be pretty visually uninspiring, especially as it scales up to larger audiences. You have big LED screens and a torso that kind of disappears in all these flashing visuals. No matter how good the visual programming and the lighting are, the DJ’s aesthetic and the festival’s aesthetic gets mashed together. It can be a great experience, but it’s never really aesthetically pleasing for me. It’s rarely synchronized or composed. For all of those reasons I wanted to create a show that was beautifully designed and that highlighted the human form and interaction between the machines; to let people get a little bit closer to the creativity of a modern DJ. I’ve always thought of DJing as an art form, it could elevate to an extreme form of creativity and spontaneity. CLOSE is my attempt to let people have a better understanding of what the art form can strive to be: through the cameras, by taking away the table and letting people see my form and how I’m interacting with my machines, even if someone’s at the very back of a field with 10,000 people. What was the first piece of gear that you used to make music? I spent about two years in the basement of my parents’ house with this Numark mixer, one Technics turntable, and another turntable that belonged to my father, which you couldn’t really change the speed. I was constantly trying to figure out how to mix and match beats with a not-so-perfect setup. The mixer had a five-band EQ similar to those used by DJs I would watch at that moment in Detroit. With that piece of equipment, you could drastically change the records you were playing by really carving out sound. It really inspired the style that I play to this day. The records I really loved in the late ’80s were Detroit techno records. Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, they all had this certain futuristic, metallic percussion. I remember being at my partner John Acquaviva’s house in London, Ontario and he had a Roland TR-909 drum machine. I was already kind of dabbling with music, but nothing was sounding right. When I turned that machine on, it opened up a whole new palette of sonic frequencies and sounds that those Detroit guys were using. Immediately, I said to myself, “Okay, this machine is part of my direction.”

244

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Since you’ve been in the electronic music game for a while, how has the culture surrounding it changed? Electronic music was always very DIY and a niche community virtually unknown to the rest of the world. Now with EDM, the secret community has been blown out, so there are more challenges to maintain our anonymity, control and DIY aesthetic. My ex-label partner John and I have an investment firm now, where we’ve invited nearly a hundred different DJs to pool their money together to reinvest in companies and technologies that empower creative people. In a way, it’s so far removed from where we were 25 years ago as a little record company. That shows you the size and the complexity of the scene, how it’s truly become an industry. No DJ or electronic musician, save for Kraftwerk and a couple others, have reached this age. Many of us don’t really know where it’s going, or how we’re supposed to act. How long is the career of a DJ? Where do we go from here? Should we be slowing down as we’re getting into our 50s or 60s and not be in the booth in a club for 20-year-olds, or is that part of the magic? Tell us a bit about your passion for sake. Do you remember the first time you tried it? I talk a lot about frequencies, like the frequencies that resonate with me when I’m playing. I think we all are vibrating slightly differently but when we come together, whether that’s with music, with loved ones, or in a group of people, we all start to oscillate at the same frequency when things make sense. When I went to Japan for the first time in 1994, it didn’t make sense to me, it was just mind-blowing. It felt like the future. I was coming from making music with these Japanese instruments, so it was kind of like going to the birth of electronics and technology and techno. I just wanted to take it all in as much as possible. When I would go out before the club and drink real, pure, Japanese sake, it was just incredible what happened with the people at the table. Everyone started to sync up. The feeling, the vibe, the conversation, reminded me of being on the dance floor or playing onstage. It was very hypnotic, very heady. Even the music that I was making back then was probably even more heady. It was Plastikman, it was acidic, we were throwing late night parties and experimenting with lots of things to try and open our minds up. Being in Japan surrounded by technology, drinking sake and getting this heady, fuzzy buzz, started to sync up to the music that I was playing, and just made sense. Then in 2008, I met a friend of a friend who was brewing sake, who suggested I take a sake sommelier course. After studying and diving deeper into the world of sake, I had the idea to make a record label based upon the drink. Instead of having artists releasing music, I wondered if I could find brewers in Japan to release sake in a similar way, and start putting all the things I had learned with my record labels Minus and Plus 8 and traveling together for a new adventure. That’s the adventure that I’m still on—Enter Sake. Technology has obviously had a huge impact on the way you make music and DJ. When did you start introducing computers into your setup? How did that impact the way you performed? Throughout the ’80s, my best friends were into computer games and computers. I loved programming— telling the computer what I wanted it to do, whether that was making a game, flashing something across the screen, or talking to people via modems. Before music, the computer was really what inspired me to go deeper into myself. Although there wasn’t a computer in the DJ booth back then, the music was still very mechanical, electronic and computerized; it was music that was infused with technology at its heart. Because of my prior fascination, when computers started to come into the DJ booth in the late ’90s with things like Final Scratch, I jumped onto it right away. I have always felt so connected to technology, it has always allowed me to do things I never thought possible. My instrument is a collection of boxes and knobs and that instrument changes all the time. And that exploration of “Where am I gonna go next? What’s gonna be released next? What should I do? What’s right or wrong?” That’s the heart of it all for me. That’s the challenge, that’s the fun. How has your DJing changed since you developed the MODEL 1 mixer? For the last decade, I was playing in a certain style with similar pieces of equipment with a similar mixer. I sat down with the designer Andy Jones, and we thought, “If we’re gonna put our energy into creating a new DJ mixer, do we just make something that’s better than the rest in terms of sounding better? Or do we make something entirely different?” We chose the latter. By adding a different layout of filters and EQs, the mixer forces you to play differently. It’s not really better or worse than any other mixer or any other way of playing, but it’s an alternative. My favorite saying is: “Fuck it, we’ll figure it out later. Let’s do it.” That’s what I do with a lot of my projects. I love exploring and getting involved into things that push me into a corner and force me to reevaluate what I’m doing and who I am.

246

How does fashion influence your music? Early on I was inspired by Mute Records from London with bands like Depeche Mode and Erasure who had very strong visual aesthetics. That was something that I wanted to bring into what I was doing. First it came through on the design of the records, and then later on in the design of stages and visuals. At a certain point, I started to realize that there was more power in presenting myself aesthetically as a whole so that people got the idea of what I was trying to represent. There was a shift for me in the mid-2000s, a response to finding designers that had the aesthetic that I was looking for, like Raf Simons and Rick Owens. I was always into black and a more minimalistic look, but fashion also has to be functional for me. I’m lanky and kind of alien-robotic looking anyway, so that’s what I want people to see—a kid in the machines and the physicality of going back and forth between them and these frequencies that emerge. I often take a step back and think about how we all take the world in through our different senses. People are listening to me on stage, they’re listening to me talk, they’re seeing photos of me. How can I best represent who I am? Are there any creative endeavors that you haven’t yet explored that you’d like to? I love just giving people an experience that they’ve never had before. It started with music, and I’ve built upon it to give people a completely immersive 360 degree view where they can’t even escape if they want to. I admire people like Anish Kapoor, who I collaborated with, as well as Tadao Ando, Raf or Rick, who create environments where you just walk in and everything makes sense and feels like a complete reality. Having the opportunity in the future to work with an architect and design a space specifically for music, working with a designer to make sure that everything that’s a part in the experience has a certain look and feel, to go beyond CLOSE and my previous Plastikman Live shows and go into three dimensions, to go deeper into spaces, would be an inspiring next step for me.

247


Since you’ve been in the electronic music game for a while, how has the culture surrounding it changed? Electronic music was always very DIY and a niche community virtually unknown to the rest of the world. Now with EDM, the secret community has been blown out, so there are more challenges to maintain our anonymity, control and DIY aesthetic. My ex-label partner John and I have an investment firm now, where we’ve invited nearly a hundred different DJs to pool their money together to reinvest in companies and technologies that empower creative people. In a way, it’s so far removed from where we were 25 years ago as a little record company. That shows you the size and the complexity of the scene, how it’s truly become an industry. No DJ or electronic musician, save for Kraftwerk and a couple others, have reached this age. Many of us don’t really know where it’s going, or how we’re supposed to act. How long is the career of a DJ? Where do we go from here? Should we be slowing down as we’re getting into our 50s or 60s and not be in the booth in a club for 20-year-olds, or is that part of the magic? Tell us a bit about your passion for sake. Do you remember the first time you tried it? I talk a lot about frequencies, like the frequencies that resonate with me when I’m playing. I think we all are vibrating slightly differently but when we come together, whether that’s with music, with loved ones, or in a group of people, we all start to oscillate at the same frequency when things make sense. When I went to Japan for the first time in 1994, it didn’t make sense to me, it was just mind-blowing. It felt like the future. I was coming from making music with these Japanese instruments, so it was kind of like going to the birth of electronics and technology and techno. I just wanted to take it all in as much as possible. When I would go out before the club and drink real, pure, Japanese sake, it was just incredible what happened with the people at the table. Everyone started to sync up. The feeling, the vibe, the conversation, reminded me of being on the dance floor or playing onstage. It was very hypnotic, very heady. Even the music that I was making back then was probably even more heady. It was Plastikman, it was acidic, we were throwing late night parties and experimenting with lots of things to try and open our minds up. Being in Japan surrounded by technology, drinking sake and getting this heady, fuzzy buzz, started to sync up to the music that I was playing, and just made sense. Then in 2008, I met a friend of a friend who was brewing sake, who suggested I take a sake sommelier course. After studying and diving deeper into the world of sake, I had the idea to make a record label based upon the drink. Instead of having artists releasing music, I wondered if I could find brewers in Japan to release sake in a similar way, and start putting all the things I had learned with my record labels Minus and Plus 8 and traveling together for a new adventure. That’s the adventure that I’m still on—Enter Sake. Technology has obviously had a huge impact on the way you make music and DJ. When did you start introducing computers into your setup? How did that impact the way you performed? Throughout the ’80s, my best friends were into computer games and computers. I loved programming— telling the computer what I wanted it to do, whether that was making a game, flashing something across the screen, or talking to people via modems. Before music, the computer was really what inspired me to go deeper into myself. Although there wasn’t a computer in the DJ booth back then, the music was still very mechanical, electronic and computerized; it was music that was infused with technology at its heart. Because of my prior fascination, when computers started to come into the DJ booth in the late ’90s with things like Final Scratch, I jumped onto it right away. I have always felt so connected to technology, it has always allowed me to do things I never thought possible. My instrument is a collection of boxes and knobs and that instrument changes all the time. And that exploration of “Where am I gonna go next? What’s gonna be released next? What should I do? What’s right or wrong?” That’s the heart of it all for me. That’s the challenge, that’s the fun. How has your DJing changed since you developed the MODEL 1 mixer? For the last decade, I was playing in a certain style with similar pieces of equipment with a similar mixer. I sat down with the designer Andy Jones, and we thought, “If we’re gonna put our energy into creating a new DJ mixer, do we just make something that’s better than the rest in terms of sounding better? Or do we make something entirely different?” We chose the latter. By adding a different layout of filters and EQs, the mixer forces you to play differently. It’s not really better or worse than any other mixer or any other way of playing, but it’s an alternative. My favorite saying is: “Fuck it, we’ll figure it out later. Let’s do it.” That’s what I do with a lot of my projects. I love exploring and getting involved into things that push me into a corner and force me to reevaluate what I’m doing and who I am.

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How does fashion influence your music? Early on I was inspired by Mute Records from London with bands like Depeche Mode and Erasure who had very strong visual aesthetics. That was something that I wanted to bring into what I was doing. First it came through on the design of the records, and then later on in the design of stages and visuals. At a certain point, I started to realize that there was more power in presenting myself aesthetically as a whole so that people got the idea of what I was trying to represent. There was a shift for me in the mid-2000s, a response to finding designers that had the aesthetic that I was looking for, like Raf Simons and Rick Owens. I was always into black and a more minimalistic look, but fashion also has to be functional for me. I’m lanky and kind of alien-robotic looking anyway, so that’s what I want people to see—a kid in the machines and the physicality of going back and forth between them and these frequencies that emerge. I often take a step back and think about how we all take the world in through our different senses. People are listening to me on stage, they’re listening to me talk, they’re seeing photos of me. How can I best represent who I am? Are there any creative endeavors that you haven’t yet explored that you’d like to? I love just giving people an experience that they’ve never had before. It started with music, and I’ve built upon it to give people a completely immersive 360 degree view where they can’t even escape if they want to. I admire people like Anish Kapoor, who I collaborated with, as well as Tadao Ando, Raf or Rick, who create environments where you just walk in and everything makes sense and feels like a complete reality. Having the opportunity in the future to work with an architect and design a space specifically for music, working with a designer to make sure that everything that’s a part in the experience has a certain look and feel, to go beyond CLOSE and my previous Plastikman Live shows and go into three dimensions, to go deeper into spaces, would be an inspiring next step for me.

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Words Anya Firestone

Illustration Clara Lacy

LOOK MoMA, NO HANDS! The Irony of the Artist’s Assistants In today’s material world where hired helpers make high-art reach higher-prices, how might we understand the value of a “work” of art upon learning that its namesake’s creator might not have even worked on it during the creative process? When it comes to defining the responsibilities between the artist and his assistants, where do we, quite literally, draw the line? 248

Damn, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore I ask ‘cause I’m not sure Does anyone make real shit anymore? Bow in the presence of greatness ‘Cause right now thou hast forsaken us — Kanye West

century, Rubens and Rembrandt in the 17th, Fragonard and Jacques-Louis David in the 18th—all hired (and fired) numerous apprentices to help create the masterpieces that defined their careers.

In the sparkling halls of the Louvre Museum, where frescoed angels greet us on gilded ceilings and the hand-painted portraits of kings throw shade, we walk past art history’s greatest masterpieces, and painfully lament that, sigh, Kanye is finally right: They sure don’t make them like this anymore. In the glamorous hodgepodge that defines today’s material culture, where luxury labels and Art Basel parties go hand-in-handbag, where JAY-Z films music videos in white-wall galleries, and where everyone coronates themselves as “creatives,” using words like “curate” to talk about Instagram, we have been Ubered to a point so obsessed with the concept of art, that today’s celebrity artists no longer even need to make their art themselves. I ask ‘cause I’m not sure—how can artists not make their own art anymore? We do not flinch when other big-time “creatives”—fashion designers, top chefs or architects—employ assistants to materialize their concepts. We still say we are “wearing a Tom Ford” and Yelp that Chef Gusteau’s soup is the best in Paris, knowing well that the suit was made by a team of Polish seamstresses and tonight’s vichyssoise was prepared by the sous. Our expectations of the artist are different. He does not pass on a sketch like a recipe or a blueprint to his staff. He is the creative-creator, not creative-director, and his act of physical work becomes an inherent quality of the final ”work” itself. As he makes it, it gains what theorist Walter Benjamin famously called its “aura,” its unique je ne sais qu’ality, its intangible heritage of the artist’s tangible experience which cannot be replicated. Surely the act of creating large and complex artworks— Da Vinci’s Last Supper, a 10-foot-tall KAWS sculpture, or a Damien Hirst canvas of 10,000 perfectly painted dots—is physically demanding in scope and time, and thus ameliorated by having helpers. Yet how do we justify the instances when the artist is acting more like a big-name fashion designer, not only calling for extra hands, but sometimes not even putting in his own? In other words, when an artist materializes a concept as a painting, sculpture or installation with the aid of his workers, does the physical process of matter even matter anymore? Art History is no stranger to the art-worker phenomenon, and for centuries its biggest OG masters relied upon a slew of helpers to complete most of the world’s famous artworks. While Michelangelo was painstakingly painting the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling from 1508-1512, he did so with the aid of his trusted assistants, who jungle-gymmed across ladders and scaffolding to finish his frescoes. And so it was that the many famed talents represented on the Louvre’s walls today—Titian in the 16th

Unlike today, back when the aristocracy had its head on its shoulders and the Louvre was a king’s palace and not a museum, artists were not creating for the sake of art itself, therapeutic release, landing a Louis Vuitton collab, or high sales goals at Basel. Rather, they worked because they were commissioned by ruling royals and religious figures of the land to create historic paintings of battles, biblical scenes, and handsome royal portraits to fill castles and cathedrals. Therefore, to execute such monumental projects, assistants became as critical of a support system for the artist as were his easels. The National Gallery’s curator of Dutch paintings, Axel Rüger, explains: “Rembrandt ran very large workshops with pupils who had to pay for the privilege. There’s no way that one artist could have cranked out those hundreds of paintings, so they would work with assistants, and a master’s crucial touches to painting were sometimes even contractually determined.” The relationship was equally advantageous, and even pedagogically necessary, for the assistant. Today, a quarter million-dollar fine arts degree cannot even guarantee an internship at Gagosian (you likely need a Masters for that and a well-connected family). And unlike those who constantly attempt to “disrupt” the dominating styles of the time, aspiring creatives since the Renaissance, and centuries after, were scrupulously trying to perfect them. The art world was a tightly controlled faction, led by academic jurors and kings like Louis XIV, who regulated artistic production by imposing certain master’s techniques to follow (the brushstrokes of Rubens or the lines of Poussin—the 1617 “battle of the styles”). Like hip-hop artists who build entire careers on sampling, the fine artist did the same, eager to be shown at the salon and eventually commissioned by an emperor. In sum, simulation, as opposed to innovation, was the original MO to professional artistic success. After the fall of the aristocracy, academic art would fall into disavow and rule-breakers like the Impressionists painting en plein air had little need for studio assistants, let alone the need for a studio. Gaining traction again in the 20th century, artists have upped the need for basic backup; prime the canvas, mix the paints, clean the edges—and in more recent history, operational tasks—call Gagosian, plan the exhibition, pass the Xanax, make a video, post on Instagram. Today, assistants in media and technology help artists extend their work into newer areas. An artist like Jeremyville has a hand that is so present in his art that he often creates it live (like in the vitrine at colette in Paris during his solo show).

249


Words Anya Firestone

Illustration Clara Lacy

LOOK MoMA, NO HANDS! The Irony of the Artist’s Assistants In today’s material world where hired helpers make high-art reach higher-prices, how might we understand the value of a “work” of art upon learning that its namesake’s creator might not have even worked on it during the creative process? When it comes to defining the responsibilities between the artist and his assistants, where do we, quite literally, draw the line? 248

Damn, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore I ask ‘cause I’m not sure Does anyone make real shit anymore? Bow in the presence of greatness ‘Cause right now thou hast forsaken us — Kanye West

century, Rubens and Rembrandt in the 17th, Fragonard and Jacques-Louis David in the 18th—all hired (and fired) numerous apprentices to help create the masterpieces that defined their careers.

In the sparkling halls of the Louvre Museum, where frescoed angels greet us on gilded ceilings and the hand-painted portraits of kings throw shade, we walk past art history’s greatest masterpieces, and painfully lament that, sigh, Kanye is finally right: They sure don’t make them like this anymore. In the glamorous hodgepodge that defines today’s material culture, where luxury labels and Art Basel parties go hand-in-handbag, where JAY-Z films music videos in white-wall galleries, and where everyone coronates themselves as “creatives,” using words like “curate” to talk about Instagram, we have been Ubered to a point so obsessed with the concept of art, that today’s celebrity artists no longer even need to make their art themselves. I ask ‘cause I’m not sure—how can artists not make their own art anymore? We do not flinch when other big-time “creatives”—fashion designers, top chefs or architects—employ assistants to materialize their concepts. We still say we are “wearing a Tom Ford” and Yelp that Chef Gusteau’s soup is the best in Paris, knowing well that the suit was made by a team of Polish seamstresses and tonight’s vichyssoise was prepared by the sous. Our expectations of the artist are different. He does not pass on a sketch like a recipe or a blueprint to his staff. He is the creative-creator, not creative-director, and his act of physical work becomes an inherent quality of the final ”work” itself. As he makes it, it gains what theorist Walter Benjamin famously called its “aura,” its unique je ne sais qu’ality, its intangible heritage of the artist’s tangible experience which cannot be replicated. Surely the act of creating large and complex artworks— Da Vinci’s Last Supper, a 10-foot-tall KAWS sculpture, or a Damien Hirst canvas of 10,000 perfectly painted dots—is physically demanding in scope and time, and thus ameliorated by having helpers. Yet how do we justify the instances when the artist is acting more like a big-name fashion designer, not only calling for extra hands, but sometimes not even putting in his own? In other words, when an artist materializes a concept as a painting, sculpture or installation with the aid of his workers, does the physical process of matter even matter anymore? Art History is no stranger to the art-worker phenomenon, and for centuries its biggest OG masters relied upon a slew of helpers to complete most of the world’s famous artworks. While Michelangelo was painstakingly painting the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling from 1508-1512, he did so with the aid of his trusted assistants, who jungle-gymmed across ladders and scaffolding to finish his frescoes. And so it was that the many famed talents represented on the Louvre’s walls today—Titian in the 16th

Unlike today, back when the aristocracy had its head on its shoulders and the Louvre was a king’s palace and not a museum, artists were not creating for the sake of art itself, therapeutic release, landing a Louis Vuitton collab, or high sales goals at Basel. Rather, they worked because they were commissioned by ruling royals and religious figures of the land to create historic paintings of battles, biblical scenes, and handsome royal portraits to fill castles and cathedrals. Therefore, to execute such monumental projects, assistants became as critical of a support system for the artist as were his easels. The National Gallery’s curator of Dutch paintings, Axel Rüger, explains: “Rembrandt ran very large workshops with pupils who had to pay for the privilege. There’s no way that one artist could have cranked out those hundreds of paintings, so they would work with assistants, and a master’s crucial touches to painting were sometimes even contractually determined.” The relationship was equally advantageous, and even pedagogically necessary, for the assistant. Today, a quarter million-dollar fine arts degree cannot even guarantee an internship at Gagosian (you likely need a Masters for that and a well-connected family). And unlike those who constantly attempt to “disrupt” the dominating styles of the time, aspiring creatives since the Renaissance, and centuries after, were scrupulously trying to perfect them. The art world was a tightly controlled faction, led by academic jurors and kings like Louis XIV, who regulated artistic production by imposing certain master’s techniques to follow (the brushstrokes of Rubens or the lines of Poussin—the 1617 “battle of the styles”). Like hip-hop artists who build entire careers on sampling, the fine artist did the same, eager to be shown at the salon and eventually commissioned by an emperor. In sum, simulation, as opposed to innovation, was the original MO to professional artistic success. After the fall of the aristocracy, academic art would fall into disavow and rule-breakers like the Impressionists painting en plein air had little need for studio assistants, let alone the need for a studio. Gaining traction again in the 20th century, artists have upped the need for basic backup; prime the canvas, mix the paints, clean the edges—and in more recent history, operational tasks—call Gagosian, plan the exhibition, pass the Xanax, make a video, post on Instagram. Today, assistants in media and technology help artists extend their work into newer areas. An artist like Jeremyville has a hand that is so present in his art that he often creates it live (like in the vitrine at colette in Paris during his solo show).

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“My art is a lot about the process, the way it is made, and the moment in time each piece represents,” he explains. Yet despite his physical proximity being tantamount to the work, Jeremyville calls upon casting experts with new technology to assist him in translating his drawings into three-dimensional cast objects, like a seven-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture. “All approaches to me are valid. The art is in choosing the right tools and medium to get the idea across,” he adds. Similarly, artist OLEK, known for her hand-crocheted public artworks, will sometimes use hundreds of hands as a tool to create massive installations that bring attention to social issues such as equality; when she crocheted an entire women’s shelter in India or covered an 80-foot-tall Obelisk in Chile, assistantship provided pragmatic help while contributing to her greater goal to “transform the process of making art from a solitary act to a collective adventure.” In sharp contrast, British multi-millionaire Damien Hirst hires dozens of workers to create his iconic spot paintings—white canvases covered in thousands of perfectly painted, randomly chosen colored circles. There is no new media applied here, nor any meaningful social message about the process (socialism is another story). Artist David Hockney openly rejects those who pay talent to make art which is sold solely under their name, arguing it is “insulting” to the craft; after publicly criticizing Hirst for doing so, Hockney installed a sign at his Royal Academy exhibition that read: “All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally.” If “artists” like Hirst depend upon human workshops to make their art for them but still get the credit (and the paycheck), does this mean that anyone who has a good idea for an object, and the money to fund a warehouse filled with MFA grads to make it, suddenly merits a solo show at the MoMA? Not really. Yet despite the fact that many may hold Hockney’s traditional view of the “artist,” we are obliged to confront the mightier voices of art history—the institutions, academics, curators, collectors and gallerinas who ingratiate these obscenely priced, otherhand-made works into their gallery atria, coffee table books and Hamptons homes. For we have reached a critical moment in material culture wherein the single artwork to hold the highest auction record by a living artist, is a sculpture made by an artist who did not make it. Enter Jeff Koons, into his high-ceiling Chelsea art studio where he directs more than 100 studio assistants who ‘Work it, make it, do it, harder-better-faster’ for him, meticulously executing phantasmic oversized art pieces like shiny balloon dogs, pop-esque paintings, and giant lobsters that resemble pool inflatables on which every “creative” on Instagram wants to be photographed.

John Powers, a previous “serf” of Koons, described factorylike conditions when he painted Cracked Egg, part of Koons’ ‘Celebration’ series. After four other staffed-painters colormatched and labeled each hue and gradient for his use, Powers took a paintbrush-head the size of an eyelash to meticulously create a manufactured-like perfectly executed surface for $14 an hour. He likened the task to painting by numbers. Jerry Saltz, artworld provocateur and senior art critic for New York Magazine, has praised some of Koons’ paintings “for looking like they’ve never been touched by living beings but have been made by scores, maybe hundreds, of hands, almost transcending human touch, for their mutilating of ambiguities.” In 2003, the Cracked Egg sold at Christie’s auction for just over half a million dollars, cracking the record as Koons’ most expensive work at the time. If we follow Saltz’s train of thought, and reason that it is the concept of uncredited craft itself that holds mysterious value, then the bigger question at hand, quite literally, becomes phenomenological: How can we conceptually grasp, or even attempt to justify, that an anonymous exertion of labor could be proposed as an artist’s valid “technique” of fine arts practice? This is not the first time history has questioned the paradoxical validity of a work art by an artist who did not make it. A century ago, in 1917, French artist Marcel Duchamp took a manufactured urinal, signed it “R.Mutt,” and put it (upside-down) on display. The avant-garde gesture insinuated that the act of physical creation was not necessarily the responsibility of the artist. A readymade became the artwork Fountain because Duchamp selected and placed it in an exhibitionary context, creating a new thought for that thing. The work was completed not by the machine, nor the artist, nor his assistant, but by the viewer himself, what Duchamp calls the “artist’s coefficient,” who finishes the creative act upon contemplating the absurdity of that thing as proper “art.” Andy Warhol extended Duchampian avant-gardism. He fetishized the everyday mass-manufactured goods—the Brillo pad and Campbell’s soup can—to create a spectacle of banality, as he felt that the images of great art, like the masterworks in the Louvre, had become so overly reproduced and circulated that the originals were reduced in history to visual clichés. In Warhol’s New York studio dubbed the “Factory,” filled with drag queens, porn stars, socialites and anti-socialites, Warhol developed various “hands-free” modes of art-making. Mechanical methods like photography, printing and silkscreening allowed him to displace his own hand a certain distance from the work so as to emulate mass production. “I am working on every level, artistic, commercial, advertising,” he said. Warhol was not using the machine to make art. He was the machine. “I am nothing and I can function!” he said. Koons, contrastingly, thinks he is something and does not function. He admits to the fact that he lacks the talent to

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execute the work and thus removes himself from the painting and sculpting processes altogether. “I’m basically an ideas person,” he explains, “I’m not physically involved in the production. I don’t have the necessary abilities, so I go to the top people.” Saltz recalls witnessing Koons in a Madrid club a decade before Cracked Egg was painted. “I watched him confront a skeptical critic while smashing himself in the face, repeating, ‘You don’t get it, man. I’m a fucking genius.’” Then, exactly a decade after Cracked Egg sold at Christie’s, Koons’ Balloon Dog Orange, a stainless steel-coated sculpture assembled and polished by his creative Keebler elves, shattered the world market with a record $58.4 million sale. How have we ended up here? So high but feeling so…low? Art history allowed Duchamp to turn the readymade into art, and for Warhol to turn the artist into a machine. And now, what about Koons? What has he done? The highest grossing creative of our day has succeeded not with readymades, but with “ready maids,” applying, an ironic, extraordinarily traditional, hands-on approach to crafting an artwork—just not doing the “work” himself. So is he a genius? The answer, just like his craftsmanship, absolutely does not matter. Instead, what matters is how we can comfortably call a “Koons” a “Koons” if Koons did not make the “Koons.” It is one of the art world’s finest riddles, and to attempt an understanding, or a challenge, is not to question why the assistant is present, but more so, how the artist is absent. In other words, when we raise our paddles to bid on “a Koons,” what is it that we are truly buying, or rather, buying into? Art in the name of craft, or art in the name of concept? It seems, just art in the name of the name. For this artist did not make art; instead, he made art history, and created its biggest brand name of all: Jeff Koons. “Just as Koons was a positive emblem of an era when art was re-engaging with the world beyond itself,” Saltz explains of the artist’s career evolution. “He is now emblematic of one where only masters of the universe can play.” And now we are here, back in the Louvre where we started, humming to the sound of Kanye West’s “Stronger.” This time, we are next to the Mona Lisa celebrating “The Masters,” a 2017 art collaboration by Koons for Louis Vuitton, seated at an ironic dinner party that, after Da Vinci’s Last Supper, merits nomination as art history’s most significant scene of consumption. While Koons has participated in brand collaborations before, from Supreme to Dom Perignon, those projects have only re-contextualized his own (assistant-made) artworks. This time, importantly, Koons is not putting his own Balloon Dog on a handbag like he did for H&M, but instead reappropriating art history’s greatest hand-painted masterpieces on luxury goods. Comprising 51 pieces, including the brand’s classic handbag models like the Speedy, Neverfull, and an assortment of wallets, keychains and scarves, The Masters Collection features images

of some of the world’s most famous artworks by artists like Rubens, Titan, and Da Vinci selected by the man of the hour. “Bow in the presence of greatness,” sings Kanye. Let us recall that in the days of the Masters, art was made because rulers paid for it. Beyond being decorative work for the elite, it was also a propagandistic visualization of power, wealth and religion. So must we be stunned that half a millennia later, the art world operates under parallel circumstances, creating luxury forms of visual branding for the wealthy all-stars of their times just in a new, and quite literally, contemporary fashion? Big names and bigger concepts of art have always defined material culture; now, they come back again as materialism proper, on a $4,000 luxury handbag, notably hosted and accepted by one of the most famous art institutions in the world where it all started. And just like that, Louis Vuitton has replaced King Louis as the art world’s golden demagogue sovereign, without even having to leave the building. Listen oh would-be art historians, sneakerheads, luxury marketers and self-proclaimed creatives! If the artist has evolved into a luxury brand, then where does that leave the future of art? Turn your attention to see what has become not of names but of art itself, the world’s biggest cultural signifier of power, fame and fortune! See how we have praised the artist’s hand (and often unknowingly, his assistant’s) and then look down to find a messenger bag in your own, carrying all the baggage of intangible value itself. How do we attach multi-million dollar tags to one name with hundreds of anonymous hands? Or, when will someone admit that we cannot, and have just been Punk’d by art history in the world’s most expensive joke? Exiting the museum, we double kiss Bernard Arnault au revoir, and, passing a sign that reads “DO NOT TOUCH THE ART,” exchange a sinister smile with Mona Lisa and grab our DA VINCI clutch. On the bag, the iconic face of Lisa Gherardini still grins, just now beneath large, gold-plated metallic letters: DA VINCI. They glisten like a hip-hop artist’s bling, reminiscent of Lil Jon’s legendary diamond necklace that reflectively spells “CRUNK AIN’T DEAD”. DA VINCI is not a signature nor even an artist anymore, but a word on a commemorative tombstone, a sign of a no longer existing sign system, and a visual signifier that while “ART AIN’T DEAD,” the artist’s responsibilities are, and have been resurrected anew. As DA VINCI sparkles on the clutch, wedged between the golden “LV” monogram and Koons’ own initials, we cannot help but LOL at the irony of his intertwined letters; styled just like the company’s signature logo, Mona laughs right back at us, as they visually proclaim: JK!

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‘Cause it’s Louis Vuitton Don night, So we gon’ do everything that Kan like. — Kanye West


“My art is a lot about the process, the way it is made, and the moment in time each piece represents,” he explains. Yet despite his physical proximity being tantamount to the work, Jeremyville calls upon casting experts with new technology to assist him in translating his drawings into three-dimensional cast objects, like a seven-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture. “All approaches to me are valid. The art is in choosing the right tools and medium to get the idea across,” he adds. Similarly, artist OLEK, known for her hand-crocheted public artworks, will sometimes use hundreds of hands as a tool to create massive installations that bring attention to social issues such as equality; when she crocheted an entire women’s shelter in India or covered an 80-foot-tall Obelisk in Chile, assistantship provided pragmatic help while contributing to her greater goal to “transform the process of making art from a solitary act to a collective adventure.” In sharp contrast, British multi-millionaire Damien Hirst hires dozens of workers to create his iconic spot paintings—white canvases covered in thousands of perfectly painted, randomly chosen colored circles. There is no new media applied here, nor any meaningful social message about the process (socialism is another story). Artist David Hockney openly rejects those who pay talent to make art which is sold solely under their name, arguing it is “insulting” to the craft; after publicly criticizing Hirst for doing so, Hockney installed a sign at his Royal Academy exhibition that read: “All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally.” If “artists” like Hirst depend upon human workshops to make their art for them but still get the credit (and the paycheck), does this mean that anyone who has a good idea for an object, and the money to fund a warehouse filled with MFA grads to make it, suddenly merits a solo show at the MoMA? Not really. Yet despite the fact that many may hold Hockney’s traditional view of the “artist,” we are obliged to confront the mightier voices of art history—the institutions, academics, curators, collectors and gallerinas who ingratiate these obscenely priced, otherhand-made works into their gallery atria, coffee table books and Hamptons homes. For we have reached a critical moment in material culture wherein the single artwork to hold the highest auction record by a living artist, is a sculpture made by an artist who did not make it. Enter Jeff Koons, into his high-ceiling Chelsea art studio where he directs more than 100 studio assistants who ‘Work it, make it, do it, harder-better-faster’ for him, meticulously executing phantasmic oversized art pieces like shiny balloon dogs, pop-esque paintings, and giant lobsters that resemble pool inflatables on which every “creative” on Instagram wants to be photographed.

John Powers, a previous “serf” of Koons, described factorylike conditions when he painted Cracked Egg, part of Koons’ ‘Celebration’ series. After four other staffed-painters colormatched and labeled each hue and gradient for his use, Powers took a paintbrush-head the size of an eyelash to meticulously create a manufactured-like perfectly executed surface for $14 an hour. He likened the task to painting by numbers. Jerry Saltz, artworld provocateur and senior art critic for New York Magazine, has praised some of Koons’ paintings “for looking like they’ve never been touched by living beings but have been made by scores, maybe hundreds, of hands, almost transcending human touch, for their mutilating of ambiguities.” In 2003, the Cracked Egg sold at Christie’s auction for just over half a million dollars, cracking the record as Koons’ most expensive work at the time. If we follow Saltz’s train of thought, and reason that it is the concept of uncredited craft itself that holds mysterious value, then the bigger question at hand, quite literally, becomes phenomenological: How can we conceptually grasp, or even attempt to justify, that an anonymous exertion of labor could be proposed as an artist’s valid “technique” of fine arts practice? This is not the first time history has questioned the paradoxical validity of a work art by an artist who did not make it. A century ago, in 1917, French artist Marcel Duchamp took a manufactured urinal, signed it “R.Mutt,” and put it (upside-down) on display. The avant-garde gesture insinuated that the act of physical creation was not necessarily the responsibility of the artist. A readymade became the artwork Fountain because Duchamp selected and placed it in an exhibitionary context, creating a new thought for that thing. The work was completed not by the machine, nor the artist, nor his assistant, but by the viewer himself, what Duchamp calls the “artist’s coefficient,” who finishes the creative act upon contemplating the absurdity of that thing as proper “art.” Andy Warhol extended Duchampian avant-gardism. He fetishized the everyday mass-manufactured goods—the Brillo pad and Campbell’s soup can—to create a spectacle of banality, as he felt that the images of great art, like the masterworks in the Louvre, had become so overly reproduced and circulated that the originals were reduced in history to visual clichés. In Warhol’s New York studio dubbed the “Factory,” filled with drag queens, porn stars, socialites and anti-socialites, Warhol developed various “hands-free” modes of art-making. Mechanical methods like photography, printing and silkscreening allowed him to displace his own hand a certain distance from the work so as to emulate mass production. “I am working on every level, artistic, commercial, advertising,” he said. Warhol was not using the machine to make art. He was the machine. “I am nothing and I can function!” he said. Koons, contrastingly, thinks he is something and does not function. He admits to the fact that he lacks the talent to

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execute the work and thus removes himself from the painting and sculpting processes altogether. “I’m basically an ideas person,” he explains, “I’m not physically involved in the production. I don’t have the necessary abilities, so I go to the top people.” Saltz recalls witnessing Koons in a Madrid club a decade before Cracked Egg was painted. “I watched him confront a skeptical critic while smashing himself in the face, repeating, ‘You don’t get it, man. I’m a fucking genius.’” Then, exactly a decade after Cracked Egg sold at Christie’s, Koons’ Balloon Dog Orange, a stainless steel-coated sculpture assembled and polished by his creative Keebler elves, shattered the world market with a record $58.4 million sale. How have we ended up here? So high but feeling so…low? Art history allowed Duchamp to turn the readymade into art, and for Warhol to turn the artist into a machine. And now, what about Koons? What has he done? The highest grossing creative of our day has succeeded not with readymades, but with “ready maids,” applying, an ironic, extraordinarily traditional, hands-on approach to crafting an artwork—just not doing the “work” himself. So is he a genius? The answer, just like his craftsmanship, absolutely does not matter. Instead, what matters is how we can comfortably call a “Koons” a “Koons” if Koons did not make the “Koons.” It is one of the art world’s finest riddles, and to attempt an understanding, or a challenge, is not to question why the assistant is present, but more so, how the artist is absent. In other words, when we raise our paddles to bid on “a Koons,” what is it that we are truly buying, or rather, buying into? Art in the name of craft, or art in the name of concept? It seems, just art in the name of the name. For this artist did not make art; instead, he made art history, and created its biggest brand name of all: Jeff Koons. “Just as Koons was a positive emblem of an era when art was re-engaging with the world beyond itself,” Saltz explains of the artist’s career evolution. “He is now emblematic of one where only masters of the universe can play.” And now we are here, back in the Louvre where we started, humming to the sound of Kanye West’s “Stronger.” This time, we are next to the Mona Lisa celebrating “The Masters,” a 2017 art collaboration by Koons for Louis Vuitton, seated at an ironic dinner party that, after Da Vinci’s Last Supper, merits nomination as art history’s most significant scene of consumption. While Koons has participated in brand collaborations before, from Supreme to Dom Perignon, those projects have only re-contextualized his own (assistant-made) artworks. This time, importantly, Koons is not putting his own Balloon Dog on a handbag like he did for H&M, but instead reappropriating art history’s greatest hand-painted masterpieces on luxury goods. Comprising 51 pieces, including the brand’s classic handbag models like the Speedy, Neverfull, and an assortment of wallets, keychains and scarves, The Masters Collection features images

of some of the world’s most famous artworks by artists like Rubens, Titan, and Da Vinci selected by the man of the hour. “Bow in the presence of greatness,” sings Kanye. Let us recall that in the days of the Masters, art was made because rulers paid for it. Beyond being decorative work for the elite, it was also a propagandistic visualization of power, wealth and religion. So must we be stunned that half a millennia later, the art world operates under parallel circumstances, creating luxury forms of visual branding for the wealthy all-stars of their times just in a new, and quite literally, contemporary fashion? Big names and bigger concepts of art have always defined material culture; now, they come back again as materialism proper, on a $4,000 luxury handbag, notably hosted and accepted by one of the most famous art institutions in the world where it all started. And just like that, Louis Vuitton has replaced King Louis as the art world’s golden demagogue sovereign, without even having to leave the building. Listen oh would-be art historians, sneakerheads, luxury marketers and self-proclaimed creatives! If the artist has evolved into a luxury brand, then where does that leave the future of art? Turn your attention to see what has become not of names but of art itself, the world’s biggest cultural signifier of power, fame and fortune! See how we have praised the artist’s hand (and often unknowingly, his assistant’s) and then look down to find a messenger bag in your own, carrying all the baggage of intangible value itself. How do we attach multi-million dollar tags to one name with hundreds of anonymous hands? Or, when will someone admit that we cannot, and have just been Punk’d by art history in the world’s most expensive joke? Exiting the museum, we double kiss Bernard Arnault au revoir, and, passing a sign that reads “DO NOT TOUCH THE ART,” exchange a sinister smile with Mona Lisa and grab our DA VINCI clutch. On the bag, the iconic face of Lisa Gherardini still grins, just now beneath large, gold-plated metallic letters: DA VINCI. They glisten like a hip-hop artist’s bling, reminiscent of Lil Jon’s legendary diamond necklace that reflectively spells “CRUNK AIN’T DEAD”. DA VINCI is not a signature nor even an artist anymore, but a word on a commemorative tombstone, a sign of a no longer existing sign system, and a visual signifier that while “ART AIN’T DEAD,” the artist’s responsibilities are, and have been resurrected anew. As DA VINCI sparkles on the clutch, wedged between the golden “LV” monogram and Koons’ own initials, we cannot help but LOL at the irony of his intertwined letters; styled just like the company’s signature logo, Mona laughs right back at us, as they visually proclaim: JK!

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‘Cause it’s Louis Vuitton Don night, So we gon’ do everything that Kan like. — Kanye West


Illustration Clara Lacy

Words Eileen Sommerman & Anne Marsella

The Excruciants After re-meeting at a bar in Paris, two women who move a lot start  an ongoing exchange that cuts and binds new and old, here and there. Moving from Paris to India to the Sierras to Toronto,  they have an amorphous volley. Attracted by pleasure and pain, yoga, love, dark lakes and tall trees, natural wine, and Hélène Cixous, the two are building a sensual and sincere story.  

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Illustration Clara Lacy

Words Eileen Sommerman & Anne Marsella

The Excruciants After re-meeting at a bar in Paris, two women who move a lot start  an ongoing exchange that cuts and binds new and old, here and there. Moving from Paris to India to the Sierras to Toronto,  they have an amorphous volley. Attracted by pleasure and pain, yoga, love, dark lakes and tall trees, natural wine, and Hélène Cixous, the two are building a sensual and sincere story.  

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Dear A,

Dear E,

Dear A,

As soon as I know I’m on my way there I kind of feel my body more. It’s a thrill riding along beach road with waves crashing on one side and ashram buildings on the other. The sun’s super hot and blinding, it feels like I’m moving through a tunnel. At the end of it I curve right into the fishing village. I hug the beach most of the way but here it feels like I’m riding through living rooms. People spill out into the street and as I pass they heckle at me. It’s tight so I’m riding at their feet. I’m an intruder, they’re bored and I’m sensitive, so I keep rolling. I love to ride these broken roads. The cracking music from the temple and the smell of fish. Can you imagine it? People lulling in a way that makes me strangely happy. It reminds me about nothing. Everything seems fleeting and soft even if it’s rough as hell. I usually take the wrong cutoff because the passage to his house was blocked for a festival. The first time I came Vidya told me to turn at the narrow lane just after Mother’s Guest House. He was waiting outside for me. After that the lane was blocked. I should turn either before or after and I always go too far. The chamber is at the end of a sandy lane. I lean my cycle and as I click the integrated lock on the back wheel I note how fucking easy it is. I feel like I have a notepad somewhere inside near my pelvis where the marks are like a gash or a gush depending on what it is. In the antechamber we wash our feet with water and a light scrub on the sparkly granite stone before we go in. Ah the veneration and disgust with feet here is loaded. I’m on the ground so his crotch is at eye level. He has no hair on his legs and he’s tiny. His body is like a little boy but his head is ancient. With two wooden supports he splays my shoulders to liberate my lungs and open my heart...

The tunnel, the outdoor living rooms, the ablutions and briny air… I am trying to imagine you cycling through so many sensations as you lose, then find yourself at the foot of this boy-size sage. What does it feel like to unlock your chest in strange quarters? In a “chamber” as you call it, on the other side of the world? It is muggy in Paris. Hipsters and refugees are diving off the high bridge on the Canal de l’Ourcq into the urban muck. I stop for a moment to watch. Two refugees are lathering up, their scalps whipped into white meringue. Their sister (I assume) mans a caramel-colored bottle of Dop shampoo.   It was tempting to investigate the water sports more, but I was headed to the gym, to a new yoga class advertised as “Yoga with Anda.” The room was almost full when I arrived; everyone looked serious and seriously equipped. I plucked a mat, a wooly blanket, and two bricks from the stash and set up camp behind a woman practicing handstands. Then Anda arrived, nodded and began mechanically narrating and performing a sequence of poses that quickly had me grunting and wondering if I hadn’t mistakenly wandered into CrossFit bootcamp. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed the haunches of the handstand woman; they were impressive, both amphibian and entrepreneurial. To my right, a Frenchman in red rugby shorts snorted pungently.  A three-second shavasana, then allez hop! It was time to clear out for the judo class.  This is what I call drive-through yoga. A far cry from your experience with the sage. This said, as I was leaving, I accidentally bumped into a man with the bluest eyes—you would think he had the Mediterranean inside him—and he took my hand to apologise, so gently and so utterly unlike anyone French. And I felt my heart leap as if my shoulders were splayed by wooden supports.

I don’t know Paris in the summer... I always leave. I’m just noticing that girls are really cute here in the heat. I somehow didn’t notice it ‘til this moment as I’m writing you and looking down over the terrace from the same high seat I was in last night. There’s not so many great spots in Toronto so here I am again drinking biodynamic stuff. Girls in tube tops and high-waisted cutoff shorts with straight hair and sunglasses. These girls are sexy and they know it.   The city park’s another great thing here. It’s flat and funny. Everything revolves around it.  I’m happy to hear about Mr. Mediterranean. Hope you see him again. I have a friend who had a steamy affair with a guy that lived in her district in the 5e, after she kept running into him and, as she said, they fucked with their eyes. Turned out he was a psychopath, but they made beautiful love while it lasted. Pity about the yoga. Why fuck with such a beautiful thing (this stands only for yoga). These perfect sequences where science meets the spirit. I’ve had many bad teachers who must have had bad teachers. The original thing is to

256

master the practice as it is, not as you want it to be. In fact yoga’s the only thing I follow well. It’s about you only, but also about everyone and everything else; not so easy. It’s also about speed. Are you fast or slowish? I’m definitely slowish.   Vidya is always seated reading Iyengar books when we come into the chamber with ropes that look like nooses lining the walls. He’s formal but he laughs a lot. I like the way he tells me what to do and I listen. He’s out of time and it’s just beautiful to be in his world. But I’m here now...

Dear E,

Dear A,

That makes you a true Parisian, leaving in the summer. Why do I smile imagining you lifting your glass of biodynamic to the scantily-clad Toronto girls? Maybe I just enjoy it when women express their erotic beauty spontaneously—even if knowingly. You and the straight-haired demoiselles.  During the heatwave—it has cooled since—I discovered three young women splashing in the canal. It was 9:30 a.m. and they had stripped down to their panties, jumped into the water. “How is it?” I asked, as one of them pulled herself up onto the canal bank, water dripping off taut breasts the size of California peaches. She didn’t rush to a towel but stood there and pulled her hair into a ponytail to ring water from it. “Elle est super bonne! Amazing!” she enthused. “Isn’t it dirty?” I asked. “C’est crade! It’s filthy but I don’t care. I’m cooled off!”   I scanned the vicinity to make sure there were no leering men, no potential predators who might intrude upon this nonchalant display of refreshing body and spirit.   I confess to feeling two things: excitement, for to not feel this at the sight of the female body is to fail to feel excitement for the life that body gave us; and secondly, a sisterly concern for their safety. Apparently unnecessary. Like the Toronto girls, the parisiennes owned their sexiness; they were not pandering to any male gaze, they were tuned in to their pleasure.  No sign of Mr. Mediterranean. I’ve decided to attend a tantra class this Thursday. It’s once a month, I usually attend. And talk about eye-fucking. That’s usually where we begin each class, looking into a partner’s eyes, sometimes for as long as five minutes. It’s a meditation practice that makes you both exceedingly vulnerable and loving of that vulnerability. Like love-making at its best. If people were really fucking properly, there’d be no need for mindfulness courses. The way you describe yoga makes me think of experiences of communion; like the ritual of the French meal, which is structured and everyone eats the same thing. Am I completely wrong to think this?  Oh, and I’m definitely slowish like you; what sensualist isn’t?

Les parisiennes... taut boobs and flat stomachs. There’s no consensus on the bums though. I love that you felt compelled to protect the hot girls. You’re one of them and one with them. I’ve had two brushes with tantra and they were illicit and sexy and not much like you describe. The first came through the Chilean boy in his pitch black room at the ashram, and the other with the body worker from Osho who might have been sent to test me. Both made me think that tantra is something I need more of in my life! I guess tantra, like yoga, is kind of lost. We need good teachers. Your class sounds right on, but most of us know it as a way to have longer sex rather than different sex. Can I go to the class with you one day? Or maybe we can do our own thing and you can be the teacher? The sustained gaze could be shattering. I think it would be a gush rather than a gash. I was so fucking happy when the French meal got deconstructed a few years ago and the cave à vins popped up everywhere. I’ve always struggled with the entree + plat thing, and though the formality and complicity around meals is impressive, it’s not my jam. I think the French are better at eating than pretty much the rest of the world, and I think you’re right about ritual, but in this case I’m too new world; it’s not my story. It’s late and I need to sleep. We went to the countryside yesterday and came back this evening. I had the most beautiful swim in the black lake last night when we arrived. The water felt warm and I was so in my body. A kind of yoga. It rained all day today and we saw a rainbow on the drive back which was thrilling.

257


Dear A,

Dear E,

Dear A,

As soon as I know I’m on my way there I kind of feel my body more. It’s a thrill riding along beach road with waves crashing on one side and ashram buildings on the other. The sun’s super hot and blinding, it feels like I’m moving through a tunnel. At the end of it I curve right into the fishing village. I hug the beach most of the way but here it feels like I’m riding through living rooms. People spill out into the street and as I pass they heckle at me. It’s tight so I’m riding at their feet. I’m an intruder, they’re bored and I’m sensitive, so I keep rolling. I love to ride these broken roads. The cracking music from the temple and the smell of fish. Can you imagine it? People lulling in a way that makes me strangely happy. It reminds me about nothing. Everything seems fleeting and soft even if it’s rough as hell. I usually take the wrong cutoff because the passage to his house was blocked for a festival. The first time I came Vidya told me to turn at the narrow lane just after Mother’s Guest House. He was waiting outside for me. After that the lane was blocked. I should turn either before or after and I always go too far. The chamber is at the end of a sandy lane. I lean my cycle and as I click the integrated lock on the back wheel I note how fucking easy it is. I feel like I have a notepad somewhere inside near my pelvis where the marks are like a gash or a gush depending on what it is. In the antechamber we wash our feet with water and a light scrub on the sparkly granite stone before we go in. Ah the veneration and disgust with feet here is loaded. I’m on the ground so his crotch is at eye level. He has no hair on his legs and he’s tiny. His body is like a little boy but his head is ancient. With two wooden supports he splays my shoulders to liberate my lungs and open my heart...

The tunnel, the outdoor living rooms, the ablutions and briny air… I am trying to imagine you cycling through so many sensations as you lose, then find yourself at the foot of this boy-size sage. What does it feel like to unlock your chest in strange quarters? In a “chamber” as you call it, on the other side of the world? It is muggy in Paris. Hipsters and refugees are diving off the high bridge on the Canal de l’Ourcq into the urban muck. I stop for a moment to watch. Two refugees are lathering up, their scalps whipped into white meringue. Their sister (I assume) mans a caramel-colored bottle of Dop shampoo.   It was tempting to investigate the water sports more, but I was headed to the gym, to a new yoga class advertised as “Yoga with Anda.” The room was almost full when I arrived; everyone looked serious and seriously equipped. I plucked a mat, a wooly blanket, and two bricks from the stash and set up camp behind a woman practicing handstands. Then Anda arrived, nodded and began mechanically narrating and performing a sequence of poses that quickly had me grunting and wondering if I hadn’t mistakenly wandered into CrossFit bootcamp. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed the haunches of the handstand woman; they were impressive, both amphibian and entrepreneurial. To my right, a Frenchman in red rugby shorts snorted pungently.  A three-second shavasana, then allez hop! It was time to clear out for the judo class.  This is what I call drive-through yoga. A far cry from your experience with the sage. This said, as I was leaving, I accidentally bumped into a man with the bluest eyes—you would think he had the Mediterranean inside him—and he took my hand to apologise, so gently and so utterly unlike anyone French. And I felt my heart leap as if my shoulders were splayed by wooden supports.

I don’t know Paris in the summer... I always leave. I’m just noticing that girls are really cute here in the heat. I somehow didn’t notice it ‘til this moment as I’m writing you and looking down over the terrace from the same high seat I was in last night. There’s not so many great spots in Toronto so here I am again drinking biodynamic stuff. Girls in tube tops and high-waisted cutoff shorts with straight hair and sunglasses. These girls are sexy and they know it.   The city park’s another great thing here. It’s flat and funny. Everything revolves around it.  I’m happy to hear about Mr. Mediterranean. Hope you see him again. I have a friend who had a steamy affair with a guy that lived in her district in the 5e, after she kept running into him and, as she said, they fucked with their eyes. Turned out he was a psychopath, but they made beautiful love while it lasted. Pity about the yoga. Why fuck with such a beautiful thing (this stands only for yoga). These perfect sequences where science meets the spirit. I’ve had many bad teachers who must have had bad teachers. The original thing is to

256

master the practice as it is, not as you want it to be. In fact yoga’s the only thing I follow well. It’s about you only, but also about everyone and everything else; not so easy. It’s also about speed. Are you fast or slowish? I’m definitely slowish.   Vidya is always seated reading Iyengar books when we come into the chamber with ropes that look like nooses lining the walls. He’s formal but he laughs a lot. I like the way he tells me what to do and I listen. He’s out of time and it’s just beautiful to be in his world. But I’m here now...

Dear E,

Dear A,

That makes you a true Parisian, leaving in the summer. Why do I smile imagining you lifting your glass of biodynamic to the scantily-clad Toronto girls? Maybe I just enjoy it when women express their erotic beauty spontaneously—even if knowingly. You and the straight-haired demoiselles.  During the heatwave—it has cooled since—I discovered three young women splashing in the canal. It was 9:30 a.m. and they had stripped down to their panties, jumped into the water. “How is it?” I asked, as one of them pulled herself up onto the canal bank, water dripping off taut breasts the size of California peaches. She didn’t rush to a towel but stood there and pulled her hair into a ponytail to ring water from it. “Elle est super bonne! Amazing!” she enthused. “Isn’t it dirty?” I asked. “C’est crade! It’s filthy but I don’t care. I’m cooled off!”   I scanned the vicinity to make sure there were no leering men, no potential predators who might intrude upon this nonchalant display of refreshing body and spirit.   I confess to feeling two things: excitement, for to not feel this at the sight of the female body is to fail to feel excitement for the life that body gave us; and secondly, a sisterly concern for their safety. Apparently unnecessary. Like the Toronto girls, the parisiennes owned their sexiness; they were not pandering to any male gaze, they were tuned in to their pleasure.  No sign of Mr. Mediterranean. I’ve decided to attend a tantra class this Thursday. It’s once a month, I usually attend. And talk about eye-fucking. That’s usually where we begin each class, looking into a partner’s eyes, sometimes for as long as five minutes. It’s a meditation practice that makes you both exceedingly vulnerable and loving of that vulnerability. Like love-making at its best. If people were really fucking properly, there’d be no need for mindfulness courses. The way you describe yoga makes me think of experiences of communion; like the ritual of the French meal, which is structured and everyone eats the same thing. Am I completely wrong to think this?  Oh, and I’m definitely slowish like you; what sensualist isn’t?

Les parisiennes... taut boobs and flat stomachs. There’s no consensus on the bums though. I love that you felt compelled to protect the hot girls. You’re one of them and one with them. I’ve had two brushes with tantra and they were illicit and sexy and not much like you describe. The first came through the Chilean boy in his pitch black room at the ashram, and the other with the body worker from Osho who might have been sent to test me. Both made me think that tantra is something I need more of in my life! I guess tantra, like yoga, is kind of lost. We need good teachers. Your class sounds right on, but most of us know it as a way to have longer sex rather than different sex. Can I go to the class with you one day? Or maybe we can do our own thing and you can be the teacher? The sustained gaze could be shattering. I think it would be a gush rather than a gash. I was so fucking happy when the French meal got deconstructed a few years ago and the cave à vins popped up everywhere. I’ve always struggled with the entree + plat thing, and though the formality and complicity around meals is impressive, it’s not my jam. I think the French are better at eating than pretty much the rest of the world, and I think you’re right about ritual, but in this case I’m too new world; it’s not my story. It’s late and I need to sleep. We went to the countryside yesterday and came back this evening. I had the most beautiful swim in the black lake last night when we arrived. The water felt warm and I was so in my body. A kind of yoga. It rained all day today and we saw a rainbow on the drive back which was thrilling.

257


Dear E,

Your run-ins with tantra sound pretty hot; I guess there was no Patagonian eye-gazing in the pitch dark bedroom, but other senses must have been raging. Please tell me more about the challenging massage if you would.   I like to describe tantra as a kind of feral yoga. In class we follow designated meditations but within these “structures” are free to explore our desire creatively, erotically. Safety is of essence, and like you say, good teachers are the key, ones who leave you ample space while keeping the container secure. Tantra is a lot about knowing your desire and honouring it; if a guy asks you to partner with him and you’re not feeling it, your best response is to decline—at the risk of seeming rude. I once made the mistake of saying yes to a man I found a bit repugnant. I was like, be open-minded, give him a try. We got involved in the exercise, a real corps à corps. I was miserable because his energy just didn’t feel clean and the debate in my head was “do I just beast this out or do I end it?” The pressure mounted till I blurted, “I need to stop. Excuse me.” The man looked hurt as I got up and left him, but I was relieved and also proud to have stood for myself.    Here’s the thing about desire in the tantric sense; you don’t have to go anywhere with it. You simply let it expand you. Like your evening swim in the black lake, haloed by a rainbow. I want to say it’s the journey that matters, but who believes this today when we’re so focussed on destinations? We travel—a necessary evil—to get somewhere, we have sex to climax. I dislike the term foreplay because it infers all those delicious caresses are just about getting a woman wet and ready for intercourse. In tantra there are no goals, only the invitation to be present to each breath, each caress, to be entirely in one’s body, feeling each sensation. You are right, the sex takes longer, but this means you can ride your orgasm for hours, as long as you like really. Sting and Trudy give themselves—what is it—five hours?   Been having some Mrs. Robinson—or should I say Mme Macron?—moments. One of the pleasures of being in Paris in the summer.   And definitely come with me to tantra class when you get back. You’ll be like a fish in water.

Dear A,

Dear E,

Just let it expand you. I like this idea so much because I may be too tightly wound. Despite all the yoga I still feel the pressure of the world to hold it together even when my instinct is to unravel.   Nietzsche said “The melancholy of everything completed.” My mantra.   The debate in your head to give the guy a try even though you didn’t want is too familiar. I’ve taken pourquoi pas too far; it’s nearly a pathology for me.      Is tantra the answer?

The pourquoi pas is tricky for sure. Sometimes you can trust it to unravel you properly and it’s not unlike dropping all your weight into a trusty hamac. Other times, it’s just the opposite. Weirdly, this makes me think of St. Teresa of Avila who gaged whether her revelations were true or “God-sent” by passing them through the sieve of her sensations. Her body, her tool of discernment.   On the ecstasy scale she was a powerhouse. A tantrica in a habit. I think you’re right, tantra is the way. Might Nietzsche have tried it?

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Dear A,

Dear E,

Dear A,

Apparently the body doesn’t lie. A tool of discernment as you say. So apt and beautiful. I wish Nietzsche was a tantric. The co-mingling of philosophy, spirituality and sex is the ultimate holy trinity. I looked at images of him to see if he looked tantric-y. Not really, though he was experimental and finally a bit nuts. He spent lots of time in Torino in the late 19th century which is where he had his final breakdown in the piazza saving a horse. And when Bede asked me the other day if I think about living in another time I thought of Nietzsche, Torino, and the late 19th century. Maybe not my ideal time travel but still intriguing. Have you seen the film Ida? 

Yes, I have seen Ida—twice. It’s an exquisite film. The actress who plays Ida, the young nun, has such a beautiful, inscrutable face. I read she’s a first-time actress, a hipster and a feminist. Apparently, she wasn’t keen on the role—or maybe just opposed to wearing a wimple? You have to wonder why the mysterious Ida returns to the convent at the end: she tastes love, the raptures of sex, then renounces them—presumably forever. Is her choice a regression? Or is there a deeper mystical calling?   In my own life the holy trinity got bumped for good when I discovered sex, love, and the Mediterranean one summer. It was a warm, liquid revelation that every inch of me trusted, a homecoming to a foreign land. That’s sort of how sex is for me still—both familiar and other. Add tantra to the equation and the experience is not unlike waterskiing in the clouds—or maybe should I call it cloud-skiing. Definitely strange, but I’m right at home there. I’ve transited to the High Sierras of California and am now sitting on the deck of my family’s old wood cabin at 7,000 feet surrounded by preternaturally tall Jeffrey Pines. These gentle giants dwarf the pines of Europe; two of them stand just 10 feet from me and given their girth must be 200 years old, probably more. While Nietzsche went through his agony with the horse, these peaceful trees towered unobserved.     I was thinking… would you say you lived between Paris and Toronto? It’s the preposition between I find intriguing. It makes no sense, physically speaking. But the mind roams and possibly life happens between thoughts, whether we’re aware of it or not. Do you feel yoga is a way of grounding the between? Don’t know if this makes sense—could be the altitude!

Of course you’ve seen Ida, twice. It’s a bit surprising that she returns but it seems she realizes the plateaus of pleasure and decides, instead, on the ecstatic potential of monastic life. I think I get it.     Love to imagine you high up there in the woods.   In fact I live between Toronto, Paris and India, my holy trinity. And you’re probably right it makes no sense.    P.S. Mme Macron moments, Paris, seduction. Happy summer darling! 

259


Dear E,

Your run-ins with tantra sound pretty hot; I guess there was no Patagonian eye-gazing in the pitch dark bedroom, but other senses must have been raging. Please tell me more about the challenging massage if you would.   I like to describe tantra as a kind of feral yoga. In class we follow designated meditations but within these “structures” are free to explore our desire creatively, erotically. Safety is of essence, and like you say, good teachers are the key, ones who leave you ample space while keeping the container secure. Tantra is a lot about knowing your desire and honouring it; if a guy asks you to partner with him and you’re not feeling it, your best response is to decline—at the risk of seeming rude. I once made the mistake of saying yes to a man I found a bit repugnant. I was like, be open-minded, give him a try. We got involved in the exercise, a real corps à corps. I was miserable because his energy just didn’t feel clean and the debate in my head was “do I just beast this out or do I end it?” The pressure mounted till I blurted, “I need to stop. Excuse me.” The man looked hurt as I got up and left him, but I was relieved and also proud to have stood for myself.    Here’s the thing about desire in the tantric sense; you don’t have to go anywhere with it. You simply let it expand you. Like your evening swim in the black lake, haloed by a rainbow. I want to say it’s the journey that matters, but who believes this today when we’re so focussed on destinations? We travel—a necessary evil—to get somewhere, we have sex to climax. I dislike the term foreplay because it infers all those delicious caresses are just about getting a woman wet and ready for intercourse. In tantra there are no goals, only the invitation to be present to each breath, each caress, to be entirely in one’s body, feeling each sensation. You are right, the sex takes longer, but this means you can ride your orgasm for hours, as long as you like really. Sting and Trudy give themselves—what is it—five hours?   Been having some Mrs. Robinson—or should I say Mme Macron?—moments. One of the pleasures of being in Paris in the summer.   And definitely come with me to tantra class when you get back. You’ll be like a fish in water.

Dear A,

Dear E,

Just let it expand you. I like this idea so much because I may be too tightly wound. Despite all the yoga I still feel the pressure of the world to hold it together even when my instinct is to unravel.   Nietzsche said “The melancholy of everything completed.” My mantra.   The debate in your head to give the guy a try even though you didn’t want is too familiar. I’ve taken pourquoi pas too far; it’s nearly a pathology for me.      Is tantra the answer?

The pourquoi pas is tricky for sure. Sometimes you can trust it to unravel you properly and it’s not unlike dropping all your weight into a trusty hamac. Other times, it’s just the opposite. Weirdly, this makes me think of St. Teresa of Avila who gaged whether her revelations were true or “God-sent” by passing them through the sieve of her sensations. Her body, her tool of discernment.   On the ecstasy scale she was a powerhouse. A tantrica in a habit. I think you’re right, tantra is the way. Might Nietzsche have tried it?

258

Dear A,

Dear E,

Dear A,

Apparently the body doesn’t lie. A tool of discernment as you say. So apt and beautiful. I wish Nietzsche was a tantric. The co-mingling of philosophy, spirituality and sex is the ultimate holy trinity. I looked at images of him to see if he looked tantric-y. Not really, though he was experimental and finally a bit nuts. He spent lots of time in Torino in the late 19th century which is where he had his final breakdown in the piazza saving a horse. And when Bede asked me the other day if I think about living in another time I thought of Nietzsche, Torino, and the late 19th century. Maybe not my ideal time travel but still intriguing. Have you seen the film Ida? 

Yes, I have seen Ida—twice. It’s an exquisite film. The actress who plays Ida, the young nun, has such a beautiful, inscrutable face. I read she’s a first-time actress, a hipster and a feminist. Apparently, she wasn’t keen on the role—or maybe just opposed to wearing a wimple? You have to wonder why the mysterious Ida returns to the convent at the end: she tastes love, the raptures of sex, then renounces them—presumably forever. Is her choice a regression? Or is there a deeper mystical calling?   In my own life the holy trinity got bumped for good when I discovered sex, love, and the Mediterranean one summer. It was a warm, liquid revelation that every inch of me trusted, a homecoming to a foreign land. That’s sort of how sex is for me still—both familiar and other. Add tantra to the equation and the experience is not unlike waterskiing in the clouds—or maybe should I call it cloud-skiing. Definitely strange, but I’m right at home there. I’ve transited to the High Sierras of California and am now sitting on the deck of my family’s old wood cabin at 7,000 feet surrounded by preternaturally tall Jeffrey Pines. These gentle giants dwarf the pines of Europe; two of them stand just 10 feet from me and given their girth must be 200 years old, probably more. While Nietzsche went through his agony with the horse, these peaceful trees towered unobserved.     I was thinking… would you say you lived between Paris and Toronto? It’s the preposition between I find intriguing. It makes no sense, physically speaking. But the mind roams and possibly life happens between thoughts, whether we’re aware of it or not. Do you feel yoga is a way of grounding the between? Don’t know if this makes sense—could be the altitude!

Of course you’ve seen Ida, twice. It’s a bit surprising that she returns but it seems she realizes the plateaus of pleasure and decides, instead, on the ecstatic potential of monastic life. I think I get it.     Love to imagine you high up there in the woods.   In fact I live between Toronto, Paris and India, my holy trinity. And you’re probably right it makes no sense.    P.S. Mme Macron moments, Paris, seduction. Happy summer darling! 

259


Masthead Issue 15 Publisher

Photographers

Producer

David Fischer

Yves Borgwardt, Alexander Bortz,

Thomas Welch

Kenneth Cappello, Editor-in-Chief

Stefano Carloni, Matao Chamorro,

Distribution

Pete Williams

Ahmed Chrediy, Edward Chiu,

Johanna-Indigo Janka, Tabitha Tan

Lydia Garnett, Nicolas Robin Hobbs, Executive Editor

Jake Jones, Omar Khaleel,

Special Thanks

Jeff Carvalho

Xiangyu Liu, Cameron Mcnee,

Scott A. Sant’Angelo,

Olya Oleinic, Lola Paprocka,

Jordan Boothe, James Boughton,

Creative Director

Pani Paul, Benjamin Robinson,

Olivier Bourgis, Jake Boyer,

Edward Chiu

Rio Romaine, Driely S.,

Jelani Day, Julie Gamberoni,

Dominik Schulte, Nick Sethi,

Ari Murakami, Hiroko Okawa,

Art Direction & Design

Adam Katz Sinding, Gunner Stahl,

Anissa Payne, Dominik Prosser,

Son Mok

Tatsuo Suzuki, Thomas Welch,

Nicholas Walter, Kelly Wong

Stefane Yu Fashion Director Atip W

Printing Production Manager

Feindruckerei

Klaudia Podsiadlo

feindruckerei.de

Production Assistant

Contact

Ufuk Inci

magazine@highsnobiety.com

Editorial Directors Brock Cardiner, Jian DeLeon

advertising@highsnobiety.com

Editors Alec Banks, Bianca Giulione,

Head of Brand Partnerships,

Alec Leach

Europe

HQ Address

Ben Hakki

Titel Media GmbH Highsnobiety Magazine

Copy Editor Peter Suh Contributors

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Ritterstrasse 9, 10969 Berlin

North America

Germany

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NY Address

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Brand Partnerships Team

Highsnobiety, Inc.

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Lindsay Blue, John Flood,

Suite 1104, 26 Broadway

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NY, NY 10004

Anne Marsella, Hakim Malema,

Caitlin LeRoux, Saskia Linz,

United States

Natsumi Oh, Eugene Rabkin,

Angus MacEwan, Tiffany Macquet,

Stephanie Smith-Strickland,

Emily Owens, Amy Tran,

Website

Eileen Sommerman, Rachael J Vick

Kristina Truong

highsnobiety.com

Highsnobiety is a trademark under license from Titel Media GmbH. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. All prices and credits are accurate at time of going to press but are subject to change. Manuscripts, photos, drawings and other materials submitted must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Highsnobiety Magazine cannot be held responsible for any solicited material.

260

261


Masthead Issue 15 Publisher

Photographers

Producer

David Fischer

Yves Borgwardt, Alexander Bortz,

Thomas Welch

Kenneth Cappello, Editor-in-Chief

Stefano Carloni, Matao Chamorro,

Distribution

Pete Williams

Ahmed Chrediy, Edward Chiu,

Johanna-Indigo Janka, Tabitha Tan

Lydia Garnett, Nicolas Robin Hobbs, Executive Editor

Jake Jones, Omar Khaleel,

Special Thanks

Jeff Carvalho

Xiangyu Liu, Cameron Mcnee,

Scott A. Sant’Angelo,

Olya Oleinic, Lola Paprocka,

Jordan Boothe, James Boughton,

Creative Director

Pani Paul, Benjamin Robinson,

Olivier Bourgis, Jake Boyer,

Edward Chiu

Rio Romaine, Driely S.,

Jelani Day, Julie Gamberoni,

Dominik Schulte, Nick Sethi,

Ari Murakami, Hiroko Okawa,

Art Direction & Design

Adam Katz Sinding, Gunner Stahl,

Anissa Payne, Dominik Prosser,

Son Mok

Tatsuo Suzuki, Thomas Welch,

Nicholas Walter, Kelly Wong

Stefane Yu Fashion Director Atip W

Printing Production Manager

Feindruckerei

Klaudia Podsiadlo

feindruckerei.de

Production Assistant

Contact

Ufuk Inci

magazine@highsnobiety.com

Editorial Directors Brock Cardiner, Jian DeLeon

advertising@highsnobiety.com

Editors Alec Banks, Bianca Giulione,

Head of Brand Partnerships,

Alec Leach

Europe

HQ Address

Ben Hakki

Titel Media GmbH Highsnobiety Magazine

Copy Editor Peter Suh Contributors

Head of Brand Partnerships,

Ritterstrasse 9, 10969 Berlin

North America

Germany

Rob Miller

Nico Amarca, David Casavant,

NY Address

Julian Consuegra, Anya Firestone,

Brand Partnerships Team

Highsnobiety, Inc.

Barbara Grispini, Naavin Karimbux,

Lindsay Blue, John Flood,

Suite 1104, 26 Broadway

Clara Lacy, Vincent Levy,

Tom Garland, Sebastian KĂśltzsch,

NY, NY 10004

Anne Marsella, Hakim Malema,

Caitlin LeRoux, Saskia Linz,

United States

Natsumi Oh, Eugene Rabkin,

Angus MacEwan, Tiffany Macquet,

Stephanie Smith-Strickland,

Emily Owens, Amy Tran,

Website

Eileen Sommerman, Rachael J Vick

Kristina Truong

highsnobiety.com

Highsnobiety is a trademark under license from Titel Media GmbH. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. All prices and credits are accurate at time of going to press but are subject to change. Manuscripts, photos, drawings and other materials submitted must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Highsnobiety Magazine cannot be held responsible for any solicited material.

260

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Profile for HIGHSNOBIETY

Highsnobiety Magazine 15 - Winter 2017  

Maisie Williams

Highsnobiety Magazine 15 - Winter 2017  

Maisie Williams