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swOOn MAGAZINE

summer/fall 06

issue 2


Why fashion, why photography, why now, why not? During times of political or personal instability art is especially relevant because it is a human need that can lead us beyond despair. And of all art forms, fashion is the one most available to the masses; it is truly the art not only of the people but of the individual. For fashion in its most basic nature consists of art on a body. The interesting thing about fashion is how politically loaded of an art form it can be, because in terms of art it is the most necessary one—we all must wear clothing—whether we consider ourselves artists or not. We can, however, dictate the terms of the dominant culture we find ourselves in by choosing to participate in it. As a social act, fashion can be an interesting way of interpreting and reacting to your time and period. In this way its influences extend beyond gallery walls and into the streets. Existence of beauty in human life captured through art is one incentive that reminds us why we even bother to work for a better world in the first place. In this issue we include artists and organizations who are integrating their art with the issues they find relevant in their lives and in the world today.


LIGHT SCULPTURES

Issue 2 Founders/Publishers: Anya Ferring and Kelly McKay Editor-in-Chief: Anya Ferring Managing Editor: Kelly McKay Associate Creative Director: Shauna Cummins Webmaster: Daniel Murphy Graphic Designer: Virginia Shou Development Director: Shauna Cummins All content appearing in Swoon Magazine is subject to copyright. None of it may be reproduced in whole or in part without written authorization from the editors, artist and author, including electronic retrieval systems. Swoon Magazine is free of charge in NYC and limited to one copy per reader. Swoon Magazine encourages its readers to share. To order more copies of Swoon via mail, please send $5.00 for shipping and handling to Swoon Magazine, 135 Plymouth Street #311, Brooklyn, NY, 11201, or purchase online via credit card at www.swoonmagazine.com. We are not responsible for lost or stolen payments sent via mail. If you are interested in circulating or distributing Swoon Magazine, or advertising with us, please contact editors@swoonmagazine.com. Swoon Magazine International Headquarters 135 Plymouth Street #311 Brooklyn, New York, 11201 Editors@swoonmagazine.com www.swoonmagazine.com Perry Martin Mamaril www.rabong.com 917 293 2311


photographers

Anya Ferring and Kelly Mckay like working together. They have been collaborating photographically with one another for the past five years. Check out Kelly’s website at www.kellymckayphotography.com.

From Fashion shoots in Bedstuy to documentary work in the Phillipines, Jen Yuson is an awesome photographer. She has extensive experience in portraiture, reportage and landscape photography. Check out her website at www.jenyuson.com.

Handsome. Charming. Talented. Fun. Photographer Jake Bronstein might well be the coolest guy ever. google him.


Table of Contents 6

Habana Outpost: Brooklyn Gone Berkeley

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Megyn Florence: Against the Grain LLC

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Odd Man Out: Plato’s Retreat

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Levi Okunov: From Runaway to Runway


Brooklyn Gone Berkeley HABANA OUTPOST

Habana Outpost is located at 757 Fulton Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. For more info www.ecoeatery.com

Designer: Lopeti Etu Photography: Anya Ferring & Kelly McKay Hair and Make-up: Melissa Beinlich All makeup on Natalie Yepez by Collette McLaffertey Models (in order of appearance): Sabrina Stephenson, Kushinda Little, Kielee Neal Leslie Meenan and Natalie Yepez Words by Kelly McKay


Lopeti Etu has been designing clothes for as long as he can remember. He attended F.I.T. but struggled with school, dropping out at the advice of a draping teacher who recognized his talent and told him he didn’t need a degree to thrive in fashion. Habana Outpost Recycled Rejects Shop (H.O.R.R.S) started in winter of 2005 when Etu noticed that his friends’ silkscreening company, Pigeon Axe, was accumulating piles of misprinted and surplus t-shirts about to be thrown out. Etu got to thinking about ways to rescue and reuse the material. When he went on a trip to San Francisco with other members of Habana Outpost, an ecologically designed café and community works collective in Brooklyn, he encountered a designer featuring old t-shirts that had been recycled and reprinted, sparking that inspiration once again.

Upon returning to New York, Sean Meenan, Habana’s founder, encouraged Etu to reclaim the discarded material and have his creative way with it—and so began the clothing line. In less than a year his line has to grown to encompass dozens of handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces, from swimsuits to wedding gowns. Etu’s style is always colorful, often outrageous, and definitely full of humor and vibrancy. All manner of wildly creative touches grace his clothing: printing and painting directly on top of old designs; cutting up old winter coats to make bright, sprawling dresses; and using knit and plastic in swimsuits to name just a few. The line is characterized by a wide variety of styles and materials, all united by an emphasis on recycling through the reuse of discarded


clothing. This ethic is seamlessly connected to Sean Meenan’s idea behind Habana Outpost in Ft. Greene. Meenan, also the founder of the popular Café Habana in Soho, created its sister establishment in Ft. Greene with a vision of ecological sustainability and community involvement. Much more than just a cafe, the Habana Outpost is a pioneering model of sustainable business practices in Brooklyn. Its electricity comes from solar panels and wind power, its take-out con-

featuring local artists’ work and hosting fashion shows, burlesque, film screenings, musical performances, kids’ events, and not to mention the sprawling outdoor weekend market for up-and-coming fashion designers, rare and vintage goods, artwork, and more. What sets Etu apart from most designers is his devotion to the surrounding community within his work. He organizes the Outpost’s fashion shows and weekend market in addition to working on his line. He

tainers are biodegradable, its plants are watered by collected rainwater, it features local organic produce, composts its kitchen scraps, and seeks to partner and cross-promote with other eco-friendly businesses and educate the public on ecological issues through monthly workshops and events. It is also a cultural hub for the neighborhood,

claims that “there is no separation” between the Outpost and the H.O.R.R.S. clothing line, and that “without Habana Outpost there is no H.O.R.R.S.” This collective vision is reflected by his claim that the clothing line is not just Lopeti Etu but a team of creative individuals including Sofia Santana, Natalie Yepez, and Sean Meenan—to name just a few—who make up the


Habana Outpost/H.O.R.R.S. community. All of the fashion shows Etu participates in incorporate ways to give back to the community: from the Telluride AIDS Benefit, to Wildlife Works’ Consumer Powered Conservation (www.wildlifeworks.com), to showing at Brooklyn’s own BK Fashion Weekends. For more info check out www.ecoeatery.com or contact Lopeti himself: sosefo@gmail.com.

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D.U.M.B.o. art festival OPEN STUDIO:

Come and visit Swoon Magazine on October 13,14,15 at 25 Washington Street, Suite 501, Brooklyn, NY 11201

www.ediblered.com

www.myspace.com/ediblered


Against the Grain Megyn Florence brings art culture to fashion couture

FLAT FIX TIRE SHOP & SEXY’S AUTO BODY SHOP

Flat Fix tire shop and Sexy’s Autobody shop (see back cover) in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. Both shoots took place within blocks from the designer’s studio.

Designer: Megyn Florence Photography: Jen Yuson Photography Assistant: Ali Vagnini Hair and Make-up: Jordan Bree Long Models: Yuri Kebukawa, Megan Schafer Words by Shauna Cummins


“I don’t want to design clothes for people who just want to put on pants in the morning,” declares designer Megyn Florence. We’re sitting just around the corner from her loft apartment which doubles as the headquarters for her clothing line Against the Grain LLC. Even if the people who wore Florence’s clothing were just putting on pants in the morning, they would never just be pants, as any of her pieces are more akin to crafted wearable sculpture than just

Bedstuy Restaurant, dutiful assistants bustle about racks and aisles of clothing in her nearby studio, preparing for October’s Parisian Fashion Week. Florence graduated at the top of her class from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Massachusetts College of Art, simultaneously earning a degree from both institutions in Mixed Media Sculpture and Fashion Design. She was the first and only student to accomplish the dual degree,

mere clothing. A resident of the neighborhood for over three years, she is familiar with all the local establishments as well as something of a local fixture herself. In her time there the area has certainly been good to her as the success of her year-and-a-half old clothing line can attest to. As we discuss her story as a designer over lunch in a

encouraging the consortium to change their rules. One glance at a giant copper cape skirt from her last season and it becomes apparent that artfully breaking the rules and going “against the grain” seem to indeed be just her style. Florence’s fashion designs are informed by an impressively broad background in the arts from designer


to printmaker, glassblower to conceptual artist, and tailor to blacksmith. When asked to describe the vision behind her clothing line she was quick to link the world of art with the world of fashion, stating her belief in “art as a visual language and clothing as a form of visual expression.” The ideas of line and form are as prominent to her designs as are fit and function. Her pieces range from elegantly outlined bubble skirts to cotton bustled

strict guidelines of traditional European sewing and overarching appreciation for the designer as artist. As a child she was creatively determined and projectoriented, and sewing, not surprisingly, was one of her most successful passions, having designed a fully lined, shoulderpad-clad jacket line at the ripe age of ten. Now at twenty-five years old and only a few years out of school she has already worked as a sample-maker for the progressive House of Diehl, in production for

derriere dresses. To emphasize the important sculptural aspect of her clothing she uses a subtle backdrop of natural color and fabrics to allow the innovative form of her designs to achieve an artful and striking silhouette. More than just being an exceptionally driven and multi-talented young artist, Florence possesses a rare commitment and adherence to the

Zac Posen, and has shown three times during Fashion Week in Paris with the Area exhibition. As the Beastie Boys song ‘She’s Crafty’ will croon down her runway show this year in Paris, Florence will be the only American womenswear designer to be in the show for the third consecutive time. As a child growing up in and around NYC, the culture and energy of the city


have always informed her work. She prides herself on drawing inspiration locally while representing New York City’s ‘new downtown’ to one of the oldest and most respected fashion capitals of the world. Clearly, Megyn Florence is a designer who will make clothing for people who want to wake up in the morning and wear an exquisitely crafted couture pant. And in doing so she will continue to devise new and innovative ways of fusing the worlds of art and fashion by successfully going “against the grain” as a boundary-pushing designer. And of course, doing it all in Paris, straight out of Bedstuy.

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ODD Candice wears top by RxApparel Phillip wears tie by This Old Thing David wears shirt by PVR

PLATO’S RETREAT

PARTICIPANTS: Designers: RxApparel (www.rxapparel.com) This Old Thing (www.thisoldthing.net) PVR (ParadoxVestedRelics) (www.pvr-nyc.com) Photographer: Jake Bronstein Hair and Make-up: Collette McLaffertey Styling: Melissa Beinlich Models: Candice Vincent, Phillip Jones, and David Montalvo Words courtesy of EMERGENCY Art Space

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Plato’s Retreat was excavated by chance during the renovation of the EMERGENCY Art Space in Chelsea. It is known to have been a recreational aquatics pool club where characters from the New York art and social scene would intimately mingle amongst Jacuzzi jet streams and interior wood paneling. The EMERGENCY Art space is comprised of a group of multi-disciplinary artists and media creators who are responding to environmental, social and political crises within New York City and around the globe. Their Manhattan home base is in the heart of the Chelsea Art District and houses projects presenting creative solutions to society’s most pressing problems. These projects range from humanitarian aid organizations to environmental companies to alternative energy producers to artists whose work focuses on

the most pressing issues of the moment. The building itself is a showcase of sustainable construction featuring recycled building materials, super-efficient electrical systems, green-roofing, and collective responsibility. The EMERGENCY collective sees this project as proof-positive of what can be done to rebalance our policies and practices, thus helping to improve the world through beautiful yet pragmatic solutions.


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OPPOSITE PAGE: Candice wears shirt by This Old Thing Ring by ccjoyeria.com THIS PAGE: David wears pants by PVR Phillip wears shirt by PVR Candice wears shirt by RxApparel and skirt by PVR


Phillip wears shirt by RxApparel Candice wears skirt by PVR OPPOSITE PAGE: David wears shirt and pants by PVR Accessories stylist’s own

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FROM RUN AWAY TO RU NWAY Levi Okunov Prepares for NYC Fashion Week We have just parked the car and are walking down the street towards legendary sculptor Louise Bourgeois’ home to take part in the artist’s weekly salon which she hosts at her home in Chelsea. Twenty-one year old Levi Okunov and a small handful of like-minded friends from the ex-hassidic community have been invited to attend this week, and they have graciously extended the invitation to me as well. It is a beautiful crisp day ripe with the promise of

DESIGNER’S STUDIO IN BROOKLYN

Designer: Levi Okunov Photography: Anya Ferring and Kelly McKay Words by Anya Ferring

fall and the nostalgia of an almost bygone summer. Although the leaves on the trees are still green you can tell they are about to turn at any moment. I glance at Levi strolling ahead of me, his colorful ensemble like a living premonition of their fate to come in the following weeks, when everything homogenous and green will inevitably give way to multi-hued frenzy. He


could even be compared to a tree today as the jacket he is wearing (which appears to be constructed out of pink felted wool), has impressively large-sized pieces of wood appliqué attached as accents to the lapels, cuffs and pocket linings. It is quite a fantastic piece of work, rightly a sculpture in and of itself. We are indeed turning heads. At this point I notice for the first time since we’ve gotten out of the car how colorfully Berel, his publicist and childhood friend, is also dressed,

Levi can name the moment exactly when he fell in love with fabric and design. During his youth his aunt and a neighborhood friend and mentor played a pivotal role in planting the seeds of what would soon become a blossoming fashion career. “The first time I thought about sewing was when I was eight years old and my aunt, who was a bridal designer in the Hassidic community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, brought over these amazing curtains that

wearing a bright blue shirt, green shoes, and purple pants.

she had made to show the family. Nobody really appreciated or cared about them except for me, and I was totally blown away…” At the age of fourteen he met Mordichai Rubenstein, a publicist for Jack Spade, when he was walking down the street wearing a wackily painted hat. Mordichai, who lived three blocks away from Levi in Crown

“Nice pants,” I say, accordingly. “Wait’ll you see ‘em off!” He winks good-naturedly at me, not missing a beat, laughing. ----


Heights, also grew up Hassidic but eventually broke away. They eventually became friends through their shared love of fashion, when during the jewish holiday Purin, also known as the “Jewish Halloween,” he allowed Levi use of his expansive wardrobe to dress up in. (Here Berel interjects a little fact about Purin: “it’s the one day of the year where everyone is commanded to get drunk…”) Continues Levi, “… and so Morty dressed me up, and instead of getting dressed up as a clown or something traditional like that I dressed in this 1930s fedora, these burnt burgundy slender pants, fitted on the hips and waist, with this beautiful Jean-Paul Gaultier shirt that had green, white, and red prints on it. And that was my first taste of fashion. It was this addictive feeling, walking down the street with the royalty I felt from the attention I got,” he pauses for a moment, relishing the memory. “And that’s fashion…it’s addiction, its sexy, it’s modest, it’s eerie, it’s not what you wear but how you wear it.” ----“So you are all Hasidic?” Asks a woman with a camera as we shuffle into the weekly artist’s salon, already in session. At this point I feel as if maybe I am…without even trying I can almost understand completely the intermittently spoken Yiddish amongst our young protagonists, so similar sounding it is to German. It appears that our arrival has interrupted a reading by a Ginsberg-y looking young man with framed glasses and a faux hawk decked out in military-cum-punk gear. He is sitting in the seat of honor, directly in front of the great lady herself. I will later learn that his name is Sholom and that he grew up within blocks from Levi also. Otherwise the room is filled with the old men of culture; the gatekeepers. A painter, an intellectual, someone working for the Brooklyn Museum. I feel like I’m in a Woody Allen screen production of a Julio Cortozar novel. There is a box of gourmet chocolates being passed

culture it is common for a whole group to break into spontaneous singing which can then evolve into dancing if the mood is contagious enough. “Shall we sing for them?” he then asks, to which Sholom responds, “Well, it wouldn’t really be spontaneous if you had to explain it now, would it…?” Nonetheless the feelings of goodwill and joy are genuine, and they begin singing, building and crescendoing in natural harmonies off of each others leads. I remember suddenly Levi telling me that when he left his family of twelve during his younger years the thing he missed the most was the singing, and it is apparent to me now why. At some point someone attempts to inquire intelligently during the uproar just what, exactly, is being said during this intricate performance? To which it is found out, well, not really anything, except variations of “yeah.” Sholom interjects with something about how ecstatic states can be reached through wordless singing…that it “evolves simply into the expression of pure joy and nothing else.” ----Eventually Levi decided to leave home in order to “accommodate his lifestyle” but not because his parents had kicked him out. “I felt that I needed to be myself and explore that and I couldn’t do it at home.” He found his own apartment in Crown Heights and started working at a Hassidic bookstore. At first he assumed that leaving the Hassidic world would merely be an experiment, and that he would return eventually into the fold. “But then I found that the fashion world was actually more me than the Hassidische one,” he explains. At the age of seventeen he made the acquaintance of artist Robert Kitchen. “Robert’s a homosexual, he lives downstairs from David Bowie and Iman, he was make-out buddies with Andy Warhol…so I met a lot of people through him, and in awhile Robert and all these other people became like this extended family

around and a tray full of empty glasses surrounded by a few modest bottles of vodka and brandy. I will have to wait until Berel makes a blessing until I can have a slug, one where it is mandatory that we all take a shot of vodka, as is necessary for the “L’chaim,” or “to life” toast, which in fact demands it. After we have all dutifully downed our cups Berel begins humming excitedly, explaining to the rest of us that in Hassidic

to me,” he explains. “After hanging out together for a couple of months we figure out that I love fashion and that Robert loves me.” Levi became the artist’s young protégé and modeled for his paintings, with openings in Aspen, and Deitch Projects to follow. He was carted all around SOHO—from parties of all sorts to fashion shows of the industry elite—including a Marc Jacobs show, which was the first show he’d ever been to. “At


this point,” he remarks, “I have style, ambition, and vision, but no experience.” Soon afterwards he decides to start sewing, and despite a particularly disheartening internship with a small-scale design company he eventually lands a bigname job at the age of eighteen. “The next thing you know I have a job at Marc Jacobs stocking the shelves. Soon I start working in the

beautiful they are, but your outfit’s amazing.’” The universe had spoken. Shortly afterwards his first show followed during Fashion Week of Spring/Summer ’04. “A lot of great contacts actually came out to see my show at Opaline, from Michael Gallager to people who shop at Marc Jacobs. It was really a great show.” The next collection was shown at Café Deville in ‘05 and it was also a great

showroom as well and helping out with the Spring/ Summer show of ‘04.” The job proved to be a turning point in his career despite its briefness. “After I was laid off I was motivated even more. I said fuck it, I’m having my own show…Later on I’m in the train station wearing this wonderful outfit when this black man comes up to me and stops me and says, ‘look, I don’t even stop women and tell them how

success.” Cafe Deville was a big hit, a lot of people wanted to invest. WWD wrote an article on the future of the fashion world and included me as one of the designers to keep an eye out for.” However, despite special performances by Circque d’Soleil and successfully cajoling an entire audience into a large dancing circle singing Hassidic songs, the Spring/Summer show of ‘06 was not received


as favorably as its predecessors. “The problem was that I tried to save money by using cheaper fabrics and I got a lot of criticism for it,” explains Levi. “Basically I was trying to make fake silk, and for that of course I attracted no real buyers. From there I got really depressed. Finally I decided to do something different—I figure I’ve been working so hard so why stop now?” Which brings us to the current collection and this season’s impending Fashion Week. “Now I’m okay, I’ve accepted that some people will love my work and some people will hate it. This season I have a great team, I have a salesperson, a production manager, a publicist, we’re talking about opening a store on Mercer Street…” If there’s one asset Levi Okunov has mined to its fullest this season it’s color. As I had remarked prior to entering the salon that day, his pieces are fantastically colorful and their combinations incredibly innovative. To which Levi responds, “fashion is rebellious. I’ve always had to wear black and white.” ---At 6:30 on the dot we find ourselves milling about outside the Bourgeois home, waiting for several members of our party to wrap it up inside. Sholom is explaining to the painter a little bit more about

the alternative community they’ve created for each other, with each other. “We pick and choose the elements of Hassidism that are the most meaningful to us and apply them to our own lives…I guess you could say we’ve created our own sect in a way, our own family…” This statement made more sense to me after having spent the afternoon with them, whereas previously I was surprised at how much their past was still a part of their present. At one point during the salon, before Berel sat down to read his poetry he hesitated a moment, asked his friends something in Yiddish, and finally admitted that he was wondering whether or not to say a blessing—that in Hassidism when you do something important for the first time, you must perform a blessing—and he had never read his poetry in public before. ---“We are building buildings out of fabric,” Levi has responded to an addmitedly generic question I have posed about artistic inspiration. We are in the car and Berel and Levi are discussing in Yiddish how best to convey a specific sentiment to me regarding this theme. Berel tries to explain, beginning slowly as if trying out the words: “it is bringing it from the world of thought to the world of vision to the world


of action,” he pauses, and then starts again. “Creating something from nothing is the closest you get to the one and only one, the light. We were brought up with the belief that everything is one, something which is a kabalistic belief that we’re trained with. It’s just that we’ve just taken it in different directions, we want to create things that aren’t there already, whereas they [our families] want to excite you and take it in directions they feel is important. The Talmud says that the name of the being we refer to has many different names, but we refer to the creator as the ultimate artist. There is a latin phrase, ‘imatato deo’; that by imitating the creator you get to achieve some of that essence yourself…” Later on in the car ride home I ask Levi to elaborate on a comment that one of the members of the salon had made about how Hassidism was originally seen as a radical movement because of its initial departure from Orthodoxy. He explained to me that the original Hassids began their movement 300 years ago—and that on a very basic level it was really about involving the artisans and the working class people, and the idea that their five minutes worth of genuine, lifeloving prayer meant as much as hours and hours of

prayer from the pious. Since then, of course, many different communities within the Hassidic sect have developed, often without emphasis on this original founding point. He pauses for a moment to reflect on what he has just said and his own relation to it.” We are actually the true Hassids when you think about it,” he says. “We love what we are doing and are true to our art.” For more information check out leviokunov.com.


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Swoon Magazine Issue II  

Swoon Magazine's second issue. Focused on artists and organizations who are integrating their art with the issues they find relevant in thei...

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