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RELAPSE Ian Frisch

Founder, Editor in Chief

Max Louis Miller

Art Director

Tyler Mitchell Photography Editor

Kelsey Paine Abby Kron Alexander Tirpack Staff Writers

Gabrielle Lipton Contributing Writers

Jessica Lehrman Michael Tessier Cole Barash Molly Goldrick Staff Photographers

On the Cover

PHOTOGRAPH JONATHAN BOOKALLIL FASHION DIRECTOR ISE WHITE HAIR JOSEPH DIMAGGIO at UTOPIA NYC for ONESTYLING.COM MAKE UP BOBBY BUJISIC for NARS COSMETICS at JUDY CASEY

Curt Everitt

Creative Vice President

Ise White

Fashion Director

Meghan Hilliard Managing Editor

Ernesto Gonzalez Jonathan Bookallil Marc Pilaro Sarah Kjelleren Griffin Lotz Daymion Mardel Brian Higbee Patrick Postle Nicolas Bets GL Wood Kenji Toma Contributing Photographers

On the Back

PHOTOGRAPH TYLER MITCHELL

MODEL SOLANGE WILVERT at SUPREME

Dress with Leather Detail NICHOLAS K. Spike Cuff JOOMI LIM Gold Cuff and Bracelet NICOLE ROMANO Black Hoop Earrings KAREN LONDON Mixed Chain Necklace KAREN LONDON

PUBLISHED BY RELAPSE MEDIA INC in BROOKLYN, NY PRINTED by BILL DUERR at HATTERAS in NEW YORK, NY


Contents. 8 10 12 14 16 18 22 32 42 50 60 70 80 90 100

Landing on Park Place Planet Coco & Breezy Across the Pond Knit Pick Jersey Boy Beyond the Spectrum Shade The Factory Blacktop Piece by Piece South of Canal Right Hook High Rise Around the Block The Yard


EDITOR’S LETTER

The Blood Running Through Its Veins

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very street in New York City is soaked in history. A rich, undeniable aesthetic that speaks to the way people have lived their lives here— their dreams, ambitions, failures, starting and stopping points. A mark for how things have changed. A landmark, in some instances, where things will go in the future. Because, in their most infant stages, the biggest ideas and the grandest visions always started on the most basic of level—on the street. And, above all else, a byproduct of the city we live in, the way in which New York City embodies its own visions of the world within the interwoven and grid-slapped neighborhoods of its five boroughs. So, for this issue of Relapse, I wanted to highlight that gritty, undeniable quality of New York—a quality sometimes intimidating but, in the end, with so much opportunity to give. From Jonathan Bookallil’s cover editorial featuring model Solange Wilvert set in infamous Chinatown, Kenji Toma’s still-life editorial showcasing New York City architecture, Alexander Tirpack’s look into sunglass designer upstarts Coco & Breezy, Managing Editor Meghan Hilliard’s rare and in-depth interview with Warholite Ultra Violet, and Patrick Postle’s editorial shot at the Modern Vice shoe factory in Manhattan, we are here to celebrate and explore all the different facets that make and embody the highly recognizable street aesthetic in New York City. As I walk down certain streets in New York City—the curving Broadway through Midtown, cobblestoned Mercer in SoHo, trash-soaked Delancey towards the Williamsburg Bridge—I can’t help but think who stood where I stand now. What did they do to this place and, over time, what did this place do to them? How did these streets affect their lives? And, as I decide to walk the bridge instead of taking the train, I look back and can see clusters of people scurrying through the streets of New York like a rush of liquid and, just for a second, I could swear the city had a pulse and was a living thing, aging and changing over time, the people living here—us—the blood running through its veins. Ian Frisch, Editor in Chief


The Machine. Jonathan Bookallil Making his debut in Relapse with “Between the Sheets” for our Virgin Issue, Jonathan Bookallil takes the reigns for the Street Issue, shooting the cover with model Solange Wilvert in his Chinatown story “South of Canal.” Originally from Sydney, Australia, Jonathan moved to London at the age of 19 to pursure a career in fashion photography. By 2003, he was shooting for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar Australia, Elle, Marie Claire, Galmour and InStyle. He has since settled in New York City.

Alexander Tirpack Profiling fashion designer upstarts Coco & Breezy for this issue, Alexander Tirpack made his professional debut working alongside Austin Scaggs at Rolling Stone where he interviewed musicians such as George Clinton, Ben Folds, Graham Nash and Bassnectar. Since then he has published numerous music articles on the Rolling Stone website as well as Joonbug. com. An advocate of Jameson, Alex lives in a log cabin in New Jersey, his native state.

GL Wood Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, with a background in comics and fine arts from the University of Georgia, GL moved to California to focus on teaching. While in Los Angeles, a curiosity of photography emerged. After earning many awards in just a short amoiunt of time, GL decided to move to New York City to further his work. Currently residing here in New York City, GL has traveled all over the world for client and editorial work while continuing to focus on his fine art exhibition and design work.

Kenji Toma After establishing his photography career in his native Tokyo, Japan, stilllife photographer Kenji Toma arrived in New York City in 1990. Since then he has been recognized as one of the leading photographers in his field, known for his unique and mysterious style and detail-orientated vision. He now divides his time between New York and Paris.


Landing on Park Place

Street artist Alec Monopoly channels an Americana pasttime on public canvases

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WORDS ABBY KRON PHOTOGRAPHS GRIFFIN LOTZ

n a late summer evening in SoHo, Alec Monopoly stood before his canvas—a blank sliding door commissioned as a functional piece of artwork for the patron’s TriBeCa loft. The anonymous street artist, who has become known for his depictions of the famous Monopoly character Mr. Pennybags, worked on the stoop outside of a studio he was temporarily sharing with fellow artist Harif Guzman. He wore a tattered top hat and spoke from behind a scarf, wrapped bandana-style around the lower half of his face, a look that has become Alec’s signature. Meanwhile, a steady stream of pedestrians slowed down as they walked by the scene, catching a glimpse of the artist at work. Swiftly and skillfully applying layer upon layer of spray paint, Alec’s choices were unpredictable with new colors and designs emerging every few minutes. Although the busy streets of downtown New York buzzed around him, Alec tuned out his surroundings and was utterly immersed in his work. In many ways, this attitude and focus is one that permeates all aspects of his identity as an artist. “My true passion is street art—that’s where I have the

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most fun,” said Alec. “I’m not going sell out and stop painting in the streets. That’s all I really care about, you know?” This immense passion is what led Alec on his path of becoming the recognizable street artist he is today. In 2008, Alec became enthralled with the Bernie Madoff scandal as it unfolded in the media. He thought of creating a portrait of the disgraced investor—something that offered both social commentary and biting humor. Alec, who learned to paint from his artist mother, recalled his favorite childhood board game of Monopoly for its considerable relevance to the scandal. “Bernie Madoff is similar to the Monopoly man, Mr. Pennybags,” explained Alec. “The object of the game is to bankrupt your opponent and win. I started the canvas that night—but it’s funny, I never finished it because I immediately went out and did graffiti of it. The canvas is still unfinished.” Marking his first experience with painting the streets, Alec soon fell in love with the rush he received from working with larger, more public formats. “Painting a wall is like painting a massive canvas. I kind of have a little bit of a Napoleon complex. I was always the little kid in school; so for me, painting a


huge wall makes me feel a little bigger.” Alec’s tags and his renderings of Mr. Pennybags began consistently showing up on walls around New York City. The artist became so closely associated with his trademark character that many viewers referred to him as the Monopoly man. “I play with identity more. I started doing it as a character, not as myself. Now, even I reference myself as the Monopoly man. [This transformation] kind of just happened on its own—it’s been an adventure.” After several arrests and death threats from gang-affiliated graffiti artists, Alec realized that anonymity was a crucial step to protecting himself on the streets. “Graffiti is kind of an evil underworld. There are a lot of haters out there after me, so it’s nice to be anonymous,” he explained. “Anonymity also gives me the freedom to do as much graffiti as I want.” The 27-year-old New York native, who has since relocated to Los Angeles, rarely stays in one place for too long. Having spent the last few weeks travelling from Coachella to the Cannes Film Festival to Monte Carlo, Alec’s life reads more like that of a rock star than it does a street artist. On any given day, he may be riding around on four wheelers with Barron Hilton, heir to Hilton Hotels, or hanging out with a circle of celebrities and tastemakers. But Alec insists he sees himself as an artist first and foremost. “I try not pay attention to that kind of stuff,” admitted Alec. “I’d rather just focus on my work. It’s weird—I don’t really consider myself to be famous.” But Alec has certainly achieved a certain level of recognition for his work on the streets and in galleries alike. His latest solo show “Park Place” was hosted in March at LA street art gallery LAB Art and marked his west coast debut. A retrospective of his work as an artist thus far, Alec committed the six months preceding the opening to producing the best show he was capable of. “I did nothing but paint—all day, every day. I didn’t leave my studio at all most days over those few months, just sat in there and worked all day long.” Alec joked, “It was good for me and I felt healthy [since] I wasn’t going out and partying every night.” The show, which Alec considers his “best one yet,” featured several of the artist’s solo works as well as collaborations he had completed with iconic photographer Richard Corman and actor Adrien Brody. Brody donated a 1964 Pontiac Catalina, which Alec painted into a Monopoly game piece. And Corman, who is best known for his black and white film shots of a young Madonna Ciccone, first partnered with Alec about a year and a half ago to collaborate on a Vitamin Water-sponsored project for W Hotels, showcasing never-beforeseeen images of Madonna. “It was basically my images,” said Corman, “but we created one or two canvases per location that Alec painted on. As soon as I met him, I knew he was the real thing and it has just continued.” For this particular show, Alec painted over photographs Corman had taken of Michael Douglas for the Wall Street movie poster as well as Jean-Michel Basquiat—one of Alec’s chief artistic influences. “He helped to redefine my work—reenergize it and just give it a different spin,” said Corman. “Alec would say he’s a street artist, but I would say he’s an incredible painter, first

and foremost.” Blurring the lines between art and commerce, Alec decided to sell one of his paintings from the show for $3 million— in Monopoly money. This transaction, which is apparently the first of its kind, was largely a playful experiment for the artist. “I do a lot of stuff like that for fun—just to make people laugh.” While gallery shows have been high points in developing Alec’s career and growth as an artist, he maintains that they incite entirely different emotions than he experiences while painting on the street. “It’s completely different,” said Alec. “You can express yourself on canvas much differently than on the streets. In a gallery, it’s hard to replicate the emotions of being out there and looking out for the cops. When you’re in the streets, there are several emotions that you’ll never have in the gallery. That’s why a lot of street artists aren’t successful gallery artists—because the work doesn’t translate.” The initial curiosity and excitement that inspired Alec to become a street artist eight years ago are still obvious today. Receiving more and more recognition as a popular artist, Alec certainly has a long and promising career ahead of him. Like the iconic board game that sparked his artistic journey, Alec’s work manages to be at once both traditional and culturally relevant. “Doing the canvas and the gallery stuff is important, but it’s more of a vehicle to do the graffiti and travel,” said Alec. “Walls can crash down one day or get painted over, so when you are doing canvas you are persevering your work. But if I could get paid to just paint the streets, I’d probably only do that. I’ll never deny the streets.”

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Planet Coco & Breezy

Brooklyn-based twin-sister duo go from Midwestern outcasts to sunglass design frontrunners WORDS ALEXANDER TIRPACK PHOTOGRAPHS MOLLY GOLDRICK

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he beginning of this story has been told time and time again: Young entrepreneurs head to New York with some savings, a big idea and the determination to make their dreams come true. There are dozens of songs written about it, and each year hundreds, if not thousands, of people head down the same road, only to break down, run out of gas, take a wrong turn, or just head back home, tail between their legs with a few tears of frustration. It’s cliché to the point of embarrassment. The savings run out, and the big dream takes a back seat to paying the bills by any means necessary, usually by slinging drinks or taking a job at a restaurant or catering service. But for Coco and Breezy Dotson, twin sisters from Apple Valley, Minnesota, a small suburb outside of Minneapolis, their journey down the road to success never veered, and now the 22-year-old owners of the sunglass and apparel company named after themselves—Coco & Breezy—are two of the hot-

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test designers around. Their glasses have graced the faces of celebrities and fashion icons such as Ashanti, Kelly Osbourne and Rihanna. They are regularly featured as the subjects of editorial photoshoots and interviews in fashion blogs and in the pages of magazines like WWD, Nylon and Look. And not only are their glasses available in some of New York’s best boutiques, but the Coco & Breezy brand (aka: C&&B) is global, with their products being carried in over 30 stores around the world. If you took a stroll down a few New York blocks today, chances are you’ve seen someone wearing their glasses. “I remember it like it was not even [a few] days ago,” Breezy said when reminiscing about her and Coco quitting all three of their jobs back home in 2009 to hit the City with the hopes of becoming what they are today. “Sometimes I take a moment to look at everything and I’ll start breaking down and crying. I just can’t believe it.”


Like most success stories, it’s not just one single characteristic that separates those that make it and those that end up packing it in. Sure, Coco and Breezy share the ambition and work ethic of most who triumph, but it’s a mixture of the aforementioned traits, a bit of right place and right time, and a strong validity in being different—especially in their creativity—that helped launch their careers from hopeful to famous. Bullied and picked on in school for having piercings, dyed hair, outlandish style, and being all around atypical Apple Valley residents, the duo took refuge in creating, a common interest as sisters, but also looked to their parents for support and encouragement. “They always knew we were different, and they always told us to just continue to be ourselves. They are our cheerleaders,” Breezy said, and she has strong feelings about other parents who block their kid’s creative side. “I get so upset when I hear about parents discouraging creativity. When you are creative and you get blocked from it, you go crazy. And if parents wonder why their kids rebel at school, it’s because they didn’t let them be themselves.” It’s the sense of individuality and the feeling of being outsiders that led Coco and Breezy to start designing their own sunglasses. Uncomfortable and shy when in high school, the sisters started to design and make sunglasses to use as a shield against making eye contact with people who didn’t understand them. They wore sunglasses all the time, day and night, just to gain a sense of security—and as fashion enthusiasts, designing sunglasses fit right in with their personas. It’s also what led them to coin the brand-phrase, “Planet Coco & Breezy.” “Wearing sunglasses makes you feel a thousand times more self-confident,” Coco said. “So we felt that by having sunglasses on, it takes us to our planet. I think us using that reference kind of [relates] to other people. When they have their sunglasses on, they’re on their own planet; we’re just setting an example.” But it didn’t catch on in Apple Valley. In fact, most of the people around them thought they were crazy for even thinking someone would wear, let alone purchase, the glasses they made. Typical of their style and similar to the lines currently available by the company, their first pairs of glasses included circular lenses with studded rims. It wasn’t until they made a trip to New York at 18 years old that their personally designed glasses made a splash. Literally being stopped in the streets by stylists and the fashion-savvy asking where they could get a pair of their glasses is what pushed the two to their “now or never” moment. A few short months later, at 19, the girls found themselves on a oneway flight to New York, with designs and dreams in tow. While the pace has picked up since then, the design process is largely the same. The girls work out of their Bushwick apartment, using a spare room as a studio. Even for twins, the two are incredibly close and both credit the other for pushing through the rare bout of discouragement. “Coco and I complete each other,” Breezy said. “Her strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa. The same way we finish each other’s sentences is the same way that we create.” Indeed, the cohesiveness between the two is admirable. Generally, Breezy will begin a design, and Coco will add the finishing touches and give it the final stamp of approval. The two

pride themselves on their work ethic; and coming from a place where they worked as many as three jobs at a time, skipping their prom so they could pick up the extra hours, no one could rightly challenge them on that. Coco and Breezy see themselves not only as best friends, but also two people with the same goals, aspirations and interests. They’re never satisfied with “done” and are always looking forward to conquering their next goal, of which there are many. Recently, they were picked up by the high fashion NYC boutique OAK, a store the two have dreamed of being a part of since they began. Conor Riley, head of public relations for OAK, mirrored the enthusiasm. “We’re excited to be carrying C&&B,” he said. “A main focus for OAK is supporting up-and-coming designers who have a strong vision for their brand. Their unique take on sunglass design is a perfect fit for OAK customers, who are outspoken and forward thinking, and are fearless in their experimentation.” In keeping with the mindset that each of their collections has a story, the twins are currently working on their Spring ’14 collection, titled “Translucent Creatures.” To gain inspiration for the line, they visited an aquarium in New York. Seeing the colors and movement of the fish gave a strong personal connection to the design process. “Visiting the aquarium is part of the story [for this line],” said Breezy. “The color waves, the scales of the fish, the water, it was beautiful.” The new collection will break from the black and gray color scheme of the current collection, and will feature classic Wayfarer frames in addition to the circular style C&&B is known for. They’re also working on a line called C&B by Coco and Breezy, which will be priced at under $100 for customers who can’t afford the higher-end glasses. The deep bond as sisters, a passion for art and design, and embracing their individuality despite the naysayers of their past have allowed these young ladies to continue to make Planet Coco & Breezy grow and spin. And while they are welcoming to customers of all walks of life, rocking a slick pair of shades is an absolute requirement.

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Across the Pond

UK rapper Dvnny Seth throws London flair into his American-influenced sound WORDS ABBY KRON PHOTOGRAPHS BRIAN HIGBEE

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hen rap music began emerging as a genre in the 1970s, it was all about which emcee could outflow the others and win the favor of the DJ and audience. There was the unwritten law that a rapper must achieve a certain level of credibility on the streets and among his peers in order to be regarded as the best in his game. While in many ways the game remains the same, the rules have indisputably changed. No longer does a rapper have to be from the poorest, most crimeridden neighborhood in his city to gain the respect of listeners and other artists alike. Dvnny Seth embodies the very notion that the toughest flows can emerge from the unlikeliest of artists—regardless of their race or background. A white London rapper quickly on the come-up in the United States, Seth is no stranger to stereotypes; in fact, he even wrote a track about them. In “Stereotypes,” which appears on Seth’s second EP Prespliffs Volume II, released in January, he confronts the critics who attack him on the basis of being white and Jewish.

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“I think now is the time in hip-hop when it’s acceptable to talk about where you’re from,” said Seth. “There are people like Drake, who didn’t come from a broke background and is Jewish. Obviously I get the haters, but fuck them. I would probably hate me, too.” Unfortunately, Seth says most of the hate he receives comes from people in his hometown. The rapper, who has spent time working in the States, has received criticism from English listeners that feel his background and American influence disqualify him as a true UK “grime” rapper. “It’s hard when your own city doesn’t back you,” said Seth. “I’m trying to do something so different. I’m trying to come from an American standpoint. I love grime and UK hiphop, but I can’t do either of them because I’m not from a grimy area. In England, you either do grime or you do UK hip-hop. If you do anything else, you are shunned upon, which is horrible to think.” For his first EP Prespliffs Volume I, released in September


2012, Seth experimented with several different movements and trends in music. A couple years ago, when he was making the record, electronic dance music, dubstep and trap were becoming increasingly prevalent in rap music. But he soon found that listeners were quickly writing him off as just another EDM-trap artist. “I hate that shit now. I was quick to get pigeonholed— people were like ‘bars, bars, bars.’ I thought, ‘Oh fuck, this is not what I wanted at all.’ ” Seth took a step back and reevaluated his goals as a musician. With his second EP Volume II already in mind, the rapper found it was crucial to understand the sub-genres of hip-hop music and to study the moves of powerful artists who he admires. For this sort of insight, Seth traveled to hip-hop capitals in the United States working alongside other artists who had achieved success for their atypical styles. “I lived in Los Angeles, I went to Atlanta, I went to New York. I wanted to get a feel for how Americans were feeling the hip-hop scene,” said Seth. “I’m just trying to reflect that sound with an English twist.” Seth was pleased—and a little surprised—to see how quickly hip-hop fans in the U.S. embraced his uncharacteristic sound. A blend of influences including everything from UK bass to dirty south has landed Seth’s music on several blogs that praise his flow and persona alike. On making that often tricky transition to America from across the pond, Seth admits it was easier than he thought. “My shit took off over there in the States. I had to hustle a lot, too. After some blogs picked me up, I caught wildfire.” Perceptive of the current climate within the hip-hop sphere, Seth embraces this mixture of the high and low, counting Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and A$AP Rocky as major influences. In “See Me Interlude,” another track off Volume II, Seth raps over a drum-heavy beat that samples Carl Orff ’s classic orchestral song “O Fortuna.” He also has his own fashion venture in the form of a menswear accessories label called Boadicea, named after the ancient English warrior queen. “I think this is a good time for music and fashion,” Seth said. “I’ve got so much respect for Rocky—he’s the first rapper I’ve seen on the cover of Vogue. The fact that the music and the fashion go hand in hand and I’m getting attention for it is great.” And since he has been getting attention for his music and style, Seth is also aware of how his persona might be misinterpreted by listeners. “I don’t want to be seen as a gimmick,” said Seth. “There are a lot of white rappers out there who are gimmicky and shit like that. I wanted people to see that I could make the bangers.”

Still, Seth is not afraid to expose his more humorous side, but does so within a specific context. At the beginning of the video for the track “WVRNING”—a precursor to his highly anticipated mixtape, TeaSpliffs—Seth introduces an alter-ego that mocks his most persistent haters, who have gone so far as to make derogatory phone calls. “He’s sort of my version of Eminem’s Slim Shady,” said Seth. “What I wanted to prove is that I’m a nice guy, I’m a funny guy. I can have fun and make jokes in the intro, but when you listen to my rap, the jokes stop and the fucking lyrics take over.” Above all, however, he strives to keep it real. “I never want to come across as fake. I haven’t come from a terrible background. I just chat about what’s on my mind at the moment. Lucky for me, I’ve had a lovely run with women and fun experiences with drugs as I grew up, so I chat about real situations.” In-house music producer Zach Nahome, who Seth has referred to as a 19-year-old wunderkind, has made some of Volume II’s toughest beats including “Paychecks” and “Flow.” “We really get each other and started in this together,” said Seth of Nahome. “He used to make house and when I started making hip-hop, he converted.” Seth’s efforts thus far have been entirely independent. Having recorded all his music from his living room studio, he’s only just begun to scratch the surface. Already garnering the attention of influential artists and producers, the charismatic young rapper is confident about his future in both music and fashion. Although his ultimate goal is to become a successful artist by creating music he believes in, Seth is adamant about achieving fame and fortune on his own terms. “So many people are quick to label an artist as a ‘white rapper,’” said Seth. “I fucking hate white rappers apart from Eminem. I’m trying to make music for the white kids and the black kids and the whoever. I want whoever to say, “Yo, this sounds dope. I wanna get fucked up to this.” With a sharp ear for emerging trends in hip-hop and the capacity to navigate the ever-changing landscape of the genre, Seth is extremely dedicated to making himself a more fully developed and innovative artist. While he may not have to prove himself in the streets, Seth is intent on creating music that will garner attention from fans and respect from the artists he admires. “I’ve had the chance to work with some big people, but I don’t want to jump ahead of myself,” said Seth. “I don’t want to work with the biggest producers, be hot for a minute, and then fall off. When it’s the right time and big producers come to me to work, we’ll work for the album. For now, I wanna do this all myself.”

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Knit Pick

Knitwear designer Lindsay Degen’s haute couture line isn’t your Nana’s side project WORDS GABRIELLE LIPTON PHOTOGRAPHS SARAH KJELLEREN

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n loose floral pants, a ripped Simpson’s tee and platform sneakers, knitwear designer Lindsay Degen wore her disdain for normalcy well. The color palette for her line, DEGEN, commonly includes snotty green and dirty purple, and she finds it humorous to plaster fronts of tops with pizza slices, knitted nipples and “YUCK.” Most garments are unisex. But knitting is like the aesthetical Switzerland, neutral in its reminiscence of everything impossible to hate: sheep’s wool, hobbies, lounging. Even if the colors are too sullied or humor bizarre, there’s no denying how damn comfortable it all looks. She seems to have found a tongue of body language where rules don’t apply. A trophy of an art school kid, the 25-year-old said she

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designs the way she does in large part due to her education at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she was crowned one of ten seniors chosen to be part of Elle’s annual Fashion Next runway show. “I was the weirdo with the boob shirt while everyone else was doing Alexander Wang shit,” she said. During intermittent breaks from RISD, she went to London and took classes at Central Saint Martins, where she saw fashion responding to repression with silliness and took note. By over-amplifying parts of the body that people try to hide— to a painful level of conservatism in her Midwest upbringing— taboos cross from being avoided to entertaining, and therefore addressable. “I just want people to relax and think the body is


funny at the very least.” Her anatomical focus has been downsized recently in her newest collection, babyDEGEN, releasing in August. There are onesies, diaper shorts, a miniature sweater covered in eyeballs. “I’m hoping to do some celeb placement, like on Gwen Stefani’s baby. That’d be sweet,” she said. “I want to push Katy Perry to have a baby. Just some cool baby mamas with their babies.” Beyoncé and Blue Ivy? Perhaps. A recent adult-sized placement was on Solange Knowles. Except for socks and shoes, almost every DEGEN piece is knitted in Red Hook in an 11th-floor studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yards. Sundry spools of yarn match with the majority of colors in the box of 64 Crayola crayons sitting on her desk. One of her two assistants, Amy, sat hunched, rapidly crocheting out a fire-engine-red Chinese staircase type of spiral. Knitting machines of various gauges, each for a different weight of knit, sit atop tables, and two knitted sculptures hang on the wall. They resemble deranged peonies, maybe anemone. One was her first art purchase; one she traded for with the artist, Sam Jaffe. “They are just so perfect to me, I can’t even explain what I like about them. I just think they’re so wonderful.” A first art purchase for someone three years out of art school is more than most millennials can say for themselves, but Degen has thrived in New York without the help of luck or familial connections. Goofiness can be deceiving; DEGEN is founded on serious work ethic. Her first collection in 2011 was of knitted lingerie not to be tongue-in-cheek, but because it was already April when she landed herself a creative director and publicist (at age 23), and there was a push for her to show a collection at New York Fashion Week in September. “I had no idea what I was going to do. I had never even been to a fashion show, except backstage,” she said. “And I didn’t have a ton of time to knit, which takes a huge amount of time, so I did lingerie.” T Magazine called it clever, and WWD said it was pretty cute. Now, four collections deep, she’s surpassed quaint adjectives and established herself as a designer of wearable art. Her last collection, inspired by microscope slides of cells and viruses (she’s the daughter of two geneticists), included a pair of enlarged fishnet pains that form a flattering sort of optical illusion on the legs and a tunic of similar construction. “There are really only five things you can do with knitting. You can knit, pearl, slip, tuck and change yarn. But there’s so much stuff you can do, it’s insane, and I feel overwhelmed by it. It’s something that you can take your entire life to understand.” Technically, most of each DEGEN collection is haute couture, only purchasable made-to-order. A handful of stores

downtown—Assembly New York, International Playground, Opening Ceremony—will stock pieces from her collaborations with other designers, like Converse and Suzanne Rae, and a selection of her clothes and accessories are sold on her website. But wearable knitted art is not incredibly lucrative, so Degen is on a “constant knitting hustle” to fund the line. She balances full days in studio with teaching knitting lessons, consulting with brands, and interfacing between programmers and designers at a knitting factory in Midtown. Every now and then, her pieces will appear on trend forecasting websites, even though they’re never particularly in or out of fashion. “People love it, and people think it’s really wack, and that’s fine.” DEGEN’s goal is neither sales nor critical accolades but rather to provoke responsibly—rebellious energy filtered through a sieve of morals, like Banksy or Pussy Riot. “You can still be in the fashion system while hand-making everything. You can know where everything is coming from and deliver a better product. I just hope DEGEN can be a silly model for how you can do things.” She meant it in all seriousness.

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Jersey Boy East Coast producer DJ Sliink brings his craft back to its roots WORDS KELSEY PAINE PHOTOGRAPHS JESSICA LEHRMAN

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ounging on a bench in the NYU Law School courtyard on a warm May afternoon, DJ Sliink speaks with the confident nonchalance of a musician at least twice his age. Sliink looks every bit the disaffected student with his beat up backpack, black ensemble and tangle of neck tattoos, but underneath his low-key demeanor is a talented musician with his finger on the pulse; he knows what will hit the top of the charts even before the artist does. Remixing the omnipresent “Harlem Shake” joint almost a year before it hit radio airwaves and YouTube accounts everywhere, Sliink (real name Stacey White) has tapped into the zeitgeist of the under-30 set—his multi-genre Jersey club/trap mixes are decidedly modern, full of break downs, build ups, dirty lyrics and bass. But much like any kid who fancies himself a tastemaker, Sliink also has an appreciation for the old school. Only 22 years old, DJ Sliink prefers to perform his sweat-soaked sets the

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old fashioned way: with CDs. Sliink forgoes laptops and buttons for actual spinning. “A lot of people are pressing buttons, that’s not really DJing,” he admitted. “When I did use a laptop it was too easy for me. I wasn’t having fun. You might mess up a little bit, but it gives you the extra push to go a little bit harder.” Counting New Jersey OGs like DJ Tamil and DJ Tim Dolla as his main inspiration, Sliink crafts bombastic bass-heavy “Jersey club” music, which is an offshoot of the famous Baltimore club—a mixture of hip-hop, house music and looped vocal samples. Sliink’s production skills are streamlined, while maintaining a slight grit and street sensibility—something severely lacking in today’s flashy dance music. It’s his ambition and veiled perfectionism that has catapulted the Newark, New Jersey native into the forefront of new club music and landed him remixes and collaborations with ev-


eryone from Flosstradamus, to iconic fashion designer Rick Owens. No discernible labels anywhere on his worn-in dark tee, hoodie, boots or backpack, Sliink respects the street legends and models their down-to-earth vibe. But much like one Mr. Kanye West, Sliink’s hip-hop swag still has a taste for the finer things, as he recalls having dinner with Rick Owens during Paris Fashion Week. “When I went to Paris, I went to a dinner with Rick Owens, went to a fashion show, did a remix,” he said. “(Rick’s) wife picked 12 producers from around the world and I was one of them. The song is called “How Do You Feel.” His wife is the artist and I remixed it and it just so happened I was in Paris during Fashion Week.” And although he’s mixing with the high fashion crowd, the bargain hunter admits Macklemore’s massive hit “Thrift Shop” could be his theme song. Sliink put himself on the map with his first EP Body High last year, and garnered even more notoriety from his full EP collab with Chicago’s Mad Decent DJ duo Flosstradamus called Nomad. But right now he’s all about touring, working on his second EP and building his pretty epic SoundCloud page, on which you can find everything from original ass-shaking material, to sexy remixes of Ciara’s “Body Party” and Rihanna’s “Loveeee Song.” Sliink counts producer/DJ group Brick Bandits as his introduction to the genre of Jersey Club, but thanks to other influences, the open-eared Northeast kid tapped some Midwest/Southern flair in the form of trap music. “The trap influence came from Flosstradamus. When I met them at SXSW, we liked each other’s style. (On Nomad) it was my Jersey influence, mixed with their hip-hop trap influence. I grew up on hip-hop too. So I wouldn’t mind making a beat here and there and I would incorporate it together with Jersey club.” As a young kid, Sliink was more into sports than his younger brother, who dabbled in everything from photography to making amateur beats. But Sliink was initially interested in the other side of the music coin. “I used to rap around the house. I was real young, like 15. When you’re young it’s so easy to get into a lot of stuff and get inspired,” he recalled. “I rapped for a little bit. I was kinda wack. I thought I was good. But I found my niché with producing and DJing.” After school, Sliink would nose into his brother’s production dabbling, and started throwing pool hall bashes and basement parties with his own soundtrack. From there it grew, and now Sliink is playing his own set in the gargantuan upstairs venue at Webster Hall, networking at SXSW and gearing up for his very first Mad Decent Block Party. “That was my main inspiration when I started making music. I started seeing Diplo moving a lot and I was like, ‘I wanna do what that guy does,’” he said. And with his niché brand of Jersey club, Sliink is following in some Diplo-approved footsteps—but he’s not giving up on his hometown sound, or his hometown crew, Cartel Music. “(Jersey Club) is real big in the UK, but I want it to be real big in the U.S.,” he said. “So I’m gonna keep incorporating my stuff and my crew’s stuff. I feel like it didn’t blow up yet how it should.

So Imma keep pushing the Jersey Club.” Just as Sliink refuses to take the easy laptop DJing route, he’s not satisfied yet. Sliink has his sights set on music festivals, particularly Coachella, and collabs with some of his production heroes and hitmakers like Pharrell, Timbaland and Mike Will Made It. At the forefront of the new wave of true, back-to-thestreets hip-hop mixes, Sliink’s inspirations might want to think about giving him a call first. As both a producer and DJ, Sliink is carving his own lane in the EDM-heavy airwaves, bringing hip-hop party music and slick production back to the over-synth saturated masses. Sliink might be making women all over the country twerk and drop it low, but there’s one thing he won’t do: break it down himself. “I’ll probably do a little bop, but I was never the dancing type.”

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PHOTOGRAPH HELMUT NEWTON, COURTESEY OF ULTRA VIOLET COLLECTION

Beyond the Spectrum

The once-famed superstar of Andy Warhol, Ultra Violet shows her work outshines her name WORDS MEGHAN HILLIARD


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ith her elbow propped on the arm of the bare-white couch in her Chelsea art studio, she rested her cheek in her hand and inhaled deeply. Her attire, comprised completely of purple apparel, seemed to illuminate indigo, absorbing light from a nearby scripted neon lamp, ignited with the same cool hue. The light source spells out her name—the same name that is found on her jacket in rhinestones, which often caught the studio’s overhead florescent lights, sending specs of various colors throughout her kaleidoscopic space. The confluence of color and light engulfing the bright room was not lost her. It’s who she is. She’s Ultra Violet. As she exhaled, former confidantes Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol looked over her shoulder, their infamous personas exploding out of the frames that confined them to her walls, listening as her French accent introduces itself. “I have a certain name and people know me,” she said. “But they have no idea I work. And I do work.” Born Isabelle Collin Dufresne in Grenoble, France, Ultra Violet moved to New York City in 1953 at 18, and rapidly established herself as one of the city’s most recognized socialites. She fled from a traditional French family, who found Ultra Violet’s colorful imagination and behavior to be erratic and distracting. They couldn’t relate to their trouble child, who finetuned her eye for art and design at an early age. “As a child I was born with very sensitive eyes, and I thought my parents home was ugly,” she said. “I don’t know how many children thought their parent’s home was ugly, but I did! It wasn’t as artistic as I wanted it to be. I had a very critical eye. As a child I started to collect things of little importance, but they were my collections and as soon as I could, I collected art.” The young Ultra Violet had aspirations that exceeded her family’s conventional views of women marrying well and starting a family young. A boisterous child, her parents found her charisma to be unrelatable and a distraction, often sending her away to adolescent institutions, and even had her exorcised. Knowing her creative spirit could not be deterred, Ultra Violet left France and headed west. “When I came to New York, the first person I met when I came off the boat was Salvador Dalí,” she said. “I just met him by luck and law of attraction. It was so extraordinary! I did not know much about surrealism—but I was surreal. I was not crazy. That was a wonderful healing exchange.” The chance meeting initiated an inseparable bond between Ultra Violet and the iconic artist. She often found herself dining and hobnobbing with various dukes and duchesses, Nobel Prize winners, and famous artists and socialites when she was in the company of her Spanish counterpart. She found encour-

agement from him—to both pursue her interests and to present herself as the woman she was stifling in France. Accompanying his studio sessions, she would often pick up a pencil or a piece of charcoal, sit next to the famed painter and sketch the same material. He would offer critiques, touch it up where needed, and then sign his own name below. She loved him, and he, too, considered her his great muse. Ultra Violet moved into a former maid’s quarters at the St. Regis Hotel, which also housed Dalí’s studio, to remain close to her companion. Before their daily lunch dates, the hotel florist would often make her fresh camellia crowns. The soft white and pink tones of their petals were exaggerated against her long chestnut ringlets, adding a sense of whimsy to a girl who was once punished for such displays of personality. It was during one of these social sit downs in 1963 when Dalí introduced her to another unfamiliar face. “Dalí used to have those famous five o’clock teas,” she recalls. “One day came in this woman­(or what I thought was a woman, with uneven hair, and a very odd voice, who was very shy) and she said, ‘You are so beautiful, let’s do a movie together.’ So I said ‘OK, when? Tomorrow?’ Dalí introduced her as Andy Warhol.” A combination of her spontaneity and intrigue of the bizarre, albino man’s invitation, Ultra Violet showed up at his work space the following day, an open loft covered from floor to ceiling in silver on E. 47th Street which some referred to as “The Factory”. Warhol was infamous for promising the city’s young, and more importantly, beautiful, parts in his upcoming films. While most of the them eventually got their time in front of his lens, the promise of stardom often kept these free spirits as regulars at his Factory. Although Ultra Violet didn’t shoot with Warhol during their sophomore encounter, she found herself coming back to his enticing space almost daily, to surround herself with the enigmatic artist. “What’s extraordinary about Warhol—well a million things—but whatever you say about him is true,” she said. “Meaning if you say he was a genius, yes he was. If you say he was an idiot, yes he was. If you say he was an angel, if you call him the devil, yes and yes. That’s a pretty fascinating character. To this day people don’t really know who he is. I used to call him an alien because he sort of was.” The daily happenings at the Factory ranged from filming and painting to rampant drug use and pornography—all in art’s name. Ultra Violet often found herself among a congregation of Factory followers, some faces familiar, some not, all partaking in something that was much bigger than themselves at the Midtown East sanctuary. The fair skinned minister with few words

“One day came in this woman (or what I thought was a woman, with uneven hair, and a very odd voice, who was very shy) and she said, ‘You are so beautiful, let’s do a movie together.’ So I said, ‘OK, when? Tomorrow?’ Dalí introduced her as Andy Warhol.”

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Notre Dame, and I didn’t like that. Then he wanted to call me Poly Ester, and I didn’t like that, either,” she said, shaking her head. “I was reading an article in Scientific American, I believe, on light, and that’s really interesting because today my favorite medium is light. I saw the name Ultra Violet and I thought it was pretty interesting because it was a color, and ultra means beyond. It also has every vowel of the alphabet which is extraordinary, so I took it.” Listening to her say her name, she emphasizes every deliberate syllable,“Ul-tra Vi-olet”. It’s been almost 50 years since she has taken her chosen title, and stands firm that Isabelle and Ultra Violet are indeed the same person. Ultra Violet has always lived inside the repressed young Isabelle. New York City was just responsible for coaxing her out. “Sometimes people call me Isabelle and I’ll respond,” she said. “We all have many different personalities— the one we present to the world, and the one we really are. Sometimes people here ask what they should call me, because they’re embarrassed to call me Ultra Violet. I tell them to call me George.” As the 1970s came and went, Ultra Violet saw many tragic ends to the lives of her Factory peers. Due to adverse and uncomfortable reactions to the very few times she tried drugs at an early age, Ultra Violet is adamant that the only reason why she came out the other side alive and well was because of her clean lifestyle. “In those years it was all about being hedonistic and having fun,” she said. “We had fun.” She slowly broke away from being the sensational itgirl, and started hustling her own craft, focusing on her art and well-being. While sitting in her kitchen one morning in 1987, she learned the news from a television report that her once close friend Andy Warhol had died of gallbladder surgery complica-

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESEY OF ULTRA VIOLET COLLECTION

to spare, had an intense influence on these people, causing them to want to help in his mission any way possible. “I compare him to the black hole in space,” she said, hands held in front of her face, making a circular shape. “He was just like [makes a sucking noise by breathing in air rapidly]. He was like a cosmic vacuum cleaner because of his magnetism.” The yin to his yang, Ultra Violet’s gregarious personality often filled his space with words and laughter, while Warhol often looked on in silence, observing the personalities that surrounded him. One particular afternoon, Ultra Violet remembers one of his actions that silenced the commotion around him. “One day he spit out a piece of metal and I stopped right away and asked ‘What was that?’ and he said he was sucking on a piece of magnet to be more magnetic,” she recalled. “People were drawn to him. Why? As much as Dalí was an extreme extrovert, Andy was more of an introvert. He listened—or he at least pretended to listen—so people thought he cared. And he was curious about everything, had his hand in everything, and it was just amazing.” The adoration was mutual. Surrounded by Factory disciples, Warhol often found himself in exclusive company with Ultra Violet. The duo would hit every gallery opening and art affair in town, often staying out so late, they would grab breakfast while paging through the morning’s newspapers, reviewing their paparazzi photos while wearing the same clothes—Andy in his standard all-black attire, and Ultra Violet in her statement purple. The transformation from misunderstood French country girl to the celebrated Midtown socialite took shape into an entirely new persona, starting with Ultra Violet’s alias. Persuaded by Warhol that Americans couldn’t get their mouths around her foreign-sounding name, he encouraged her to take a new one, much like many other Factory regulars. “Andy wanted to call me


tions. His service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral was the first time she had seen some of her former cohorts in over a decade. Even while participating in his memorial, Ultra Violet was donned in her infamous color, proving that the man that changed her life would still ultimately live on through her, even if indirectly. Her other great love, Salvador Dalí, passed away two years later. Almost 25 years after their deaths, the faces of Warhol and Dalí remain in her daily life, as multiple black and white photos of them and a much younger Ultra Violet litter the back wall of her workspace, while the other three ajoining walls are covered in her current work. The alter-like display of her past life, which also includes photos of her and Jon Voight when she had a part in “Midnight Cowboy,” and The New York Times magazine cover from 1968 that featured her, a sunglassed Warhol and another Factory superstar, Viva, standing carefree in front of a brick wall, is slightly ironic. Although she published “Famous for 15 Minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol,” her best-selling memoir in 1988 (in which the first two pages list all 76 famous names that are featured in the following chapters in reference form) she is resolute in her disdain about speaking of the past. “I am much more interested in what I’m doing tomorrow,” she said directly. Tomorrow, the day after, and well into next year, Ultra Violet has multiple projects planned. The 9/11 Memorial Museum, slated to open in May 2014, will house her very first sculpture, a piece so visually stirring, it has started adorning t-shirts as a somewhat non-official logo for the museum in its entirety. The magenta colored piece is an erected palindrome that displays “ IX XI,” the fated date in stacked roman numerals. “When I realized 9/11 was IX XI, something had to be done about that,” she said. “It’s just pure geometry. I have great hope it will get some milage there. The reason they really like it, and I do too, is because it’s non-political. It’s just a marking of time.” The happenings of September 11th have influenced the majority of Ultra Violet’s recent work. Her colorful renderings of Mickey Mouse—one with angel wings, while another has his cartoon face over the body of Adam from the iconic painting The Creation of Adam— hung on the lavender painted wall to her right. “I claim Mickey Mouse died on 9/11. I’ve done many paintings with Mickey Mouse and his date of birth, and his date of death,” she said. “The reason for this, and I’m not trying to be irreverent, is that the American good humor, the ‘Ha Ha’ all is well, the permanent smile, on that date took a big blow.” The inception for her sculpture came after a time of reflection, which took her back to her childhood in France. “The Statue of Liberty was given by France, as you know, but what you

don’t know is the cement that’s anchoring the Statue of Liberty into the harbor was given by my family because we used to be in the cement industry,” she said. “So I feel that I’m related to that Statue—she’s French and I’m French born. But, I’m an artist, and I’m also an American and I’m a New Yorker. I have not lost anyone personally during 9/11, but I thought I had to do something.” While she waits for the public debut of her sculpture, Ultra Violet has feverishly worked on what she considers one of her best conceptions yet—The Self Portrait. Thick, ornate, baroque style frames cast in clear acrylic cover the other two walls of her West Side studio. All various shapes and sizes, they each house a mirror, with the words “Self Portrait” lasered into their facade. To some, they may just look like opulent wall fixtures, but to Ultra Violet their meaning runs personal. “What I like about the Self Portraits is that they capture people’s soul,” she said. “You look into a Self Portrait very differently than you do a mirror. The mirror you just look through, but the Self Portrait is inquisitive. Some people can’t even look into it.” The reflective pieces aren’t a self portrait of the artist, like most rendered in the past, but rather a portrait of the viewer. “Every artist has done a self portrait, but the brilliance of this is that it’s a global self portrait,” she said excitedly. “This is anyone and everyone’s self portrait. This is much more accurate rather than an artist painting you in his own way.” The installation pieces will be showed at Chelsea’s Dillon Gallery next year, in relation to the release of Ultra Violet’s next book, aptly titled, “The Violet Book”. Much different from the memoir she published two decades previous, the pages will solely focus on her art, starting with the Self Portraits and Mickey Mouse paintings and going back to the days when she would sketch with Dalí. Her portfolio is vast, but her name known on the streets comes from the caché of her time spent in the middle of those famed silver walls. She admitted she got a late start in her art career due to her social career, but she wouldn’t do anything differently. “I might have gotten married and divorced a few times,” she said with a hearty laugh, sending the specs of light from her jacket across the room. Although she no longer tints her hair purple, and stays away from her once-outlandish violet makeup due to allergies, she takes her progression in stride. “I may have acquired some wisdom with this grey hair. It only took 50-someodd years.”

“We all have many different personalities, the one we present to the world and the one we really are. Sometimes people here ask what they should call me, because they’re embarrassed to call me Ultra Violet. I tell them to call me George.”

A very special thank you to Billy Jim

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July 2013 - The Street Issue  

For this issue, we pay homage to New York City on its most basic level--and embrace what happens here on the streets.