The Indy Bag – Gucci

Interview with Cindy Gallop – Mission magazine

— Client: Mission magazine — Projects - Journalism

Recently, I got to play journalist again and meet one of my idols. Read my interview with Cindy Gallop here or download the pdf.

2017 portfolio

— Client: Paddle8, MoMA, Fab.com — Projects - Branding & Content

To see the most recent samples of my work, please click here or download pdf to the right.

Paul McCarthy x The Skateroom

— Client: MoMA — Projects - Branding & Content - MoMA

When the great contemporary artist Paul McCarthy released a limited edition skateboard series with The Skateroom exclusively for MoMA, there was no digital platform where we could cohesively tell the many layers and aspects of the story. Instead I create and produced a print poster that doubled as a newsletter on one side. The piece was printed on newspaper and ended up looking kind of like a classic fanzine, something that felt very right for the project.

Fab brandbook

 — Projects - Branding & Content - Fab.com

This is one of my last projects for Fab.com and it’s also one of my favorites. As the company was experiencing an identity crisis, we put together this book to remind the team of what made the brand special in the first place. The concept of “Happy Modern” came from a presentation I created, and this book grew from there.

Austere collaboration

— Client: Austere — Projects - Branding & Content

In the summer of 2014, I worked with the Scandinavian design showroom Austere on a catalog that was displayed at its East Hampton outpost c/o The Maidstone. Our concept was to offer something more engaging than a listing of products and prices, instead we aimed to create a magazine that you could shop from.

Fab portfolio

 — Projects - Branding & Content - Fab.com

From 2011 – 2104, I was Fab.com’s founding Editorial Director and Senior Content Director.  I created the company’s brand voice and built the Editorial department. In addition, I oversaw branding and storytelling across the site, including brand publishing projects, email promotions and product launches. Click here to see samples of promotional and branding projects.

MoMA portfolio

 — Projects - Branding & Content

From the fall of 2014 to the spring of 2016, I headed up Content Marketing at The Museum of Modern Art’s retail division. I lead content creation and brand voice across digital platforms, catalog, print ads, in-store signage and exhibitions. Download the pdf to the right or click here to see samples of some of the projects I worked on. 

Meet your makers—Branded content project for Fab

 — Projects - Branding & Content - Fab.com

I worked at Fab.com for three years, and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. One of my favorite projects was this little miniature magazine we made in 2013. (Thank you Bradford!) It features the stories of ten designers and artists who worked closely with Fab in its first two years. The concept behind each story is based on the number 10 (because it’s magical…).

I had the honor and pleasure to conceive the angle for each article, write most, and even source and concept photos with the subjects. It meant many wonderful conversations and meetings (Milton Glaser! Tom Dixon!) and lots of inspiration. These are small and large success stories of people who believed in something and worked hard for it. They have bad days and good days, like all of us. And I’m happy I got to share them.

Inside Tabor in Charlotte, NC

— Client: Garden & Gun — Journalism - Fashion - Journalism

https://gardenandgun.com/articles/southern-shops-tabor-in-charlotte-nc/

Laura Vinroot Poole has always done things differently. When she opened her Charlotte, North Carolina, women’s boutique, Capitol, in 1997, she combined hip high fashion—including many labels that had never come near the state before—with a shopping experience so warm and personal, women felt like they were visiting an old friend. But when her customers started asking her to offer clothing for their male companions, Vinroot Poole hesitated. “I was afraid of opening a store for men,” she says, “because I didn’t think I could understand them.” After she tried out the concept with a couple of pop-up shops, however, her fears subsided. “In the South, women tend to shop for their husbands,” she says. “So I was still selling to many of my regular customers. And I understand them very well.”

Having gained the confidence to move forward, Vinroot Poole opened Tabor (so-called after her maiden middle name) in May and set about molding it into a new kind of Southern gentlemen’s shop, where both men and women would feel at home and where guys who were not used to more individualized shopping would start to feel comfortable with it. And she enlisted some knowledgeable male help. Her husband, Perry Poole, an accomplished architect who is also “the best-dressed guy in the room,” according to his wife, took on the project as its creative director.

A view of the shop's curated mix of casual and tailored menswear and accessories.
PHOTO: STACEY VAN BERKEL

A view of the shop’s curated mix of casual and tailored menswear and accessories.

Besides her spouse, Vinroot Poole cites North Carolina’s state motto, Esse quam videri (“to be rather than to seem”), as an inspiration for

Leather belts from Virginia's Wiley Brothers.
PHOTO: STACEY VAN BERKEL

Leather belts from Virginia’s Wiley Brothers.

Tabor’s selection of sophisticated but casual American sportswear. Updated classics from brands like Thom Browne and Jack Spade share racks with a range of Southern designers: hand-sewn jeans from Raleigh Denim, cutting-edge clothes and shoes by North Carolina native Mark McNairy, and Virginia-made leather belts by Wiley Brothers, to name a few.

Other Southern touches include customized Billykirk leather goods by the Tennessee-born brothers Chris and Kirk Bray, and stationery consultation from Arzberger Stationers, a local stalwart that has engraved personal letterheads for Charlotte’s social circuit for the past ninety-two years. And, in a contemporary update on the traditional tailoring experience, Tabor offers on-the-spot alterations for simple fixes, such as taking an inch off a cuff.

If being in Tabor feels like you’re shopping in someone’s very chic living room, it’s because in a way, you are. Housed in a 1920s bungalow, the space was once home to four bachelors whose lifestyle Perry refers to as “rambunctious.” But this is no glorified man cave. It’s light, clean, and modern—masculine, but not intimidating or clubby. “Most men’s stores are so dark and heavy,” he says. “We wanted a place that felt like a beach shack.”

The multidimensional shop also houses a book café, where customers can sip complimentary coffee from the Raleigh-based roaster Cup a Joe while browsing the assortment of rare publications and records. There’s an art gallery, dubbed SOCO and headed by local collector Chandra Johnson, that features a rotating lineup of national and international photographers.

It’s all part of the plan to make customers feel at home while also introducing them to new and inspiring ideas—whether through clothing or culture—they might not otherwise experience in Charlotte. After all, Vinroot Poole says, “we have to take care of our own.”

Joy To The World!

— Posted: 2010-12-04

The online retail shop that Subports and I have been working on with the one and only Christian Joy is up just in time for Christmas! For thos e who don’t know her, CJ is a New York-based  artist and designer who makes all of Karen O’s amazing stage costumes (and some of her everyday tees and dresses too). This is the first time that Christian has made a collection based on her own  wardrobe and the result is cool, inspiring and completely stylish. No one else can manage to create super chic must-have footwear with a can of spray paint, a magic marker, some studs and a pair of men’s vintage shoes! Get your own piece of  Joy here.

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Princess Superstar (and Friends)

— Posted: 2010-11-01

Cinderella woke up in the morning, jumped up and down on the bed and yelled “I’m so ‘sited! I’m so ‘sited! It’s Haaallooweeen!” Then she stepped out in her plastic shoes, danced a little in the playground,  grabbed her pumpkin bucket and got candy from Steve Buscemi. When all the sweets in Park Slope had been claimed,  her friend Elmo and the Queen of Hearts came over to the castle and they ate their loot with record breaking speed. After that they felt pretty ‘sited again so they bounced across the bedroom like Cirque De Soleil without the safety nets and by the end of the night they had formed a band. Their first video is going viral any day now.

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Salon Somnambuli

— Posted: 2010-10-24

Elle Muliarchyk’s new guerrilla psychic fashion video Somanambuli has gotten a lot of play on the T blog and in the paper’s Sunday Styles section lately. The video, which is shot under cover, follows a the model Meghan Collison, dressed up in magazine-worthy outfits that project various fashion stereotypes, as she visits 10 psychics around town. Muliarchyk says that she wanted to explore how our appearances influence our fortunes and indeed , the choice of clothes did seem to greatly influence the readings.  (On the day she was dressed in hippie garb Collison was told clean up her act but the same fortune teller who saw Harvard in her future when she donned  ladylike tweeds.) But the video also has another layer, which is more complicated and mysterious. The name “Somnambuli”  comes from Elle’s idea of a sleepwalker seeing images of herself in different guises, and being unable to connect with them. She was inspired by Vladimir Nabokov’s novel “Despair” which is a sinister tale about identity and delusion.

Anyhow,  my point with all this is to plug the Salon Somnambuli event that I’m working on  in collaboration with Elle, my favorite online retailer subports and my favorite secret shopping place Fair Folks & a Goat. It will be the a mix of art exhibition,  tupperware party and séance.  We will screen the video,  invite a legendary real live psychic and sell beautiful large format stills along  with the clothes in the video  via subports. The event will be held in the deluxe domestic environemnt of  FFaG’s Upper East Side townhouse and I think it will be spectacular.

December 2, 7-9 pm

Fair Folks & a Goat

To make a reservation for the event or schedule a private viewing between Dec 2 -6

rsvp(at]fairfolksandagoat[dot]com

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Deep Cuts

— Posted: 2010-10-20

In the new issue of W, I write about the amazingly gifted and creative duo Graham Tabor and Miguel Villalobos’  new accessory line 1-100. The story also briefly mentions their new book project, but there are no images of it, so I wanted  show them here. The book is a documentation and extension of their show Hic & Nunc at Brachfeld Gallery in Paris: an “fake preservationist” installation of meticulously assembled cardboard skeletons of pre-historic animals. The book features photographs of the construction process (which took place in a huge Brooklyn warehouse) and pictures of  stranded skeletons on a beach. The book is designed by Swedish art directors Sandberg + Timonen who also create Livraison magazine.

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Girls On Film

— Client: W — Journalism - Art - Journalism

Four naked Eastern European women with cameras may sound like a plot for pay per view porn, but is in fact the concept behind a new art collaboration. For the past year, the young artists Aneta Bartos, Martynka Wawrzyniak, Elle Muliarchyk and Yana Toyber have taken provocative, lusty, surreal, violent and tender photographs and videos of each other in the nude. “The work is so powerful, both culturally and aesthetically,” says the curator Anne Huntington, who is collaborating with the group on an early November exhibition. “It’s beautiful, raw and human, it’s almost like a purge.” To the artists, the project is a deeply personal exploration of sexual identity and relationships. The intimacy between them is palpable in the pictures, as the women expose themselves and each other with the kind of abandon that rarely exists outside a closed bedroom door.

Aneta Bartos

“For me, this project was originally about sex and spirit and how it plays such a role in shaping cultures and religions and taboos,,” says Aneta Bartos, an art and fashion photographer who was born in Poland. (All the artists are of Eastern-European origin) Her darkly romantic images are shot on Polaroid film in seedy hotel rooms, and have the look of sinister erotic tableaux. Bartos says that the work has helped her shed some of her Catholic baggage and embrace the power of female sexuality. She says: “As I started feeling these amazing connections with the other women, I introduced new issues about freedom and dominance. Because that’s how I really see the girls.”

Martynka Wawrzyniak

“I find the petty, competitive female nature very challenging . This is the first time that I have had close working relationships with a group of women,” says Martynka Wawrzyniak, a Polish-born photography and video artist who explores femininity with both brutality and warmth in the project. One her works is a split-screen video of the four artists emphatically smearing their faces with lipstick.” I wanted to challenge the whole idea of the beauty shot,” she says. “It’s interesting to see someone destroy their face with something that is supposed to beautify you. But it’s also about being bare. We just let go of all insecurities and I think we look so beautiful, because it’s the true person coming out.”

Yana Toyber

“I haven’t done any nudes until this project,” says the Ukrainian-born artist and fashion photographer Yana Toyber. “I have photographed a lot of people in the sex industry, but I always had the girls dressed because they’re always exposed and I wanted to show their faces.” She shoots her fellow collaborators under water and the images have a dreamy and tender quality. “I wanted to work with water because it feels a little embryonic and evokes the feeling of birth,” she says. The images also symbolize a more global form of nurturing. Says Tober: “Water is a resource that we need to protect. Its future scarcity threatens our survival.”

Elle Muliarchyk

Belarusian Elle Muliarchyk is a former model who made her name as an artist when she started taking guerrilla fashion pictures of herself in upscale boutique dressing rooms. “I’m fascinated with a woman’s body, but I see it not in relation to my own womanhood but more as a material – totally raw and foreign and pregnant with fantastical possibilities,” she says. It seems fitting then that she used her partners’ naked limbs to recreate her own “very sexual, visual and weird” dreams. One of her photos features a (taxidermy) wolf hovering over Aneta Bartos’ crotch and another shows Yana Toyber with a fire-spitting vagina. “A friend of mine called that picture very religious,” says Muliarchyk. “It’s a burning bush!”

Happy Birthday

— Posted: 2010-10-13

We went apple picking in Rheinbeck, Then Alva and I found ourselves a little house. In the evening there was a crazy hail storm. It was a good day.

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Multimedia Package | An Art Book You Can Wear, Too

— Client: T: The New York Times Style Magazine — Journalism - Art - Journalism

“We think that one of the great virtues of art is that it enables us to see the world differently through multiple lenses,” comes the statement from the V collective, a fashion advertising and branding agency as well as the masterminds, along with 3 Deep Design, behind the newly launched Project 00. The specific lenses here are an art book, a DVD and a T-shirt, all focused on the work of a single artist.

The first issue, which makes its debut Sept. 17 at the New Museum, sets its sights on the German artist Robert Knoke with a 240-page book called “Black Material,” a selection of films and a T-shirt featuring one of Knoke’s striking black-and-white ink portraits. Knoke says he chose the title “Black Material” because the project made him look at his drawings differently and to focus on the details. “It’s more abstract than portraiture,” says Knoke, who is fascinated with fashion and pop-culture personalities like Rick Owens, Terence Koh and Patti Smith. “I use the portrait as a point of departure, but the person becomes my material through the drawing. They all end up looking the same in a way.” Casey Spooner, who is one of Knoke’s favorite subjects, concurs. “The drawings are almost like a mix of representational art and Abstract Expressionism,” Spooner says. “Collectively, the works become more like portraits of Robert himself.”

“Volume 01 – Black Material” will be sold at Seven New York, Oak, Isetan, 10 Corso Como and Colette.

Isn’t It Surreal? Dorothea Tanning at The Drawing Center

— Client: T: The New York Times Magazine — Journalism - Art

Dorothea Tanning, the last of the Surrealists, has always been something of a fashion plate. A long-limbed beauty and a piquant dresser, Tanning scoured vintage shops and played dress-up with extravagant 19th-century pieces. Her eclectic style sense is celebrated in the 1942 self-portrait “Birthday” in which the bare-breasted artist sports an Elizabethan-style jacket, a draped skirt and what appears to the be the entire root system of a very large tree.

An exhibition at the Drawing Center of Tanning’s sketches of ballet costumes for the choreographer George Balanchine makes you think that it’s too bad she never tried her hand at fashion design. While clearly steeped in 1940s surrealism, the designs also have a strangely contemporary quality. Clingy witch’s dresses have a raw and revealing aesthetic that wouldn’t look out of place on Alexander Wang’s runway, while a fantastical ship headdress paired with a magnificent crinoline bring to mind the work of Philip Treacy and John Galliano.

“These drawings feature ideas and themes that she was exploring throughout her entire practice,” says assistant curator Rachel Liebowitz, who worked on the show with the Drawing Center assistant curator Joanna Kleinberg. “They really give you an understanding of what she aimed to do.”

DTanning
Dorothea Tanning

Tanning, whose 100th birthday is Aug. 25, arrived in New York at age 22 with $25 and a dream of being an artist. She quickly fell in with the eccentric — and fiendishly chic — surrealist crowd that included the likes of André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte and Max Ernst, whom she eventually married. Another friend was Balanchine, who was so impressed with Tanning’s sense of sartorial drama that he asked her to collaborate on his ballets.

“The costume sketches and her early paintings show a recurrent theme of fabric and drapery, which developed into soft cloth sculptures later in her practice,” Kleinberg says.

Tanning was not directly involved in the exhibition, but gave the curators her blessing and the occasional suggestion. (She resides in the West Village in a crimson and periwinkle apartment filled with Surrealist art.) In recent interviews she displays a sharp wit and the kind of seen-it-all laser-beam intelligence.

“I can only say that if a work doesn’t make being sane and alive not only possible but wonderful, well, move on to the next picture,” she told salon.com in 2002.

The work displayed at the Drawing Center is certainly worthy of lingering.

Doing It His Way – Michael Pitt

— Client: ZOO Magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

An interview with Michael Pitt is a reporter’s dream. Or nightmare. Depending on where you’re coming from. Most questions will remain unanswered. What you will get instead are moments of raw sincerity, something extraordinary among people who live in the public eye. The 25-year-old Pitt is at the point where he could or could not become a major star. So far he has been working against it. His past projects have been deliberately off-kilter. He exposed both body and soul playing a student who tests his sexual boundaries in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers” and played a sultry glam rock performer obsessed with an East German transsexual “Hedwig and The Angry Inch”. But his best-known (and most acclaimed) role to date is his portrayal of the self-destructing rock star in Gus van Sant’s “Last Days”, a challenging cinematic meditation on fame and death loosely based on Kurt Cobain. But he also stars in the upcoming “Silk” by director Francois Girard, a romantic period piece about a young French silk merchant in love with a Chinese concubine that could be a potential blockbuster. It’s easy to imagine him as the next teen idol. As much as he probably dislikes it, Pitt is the perfect incarnation of the actor as a young rebel. Brooding, sensitive, conflicted, unpredictable and angel-faced. Talented from the gut, suspicious of fame. And stubbornly refusing to participate in any bullshit. Our interview starts with my tentative question about Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games”, the film he’s currently shooting. There’s a long silence on the other line, then an exhalation of smoke and the throaty statement: “I think this country is fucked up”. After the first fearful pang of losing control, I decide to go with the politics. So why does Michael Pitt think that America is fucked up?  “Media fucks with me because there is no real information available. I have to get on a plane to know what’s going on. I should just leave.” When I suggest that he should stay and try do fight against it, I get the weary answer: “Yeah but the problem is that when you want to do things you have to go undercover. All politicians say that they are going to change things when they get in a position to do it. And then when they get there they have become like everyone else. The whole game is rigged.” He speaks with the perspective of the underdog, the person who’s never had the luxury of losing innocence, because he has always known that life was unfair. “I’m part of the problem, not part of the solution, I’m uneducated and uninvolved, he states.  ” But he still can’t help but feeling betrayed. “I don’t think Americans are stupid, I think they’re just not given the information. You have to do so much work to get it.”  Pitt grew up in a working class environment in West Orange, New Jersey “Exotic, huh?” He landed his first acting gig at age 16 in an off-Broadway play. He had dropped out of school and says it was “the first time no one told me I was stupid.” His performance garnered great reviews and he was cast in a recurring role in the popular teen soap “Dawsons Creek”. It seems to be something he’d rather forget.  He doesn’t specifically mention the TV series, but stresses that he’s never been interested in fame and fortune. ”I was doing this play and was able to get a little apartment and buy groceries and I thought that was what I was gonna do. Then it gets more complicated, people say, well, here’s a shit-load of money, here’s what we want you to do, and, at a certain level, especially if you haven’t had money, you feel like you have no right to turn this down.” With experience, he has learned to only choose projects that he enjoys. “That’s really the only way I can do it. Because my brain gets bad if I don’t. I never come off good and personally it’s not healthy for me. I didn’t get in to this to feel like I was selling a product.” Pitt also plays guitar and writes the music for a four-member band called “Pagoda.” He performed his song “Death to Life” in Last Days, generally considered one of the film’s most touching moments. He says he has only seen the movie once, but likes the fact that Van Sant decided to steer away from literal references, such as using Nirvana for the soundtrack. “The fans were disappointed because they wanted to see their rock god, they wanted “The Doors,” but he forces you to look at the person instead. And I get the sense that a lot of people didn’t treat him [Cobain] like a human being.” Like Cobain, Pitt is currently feeling ambivalent about his craft. “Acting is weird. It kind of creeps me out. To do it right you have to really fuck with your emotions. I’m not sure it’s healthy for you.”  He feels less conflicted about his music. “Maybe that’s because I haven’t done it for that long”. But he also seems to enjoy the sense of creative control. “As an actor you’re just the vessel. It’s not your vision, it’s the director’s vision. Your job is to help the director. At the end of the day a good director can make a good film with so-so actors. You do your job and then they make it what they want.” However, Pitt concedes that the actor/musician cliché has its own baggage. “You don’t get respect. People are judgmental. So am I. I try not to be, but I am. But then again, I believe you should just do what you’re doing and do it pure. “

Slice of Life – Nick Stahl

— Client: ZOO Magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

To many of us unfamous folks, the life of a child actor seems both exotic and slightly creepy. There’s the “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” cliché of the kid who gets too much too soon and never quite manages to grow up gracefully. But in Nick Stahl’s case the opposite seems to be true. Rather than smuggling an overly entitled inner child, Stahl seems more like an old soul trapped in a young man’s body. Practically a veteran in the business (he started acting in the late ‘80s) he has managed to become something as rare as a 27 year-old character actor. Stahl excels at the brooding, mysterious types that carry around a lot of heavy baggage that slowly becomes unraveled before the audience’s eyes. He is equally convincing as a hero as a villain, bringing a sense of alienation and vulnerability to both. Besides obvious talent, Stahl also seems to possess a sort of earthy humility. Perhaps what makes him so unique is his highly pragmatic professional attitude. To Stahl, acting is work. A way to make a living. Something you do – not something you try to be. “I’ve never really considered any other career,” he says, explaining that this single-mindedness is partly a product of necessity. “When you start working and traveling as a 10-year-old kid, it leaves so little time for school. I sort had to put all my chips in and really commit to it. So it became really the only thing that I knew how to do.” Maybe it’s good to not have had time for adolescent dreams of stardom. As a teenager, Stahl was already dealing with the very real, adult issues that every freelancer faces. “For most of the time I kept working, but I also had huge dry spells. But then would I seem to get through that phase and eventually get another job.” Many of those jobs led to highly acclaimed (and deeply moving) performances like the young boy yearning for a father figure in  “The Man Without a Face,” and the teenage lover of a 30-something woman in “In The Bedroom”.  For the most part, Stahl has stuck to smaller, ensemble driven productions like “Bully” and the now defunct HBO series “Carnivale” (a hit among critics but not with mainstream audiences), but his biggest star turn yet was the part of John Connor in Terminator 3. Although his part is underwritten and the movie is essentially flat, there’s a fragility and despair to Stahl’s anti-hero that feels real. Working on such a big production was alien to him in some ways: “It was just very different for me, because I’ve never been part of something so massive before,” he says, “You do feel like you’re part of a machine. You know, you almost forget that in this hugeness, there’s a movie being made.” The blockbuster aspect was also a challenge. “It does entail some sort of pressure, that this ain’t going straight to video. People are actually going to see this, even if it’s bad or I’m bad or whatever.” However, Stahl is currently operating in more familiar territory, starring in an independent family drama called “Ferris Wheel” also featuring Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson and Dennis Hopper and directed by the Irish director Bill Maher (not to be confused with the American comedian). The plot is centered around Stahl’s character “a simple guy with a dingy, meager apartment who works on a road crew” and his 12-year-old niece who is abandoned by her mother (Theron) and left in his care. It’s a project that seems very much up his alley: “It’s just a great tale about a family. I like simple stories, that are well written and with characters that are clear.  I love those kinds of movies.  A true slice of life. I’ve always felt a certain confidence in doing those kinds of roles.”

Steeler Obsessions

— Posted: 2010-09-03

My husband David Yellen  is participating in the exhibition WHATEVER IT TAKES: Steelers Fan Collections, Rituals, and Obsessions exhibition at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. This photograph of a fantasy hair style by the legendary Detroit stylist Little Willie is featured. The picture was in our book Hair Wars, which celebrated the touring fantasy hair showcase of the same name.

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Meet Jon Ashe

— Posted: 2010-09-03

My new favorite menswear label, Jon Ashe, applies the classic design principles of form and function with a Brooklyn hipster twist. Read all about it in my recent post for New York Times’ style blog The Moment

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  1. Andreas

    Great stuff.

“The Girl”

— Posted: 2010-08-26

I have a small piece about the lovely new Swedish movie “The Girl” in the September issue of W. It opens in NYC on September 17 and will be playing at Cinema Village. Go see it.

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Sunny Memories

— Client: Future Flair — Branding & Content - MoMA

New York City, April 1, 2010 – Solar panels are no longer just silver boxes on roofs. A new generation of solar cells harnesses solar energy through flexible, colored or even transparent surfaces, creating endless possibilities for innovation at the crossroads of design, engineering and architecture. An energy-producing portable speaker, public park furniture that glows at night, a sensor-based mailbox that sends SMS when full and a refrigerator that can keep itself cool off the grid: these are amongst the 28 exciting projects that will be on view at the Center for Architecture May 13 to June 5, to coincide with the 22nd International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

In Sunny Memories, four leading design schools explored the broad new realm of technology, energy, and design that solar dye cells have heralded. Led by the EPFL+ECAL Lab, in Lausanne, Switzerland, the “Sunny Memories” workshops took place in collaboration with the University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL), the California College of the Arts (CCA), the Royal College of Art in London (RCA) and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle in Paris (ENSCI). Under the tutelage of design leaders like Yves Béhar from San Francisco’s fuseproject, Jean-François Dingjian of Paris’ Normal Studio, Sam Hecht from London’s Industrial Facility, and Swiss designer Jörg Boner, students began their projects with the following challenge: how do we use energy to record our memory, heritage and knowledge? How can we employ solar energy to preserve history, while increasing autonomy, mobility, and sustainability?

The source of this solar innovation is EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), the “MIT of Switzerland.” There, professor Michael Graëtzel began to use molecules from colorants to transform the sun’s light into electricity. Inspired by photosynthesis, he developed an award-winning technology that allowed solar dye cells to take all sorts of shapes, colors and forms. As industrial production of these solar cells has begun, it is now up to the design community to create products that meld this new technology with great design. “Sunny Memories signals a new relationship between technology and design: designers have the freedom to explore the multiple meanings that a new technology can bring about, and transform it into real user-centered experiences,” comments Nicolas Henchoz, Director of the EPFL+ECAL Lab.

In addition to the guidance of the EPFL+ECAL Lab, a research center established in 2007 by EPFL in collaboration with ECAL to boost innovation at the crossroads of design, engineering and architecture, the young designers had the support of the laboratory of Prof. Michaël Grätzel (EPFL), who earned a World Technology Award for this technology, and three companies, which have started mass production of these dye solar cells: Solaronix (Switzerland), G24i (UK) and Dyesol (Australia). The workshop was given concrete form thanks to the commitment of Geneva-based private bankers Lombard Odier, pioneers in responsible investment.

Since 2009, the Sunny Memories exhibition has been on world tour; it has stopped in Lausanne, Paris, London, and San Francisco and will arrive in New York in time for ICFF. “The American Institute of Architects is committed to a sustainable future,” says Anthony P. Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA, President of AIANY. “We’re also dedicated to helping the next generation of designers grow, and exhibiting Sunny Memories at the Center for Architecture is a great opportunity to show New Yorkers a new mode of environmentally responsible design.” The North American tour of Sunny Memories will end in Boston’s Harvard Laboratory at in the fall 2010.

Related programming in New York is organized by futureflair and the Center for Architecture. Exhibition design in New York by Pure+Applied. The exhibition was produced by EPFL+ECAL Lab, and received support from swissnex San Francisco, the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, and the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York.

Opening Party and Panel: Sunday, May 16, 2010, 5-7pm
Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, New York City

Speakers include Nicolas Henchoz of EPFL+ECAL Lab in conversation with Paul Thompson, rector of the Royal Collage of Art, Rick Lewis of seven02 design and professor at CCA, and Anna Dyson director of the MATERIALAB at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, moderated by Laetitia Wolff of futureflair.

Sunny Memories is on view May 13-June 5, 2010, at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, between Bleecker and West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village, NYC. The Center is open M-F 9am-8pm, Saturday 11am-5pm, and select Sundays. Press are invited to view the exhibition on Sunday May 16 at 4 PM.

Happy Campers Press Release

 — Journalism - Design & Architecture - Journalism - MoMA

“Happy Campers” – an interactive exhibition with young Swedish design groups:

defyra

Research and Development

UGLYCUTE

We Work In A Fragile Material

Curated by Fredrik Helander, Johanna Lenander and Brett

Littman

May 21 – 23, Skylight Studios

“Happy Campers” is an interactive exhibition/workshop that features some of Sweden’s most exciting young design groups. The show coincides with the ICFF fair and is a part of the off-site Mobile Living exhibition at Skylight studios. “Happy Campers” offers an interesting alternative to traditional design exhibitions. Instead of promoting finished products, it is a creative experiment that will grow and evolve during three days.

Four young collaborative design groups from Sweden: defyra, Research and Development, UGLYCUTE and We Work In A Fragile Material, will build their installations and lead workshops on site with the help of the public. They will create a metaphorical ‘camp ground’ and explore issues of collaboration, social interaction, the Swedish relationship to nature, and mobile living. Visitors will participate in the growth of a 13 feet troll, stuff hot dog pillows by the yard and spend a virtual day in the Stockholm archipelago.

Items from the exhibition will be for sale at Salvor Kiosk May 23 through August www.salvorkiosk.com

Skylight Studios

275 Hudson St (at Spring St.)

New York, NY 10012

Happy Campers Design Exhibition

 — Projects - Curating

“Happy Campers” – an interactive exhibition with young Swedish design groups

defyra

Research and Development

UGLYCUTE

We Work In A Fragile Material

Curated by Fredrik Helander, Johanna Lenander and Brett

Littman

May 21 – 23, Skylight Studios

“Happy Campers” is an interactive exhibition/workshop that features some of Sweden’s most exciting young design groups. The show coincides with the ICFF fair and is a part of the off-site Mobile Living exhibition at Skylight studios. “Happy Campers” offers an interesting alternative to traditional design exhibitions. Instead of promoting finished products, it is a creative experiment that will grow and evolve during three days.

Four young collaborative design groups from Sweden: defyra, Research and Development, UGLYCUTE and We Work In A Fragile Material, will build their installations and lead workshops on site with the help of the public. They will create a metaphorical ‘camp ground’ and explore issues of collaboration, social interaction, the Swedish relationship to nature, and mobile living. Visitors will participate in the growth of a 13 feet troll, stuff hot dog pillows by the yard and spend a virtual day in the Stockholm archipelago.

Items from the exhibition will be for sale at Salvor Kiosk May 23 through August www.salvorkiosk.com

For contact and information:

Johanna Lenander:  jlenander@earthlink.net

Skylight Studios

275 Hudson St (at Spring St.)

New York, NY 10012

Concrete Canvas Shelters

— Client: I.D. Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture

How do you make a refugee shelter that is strong like a house but only requires one hour and two people to assemble it? Well, first you need to invent your own superhero material. British inventors and design engineers Peter Brewin and William Crawford, founders of design company Concrete Canvas, did just that by taking a basic building component (cement), rethinking its properties, and turning it into a new material (cloth). The supremely efficient and innovative Concrete Cloth is a cement-impregnated fabric that transforms into an impermeable tent when you add air and water. As the fabric gets wet, it inflates into an oval structure, and then dries to form a robust, waterproof, fireproof and lightweight shell. Brewin and Crawford first got the idea for Concrete Cloth when they were graduate students at London’s Royal College of Art. The duo entered a competition held by the British Cement Association that called for new ways to use cement. Their aim was to make a resilient and durable disaster relief shelter. “You think of a refugee camp as temporary housing, but people have to live in them for years,” says Brewin. “We wanted to make something that could last a decade.” Their brainstorming process took them to some unexpected places: chicken coops and hospitals. “We were inspired by egg shells,” says Brewin, “It’s a very thin ceramic shell that gets its strength from the support of its structure.” The idea of cloth came from plaster bandages. “When you break your arm, the wet cloth hardens into a strong, protective shield,” says Brewin.

While the shelters have been in production for a year, they have so far only been employed for military use. “The production is still too small to make them affordable for NGO’s,” says Brewin. However, the company recently received a large publicity boost when they won Material Connexion’s Medium Award for Material of the Year. “That’s the kind of validation that helps us get our product out there so we can lower production costs,” says Brewin “It’s a huge help.”

Sketch Troop

— Client: Surface Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture

“We’re constantly searching for knowledge,” says Sofia Lagerkvist, one quarter of ascending Swedish design stars Front. “ We begin most of our projects by asking: Why is a particular object made in a particular way? Can we do it differently?” These questions have led to some pretty interesting answers. In the two years since Lagerkvist, Katja Sävström, Charlotte von der Lancken and Anna Lindgren founded Front (the group met at Stockholm’s Konstfack University of Arts, Craft and Design), they have collaborated with animals, put stereos in glass bottles, designed an ever-changing museum interior and, most recently, used hi-tech animation tools to create furniture. “It’s about exploring what the task of a designer really is,” says Lindgren, “How do we make something new?”

Front’s combination of childlike curiosity and vigorous research has made them Sweden’s most talked about new designers. Their work has been praised by everyone from Women’s Wear Daily to Droog Design, who has collaborated with the foursome since last September. Their latest project, which is perhaps their most radical yet, was shown at design.05 during Miami’s Art Basel fair alongside such industry veterans as Ron Arad, Gaetano Pesce and Ettore Sottsas. Front displayed a set of strangely cartoonish-looking furniture that had been created from their latest self-invented design and manufacturing process.  “We like to merge two completely different techniques that have never been combined before,” says Lindgren, “It’s like a meeting of two separate worlds.” The group’s basic inspiration was exploring the relationship between a sketch and a final product. By hooking up motion capture sensors –the technique used to register actors’ movements for animated film characters- to their index fingers, each Front member was able to literally draw their designs in the air. “Normally, you make a two-dimensional sketch, but these were three-dimensional, like you were creating an invisible object,” says Lindgren. An added difficulty was that they couldn’t see what they were drawing. “You have to sketch very quickly so you can remember what you did,” says Lagerkvist.  The sketches were saved in a computer file and brought over to a Finnish factory that specializes in a type of Rapid Prototyping called Selective Laser Sintering, normally used for car manufacturing. The motion capture file was translated by a laser-beam, which slowly built a prototype from a pool of liquid plastic. The material was applied in multiple thin layers, which were hardened by the laser. After approximately four days the real-life product slowly rose out of the liquid, much like a sea monster rearing its head in a horror film. “It was really strange to see the furniture just appear like that,” says Lindgren, “There was definitely a sense of giving birth.” The limited edition furniture collection (a table, chair, lamp and sofa) is available at Barry Friedman Gallery in New York, and the project may be expanded in the future. Front still seem to be slightly in awe of their own invention. “It’s so fascinating to bypass the whole manufacturing process,” says Lagerkvist, “In a sense, the pieces are made by hand, but no one has ever touched them.”

Lie Back and Think of Denmark

— Client: Art Review Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture

The work of Danish furniture designer Poul Kjaerholm is the perfect embodiment of the Scandinavian Modern era. Its serene lines and meticulously function-friendly forms speak about high ideals and careful craftsmanship, values that triggers an immediate sense of nostalgia in many of us. However, Kjaerholm fans argue that the most important qualities of his work have nothing to do with the past. “The strange thing about Kjaerholm is that his designs looks like they could have been created yesterday,” says the New York-based architect and Danish design expert Michael Sheridan. Sheridan has set out to explore this timeless quality in the first museum retrospective ever of Kjaerholm’s work, which will open in June at the modern art museum Louisiana outside Copenhagen. The exhibition, which features 75 pieces of furniture and more than 150 drawings and sketches, follows Kjaerholm’s career from his days as a young cabinetmaker to international design icon. Kjaerholm, who died of lung cancer at age 51 in 1980 (he smoked three packs a day according to Sheridan), designed furniture up until his untimely death and was a professor of Furniture Design at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen from 1952 to 1956 and at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts, Copenhagen from 1955 to 1976. He is not as well known as his contemporary colleagues Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen and Verner Panton, yet he is revered with an almost religious zeal in design circles. So why do connoisseurs find his ouevres more time resistant and, ultimately, better than the designs of for example Charles and Ray Eames and Mies van Der Rohe? Sheridan thinks that the secret behind Kjaerholm’s greatness was his lack of design ego and respect for his material (he once stated: ‘I’d rather express the character of the material than my own character’). “He came from a long tradition of craftsmanship”, says Sheridan, pointing to the young Kjaerholm’s training as a cabinetmaker. “He saw himself as a furniture architect, not a furniture designer. His work had nothing to do with stylized design. Mies’ and Bauhaus’ furniture was all about form and visual effect. They embody a cold, efficient machine ideal that dates them to that era. But Kjaerholm’s forms were really a product of his material. It wasn’t where he started but where he ended up as a result.” William Lee of New York’s Modern Link, a design collective and retail shop that carries vintage mid-century furniture as well as the group’s own line, finds that its the high quality of Kjaerholm’s work that makes it so desirable. “If you look closely at the work by the American modernists you begin to find flaws,” he says, “But with Kjaerholm and the other Scandinavians, you discover more and more beauty. It’s not a superficial, form driven style.” Kjaerholm’s furniture is known for looking better aged than new as the patina of time adds character to the light and sleek shapes. His vintage leather upholstered chairs and sofas are especially popular. This is a result of Kjaerholm’s almost obsessive attention to construction and detail, which made the stuff practically indestructible. Each component was – and still is – hand made. “In the beginning of his career he was very driven by the socialist ideal of making furniture that was accessible for everyone,” says Sheridan, “But then it ended up being very expensive. But he justified that by saying that it was pretty good value in terms of longevity.”

However, longevity notwithstanding, how come the common image of modern Scandinavian design is still firmly attached to those dearly departed mid-century masters? Furniture that was conceived five decades ago is clearly no longer “modern”. So why hasn’t any real new talents emerged since then? It’s interesting to note that to many design fans, Kjaerholm and his contemporaries are still the most radical creators to come out of Scandinavia. While countries like Italy, France and Holland have moved on to produce contemporary design innovators, Scandinavia seems stuck in Wegner, Kjaerholm, Jacobsen and Aalto. Is the shadow of Nordic Modern movement so over-powering that it has stifled the design climate in Sweden, Denmark and Finland today?  Michael Sheridan thinks the greatness of Kjaerholm et al was partly due to social and political forces. “I think its important to realize that the rise of Danish design, and

Nordic Modernism in general, occurred due to a convergence of social forces. It was really a historical accident that resulted from a unique moment in history and the overlapping of different ways of seeing the world,” he says, referring to the swift transformation of Scandinavia from agriculture-based economies to industrialized, urban societies that took place in the first half of the 20th century. The Swedish artist Jonas Nobel, who also belongs to the experimental and performance-oriented design collective Uglycute, makes a similar point: “The Scandinavian Modern aesthetic was an expression of the political climate of the time. The social-democratic governments were busy creating a “new’ society. The modernists’ furniture fit in with that ideal.” But, he says, that large-scale, collective vision is no longer relevant. “Today our political life is scattered and there are a multitude of influences from all over the place, which I personally think is healthy.” Sheridan has the outsider’s perspective: “The idea of Nordic Modernism is rooted in a Nordic culture that is different from everyplace else and today that difference has largely been eroded.” But if the Scandinavian societies have changed, how come their design scene hasn’t changed with it? Because the aesthetic norms and expectations have stayed the same, according to Nobel. “There is this prevailing attitude that when you create a new object, you are prescribing a new way of living for everyone. A reaction that Uglycute often gets is: ‘Is this how our homes are supposed to look now?’ People don’t understand design as a suggestion and form of experimentation.” Since that kind of mass-market theory is pretty much the only design ideal that is taught in design schools, there has been little room for progress. “Why should you try to make the ultimate ‘modern’ chair when the modernists already perfected it?” he says. “There is no reason for it. Design has to be created as an expression of its time. It’s a way of communicating an idea.” However, Nobel, who also teaches at Stockholm’s College of The Arts, Crafts and Design Konstfack and Beckman’s School of Design, says that the modernist ideology has finally started to subside in the classrooms, giving way to a whole new wave of Scandinavian Expressionism. “A lot has happened in the past 5-6 years. There are a lot of new designers out there who are examining new ways to work with craft and material. It’s partly because people like me are beginning to show up on school faculties. And then in twenty years we’ll have a rebellion against that. Which is exactly the way it should be.”

Something to Sing About

— Client: I.D. Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture

With its recent sea oil revenue and late urbanization, Norway tends to play the role of Scandinavia’s nouveau riche cousin from the country. The postwar urban aesthetic of this small and sparsely populated country (4,7 million) has (with the exception of Pritzker Prize winner Sverre Fehn) been stuck in a time warp, giving it rustic patina rather than Scandinavian Modern gloss. This is set to change, however, with Oslo’s new opera house. The elegantly expansive structure, which was inaugurated on April 12, is expected to pull the Norwegian capital out of its cultural obscurity and put it on the map as an architectural hot spot.

Norway’s ministry of culture held the international competition for a new national landmark eight years ago, and local breakout firm Snøhetta—which is best known for their future visitor’s center at the WTC Memorial and the 800 000 square foot Alexandria Library in Cairo– but has never built a similarly grand-scale project before on its home turf—was a natural choice for the weighty commission. “We were given the task to create a monumental building that would represent the abilities of contemporary Norwegian society,” says Snøhetta’s Tarald Lundevall, who was the project’s architect together with his colleagues Kjertil Thorsen and Craig Dykers.

Although the white stone and glass building itself has already radically transformed the city’s coastline  —with its sweeping roof platform that descends into the fjord on one side and extends into a plaza on the other, it looks like an immense formation of ice floes rising out of the water—Snøhetta’s interpretation of “monumental” was focused more on usage and Scandinavian ideals of public access. All aspects of the building are designed for public use, even the exterior. The roof ramps over the entire building, functioning like a panoramic park as it rises above the glass encased foyer and offers an impressive view of the Oslo cityscape and then slides down the other side into a waterfront terrace. “We wrapped the building in a carpet of widespread planes that are open for everyone,” says Lundevall. “You can sit on the roof and take some sun, you can stroll around and dip your toe in the water.”

Frost Produkt

— Client: I.D. Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture

Three years ago, when the Oslo design collective Frost Produkt first laid eyes on their future studio—a two-story, late 19th-century building that once served as a stable for the city’s brewery—it wasn’t promising. “It looked like hell,” says Sondre Frost, 28, who together with his brother, Jann, and partners Sindre Widerberg and Thomas Jenkins, have created everything from Norway’s official mailbox to 2004’s Alta Bike, a lightweight, single-speed bicycle that in 2006 became the bike of choice for Smart Bike, an urban rental system similar to Zipcar. (Already implemented in four Scandinavian cities, the system will debut in Barcelona this spring.) “It was raw and dilapidated, with no bathroom or water.” Undeterred, the group rebuilt the interiors, filling the building with friends, food, and music and creating a work environment that borders on domestic bliss.

Frost Produkt’s aesthetic credo is “warm minimalism” and they decorated accordingly, with bright, clean, functional rooms broken up by craggy walls and personal accents like the designers’ own Alta Bikes and a collection of kitschy religious objects that includes a ceramic golden Ganesh, a waving Japanese cat, and a picture of the Pope. In the renovation, they added a workshop for building prototypes next door; shaped like a black cube, it’s a sharp contrast to the original all-white structure. (Currently, the group is cranking out models on their beloved Colchester lathe for an upcoming collection of ski gear. The ground floor is rented to designer friends and colleagues, and Frost Produkt’s members work at a communal desk on the second floor to the sounds of German techno or Norwegian folk music blasting from a restored Bang & Olufsen stereo. “Music is very important to us,” says Frost.

So is food. The designers cook and eat lunch together every day in their big kitchen. (They even have a little bell that calls everyone to the table.) “Since we often work late, it’s important to have a good lunch,” says Frost, sounding very much like a sensible Scandinavian. The home cooking also attracts visits from neighboring design groups like Norway Says, with whom the group collaborated on the Alta Bike. “We have a small, close-knit network of young designers in Oslo,” says Sondre, “Together, we’re changing the face of Norwegian design.”

Square footage: 1,600

Number of workers:

Décor element that says it all: “The warm minimalism of the whole building, especially the new extension, which combines the new with the old, clean, functional, and charming.

First thing to rescue in a fire: “The old Colchester lathe would probably take us 20 men and a whole day to get out, but we bought it at a foreclosure sale six years ago and the previous owner told us it was used for the construction of the bobsled track at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.”

Kirnauskis 2.0

— Client: I.D. Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture

Two years ago, when art director Nora Illoranta took over the Finnish advertising firm Kirnauskis –founded in 1991 by her mother Sirkka Knutila- she began the slow shift from warm and fuzzy family business to cutting-edge corporation. “We’re known for treating our clients with loyalty and respect, which is still our core value, but we wanted to focus more on innovation and renewal,” Iloranta says. After adding to the company’s name the tech-boom-sounding “2.0” – the original “Kirnauskis” is taken from a fairy tale about a group of friends working together- Iloranat and managing director Annuska Arponen changed the company’s colors from “soft amnd warm” to black and cyan, commissioned a new logo and visual identity and in 2007 moved into freshly designed headquarters.

Housed in a Helsinki apartment building that dates from 1896, the new offices are a mix of old-world domesticity and sleek corporate design. Fellow Finnish designers Jarkko Kallio, Harri Helorinne and Nanna Kinnunen converted a maze of dark ornate flats into a bright, clean office space with communal design and production rooms, making sure to incorporate Kirnauski’s credo of tradition and renewal: Hi-tech minimalism (the space is dominated by white walls and the furniture is illuminated by bulbs that imitate natural light) contrasts with carefully preserved historical details, such as an Art Nouveau ceiling and a richly decorated black ceramic fireplace in the former dining room , now a multi-desk production space. “Before we painted the walls white, the ceiling actually seemed kind of dark and depressing,” says Iloranta. “Now it looks like a beautiful crown for the whole room.”

The firm moved into the new digs last summer, but it didn’t have to go very far: Kirnauskis has been based in the same building since its inception. “We started out with one room, and as the company grew, we spread out to different rooms on different floors,” says Iloranta. Moving the 21-person staff has not only proved more efficient, it has also improved company morale. “It’s a good space to breathe in and let ideas come to you,” says Iloranta. “And people respect the space more. They don’t let their desks get so messy.”

Hedi Metal

— Client: Surface Magazine — Journalism - Art

Around the turn of the millennium, Hedi Slimane transformed the male fashion and beauty ideal. As creative director of Yves Saint Laurent Homme and Dior Homme, he ushered in a new image of masculinity; a barely post-adolescent body packaged in skinny jeans, shrunken jackets and dangling scarves. Since then, the scrawny rock boy has become a mainstream fashion image. But the Paris-born, 40-year-old Slimane’s aesthetic influence extends well beyond the world of couture (from which he, perhaps temporarily, retired last year). While also moonlighting as an interior designer, furniture designer and guest editor of French newspaper Libération, the assiduous Slimane has managed to establish himself as a photographer and installation artist. In fact, his artistic endeavors started long before he ever entered an atelier, when he started taking pictures at age 11 and later studied art history at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. Over the past four years, Slimane has published four books, shown 11 solo exhibitions and participated in three group shows in prestigious galleries and museums around the world. “He is a true workaholic: he doesn’t stop thinking or doing and he’s always taking photos,” says Agustín Pérez Rubio, chief curator of the Spanish contemporary art museum, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), where Slimane is currently showing a large site-specific installation of photos and videos taken during the Benicàssim music festival in 2007.

However, as he slips in and out of different disciplines and contexts, Slimane’s vision remains constant. His black-and-white frames are starkly composed with simple but striking silhouettes while his installations and sculptures (and even furniture) have a similarly graphic foundation. “Hedi is an artist who has his own space, his own universe, where he explores the thin line between adolescence and the loss of innocence,” says Pérez Rubio. The hero of Slimane’s universe is the young rebel who shuffled down the Dior Homme catwalks and who appears throughout his body of work, from the young bohemians in his debut book Berlin, to the rock stars and their fans who are the subjects of shows like “Perfect Stranger” at the Galerie Almine Rech in Paris last year and of the MUSAC exhibit. “I always had a feeling for anything that was emerging,” says Slimane, explaining his fascination with youth culture. “When I was a teenager, I was already aware of the vulnerability and grace of it. I started photography at age 11, and, oddly, the subject has always been the same, all these years, unchanged.”

Slimane’s most prolific muse is Pete Doherty, singer of London bands The Libertines and Babyshambles, and a druggy tabloid fixture who was portrayed in Slimane’s book London Birth of A Cult and inspired at least one Dior Homme collection. “I tried to capture the rise of a young rock star, a sort of new romantic character,” says Slimane. In frame after frame, Slimane calmly and tenderly examines the incandescent sensuality, recklessness and vulnerability of a musician who is regularly portrayed as a wasted crack head in the gossip pages. Pérez Rubio sees Slimane’s interpretation of pop culture as the foundation of his work. “He likes to keep up with everything,” says Rubio. “He’s extremely inquisitive, and his curiosity makes him absorb things around him and turn them into poetry and magic.”

Alva Bear

— Posted: 2010-08-09

This is my new favorite picture of my daughter that my husband David took last week. She looks like a messy angel – which is what she is.

Leave a comment

Read 1 comment

  1. Jen Hayes

    What a lovely picture.

MKO – Interview with Mary Kate Olsen

— Client: FASHION magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

It’s hard not to like Mary Kate Olsen, even when she’s 45 minutes late. I’m waiting for the child star turned fashion icon in the lobby of New York’s Bowery Hotel. It’s a setting that seems to fit her slightly enigmatic and otherworldly persona: ornate antique furniture, a roaring marble fireplace, straight out of Narnia.  When she shows up, all by her tiny self, she is deeply apologetic about her delay: “I’m so so sorry, I hate being this late!” She was doing fittings for Elizabeth and James, the contemporary fashion line she runs with her sister Ashley. There was a dress that didn’t look right. They had to get it resolved. Was I terribly bored while waiting? She seems way more sorry than she needs to be and I melt.

Much has been said about Mary-Kate’s appearance. Her creative and plentiful layering of oversized sweaters, scarves, jewelry and vintage dresses has been labeled anything from “boho chic” to “she looks like she’s homeless”. Personally, I’ve always been a fan. Today her outfit–a striking black and white knit cape jacket, a long black skirt and Robert Lee Morris silver jewelry–looks pared down and stylish. Her curly hair is lustrous, her skin glowing and the only evidence of her alleged late night habits is a slight Marlboro cough.

Though you have to wonder about that party animal reputation. For someone who’s supposedly clubbing her nights away, MK is amazingly productive. In addition to her two clothing lines and acting career, she and Ashley recently released “Influence”, a beautiful coffee table book of in-depth interviews with fashion iconoclasts from Lauren Hutton to Terry Richardson. ”Making the book was one of more interesting processes I’ve been through,” she says. “To reach out to people we admire and ask them to be part of the project is a very vulnerable position to be in.”  It’s not like they had to face rejection, however. It almost seems like fashion royalty bent over backwards to participate. For example, Karl Lagerfeld found time to schedule his tête a tête with the Olsens in Coco Chanel’s legendary rue Cambon apartment the day before a show. “That was mind-blowing, such a surreal experience,” she admits.

The sisters are also in charge of two clothing labels, the self-financed high-end collection The Row, sold in prestigious shops around the world such as 10 Corso Como and Harvey Nichols, and Elizabeth and James, their successful lower -priced line, available at places like Holt Renfrew and Bergdorf Goodman. The two lines each has its own separate identity and aesthetic. For spring, the luxe and slightly austere The Row features ….tk while the more eclectic Elizabeth and James serves up a mix of inspirations that range from  lingerie to men’s suits to hi-tech fabrics. There is no doubt that the twins are actually quite involved in the design and production process. “We have a great design team that oversees everything, but we’re there at least two or three days a week,” says Mary Kate. ”I’m very detailed oriented, so if something is the slightest bit off it really throws me.” That’s when having a like- minded partner comes in handy. “It’s kind of great that there’s two of us, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get everything done,” she says, “I usually know how Ashley’s going to respond and if I think she won’t like something I know how to change it. You learn to think like the other person.”

And then there are acting gigs such as Mary Kate’s recurring role on the acclaimed TV series Weeds and her well-received turn as Sir Ben Kingsley’s free-spirited love interest in the indie movie The Wackness. “I have some stuff lined up for 2009, which is nice,” she says, looking excited, “but it’s too early to talk about.” Taking the leap from tween princess to art-house starlet involved some soul searching. “I wouldn’t say that it was a choice to act as a child,” she says, “I mean, I knew I liked it, but I also knew there was something more to it that I hadn’t been able to experience.” Hence she decided to start over and take classes along with regular beginner actors in New York. “It changed everything. I was challenged and felt like I really found something that felt good.” It was around the same time that she became Mary Kate The Fashion Icon.  “I was finally allowed to dress the way I wanted to,” she says. She quickly established her approach to dressing, which is based on fashion as a form of storytelling. “When I get dressed I think of it as dress-up time, like the clothes are costume pieces,” she says,  “That’s why I like vintage – it has a story behind it. I’m not afraid of walking down the street in something that people think is crazy. What I can’t stand is looking like everybody else.”

Our time is up and Mary Kate checks her phone. She discovers that she has four missed calls and looks horrified. “Oh no, I’m behind schedule again,” she says, “I have to go and look at a new office space.” As she gets up she offers to leave cash for her 3-dollar cappuccino and apologizes for being late again. And then she tells me I have beautiful eyes. It’s only our first date, but I think I’m in love.

Those Fabulous Finns

— Client: T: The New York Times Style Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture

Finland is a sparsely populated country whose most famous exports are supermodels, textiles, glass and furniture — though not necessarily in that order.

Like its neighbors Sweden and Denmark, Finland has always had its own design personality, blending Nordic traditions with irreverence and daring. It’s clean and bold, functional and avant-garde. The exhibition “Straightforward: New Finnish Design,” which runs May 14-17 at Chelsea Market, alludes to this quality.

“The name has a double meaning,” explained Paola Bello, a designer who curated the show with Teemu Oksanen, an architect. “It refers to ‘honest’ and ‘frank,’ but also to ‘looking ahead.’”

The Bello-Oksanen exhibition is the third installment in a three-year, government-sponsored project by the International Contemporary Furniture Fair — the previous two were “Hardcore” and “Playful.” It aims to showcase the Finnish mix of pragmatic and radical thinking with designs like Tapio Anttila’s Tuohi wall panel, constructed of interlocking pieces of ruggedly textured birch bark (a reclaimed material that is normally wasted in wood processing).

Another example is the Skin tablecloth by Teija Losoihttp://www.lostdesign.fi/. Made of a hi-tech stretch fabric, it’s a kind of sleek stocking for the table.

But the exhibition is not just about showing off clever, good-looking products. “We hope to create a real connection between the designers and the audience,” Oksanen said.

The designers and curators will be present throughout the show’s run, and an on-site pop-up store will sell the featured objects. But the most direct interaction will be the “speed-dating” events, where visitors can have three-minute, one-on-one discussions with the designers (sign-up is required).

How did that idea go over with the famously reclusive Finns? “They are used to the idea now,” Bello said with a laugh. “But when we first mentioned it, we saw a few faces of panic.”

A free, pre-show lecture by Bello and Oksanen, “Perspectives on New Finnish Design,” takes place Tuesday night at 7 at Scandinavia House. For reservations, e-mail event_reservations@amscan.org or call (212) 847-9740.

Ralph Lauren Fall 2009 Collection Release

— Client: Ralph Lauren — Journalism - Fashion - Journalism

Ralph Lauren’s Fall 2009 collection is an enchanting mix of romantic luxury and regal elegance. Contrasting elements create depth and complexity — masculine meets feminine, ethereal meets tailored and ornate luxury meets raw simplicity. Feminine silhouettes focus on a slender waist and bodice. Intricately detailed gowns are worn with sharply cut tweed coats while jodhpurs are mixed with glamorous evening tops. From refined black and grey to rich browns, lovat and plum to soft and muted ivory, rose and vintage metallic tones, the collection has a dramatic yet effortless spirit.

Sleek and refined, gowns and chic tailored suiting in jet black and pale grey make an opening statement of pure sophistication. Bold lines, exquisite embroidery and beadwork emphasize sharp feminine shapes. An exquisite silk georgette beaded blouse brings unexpected splendor to a pale grey flirty silk skirt. Blending structure and texture, the striking curves of sculptural gowns worn with structured wraps offer dimension and cool glamour.

The mood evolves into an eclectic illustration that evokes autumn evenings in a chilly castle. Soft shades of antique rose, smooth sand and honey bring to life a textural array of cashmere, silk, velvet and suede. A hand-knit patchwork coat is boldly mixed with a delicate floral printed charmeuse gown and a cozy cardigan is nonchalantly paired with a beaded cocktail dress. Fitted tweed peplum jackets and vests are mixed with heritage fairisle sweaters while eveningwear translates to daytime sophistication when jodhpurs are reinvented in jewel-toned velvet and silk. Continuing the spirit of quality and polished finesse, luggage references and silver hardware update elegant alligator hand bags, crocodile belts are accented with regal crown buckles and high-heeled alligator boots epitomize pure luxury.

A luxurious palette of creams, ivories and winter whites reveals unparalleled sophistication and refinement when realized in a glorious white double breasted jacket with cavalry wool twill jodhpurs. Lavish vanilla shearling coats are adorned with rich embellishment and a slim cream patchwork jacket features hand-embroidery of tulle, glass beads and velvet ribbon detailing. The romance and volume of glamorous Mongolian shearling coats and ruffled jabot scarves is balanced with slender pants and sinuous dresses.

The eveningwear is breathtaking in its innovative beauty. Spectacular gowns in embroidered tulle, lamé and hammered satin strike a perfect balance between fantasy and restraint. A sculpted platinum lamé rose print gown captures the strong feminine shape of a form-fitting column dress. An antique pink silk charmeuse gown skims the body with sensual, plunging draping while a delicate lamé princess dress with layers of tulle and intricate embroidery captures the irreverence of modern romance.

Gucci – Indy Handbag Press Release

— Client: Gucci — Branding & Content - Fab.com

Once again, Frida Giannini, Gucci’s Creative Director, has created the must-have bag of the season. The Indy bag for spring-summer 2007 is a luxurious and highly crafted bag that introduces a new signature handle for Gucci. The lean and graceful Indy bow handle draws its inspiration from the steering wheels of vintage sports cars. Its slender, arched proportions enhance the bag’s soft and lavish appeal, designed with a nod the original iconic 50’s Hobo handbag.

The ultra-light beech-wood handle is entirely handcrafted. It has been curved by hand through the use of a special, innovative technique and covered with leather and two metal plaques engraved with the Gucci signature. The visible seaming provides a beautiful, artisan touch.

Luxurious details and precious materials such as bamboo and leather tassels, further heighten the bag’s exclusivity. These are juxtaposed with contemporary touches: eight shining metal plaques are applied to the corners of the bag to reinforce its shape. The Indy is rendered in a variety of materials, including python, crocodile, and the new kaleidoscope embroidery, creating a versatile range of styles. The bag comes in two sizes (large and medium), while the strong and graphic color palette includes red, black and silver.

Karl Lagerfeld Press Release

— Client: Karl Lagerfeld — Branding & Content - Fab.com

PRESS CONFERENCE & REGIONAL MAILING PRESS RELEASE

“The fact that we show KARL LAGERFELD and LAGERFELD COLLECTION together is a very different approach. There are no second lines; there are just different lives of one label, one spirit and one design identity.”

–Karl Lagerfeld

The launch of KARL LAGERFELD and LAGERFELD COLLECTION marks a watershed moment in fashion. It’s the first time Karl Lagerfeld is designing a New York-based label and it’s his first foray into menswear in the United States.  The concept of mixing collections on the runway is a modern way of showing clothes that mirrors the way people dress today.

KARL LAGERFELD is a young, fresh and streetwise collection for men and women that exudes the energy of New York City. It’s a lower priced line with high-end design. The clothes are effortless and versatile. The fall collection marks a return to tailoring, with innovative details and a play on volume and proportion. After the highly successful capsule collection that was launched for spring, this season marks the real beginning of the label.

LAGERFELD COLLECTION is the evolution of Lagerfeld Gallery, Karl Lagerfeld’s 22-year old independent luxury collection.  Its directional design and sophisticated urban aesthetic compliments the Karl Lagerfeld collection. For fall, the emphasis is on luxurious, hand-finished details and strong, modern shapes. Both collections are expressions of the same inspiration and starting point.

Gucci Ginza Press Release

— Client: Gucci — Branding & Content - Fab.com

This fall, Gucci presents its most striking and luxurious retail destination yet. Gucci Ginza, the first ever Gucci flagship to be housed in its own building, is a remarkable eight-floor glass tower that has been conceived specifically to compliment Tokyo shopping culture. It is an innovative expression of modern Gucci glamour that ushers in the label’s new design era and continues the Gucci legacy of unparalleled shopping.

A breathtaking first impression is created by the building’s light-infused exterior. The multi-dimensional glass façade, made exclusively for Gucci Ginza by James Carpenter Design Associates, is composed of two layers of hanging glass panels. While one layer is clear, the other is cast in a bronze hue, creating an illuminated glow. At night, the tower radiates with a light installation by artist Shozo Toyohisa.

Entering the store, the customer is immediately struck by the new vision of the Gucci universe. Creative Director Frida Giannini has worked with designer William Sofield to create a light, warm and intimate aesthetic that fuses classic Gucci elements with a modern spirit. The color theme is based on gold and silver shades framed by natural light and softly glowing wall panels. Signature materials like rosewood and mohair velvet upholstering are lighter in color, while the iconic travertine has a richer, warmer hue. The hard glow of glossy metals has been replaced by softer, more natural surfaces. Accents of brushed nickel and gold in the Gucci web pattern are a nod to the retro façade of the New York store in the 1970s, while carpeting picks up the classic cursive Gucci logo.

The sense of luminous luxe continues throughout the store. The floors are linked by a grand staircase of ribbed glass, which echoes the buildings exterior, while a glass and rosewood elevator features an inviting velvet mohair bench. High-tech touches include a video directory and interactive videos.  The lower level hosts the men’s world, which features ready-to-wear and accessories. The ground level showcases Gucci’s most luxurious accessories including made to order precious skin handbags, a service being reintroduced initially only in Japan.  The second and third floors are devoted to Gucci’s women’s collections. Ready-to-wear and accessories are presented on the second floor while fine jewelry, runway fashion and accessories, including evening wear and evening accessories, are featured on the third floor.

Throughout the store, visitors are introduced to the new Gucci shopping experience. Customers receive an unparalleled and luxurious combination of personal service and attention to detail, elevating the shopping at Gucci to a veritable selling ceremony.  The store showcases carefully conceived details, such as Guccissima leather change trays, credit card folios, shoehorns and poles designed for the salesperson to theatrically reach the handbags from the monumental handbag display, which is signature to Gucci stores past and present.  In what will become a new Gucci signature, handbags will be presented with a flourish on special leather roll out pads inspired by those originally used at Gucci’s first store in Florence. Gucci robes monogrammed with the original Guccio Gucci’s script signature add elegance and comfort to the changing rooms. A customer center for after-sales services on the sixth floor guarantees the total Gucci luxury experience.

One of the most distinctive features of the store is Gucci Cafe on the fourth floor, which contributes to the overall luxury experience by providing an elegant environment to relax in between shopping. The café serves a menu especially designed for Ginza, along with special touches such as exclusive Gucci chocolates. In the café, a magnificent collage mural rendered in a Japanese lacquer technique by artist Nancy Lorenz, is composed of gold and silver elements with Gucci bamboo accents, referencing one of Gucci’s most famous and beloved symbols.  The light and airy café opens up to a grand view of the Ginza cityscape.

The sixth floor introduces the first Gucci Gallery, which will open with a special exhibition celebrating the “Gucci by Gucci” book commemorating the label’s 85th anniversary featuring historical objects from its archives. The top floors of the building are crowned with a roof terrace and a dramatic event space.

Gucci Ginza is a testament to the Gucci brand’s enduring legacy of luxury and an incomparable international shopping destination.

Rose In Bloom: Interview with Rose Byrne

— Client: FASHION magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

Rose Byrne needs to enter shopping rehab. “I have so many clothes it’s ridiculous!” exclaims the beautiful 29-year-old Australian actress who stars as Glenn Close’s exceptionally well-dressed nemesis on the award-winning TV series Damages. It’s a frigid winter day in Manhattan, and Rose and I are on our way to Opening Ceremony, New York’s one-stop-shopping center for the kind of cool indie designers that Rose favors. Like her lawyer character Ellen, Rose is whip smart and articulate, and her sense of style reflects her intelligence. No frilly minis and oversized sunglasses for her—instead you’re likely to see her in clean but subtly conceptual clothes, such as the simple and slightly architectural Calvin Klein gowns she favors for the red carpet. (She’s also Francisco Costa’s actress du jour and was his date for the CFDA awards.)

Being a gorgeous and talented starlet may seem like a fantasy existence, but Rose seems intent on keeping it real. She almost manages to convince me that her life is pretty ordinary —she claims she doesn’t go to cocktail parties much—however, she’s facing a real-world problem that most of us can relate to; she’s trying to downsize her sartorial spending this year. “I only use about 30% of my clothes!” she says regretfully. So our shopping trip ends up being a very sensible exercise. Welcome to Rose Byrne’s guide to Less is More shopping:

1. Run, don’t walk!

Since New York City has a spotty public transportation system, its inhabitants spend a lot of time on foot. “Since I moved to NYC I have never shopped so much in my life, I think it’s because I’m walking around more and pass shops that are really nice,” Rose reflects, “I live near the Marc Jacobs store, which is deadly, and I try to avoid it, but occasionally I’ll get sucked in”.  She now tries to walk by briskly, which is also good exercise.

1. Unplug your computer.

So what do actresses when they’re slow at work? Same thing you do, they look up their favorite online stores. “In between takes I’ll start trawling through the Internet,” confesses Rose, “It’s dreadful! And it’s only gotten worse since Topshop went online. That’s my staple, I have Top Shop clothes that I’ve worn for 10 years.” Another temptation is the sales section of Net A Porter , which Rose seems to be able to recite by heart:  “Black Dries van Noten blazer, amazing, used to be $1200 and now it’s reduced to $300, which is a total f-ing bargain!” Luckily, she only has one more week before Damages wraps, which means a lot less down time in the trailer.

1. Know your style.

As we walk around Opening Ceremony, Rose patiently goes through every rack while squealing “Mmm!” and “Cute!” appreciatively at whimsical Tsumori Chisati dresses and Vivienne Westwood rubber shoes. But it’s the sleeker garments with interesting details, such as a black fine-spun knit sweater with white dress shirt sleeves from Hiromi Tsuyoshi, that really attracts her. “I’ve been wearing a lot of black lately, black turtle necks and black fitted dresses. You can’t go wrong with that,” she says wisely.

1. Wait for the sales.

“I love Chloe,” says Rose, “But it’s really expensive.” However, she will splurge if there’s a sale. Case in point: the gorgeous wedge shoes with lots of strappy buckles that she’s wearing. “I bought them on sale at Barneys two years ago. They were reduced from $600 to $200,” she recalls. “Finding bargains definitely helps me justify my purchases.” In fact, she avoids things that are seriously pricey. She decides to try on a black short-sleeved shift dress with broken glass beading by Marios Schwab, but insists that the 50% price reduction is the deciding factor. “I would never look at it for $3000 [the original price],” she says.

5.Try it on, then walk away.

Rose picks out two items to try on, the aforementioned Marios Schwab dress and a sequined top with a cape detail by Kate Moss for Top Shop. The dress has a slightly awkward cut and is passed over. The top however, she’s clearly smitten with. “I think it’s so pretty, I’m just worried I won’t wear it,” she frets. Instead of making a rash decision she decides to mull it over. “If I really want something I’ll think about it for the rest of the day and then I’ll come back later,” she says.

6. Beg for freebies (this may not apply to non-starlets).

Rose is very involved in the wardrobe choices for her Damages character. “We’re in a real dialogue. If don’t like something I’ll tell them straight away,” she says. She cites her character’s wardrobe, (which looks better suited for the Condé Nast building than City Hall) as a fashion inspiration in real life. “This season she has a real armor about her, she wears beautiful Bottega Veneta, Narciso Rodriguez and Givenchy dresses, she’s very sophisticated and all about not being vulnerable and I love that,” she says. It’s not surprising then that she works hard on the wardrobe people to give her the costumes. “I beg them and they say no. And then I beg some more and they say no. And then I beg some more and they say yes,” she laughs.

1. And if all else fails, be generous.

If, in spite of all your attempted restraint, you still end up with superfluous clothing, there’s a great way to make it useful again.  “I usually give things away to my girlfriends or people at work,” says Rose. “All my friends have my hand-me-downs so when I see them and they’re usually wearing something of mine.” She even posts garments to her friends in London and Australia, where she’s from. “It’s the least I can do. Everyone’s so broke and it’s always nice getting a little package in the mail,” she says. Sounds like the ultimate-less-is more solution.

Night At The Museum

— Client: FASHION Magazine — Journalism - Travel

Remember when the design hotel was the sexiest thing ever? Well, now it’s about as tired as a Fendi baguette. Forget sleek and minimal lounges courtesy of Philippe Starck or Andrée Putman. Forget lacquered wall panels and leather-upholstered beds. Today’s It-factor is all about the unique, human, expressive and imperfect beauty of sculptures paintings and installations. “The chic-ness of contemporary art is something that hotels today are desperate to be affiliated with,” says Brett Littman, director of prestigious art center The Drawing Center in New York. Hence, trendy hotels today offer lodging, room service and a crash course in Damien Hirst. This is a long way from the framed Monet reproduction in the hallway. Whereas art in hotels used to be elevator music for the walls, so to speak, it has now become the main message.  In-the-know display regularly rotating multi-million dollar art pieces, feature gallery spaces and employ their own in-house curators. The décor is more about eclectic and homey luxury (à la eccentric art collector’s town house) than show stopping furniture and big designer names.

Toronto’s own hipster hot spot The Gladstone Hotel is one of the pioneers in this genre. When the fin de siècle Victorian hostelry re-opened after an extensive restoration in 2005, it was made-over as a cross between hotel, gallery space and 3D art installation. Each room is designed by a local artist, who channeled his or her own vision of domesticity with experimental colors, shapes and materials, and an entire floor is devoted to exhibition spaces. The hotel’s art program is focused on local talent and includes popular annual events (such as the trendsetting “Come Up To My Room” where avant-garde designers and artists transform a hotel room into an installation, collaborative projects with outside organizations and curated exhibitions in the hotel’s public spaces.  “In any given month we can have everything from four to twelve shows,” says Chris Mitchell, the hotel’s director of exhibitions, marketing and development. “We deliver a completely immersive experience with living, breathing art in all of our spaces. We have evolved into a cultural hub in the city.”

Mitchell says that the hotel’s art reaches a broader audience than the already-converted crowd that frequents galleries and museums. “Guests become enriched by an exposure they didn’t expect. When you have to walk through a hallway installation to get to your room, it might change the way you look art.”

The Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis (which bills itself “The country’s first luxury art hotel”) opened in 2007 and also offers a comfortable introduction to the contemporary art world. “It’s fun to break down that barrier of “I don’t get this” to people who are not familiar with contemporary art,” says art director Jennifer Phelps who curates the hotel’s 6-8 annual exhibitions and guides tours of the hotel’s oh-so-fashionable and edgy collection of British art stars such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Sam Taylor Wood and Gary Hume. (Hotel owner Ralph Burnet is one of the world’s leading collector’s of young British artists) “It makes people walk away with a feeling of “Wow- what else is out there?” She also thinks that the hotel’s pleasant environment makes guests experience the work differently than they would in a museum.

“People are relaxed here. You can enjoy an installation with your coffee and newspaper. It’s spontaneous.”

When larger-than-life New York artist and film director Julian Schnabel designed the interior for New York’s glamorous Gramercy Park Hotel in 2006, he aimed to “take the pretension out of art and make it democratic.” That meant displaying some of the world’s most valuable paintings by the likes of Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Richard Prince and –of course- Schnabel himself, in an environment that felt like a haute bohemian drawing room, making the experience of being in an insanely rich art collector’s home available to people who don’t fraternize with billionaires. The renowned photographer Roxanne Lowit, whose celebrity and fashion portraits are displayed on a wall in a lounge area by the plush public bathrooms, thinks that the hotel’s intimate setting makes the work more approachable: ” It feels very informal and inviting, unlike a big brightly lit gallery. The last time I was at the GPH, I ran into Nicolas Cage standing there admiring my work. I think he felt comfortable talking to me because we were in a cozy environment.”

While the hominess of Gramercy Park Hotel channels eccentric heiress, the brand new Story Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, is more arty rock star. The hotel’s cool and eclectic rooms display a lived-in aesthetic with unfinished surfaces and collages of artwork by the city’s top talent. The hotel takes the concept of curated art one step further by offering prints of five specially commissioned photos and illustrations for sale. “Our idea was to offer “art to go”, says Nina Beckman who runs the art agency Wonderwall that has partnered with Story. “We make quality art attainable. The work is more precious and unique than mass production but much more affordable than fine art collections in galleries.”

So how does the art industry insiders feel about this trend? “It depends,” says Littman, “If the hotels make an effort to support the art community and buy work from local artists that they rotate, then I think it’s great.” However, hotels are often reluctant to pay for the art they display, thinking exposure and publicity is payment enough. “ That sits uneasy with me,” says Littman “Art has to be valued for something other than its hipness.”

But the artists themselves seem to feel that the hotel environment can benefit the work in a way that a museum or gallery doesn’t. “The work is on display for a much longer time than the average gallery show, which lasts about a month,” says Lowit. “It’s also available to a larger audience. They can look at the work at their leisure, and even come back and see it again next time they’re in town. It’s art for art’s sake

Gucci Menswear Press Release

— Client: Gucci — Branding & Content - Fab.com

Urgency, passion and sensuality fuels John Ray’s Gucci Menswear Fall Winter 2006- 2007 collection. Refined materials meet rugged textures. The confident clash of opposites creates a youthful, sexy look. Feminine details are grounded by strong, masculine elements. Influences from modern folk rock are mixed with notes from historical paintings. Movement and fluidity is key. Long and dramatic coats feature pure and angular shapes in the front. The back opens up with sweeping pleats and volume. Shiny mohair, rich cashmere and alpaca have a worn softness. Layers add depth to the textures. Skinny pants in classic pinstripes, dogtooth, checks and herringbone are rooted in heavy boots with thick cashmere socks. Semi-sheer ruffled shirts in crinkled voile are worn over jersey t-shirts or under rustic wool flannel.  Cashmere and mohair knits in blown-up checks and dogtooth patterns are thick and slightly tufted. Broken in textures give character to the garments. Washed leather biker jackets add a rougher edge. Scarves are tied around the waists and wrists, braided strips of lace become a belt. Iconic Gucci elements have been reinterpreted and transformed. Re-colored archive prints occur in cotton voile shirts and madded silk scarves. The horse-bit adorns the leather straps of a soft motorcycle boot. The Gucci crest is enlarged for cashmere scarves and shrunk for shirt prints. Dressy details like feathered neckpieces with jet beads are worn with simple t-shirts. Frothy lace collars peek out of double-breasted velvet blazers. The colors are rich and moody: Deep purples, dark reds, midnight blue and black. It’s the wardrobe of a sophisticated rebel with an original voice. It’s irreverent and strong, luxurious and pure. It’s the unconventional mind of John Ray.

Absolutely Ashley – Ashley Olsen interview

— Client: FASHION MAGAZINE — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

Ashley Olsen is two minutes older than her fraternal twin Mary Kate and in many ways, Ashley seems like the archetype of a big sister. She’s thoughtful, independent and nurturing. She talks about her companies like they’re babies. She worries about other people’s feelings. When we first meet at the cozy café Cluny in the West Village, close to Ashley’s home turf she apologizes about being late (8 minutes) and for being so difficult to track down (she rescheduled once).  Later in the interview she tells me that she avoids selling The Row to downtown stores because she might open her own shop there one day. No, she’s not afraid of competition, she’s afraid of offending the other retailers. “I’m someone who definitely doesn’t like confrontation at all,” she says.

For someone so sensitive and considerate, it must be excruciating to not be treated with courtesy in return. It’s well known that Ashley is more wary of the spotlight than her sister, who has continued to pursue acting and parties. The reason for Ashley’s withdrawal, she says, is that she can’t stand being hounded by paparazzi. “When you have an aggressive man approach you with a lens close up in your face, you never really get used to it,” she says. Her solution is to keep an extremely low profile. “If I would be constantly bothered by cameras I’d have a complete meltdown. I’d rather not be in that situation,” she says. “What I do is just go to work and hardly ever go out and I’m much happier that way.”

So does all work and no play make Ashley a dull girl? Apparently not. She radiates pride when talking about her fashion endeavors. Ashley and Mary Kate are the founders and creative directors of the unfailingly on-trend contemporary fashion lines Elizabeth and James, Olsenboye and the new vintage inspired denim division TEXTILE, which will be carried exclusively in Canada by Holt Renfrew this fall. But the project that seems closest to her heart is The Row, the acclaimed fashion collection of luxury basics that Ashley and Mary Kate built from scratch.

“It started with two pieces of clothing that I made for me and my friends,” she says. “I showed them to Maxfields in Los Angeles and they asked me to expand on the concept. So we did!”

That meant learning the fashion industry from the inside out. Ashley researched material and manufacturing and went to Paris with Mary Kate twice a year to sell the collection herself.

“It was a real ground-up experience,” she says. “We wanted to tackle this new industry and do it by ourselves. It was purely just my sister and I, taking an idea and expanding on it and bringing it to life.” The elegant, subtly avant-garde and slightly austere collection is so sophisticated that it’s hard to believe that it’s conceived by two 24-year-olds. But then, they’re about 45 in fashion years.

“We’ve always been involved in fashion,” says Ashley. From a very young age the girls were actively involved in picking their costumes and promotional outfits.  “We would try on hundreds of outfits every week. We would have adult designer clothes altered and fitted to us.” Some memorable looks? “I was always baggier and my sister wore really tight things. Mary Kate liked her biker shorts with fringe, I would wear shoes and pants that were three sizes too big!”

After a period of fitted and minimal outfits, Ashley seems to have gone back to her love of volume. The day we meet she’s wearing a light, loose-fitting cotton shirt over a long black dress with a leather jacket tied around her waist. On me, this outfit would have looked like maternity clothes, but she manages to turn it into the height of nonchalant chic.

Speaking of maternity, it’s a subject she enthusiastically endorses. “Kids are just amazing!” she exclaims. She has been happily involved with the actor Justin Bartha (from The Hangover) for two years and has lived with him for one. Although she’s not ready to make the commitment now, she envisions motherhood in her future. “I absolutely want children. I always wanted to be a mom and have a family,” she says. But for now her business seems to be the benefactor of her nurturing. She speaks about brand building with the tenderness of a parent: “At first you have to keep it small and focused and nurture it for a while until it gets to place where it’s OK standing on its own. Then you have to figure out what it needs to go the next place. Though it’s never completely out of your hands, it has a mind of its own.”

Contrary to popular belief, Mary Kate and Ashley are two very different people with different roles in their companies. While they consult each other on every decision, Ashley is the main brain behind the brand building, while Mary Kate’s creative strength is storytelling ( she often works on the narrative of a collection) I come from a very different perspective,” Ashley admits, “I think it pushes you further creatively and emotionally. It’s very interesting. And we always want the same thing in the end.” Her future visions for The Row and Elizabeth and James involves growing them into lifestyle brands with home and furniture collections, and one of her pet projects is to eventually open a flagship store for The Row in NYC.  “I would love a retail venue that would really help people see how you envision the label. I would want to create a very homey place where people could feel comfortable and know that they would be taken care of.”

As for Ashley’s own publicity-free comfort zone, she may be getting ready to step out of it soon. “If I would say that I wasn’t interested in acting ever again that would just be a lie,” she admits. “I was born and raised in the entertainment industry so it feels like a second home still. If I could work with a Woody Allen or Sofia Coppola I would definitely think about it. Talk to me in a couple of years. It will be much different I’m sure.”

Elle’s Angels

— Posted: 2010-08-06

I recently interviewed the artist and former model Elle Muliarchyk for the online magazine I edit,  vevant.com. Here’s a bit that didn’t make it in the piece. It’s Elle talking about the story behind her beautiful video The Last Poet. And, kind of like Elle herself,  it’s mysterious and somewhat otherworldly:
“It’s a short movie that I made for the New York Times that was inspired by Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire aesthetically, but in fact is sort of auto-biographical. When I was growing up in Belarus, many young lonely girls of all ages would commit suicide by jumping off the roof, which was always on the 9th floor. And the mothers would try to install a fear of being too close to the windows  in their daughters. Like mine would put me in a corner for 6 hours at a time if I came too close! Also – it’s kind of a tribute to a model (and poet) with whom I used to model in Paris, the Russian girl Ruslana Korshunova, who committed suicide a few years ago. She jumped out of the 9th (!) floor across the street from my house here in New York. I could have seen her doing this – our windows almost face each other!!! I was really shocked by this event and started making the movie shortly after it.”

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Love and Loss: Darling River

— Posted: 2010-08-06

I’m reading Sara Stridsberg’s painfully beautiful book Darling River. The novel is slight in size, but its content is so rich and powerful, that I find that it’s best savored in small bites. The poetic and poignant narrative feels almost like an improvised jazz record, Stridsberg has taken Nabokov’s classic “Lolita” and interpreted it through her own music. Four separate tales, starring three women and a monkey, explore themes of lost childhood, female submission and violence. The stories are about loss and degradation, but the tender language and imagery are almost ethereal, yet dripping with pain.  The words are light but they cut deep. Stridsberg has so much love for her subjects, and in extension, for humanity. And so have I, reading this book.

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Grey Matters – Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange

— Client: FASHION Magazine — Journalism - Fashion

For the past 30 years or so, Edie Beale Sr. and Jr. have been the world’s most obscure super stars. The 1976 documentary Grey Gardens, created by acclaimed filmmakers and brothers Albert and David Maysles, captured their kooky and co-dependent existence in a derelict East Hampton mansion that they shared with countless cats and raccoons. The movie made the former socialites instant icons in the gay and fashion communities, where their status borders on deity. However, to the rest of the world they have largely remained unknown. Until now that is. A new HBO film, written and directed by Michael Sucsy, and starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange as the infamous mother-and-daughter team is set to do two things: introduce the ladies to a mainstream audience and fill in the blanks in their riches-to-rags story.

“I told Michael that if he would take a chance on me I would give my life over to this thing. And I did.” says Drew Barrymore who fought hard to get cast as  “Little Edie”, as Beale Jr. was known to her family and fans. It’s easy to understand why. The part packs the kind of once-in-a-lifetime juiciness that makes Blanche Du Bois seem boring. Through the course of the movie, Little Edie goes from a celebrated 18-year-old society beauty to a bald, impoverished and isolated 58-year-old town eccentric. But through it all she manages to hold on to her irrepressible creativity, charm and dream of fame and glory.  “It’s a rare opportunity to play someone who is so divinely garish and entertaining but also so damaged and internal,” says Barrymore, “She has the most righteous insecurities. But she will also walk into a room wearing nothing but a bathing suit and a piece of lace and high heels and dance around in front of a camera. She is a walking contradiction.”

The complexities of Little Edie’s character are in mirrored in her odd but strangely appealing appearance. Her heartbreaking determination to make the best of her receding hairline and limited resources by wrapping sweaters and table cloths around her head, have become an enduring fashion inspiration. For example, she has been the subject of several Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar editorials, Marc Jacobs named a handbag after her a few seasons ago and she served as Philip Lim’s muse for his Fall 2007 collection. “ I love the fact that Little Edie was so fearless and unpredictable in her dressing, says Lim, “She was able to imagine ordinary pieces of clothing for extra-ordinary usage in terms of styling and functional purpose.  Also, her sense of proportion and balance was spot-on.”

Little Edie’s mother is an equally fascinating character. The aristocratic and rebellious ”Big Edie” Bouvier Beale hailed from what could be considered “American royalty”, (The Edie’s were Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ aunt and cousin respectively, and, yep, she makes an appearance in the movie), but her love of singing and disdain for appropriate Park Avenue behavior made her the black sheep of the family. “I absolutely adore the woman,” says Jessica Lange, “She was a unique spirit with tremendous courage who turned her back on everything that was expected of her. She had the strength to say: ‘I don’t want any of it, you can withhold your money or whatever you’re going to do, but I’m not going to live that way.’” What Big Edie did want, however, was the constant companionship of her daughter. The two lived alone together in their rapidly decaying house for 25 years, most of them spent in complete isolation.

The original documentary masterfully portrays the hilarious and horrifying nuances of the Edies’ co-dependent life as they banter, quarrel, sing and dance together. But it also raises some extremely nagging questions: “Why do they live in such squalor?” “Where is the family fortune?” “Why didn’t Little Edie get married?” and “How did she lose her hair?” Director Michael Sucsy found these matters so intriguing that they propelled him to create a screenplay. “Watching the documentary I realized there was a bigger story behind it. I kept thinking: “How did this happen?” Starting with Little Edie’s death certificate (she died in 2002, while her mother passed away 25 years earlier) and tracking down the executors of her estate, Sucsy started to meticulously piece together Beales’ mysterious past. “I tracked down Edie’s journals and diaries and poetry,” he says,  “I suppose I became obsessed with uncovering as much as I could.”

The story he found is fascinating, sad, inspiring and very human. In the telling of it, Barrymore and Lange flex their every acting muscle. Besides aging 40 years and plunging the emotional depths of heartbreak and despair, they also had to render pitch perfect recreations of two beloved cult figures, with an army of vigilant fans. “A major concern for me was the people who were very loyal to the documentary and love Edie,” says Barrymore, “I just wanted to do right by her.”  Finding the connection between the aging eccentrics and their glamorous younger selves was another tricky part. “As an actor you really have to find a thread that makes it believable that it’s the same character. It’s a huge challenge,” says Lange. Both actresses, who formed a close bond during the filming, were moved by the Beales’ intense relationship. “It’s a very unique love story,” says Lange, “There are so many layers and I don’t think anybody will fully understand the complexity of this relationship, but these women stayed connected to each over all these years. I think they were fascinated with each other.” Barrymore concurs: “These women kept each other entertained, you can’t even say that about a lot of married couples. Hell, they were laughing together for 40 years. I say bravo to them!”

Culture Icon – Daria

— Client: FASHION Magazine — Journalism - Fashion

Shocked. Proud. Ambivalent. That’s how Daria Werbowy describes her reaction to learning that she will be the second model, after Linda Evangelista, to be inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

“My first reaction was like: Why? What for?” she says, kicking back on the couch in a bright and airy NYC photo studio after FASHION’s cover shoot. “I was really, really surprised.” And how does she feel now? “Part of me feels like I don’t deserve it. But part of me feels really proud that the time and effort I’ve put into modelling is being recognized. I’ve been really touched by that.” The news also stirred up Werbowy’s ambivalence about the nature of her job. “I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings about what I do,” she confesses. “A lot of the time, I feel like I’m part of the problem when it comes to all the superficiality and vanity that impacts the way girls grow up.” But ultimately, the induction has strengthened her desire to use her success to effect positive change. “Being honoured for what I do has given me the confidence to continue to do other things,” she says.

One of those “other things” is the recently launched Brazilian Earth Colours by Daria Werbowy makeup collection that she created for Lancôme. A portion of profits goes to Centro Espacial V ik Muniz in Rio de Janeiro, a non-profit arts centre run by Brazilian artist Muniz, which focuses on at-risk youth. “It helps kids enrol in a regular high school, and when they do, they can enter an arts program and learn how to dance, sing, paint or do the trapeze,” she explains. “It gives them a chance to explore their creative minds.” Werbowy was introduced to the centre when she was working in the city. “I went there to see a show that the kids put on, and afterwards I immediately contacted Lancôme and told them that this is exactly what I want to be involved with,” she recalls. The creative aspect of the program is important to Werbowy. “I didn’t want to put my name on something that I didn’t feel personally attached to,” she says. “I went to an art school for four years in Canada, and I feel like it’s very important for everyone to have a creative outlet.”

Art wasn’t the only thing that shaped her formative years. “Living in Canada really gave me my appreciation for nature,” she says. And it’s still the place where Werbowy feels most at home. “Although I don’t think I feel really at home anywhere. I’m a Ukrainian who was born in Poland and raised in Canada and now lives in New York. I have nostalgia for all those places. But Canada is where I was raised.”

This shoot (which was in early summer) was Werbowy’s last assignment before embarking on a grand adventure. For the next three months, she will sail across the Atlantic and around the Mediterranean with her family. T o some people, being isolated with your next of kin on a little boat in the middle of the ocean may seem like the premise for a horror movie, but Werbowy is excited at the prospect. “This trip has been my dad’s lifelong dream,” she says, beaming. “It’s a beautiful experience and an amazing opportunity for us to be able to do something like this.” Werbowy is scheduled to return a few days before the Walk of Fame ceremony in Toronto on September 6. “Hopefully, I’ll make it on time,” she laughs. “Otherwise, I’ll have to hire a body double!”

Bodies of Work

— Client: FASHION Magazine — Journalism - Fashion

The first half of 2010 will go down in fashion history as a season of political correctness. The notoriously fantasy-driven and non-inclusive industry experienced an insurgence of reality and diversity. The French and American editions of Marie Claire put out special no-retouching issues, 40+ babe Kristen McMenamy returned to Calvin Klein’s catwalk along with Stella Tennant and Kirsty Hume (both over 30), and there was an influx of up-and-coming black and brown beauties. But the biggest—pun intended—part of this revolution was the sudden expansion in model sizes. American plus-size supermodel Crystal Renn blazed through French Vogue, Elle, and Glamour, while rotund rocker Beth Ditto graced the premier cover of style bible Love magazine. Meanwhile, the busty young Brigitte Bardot look-alike Lara Stone emerged as the model of the moment. When über-stylist Katie Grand helped cast Victoria’s Secret models such as Doutzen Kroes, Alessandra Ambrosio, Miranda Kerr, Rosie Huntington- Whiteley and Bianca Balti for the Prada and Louis Vuitton Fall 2010 shows, she shocked front-row regulars who hadn’t seen hips on a catwalk since the turn of the millennium. At the same time, the once-ubiquitous wave of frail, childlike, almost transparently thin Eastern European models seemed to have washed up on the has-been shores. It was as if the industry wanted to apologize for the past five years. “The prepubescent Russian girls aren’t so popular anymore,” says Christopher Michael, a model agent at One Management in New York. “Now everyone is interested in gorgeous, healthy girls with personality. The beauty ideal is turning more toward what’s considered beautiful by the general public.”

Is this change we can believe in? In the new decade, the fashion industry appears to be inching toward a healthier image than it promoted in the last one. Power photographers like Steven Meisel and the duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who launched the careers of several pubescent starvelings, now reportedly refuse to shoot anyone under 16 and 18, respectively. British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman has criticized designers who send size zero samples that fit only wispy waifs, and has stated that the magazine adds bulk to ultra-skinny models in retouch. Anna Wintour has declared that American Vogue will henceforth include a wider variety of body types.

Will all this have a lasting impact? Maybe. And maybe not. Right now, the industry appears to be in the middle of a shift, but it’s hard to see trends clearly while they’re still emerging. And, of course, add to that the famed fickleness of the fashion pendulum—what you see now could just be a fleeting fad.

Fashion trends usually have some correlation to the world of finance. It seems that the previous flavour of model created a bad aftertaste with consumers at a time when magazines and labels couldn’t afford to lose them. “The super-skinny thing started to create a bad cultural spinoff,” says Michael. “Women are tired of trying to fit into clothes that have been made for 14-year-olds. The economy has forced the fashion industry to listen to what consumers want.”

That’s why Justin Gelband has been very busy lately. He’s a New York celebrity trainer known for his ability to transform tomboyish models like Miranda Kerr into luscious Victoria’s Secret Angels. “For the past year, agencies have been sending me more and more high-fashion girls to help them gain more curves,” he says. (He works with Irina Shayk, Anne Vyalitsyna, Behati Prinsloo and Suvi Koponen, to name a few.) Still, Gelband’s regime doesn’t exactly make a girl zaftig. It’s more about being lean without being frail, and he works on his clients’ nutrition as much as their exercise routine. “The agents see that it’s possible for the girls to be strong and muscular and still fit in the designer samples,” he says. “They also notice that when the girls are healthy, they look beautiful and have more stamina. They work better.”

There’s something obscene in that realization—it implies that an unhealthy lifestyle has been not just acceptable among models, but encouraged. In 2006, I wrote press releases for several high-fashion houses, and often overheard discussions about runway castings and who should wear what. There was one model in particular who created sartorial issues. She was a major star but her struggle with anorexia had left her so skeletal that some designers felt that her legs couldn’t be exposed. Others did not see this as a problem, however, and sent her out in micro minis. It was especially ironic to see her rattling about in clingy, revealing dresses by a designer who claimed the collection was inspired by “womanly curves, hips, breasts and buttocks.”

I wasn’t the only one who had a reaction. In 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) introduced its Health Initiative, which raised awareness of the rampant eating disorders among young models, and included guidelines on how to address the issue. (Previously, other fashion week cities like Milan, London and Madrid had attempted to install catwalk bans on underweight girls, but were thoroughly ignored by designers.) At a panel discussion, Coco Rocha—who at size four is considered too large for many runways—spoke about the demands she faces from agents and clients. “They said, ‘You need to lose more weight—the look this year is anorexia, and although we don’t want you to be anorexic, we want you to look it,’” she said. “My question is, How do you look anorexic unless you actually are?”

Some models, like Rocha, are able to stand up for themselves and their natural body type. Others, like the Dutch model Kim Noorda, succumb to the pressure. Noorda wrote candidly in American Vogue’s April issue about her struggles with weight and body image. It’s hard for an average-sized woman to understand how a lanky and long-limbed girl can feel overweight. But your eyes adjust to what you see around you.

“When you work as a model, your perception of a woman’s body becomes completely skewed,” says Caroline Forsling, a Swedish model who has been working steadily for over 15 years for clients like Sports Illustrated and Michael Kors. “You can’t see that a normal-sized figure is attractive. You completely lose touch with reality.”

Designer, former model and British royalty India Hicks agrees that the fashion industry’s perception of body type is completely surreal. “When they talk about people like Lara Stone being a plus-size model—not even a plus-size model but a voluptuous model—it’s just mental!” she exclaims.

At five-foot-11 and 124 pounds, Forsling is still sometimes turned down for jobs because she is too big. “I have lost runway jobs because I had breasts,” she says. “And an agent once told me to lose weight by dropping the not-so-subtle hint that she wanted to see more of my collarbones.” Forsling’s life is unusually grounded for a model; she’s a happily married mother of two who spends more time at the playground than in the gym. While she still loves the business, she says it hurts to be rejected because of her size. “It makes me so angry when I think about all the young, insecure girls that don’t have a support system,” she says. “Models are so lonely. You’re always on your own in a hotel room with way too much time to obsess on this stuff.”

“Modelling can be very demeaning for a young girl,” agrees Hicks. “And, you know, the saddest part is that you’ve got these incredibly beautiful, beautiful creatures out there and they have no self-esteem whatsoever.”

But agents aren’t telling models to lose weight just because they’re evil. “Our job is to get them jobs—it is the sample sizes produced by the designers that demand such a small fit. It’s not about our taste. We supply a product,” says Michael.

But aren’t agencies supposed to look after their models’ well-being? “Yes, but we’re not always aware when a girl has a problem. It’s very hard to tell sometimes.” And of course it is. People with eating disorders are skilled at hiding their illness.

Ultimately, the girls need to fit into the clothes, right? Agents, stylists and models all point to designer sample sizes as the root of the problem. In the past 10 years or so, samples—used for photo shoots and runway walks—have shrunk from size four to zero. In Kim Noorda’s journal, the five-foot-10 model writes that when she weighed 110 pounds, she fit into the samples easily. When she got treatment for her eating disorder and gained 15 pounds, however, doing runway shows became extremely uncomfortable.

If designers made bigger samples, the models wouldn’t have to be so thin, so the argument goes. So why do designers make such tiny clothes?

“There are certain proportions that make clothes look good on a body. You can be a beautiful woman but if you don’t have those proportions, you will be told that you need to lose weight. There are very few Naomi Campbells out there,” says recent CFDA award winner Sophie Théallet. She says the industry standard sample sizes are not a reflection of her personal taste. “I love a curvy woman who is a woman, but the reality is that you have to work a lot harder to make clothes look good on a voluptuous girl. If my company was bigger, I could afford to have more diverse sample sizes.”

Still, the girls Théallet casts are relatively voluptuous, and her samples—size four—are generous by fashion standards. Coco Rocha opened her Fall 2010 show. “When a girl is too slim, I don’t cast her, even if I like her face. I can see when it’s not natural,” says Théallet. “I can’t take it—I just want to feed her.”

One designer who has gone out on a limb and cast real, live size 10 women is knitwear designer Mark Fast. For his Spring 2010 show, Fast created a sensation when he showed his intricately detailed and revealing knits on both skinny and full-figured models. “I was aware that many of my customers are women that have curves,” he says. “I wanted to express a fantasy world for them on the catwalk—we all need to dream!” However, he admits that it’s easier to dress curvy women in knitwear than clothes made of other fabrics. “My knitwear has the capability to stretch quite a bit, so there is room to fill in.”

Other designers seemed to be on a similar track for Fall 2010. Prada showed demure, retro dresses that would flatter women of all sizes. Phoebe Philo at Celine kept things fluid and covered up. Even Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga dropped his infamously skinny pants in favour of softer, rounder silhouettes. Will all this change the beauty ideals pushed by ads and magazines? Probably. Will it help regular women feel less inadequate? Probably not. But at least a few more models will face less pressure to look emaciated. And maybe that will spare a fashion-obsessed teenager or two from trying to lose those last five pounds. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

Golden Girl – Renée Zellweger shines on and off the silver screen

— Client: Zoo Magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

Being a writer at a photo shoot is not something I normally enjoy. It usually involves a lot of waiting; a lot of, “I’m sorry to bother you, but when do you think so and so will be ready for the interview?” and a lot of trips to the catering table, which is embarrassing as I am usually the only person eating. However, on an early Saturday morning in June, as I walk into a tiny hotel bedroom crammed with clothing racks, hairdryers and stylists, I am struck by the warm and friendly vibe. People say hello. They smile. They chat and laugh. Then I notice that one of the petite blond women sitting in the room is not a stylist, like I had thought, but Renée Zellweger herself—in the flesh. It’s not so much that she looks different in real life. Rather, it was her low-key manner and the relaxed attitude of those around her. It made me forget she was, well, a movie star.

THE INTERVIEW – SCENE 1.

Actress talks about dealing with stress. She says that as a metaphorical way to create order, she likes to do her own laundry, in a New York City laundromat.

Writer: That sounds like unusual movie star behavior.

Actress: Oh, I don’t think so.

Writer: No?

Actress: What’s “movie star behavior” anyway?

Writer: I wouldn’t know.

Actress: Me neither. It’s just living, right?

Writer: I suppose that’s true. Everybody’s people.

Actress: Exactly. [Laughs] What you call “movie star behavior” is in my translation “behavior that would render one friendless.” [Laughs again] It implies entitlement and it makes me laugh, ‘cause I think how do you become entitled when you’re lucky enough to have a job that you like?

Writer: I guess it’s because the rest of us feel so removed from all of that that you almost don’t think of movie stars as human beings…

Actress: [Laughs] It’s funny, I was walking home from the shoot yesterday and this woman stopped to say hello. And she was surprised because she said that I really looked like myself and she said ‘most of them don’t’ and it made me laugh.

Writer: Why?

Actress: Because it’s an It! [Laughs again.]”Them” would be plural for ‘it’!

Writer: I never thought of how dehumanizing that is.

Most people want to be regarded as individuals and recognized for who they are. For actors, this must be an existential dilemma. In their job, they invest their heart and soul in various fictional characters. Yet, they also have to ensure that their off-duty personality sparkles while remaining appropriately opaque.

As an actress, Zellweger has a talent for convincingly inhabiting vastly different roles. She can be earnest, conniving, funny, heartbreaking, sexy, frumpy, and pretty much whatever else is needed from a leading lady. She’s really good on the red carpet too—gracious, witty, knockout elegant.

But just like in her movie roles, the actress does not get caught up in stereotypes or genres. The off-duty Renée Zellweger seems determined to live her life in a way that can make ordinary people relate. She goes to the laundromat. She took the train to the Obama inauguration and stood huddled up in the crowd like everyone else. She is unfailingly friendly and polite. And most unusually, she listens. She absorbs what other people have to say and offers a response.

“It’s interesting because the parameters for what is considered acceptable behavior are very ambiguous now,” says Zellweger. “With the cell phone camera, you get that thing where your picture is taken but it’s not taken with you, it’s taken of you, as if you were the Statue of Liberty or something. People don’t say ‘hello,’ they just put the phone in your face and snap.”

Zellweger laughs as she speaks. She has always dealt with life’s little adversities by turning them into comedy. “I look for humor everywhere, all day, every day,” she says. “It’s a constant. It’s in my life perspective, my communication, my defense mechanisms. It’s my go-to safe place. Inappropriate moments for laughter make me laugh the most. Surgery. Biopsies. When things are going so badly that there’s nothing else to do.”

Zellweger’s sense of humor has served her well. She is not just an actress doing comedy, she is genuinely funny. Her performances are delightfully hilarious because of the humanity she brings to her parts.

In the upcoming romantic comedy, My One and Only, Zellweger plays Anne Deveraux, a bourgeois ‘50s housewife who takes her sons on a cross-country quest for a new husband. “She’s a little detached; she’s not involved with her children and she’s living a role, with unrealistic expectations for perfection,” says Zellweger. “She’s aspiring to live the American dream as one might envision it in its most idealized state as opposed to being involved and grounded in what’s true.” Through trials and tribulations and failed attempts at romance, Deveraux gradually starts to reverse her value system. “It’s a really interesting transition. She starts to involuntarily lose the things that she uses to define herself and she really discovers her own value and strength and starts to have real relationships,” says Zellweger. “And I like her, even when she’s running around in the beginning of the story, ridiculously. She’s fun. She’s naively optimistic in a silly way that actually becomes more and more important as her story progresses and it develops into something much more genuine.” It’s interesting to hear an actress give her character such an astute diagnosis of dysfunction. Do you have to understand tragedy to be funny? “I don’t know,” says Zellweger. “I think funny comes from smart. But when I’m working on a movie, I don’t think of it in terms of how people receive it, as in, ‘this is funny, this is sad.’ It’s just whatever is honest, you know.”

Finding that core of honesty in a horror film is a more complex business. Zellweger’s first scary movie, Case 39, is about a social worker who tries to intervene in a child abuse case but ends up being pulled in too deep. The movie opens this winter. “It’s scary as an actor because there’s a lot of vulnerability in the mix,” she says. “You have to have complete faith in your collaborators when you’re asked to do certain things that may not be based in reality. ‘Cause if you took them literally, you’d feel quite silly.”

Zellweger says she was drawn to the project because the script reminded her of the creepy, subtly unraveling plots of masterpieces such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining. “She’s interesting to me. I like that she seems to get her self worth from doing right by other people. It’s almost like a compulsion,” says Zellweger of her character Emily Jenkins. “I love watching her lose her surefootedness in this place of moral virtue and losing her ability to distinguish between what’s real and what’s in her mind. It’s really interesting to watch her deteriorate into the kind of person that she’s trying to protect people from.”

The movie was directed by German director Christian Alvart and shot in Canada three years ago. “It was exhausting. But it was what I needed. I needed to go to Vancouver and work in the rain with a very demanding young director who’s inspired and on fire. We worked really long days sometimes without stopping to go to the bathroom. I’ve never before worked with someone who moved the camera so quickly, it was very impressive,” says Zellweger. “One time we did 62 setups in a day, which is unheard of. And I have very, very fond memories of it.”

As hardworking and as down to earth she seems to be, there was one time when Zellweger refused to come out of her trailer. It was the night of November 4, 2008—the U.S. presidential election. Zellweger and many of the crew who were filming the upcoming My Own Love Song were glued in front of the television news. They didn’t stop watching until John McCain gave his concession speech and Barack Obama addressed ecstatic crowds in Chicago.

“I write checks and I watch the news and I suffer hives pretty regularly, but, I don’t know, I don’t talk about it,” says Zellweger of her political fervor. “I think it’s easy to damage the thing you intend to help unless you are responsible in how you approach something, and I believe you have to do work to substantiate your opinions before you push them on to the public.” Zellweger is an avid reader and is more knowledgeable about foreign affairs and recent political history than most of her fellow Americans. That may be one reason why she remains so connected to the real world.

THE INTERVIEW – SCENE 2.

Actress is talking about the stunning photo and reportage book, Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape, by photo journalist Jonathan Torgovnik.

Actress: I recently read a book by this guy who went to Rwanda to photograph the sons and daughters of rape victims from the 1994 massacre. It’s about how the mothers have managed to find love for their children and what a struggle it is that they’re the product of both Hutu and Tutsi parents. They have both their features and they’re recognized as mixed race. It was a real smack to think about how rape in that war was a process, a war tool, and how these women were repeatedly gang raped and sometimes taken from place to place and abused over and over again. The atrocities are too many to mention and it’s silly to try to pretend that you can properly empathize from your apartment in NYC, but it moved me profoundly. And you start to think ‘I never had a bad day! I never had a bad day, ever!’

Writer: That’s why it’s important to keep your eyes open to the world…

Actress: Anyway, this is not the happy photo shoot at the beautiful Standard Hotel, is it?

Writer: No it’s not! So let’s…

Actress: Let’s move on to clothes!

Writer: Yes! So what’s with you and Carolina Herrera? [Actress has exclusively worn Herrera’s designs for public events since 2002]

Actress: It’s a wonderful relationship and I’m so grateful for it because it eliminates most of the things that I find impossibly uncomfortable about my profession.

Writer: Which are?

Actress: You know, being responsible for being appropriate and all the politics involved. I can’t ask a bunch of designers to spend tons of time – even if they offer – on a dress that I might wear. I can’t accept that, it’s too much! I can’t do it! I have a very good relationship with everyone at Carolina Herrera; they’re so generous and I have really great friendships with some of the people who work there. In the offchance that something doesn’t work out we can communicate openly. And it’s enriched the experience of having this public persona side of the job. It’s made it fun in a way that I would never have imagined. I get an excuse to see my friends! It’s like the photo shoot for this story – I’m going to miss that group of people. I like getting together all day and collaborating like that and sitting in the hotel room laughing with those people who became my friends. I’m kind of having a lifetime of that and I love it.

Writer: Because you’re constantly collaborating.

Actress: Yes all the time. And it’s fun. It’s just fun.

I must confess now that I didn’t linger at the photo shoot that Saturday morning. The timing of the interview was vague and I didn’t want to wait around all day. I interviewed Zellweger on the telephone instead. Remarkably, when she called me at the scheduled time two days later, she immediately asked me where I had gone to that Saturday. I was surprised. I was surprised she had noticed I was gone, and surprised that she cared. After speaking to her, I’m no longer as astonished. People are important to Zellweger. She wants to make connections, real connections, to those she meets. I think it’s about mutual respect. And it might have something to do with wanting to have a positive impact in the world. If you see her, I think you should smile and say hello.

For Your Pleasure – Bryan Ferry from Roxy to Dylan and back again

— Client: Zoo Magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

Bryan Ferry is eating a sandwich in a cramped location van under the Brooklyn Bridge. But even in this dingy environment, he exudes a certain elegance. The 62-year old rock legend, crooner, sex symbol and style icon is in fine fiddle. He’s hardly changed from his days as “The Sultan of Suave,” a dandy who donned white tuxedos, dated supermodels and sang “Love is the Drug” during Roxy Music’s mid-70s heyday. But in spite of his enduring allure, it’s difficult to put Ferry’s then and now together. The soft-spoken, pensive man facing me has none of the glossy rock god’s swagger. It’s not only because of his subdued manner. He just doesn’t appear to have that kind of ego.

Most profiles of Bryan Ferry mention his reserved demeanor and reluctance to talk about personal matters. That’s all true. Although he’s polite and friendly, without necessarily being warm, he’s clearly not a celebrity intent on charming the media. Strangely enough, I had reason to be grateful for this. Ten minutes before our rendezvous, the cap on my front tooth fell off, exposing the jagged remnant of a chopper I damaged as a child. The conversation that followed resembled a meeting of two autistic adults, each mumbling while staring off into space. I like to think that this may actually have helped establish a quiet and trusting atmosphere.

Ferry has a tendency to answer the unasked questions. Direct inquiries about personal matters, especially those that include the question, “why?” tend to elicit a blank “I don’t know.” Then, after a protracted silence, an answer might slowly emerge, perhaps not with the information one expects, but insightful nonetheless.

Ferry has reason to be cautious. He has just suffered a bout of bad press, when comments he made about the work of Third Reich filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and architect Albert Speer were interpreted as pro-Nazi. The day before we met, he posted a distraught statement on his web site, explaining that his words had been misrepresented and that he found the incident deeply disturbing.

During our interview, he’s on high alert as soon as I mention the word “style.” “Art is dangerous,” he says with a shudder, explaining that discussing art is what got him into trouble recently. To his relief, my lack of confidence, due to the missing front tooth, makes me reluctant to push the subject.

Bryan Ferry is promoting Dylanesque, his latest album of Bob Dylan covers. Although he’s famous for his interpretations of other artists’ songs (from The Rolling Stones to Cole Porter,) this is the first time he has devoted an entire album to one musician. Ferry’s affinity for Dylan goes way back. 34 years ago, he included a version of “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” on These Foolish Things, his first solo album.

Ferry’s 2007 Dylan is quite different than his take on Bob back in 1973. “Hard Rain” has a boppy glam rock beat and coolly detached vocals, while the tracks on Dylanesque are fueled by a restrained melancholy layered with the romantic sound that has become Ferry’s signature. Like an experienced leading man, he delivers the lyrics crisply, with a rich undercurrent of emotion. “For some reason, the earthiness of his songs suit me,” says Ferry. “And the poetry certainly suits me. I like singing beautiful words. You can probably hear it in my voice.”

Ferry says the project came about while he was working on the new Roxy Music album, the band’s first since 1983, which won’t be released for at least another year.

“I write so slowly, so it’s very frustrating for the band,” he says. “And while we did some work together and it was very nice, I didn’t really have any lyrics and I wanted to get something out, so I did this project. I had it about in my mind for a very long time, and I had some unfinished Dylan songs in the can, such as ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ It was only a sketch, but bones were there, and I liked what the bones sounded like.”

Throughout his career, Ferry has systematically gone back and forth between writing his own music and performing covers. “It kind of means I have two careers running in parallel,” he says. “But they have overlapped here and there.” Do the two feed off each other? “I think so. It’s a nice break for me, to get away from my writing and the band, although I use some of the band [for the solo projects],” he says. “It has probably kept the band alive, because it’s a bit weird to work with the same people all your life. It’s also been very educational for me to sing songs from different genres and expand my repertoire and my range. It has made me a more complete singer.”

The relatively quick process of recording covers also serves as a kind of therapy for writer’s block. “I could never write fast enough to keep up with my need as a singer for new material,” he confesses.

Watching Ferry in front of the camera is fascinating. He pulls his whole body together and projects an inner intensity that gives him an aura of mystery and glamour. Obviously, he’s perfected this persona over time. Originally from a small town outside Newcastle in the north of England, Ferry escaped his blue-collar roots through art school. Although he claims no responsibility for the quote, “I was an orchid raised on a coal tip,” (which, along with “Sultan of Suave” is a frequently printed cliché,) Ferry fashioned himself into a sleek young sophisticate with the help of good clothes, beautiful women and generally refined tastes. “Things happen without you designing them,” he says, when asked about his status as a style icon. “You sort of fall into some kind of flow.” That flow included designers Anthony Price and Wendy Dagworthy, whom Ferry credits for Roxy Music’s look. He also says that he loved going to Hollywood movies as a young boy. He especially admired elegant leading men such as Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. The influence is pretty obvious.

But Ferry is also passionate about his humble upbringing. He talks tenderly about his father, a man who loved nature and worked with horses, who courted his mother for ten years because they couldn’t afford to get married. “We were very poor,” he says. “Poor like when you don’t have a car or a telephone or a fridge. But it was a dignified poor. I was brought up great. Me and my sisters all went to college; our parents just wanted us to get on and have different lives, which we did. Especially me.” Ferry became obsessed with music at age 10, when his older sister took him to see Bill Haley. “It was amazing,” he recalls. “So colorful. It was like one of those Forrest Gump moments, a pivotal moment in life.” He started going to jazz concerts and collecting records he had read about while delivering newspapers. “Buying a record was kind of a big commitment. You had to go to the store and ask for the record and then look at it and ask them to play it and then you would listen to it. And think ‘Oh I love it, but God, can I afford it?’ It was the week’s money that you’d earned. I still have the first EP that I bought. It was Charlie Parker.”

Ferry seems to almost regret that his own sons haven’t had to work as hard for their cultural formation. “Music is not as important anymore, or I suspect that it isn’t.” he says. “My children love music, they have really good taste and they have so much, they have Dylan’s whole catalogue on their iPods. There’s too much of it, it’s too easy.”

He also acknowledges that the music industry has been completely transformed since the explosively creative 60s and 70s. “The music business is very different now, it’s quite cold. It’s all sort of corporate, cut and dry, marketed and la di dah. That’s why I enjoy being on tour. It’s me and the audience and nobody gets in the way of that.” Ferry expresses admiration for some contemporary artists, however, especially the Canadian indie band Arcade Fire. “The boy in Arcade Fire is really good, got a bit of character. You don’t really find that many character singers. It’s a good band,” he says.

Bryan Ferry’s musical relationships have been unusually long-term. Besides performing and recording with Roxy Music for over 35 years, he is still working with producer Brian Eno, who was part of the band in the beginning. As a solo artist he has played with the same back up musicians for many years. “I’ve got a fantastic band,” he effuses. “They’re all different ages, different types, it’s a weird band, because they have such a wide taste, they’re all specialized in different fields.”

So what is it like working with the same people decade after decade? It’s the kind of direct question Ferry prefers to ignore, but he gives it his best shot, summing up some of the complexities in his personality in the process. “I was always a bit of an outsider, but I do like the companionship when it’s there,” he says. “But I also have to get away from it. So I’ve had the best of both worlds really. I’ve been very fortunate. So far.”

Melanie Ward – The Imagist

— Client: Surface Magazine — Journalism - Fashion

Melanie Ward is hard to define in standard fashion terms. Perhaps that’s why she has had so many titles: Helmut Lang’s muse and design partner, Creative Director for Karl Lagerfeld’s namesake line and Senior Fashion Editor of Harper’s Bazaar.

Each description is accurate, but none fully embraces her influence or skill set. For the past two decades, the London-born, New York-based Ward has been a catalyst of change that has steadfastly pushed fashion forward – from deliberately disheveled grunge to rigorous minimalism to the mix-and-match cool now in vogue. “Melanie has had a vast influence in shaping modern fashion and the way women dress,” says her brother Anthony Ward, a photographer and her frequent collaborator on Bazaar editorials.

Unlike other stylists, who often reference the past for inspiration, she always has her eye on the future, creating new ways to outfit. “I’m more interested in the mix of things and a certain attitude than trends that originate too literally from the past,” she says. “I prefer to live in the now; being too nostalgic would limit my creativity.” Although her work keeps evolving, there are certain elements at the core of her aesthetic: strong, graphic shapes, a play with extreme proportions and a fusion of masculine and feminine elements. She never over-embellishes. “You have to know when to stop,” she says. And she always avoids an overly polished look: “It will always be about effortlessness for me. Even if you are wearing an evening gown, it is about the attitude. A certain defiance.”

That sense of sedition is what first made her an industry force. In the early 1990s, Ward was part of a London cadre of photographers, stylists and models who created the so-called grunge movement that would turn fashion on its head. Together, with shooters such as Corinne Day and David Sims, Ward made gritty pictures that were the polar opposite of the glossy flawlessness prevailing in magazines at the time. “We were inspired by imperfection. Our muses were real. We captured a beautiful, 5’7” Kate Moss squinting in the sunlight with no hair or makeup,” she says.

Ward’s styling was just as controversial. For magazines including The Face, i-D and L’Uomo Vogue, she made her own clothes and customized vintage garments to create slightly unraveled looks. (She did study at Saint Martin’s School of Art where she was awarded Best Daywear for her graduate collection.) “There were pants hanging precariously off the hipbones: louche, raw cut at the hems and dragging the floor,” she recalls. “Cashmere sweaters and tank tops peppered with holes. Silk, biascut dresses worn with trainers. At that time nobody made low-rise jeans, so I would buy a bigger size, drop them on the hips and staple the crotch up the back, so they looked like skin-tight leggings. I wanted the clothes to have personality and look specific to the model, as if they were wearing their own, a little undone, a bit off,” she muses. “Ironically, it’s a look that’s still the coolest today.”

Sims thinks Ward’s influence has also made her calling more visible and her craft more respected. “She brought about a whole new cult of the stylist,” he says. But Sims also feels her work had a mainstream impact: “Her taste is very unique, and it registered with a whole generation of people both in and out of fashion,” he says.

Ward was wooed to New York in 1994 by former Harper’s Bazaar editor Liz Tilberis. “She wanted me to bring an edge to the magazine,” says Ward, by collaborating with some of the world’s best imagemakers: Craig McDean, Patrick Demarchelier, Paolo Roversi and Mary Ellen Mark. She also spent the rest of the decade collaborating on design, image and branding for the era’s titans: Calvin Klein, Jil Sander and Helmut Lang. “Things became more minimal, and we ushered in a new cool sense of sophistication. Very played down, urban, street, yet luxury,” she says. Her relationship with Lang, which lasted from 1995 to 2005, when the designer retired, was particularly close, and Prada CEO Patricio Bertelli (who bought Lang’s company in 1999) has called her the “female Helmut Lang.” “Helmut and I had such similar tastes,” she remembers. “We would often have different starting points to our creative process but would end up at the same conclusions.” While Ward worked from instinct, draping herself in fabric, Lang had a more “metaphysical” approach. “He might find a rock on the beach and design a collection around it,” she says.

When her job with Lang ended, Ward was approached by another great – Karl Lagerfeld – to conceive a new clothing line under his name. As Creative Director of the house, she hired and supervised a large design team and in-house atelier, created all concepts and developed all products and branding for the line. When the promising label abruptly shut down in 2006, a casualty of a corporate merger, Ward painstakingly helped everyone in her team find new jobs. “Empathy and ethics are an important part of my life,” she says.

In fact, Ward is known as one of the most sincere people in the business. But coupled with her manners is a steely sense of determination to get things right. “Helmut used to say I was the nicest pitbull he’d ever met,” she confesses. Sims is also struck by this quality. “She’s a gentle soul, but it took me a long time to realize how strongwilled she is,” he marvels. This single-mindedness is what has kept her at the top of the game in a community known for its appetite for the Next Big Thing.

She is, almost 15 years later, still relied upon to add a disheveled sharpness to Bazaar’s pretty and pristine. “[Current editor] Glenda Bailey said to me that sometimes it’s hard for her to understand what I’m doing, but then she’ll see the looks from my editorials on the runways a season later.” And that’s the way it should be, according to Ward: “As a fashion editor, one’s job is to inform and inspire the readers, to challenge their perceptions. To embrace what is modern. To be adventurous.”

Patrik Ervell – The Analyst

— Client: Surface Magazine — Journalism - Fashion

Studying political science and art history at Berkeley may seem an unorthodox preparation for a fashion ca reer, but in the case of rising menswear designer Patrik Ervell, an academic background makes sense. His mod ern, meticulously crafted sportswear is clearly conceived

by an analytical mind with no tolerance for the trite or trend-driven. While other fledgling talents may launch their own lines because they can’t find the perfect T-shirt or because they dream of dressing ingénues, Ervell’s sartorial calling was prompted by an exasperation with industry clichés.

Upon graduating, he landed a job as an editor for V magazine, where working on fashion shoots quickly taught him what he did and didn’t like about the business. “I would listen to references to the same celebrities, subcultures and fashion periods over and over…It seemed so culturally dead,” he says. So after three years on staff, he left the magazine, took some classes at Parsons and started to construct his own clothes in late 2004. “Approaching design from an editorial background does lead you to think more about the context of the clothes and their meaning, as opposed to just the merchandising of a collection or developing a product,” he says of the shift from styling to designing. “It’s such a rare, hands-on experience to be able to actually make something and then sell it to a store.”

His debut was deliberately low-key, as Ervell wanted to find his feet as a designer before launching a full-fledged line. In early 2005, he placed just a couple of shirts and trousers at the lower Manhattan boutique Opening Ceremony – an easy enough feat since the acclaimed store is located on the first floor of his apartment building and owned by friends Humberto Leon and Carol Kim. It was the kind of break every budding haberdasher needs, and the garments were well received, urging Ervell to build the line in increments each season. “It all happened organically,” he says. “It’s been a very gradual process.”

Despite his careful pacing, just two years later, Ervell won the prestigious Ecco Domani award, a stipend that funds runway presentations for the emergent. The slow-and-steady designer was then obligated to produce a formal show. “Once you start doing shows, you can’t stop,” he admits. This media initiation then drew more rave reviews, attracting a following of art patrons and rock stars.

So why has a designer who strives to keep a low profile made such a splash? Probably because he has pulled off something very tricky: reviving American sportswear. Ervell’s looks are effortless without being simple, structured without being stiff and innovative without losing their inherent masculinity. There’s also a dedication to meticulous hand-finishing – including a metal stud-covered cardigan in the fall collection that took three months to make – and a sense of newness in his choice of high-tech fabrics, such as laminated polyurethane mixed with wool. “It’s modernism, but it isn’t cold,” he says, “It has feeling.”

His aversion to cultural references is coupled with a disdain for disposable fads. “My collection is about continuous development, not massive seasonal shifts,” he says. This means that rather than completely changing his message each season, Ervell sticks to signature looks including his soft, lining-less suitings and his “air jacket,” a sculptural but still wear-with-everything windbreaker. “I have silhouettes that are my silhouettes. I believe in them, and I’m going to keep making them,” he promises.

Ervell credits this commitment to technique and nuance to his Scandinavian roots. He was born in Sweden and lived on a small island outside Gothenburg before moving to California when he was five. His West Coast upbringing shines through in the casual-luxe of the pieces, but, he attests, “The emphasis is on quality, not a display of status or a statement of wealth. That’s my Swedish side.” Apparently, it takes an outsider’s perspective to make American menswear interesting again.

Do-Gooders! – Google Creative Lab

— Client: HOW Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture

When a brand name becomes a verb it indicates two things: The name stands for an innovative product that outperforms the competition (i.e. “Hoover” or “Xerox”), and it’s so ubiquitous that we’ve stopped thinking of it as a name. In little more than a decade, Google has become such a part of our lives that we hardly notice it. Yet, at the same time the name evokes comforting familiarity, it also generates excitement and a kind of brave new world mystique. We know that a global army of brilliant young tech nerds are riding their bikes to work, eating Google lunches and working on cool new things. (Are they making a phone? A new PC operating system? A global redistribution system that will end world hunger?)

Google clearly wants to be everybody’s friend. The company has built its business on giving people things for free. But it’s easy to feel skeptical of a company that’s so big, knows so much and has so much power. Do they really mean it when they say, “Don’t be evil”?

Feeling good

The Google Creative Lab serves as evidence that they do mean it. The Lab is Google’s in-house advertising and branding unit that was founded in October 2007. It’s a small group of 25 talented people based mainly in New York City who have the large task of staging company messages on Google’s global platform. “Our charter is to remind the world what it is they love about Google,” says Andy Berndt, the Lab’s managing director, an advertising power player who was copresident at Ogilvy before joining Google. “We take bits of stuff that are floating around the company and make sure people know about them and understand why they exist.”

This may sound obvious. But it’s about more than promoting products through clever marketing. “The Creative Lab isn’t exactly an agency, but we’re not an internal marketing department either. We’re more like a rogue creative think tank that floats around and identifies areas where we can make the biggest impact,” says creative director Jeff Gillette, a writer with a background in psychology. The Lab is experimenting with ways of doing advertising that aren’t really advertising at all. “A lot of what we do is more educational than it is advertising or marketing,” Berndt says. “I often feel like we’re doing public service announcements.”

And like public service announcements, Google’s messages intend to serve the greater good. “I initially became a designer and got into communicationsto try to positively impact people as much as I could,” says Robert Wong, the Lab’s executive creative director, who runs the operation together with Berndt (his past experience includes award-winning stints with Arnold Worldwide and Starbucks). “And in the past, I felt like I hijacked marketing dollars to do good. And now I actually don’t have to do any hijacking— the thing itself is good.”

This seems to be a collective feeling among Lab employees. Wong and Berndt say the team is part of a mission: “It’s not just us. Every single person that we hired seems to have that same belief in this mission. And it’s not like it’s Google’s mission; it’s individual missions that ended up being exactly the same as Google’s,” Wong says.

The other Lab employees concur. “When I first met with Andy and Robert I was won over by their desire to use advertising and branding to change the world. I decided it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Gillette says.

The fact that a bunch of seasoned advertising whiz kids sound like starry-eyed Obama campaign volunteers when they speak about their jobs may be the truly revolutionary thing about the Lab. The team displays an almost evangelical sense of commitment. “We all work together toward the same goal. It’s not about winning awards or becoming famous. It’s about spreading the best of Google,” says Ji Lee, a graphic designer who is another of the Lab’s creative directors. “And because the products and projects we promote are free and helpful to many people, we feel that we actually make a positive difference in the world. It’s the main reason why everyone’s here.”

Sounding good

One endeavor that fulfilled this mission was Project 10^100 (pronounced “10 to the 100th”), a competition that commemorated Google’s 10th anniversary in September 2008 by awarding $10 million to up to five inventions that the company feels will have a positive impact on the world. (As an example of a socially beneficial design, Google cited the Hippo Water Roller, a barrel-shaped container with a handle that holds 24 gallons of water and is easy for a child who’s fetching water on foot to transport.) More than 150,000 ideas were submitted.

But not every message is about saving the planet with fanfare. “It’s about the small stories,” Berndt says. One of the Lab’s most publicized feel-good projects is the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, which raised the profile for YouTube’s content and provided a handson example of how the site can serve more complex purposes than uploading and watching videos. (Google purchased YouTube in November 2006.)

In December 2008, Google and YouTube launched a worldwide competition for classical musicians (both amateurs and professionals) to form a virtual ensemble that would perform at Carnegie Hall for one night. The musicians auditioned via a YouTube video of themselves performing repertory staples as well as a new work composed for the occasion. Out of 3,000 submissions, 200 finalists were selected by 22 of the world’s most prominent orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra. The finalists’ audition videos were posted online for a public vote to fill the final 96 slots. Google flew the winners to New York City to rehearse together for the first time a few days before the concert. The optimistic and moving message worked on several levels. The musicians, who hailed from 30 different countries, became a living, breathing example of how a wildly diverse group—including a Polish farmer, a Vegas poker player, a high school student from California and a Korean surgeon—can come together in seamless collaboration.

And then there was the underdog aspect. “A bunch of people who didn’t go to the best schools got a shot at Carnegie,” Berndt says. “These guys became local heroes. I met a lot of them, and they had just died and gone to heaven.” And finally, it gave a badly needed boost to classical music. The event generated about three times more press than Carnegie Hall’s previous blockbusters. And that was a big boost to the Creative Lab, too, which wanted the event to positively impact both individual musicians and the classical music industry as a whole.

Berndt says the project was his most satisfying experience at Google’s Creative Lab so far: “At a personal level I was just over the moon when it happened,” he says. “And yeah, we showed the world how you can use YouTube beyond just posting a video, but it wasn’t the main story. YouTube and Google have always been about giving people access, and this was another variety of access.”

While the Creative Lab was in charge of realizing the YouTube Symphony Orchestra project, it didn’t come up with the original concept. Three years earlier, a London-based Google employee and classical music aficionado named Tim Lee envisioned a You- Tube orchestra formed exclusively from people who had auditioned online. He submitted it through an internal pitching system where it gained traction and was developed as a mock-up. In 2008, Berndt picked up the project for the newly formed Creative Lab and made it happen.

Looking good

Idea generation like that exemplified by the You-Tube symphony is a cornerstone of Google’s culture. Employees are encouraged to devote 20% of their work hours to dreaming up and submitting ideas for new projects. “You source ideas from everywhere,” Wong says. “There’s the whole Google-wide e-mail list where anyone that has an idea posts it. It could be about products or what we should do for the Google picnic, literally anything. Good ideas get voted up so you can see where there’s buzz.”

There’s also constant sharing among departments. Ideas percolate up the corporate ladder even as business strategy flows down from the top. “Everyone is very excited about passing along cool things,” Berndt says. “It’s different than any place I’ve ever seen before. The entire place stays creative by being quite messy and innovative.”

This seems to be true also for the Creative Lab. The Lab’s work process flows among departments, continents and methods. “We’re starting up something new, so we’re keeping things very organic,” Gillette says. “And we encounter so many different kindsof issues that every one of them almost requires an entirely new process. But as we figure things out more and more, we’ll figure out which process works best for which project.”

While the bulk of the team is in New York City, one of the creative directors is located in San Francisco, and there’s a small satellite office in London. Collaborators for each project are sourced from within different Google units (and on occasion outside the company) according to the project’s needs. “In general, the structure is really flat,” Wong says. “Everybody does everything. Everyone we’ve hired on a senior creative director level has a very small team of one, two or zero people, even though in the past they’ve run big global things with huge teams.” The Lab seems to thrive on being the little engine that could. “We never set out to build some big department that would have walls and where we would have complete control,” Berndt says. “It’s just not that kind of atmosphere here. People are drawn to different projects by the quality of the idea and the excitement of possibilities.”

One such project is Chrome Experiments, a website that promoted the latest version of Google’s Chrome web browser through a series of technically impressive and playful experiments designed by more than a dozen red hot developers and designers such as REAS, Mr. Doob, Ryan Alexander, Josh Nimoy, Mark Mahoney and Toxi. Each project turned the browser window into an interactive application, game or piece of art. For example, Mark Mahoney’s “Browser Ball” creation features a ball that bounces back and forth through separate browser windows.

Gillette says the idea came out of a brainstorm he had with art director Ed Kim and creative programmer Aaron Koblin. “We were thinking about ways to show off the powerful stuff under the hood that no one can see. So we asked the question, ‘what if we created a cool experience out of the browser itself, using the browser as a medium for art rather than just the frame?’” says Gillette, who was one of Chrome Experiment’s creative directors.

So what does cool browser technology have to do with making the world a better place? According to the Creative Lab team, it’s all about keeping the internet ecosystem healthy. “The best part of this project was the fact that we’ve added something positive to the web. A lot of these experiments will get web developers to think differently about what’s possible and will help the entire web evolve,” Gillette says.

And keeping the cyber universe in shape ultimately benefits the physical world. “Before deciding on a project, we always ask ourselves how interesting it is and how much it would help people,” Berndt says. “It’s a good pressure that brings a different kind of thinking and a different kind of scrappy resourcefulness.

“So many of our products have such scale around the world and reach so many users,” Berndt continues. “Helping them learn how to master them can really benefit a lot of people. If we make something that helps nonprofit organizations run their businesses through Google docs and spreadsheets so more of their donated money actually goes to the people they serve, then everybody wins. We’re incredibly lucky to have that situation.”

Seoul Patrol

— Client: Surface Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture

After decades of rapid urban expansion, Seoul is experiencing concrete fatigue. The densely populated city of 11 million people aspires to attract foreign capital and tourists by beautifying its cluttered and monotonous landscape. “They’re trying to brand the city with design,” says architect Minsuk Cho, principal of local firm Mass Studies, whose elegant and innovative work comments on the current changes in Korean society.

Cho spent most of his professional life in Rotterdam and New York, where he founded the firm Cho Slade Architects with partner James Slade in 1998. But Korea’s makeover movement prompted him to return to his native Seoul in 2003. “Seoul is an exciting place for an architect these days,” he says, noting that he felt working in New York was frustrating. “It was hard to get projects where you were able to build from the ground up.” Cho discovered the creative possibilities of his homeland when he and partner Slade were invited to create a home from scratch in the upscale experimental art community, Heyri Art Valley (see “Double Booked,” issue 67). The result was Pixel House, an asymmetrical brick residence for a young family with a playful and airy layout that served both as a communal daycare and private residence. Since then, Cho has gained a reputation as one of the most exciting forces in Korean architecture. “We’re quite selective in choosing our clients,” he explains, “We’re not interested in the large-scale developer projects that are built just to make money. There should be a genuine interest in architecture.”

One such project is the recently completed Seoul flagship for Belgian fashion designer Ann Demeulemeester, which has received a lot of attention for its plant-covered facade and off-kilter shape. The green exterior is a recurring theme in Mass Studies’ work, as it brings a tiny slice of lush nature into Seoul’s brutally urban cityscape. It also creates the illusion of a soft, overgrown patina, according to Cho: “We would like the city to look more ancient, like Angkor Wat.” Another project that features a vertical “garden” is their futuristic proposal, Seoul Commune 2026, which consists of 15 bulbous residential towers covered in perennial plants and featuring a honeycomb grid of small, capsulesized studios and larger communal spaces. The towers are designed for individuals, since one-person households are the most common in Korea. “In the future, you’ll live and work in a minimum of space and share larger leisure areas with others,” says Cho, who claims he’d like to retire in the Commune. But before then, there’s a lot of work to be done – Mass Studies’ increasing notoriety has generated lots of work for the firm. “We used to be known mainly for creating interesting proposals, but now a lot of our projects are being realized,” says Cho, who likens his output to pop music. “We used to have a few hits here and there, but now people want to buy the whole album.”

Now Booking – Dutch Treat

— Client: T: The New York Times Style Magazine — Journalism - Design & Architecture - Travel

“I don’t like anonymous hotels. I want people to wake up and immediately know where they are,” says Wilfried van Winden, the architect of the new Inntel Hotel Amsterdam Zaandam. He needn’t worry. The 160-room property is probably the most memorable example of gingerbread cottage architecture since Hansel and Gretel. Its quirky façade consists of nearly 70 irregularly stacked wooden houses fastened onto a concrete cement frame.

The hotel is the latest and most high-profile building in the ongoing radical revamp of Zaandam’s city center. The Amsterdam suburb, a 15-minute train ride from the central station and a popular day trip for travelers, is better known for windmills and quaint street lined with traditional green wooden cottages. It is these old-fashioned structures that are replicated in Winden’s hotel, which as part of the redevelopment plan, will bring some much needed whimsy to that area of post-war monstrosities around the train station.

The plan’s master architect, the veteran urban transformer Sjoerd Soeters, will draw on local history for inspiration, restoring a long buried canal and creating municipal buildings that incorporate stylistic features of the traditional cottages in macro scale.

Edie-Feber: Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange

— Client: PLAZA Magazine — Journalism - Fashion

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Skuggfigur

— Client: PLAZA Magazine — Journalism - Fashion

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