You Want It Darker: A Friday Playlist Reflecting the Life and Legacy of Leonard Cohen

At 82-years-old and divulging his world weary outlook in an interview with the New Yorker’s Editor-in-Chief David Reminick that was published days before the release of his final album You Want it Darker and just two weeks before his death, the loss of Leonard Cohen is slightly less of a gut punch than the untimely deaths of Bowie, Prince, and Alan Vega. You Want it Darker, while lacking the conceptual heart wrench that was David Bowie’s “death as performance art” Blackstar album that came out two days before Bowie’s death, is still a lovely good bye for the multiple generations of musicians, artists and writers that were profoundly impacted by Cohen’s work. Chillingly, Leonard Cohen told Reminick, “I am ready to die,” in that premonitory profile, only to backtrack a few weeks later at a concert in Los Angeles, Cohen telling his audience, “I tend to over dramatize.” Death is ultimately a tug of war between acceptance and denial, and that conflict permeates Leonard’s later recordings. But dramatization aside, Cohen is gone after suffering heart failure brought upon by a nasty fall. My grandfather on my father’s side, my Papa, took some nasty falls as he got older. There is a visceral violence to witnessing a once strong but now frail man plummet towards the earth. When that body hits the ground, the deafening thud serves as a very metaphor for the tragedy of mortality. And yet, it’s hard to think about applying that situation to Cohen, a man who didn’t exactly exude youth but certainly projected a kind of agelessness. When news of his passing hit the Internet last Friday, Instagram memorials depicted Cohen from his ‘30s to ‘70s. He was awkwardly handsome, Remnick describing his looks as “Michael Corleone Before the Fall.” 

With Leonard’s death, You Want it Darker will be obsessively editorialized by writers trying to find performance art in the act of death. That really was the case for Bowie’s Blackstar, but You Want it Darker is simply a great Leonard Cohen album full of songs about sex, love, desire, longing, loneliness, fear and, yes, mortality. That was always Leonard’s modus operandi. That is why ultimately I believe that while Bob Dylan might have had a greater overall cultural and social impact, Leonard had a far greater influence on art and music. The saying about The Velvet Underground is that while only 1000 people heard the band’s music, every one of them started bands. A similar statement could apply to Leonard. The Montreal-born poet was far more influenced by literature than he was popular music. His lyrics drew upon the symbols and semiotics of WB Yeats, the entanglements of death and sexuality of Walt Whitman, the uncanny occurrences and metaphysics of Federico Garcia Lorca, the mysticism of Henry Miller, and the puritanical skewering of Irving Layton who taught Leonard political science at McGill University and became his close friend and mentor, (Leonard once admitting, “I taught Layton how to dress. He taught me how to live forever.”). The words of these great writers built the foundation upon which Cohen would build his artistic identity. Musically, Leonard eschewed much of the music that was popular during the time he came up in the ‘60s. Though he admired Dylan, he was unmoved by The Beatles. Instead, Leonard found magic in the early blues of Robert Johnson and Bessie Smith, in the poetry heavy Country Music of George Jones, Hank Williams, and The Alamanac Singers, and the soul stylings of Ray Charles. You can also hear in his music a fascination with Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production techniques (and he would of course work with Spector on Leonard’s most populist albeit still excellent Death of a Ladies Man album); Leonard’s music was often akin to a dense throb of simplistic melodies that simply served to underline his words. While he made countless beautiful songs, Leonard was true to the aesthetic and true to himself. He distanced himself from popular culture and politics and boiled down his words and music to one man and one man’s thoughts, anxieties and observations. That is fundamentally at the root of Leonard Cohen’s success and his influence on art, literature and music. Art is a selfish act: to express one’s self is to isolate one's self. Cohen was just a horny writer with a joie de vivre and a story to tell. He could only experience the world through his own eyes, and unlike Dylan didn’t aspire to do so beyond that.

There are very few musicians that have such a stylistically widespread influence on popular music. Maybe Miles Davis. Probably The Beatles. Definitely The Velvets. But it’s fascinating to examine the wildly different musicians that cite Leonard Cohen as a direct inspiration. His impact was felt immediately when he came on the scene in the ‘60s; he befriended folk singer-songwriter Judy Collins who covered his beautiful song ‘Suzanne’ and icon Richard Thompson was covering Leonard Cohen in the ‘60s with his band Fairport Convention. It was really the evocative darkness of Cohen’s work that would be emulated for decades to come, however. He set the template for troubadours singing moody and provocative poetry over dark and subdued melodies. There are the obvious avowed fans like Tori Amos and Rufus Wainwright (whose music really is a direct recreation of Leonard’s sound but sung with a more powerful voice). But Cohen’s aesthetic also proved an influence on the more experimental and willfully adventurous songwriters of our time: Bill Callahan of (smog), ANOHNI, Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, and Nick Cave all owe an artistic debt to Cohen and all admit being rabid fans of the man's music. Cave has admitted that Cohen was the first artist he discovered on his own, and was already thinking of Cohen way back in the days of his maniacal goth noise blues band The Birthday Party. In fact, Cohen’s psychosexual musings can be argued as an early precursor to the whole goth movement, and his influence can be felt in goth artists ranging from Siouxsie and The Banshees to Dead Can Dance. The more literary minded alternative rock stars of the ‘80s and ‘90s worship at the alter of Leonard Cohen. Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe drew upon the symbolism and religious imagery of Cohen’s lyrics elevating their music to a more poetic reach. Cohen has even been cited in lyrics to songs by Mercury Rev and Nirvana (“Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld. So I can sigh eternally. I'm so tired and I can't sleep. I'm anemic royalty,” sings Kurt on the band’s track ‘Pennyroyal Tea.’). There are even elements of Leonard’s craftsmanship in the most extreme arenas of rock n’ roll; his dark theatrics permeate the more recent releases of experimental doom band Earth and Swans’ most recent album, The Glowing Man, finds Michael Girl grappling with his addictions, perversions, and personal shortcomings in a most decidedly Leonard Cohen manner. As mainstream pop has grown more art friendly in the digital era, so has its embracing of the influence of Cohen. Singer/producer James Blake is a fan, as is, apparently, Lana Del Rey. Whether you think Del Rey is a product or not, there is no doubt that her music evokes a kind of sensual darkness and grapples with sexual anxiety in a way that most of her peers do not. Lana loves Leonard.

Ultimately, Leonard Cohen proved that a beat poet, a horny old man, a curmudgeon, and a morbid death obsessed narcissist could all be rock stars. He was an artist that emphasized the use of poetry and music to explore one’s inner world and exterior observations. While Dylan may have been the one who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Cohen’s music doesn’t need awards. He created not a genre, but a mood. That mood, that AESTHETIC, has been analyzed and recreated for decades and will continue to do so. Any anxious or horny or curious guy or girl who puts some words to paper and reluctantly decides to sing them owes a debt to the life and work of the genius Leonard Cohen.

R.I.P. Leonard Cohen (1934 to 2016)

On Raf Simons' Decision To Present His Eponymous Collection In New York For The First Time

text by Adam Lehrer

As if us fashion obsessed New Yorkers weren’t freaking out enough over Raf Simons’ creative dominion over Calvin Klein, another massive bit of “Raf meets New York” news has polluted the internet: Raf Simons will be showing his Fall Winter 2017 menswear line at New York Fashion Week: Men’s. This is astonishing for a number of reasons. Firstly, the industry generally considers NYFWM to be shite, and the assertion is generally not wrong. The schedule obviously has some bright spots that I’ve written about at length here (Siki Im, Robert Geller, N. Hoolywood, Devon Halfnight Leflufy, and some more), but big and boring and commercially minded brands like Todd Snyder dominate the press cycle. Important designers like Thom Browne already abandoned NYFWM due to a lack of press coverage and poor organization. Raf’s decision to show at NYFWM brings massive fashion credentials to a Fashion Week schedule that desperately needs them, and it’s fair to bet that a number of high profile menswear designers will warm up to the idea of showing their new collections at NYFWM in his wake.

But more than that, Raf’s decision to show at NYFWM solidifies the creative direction that the designer has been hinting at in his last few collections. Consider this: Raf has always referenced visual artists and musicians throughout his career (after all, he is one of if not the designer that got artsy rock n’ roll dudes interested in high fashion in the first place). But in the past, he exercised decidedly European art and rock influences in his menswear collections. The music of Manchester, namely Joy Division and New Order, and those bands’ album covers’ graphic designer Peter Saville were celebrated in his FW 2003 collection. Raf’s FW 2001 collection presented graphics inspired by the disappearance of Manic Street Preachers’ iconic vocalist and poet Richey Edwards. The European art references in Raf’s work could go on forever: Bowie, German komische and electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, Belgian ‘Gabber’ techno music, Belgian florist Mark Colle, British fine artist Conrad Shawcross, and his fashion design hero Martin Margiela all influenced Raf’s refined and distinctly European counter-cultural sensibilities.

But somewhere along the line, Raf’s tastes shifted towards the art of the United States. If one had to find a jumping off point for this transition, he/she would most likely point towards his FW 2014 collection designed in conjunction with Los Angeles-based mixed-media artist Sterling Ruby. That collection, based on the peculiar design flourishes of Ruby’s rarified wardrobe, saw the duo incorporate patchwork based around Ruby’s teenaged tendency to adorn his clothes with patches by the likes of American bands Black Flag, Sonic Youth and Bad Brains. Since then, American artists have had a greater presence in Raf Simons collections. His stunning Fall-Winter 2016 collection was full of over-sized school uniforms imagined as the costumes of stars from ‘80s American teen horror movies. Raf has said that American artist, Cindy Sherman, influenced the collection. More prominently, the collection was heavily inspired by the work of David Lynch. The show’s soundtrack featured Angelo Badalamenti discussing his creative process working with David, creating Laura Palmer’s Theme song from Twin Peaks, while that very theme song played chillingly in the background. No artist on Earth has explored the darkness that exists within the cracks of mundane American existence more than Lynch, and it was as if Raf was criss-crossing the whole country before taking up permanent residence in his new home of New York City. But he made it here, as evidenced by his Spring-Summer 2016 collection designed in conjunction with the archive of one of the most quintessentially New York of New York City artists, the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe deftly chronicled the New York City sub-cultures of the late ‘70s and ‘80s that made the city such a hotbed of artistic excitement and debauched excess. His portrait subjects included members of the gay biker scene and BDSM world, New York high society socialites, and art world superstars ranging from Andy Warhol to Debbie Harry to Mapplethorpe’s once girlfriend Patti Smith. No artist’s output breathes the mysticism of New York City better than Robert Mapplethorpe’s. So when Raf presented a collection that featured Mapplethorpe prints, garments inspired by Mapplethorpe’s idiosyncratic style, and a soundtrack chalk full of Blondie hits, it became clear that Raf’s artistic heart is currently with New York.

So we knew that Raf would be presenting his Calvin Klein collections here. From a business standpoint, it would make sense to just show all his clothes here in New York to avoid the cross Atlantic flights. But looking at Raf’s last few collections, it is clear that he has become increasingly more interested in American art. With his Mapplethorpe collection, he told the world in code that he’d be headed to New York. Like Helmut Lang did before him bringing his brand to New York in the ‘90s, Raf Simons instantly boosts the reputation of the New York City menswear schedule. I feel proud that my city finally has a designer that represents the creativity of the ways in which men dress in New York. Thank you, Raf. 


Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize In Literature…. And Now Is The Time For Your Online Tears?!

text by Luke Goebel


Let’s shake this desert rattle and see what drops out… WE are outside the Likker Barn, a little red barn with its lone-hay-bale-door open, a tapestry covering a downstairs-storefront window, & the stars are growing in number. There are Sheriffs cars and Denalis and Navigators and men smoking in the cool desert wind, and Prevost coaches—night is coming down over Joshua trees with a giant moon hovering the high desert mountains of the Mohave.

Through the bale door opening of the little barn is warm light on wood—and unseen, though heard, is Paul McCartney playing acoustic with his band, upstairs in the hay loft, singing “Love Me Do” and then three following songs (“Calling Me Back Again,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “FourFiveSeconds”) to ten of us sitting on hay bales and dancing in the sand in silence beneath stars—there is silence between songs and waiting, laughing and talking upstairs, indiscernible words but you can hear him when he talks and laughs—this is October 2016—with their songs is silence that can live in an acoustic hushed practice and warm-up before the show out here in Pioneertown, California at Pappy and Harriet’s. He sounds good, benevolent, what’s the way to describe the songs out here in the desert coming from this unsuspected scene? You know the Beatles? 

There are clouds and Joshua trees and starry moon skies above bare, knobby rock faces of mountains, which are part of us who live here year round. A Beatle is singing. 

The show tonight will be for 300 drinking lucky, nearly hip fans in the area from the Desert Trip Festival who have arrived from Canada, or Iowa, or Wichita, or wherever. People are wearing British flag fedoras and dumb things, but it’s cute, too. ISH.

What we are hearing is not the industry of the painted Prevost tour buses outside the Likker Barn, with the police cars and the Navigators and Yukon Denalis all black and chrome waiting outside the barn with those fat dressy men, smoking, in character, ready to whisk Paul and friends to the venue—it's not the lifetime of Paul hearing people screaming his name.

No, inside the little Likker Barn, in the tiny wooden barn, upstairs, with the exposed beams glowing in buttery light, the voice of Paul McCartney and his fellow band members are making music, a nostalgic love music that once changed the world. Can we even feel that anymore? It seems, in the desert, tonight, we actually can reach. It’s as if we stumbled on a manger scene of new nativity in Pioneertown. 

Pioneertown is a town made as a movie-set, originally, in 1954, now inhabited by locals who stay in the old-western-ghost-town storefronts that line the one sand (pedestrians only) street through town—and we are sitting in that sand listening to church inside, something ancient to us. An old Persian American man is with us and keeps screaming Paul's name between songs, followed by Security telling us all we must leave again, to which we laugh and smile at our luck, refusing.

How many people have sat and been serenaded by Paul in a group of ten strangers? I am with a woman I don’t know and she is curious and covered in bright tattoos, we dance, I can smell her hair when it blows in the night air to my face. I’m not a Paul fan, or a Beatles nut; I’ve always liked John even with his disastrous, radical, violent flaws, and George, yes—but I bet you can’t sit outside this barn under the stars in the vast mountainous desert terrain and hear this quiet, intimate session with a Beatle, and not have some part of your inner mapping rearranged.

This Persian man’s calling of PAUL between songs is like the old man is being turned into a young teen again, plaintively calling for Paul to come down—as if Paul might appear to kiss him on the mouth. Paaaaul. The man keeps telling us to all call Paul’s name together with him. He is a drunk, lost man from a lost time when men had the plan, and it was cool to shout out the name of your idol—won’t we join him, he asks, incredulous when we won’t.

There's one last whisper of Beatlemania. And there's something else. A scale of largeness—largeness of celebrity that once unified the world’s imagination as captivated by Paul, John, George, Ringo and of course Bob Dylan, some other rock and roll stars and few cultural icons who reached that size of celebrity for the size of the gift they gave the race of human. They had everyone on their side, nearly, and created so much change—but were also men, white men, mostly—especially those to survive. There was Joni, and Janis, and Jimi Hendrix, and others, Richie Havens, but the ones who were knighted, who grabbed the entire world, who made the police and military fall for them—they were mostly white men.

I can’t help feeling that that world of unified imagination will never likely be so united again. We seem divided more and more online. There is something old, old class, old guard, the old revolutionary tides that these few living icons still hold, and the large body of women and men, and women and men of color they were part of, how can we not thank them for changing how we loved—how we imagined the world could be? How we were led to push out further from normal? To fight for love, for freedom, to take substances and to take paths of experimentation? Dylan’s lyrics, his influence on Beatle’s lyrics, and imagination. 

We have different screens now, different stations tailored to our every prejudices, different axes to grind, different tastes, different self-interested dreams, angers, and triggers—we are negotiating with each other constantly in comment boxes on social media—we negotiate the way we feel, the way we express ourselves, our right to whatever we think we have right to…THINK…why others don’t have the right—and the giant world-changing idols have no place.

It’s about us, now, we think. Our opinions, our feelings, our wounds, our negotiations amidst one another—our way. I’m glad for this as I see movements like Black Lives Matter and the Dakota Pipeline Protests take root and ways in which we are taking the mantle, if not too late, as a world that is about US—our way toward change and protecting what is sacred. I am also concerned when I see how fragmented and polarized and silencing some of the online negotiations can be. The proclivity to being dour, sour, and antagonistic against anything not from the new online-erudite privileged body politic—which again I think is a good and vital thing…but we need to temper our tendency toward the sweeping rejection of all that is old, a lesson we so indubitably learned from the sins of Chancellor Mao, or ISIS even.

How do we do this in a world where the old and white and male remind us so vividly today of Donald Trump?

On the eve of the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan, and the subsequent outrage across the internal-webs from across the writing world, the writing industry, the writing hobbyists, the writing aspirers—I'm sitting here listening to Paul McCartney sing to so few of us and I’m being reminded of something so-far-from-now that somehow’s here living under the same sky, in the same vast desert, in our home where we live in high Mohave. I am also reminded, because of a piece I read earlier, of the song, “Idiot Wind”—It struck me in light of the idiocy of protesting Dylan as Nobel Prize recipient. I get it, that protest, but I don’t. I get it; he’s a musician, but really? Dylan isn’t a poet? Lyr|ics is a term that comes from lyre, and the ancient poets that lived in Greece long before a novel was ever written in the West were writing poetry to be performed with the lyre. With music. And the poems about politics, about the city, where did they come from, you think? Songs like “The Times They Are A-Changing” and “A Hard Rain…” what do you think they took aim to change? Where do you think they come from? The ballads are rooted in a tradition of political and humanistic and divine poetry from which sprung all literature, philosophy, and humanities, law, et al. DEAL WITH IT.

Dylan, like Paul, John, George, and Ringo, represents a small dying section of celebrity even the world of police, governments, fame, and celebrity all respected for their greatness of appeal and revolutionary participation around what was an often simply expressed love-consciousness-psychedelic-freedom revolution.  And it makes sense that they are protested (online/now)—because IT was a largely white boy club that couldn’t help their gen. make the leap far enough fast enough—but the frontrunners of that artistic time tapped into and spoke for people of all demographics, genders, and spoke for the underdog, the downtrodden, and marginalized. Juan Felipe Herrera is one of that generation’s prized poets. I don't want to huff the gas of nostalgia—and I apologize that I am huffing it, down under that bale window hearing a Beatle. But there is something so pure in the voice, in the songs.

It wasn't a better time. We are where we are now still ripping down the walls of gender and race and sexuality and sexual violence, partly because of the way these unifiers spoke for many, embraced a new consciousness, and experimented against the confines of white patriarchy—less directly, perhaps in some ways, than we do today, but through play and embracing wonder, they struck. I wonder if we need a bit more of that wonder and unity to temper our passions at ripping!

It’s hard to celebrate them or us in light of all that is dire, especially planet health wise, sexism, violence, murder—the very things protest ballads take aim to eradicate. So… we often now choose to acknowledge different heroes, ones who are from the more marginalized body identity politics, because the Dylan’s, the McCartney’s, the famous white sharks of love—they failed us—but that is partly a lie.

As I said, on this eve of Dylan winning his Nobel Prize in Literature, the New Yorker published Rebecca Mead writing about the song “Idiot Wind,” paying tribute to [Dylan] she writes:

I’m glad to say that it’s been a while since I felt a personal identification with [the song]… but the furious castigation and the reeling pain conveyed by that song have spoken for me more times than I care to recall. Critics will argue about Dylan’s place in the canon, or about the rightness of bestowing a prize upon a writer whose celebration doesn’t particularly help the publishing industry. But, for my money, anyone who can summon, as a bitter valediction to a lover, the line “I can’t even touch the books you’ve read,” knows—and captures, and incarnates—the power of literature.

Idiot whining winds across the Internet against the ancient, psychedelic once-pancake-mix-face-coated radical poet singer receiving THE Nobel Prize in Literature after only having what? Changed the music world, gotten Hurricane boxer Ruben Carter out of a life sentence in prison, protesting war and nukes and corruption, racism, fueling civil rights movement, rebirthing idealism, speaking for the displaced and disenfranchised and marginalized voices around the world, freeing love consciousness away from owner mentality, collaborating with Ginsberg, subverting sexism, aiding Beats and Beatles cultural rev., feeding radicals, mystics, women musicians and poets, activists, winning Pulitzer, President’s Freedom Medal, reinventing self more times than Dow Chemical, spreading Harry Smith's anthology-driven rebirth of folk and song writing, embodying every region of USA, becoming an international figure of mystery, cowboy actor, sneering Jew-heart jaw-harp and harmonica troubadour, maintaining self as creative idol of decades, is that it! But what about winning THE prize for lit? Everyone hates it. The fuck? Dylan? Idiot wind sneering…would you give a poet a Grammy?!

I read posts about how this just legitimizes the BRO’s in literature and poetry classes who only know Dylan and fight and argue that he’s a poet while not knowing anything about the greater poetry of world. Bro: new most hated term for a cross-section of typical males—with term bro, males can be tossed into the fray of irrelevance and scorn deserving. It is a way to hate on male chromosome carrying populations and eliminate them as worthy of consideration. So, these educators who launched this attack on the notion of Dylan being valued by students, rather than seeing this as an entry into the conversation, would rather expel such students from the conversation? Rather pigeonhole students as deserving of dismissal and scorn? It seems much easier to use this as an access point, should there be students who know Dylan’s work and want to discuss it, to opening a larger conversation and including the work of great poets who are women, are diverse, etc., but I digress.

Let's admit it...It's been a bad year all around. Planet news is of bad environmental forecast. Dead seas to ride up 10 feet in decades and swallow sea cities, ocean life soon kaput, Great Barrier Reef prognosis of poor health came out today—Drumpf, Clinton, wars endless, Russia, Aleppo, terrorism, world war watch, etc. And people are outraged about Bob Dylan? Someday we may crouch before amplified speakers and listen to women and men such as Dylan sing about what no longer exists—roosters, cicadas, whales, love—objects and living things and feelings we destroyed. We need unity—and while I don’t suppose around Dylan is where we should rally—maybe we should temper the internet outcry of the week on this one?

Today, Dylan wins the Nobel Prize. Librarians, elementary and high school teachers, as well as Cynthia from The Confederate General of Big Sur are committing ritualistic suicide.  

Everyone knows someone else’s more-deserving name to tweet, post, and broadcast that should have won instead (Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Marilynne Robinson, D. DeLillo)—a million times over! People can't BELIEVE THOSE SWEDISH IDIOTS PICKED DYLAN. How populist, how commercial. How gauche!! 

We are trolling, Bob…

Trolls and smart folk everywhere kvetch about Dylan winning the fucking Pulitzer. Nnooooooo! Bob Dylan? What does he know about literature, poetry, and words?

He tells stories in words. He made DESIRE. Made how many thousands of timeless songs about the soul, about humans, woman, man, the oppressed, the unspeakable—that which exists in negative capability—love, moral outrage, spurn, war, criminals, Judaic crying out loneliness, wives, husbands, children, beauty, surreality, landscapes, gods, mysticism, time, space, and perhaps at best: stories that cannot be broken down to elements of story—so what? Why not Don DeLillo? This isn’t the year for Don’s. Sorry, DeLillo.

There are funny complaints. Sardonic arrows bore to the quiver in the heart of the absurdity of this year and folly of human existence. The shame. The disease of us. Throttling hate and vitriol launched at the body politic of the winners—and for good reason--MALE. And why should Dylan even be considered for a Nobel in Lit? The man the pop-fan universe first loved to hate, to boo and heckle, JUDAS—has just earned more haters—in droves. Begin Dylan's 2016 TROLLING thunder review cranking online! It's in full gripe.

How could a dirty filthy white (and in white face!) old Vincent Price-looking musician (yuck) win the glorious, erudite prize that is the pinnacle of all high literature? A music player? Goddamnit! Capital L literature. The decrepit white man (Jew), wins, in literature? He cheated! He used music! I write, ahem, cough, literature, haha, that will surely never win a Nobel, will be lucky to be novels in print in 100 years, if there is life in 100 years, maybe life on Mars???—but the reason I first wanted to write was hearing music by Bob Dylan, while being tortured by my father, while being victim to the stress, anger, hostility, violence of the male world, I first found I could live in the music (my father played) of Bob Dylan, while driving, and Dylan was there with me, somehow, actually inside of me and shepherding me in a way no other musician or writer ever has.

I first unconsciously experienced wanting to write because I was captured by his words, his stories, his objects and animals and events—his outraged yearning. I roamed insane through streets of his music and later through literal streets out of rehabs in my early twenties listening to Dylan on headphones, shivering, alone, crying, sharp-eyed. I imagined myself in his songs. I ran into words and language and writing, scrawling bad poetry, seeking what I glimpsed in his lyrics, in his stories, in the power of voice, in his magic spells. I climbed in strangers’ cars, got in dangerous situations, romanticized pain, drank, got sober, used, and dreamed of someday writing. It was male. There were women too who lived with me—Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins and Phoebe Snow. Predecessors like Nina Simone. But for a male singer, there was something Woolf-ianly hermaphroditic in the mind realms of Mr. Zimmerman’s music.

When my brother left this world I was on a street in Lisbon listening to a Dylan song I didn’t know, somehow, and had mysteriously found that day, listening to it over and over at night before a theater and crying, singing, wildly, bitterly, sobbing and singing on a street corner in another world, feeling my brother leave and not knowing yet, what was happening, why I was feeling so taken over by sorrow, by violent sorrow and madness—to sing out bitterly—having not heard the news, so that when I heard it, that moment, forever haunts me and returns to me in the middle of white nights.

I drank in a tiny apartment at 18 alone in Portland, Oregon back when a studio on NW on 21st street was 200 dollars a month and played Dylan’s music on repeat, drinking, crying, alone but with someone else’s language before I had my own.

I have lived and tripped on dreams my entire life, ones coterminous with a world I first encountered in the seat of my father’s car, a hostage to love and violence, with something outside of this world of all that I knew of what was normal and owned and patrolled—some other world Dylan offered and was a gateway into di Prima, Ginsberg, D.A. Powell, Juan Felipe Herrera, literacy.

Clearly, I am not the only author who shared an early draw to language from exposure to Dylan. Joyce Carol Oates famously dedicated her most known story: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” to Robert Zimmerman’s adopted stage name: Bob Dylan

Salman Rushdie wrote, this morning, regarding the Nobel win: We live in a time of great lyricist-songwriters – Leonard CohenPaul SimonJoni MitchellTom Waits – but Dylan towers over everyone. His words have been an inspiration to me ever since I first heard a Dylan album at school, and I am delighted by his Nobel win. The frontiers of literature keep widening, and it’s exciting that the Nobel prize recognizes that.

For me, I’m glad he beat DeLillo. Praise the lord!

The man in his liver spotted 70s. Won. The. Nobel. And. You. Can't. Complain. That. Away. This isn't democratic. What is anymore? We might think everything is. You don't get a vote for the Nobel Prize. Take to your comment boxes! Tweets! Rage. Sure…

Out here in the land of physical reality, in the Mohave high country, with the smell of suntan lotion and weed smoke, up at Pappy and Harriet's, we wait. For tickets. For Paul. For Dylan to make a rumored appearance. Having a sort of snow day.

This week is the Desert Trip Festival week-between-runs and of course Dylan, McCartney, Neil, Jagger and the gang are out here. Too many white men, true! Dicaprio, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, etc. celebrities galore rented 100,000-dollar-a-night suites last weekend and others will rent them this coming weekend at the DT festival.

Early today we were in line for Paul McCartney tickets. I could care less if I got tickets. I was already scribing this story, looking for the connection between Dylan and Paul, aside from the obvious. I was in line with thousands of others hoping for tickets, waiting in the hot autumnal sun. Maybe Dylan would show. Rumors, rumors. Today, the day that Bob Dylan made the Internet furious—though, I detest when people personify the goddamn Internet. Hey, it's not real life on here. It's turning you into thinking that the world is your own giant server comment card. People are complaining bitterly on their social media complaint boxes, writing opinion pieces on why it should have been any real writer. While this is good, to have a soap box to oppose Trump's assault comments or try and raise awareness for the most recent impending doom reports on coming planet death (you'll get three likes for all posts on environment)—to stand in solidarity with and give support to the Dakota Pipeline protests—I will say griping about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature just seems kind of pointlessly negative and perhaps in poor form. 

Let's take apart the arguments against the win. 

There is the formalist argument: he's music not literature. Why should lyrics count? Why should music count as literature? What's next? It's a literature prize! THE literature prize! I think we hit this one. POETRY birthed literature…it was to music.

The feminist argument (valid) that all in the camp were men this year. The race theorist argument: too white. Especially in white face.

The historicist argument: why now? He hasn't put out anything memorable in how many years?

The body-identity political complaint: why isn't it someone with less of a white penis.

Yes, he hasn’t put out anything earth shattering in years, and yes he’s a white Midwestern Jew, and yes the prizes this year were woefully all to men, and yes that’s bullshit…but should we aim our arrows at Dylan? Did he not help as an agent of cultural change in performing a miracle moving us in the directions we needed to go?

I'm so glad Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Let's remember, for a glimmer, the ancient tradition of poetry from which all literature grew. It was political, religious, and spiritual—in the religious and later humanist senses. It was how we moved from the ages of gods, to myths, to humans (Vicco). Let's remember what the purpose of poetry was back in the ancient world. Let's take a moment to remember Percy Shelley's Defense of Poetry. Let's ask the following questions: 

How many protest marches were taken to Don DeLillo passages? How many men did Don D get released from prison for being framed by racist pigs and judges? How many couples have had sex to Don DeLillo? How many bad acid trips did Don DeLillo save anyone from? How many Don DeLillo books do we know by heart? Has DeLillo changed the imagination of the world through writing in the way Dylan has? Gotten anyone free from framed life prison? Dylan has inspired, has mystified, and he is a part of a world journey across the ages that has opened up the gates to wonder, to the rebirth of the ancient tradition of poetry that has always inspired and carried the human race forth in the face of tyranny, hatred, smallness, bigotry, fear, coldness, and greed.

Tonight, at the show, which I didn’t get tickets for, we stood outside having escaped the sheriff sweeps, having hung in town in friends’ homes, later coming upon that chance encounter with Paul making music in a little barn in the desert night. Then we listened in our huddled congregations outside Pappy and Harriet’s wooden honky-tonk, while Paul McCartney played a very solid rock and roll concert. They played Day Tripper, Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, I’ve Just Seen A Face, We Gonna Work It Out, I Got a Feeling, My Valentine, and five or six other numbers. Timing was immaculate in the songs. It was a strange feeling to dance under stars with Joshua Trees to Paul’s music and to close my eyes and see the stars overhead, to feel the world of my inner strangeness mixing with the outer collectivity, to be alive and in the closeness of such a major part of this world I have somehow lived in, through all the drugs and booze and sobriety and madness and loss and language…but it wasn’t a thing compared to the time we spent under the Likker Barn listening to a private practice session with Paul and thinking of Dylan and having the magic, for a moment, light up the desert and land down into us. I don’t really give a damn what the Internet thinks. The Internet doesn’t strive, and dream, or maybe it does. And maybe all of us on there should give a small whisper of thanks for what Dylan contributed, in his small way, to the continuance of wonder of the fire which is counter to the culture of violence, greed, and indifference to the marginalized. Maybe the writer from the New York Times who says Dylan doesn’t deserve the Nobel Prize in Literature is right—but he is one of a few rare human beings who have seized the world and their time on it, made writing and words and sound come alive incarnate and given rebirth to wonder, feeding the collective human soul, and carrying the torch of poetry to light the way of democracy—shared power. Dylan has carried that torch, and that time deserves recognition, as we move forward into the tough days and years ahead, with all they will entail, we need to find within us the mystery and the will to pull down from the firmament our songs, our poetry, our literature, to feed a collective world identity, and that won’t be found in the toxic comment card culture that fragments us further into our angry, over-it, fed up feeds of complaint.

The genius of the song “Idiot Wind,” is that in the end he turns the song outward and inward, singing “We are idiots, babe, it’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.” Yep, let’s keep a bit of that, and remember, too, the magic of collectivity around something that can only be called love.


As of the time this piece was written, Dylan still hadn't responded to the Nobel panel. He apparently cares less about his winning than millions of anti-fans. Text by Luke Goebel. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Review of John Domini’s MOVIEOLA!

text by Elizabeth Harris

John Domini’s new story collection MOVIEOLA! is a wild ride, a madcap satire of movie-making whose originality is its comic burlesque of voices from a period of the Industry. Writing that makes fun of the movies is of course a comic tradition from S. J. Perelman and P. G Wodehouse through Michael Tolkin and Charles Bukowski—and that’s not even to address movies and television that do the same. Satire of the Dream Factory in multiple forms is probably inevitable, given the numbers of writers who have worked or wanted to work there.

Domini, who has done neither, has previously published two collections of short stories, two novels, a collection of poetry, and a translation of Tullio Pironti’s memoir, Books and Rough Business. The new collection MOVIEOLA! is not his first creation of a pop culture setting. (For that, you have to see his first novel Talking Heads: 77, recently reissued like the rest of his fiction in e-versions from Dzanc Books).  He’s always been a lyrical writer; what’s new from Domini in MOVIEOLA! is its full-on orientation towards language.

What’s new in satire about MOVIEOLA! is its burlesque of jargon from the period of “corporate oppression”— Mike Medavoy’s pronouncement—after the studios had been bought by corporate conglomerates, when seeking formulas for successful films had come to seem like good business. The Industry aside, characters confident in rigid formulas were a staple of comedy—think Moliere’s Tartuffe, Gogol’s Inspector General—long before the movies. Characters like these are memorable for monologues and dialogues in which they skewer themselves: they are set up—or, as in several of Domini’s stories, sent speeding thorough cyber- or interstellar space—and given the lines to talk themselves into absurd silliness.

The voices of MOVIEOLA! rant, crow, hector, and babble about storyboards, arc mojo, and the Reveal; bankable talent, Oscar moments, and title scrabble; shot focus and provocative color saturation and maybe going more FX here, all in the imagined interest of inventing, pitching, producing, directing, acting, or promoting. A project might be gawk’n’gag, splatter-saga, Pixar-Matrix, nano-alchemy, 3-D on a creature feature, post- or even zombie-apocalyptic in pursuit of—one of my favorite sly phrases in MOVIEOLA!—“the bottom line arc,” the elusive pay-off in “elephant bucks.”

The great thing here, for readers like me who love the oral folk arts of slang and jargon, is MOVIEOLA!’s wholesale recreation of them in literary art. 

Many of these stories are also culturally and psychologically acute. A recurrent irony in MOVIEOLA! is the cynical self-confidence of its self-anointed “creatives” that all good stories are variations on the same, while the stories they enact imply otherwise. Sometimes Domini’s characters are defeated by their contempt for worlds beyond their own. In a story about secret government assassins, a screenwriter counting on the necessary triumph of love can’t quite bring it about but seems, like one of his characters, to be imitating an ecstatic image he can only see in video.

The world beyond screenwriters’ control in MOVIEOLA!, often but not always on planet Earth, surpasses them. The movie-monster hope of two writers—Skyping from opposite sides of the Earth, no less—is outdone by an online amateur video of an ordinary octopus. A self-described Industry player, outbound aboard a chartered interstellar space shuttle, recounts to his seatmate over “Botox and rye” how the Flexxies, a species who love drama and can manipulate gravity, repeatedly ruined the shooting of his sports movie with their insistence on the simple peripety of losers-becoming-winners.

And if cliché binds in MOVIEOLA!, power blinds. An edge-seeking carny barker of film-making in search of something for the storyboard at his symposium can only lead it into a tangle of familiar, PC memes. A prospective auteur-director, discovering the literal power to visualize the movie she wants to make, is distracted from seeing its essential details the first time by the spectacle and newsworthiness of her own power. Will she succeed in visualizing the movie on a second try?

Maybe. Though there’s a certain repetition of themes here, Domini’s comic bumblers aren’t all preposterous failures: some are preposterous successes. In my favorite story, the cumbersomely named “Home ‘n’ Homer, Portmanteau,” a martial arts star who must study how to fight monsters is visited by her private, house-pet-sized monster and finds being able to summon it at will the key to her continued success.

Many of these stories were published in periodicals before being collected in MOVIEOLA! and all bear re-reading. Some require it (“is she really an alien or is that a metaphor?”), such is the bizarre cosmos that Domini creates and furnishes with worlds.

Click here to purchase MOVIEOLA!

[FASHION REVIEW] Milan Fashion Week SS17

text by Adam Lehrer


Since Alessandro Michele debuted at Gucci and drastically altered the landscape of the Milan’s fashion industry, my intros to Milan roundups harped upon the notion that Milan is shedding its traditionalist skin. But since I’m writing this during the middle of Paris Fashion Week, it feels quite evident that almost all of the fashion cities are still paling in comparison to the Paris schedule. But Milan is at its most exciting when its most important brands continue to re-invent the wheel: Gucci, Versace, Prada, Marni, Bottega Veneta. Milan lives and dies by those brands, and when those brands aren’t innovating then Milan is stagnating. Fortunately, the Milan schedule for the Spring-Summer 2017 collections saw those brands all either doing what they do best and/or progressing the brand further. While Michele at Gucci has so firmly established an aesthetic universe at Gucci that his collections will fascinate even if they don’t drastically change season to season, Donatella at Versace moved her brand into a new and fascinating direction after some relatively somnambulant seasons. Italian fashion is Italian fashion; they take it very seriously over there. There is also some exciting youth in Milan at the moment: Arthur Arbesser of Iceberg and his own label, Lucio Vanotti, and even off-schedule brands like Darkdron are all proving Milan can still be a fertile ground for radical fashion design.


Bottega Veneta Spring-Summer 2017

Everyone knows Tomas Maier is a good designer, but not often enough do we talk about how revolutionary his 15 year tenure at Bottega Veneta has been: turning athleisure into high fashion, popularizing the suede chelsea boot, and not to mention the countless fabric creations should solidify his status as one of fashion’s most enduring innovators. The Bottega Veneta Spring-Summer 2017 collection celebrated Maier’s 15th year at the house and the brand’s 50th anniversary and you bet your ass it reminded the fashion pack of Maier’s influence. Minimalism, that most over-used of aesthetic terms, applies to Maier’s work. His strength is making what he calls “nothing clothes” and making them special through his use of occasionally outrageous expensive materials: ostrich, crocodile, the finest cashmere the world has ever known, etc.. Despite Maier’s distaste for fashion marketing, the show featured one instagrammable moment when Lauren Hutton came down the runway with Gigi Hadid welding the same woven clutch bag she used in the 1980 film American Gigolo. That filmic moment has been noted as a milestone event for the house and they are recreating the bag for the anniversary.


Gucci Spring-Summer 2017

You could make cases for either Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia being the most influential men in fashion. However different their styles may be, they do share similarities. They have both created aesthetic universes that are so rich that you don’t need to wear their clothes to buy into their looks. Perhaps that is the key to their success? When the majority of the fashion audience is mostly broke, it is exceedingly modern to present a way to dress and not simply products that must be bought into.

Not that Michele doesn’t have products, of course. His Spring-Summer 2017 collection saw his vintage leaning tastes take on Renaissance garb: lack patent 5-inch wedge and a black velvet upper embroidered with gold snake (worn by hookers in Venice, according to Michele), sparkled fairy dresses, purposefully aged dresses ruffled and exaggerated. It’s all just so much to look at. No designer on Earth presents a vision as stunning as Michele is right now. Not Rei. Not Demna. Not even Raf. Michele overwhelms you into submission.


Versace Spring-Summer 2017

Donatella diversified the Versace oeuvre by applying the magnetic and alluring appeal of Versace eveningwear to a host of streetwear-inspired athletic looks. A woman’s strength doesn’t solely lie in glamour, the SS ’17 Versace collection suggests. That strength can come from athleticism; a sense of ease with one’s self and one’s body. There were flowing nylon parkas, leggings paired with tight t-shirts, and platform Teva’s. Not that the evening wear wasn’t there. There were still beautiful tight dresses in black and others in blocks of primary colors. The diversity in garment was further reflected in the diversity of casting. Models of different body types, ages, and colors were all represented here. From super models of now (Gigi), yesteryear (Naomi), and relative unknowns, Donatella saw the power in all her women. We saw it too.


Jil Sander Spring-Summer 2017

After Raf left the label in 2012 and Ms. Sander herself returned for one solitary season, Fausto Puglisi was always going to have an uphill battle bringing the Jil Sander label back to relevance. While the brand remains largely irrelevant, Fausto has had a strong few collections with the label. The Spring-Summer 2017 collection felt very Jil Sander: minimal in color and pattern but abstract in shape. A lot of looks here felt perfect for the gallery girls that went crazy for the label back in the day: big black smocks, leather tunics, and sharp dresses. One must address the shoulder padding here, clearly ripped off from the mind of Demna Gvasalia. Appropriation isn’t welcome when it’s that obvious.


Marni Spring-Summer 2017

Vogue’s Sarah Mower cites Marni’s Consuelo Castiglioni as being behind only Rei Kawakubo and Miuccia Prada as fashion’s leader of abstract female fashion design. Certainly, all three women approach fashion as a form of individual expression and not merely as a means of attracting the opposite sex. But Castiglioni still stands in her own category. Prada designs with a kind of wild and unhinged glamour, and Kawakubo’s designs have grown so abstract and bizarre that they are approaching the realm of visual art (her various off-shoot CDG brands often feel like commercial supporters of her conceptual art practice). But Castiglioni’s abstraction is both more subtle than Prada’s and far more practical than Kawakubo’s. And for the Spring-Summer 2017 Milan collections, her Marni vision burner brighter than Prada’s.

Castiglioni uses asymmetry and architecture to transform the practical into the divine. All the dresses were beautifully abstracted welding sleeves and abstracted pleats. The use of pleats, which many critics have cited as an Issey Miyake rip-off used by much brands throughout this season, were used here as odd accessories to cover up one’s arm and shoulder. Loose-fitting tops came with gigantic cargo sleeves just in front of the wearer’s belly. Then there were the massive pocket-books fixed to models’ waists that didn’t look beautiful but certainly were eye-grabbing. Castiglioni has so well defined her customer basis that she can make these grand gestures feel seamless and well-placed. 

[FASHION REVIEW] Paris Fashion Week Review

text by Adam Lehrer

I usually preamble my fashion week round-ups about how the written-about fashion city stacks up against the others, for example: “New York Fashion Week is very commercial but is experiencing a conceptual renaissance.” Something to that effect. Believe me, I know how trite writing these introductions can be. Let’s face it: the fashion industry can look ridiculous to those on the outside. Designers try to imbue their ideas with politics, art, and concepts in what basically amounts to a glorified sales pitch. But in a recent interview about his film ‘The Neon Demon,’ which takes place in the modern fashion world, filmmaker Nik Refn was asked what fashion means to him: “It's melodramatic, emotional, creative; a little bit creepy but also very campy.”

Paris Fashion Week is all of those things. It’s fashion at its best and fashion at its worst. We live in a capitalist world, and creative commerce is the only thing that can push culture forward within a capitalist system. Paris is the center of fashion. To show a collection in Paris is to get signed to the Yankees in baseball. That seal of approval and commercial visibility has enabled Paris-based designers to make grand conceptual gestures to an audience of millions upon millions. While technology has radically altered the way we communicate, fashion has radically progressed ideals of gender, race, and beauty. With Milan being too steeped in antiquated Italian notions of glamour (with exceptions), London designers working in a more cult and hype-driven business model (with exceptions), and New York being far too dictated by conservative retail outlets (with exceptions), Paris is and seemingly always will be ground zero for delivering radical concepts through the medium of fashion design on a global scale. As Nik Refn points out, fashion is an industry no different than the film industry; it’s entertainment. But as technology has enabled us to interact with the fashion industry with previously unprecedented access, it has become the primary entertainment industry for shifting societal norms. With Hollywood cinema having become the medium of The Avengers and popcorn sleaze, the fashion industry has taken center stage as our most important capitalist art form. If Paris Fashion Week is the epicenter of the industry, than it is 2016’s version of what Hollywood cinema was to 1976: a commercially robust platform that enables its audience to question what is presented to them.

(note: this list is in no particular order, all these collections were too good for that)

Saint Laurent Spring-Summer 2017

Hedi who? Sorry for the pun, but I’m mostly serious. I liked some things about Hedi Slimane’s tenure at Saint Laurent: his photography, bringing couture back to the house, and his ability to take creative control over the brand’s entire marketing strategy. But despite his doubling of the brand’s annual take, I never much liked the clothes. I never bought into the whole, “Bringing back Saint Laurent to its rock n’ roll roots.” There is no way that Yves Saint Laurent ever listened to anything that didn’t have a number and the word “symphony” in its title. Of course there were some great pieces delivered during his tenure, but Saint Laurent should be an innovator. The leather jackets were great, but they weren’t any better than Schott Perfecto’s. Yves did believe in taking normal and easy-to-wear pieces and making them incredible. But I’m sorry Hedi, there is nothing incredible about a pair of cut-off denim shorts, no matter how expensive you make them.

And that brings us to Spring-Summer 2017, the first Saint Laurent collection designed by Anthony Vacarello. I was watching SHOWStudio’s live panel on the collection, and typically they had nasty things to say about Vacarello’s first collection for the label, particularly about how over-sexed the models looked in Vacarello’s clothes. Seriously? We’ve gotten so sensitive that a designer can’t make his models look sexy? Vacarello focused on the sexiest era of Saint Lauren’t history, opening the show with a puffed shoulder dress from 1982 that he re-created in black leather. There was much leather that followed: a bustier paired with jeans, a bomber jacket with exaggerated shoulders, a trench over a black dress, a blazer. But where Vacarello excelled in his leather was its silhouettes; each piece was cut and/or shaped in an odd but appealing way (certainly something that Hedi never did with his addiction to skin tight everything). There was see-though shirts, gold lamé, breast exposing dresses, and everything tailored and sharp. I’m really not understanding the criticism aimed at this excellent debut collection. If my girlfriend came out of our bedroom wearing any one of those pieces my jaw would hit the floor. That is what what Yves wanted to do for women: make them feel like the best versions of themselves (my jaw notwithstanding). 

Koche Spring-Summer 2017

Streetwear with a couture twist is a certified trend in fashion at the moment, from the damaged luxury of Berlin’s Ottolinger to Demna Gvasalia’s reign over Balenciaga. But there is still something extraordinary about designer Christelle Kocher’s approach to haute street at her two time LVMH-nominated label Koché. Kocher also serves as artistic director of Maison Lemarié, which provides Karl Lagerfeld with the feathers he needs to make Chanel. Therefore, with Koché she is able to indulge her laissez-faire attitude towards clothing while bringing her rebellious sensibility a remarkable sense of craft and skill. She really wants to make you the last hoodie you’ll ever need to buy.

For the SS 2017 Koché collection, Kocher took inspiration from her fellow Parisian industry standard flouting renegades at Vetements and subverted the fashion show. She allowed public guests to sit at the show space of Les Halles while forcing industry insiders to stand (as someone who has personally witnessed a buyer make an elderly woman get up from his seat at a show, that brings me immense satisfaction). The models, a notable multi-racial pack of street-casted youths and Kocher’s friends, walked top speed around the perimeter of the show space several times. This performative gesture had editors trying to focus in extra hard on the clothes to catch all their unique detailings. A parka in sweatshirt fabric was frilled with black lace, track jackets were reconstructed through the reassembling of disparate pieces of silk, hoodies were transformed into Dracula capes, and summer dresses came in vibrant colors of the sunset and were paired with low top combat boots. I love Vetements, clearly, but unfortunately the buzz around that label has distracted from the fact that Demna is one of many designers leading a renaissance of artful fashion in Paris. Christelle Kocher is right up there with him in the front.

Balenciaga Spring-Summer 2017

Between Balenciaga and Vetements, Demna Gvasalia has created so many signatures silhouettes at this point that he can start to tweak and embellish them without having to change his whole approach season to season. There is no designers being more ripped off by high fashion right now (except for Issey Miyake’s pleats, oddly enough): Jil Sander employed Gvasalia’s hulking shoulder pads, Dior just did print t-shirts, Veronique Branqhino put out a hoodie for chrissakes’! Considering Gvasalia’s success, the mimicry shouldn’t surprise anyone. One thing is certain, however, and that is that no one does what Gvasalia does as radical or disruptive as he does. I even find myself looking forward to seeing new work from Demna, the same way that I look forward to the next Scorsese film or Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition. Other than Raf Simons, there’s no other designers on Earth that instills in me that insatiable fandom.

The Balenciaga Spring-Summer 2017 collection saw Demna incorporating even more Vetements touchstones into the Balenciaga ethos. It’s been wonderful to watch how despite Demna’s penchant for freak flagging that his approach to fashion design feels so right at the house. It’s about structure. It’s about shape. It’s about idiosyncratic notions of glamour. In the Vetements SS 2017 collection we saw Demna collaborate on waist high stilettos with Manohlo Blahnik in leather, and here we see a similar product in waist-high heels that double as pants or tights. In spandex no less? Since Eddie Murphy championed the fabric as skinny version of The Nutty Professor, the fabric has lost its haute connotations; but Demna rectified that with these hard-to-turn-away-from shoes. Then there were the hulking shoulders even further exaggerated by the use of whale bone. A nylon rain parka was made seductive with see through fabric. A little red riding hood was made black and mutated into shiny PVC fabric. Demna’s use of slight tweaks to make the ordinary divine will keep him in free Balenciaga baseball caps for a long time to come.

Side note: I also loved the use of Chris Issak on the soundtrack. It furthers my view that Demna is almost post-taste in his cultural references, bouncing back between standard artist approved post-punk like Sisters of Mercy to total pop cheese. It really nails our current culture on the head, one in which hipsters no longer care about what music is cool and care more about irony and individualism.

Y Project Spring-Summer 2017

A couple seasons ago, Y Project was one of the more skippable shows of the Paris menswear schedule. The late Yohan Serfaty started the label as a menswear brand seriously indebted to the gothic pea-cocking of Rick Owens and fashion unanimously agreed upon the fact that we already have the only Rick Owens we will ever need. So when Glenn Maartens took over the label after Serfaty’s passing, he totally departed from the label’s original aesthetic. Since adding womenswear to the label’s repertoire, the label has received gobs of praise and a nomination for this year’s LVMH Prize, not to mention beloved conceptual stockists including Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony, and Machine-A.

Maartens has a sense of humor, and his light sensibilities allow for incredibly palatable abstraction in his ingenious fashion creations. His SS 2017 collections, his second for womenswear, found the designer employing styling techniques to achieve a bit of shock. But everything here was actually wearable and built to be styled in different ways: adjustable sleeves, loosening bustiers, laced dresses. There was also some fun play with sexual provocation: the white denim chaps, for instance, barely concealed the model’s ass crack. Or the halter top that coiled at the waist and used an unbuttoned neck to conceal the model’s considerable boobs. I can see Y Project particularly appealing to young female artists that are hustling Instagram and making a little doh but are far from financial security. These are easy-to-wear clothes that are embellished and specialized enough to be adored by the buyer and also beg the buyer to wear them from day to night. Maartens is shaping up to be one of the most malleable conceptualists in fashion design.

Junya Watanabe Spring-Summer 2017

After a couple much derided seasons of racially on the nose sentiment, Junya Watanabe has come fiercely back doing what he does best: making the most structurally complex garments a human being could conceivably want to wear. While his menswear show was full of simple summer pieces adorned in tough to beautiful looking prints, his SS 2017 womenswear collection was complicated. Like artists ranging from Nick Cave to Lydia Lunch to David Bowie to Jeffrey Eugenides did before him, Junya hung out in Berlin to pick up inspiration for this collection. Also like those artists, the city’s dark and abstract culture and landscape had an aesthetic impact on this cyberpunk-leaning collection.

With Berlin-based conceptual fashion magazine 032C and its emphasis on the global merging and mutually beneficial relationship of streetwear and couture seeing its influence reverberate throughout the industry, it appears that Junya has taken note. He paired his highly abstracted geometrically stacked satin art museum pieces with slashed tights, cowboy boots, silver leather skirts, denim shorts, band t-shirts, and silver bomber jackets. There were really only two ideas here, but Junya can stretch an idea so long that an aesthetic universe pours out of it. You can see the nightclub where people are wearing these clothes: speed is being injected in lieu of cocaine, it smells of old puke and piss, bad graffiti adorns the bathroom walls, and Psychic TV is always playing on the speakers. Instead of “elevating streetwear to the level of couture,” as we are seeing in the cases of myriad designers, Junya simply decided to style couture with streetwear and create one incredibly succinct look. He is making Japanese fashion design palatable to a global audience without losing any conceptual credentials.

Haider Ackermann Spring-Summer 2017

I really love Haider Ackermann’s work. I put him in a similar category to designers like Rick Owens and Phoebe Philo; designers that can work a similar idea for a few seasons because there is simply no one else who does what he does. His work always has that bourgeois family black sheep vibe: the man or woman who decides not to enter the family business instead opting for a life of opulence, decadence, smoking, drinking, drugs, casual sex, and creative endeavors. You know whoever that person is dresses fabulously.

This was Ackermann’s first collection since being named creative director of heritage luxury French menswear house Berluti (an inspired casting choice if there was ever one, I can’t be alone in being rabid in anticipation for the punk spin he will put on the brand’s classicist and wildly expensive products). Ackermann is moving away from the draping that made him famous and this collection employed razor sharp tailoring to achieve an exacting if striking silhouette. Despite its precision, the collection still made use of flourishes of rebellion: jackets slashed at the waist, neon two-toned drainpipe leather trousers, a blood spattered jacquard coat, and that wildly spiky hair all screamed, “I’d like to excuse myself from this dinner table to smoke bowls full of opium and hash on my red velvet couch listening to Ornette Coleman.” There were also some more pleats here, also ripped off from Issey Miyake’s wildly copied Plissé line, but Ackermann’s choice to create a wide pleat skirt brightly colored yellow felt less on the nose than other recreations of the textile idea.

Loewe Spring-Summer 2017

Jonathan Anderson’s reinvention of Spanish luxury house cannot be denied: in just two years time he transformed what amounted to a small novelty act into a major Paris Fashion Week event. He did this by honing in on exactly who his customer is. What has separated Anderson from his fellow Central Saint Martin’s-educated young London designers is his unbridled understanding and embracing of fashion’s business side. Noting that his menswear audience at his own label largely consists of gay men, he live-streamed a show on hookup app Grindr. Identifying his Loewe woman as an older cultured lady of means, he decorated the set of his Loewe Spring-Summer 2017 show with ceramics, lamps, and video screens playing an art film. The Loewe woman has a deep appreciation of objects, and Anderson brings rarified objects by the dozens.

Working with one flowing and unstructured silhouette, Anderson put on a fabric clinic: cotton and nylon, patchwork and plissé, raw edges and fringes, jersey and fine leather. There was a hinting at the Spanish luxury of Loewe with dresses recalling those worn by women from 19th century Spanish villages. Everything here looked expensive, as it should, because these clothes are extremely expensive. And that’s not even mentioning the wide diversity of shoes, bags and accessories that will give Loewe fans more buying options than any collection the house has ever put out. Of all the creative director-driven brand reinventions of the last 10 years; Hedi at Saint Laurent, Raf at Dior, Galliano at Margiela; Anderson’s reinvention of Loewe is by far the most radical and arguably the most successful, considering the relative obscurity of the brand before his hiring. 

Comme des Garcons Spring-Summer 2017

You don’t watch Comme des Garcons' main line collections anymore to find new pieces to buy. You watch it to feel awe. Rei Kawakubo has been slowly emerging as something more akin to a conceptual artist than a conceptual fashion designers, at least in her womenswear collections. Of course the dozens of other subdivisions she designs weld tons of clothes that you can’t wait to get your hands on: CdG Homme, CdG shirt, CdG black, etc.. But all those brands financially support the pure creations that Kawakubo devises for her Comme des Garcons show. Of all her artistically grandiose recent collections, from the red blood soaked and Sunn O)))-soundtracked SS 2015 show to the punk empresses of FW 2016, Kawakubo’s SS 2016 collection might just be her most exquisite yet.

The hulking sculptures in the collection beg countless meanings. Sarah Mower noted the girth of the stomach linings as potentially being a comment on being a woman (“pregnant with meaning,” she put it) or perhaps simply examining Kawakubo’s contributions to the medium and examining where to go from here with it. But I don’t really care about attaching any meaning to her work. Like all great art, Kawakubo’s work begs personal projection on the part of the viewer. When necessary, I prefer to lay back, shut my brain off, and bask in the glow of pure creation.

Off-White Spring-Summer 2017

While its clearly a beloved label, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White often feels like its critical praise is dimmed under the considerable glow of contemporaries like Matthew Williams, Demna Gvasalia, and Glenn Maartens. I will continue to challenge this notion, because Virgil’s vision is just as succinct and unique as his friends and collaborators. Off-White’s SS 20177 collection explored the conflicted notion of the modern business woman. Of course, that left the door wide open.

Abloh envisioned these women in everything from jeans (made with Levi’s Made and Crafted) to pants suits, track suits to stunningly draped evening gowns. But Abloh’s real trick is the sell. This collection could easily look like two separate collections from two very different designers. But Abloh’s nonchalant approach to presentation, complete with a new wave soundtrack and Frank Ocean finale, felt exceedingly modern and customer aware. For the Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid types, this is who they are. They can go out in the day with a hoodie and bootie shorts and wear a Versace gown later that night and still look scarily hot in both the photos. Abloh, a rapid pop culture and art consumer, also employed some Mondrian colors in both tie-dye pants and a color blocked patchwork sweater. He loves aesthetics, and has the ability to make his very Tumblr-fried diverse tastes work for a high fashion pack. I just wish he’d start showing in New York. No designers gets the tastes of young New Yorkers better than Abloh.

Rick Owens Spring-Summer 2017

A beautifully pained Nina Simone soundtrack. An ethereally industrial Palais de Tokyo setting. Shapes, cuts and drapes that you’ve never seen before. An evocative and theatrical mood that most designers could only dream of achieving. Voila: another incredible Rick Owens show.

I’m almost sick of including Rick Owens on every Paris round-up and near purposefully left him off this one (perhaps to shine line on a newer voice like Lutz Huelle, Alyx, or Vejas, or even another brilliant Nicholas Ghesquiere Louis Vuitton outing), but upon second viewing I had to include Rick. He’s the most idiosyncratic fashion designer of my generation. No other fashion designer can make such emotionally gut-wrenching statements while still holding true to his position as a man who needs to sell clothes to survive and keep his business afloat. Like last season, there was lots of the now-signature Rick draping methodology, where mounds of fabric are used to make a perfect wearable garment into something more transportive. The dresses, in a beautiful muted color palette of black, purple, yellow, and white, saw creases folded on top of one another like an ancient sculpture. Towards the end, those dresses came under capes made of loosely weaved yarn, not totally unlike Luke’s clothing choices in the icy beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. Rick has total confidence in his unique conception of beauty and, it’s true, no one else could create this kind of beauty quite like he does.  

[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] A Nick Cave Retrospective

Text by Adam Lehrer

I recently interviewed an iconic musician who had a personal relationship with Nick Cave in the ‘80s (not going to say who). This artist felt like Nick Cave’s work had grown stale and safe since his time in The Birthday Party in the early ‘80s. I nearly choked on my chicken avocado omelet. I couldn’t help but detect a hint of jealousy. How could a rock musician of a similar era not be jealous? Nick Cave is arguably the last great rock superstar ARTIST. We have “rock n’ roll artists” of course, but most of them operate so deep in the music underground that the most stardom they could hope for is a Pitchfork review and some free beer after a show. And there are superstar artists: your Kanye’s, your Beyoncé’s, your Frank Ocean’s, your Kendrick’s, etc.. But finding any worthwhile rock music amongst mainstream culture is a fool’s errand. It doesn’t exist. Rock music is not the important pop cultural force that it once was and it never will be again. 

And then you have Nick Cave: world famous, constantly written about, high profile indie rock romances with PJ Harvey and Kylie Minogue, and refusing to waver in his commitment to artistic expression and poetry. Not only has Nick Cave’s output not grown stagnant, it’s grown stronger with each release. Some underground music fans would rather their heroes remain the rail thin, anti-fashion chic, drugged out, intense freaks that they were in their youths. And of course, some artists do their best work during their angry and vivacious ‘20s (unless of course you think ‘Chinese Democracy’ was a good album). Nick Cave, on the other hand, has seen his art evolve with him. Coming onto the late ‘70s London post-punk scene from Australia with his first band, the art damaged bluesy noise rock band the Birthday Party, Cave was a goth rock icon upon first glimpse: tattered clothing, skinny, pale, dark eyes, and a messy tussle of thick black hair. But Cave matured, and his music with The Bad Seeds would grow more musical and in some ways, more experimental. Eventually cutting heroin from his diet, Cave’s ideas grew more nuanced and detailed as his life stabilized with fatherhood and marriage. One of the greatest songwriters of the last thirty years, Nick Cave has never remained still. Oddly, Cave is now more Leonard Cohen than Iggy Pop, more Neil Young than John Lydon. For Nick Cave, maturity doesn’t denote an acceptance of the banal. Count in the fact that he’s a published novelist and screenwriter of brutal Western film Proposition and the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, there are very few artists on Earth who have been able to build an aesthetic as definitive as the one Nick Cave that has built.

2016 has been the best year for music that I can remember in my entire life. From the top of the mainstream to the bottom dwellers of the underground, every single day I read about a record on The Quietus or Resident Advisor or Pitchfork that would blow my mind later that day. Now consider that, and consider the fact that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ recently released Skeleton Tree, the band’s 16th record, is easily in the top five of the best albums released this year and very possibly the best record of Nick’s or the Bad Seeds’ careers. 

We all know the tragic circumstances surrounding the recording of Skeleton Tree. In 2015, Cave’s son Arthur (a twin to brother Earl, both of whom appeared in the Cave documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, watching DePalma’s Scarface contentedly in bed with dad), who was born to Cave and his wife Suzie Pitt in 2000, plummeted to his death in a freak accident whilst hiking near their home in Brighton, England. Death and loss have always floated above Cave’s poetry like inevitable harbingers (Pitt has expressed a belief in her husband’s ability to write prophetic lyrics, on previous masterpiece Push the Sky Away Cave sings on the track ‘Jubilee Street,’ "I'm transforming / I'm vibrating / I'm glowing / I'm flying / Look at me now / I'm flying,” there’s no way to listen to that song now without thinking about the tragedy that would soon follow its creation). A noted agnostic, Cave seems to have doubts about god and religion but welcomes hope that there could be such a creator. His morbid fascination with death, both natural and murderous, have been loaded with pathos and conflict since the beginning of his career. On Skeleton Tree, Cave has to confront the most powerful grief a man can endure from the first person view point. These lyrics have no protective distance. 

Musically, Skeleton Tree plays like a building on the sound that The Bad Seeds developed with Push the Sky Away: sparse, experimental, deeply musical, and washed in ambient sound. To look at the evolution of Cave’s career one has to examine the chronological list of his most important collaborators. The Birthday Party was largely birthed out of Cave and guitarist Rowland S. Howard’s deep love of the blues, Iggy, and The Damned, and the band dissolved when Cave wanted to take his sound further out (to his credit, Howard’s solo career is one of the most irresponsibly underrated collections of blues punk in the history of rock music). The Bad Seeds were born out of Cave’s emerging friendship with Einsturnzende Neubauten founder Blix Bargeld when the two were both living in Berlin. Bargeld, a lover of komische bands like Neu and Can as well as experimental music, defined The Bad Seeds as a band informed by deep musicality and experimental tendencies as much as it was by blues and rock heritage. But after Bargeld left the band in 2003, Warren Ellis was able to come to the fore of the band. Warren Ellis, a virtuoso guitar and violin player, multi-instrumentalist, and founder of Australian instrumental rock band Dirty 3, has proved to be Cave’s artistic soulmate. In 30,000 Days on Earth, we see Cave laying down the lyrics to “Higgs Bolson Blues” while Ellis strums a beautiful guitar pattern. Cave starts swaying and dancing subtly to the music, realizing just how fucking good it is. That scene cuts to the heart of their partnership, a partnership that has produced the beauty of The Bad Seeds, the primitive thud of Grinderman, and the expansiveness of their film scores.

Ellis’ watermarks are all over Skeleton Tree. The electronic swaths of ambience that cloak Cave’s voice in mysticism, on tracks like ‘Magneto’ and ‘Rings of Saturn,’ that’s Warren’s KORG synthesizer. The lush string arrangements on ‘Jesus Alone’ and ‘Skeleton Tree’ are Ellis’ composition at its apex. The duo of Cave and Ellis has become the Bad Seeds’ focal point. Jim Sclavunos, Martyn P Casey, Thomas Wylder, and newer guitarist George Vjestica recognize this notion, and this band has never felt like such a well-oiled machine like it does on this record (with a line-up that has been playing together for some 16 years now, that really is remarkable).

Cave’s poetry has largely been founded upon the grief Cave experienced when his beloved father died when he was only 19. But all those songs have been written with a hindsight view of that loss. Arthur died in the middle of this recording. It’s impossible to not hear pain dripping from the cadences of every uttered syllable on this record. Are we projecting these emotions as listeners and as lovers of Cave the man and the artist? Cave is one of those artists that feels like your friend when you really get attached to his music and his words, and empathetic viewpoints are easy to take when it comes to this kind of tragedy. But no. I think someone who knew nothing of Cave or the accident would listen to Skeleton Tree and know that this man singing was bleeding from the heart. At one point on the song Girl in Pain, Cave sings, “Don’t touch me.” He is inconsolable. He doesn’t want to be consoled. But he still wants to sing. 

[FASHION REVIEW] London Fashion Week SS17

 text by Adam Lehrer


With luxury fashion valued at $339 BILLION, it’s hard to imagine that some of the world’s biggest fashion brands are struggling. But the reality is, they are. Burberry’s gross margins dropped 1 percent in 2016; that might not sound like much, but in an industry that demands constant growth investors worry when number drop even slightly. The reality of the London Fashion Industry is that the massive brands are still the massive brands and the scrappy upstarts are still the scrappy upstarts, but those upstarts are draped in so much hype that inevitably they will cut into the conglomerates’ market shares. London brands run on hype and digital excitement. When JW Anderson or Marques Almeida show their new collections, I scour my Instagram feed and the fashion sites devouring images of the new collection. For Burberry: not so much. Burberry creative director and CEO Christopher Bailey must be aware of this dichotomy and has employed a new strategy to reinvigorate what is seen (by the fashion pack, at least) as a stale brand.

Bailey’s decision to make Burberry collections accessible to consumers immediately before the Spring Summer 2017 show, with Barney’s and other retailers, isn’t exactly the pioneering gesture that some would believe it to be. However, it is innovative in that it’s a luxury conglomerate adopting a Supreme-esque streetwear savvy approach to retail. Supreme is one of the most desired brands on the planet with its tried and true model of releasing products just a couple of days blowing up the blogosphere with look books and product pics (Supreme announced a sick Undercover collaboration on Tuesday, it came out today). Bailey has employed that model for the luxury market, and Tom Ford and Proenza Schouler quickly followed suit. I highly doubt that this will have any effect on the legions of everyday luxury buyers that flock to Burberry; those consumers don’t care about fashion hype. But it might shine the fashion spotlight back on Burberry. The press the brand is getting alone will have an impact, no question. Is Bailey’s new model perfect? Well, what is? But at the very worst, it’s a way to attach some much needed shine to what has become a bland brand. If the impending doom of Brexit rocks the UK’s financial system to the point that experts are predicting, industries across the board are going to have to get experimental and creative in their business practices. Perhaps decisions like Christopher Bailey’s are harbingers of what will be necessary to survive in a financially uncertain future.

Marques Almeida Spring-Summer 2017

As SHOWStudio editor Lou Stoppard pointed out this week in an interview, Paulo Almeida and Marta Marques only graduated from Central Saint Martin’s a few years ago. That’s remarkable, as Marques Almeida has evolved from an interesting brand with the weird denim to an LVMH-prize approved full range of left-leaning but wearable pieces. The Spring Summer 2017 collection added some more denim silhouettes to the brand’s range, like some JNCO-shaped jeans that were cuffed at the ankle. But the collection’s breadth of range here was superb. Though Almeida has said that the only decade he felt any connection to was the 1990s, there was a palatable sense of the early 20th Century in this collection: a William Morris print, Princess Di sleeves, chambray blouses, and a brocade jacket. The show also excelled in its casting: the designers had all of their friends walk the runway and allowed them to each put their own attitudes on display. It almost reminded me of what Pat Fields and Scooter Laforge just did with the Art Fashion show at New York Fashion Week; by allowing each model to own their senses of selves on the runway a simple fashion show can approach the gesturing of performance art. Marques Almeida is a funky brand and gets credit for said funkiness, but where it doesn’t get enough praise is its aspiration. Marques Almeida often feels like a brand for the punk and rave children of British aristocrats. Rebellion doesn’t need to look cheap.

Burberry Spring-Summer 2017

While Bailey is justly being praised for his business savvy, the Burberry Spring Summer 2017 collection spoke to his talent for creation. It was hands down the best collection of his career. Showing menswear and womenswear simultaneously for the first time, the show contained 99 looks. While I’m glad I wasn’t there in person, the collection still feels well edited despite its gargantuan length. The collection was everything one could love about Burberry: subtle, high-quality, and highly British. That is where Bailey has floundered with Burberry in the past: in his efforts to make the brand more rebellious he has forgotten what the brand actually means to people. Not with this collection that effortlessly incorporated Burberry-isms into Bailey’s rock n; roll sensibilities. A darkly colored embroidered dress was paired with Doc Maarten-looking heals. A nutcracker uniform was made a stunning black and white dress. Menswear shirts were ruffled and fey, paired sensibly with wide trousers or drainpipe jeans. And that’s Burberry: great clothes that you’ll want to wear. One criticism: not every designer needs to make Vetements     shapes, and Bailey’s leather jackets looked ripped right from that brand’s playbook.

JW Anderson Spring-Summer 2017


Of all the people working in the contemporary fashion industry, it appears that Jonathan Anderson is the only one who thrives amongst the breakneck pace of the fashion schedule, he recently said to Interview Magazine, “It’s about quantity—not quality, it means you don’t overthink things.” That positive outlook is genuinely refreshing. There is no turning back time. Anderson’s conscious decision to embrace the instantaneous nature of modern media should be something to admire.

You can see Anderson’s understanding of the culture in his Spring-Summer 2017 womenswear collection. Unlike Raf Simons or Rei Kawakubo or even Miuccia Prada (all designers that Anderson has cited as influences), Anderson never centers his collections around a solitary theme or vision. His is a glorious hodgepodge of imagery full of products seemingly out of place with one another but still demanding a unified viewpoint. Focusing on summery dresses, Anderson placed look after Instagram worthy look on his runway. As usual, there were so many products and accessories here, one could argue that Anderson is over-indulgent. I say no. I believe that Anderson recognizes that the most successful designers aim to see their work all over cyberspace. It’s interesting that as pervasive as imagery has become, fashion temporarily went back towards the minimal. Anderson is a maximalist all the way. As superb as Alessandro Michele’s work has been at Gucci, it’s difficult to imagine Michele being as successful as he is if Anderson not already paved this path before him.

Mulberry Spring-Summer 2017

Seldom does one want to focus on the stylist of a collection more so than the designer, but not every stylist holds the influence that Lotta Volkova holds over the industry. Designer Johnny Coca, who is known mostly as an accessories designer, faced no small task when given the reigns over accessories house Mulberry’s recently launched ready-to-wear line. His first collection, Fall-Winter 2016, didn’t impress. Where was the story to build upon?

Luckily, this season Coca just focused on the products and allowed the story to be told by none other that Vetements/Gosha stylist Volkova. This saw Coca creating bland, almost dire, colored military-inflected suits and office dresses that recall more the grey of British townships than the vibrancy of London. But if there’s anyone who knows how to make bland exciting, it’s Volkova. The result was a kind of corporate-minded responsible woman just hung over enough from her punk days to make the tiniest of rebellious gesture in her clothing. Ultimately, the clothing served as a vehicle for the accessories, so Coca and Volkova did their jobs.

Ashish Spring-Summer 2017

London is one of the most multi-cultural cities on the planet and it is that diversity that has come under attack post-Brexit. London’s Indian population has deep and long-standing ties to the city (we can all agree that Indian food is generally the best culinary option that the city has to offer, for example). Designer Ashish Gupta immigrated to London from India in 1996 and seeing his community come under attack has influenced him to inflate his cultural heritage and slam it back in the faces of the emerging right wing British think-tank. “Tonight I wanted to celebrate Indian culture, because it is also such an integral part of British culture,” the designer explained to Vogue.

The Ashish Spring-Summer 2017 collection filtered Gupta’s penchant for gender-bending and rave-inspired wackiness through the beauty and spirituality of Indian garb. Embroidery was applied to everything from lungis and sherwanis to denim basketball shorts and track suits. The mostly Indian, Asian, and mixed raced runway cast came in all genders and wore crowns and Indian makeup stylings. Often, radical designers, like Gupta, will only focus on sub-cultures that hold relevance in the Western world, as if the Western world is the only world creating culture of value: punk, minimalism, abstract expressionism, film noir, whatever. Gupta’s choice to focus on his own heritage reminds the viewer that beauty comes from everywhere and should be loved and respected regardless of its origins. Bonus for New York scenesters: self-described Renaissance man and man-about-town curator Richie Shazam closed the show with a fucking python wrapped around his neck. As a man that carries a deep phobia of serpents, this show-stopping gesture became even more potent.

Simone Rocha Spring-Summer 2017

Simone Rocha recently told Interview Magazine that her primary inspiration comes out of two things: travel, and “a good show.” She was referencing, of course, an art exhibition. Inspired by a single Jackie Nickerson photograph, her Spring-Summer 2017 collection was indicative of Rocha’s sensitivity to aesthetic imagery. “There was a photo of someone wrapped in white plastic working in a field next to a painting of Irish girls—that did it,” said Rocha to Vogue.

Rocha’s clothing is fancy night our garb for Dover Street Market girls. All her dresses could get the wearer into the most exclusive of high society outings while still expressing her innate freedom and sexuality. A see through black dress, patch worked-florals, parachute sleeve white taffeta blouses; all of these looks are indicative of Rocha’s penchant for outré kink, self-expression in the face of well-coiffed mundanity, and an unwavering commitment to artisanal craftsmanship.

[FASHION REVIEW] New York Fashion Week SS17

text by Adam Lehrer

New York Fashion Week is what it is. Of all the fashion weeks, it presents the most missable shows by a fairly wide margin. That being said, it’s also the fashion schedule that is most ripe for radical re-interpretations and deconstructions by a new generation of art-minded malcontents hell bent on making fashion and art in equal measure. Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that New York Fashion Week maintains its representation for being the most commercially minded of the schedules, a prominent fashion underground has slowly been rising to the surface. Let’s call it the New York millennial fashion revolution (even though the Gen X’er could be seen as a progenitor to this movement in his embracing of both high art and trash pop culture). Almost analogous to the rise of young New York artists like Alexandra Marzella, Julia Fox, and India Menuez, the new New York fashion scene draws upon underground art, pop music, digital media, and celebrity in equal measure. The creativity that results from this lurid amalgam of ideas can be simultaneously fascinating and grotesque, but very indicative of New York now: DIY but tuned in, underground but digitally connected.

Hood by Air Spring-Summer 2017

How many images do you consume per day? Can you even estimate a number? How many of those images are pornographic and how many hold artistic merit? Does it even matter? Can pornography have artistic merit? Maybe. Those questions all filtered into Shayne Oliver’s Spring-Summer 2017 Hood by Air collection that saw the designer juxtapose abstract shapes with bastions of lurid digital imagery, the porno companies Hustler and YouPorn. The collection captured the mood of New York 20-somethings perfectly. In all honesty, there is a renewed interest in art and abstract ideas that you can feel wafting in the bars, theaters, and galleries of the Lower East Side, Bushwick, Gowanus, and Harlem. But at the same time, that interest in art is always in competition with de-personalized digital imagery, often of a sexual nature. Oliver, a true modern conceptualist, decided to embrace this dichotomy in this stunning HBA collection. As with most HBA collections, there were some wild images in here: jump suits folded into capes, Wall Street suits cut off at the shoulder exposing corsetry, and the much-talked about collaboration with Brooklyn heritage boot brand Frye revealing a Western cowboy boot designed to look like two boots attached at the heal. That last example especially reveals Oliver’s understanding of the modern consumer; the shoe works as both a meme and a feat of artistry. And then there were the Hustler and PornHub branded shirts whispering to the audience a sly acknowledgement of the conundrum of being both an artist and the boss of a very hype-driven brand. Time and time again, Oliver is able to deliver conceptual ideas in both silhouettes and viral marketing.

Side note: Wolfgang Tillmans has been my favorite artist, PERIOD, for years, and it’s rewarding to see the German photographer have this strange pop cultural moment. In addition to releasing two EPs of dance music and working with and shooting the cover for Frank Ocean’s Blond/Blonde, Tillmans served as a surprise model for the HBA SS 2017 show. He is EVERYWHERE, all of a sudden.

Ottolinger Spring-Summer 2017

Berlin-based Ottolinger’s Spring-Summer 2017 show was styled by Berlin-based arts and culture bi-annual 032C’s fashion editor Marc Goehring, and to me, Ottolinger fills a similar independently spirited intellectual punk void in fashion to the one that 032C fills in fashion publishing. Berlin just might be the last counter-culture major metropolis in the world, and designers Christa Bosch and Cosima Gradient filter that Berlin-bred radicalism into their couture quality pieces: the Berlin post-punk and industrial music scene of the mid ’80s, Berghain and gay techno culture, and the contemporary Berlin gallery scene all manifest in the design duo’s ideas. Like contemporaries Vetements and Y Project, Ottolinger’s aesthetics can be harsh and confrontational. But, Christa and Cosima have a specific vision of beauty that came through loud and clear with this most recent collection. In the collection, contemporary staples like pleated trousers, graphic tees, oxford shirts, and blazers were tattered and left with fringe hanging towards the floor. More extreme looks saw a pink satin jacket burned off at the top on one side (burned garments is an Ottolinger staple) and tattered see-through lace tops and pants. Despite Ottolinger’s Margiela-esque knack for deconstruction, the duo’s annihilation of threads does not feel like it’s for shock value. Instead, Bosch and Gradient only think about their garments’ relationships to their own bodies. This collection reeked of sex from the half naked models to the propulsive and full-volumed harsh techno soundtrack. The Rapunzel length pony tails were only one of the many reasons I couldn’t stop staring at Ottolinger’s exceedingly hot women.

Vaquera Spring-Summer 2017

Vaquera designer Patric DiCaprio brought on his friends David Moses (formerly of Moses Gauntlett Cheng) and Bryn Taubensee effectively turning the label into a three-person show. Despite it no longer being the sole creative vision of DiCaprio, the Vaquera SS 2017 show felt like an organic building upon of ideas that DiCaprio has honed in label’s previous seasons (both Moses and Taubensee have worked on every Vaquera collection in some capacity).

Much of the label’s signatures remained: ruffles aplenty, big sleeves, revealing cuts, and Southern pastoral colors. DiCaprio also played with a “graduation” theme insinuating plans to take this small and cultish label to greater commercial success. There were lots of very played-out references in the collection, from the Rolling Stones to Che Guevara. It made sense, reminding one of the kid at your college dorm (perhaps it’s you or me even) that eschewed fraternity life for early experimentation in counter-cultural icons. Sense of humor abounds in Vaquera; but jokes aside this was a very ethereal and important collection from an exciting talent.

Thom Browne Spring-Summer 2017

Thom Browne strikes me as being to fashion what Phil Spector was to pop music. Like Spector, Browne uses imagination, ingenuity, and experimentation to create a conceptually interesting and commercially successfully formula. In that formula, there is room for endless re-invention and re-configuration.

Browne’s SS 2017 collection strayed from his most consistent formula of grey suiting, however, opting for experimental garments with unique function. The brightly colored and humorously printed dresses were designed to look like Browne’s signature suit and pants. Ever the witty showman, Browne’s women all entered the floor at once. Revealing the clothing’s multiple uses, the girls unzipped their pieces and stripped away layer by layer, revealing shirts and pants and finally swim suits. What I love about Thom Browne is his inventor qualities. Unlike fashion experimentalists Rei Kawakubo or Simone Rocha, Browne constantly introduces new inventions to his brand that have practical uses. This isn’t about art, it’s about clothing. It’s an ingenious application of creativity in the high-minded artistic atmosphere of the fashion world. Browne has more in common with Spector or Joy Mangano than he does Picasso or Yves.

Adam Selman Spring-Summer 2017

Adam Selman is one of New York’s most talked about designers. Part of that is due to his well-established connection to Rihanna (Selman has designed costumes for the star and his boyfriend, 032C style director Mel Ottenberg, is Rihanna’s stylist), but his ideas stand on their own and his label grows more interesting with each passing season. Selman lives in a solitary fashion world in which fashion is taken lightly and with humor but never with stupidity. It’s refreshing that one of New York’s most interesting designers seems in touch with being American: the Texan designer’s SS 2017 referenced country, rock n’ roll, and disco (with a disco soundtrack to boot). The show started off with a soft pink dress, and slowly the show took on similarly light fabric’d clothing in easy patterns and shapes. Selman also believes in the fashionista’s right to be sexy. That sentiment rang loud and clear with a t-shirt sporting a graphic sourced from a 1940s porn film, and was lightly hammered in with looks that revealed legs, waists, shoulders, and clavicles. The designer also nodded to his own Venice Beach-recalling style with a Hawaiian print shirt tucked into a pair of loose fitting denim jeans. Selman is a master editor. I’d be hard pressed to find any designer that can pack so many concepts and, yes, FUN into a 32-look show. 

Marc Jacobs Spring-Super 2017

Am I the only one that thinks that it seems like, culturally, Marc Jacobs has a lost a bit of his shine? Sure, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that says, “Marc Jacobs is a bad designer.” But since leaving Louis Vuitton, it appears that Marc is often spoke more of in terms of commercial designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein than he is radical conceptualists like Nicolas Ghesquiere, Raf Simons, or Rick Owens. That is a shame, because Jacobs’ real talent has always been marrying high and low culture and filtering it through a conceptually driven but commercially appealing brand. Just look at the David Sims campaign for his excellent, Salem Witch Trial-influenced Fall-Winter 2016 collection. In the campaign, massive pop stars and models like Cara Delevingne, Cher, and Anthony Keidis appear alongside ads with radical performance artist Kembra Phahler, Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV frontman/lady and conceptual artist Genesis P. Orridge, and even the iconic Japanese noise/free improv/psych rock guitarist Keiji Haino (if you want your mind fucked a little, go seek out Haino’s band Fushitsusha from the ‘80s/‘90s). Marc features enough fame in the campaign to captivate pop junkies and also enough radical artists to capture the attention of, well, artists and radicals. Truly genius campaign for a beautiful, dark collection.

Jacobs’ Spring-Summer 2017 show wasn’t as good as the previous one, but still, very fucking good. The show took elements from ‘90s rave culture; the last great sendoff before the potential Trump presidency that could halt the party forever. The clothes were all glamorous and trashy, but chic, if that makes sense. Lots of metallic lamé, fur collars, and holographic sequins. The show worked less well when Marc infused his Marc by Marc Jacobs diffusion line into the main line; army jackets didn’t illuminate upon the collection’s theme. If I were him, I would use the show for his good Marc Jacobs shit, and do a buyers’ presentation for the Marc by Marc Jacobs line. British illustrator Julie Verhoeven, who worked with Marc way back in 2002 on a Lou Vuitton collection, applied her work to sweatshirts, shoes, and bags. But really, Jacobs is the great celebrator of fashion and pop culture’s interactions. He clearly loves music, but he is less attracted to sub-culture than he is the cult of the icon.

Side note: I’m getting really sick of fashion critics going after designers for diversity of casting, especially when the man they are going after is Marc Jacobs. It appears to be an effort to feel relevant when talking about the silhouettes of jumpers that nearly ever designer has become a target for social justice warrioring. Sure, Vetements does have a race problem. But MARC DOES NOT. His casting has always been diverse, so stop trying to make yourself feel important by counting the amount of women of color on the runway. Let’s discuss AESTHETICS. When race is an issue, it’s an issue, and we can discuss that when it’s absolutely relevant. But it is not an issue in the casting of Marc Jacobs.

Eckhaus Latta Spring Summer 2017

For their SS 2017 collection, the duo’s 10th, designers Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta brought it home. Opting to show the collection in the Lower East Side’s Seward Park, the SS 2017 show exemplified all that Eckhaus Latta has come to be known for in their leadership role over New York’s new fashion generation: strange romantic cuts, gender-blurring, diverse casting, and a soundtrack provided by this generation’s hero musician Dev Hynes. Showing the collection an arm’s distance from where the now five-year-old brand started was fitting, as this label is firmly on the rise after getting named to the Forbes 30 Under 30, expanding to e-commerce, and opening their first retail boutique. Emblematic of the brand’s evolution, this was the most product heavy of any Eckhaus Latta show to date. Opening with an oversized white denim jacket and long skirt, the show featured a ton of easy-to-wear pieces accented by just enough oddity to appeal to the artsy weirdo acolytes of the brand. There were tattered jeans, re-built dresses, knit smocks, and nylon material dresses that looked wet when the wearers moved. Always a patron of interesting artists, Los Angeles-based multi-disciplinary artist (and former musician who used to perform under the name Barr and was a fixture of infamous LA punk club The Smell, which was home to bands like No Age, Mika Miko, and Abe Vigoda) Brendan Fowler contributed work to the collection in the form of pieces made of recycled garments, all emblazoned with the slogan, “Election Reform!” (it appears that Mike, Zoe, and Brendan were feeling the bern). Eckhaus Latta is growing (Zoe admitted to Dazed that she was aghast when she found a Zara rip-off of one of her ideas priced at $8), but their homegrown attitude and that closeness to the youth-driven art scene of New York could allow them to grow with their audience (Alexandra Marzella, India Menuez, Petra Collins) the same way that Marc Jacobs did with his (Kim Gordon, Sofia Coppola).

Lyz Olko Spring-Summer 2017

Lyz Olko, formerly of the label Obesity & Speed, offered a break from the rapid speed of New York Fashion Week with her namesake’s SS 2017 NYFW debut. As opposed to the super fast in and out nature of runway shows, Olko invited some journos and friends down to Elvis Guesthouse in the Lower East Side. There, you could grab a highly potent mystery drink in plastic sippy cups labeled “Drink Me” and mingle with models hanging out and wearing Lyz Olko. The collection itself consisted of lots of rocker girl staples: see-through sequin tops, suede dresses, denim jackets, and a Jeanette Hayes-illustrated leather biker jacket. There wasn’t a lot of product, per se, but there was an attitude. The all-girl rock band Pretty Sick capped the night off with a performance while wearing the collection.

Telfar Spring-Summer 2017

“This is clothing,” said Telfar Clemens of his brand Telfar and its Spring-Summer 2016 collection.   Teller’s “basics minus gender with a twist” has been ripped off countless times. But its Telfar’s aesthetic that makes him special: clean, minimal, colorful, and carrying odd but functional garment quirks. As collections, his work is beautiful, and as individual pieces his garments are fascinating. Coming in a palette of what Clemens called “Old Navy” or “Martha Stewart" colors, Telfar warped wardrobe staples into his vivacious vision: polo shirts with the backs removed replaced by bra straps, cardigans with deep (very deep) V’s, track pants sliced at the knees, suit jackets missing sleeves (reminiscent of Raf’s mid-00s work actually). The sportier looks were increasingly strange: a male model strutted down the runway wearing a one-piece bathing suit that could also work as compression gear for the gym. Telfar captivates a similarly fashion-minded audience as Vetements but in many ways is the antithesis of Vetements. While Vetements is a brilliant experimentation in branding that reflects its audience’s consumption of culture through the clothing (a Vetements collection can reference ‘70s glam rock, Norwegian Black Metal, and Justin Bieber in the same collection while still remaining free of any cultural philosophy, allowing the audience to apply their own specific interests to the brand and make it work for them), Telfar is truly about the brilliance of clothing design. The only branding in this collection was Telfar’s beautiful logo printed small on a couple pieces. Telfar has a vision of the future that is free of hype and branding. Will this future ever come to fruition? No one knows, but no doubt the Telfar brand will continue to grow and embrace new garment ideas.

Pyer Moss Spring-Summer 2017

Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean Raymond subverted the fashion senses of evil Wall Street fuckfaces like Patrick Bateman, Bernie Madoff, and Donald Trump in his brand’s Spring-Summer 2017 collection. Following the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and others and potentially preceding the very election of one of those evil fuckfaces in Donald Trump, Raymond appears to be slyly tackling contemporary political discourse. Back in the days of Occupy Wall Street, the movement was constantly denounced as lazy, under-dressed, and incomprehensible hippies, largely due to their fashion aesthetics. Noreen Malone wrote for NY Magazine of this problem, believing that the movement could have gained more traction and respect had the protesters dressed for success. Raymond has proposed the ultimate protest wardrobe in this collection with a series of luxury office wear styled down in the way that artists and radicals like it: slouchy but beautiful double breasted blazers, cropped perfecto jackets, twill trousers with sippers from the hem to the knee, and Prada-recalling leather jackets with smartly placed bleach stains. The politically charged prints remained, with Madoff himself appearing on t-shirts, as did the brand’s knack for luxurious sportswear. But what remains strongest about Raymond’s vision is that Pyer Moss is aspirational to the max. No one could argue that you don’t look dressed up wearing his clothes. It is a brand for people looking to take their activism or art to a state of legitimacy: to play their game you have to look the part, but you can hold onto your individuality while doing so. 


[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] The Best Songs About Drug Pushing in Commemoration of the New Season of 'Narcos'

Text by Adam Lehrer

Just as musicians often “take drugs to make music to take drugs to,” as Spacemen 3 so eloquently described the phenomenon back in the ‘80s, musicians also “sell drugs to afford to make music to talk about selling drugs.” Bill Hicks one told an audience that they should burn their records if they disavow drug use because drugs were the primary inspirations behind those albums. By that reasoning, we should also throw out our records if we disavow drug dealing. As we all know, when we are passionately pursuing a life of art we have to make compromises along the way. The less savvy of us will either work as waiters or marketers or cop money from mommy or daddy. Other artists have the cunning required to make a serious living in the trade of illicit substances. Considering the close proximity to drugs that musicians have, why not make some money out of it? Those artists have often gone on to share their experiences hustling the black market.

Commemorating the second season of Narcos (out today on Netflix), a show that tells the story of the most financially successful drugs trader in history Pablo Escobar, we are sharing the songs by the artists that made some scratch slinging drugs before they went on to stardom (or at least were found themselves inspired by a substance pushing acquaintance). 

Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man, Bringing it all Back Home (1965)

While Dylan has vehemently denied that Mr. Tambourine Man is certainly not about drugs or any drug dealer, has he ever given a journalist one straight answer about one fucking thing that he’s written? No. With lines like, “Take me on a trip upon your magc swirling ship,” there has never been doubt in my mind that the tambourine man in question is most certainly Dylan’s favorite dealer. While other critics have stated that the tambourine man could be a metaphor for Dylan’s internal muse, I’m opting for the explanation that the tambourine man was selling Dylan his external muse. The song came out in 1965. Dylan was high. Very high.

The Velvet Underground, Waiting for my Man, The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

In Waiting for my Man, Lou Reed tells an all-too-familiar story: his dealer is dicking him around. No matter what your poison; pot, pills, MDMA, dope, whatever; we’ve all been there. You call him back, he says, “Five minutes.” You text him so to not scare him off, and he says, “Almost there.” Finally, a couple hours later, he arrives. He is your captor and your savior. For all his troubles, you throw him 100 bucks. Reed’s story is the same as anyone’s, except he didn’t have a cell phone to annoy said dealer with or NYC pot delivery service, for that matter.

Curtis Mayfield, Pusher Man, Superfly OST (1972)

After establishing himself as a gifted music producer and one of New York soul music’s proudest sons on previous album Roots, the former member of The Impressions looked directly at the streets he came from to craft the soundtrack to the 1972 blaxploitation classic Supafly. On the soundtrack’s second track, Mayfield directly confronts the film’s portrayal of the dealer as sympathetic anti-hero by making his pusher a machiavellian sociopath, exploiting humans for his own financial gain. But not with out sex appeal, it is funk after all.

Boogie Down Productions, Love’s Gonna Get-cha, Edutainment (1990)

Ronald Reagan accomplished many things during his presidency: creating the War on Drugs (which has been going great, haven’t you heard?), restoring cranky old white man conservative values, kick-starting the dismantling of FDR’s New Deal, and totally demonizing black urban city males. The fact that KRS-one was able to humanize a drug dealer in the Boogie Down Productions song Love’s Gonna Get-cha during this era speaks to the MC’s poetic reach. While it was easier for White America to view the inner-city dealer as a monster that needs to be locked up (it’s always easier to be reductive, isn’t it), KRS details the harsh economic and sociological realities that lead an otherwise innocent youth down the route of drugs and violence. KRS introduces the listener to his over-worked mom, his pregnant sister, and his bother with whom he shares “three pairs of pants.” In his world, he has one choice. We have to see the criminal as the human being he is.

Geto Boyz, Mind Playing Tricks On Me, We Can’t Be Stopped (1992)

After parents had just moved on from the shock of their kids’ NWA and Guns n’ Roses records, Geto Boyz elevated the shock factor to the umpteenth degree. Over the course of their career, the seminal Houston rap trio went way beyond tales of drug crime: serial murder, necrophillia, and psychosis were all topics touched upon by the group’s rappers Bushwick Bill and Scarface. The group was misunderstood at times and could prove surprisingly thoughtful and reflective, case in point the 1992 track We Can’t Be Stopped. The song finds Bill and Scarface touching upon the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder they are suffering as a result of years spent living within the world of drugs and violence. I'm paranoid, sleeping with my finger on the trigger, My mother's always stressing I ain't living right, But I ain't going out without a fight,” raps Scarface.

The World is Yours, Illmatic (1994)

Few MCs have ever approached drugs, violence and poverty with such depth and emotional clarity as Nas did on his 1994 debut Illmatic. Growing up in the Queensbridge housing projects, Nas witnessed the negative impact the drug trade was having on his own community, and turned his experience into one of Hip-hop’s greatest feats of lyrical storytelling (he was only 19 at the time, and Nas was never able to match the artistic heights of that first record). On The World is Yours, Nas references Brian De Palma’s Scarface and compares that fictional dealer to Howard “Pappy” Mason, a dealer that netted $200,000 a week selling drugs to the residents of Queensbridge in the ‘80s. Unlike Pappy, Nas sees a clear way out of the life in his pen and paper.

Jay-Z, Friend or Foe, Reasonable Doubt (1996) Nas

A friend of mine’s little cousin expressed to me her belief that “Jay-Z was corny.” At first astonished, I had to remind myself that if you had no knowledge of Jay-Z’s career outside the last 10 years, that notion would appear to be true (the flip-flops, the atrocities of Magna Carter Holy Grail, the cheating on America’s favorite woman). But of course, Hip-hop heads remember Jigga’s origins. What made Jay’s debut, Reasonable Doubt, so powerful was that he neither celebrated or condemned drug dealing. Writing in the first person, he presented himself (honestly) as a man that did what he had to do to make it. He is not ashamed of his actions, and he isn’t proud of them either. On album stand out Friend or Foe, Jay tells a dealer associate of his that if the money isn’t right, he’ll have to take violent actions. “You're twitchin, don't do that, you makin me nervous, My crew, well, they do pack, them niggas is murderous,” he raps. Jay-Z’s defining characteristic was unbridled ambition, and that ambition has taken him far.

Raekwon featuring Ghostface Killah and U-God, Knuckleheadz, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)

While Hip-hop had been telling the stories or the urban drug trade for a long time, Wu Tang Clansmen Raekwon and Ghostface Killah may have been the genre’s first artists to craft a full-length sonic crime film. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was centered around the story of two men (Ghost and Rae) looking for one last score before leaving the life for good. In the process, the rappers created a new urban slang that was beholden as much to The Supreme Alphabet of the Nation of Islam as it was to the drug slang of the New York streets. Hip-hop heads have been obsessed with decoding the language ever seen. The album’s first track, Knuckleheads, finds Ghost and Rae planning a robbery with a third man, U-God. Once the heist is pulled off, U-God is murdered for ostensibly speaking to the police. The rest of the album finds Ghost and Rae no closer to getting out of the drug trade, instead using the new found wealth to go deeper and deeper and deeper. 

The Notorious BIG, The 10 Crack Commandments, Ready to Die (1997)

Biggie Smalls remains to this day one of music’s most vivid storytellers, and the fact that his 1997 “how to sell crack” guide was released after his death was particularly telling. Biggie’s persona was so steeped in his criminal past that his massive success could never fully lift him out of it. As Biggie tells us to never let them know our next move, to never keep no weight on us, and to never trust no one, a sad truth dawns upon the listener: Biggie’s survival guide kept him alive through his pusher days, but no such guide existed that could explain to Biggie how to survive the perils of fame. 

Ghostface Killah, Shakey Dog, Fishscale (2007)

The most eternally fascinating character in The Wire was the drug dealer robbing stick up kid Omar Little. Unlike the cops, the politicians, and the dealers, Omar existed freely outside the shackles of any institution. Through ferocity and charisma, he took what he needed and answered to no one. That’s the persona that Ghostface takes on in the opening track of his 2007 album Fishscale. On Shakey Dog, Ghostface, in hyper-vivid detail, documents the before and during of a Cuban drug lord stick-up. In a particularly cinematic passage, Ghostface relentlessly barks, “Off came the latch, Frank pushed me into the door, The door flew open, dude had his mouth open, Frozen, stood still with his heat bulgin’,Told him Freeze! lay the fuck down and enjoy the moment, Frank snatched his gat, slapped him, axed him,Where’s the cash, coke and the crack?” For being one of the wordiest rappers in history, Ghostface Kill still does not mince words.

[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] Thank God: Frank Ocean Is Back

text by Adam Lehrer

After over a year of letdowns, I was really starting to think that Frank Ocean would be the next D'Angelo. That is, an R&B genius that waits a good 15 years to release his next album. After first announcing new LP 'Boys Don't Cry' in July of 2015, nothing new came out. That went on for six months. Frank came back into the public eye with contributions to what will probably go down as the year's biggest Pop releases in Kanye's 'The Life of Pablo' and Beyoncé's 'Lemonade,' and an almost-as-important record in James Blake's 'The Colour in Anything.' We kept hearing whispers of new music: Blake said the new Frank Ocean material was pristine, and one of Frank's producers said it was looser than but better than 'Channel Orange.' Then, last month we get a library card reading 'Boys Don't Cry' on Frank's website, perhaps indicating the missed release dates. Following that, video footage on the same website showing Frank at work assembling some kind of sculpture. Interesting, but fat from satisfying. I'm not going to lie: I gave up, slowly stopping my daily efforts of looking upon Frank's Apple Music page thinking there was no way he'd have new music out anytime soon.

But last night: it happened. Frank Ocean released a 45-minute "visual album" called 'Endless.' It's incredible. Even more: there is another album out this weekend. But, it's still hard to ask ourselves: what took so long? I think it's simple: Frank was feeling the pressure. 'Channel Orange' was a landmark album, and one of the biggest cultural events of 2012. This is the man who moved from New Orleans to write for major recording artists like Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, and Brandy. This is the man who joined Odd Future as their smooth soul singing man. This is the man who departed from a comfortable life as a commercial songwriter for a life of truth, beauty, and unparalleled artistry. This is the man who cultivated a unique and crisp R&B sound with debut mixtape 'Nostalgia, Ultra' only to shatter it to find his inner truth, posting a letter to his Tumblr page (that made us ALL cry) confirming his homosexuality and releasing the year's best and most important album in 'Channel Orange.' He wasn't just hailed as a genius songwriter, he was hailed as one of the most important cultural figures, period. Just by being an artist he broke down some serious barriers. Prior to Frank Ocean, homosexuality was still taboo in both Hip-hop and R&B. But after 'Channel Orange,' no one cared. People loved his music THAT MUCH. This is a bonafide musical genius and undeniable Pop superstar. It feels like not since Stevie Wonder have we had such a unique musical and commercially appealing talent. Frank's music does more than just inspire, it makes you feel! His unique baritone, that he can drop to a soft falsetto in the blink of an eye, his intensely raw lyrics, and his lush production all speaks directly to the listener's humanity in a way that few artists have ever been able to achieve.

How in the hell do you follow that up? You take you time, of course. And now Frank finally has music and art that he is comfortable will satisfy the fevered hype. And even more impressive, Frank did not dumb anything down. In fact, it feels like he used his massive popularity to put more pressure on his audience to try and step outside their boxes and try new kinds of music. On 'Endless,' he has collaborated with P.T. Anderson collaborator and Radiohead multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood, James Blake, experimental R&B performer Sampha, singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan, and experimental producer/budding go-to harsh electronics man Arca. Oh, and that German accent you hear at the beginning and end of 'Endless?' That would be none other than one of Autre Magazine's favorite fine art photographers Wolfgang Tillmans, who has been successfully dabbling in music this year having released music under his own name with his 1986 EP and with his band, Fragile ( On his admiration of Frank O, Tillmans said to Pitchfork, "As a gay man, I needless to say appreciate his openness, how he deals with the initial sensation of his coming out." While most of these performers have operated somewhere within the realm of popular music, they are all capital "A' Artists. Frank doesn't feel the need to dumb his music down, and respects his audience enough to know that art and pop culture make fitting bedfellows. I don't know about you, but I'm very excited to see what else Frank Ocean has up his sleeves this weekend. Let's get that new record. 

[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] Raf Simons' Musical References

text by Adam Lehrer

Now that Calvin Klein has finally announced that Raf Simons will be taking over the brand as its designer, a bitter sweet sentiment has swept throughout the fashion industry. Last year, when Cathy Horyn sat down with Raf for what amounted to his Dior exit interview, published by System Magazine, one couldn’t be faulted for thinking that Raf seemed totally done with luxury fashion houses. This was an artist struggling with the fact that he no longer had the time to find inspiration to create. Deadlines had worn him down, and it was time for him to re-focus on his own revolutionary label. The fact that Raf’s last two collections, one inspired by his heroes such as David Lynch, Martin Margiela and Cindy Sherman, and one a beautiful collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe archive, were his best menswear collections since collaborating with Sterling Ruby seemed to signal that Raf was back in his element, filtering counter-culture, art, music, and radical gender politics into his clothing. 

So, on one hand, it might seem a little hypocritical that Raf is already back at a luxury label, and one that to fashion snobs would seem like a (rather large) down grade in prestige from his previous job at Dior. But try to think of it on a conceptual level. When you think of prime era Calvin Klein, what do you think of? Grunge, heroin-chic, Steven Klein. If I had to put my money on it, I would guess that Raf was attracted to the idea of Calvin Klein’s brand identity, and the significant stamp that his alternative tastes could have on it. Though CK is not a cult label by any means, it did at one time conjure up a concept more rebellious than that of other American mega brands like Ralph Lauren. For some reason, that idea has been lost. I can’t say it’s the brand’s previous designers faults; Francisco Costa (womenswear) and Italo Zuchelli (menswear) both made some beautiful and minimally chic garments during their tenure at the label. But the label’s branding felt out of sync, and this caused its desirability to wane. When we buy into labels that expensive, we aren’t solely buying into the clothes. We are buying into what the brand stands for. Calvin Klein already started rectifying this with its London-based self-taught photographer Harley Weir-shot My Calvin’s campaign that feature portraits of Kendall Jenner, Young Thug, Abbey Lee, and even fucking Frank Ocean. Now with Raf designing the clothes, it won’t be too long until Calvin Klein is cool once again. My assumption is that Calvin Klein offered Raf a contract with stipulations stating that his work load will be significantly less than it was with Dior (his longtime right hand man, Pieter Mulier, is also coming on as creative director, which means Raf might not have to directly involve himself in every garment decision), and also that he will be able to fully oversee the creative direction of the branding. Raf is unquestionably a fantastic curator, and it is extremely exciting to think of the music and art elements he will be able to bring into Calvin Klein with its gargantuan ad budget.

But what of those music references? Will Cavin Klein suddenly be associated with minimal techno, noise rock, krautrock, and new wave? Undeniably, Raf Simons will be bringing those elements to the label that he now calls his employer. And can I just add this: RAF SIMONS IS COMING TO MOTHERFUCKING NEW YORK! How could anyone question that? Our city has been lacking any big name avant fashion designers for a very long time, but no longer.


Around the time of his AW ’14 collection, designed with friend Sterling Ruby, Raf was asked about the collection’s use of patches. It was simple, as a kid he patched his jackets up with his favorite band logos. Among them: Sonic Youth, Black Flag, and Pink Floyd.


Interestingly enough, Raf’s first major music reference was The Smashing Pumpkins in his AW ’97 collection that featured the band’s track ‘Tonight, Tonight’ as its soundtrack. That might seem weird, considering Raf’s rather alternative tastes, but less we forget in 1997 The Smashing Pumpkins were still a rockin’ band and hadn’t yet released a litany of terrible records, or Billy Corgan’s nauseating poetry book, for that matter. But the band’s mixture of stadium bombast and art-y punk structures make sense when considering Raf’s work, a man who has designed avant-garde menswear collections at the same time as Dior couture. 


With its AW '98 collection, the Raf Simons brand identity really started to gel. Raf found inspiration in the Emil Schult-designed cover of Kraftwerk’s 1978 album 'Man Machine,' and even used the group’s much-aged four members as models. Raf took the skinny black ties and red shirts look and re-imagined it for the runway. Raf was really the first fashion person to acknowledge that creative fashion people and artists find much more fashion inspiration from the pop culture they love than from the fashion they see on a runway, and basically created a whole new genre of fashion in the process. Brands as varied as Hood by Air, Vetements, Nasir Mazhar, and others wouldn’t exist without his realization of the intimacies of the fashion-pop connection.


Gabba was rather exuberant sub-genre of Hardcore Techno that was coming out of The Netherlands and Raf’s home of Belgium in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. In his SS ’00 collection, SUMMA CUM LAUDE, Raf celebrated brilliant young kids that studied during the days and partied their faces off in raves at night. It was his first collection that really served as a re-creation of an “of the moment” sub-culture, as opposed to digging into references from the past. He sourced the military surplus MA-1 jackets that gabba kids were wearing and applied his own Raf Simons patches to them, pairing the jackets with nice shoes and high-waisted trousers. This is such a standard "cool guy" look now, and it wouldn’t even be commonplace were it not for Raf’s affinity for the kids of gabba.


Bowie is quite evidently immensely important to Raf. Raf seems to not only be a fanatic of Bowie’s music (which he certainly is), but drawn to the man’s ability to both come off as a man who subverted gender expectations while simultaneously being emblematic of the alpha-male trope. Raf Simons is a label for those men who exist AND thrive on the outside, weirdos who refuse to be put down, and men who are in-your-face about their oddities. This all makes David Bowie something like the perfect Raf Simons man, and Raf used his music in the SS ’99 Raf Simons show, as well as the SS ’17 Dior show.


It’s nigh-impossible for me to answer the question, “What is your favorite rock band?” That being said, the iconic Welsh glam-grunge rockers of Manic Street Preachers are always at the tip of my tongue when that question arises. They encapsulate everything great about rock music: melodies, guitars, bombast, hooks, drugs, sex, swagger, fashion, art and poetry. Raf Simons is partially responsible for cementing the group as an art world favorite. He centered his AW ’01 ’RIOT RIOT RIOT’ collection around the still unsolved mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Preachers’ lyricist and rhythm guitarist, Richey Edwards. When Edwards joined the Preachers, he was rather inept musically, but his poetry, wild and erratic drug-fueled persona, and gender-bending aesthetic elevated the Preachers to a level of scrutiny higher than that of their Brit-pop peers and into the upper echelons of rock folklore. Raf included photos of the late Edwards on bomber jackets as well as making use of the newspaper headlines published about Edwards’ disappearance. 


From 2002 to 2003, Raf re-discovered his love of both Joy Division and New Order as well as the iconic graphic artist responsible for both bands’ covers, Peter Saville. In his AW ’03 collection, Raf held access to Saville’s entire archive, and the parkas emblazoned with the covers of New Order’s ‘Powers, Corruptions and Lies’ and Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ still fetch upwards of $15,000 on consignment e-commerce sites like Grailed. Raf arguably re-sparked the interest in Joy Division and New Order with these collections, and is arguably responsible for every 19-year-old NYU student that walks out of Urban Outfitters wearing a Joy Division t-shirt that doesn’t even recognize the opening drone of ‘Atrocity Exhibition.’ But that’s the thing with the great revolutionaries: from Che Guevara to Raf Simons, their ideas always get sold. 


In what amounted to a great return-to-form, Raf's stunning FW ’16 collection came chalk full of references, from 1980s teen horror films to Cindy Sherman to Margiela to, most prominently, David Lynch. The surrealist director was paid homage through the show’s soundtrack, that featured Lynch collaborator and composer Angelo Badalamenti discussing co-composing Laura Palmer’s theme music from ‘Twin Peaks’ with Lynch, “Angelo, THAT’s IT! OH, ANGELO, YOU’RE TEARING MY HEART OUT,’ we hear Angelo quote Lynch with saying. The show was incredible, fully encapsulating Raf’s ability to turn the spectacle of men walking down a runway in extreme clothes to the tune of powerful music into a grandiose statement of artistry. 


What separates Raf from other designers, is that he really keeps his finger to the pulse of culture. He’s not like Hedi Slimane and his permanent fascinations with ‘70s rock n’ roll or Gosha Rubchinskiy and his renderings of a post-Soviet 1990s. Raf finds himself fascinated with new art and new music constantly, and is always looking for ways to bring it into his own curatorial sphere. In recent interviews, he has cited appreciation for the music of art rock Londoners These New Puritans, Detroit house production icon Richie Hawtin, and even music as abrasive as that of modern techno producer and Perc Trax label head Perc. This is what I find most fascinating about Simons’ entry into Calvin Klein. At Dior, he would have never been able to incorporate those influences into Dior’s branding, but at Calvin Klein and its openness towards counter-culture, he might just be able to. 

[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] Alan Vega: His Music, His Influences, His Influence

Text by Adam Lehrer


This is probably the longest playlist that I’ve ever fashioned for this column, and sometimes, size matters. The influence of Alan Vega in his capacity as the frontman for Suicide and as a solo artist cannot be understated. It has been a very sad year for music, with the deaths of Prince, Bowie, and now, Alan Vega. The influences of Bowie and Prince loom titanic as well, but in a much different way than Vega. Bowie, for instance, holds an influence over the culture of self-presentation. He taught countless artists from countless mediums to be ruthlessly committed to their own actualized selfs. A similar statement could be made about Prince, though pop music would also radically alter in his wake. But Vega stands amongst a very few artists that created a sound so singular that one can audibly hear elements of it in the slew of genres and sub-genres that would follow. From the top of the charts to the scourges of the underground, Suicide’s sonic approach has been obsessed over and employed by musicians for decades. Who else can claim to monumentally influence pop music in such a direct way? The Velvet Underground, to be sure. The Stooges, without question. Hendrix, maybe. But I don’t think any of those artists can claim to be the progenitors of as many sub-cultures as Vega, Martin Rev, and Suicide have proved: Post-Punk, Industrial, Techno, Synth-pop, IDM, Trip-hop, and even contemporary Hip-hop to an extent. Damn. Full disclosure: Suicide and Alan Vega were responsible for much of the music that I hold dear, and there are few artists throughout the history of music that had as profound an effect on my own personal taste.


At the risk of sounding like a hack, I’ve often thought of Alan Vega as the musical equivalent of William S. Burroughs in one fairly important way. Burroughs, the junkie god of Avant-Garde 20th century literature, was actually the corporate heir to a massive fortune, a Missouri blue blood gone wrong. As experimental as his work grew, it never lost a palatable sense of Americana-rooted sentimentality. There’s a real “American tale” around his mythos. Vega, the junkie god of downtown NYC street-punk, was raised in a similarly American archetypical home: the son of Jewish immigrants growing up in Brooklyn. His parents weren’t artists, and his early musical exposure was mostly the country western favored by his parents and a little later, the early rock stars. 

But, Vega was also a visual artist first. His infamous light sculptures inspire the same sense of dread-laden awe as artists like Hermann Nitsch. But he grew disillusioned with the art world and started making music after meeting best friend Martin Rev. Together they formed Suicide. Vega wrote poems about and created music for the working class. That sense of real struggle was what interested him. But at the same time, he never really was able to shake off his artistic background. Alan Vega as a frontman for Suicide was almost like a character born of conceptual art. It was like Vega created this rock star persona for himself to deliver his message in a way that could be relatable to his target audience (in both Suicide and later on as a solo artist), but was never able to fully detach from his own artistic self-awareness. Suicide really was one of the first bands that drew a line between the world of avant-garde and pop music and delicate walked that line with the swaggering vocals of Vega and the minimally harsh but thoroughly catchy synth melodies and baselines of Vega. That might be Suicide’s most fascinating trait as a band. They inspired experimental artists to flirt with the mainstream and inspired the mainstream to flirt with experimental art. That is why their influence grew so titanic. They drew attention to the fact that drawing a line between mainstream and underground was pretentious, short-sighted, and stupid. All that really matters is authenticity: are you creating the art that best communicates your ideas and delivering it in the medium best suited to the audience that will best understand your ideas. And nothing was more authentic than Suicide and Alan Vega.


As stated above, Vega’s musical influences started with the building blocks of Rock n’ Roll: Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee. He also declared having been massively in love with the voice of Roy Orbison. When you actually examine those first two Suicide records, it might be surprising to some how much those early rock stars impacted the actual Suicide sound. Vega to be certain looked towards stars like Elvis for his own self-mythologizing as a self-actualized rock star: charisma, mystery, swagger. But also, the Suicide songs often sound like early rock ditties degraded by updates in technology. But the minimal structures and near-singalong quality made the experimental approach all the more thrilling. Vega also is something of a crooner.

But to ignore the experimental music that influenced Vega and Suicide would be grossly negligent. Krautrock, or the experimental rock music that came out of Germany in the ‘70s, is the most obvious precursor to Suicide. The minimal structures of Faust, the delirious funkiness of Can, and the digital mania of Kraftwerk are all massively important to the Suicide sound. Though from New York and not Germany, the band Silver Apples were one of the first experimental rock groups to use synthesizers, and are hard not to think of when thinking about Suicide. Vega was also a noted classical musical enthusiast, having developed an interest in sonics by scratching classical records to make them sound weirder. The German 20th Century avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen had a profound impact on Vega by teaching that within the simple blip of an electronic sound comes a world of possibilities.

And finally: The Stooges. Vega was blown away when he saw The Stooges in 1969, going home to play ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ on repeat. The Stooges were intimately aware of the fact that a direct and academic-less approach to music might be the most profound artistic experience: “once you’re making music for artists, you’re fucked,” Iggy seemed to suggest while shouting until his lungs gave out and rolling around in broken glass on the stage. Suicide took this to heart and sought to provoke audiences through direct violent gesture. Not for art, but for the sake of provocation. And pure provocation is at its essence, the purest form of art.


Deathrock, despite its silly name, brought a new heir of theatricality and art to the Punk Rock attack. Those theatrics and sinister nature were directly inspired by the musings of Alan Vega and the tribal nature of some of Suicide’s heavier music. The sense of atmospherics and theatrics inspired by Suicide are best felt by the Northampton Post-punks Bauhaus. Bauhaus knew the power of menacing stage presence combined with repetitive rhythms working themselves up to primordial states. Nick Cave as a young Heroin shooting poet in Australia also took note of Suicide’s approach. Though his first band The Birthday Party weren’t really “Deathrock,” per se (they were equally important in the development of Noise Rock for instance), Cave certainly shared a taste for theatrics and stripped down rhythms.

The early Industrial bands took the music of Suicide but applied a heaping dose of abstract theory and avant-garde art to it, taking aggressive electronic-based music down to the bottom of the rabbit hole. The legendary artist Genesis P. Orridge formed his/her first band Throbbing Gristle to explore the most rank aspects of the human condition: obsession, hatred, compulsion. They used confrontational imagery such as pornography and Third Reich propaganda, gaining them a notorious reputation. The desire to provoke outrage to provoke discussion shares characteristics with Vega and Suicide. But Throbbing Gristle’s electronics were unpolished, using samples and synths to provide a degraded backdrop to spoken word poetry or lyrics. They are what Suicide would have sounded like had Suicide freed themselves from the desire to make pop songs. Genesis would continue this crusade with group Psychic T.V., using video art as a backdrop to its industrial soundscapes. Industrial was in many ways the most interesting form of experimental music in the early ‘80s, and it’s hard to imagine it coming into fruition with the influence of Suicide. 

Just thought I’d throw this in here. But Suicide’s impact was felt even by mainstream artists during their time. It’s been stated that Ric Ocasek loved Suicide so much, that he recorded The Cars’ album Candy-O as an audition to produce Suicide’s second album. Which he eventually did. Perhaps even more famously, Bruce Springsteen LOVED Suicide, and the duo inspired him to strip his sound back to its bare essentials: rhythmic acoustic guitar patterns and his one-of-a-kind rock n’ roll voice. Low and behold, he recorded Nebraska, the best album of his career. Track State Trooper sounds like the acoustic guitar version of Suicide’s first record, and features Bruce doing his best Alan Vega howl.

1980s goth music, with its tendency to incorporate elements of dance music into its darkly bombastic take on rock, was influenced by Suicide’s approach. While Suicide generally worked in minimalist structures, Goth acts often took the underlying tribalistic patterns of Suicide and then cleaned it up with big stadium sounds. The Sisters of Mercy, for instance, incorporated loud and vivacious elements of Psych Rock and Metal over dance beats indebted to Suicide’s second LP. Though often ignored by the Rock history hierarchies, one need not do more than take one listen to The Sisters of Mercy’s Floodland collection to find a startlingly unique unit deftly capable of incorporating its influences (like Suicide) into a new and exciting Pop Music sound.

Suicide was so diverse in its approach that it could realistically appease the more adventurous of disco fans while also holding similarities in common with the No Wave bands that played New York directly after punk exploded: Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, James Chance and the Contortions, DNA and Mars, amongst others, differed from Punk in that Punk brought Rock back to its three-chord roots, while No Wave bands were referencing genres as diverse as Jazz and Psych and stripping Rock of melody and tone all together. Suicide certainly had beats and structures, but the duo’s raw primal energy doesn’t feel out of place in the conversation surrounding No Wave. Perhaps that raw dissonance is what attracted a young Steve Albini to Suicide’s music when he decided to eschew a drummer in his first band, Big Black, in favor of a Roland drum machine. Albini learned from Suicide that when there is no human error involved in creating the back beat of a sound, then that sound can become as ferocious and ugly as humanly possible. Big Black seemed to apply the violence of Suicide’s music, amplify it, and strip it dry of any sort of sexuality or funkiness that was unquestionably an aspect of Suicide’s music.

The earliest Techno music that was blaring out of Detroit club speakers in the 1980s often felt like Suicide beats amped up and made danceable. These producers, including Juan Atkins, Carl Craig, Underground Resistance, and Derrick May, certainly were indebted to Disco and House Music before them, but perhaps due to the outsider spirit of Detroit itself, these guys were experimentalists. Perhaps tired of playing Donna Summers tracks to get their crowds moving, they forged a sound of their own. Due to lack of money and technology, Suicide’s minimal synths and barebones rhythms proved a fitting jumping off point for Detroit Techno artists who instantly recognized that MDMA and amphetamines in combination with simple and repetitive electronic beats make for one hell of a good time. 10 or so years later, Daft Punk would realize that that same formula could be applied to a stadium full of people.

By the late ‘80s, Brits had had exposure to countless exciting sub-cultures of music: Punk Rock, Hippie Psychedelia, Hardcore, Acid House, Brit-Pop, Goth, and on and on and on. At a point, it was way too difficult to pick one type of music. So some Brits didn’t. Bobby Gillespie was among them when he decided to leave The Jesus And Mary Chain and form his own band Primal Scream. Primal Scream drew upon all of Gillespie’s musical loves: The Rolling Stones, Acid House, Post-punk, and without question, Suicide. Suicide, being one of the first bands to marry Electronic instrumentation with Pop song formats, cannot be excluded from the conversation surrounding Neo-Psychedelia and Primal Scream. Spacemen 3 (one of my top 10 all-time bands, by the way) didn’t use electronics much, but both its members, Sonic Boom and Jason Pierce, were self-avowed Suicide fanatics and used Suicide’s minimal rhythms in their drawn-out, druggy, and pained songs. Spacemen 3 understood that sometimes, the most far out music is the most barebones.

Suicide, perhaps more than any other band, holds equal influence within underground music scenes AND mainstream Pop music. This was particularly true with the advent of Synth-pop in the ‘80s. Depeche Mode, Soft Cell (Tainted Love is one of the best songs all time, am I right) essentially drew from Dance music but applied vocals. Sound familiar? Though Suicide of course used this approach for darker purposes, the ground was laid for what pop would become and still pretty much is. Dance music that you can singalong to. Rihanna, Gaga, Miley and whoever else, weirdly enough, can thank Suicide.

Merrill Beth Disker, better known to the world as Peaches, achieved her sound by picking up a Roland MC-505 drum machine in her compositions (later, M.I.A. would pick up the same machine, inspired by Peaches). Her biggest hit, Fuck the Pain Away, she played on a whim live. Its funky but aggro sound is ripped right from the Suicide playbook. In fact, Suicide’s output was highly fetishized by the group of young musicians playing dance-y Post-punk music around downtown Manhattan in the ‘00s. Some of the music (dubbed “Electroclash” by the NME set) wasn’t all that good. But it had its true talents of course, including the then-Brooklyn-based Liars, who would go from dance-punk to one of Indie’s truly experimental bands.

Perhaps this is a reach, but when I first heard Kanye West’s Yeezus back in 2013, well, at first I was blown the fuck away. To this day, I think it’s the most extraordinary work of art that Pop music has offered this millennium. But also, I couldn’t help but think of Suicide. Yeezus was heavily indebted to experimental electronic music. Though it’s maximal all the way through, it often feels like a swirl of various minimal electronic sounds. I can’t not think of Suicide when hearing it. Also, the self-aggrandizing and actualization that ‘Ye employs on the record feels like the self-conscious “rock star as art statement” that Alan Vega was the king of. In fact, a lot of contemporary Hip-hop, or “trap,” and its tendency to bring aggressive electronic textures to Hip-hop beats, reminds me of those first few stunning Suicide records. No longer is Hip-hop solely sample-based, instead, producers are actively engaging with synths, drum machines, and all manner of processed sonic goodies. 

[FASHION REVIEW] New York Men's Day and Private Policy

text by Adam Lehrer


I can't be the only amongst us fashion editors feeling a little cognitive dissonance towards my chosen medium. Every single day, I'm glued to the news and witnessing yet another national tragedy: Alton Sterling, Filando Castile, the Dallas police. All of my energy goes towards tweets and Instagram posts and expressed sympathies and it all results in a general sense of feeling useless. Of feeling like maybe what I'm doing is not worthwhile. And then I have to turn around, plug my mind into the information highway, look at fashion, at art, listen to new music, and try and formulate ideas about it all and process it to reframe the information.

Thus, it's been a little harder to get excited by fashion recently. On the bright side, it's a lot easier to discern when something is generally amazing. Raf's Mapplethorpe collection, Demna at Balenciaga, the arrival of Kiko Kostadinov. When fashion is good, it hits you on all senses: visually, sonically, emotionally. It takes you out of your own anxiety and allows you to just put your bullshit aside and be defeated. 

New York Fashion Week: Men's, now in its third season, doesn't offer much in the way of transformative fashion experiences. There just isn't a lot of support here for radical thought, and it feels a little more obvious with each passing season of the shows. A year ago, the first Men's Fashion Week was the first fashion week I ever fully covered and I was probably pretty psyched to be wearing my best suede boots and get photographed while posturing around. I was drunk on weed and beer and sunshine and my own newly inflated ego. All that bullshit can alter your sense of objectivity, and next thing you know you're throwing 5-star reviews at the most trite High Street aping garbage rags coming down the runway. Not this time. That's right, one year in and I'm jaded. And hopefully, jadedness comes in handy when covering fashion.

New York Fashion Week: Men's starts with New York Men's Day, where eight or so brands offer looks at new collections in what amounts to a more inclusive buyer's presentation. In theory, it's a nice way to glimpse new clothes: there's no cat fights over seating, you are given a healthy time frame to come and go, and there's a Cadillac provided free meal. I always have a good time. But a lot of these brands have shown over and over: Chapter, Krammer and Stoudt, PLAC, and others have used this forum for almost every season. It's starting to feel a little same-y, and doesn't feel essential at all to providing our readers an overview of what's exciting in fashion right now.

There is always at least one brand that warrants a second look, however. Last season, it was Edmund Ooi, a Royal Academy of Art-trained Malaysian designer that channels early Raf caught naked at a leather club. This season, it's the nice Parsons grads Siying Qu and Haoran Li and their label Private Policy. Though there were a couple looks that could have been edited from their SS 2017 show, such as pretty basic Navy trench coats, but there were some startling looks here. Siying told me at the show that much of this collection was centered around the idea of the warriors fighting for justice, and she noted that recent news events weighed heavily on both their minds when conceptualizing the collection. The starting point was a news article about enslaved fisherman in Southeast Asia. How do we find justice? There's no doubt that self presentation has much to do with that, and designers have played with this trope time and time again. But the clothes were nice here, and harsher than past Private Policy seasons. There were still the fun pieces, like the colorful souvenir jackets. There was a theme of protection versus aggression. A black jacket layered and draped recalled Yohji and his desire to protect his customers' bodies, but these deconstructed and slashed tank tops came on strong, like the warrior announcing his battles, perhaps. Like an older editor at the presentation said, "Deconstructed, now that's fashion."

[FASHION REVIEW] Vetements Couture Spring 2017 Collection

text by Adam Lehrer


From the very beginning, Vetements connected with fashion lovers not because of how different it was, but because of how oddly familiar it is. Demna Gvasalia and his radical collective of European designers are primarily interested in the ways that mainstream products have been co-opted and used by various sub-cultures as signifiers, protectors, and weapons.  Demna will tell any interviewer that asks that Vetements is not a “conceptual” brand; that it’s really “just about clothes,” as the brand’s name would lead you to believe. But the fact of the matter, the “just clothes” mantra is conceptual in and of itself. Demna, and stylist Lotta Volkolva, use the identities of clothes to extrapolate ideas from them: a hoodie sized to this means X and jeans with this particular cut mean Y. It’s almost like the viewer or the wearer can project his or her own ideas onto the clothes, like a blank canvas. The skinhead and his bomber jacket, the DJ and his tracksuit, the model and her stilettos: Vetements constantly finds new ways of looking at products we’ve seen, and probably worn, 1000 times.

After the last three shows, all of which were hailed as revolutionary, and not to mention Demna’s first two Balenciaga stunners, Vetements’ SS 2017 menswear and womenswear presentation at Paris Haute Couture was the glorious send off of Vetements’ first era. Because Vetements is ultimately about clothes and the wild possibilities that live within garments, Demna and crew decided to collaborate with a slew of massive brands based on various products and what brand first came to mind when that product was mentioned: a tailored jacket (Brioni), bomber (Alpha Industries), jeans (Levi’s, duh). Forget artistic genius! Though there was plenty of that in Vetements SS 2017 as well, this show was a grand feat of business savvy! Guram Gvasalia, Demna’s brother and brand CEO, finagled his way through the entire garment industry to sell the Vetements vision to 18 (!!) iconic brands. These brands would be producing Vetements designs in their factories (Gvasalia told Monolo Blahnik that he’d be slashing his shoes, and Monolo was actually excited at the prospect). That is indicative of how powerful this brand has become: EVERYONE seemingly wants to see the “Vetements version” of their products.

Some of the collaborations resulted in the exact product you would expect from a Vetements show. The Alpha Industries’ MA-1’s for instance, were oversized to the umpteenth degree, and the beautiful Mackintosh coats had the elongated sleeves and easy silhouette that, let’s face it, looks like the coolest possible way to wear a Mackintosh coat.

But there were some sumptuous surprises born of these collaborations. The Brioni jackets that opened the show were slashed at the shoulders, allowing Paul Hameline to wear the coat over his back as a cape of sorts, while the trousers were slashed at the hem. All the while, Brioni (good sports that the Italian tailoring maestros must be) agreed with the Gvasalia brothers’ idea to not iron any of the Brioni pieces (a Brioni suit is usually tailored up to 40 times before hitting retail). Blahnik thankfully didn’t have to endure the destroying of his shoes, but instead offered Vetements a waist-high version of his thigh-high satin stiletto boots. They were basically pants that acted as shoes. Or shoes that acted as pants. Either way, they fucking worked!

The Levi’s denim pieces (without Levi’s logos, score 1 point Guram) were also exciting. There was a black on black denim look oversized and draped over the wearer’s head, but there was also a corduroy Canadian tuxedo look that look cut similar to the suits in the Balenciaga menswear show. Texan cowboy boot purveyors Lucchese manufactured a sleek and glam rock version of their classic boots that looked nice with the unstructured jackets. NYC leather brand Schott, creator of the Perfecto (AKA the world’s greatest motorcycle jacket) offered some lovely oversized leather jackets, but also took Demna up on the offer to cut some leather into some little booty shorts. Why not? Carhartt workpants were turned into huge dresses (more like smock dresses). Canada Goose, creator of the world’s warmest puffer jackets, got the architectural treatment, creating jackets with all sorts of interesting details allowing the wearer to style the piece in a variety of ways. The Canada Goose puffers looked like much more technically precise versions of the Puffers in Demna’s first Balenciaga Ready-to-Wear show.

Totally out of left field was Demna identifying the “couture” within the brand DNA of one Juicy Couture. That brand, which has become as associated with Velour tracksuit-clad alcoholics sweating it out in rehab as it has been with just plain good velour, saw their signature fabric cut into a few stunning couture dresses and pantsuits.

What was most fascinating about this show is that it showed how malleable “real clothes” can be. All of these brands create products that can be worn by pretty much every type of customer. Champion sweats are at once the product choice of people recovering in hospitals, but once styled and proportioned and thrown on a cigarette smoking young thing with Sisters of Mercy on the headphones, Champion sweats become a different thing entirely. Doc Maarten’s even can be worn by a guy working construction with little or no care toward fashion and look just as good on an all black wearing Yohji Yammamoto acolyte. I love Raf Simons as much as anyone, but I’ll admit that you have to be pretty fashion forward to make Raf work for you. And fashion doesn’t work for everyone, it really doesn’t (even I usually opt for the same look of tight jeans and big safari shirts every day). Vetements is the first high fashion brand that seeks to provide a direct link between the world of wearable and lovable products and high fashion.

Vetements is absolutely disrupting the system. They are one of the first brands to offer a radically different perspective on garment construction while still achieving great success. Why is this brand showing during Couture week? Because they want to, goddamn it! Why would they show their new collection at department store Galeries Lafayette during store hours? Because they want to. Of course that isn’t only it, it’s that Demna and Guram are intimately acquainted with the benefits of an excited press. But more to the point, Vetements’ Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear show proved that Vetements is really “just about clothes,” but that there are layers of subtext to being “just about clothes.” Vetements is about the identity of clothes in relation to the identity of the person wearing those clothes. Vetements is about the myriad possibilities that live within a simple article of clothing. And Vetements is about freedom to wear your clothes the way that makes you feel like your coolest self.


For this Autre Friday Playlist, Mr. Pharmacist (aka Gregg Foreman) creates a rebellious set of U.K. anthems in honor, or dishonor for that matter, of the United Kingdom’s truly daft decision to leave the European Union. Creating the playlist from London, where he is currently playing a few shows with Cat Power, gives the mix a special firsthand potency. With tracks from The Fall, Clash, Buzzcocks and more, the playlist is a perfect soundtrack for a riot. 


Mr.Pharmacist - The Fall
Borstal Breakout - Sham 69
Own Up - Small Faces
Heard it Through the Grapevine - The Slits
Plastic Passion - The Cure
Cruisers Creek - The Fall
Look For Me Baby - The Kinks
Biff! Bang! Pow! -The Creation
3 Girl Rhumba - Wire
Adrenochrome - The Sisters of Mercy
Know Your Rights - Clash
Only a Shadow - Cleaners From Venus
I'm in Love with a German Film Star - The Passions
Collapsing New People - Fad Gadget
I'm Rowed Out - The Eyes
It Was a Pleasure - Echo & the Bunnymen
In the City - Jam
What Do I Get - Buzzcocks
Beat Me Til I'm Blue - The Mohawks
Smash it Up Pt.2 - The Damned
Ghost Town - The Specials
Another Girl Another Planet - The Only Ones
Look Back in Anger - TV Personalities
Public Image - PiL

Fashion Review: Paris Fashion Week SS 2017

Text by Adam Lehrer

Paris Fashion Men’s Week was in typical fine form, re-invigorating my own lust for fashion after a dreary Milan and an uneven London. Though the two shows I’m usually most excited for, those by Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy, already played out in Florence, their absence didn’t deter my attention. That would be mainly because of one man: Demna Gvasalia. Demna introduced Balenciaga’s first menswear show in history. The expectations between that notion, not to mention Vetements being the coolest brand in fashion and all that, were colossal. How did Demna respond to this soul crushing pressure? By creating entirely new menswear silhouettes. He needed not to flash or bedazzle, and instead created new shapes. A new shape in menswear comes along maybe once a decade, and that achievement can’t be downplayed. The hype around this guy is so high that in some ways you want to find things about him to critique: ridiculously expensive DHL t-shirts, all white models, pop stars using his clothes to look alternative, or whatever. But then I see the new Vetements collection and I’m just like, “Fuck.” I want all of it. Though entirely different than what he does at Vetements, Balenciaga had me similarly drooling.

And that wasn’t it. Rick Owens offered a radical showing of near-unwearable pieces that were beautiful and sprinkled with just enough accessibility to keep the buyers happy. Junya Watanabe offered his first show in a few seasons that didn’t generate racist controversy while introducing his knack for near-perfectly constructed everyday workwear. Dries Van Noten offered an incredible show that played out like a celebration of the beauty and art of fabric itself.

But Demna seems to be the designer ushering in a new era of fashion; just like Raf did before him, and Margiela before him, and Rei before him, and Yves before her. We are witnessing a designer reinvent the way hip kids dress. And the thing about the ways in which the hip kids dress is that there will always be the square types to catch on at some point, and next thing you know is that a seismic shift in the way people dress has occurred. Architectural suit shoulders might just be the new skinny trousers.

Balenciaga SS 2017: Architectural Solutions to a New Men’s Wardrobe

Demna Gvasalia asked and answered a series of sartorial questions with the Balenciaga SS 2017 menswear show. Can Balenciaga place as much importance on its menswear as its womenswear? Can menswear, in fact, be haute couture? Are there any new silhouettes waiting to be applied to a men’s wardrobe? And can a sleep Balenciaga collection still be in-line with the punker Eastern European aesthetic of Vetements? Yes, yes, yes, and fuck yes.

Demna Gvasalia is already understanding and re-interpreting the vision of Cristóbol Balenciaga in a way that Alexander Wang never could. The SS 2017 collection started with an unfinished Balenciaga coat that was then altered into an un-fitted, albeit beautifully fitted, tan trench coat. Like Balenciaga, Gvasalia understands that clothes need not to be over-adorned to be valuable. Instead, it’s all about fit and proportions. Clothes really stand out when either chic-ly loose, such as the incredible pleated double-breasted blazers, or skin tight, like the collection’s shirting and double-breasted jackets. As fas as patterning goes, everything here was fairly basic and isn’t far off from a J. Crew suit. But the structures made it revolutionary. All of these garments would need to be specially tailored for the client to achieve that revolutionary banality.

The collection got more “Demna” as it went on: snakeskin boots (dope), leather jackets and coats cut to similar proportions as the suits, cropped bomber jackets with the shoulders blown out, and dad caps. Everything here looked so different than anything I’ve ever seen, while being kind of similar to everything I’ve ever seen. Balenciaga has found its man in Demna Gvasalia, indeed.

Gvasalia is a capital D designer, which is what the brand needed. He has an intimate understanding of Balenciaga’s approach to clothes, but he is individualist enough to still filter his own sensibilities into it. The casting of disheveled Eastern European iconoclasts was as presents at it was at Vetements shows, with Vetements must and burdgeoning zine arist Paul Hameline making an appearance, styled by Lotta Volkova of course.

Balenciaga SS 2017 made we want to both get rich enough to afford, and get skinny enough to wear it. And fashion on this level SHOULD seem exclusive. It SHOULD make us want to work for it. That’s the point: if it feels within grasp than it’s just not really high fashion. In her book Fear and Clothing, culture critic and former NY Times Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson dedicates a passage to the fact that fashion has been at a standstill for some 20 years now; since Margiela came on to the scene really. But Demna, with Vetements and now Balenciaga, is really offering NEW styles of dress. Yes there is some indebtedness to the aforementioned Margiela and certainly to Balenciaga himself, but these are new shapes. And new shapes breed new styles.

Facetasm SS 2017: From Japan to Paris, Hiromichi Ochiai Sticks to his Guns

LVMH-shortlisted Hiromichi Ochiai has been showing his brand Facetasm (pronounced “FASS-e-Ta-sum,” according to the designer) in his home base of Tokyo since 2013. After being acknowledged as one of fashion design’s brightest talents and getting the chance to show in fashion’s conceptual heartland of Paris, you’d think the pressure would be stacked high on the man. But he stuck to his guns with this collection. Facetasm SS 2017 fit well on the Paris schedule, bringing some fresh design ideas to the city putting it along the likes of Vejas, Y Project, Faith Connexion, and other youthful brands reflecting Paris’s newfound status as a centre of radical creativity.

Ochiaii has a tendency to turn a simple product, like a leather jacket or a trench or a bomber, into a piece of clothing you see and can’t leave V-Files or Dover Street without. That was certainly in play here with v-neck kimono shirts that came embroidered with stripes, checkered bomber jackets with floppy collars and accompanying baggy basketball shorts, leather vests that look like gun holsters, and those aforementioned leather jackets with striped sleeves treated to look like they carry years of age. Ochiai’s approach looks odd and discombobulated, but broken down into products it will speak to a wide variety of fashion-crazed customers.

Yohji Yamamoto SS 2017: A Master Finds New Territory in Old Tricks

The thing about the Japanese master Yohi Yammamoto is that he knows exactly who his customers are and delivers the products they want season after season. 40 years into his career, he’s a cult designer (it’s a very large cult, but still). His collections range from good to sublime, but his masterfully crafted and heavily draped workwear jackets and trousers are always there. While certainly not a designer focused on nostalgia, Yohji’s collections present themselves as being removed from time. They are neither modern nor antiquated. The wearer has his look and there is no need to change it according to contemporary standards of beauty.

Yohji’s SS 2017 was one of his sublime collections. The show featured a number of tough looking (as tough as a modern male model could look anyways) guys wearing bandages on their heads, ankles, and wrists. The silhouettes were long but not baggy. They hung off the body enough to draw attention to the garment but not to overshadow the wearer. The trousers were big, and those in cotton looked soft as a Husky puppy. And what made this more than just a collection of good Yohji pieces were the embroidered prints that peppered everything from blazers to overcoats. Souvenir jackets are getting popular again amongst hip crowds, and why not? They are a great and comfortable statement piece that can be bought on Etsy for $80. But Yohji took the souvenir motif and applied it to beautifully constructed trench coats, crafted well enough to outlast any trend. Yohji never begs his customers to buy every piece. He has his Y-3 collection to make the big money. But his eponymous line always just presents his customers with new pieces that they can incorporate to their already well-curated and iconoclastic wardrobe. Those customers could certainly do well with some of these pieces. This was my favorite Yohji show in a long time.

Y Project SS 2017: Badass and Dandy (No Longer Mutually Exclusive States of Being)

Under the late Yohan Serfaty, who started Y Project in 2011, the brand was a little Rick Owens-lite. The problem with presenting a dark, moody, and billowing aesthetic these days is that there is no way you are going to do it better than Rick, and certainly no one will want it more than they want Rick. LVMH-shortlisted designer Glenn Martens understood that when he took over Y Project in 2013 and took the brand in a similarly aggressive but alternatively off-beat direction. Martens makes clothes for men and women that alternate between feminine and harsh, bright and dark, deconstructed and well-tailored. It’s a label of contrasts, and one that is great fun to buy into.

His SS 2017 at some points felt like a celebration of 1960s Havana gangster style: big and well-made suits, sometimes in pink. But a look later and a guy comes down the runway wearing a flower-printed see-through tank-top with the dude’s midriff totally exposed. It takes a lot of panache to wear this stuff, and I think Martens likes it like that. He likes daring his customers, “Put this on, c’mon, don’t be a wuss.” There were of course still looks that others could wear, like the dope elongated-sleeved leather jackets, or the trench coats that can be worn from the front and the back. To say Y Project’s aesthetic is all over the place is totally inaccurate. Instead, it juxtaposes two opposing dominant looks and clashes them together, allowing the wearer to look both alternative and tough while also looking (very) in touch with his feminine side.

Haider Ackermann SS 2017: Every Piece Should Be a Statement Piece

If you like Haider Ackermann you’re going to like Haider Ackermann’s SS 2017 collection. The Argentinean designer has a way to turn even the simplest pieces into a statement. A hoodie and sweats becomes a perfectly fitted and made garment under his design. Also, what’s even more admirable about the guy is that you can always wear his stuff your own way. His shows are more a suggestion of styling than a demand. His bomber jackets look as good with a pair of tight Levi’s as they do his skin-tight pinstriped silk trousers (Kanye showed us that).

Haider’s SS ’17 collection was exuberant. The blazers, skin-tight as per usual, were eye-blindingly bright and printed with some exotic motif. I loved the disco shirts that were tucked in with only the bottom button fastened; one had pink sleeves that fell inches below the model’s wrist. The aforementioned trousers came in every fabric and every imaginable print, more to the point that Haider’s clothes can be worn with denim, leather, or satin bottoms. It depends on the wearer really. There were women’s look in the shows too, that were often much darker than the dandified menswear looks. There is probably some statement in there, but who knows.

It’s also nice to have a fashion designer that makes garments that really pop with flash and style. Being an occasionally broke and mostly bad with money young writer and photographer, when I spring for a piece that I really want I really want it to be something that doesn’t look like it has a cheaper alternative. Haider makes sense for a money splurge. Haider is designing party wear, and thank god for that. While so many of our radical fashion designers are thinking specifically about what we want to wear to our design offices and studios, Haider wants us to dress up to the nines. Someone needs to.

Junya Watanabe SS 2017: No Accusations of Racism to be Made Here

Junya Watanabe has a couple of off seasons that saw him doing things like devoting a collection to African textiles and having all white guys walk in the show. It didn’t help that Watanabe is a salty guy that seems to hold, if not out right resentment towards the press, than a lingering dismay at having to explain himself to them (not even Purple Mag honcho Olivier Zahm could get much out of the designer when he interviewed him a couple years back).

SS 2017 was a rebound then. Instead of appropriating regional cultures, he looked towards the seedy side of sub-cultures (tattoo artists aren’t going to upset about seeing their looks used in a fashion show I would assume). Most of the models in the show were heavily tattooed (or welding fake tattoos when necessary). This could be boring but it looked cool here, and made these rather simple but incredibly well-made pieces a touch bad ass. The opening shirt and shorts combination is the type of outfit I’d want to wear all summer long. Easy to put on and take off while still making a statement. There was a criminality to this collection, mostly owing to the looks of Russian mobsters. This is also not new, or maybe it is? It seems like a look that has already been fetishized over but Junya made it look fantastic. Russian mobsters when naked look incredibly scary, with their all black grey tattoos symbolizing all manner of nefarious activities. But they clean up well (though he is a movie star and all, look at Viggo Mortensen’s character in David Cronenberg’s incredibly underrated Eastern Promises). But the tattoo motif carried over to the clothes here in the form of prints. There was the usual focus on craft and tradition that Junya has made his career with, collaborating with Levi’s on the wide-leg jeans and jackets, John Smedley knits, and Heinrich Dinkelacker shoes. This was definitely the most wearable of the Paris collections, but pushed by a palatable concept that editors and buyers can read into.

Rick Owens SS 2017: Subtle Evolution in Garment-Body Relations

Rick Owens, as always, put on a SS 2017 show worth noting. Rick has so firmly laid out the aesthetic of his brand that he can pervert that aesthetic subtly or not so subtly and use those perversions to slowly progress the identity of the Rick Owens house. How many designers do we see trying to re-invent the wheel every season only to come up with a bunch of overly-designed workwear products that makes no sense in regards to what people like about that brand in the first place? The Rick Owens universe is set in stone but it’s constantly stretching outwards.

SS 2017 started off predominantly in white featuring a series of looks that appeared like unfinished garments falling off the models’ bodies, taking on movements of their own. Aesthetically, imagine if Varys from Game of Thrones got really fit and managed to find a way for his clothes to dance behind him as he walked. It was hard to even single out individual pieces because they all blended into one hard-to-define look. Big trousers were a theme, and continued to be as the collection progressed and mutated in color. The light wool coach jackets came in brown, a faint shade of orange, mustard yellow and mustard yellow. Then there were some more recognizably Owens pieces: skin-tight leather jacket (one covered in jewel studs), a bomber jacket with fur trim, asymmetrical blazers, and a cut-off trench coat. Most of the jackets were cropped extremely high to the waist, allowing the massive trousers to stand out as the statements pieces of the looks. There was excellent use of prints, such as the cut-off sleeve kimono with a geometrical landscape printed in white to both lapels.

It’s hard to tell if some of the looks in this collection were a result of genius styling or fascinating design, such as the pieces that looked almost like t-shirts wrapped around the model’s body at various limbs. But either styling or design, this was another fascinating Rick Owens show. No designer on Earth is better re-defining the intricacies between the human body and its clothes.

Off-White SS 2017: Virgil Abloh Offers an Inclusive Alternative to Fashion Exclusivity

People have wanted to write off Virgil Abloh as a t-shirt designer from the moment he started Off-White. After designing an incredibly limited edition collection for Levi’s Made and Crafted and a Resort 2017 collection, no one can argue that this man has a grand and wide fashion vision for his Off-White label. But Abloh’s greatest strength is his fandom. He comes at garment design from the perspective of a fashion, music, and culture crazed kid that can’t believe the good fortune he’s met at being able to create his own brand. That exuberance was as infectious as ever at his SS 2017 show.  

The jeans and t-shirt look is still the foundation of Off-White, but Abloh more every season seems to make clear that the sartorial possibilities birthed from that conceptual starting point are endless. From Oasis graphics to see through t-shirts, short-sleeve baggy knits with provocative prints, to loose fitting jackets, Abloh has greatly improved the actual design strengths of his collection. But he also has grander conceptual vision, such as allowing fashion kids into his shows without invites and providing attendees with disposable cameras to give different photographic perspectives on his designs. The turn out for the show was incredible; aside from his usual crew (Luka Sabbat, etc), motherfucking Demna Gvasalia showed up to show Virgil support. Virgil needs to start being referred to as “fashion designer Virgil Abloh” and not “Kanye West’s best friend and creative director Virgil Abloh.”

Louis Vuitton SS 2017: After Years of Looking Abroad, Kim Jones Brings it Back Home

Kim Jones, sometimes referred to as the world’s greatest menswear designer, has looked all over the globe for styles to appropriate at Louis Vuitton. But for SS 2017, he fondly remembers the styles that have most defined him: the African textiles of his homeland, the punk memorabilia he collected by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren while living in London, and the high luxury of his adopted homeland of Paris.

The punk looks worked the best: if I was rich as fuck there is no way I wouldn’t want to spend $3,000 on an ultra-aggressive looking dog collar? There’s no better way to celebrate newfound wealth than with an accessory that says to your boss, “I’m not afraid of you bub, in fact: I’m coming for you.”

Everything Kim does at Louis just looks like clothes that you need to have, and this collection followed in that vein. Even a plaid crewneck looks so perfectly fitted that to not spend $1,000 on it feels like you are depriving yourself. The Sherpa crewnecks, dyed heavily in the prints of African textiles, were showstoppers. Paired with easygoing trousers, they were easily the most “I must have that” garments of Paris Fashion Week. I think that’s the beauty of Vuitton. It is the ultimate example of fashion consumerism, but helmed by a designer like Kim Jones (or Nicolas Ghesqiuere, for that matter), you find yourself sacrificing all of your socialist ideals and just giving into the temptation. True luxury should make you want to abandon your morals and be a part of the ugly machine. Louis Vuitton under Kim Jones goes way beyond a bag with a logo that says nothing about who you are. Not all the pieces are that easy, but they are so incredibly made that you find yourself disregarding that ugly history of fashion oppression. Let greed free you.

Dries Van Noten SS 2017: No One Really Gets Dries, But Everyone Wants to Wear Dries

Dries Van Noten’s FW 2016 menswear collection was a highpoint in his career: an explosive celebration of fashion’s relationship to the psychedelic prints of the 1960s. It was a hard show to top, and though SS 2017 didn’t, it came damn close. This show felt more like a celebration of the possibilities within fabrics themselves. Dries admitted to looking at the textile artists of the ’60s for this collection, finding new ways to drape garments as well as play with volume and proportion. That resulted in something as simple as a mock neck sweater in white looking transcendent: just baggy enough in the body to let the model breathe while the neck looking slightly disheveled and treated. But the textile explorations also worked towards incredible print and dye work. A tank top and shorts looked as close to a landscape painting as fashion gets. It was willfully experimental, but no one would look that weird wearing such an ensemble to the beach.

As always, Dries’ coats were next level, with fabric weaves and lines constructing from a myriad of different directions and concepts. The clothes looked expensive, which is always nice considering they are in fact really fucking expensive. But I’d say the real showstopper here was the knitwear, which looked like it had been weaved by a master from another era just hours before the show: colors and fabrics hanging loose from the seams both finished and unfinished simultaneously. When you look at Antwerp’s other most relevant and long-lasting designer (no shade towards Walter van Bierendonck, but he is starting to feel more kitsch as he gets older) Raf Simons, you see that Dries has gone in another direction that puts the two Royal Academy-trained designers at odds with one another. While Raf is consistently questioning fashion’s purpose and finding revelatory possibilities within fashion as a medium season after season (and making fire clothes all the while), Dries is still infatuated with the beauty wrought from the experimentation of fabric construction and garment design. There is a case to be made for both approaches in regards to what fashion needs right now.

Some Brands Need no Show

Plenty of fashion designers in Paris opted for buyer presentations over shows but nevertheless presented some incredible collections. Takahiro Miyashita, for instance, presented his best collection since leaving Number (N)ine and starting The Soloist, which charted the sartorial evolution of David Bowie but took all Bowie’s looks to the extreme. Phillip Lim’s SS 2017 collection wasn’t pushing any style ideas forward, but he did pretty much sum up exactly how I like to dress in the summer with cool denim pulled up high over perfectly fit short sleeve button downs. And former Balmain creative director Christophe Decarnin’s Faith Connexion is a revelation. With everyone looking tasteful and draped these days (post-Vetements world and all), there is something wonderful about a brand willing to put opulent trash back on the pedestal. With men’s and women’s looks in the show, Decarnin celebrated a kind of stylish ridiculousness that was tempered by a punk edge before veering back into golden Nutcracker absurdity Balmain territory.

Peeking From Between My Fingers: Some Disjointed Thoughts On Kanye's 'Famous' Video

text by Lena Dunham

Like many pop culture addicted Americans, I wait with bated breath for what Kanye West will do next. Aside from his Twitter mayhem, he has created some really "next level shit" as the kids would say. I could also happily watch Kim Kardashian West chip the paint off a window ledge for hours and be fascinated. I admire that whole family, love the way they depict women as better in numbers and masters of their own destiny. I'd spend all summer at Kamp Kardashian. But it's possible to hold two competing thoughts in your mind and the Famous video is one of the more disturbing "artistic" efforts in recent memory.

Let's break it down: at the same time Brock Turner is getting off with a light tap for raping an unconscious woman and photographing her breasts for a group chat... As assaults are Periscoped across the web and girls commit suicide after being exposed in ways they never imagined... While Bill Cosby's crimes are still being uncovered and understood as traumas for the women he assaulted but also massive bruises to our national consciousness... Now I have to see the prone, unconscious, waxy bodies of famous women, twisted like they've been drugged and chucked aside at a rager? It gives me such a sickening sense of dis-ease.

I was raised in the art world by a dad who painted aggro scenes of sexuality and war and a mom who, ironically enough, has photographed some butt naked life-sized dolls of her own. I live for the nude rabble rousing of Carolee Schneemann and Hannah Wilke, for Kathy Acker's arty porn, for Paul McCarthy's gnomes with butt plugs and Vito Acconci masturbating under the gallery floor and Carrie Mae Weems shedding a blinding light on the pleasures and terrors of black womanhood. If it's been banned, I'll probably love it. Because I know that art's job is to make us think in ways that aren't always tidy or comfortable. But this feels different.

I'm sure that Bill Cosby doll being in the bed alongside Donald Trump is some kind of statement, that I'm probably being trolled on a super high level. I know that there's a hipper or cooler reaction to have than the one I'm currently having. But guess what? I don't have a hip cool reaction, because seeing a woman I love like Taylor Swift (fuck that one hurt to look at, I couldn't look), a woman I admire like Rihanna or Anna, reduced to a pair of waxy breasts made by some special effects guy in the Valley, it makes me feel sad and unsafe and worried for the teenage girls who watch this and may not understand that grainy roving camera as the stuff of snuff films. I hesitated a lot about saying anything cuz I figured the thinkpieces would come pouring in. But I didn't see this angle being explored as much as I had hoped. It's weird to feel like you're watching alone. I bet I'm not.

Here's the thing, Kanye: you're cool. Make a statement on fame and privacy and the Illuminati or whatever is on your mind! But I can't watch it, don't want to watch it, if it feels informed and inspired by the aspects of our culture that make women feel unsafe even in their own beds, in their own bodies.

Y'all, I'm so sick of showing up to the party angry. But at least I brought cake.

Originally published as a public comment on Lena Dunham's Facebook page. Photograph by Terry Richardson. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Milan Fashion Week SS 2017

Text by Adam Lehrer

It was hard to feel optimistic about Italian fashion after Milan Men’s Fashion Week SS 2017. That’s not to say that there weren’t some great collections, they just happened to come from the reliably interesting brands: Prada, Marni, and Alessandro Michele’s continued Gucci revolution among them. But there was a palatable lack of electricity coming from the Milan menswear shows. Maybe I’m alone in thinking this way, who knows? But Italian opulence just feels increasingly less relevant. I was in Milan last year, and people weren’t dressed up in Versace gold lapels (for some reason I thought some of the men there might be dressed up like The Sopranos’ Furio Giunta). Instead, I found the fashion and art crowds to be dressed similarly to those in New York, London, and Paris: disheveled jeans, cool sneakers, big trench coats or denim jackets. Antonioli, Milan’s arguable coolest high fashion boutique, does far better business with its stock of Vetements, Alyx Studio, Raf Simons, and Rick Owens than it does with local brands like the uninspired Marcelo Burlon or the sharp but off-schedule Milanese brand Julius. As the world grows more globalized, people are becoming at once more homogenized and individualistic in their senses of style. Italian tailoring, as a result, has grown out of favor with fashionistas, artists, and musicians. But these things come in waves of course, and there were just enough interesting shows to argue that “this city will rise again,”  to paraphrase Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive.

Gucci SS 2017: Weird and Whimsical as a Collection, Desirable and Wearable as Products

Hedi Slimane was successful at Saint Laurent because he was able to create an aesthetic that was easily relatable and undeniably marketable while creating absurdly wearable products within each collection. Rappers, rockers, and actors all bought in and bought in hard, and Saint Laurent Paris was worn on everyone from Kanye and his shredded denim to Marilyn Manson and his leather blazers. Now admittedly, Alessandro Michele is a far more experimental designer than Hedi Slimane has been  of late(at least since his days as creative director of Dior Homme). But it’s starting to seem viable that Gucci under Michele could prove to be a financial success on par with Slimane’s Saint Laurent. The fey and whimsical aesthetic might seem jarring to most men, but it reels you in with a barrage of beautiful imagery. Everything from ad campaigns to the Gucci stores have become undeniably vibrant with Michele at the helm. Now that the public interest is at full tilt (Michele and Demna Gvasalia are probably the designers most captivating the industry’s attention at the moment, despite their markedly different aesthetics), he is now introducing key products to his collections that can become mainstays of the Gucci product line.

Michele Gucci SS 2017 menswear show was his last specifically menswear show, as Gucci will be presenting all its menswear and womenswear products via one show in season to come (like every other mega-brand, Gucci too is re-evaluating its business strategy to compensate for the speed of the industry). Its primary theme was travel, which also seemed to be Milan Men’s Fashion Week’s prevailing consistency. But Michele approaches the idea of travel from a different point of view than other designers. He himself has an aversion to physical travel, preferring the travels of the imagination that one experiences while reading a good book or, especially in his case, designing. At the show, he mentioned Marco Polo’s 13th Century travelogue. As a document, the travelogue’s accuracy has been widely disputed. This interested Michele: the travelogue is as much an ode to human imagination as it is to physical movement.

It also makes sense in Gucci’s SS 2017 menswear collection, which (like previous Michele collections) was so rich in ideas that each product could have pages of analysis devoted to it: men wearing womenswear and women wearing menswear, Japanese souvenir jackets decorated by American kitsch, satin suits, ‘70s Kentucky Derby referencing dresses and dresses, leather raincoats, dorky sweater vests, embroiderered tuxedos, and on and on and on.

But to get back to the Slimane comparison, Michele absolutely inundates his shows in product. But like Hedi, Michele is introducing pieces (the souvenir jackets, the loaders, the t-shirts emblazoned with graphic reading “Modern Future”) that could becomes staples of both his collections and fans’ wardrobes. Now that people are buying into his Gucci fantasy, they are going to be looking for pieces that make sense for them. Michele is both ingeniously subversive and inventively business savvy. He is every bit as good as they say he is.

Prada SS 2017: While Most Milanese Designers Looked at Travel, Miuccia Explored Forced Travel

As previously stated, travel was the big theme for Milan Fashion Week SS 2017. Travel is one of the tritest notions in fashion, but like Alessandro Michele at Gucci, Miuccia Prada draped her exploration of travel in conceptual ideas. While Michele’s were poetically personal, Prada’s were conceptually political.

In Prada’s SS 2017 menswear show, the models walked uphill while carrying far too much weight on their shoulders. It immediately brings to mind the forced migrations of Syrians fleeing their ISIL-ravaged country towards safety in Europe. There is of course a ton of baggage that comes with high fashion labels incorporating these sorts of humanitarian political messages in clothing, but that baggage never feels overly apparent within the work of Miuccia Prada. She is, after all, a noted communist. Despite her clothing fetching astronomical sums of money, she seems to hold the belief that quality products limit over-consumption. She has ideas and she cares. There are two Prada costumers. One just loves the idea of Prada as the pinnacle of all things “chic” and modern, and one really understands the messages set forth by Ms. Prada.

The nylon backpack seemed to be the centerpiece of this collection; blown out to gargantuan proportions, it seemed to emphasize the collection’s exaggerated sense of utilitarianism. While the garments looked rooted in active wear, they were also capital “F” fashion. There were plays on silhouettes and a wide range of color and graphic arrangement. There was something here for every type of discerning Prada buyer.

Damir Doma SS 2017: A Diversified Color Palette Lightens the Usual Shapes

Damir Doma is a lot more influential in that “ninja goth” thing that went on a few years ago than he ever gets credit for. His garments, usually all in black and draped baggy over bodies, are less conceptual than those of, say, Rick Owens, but also in some ways more commercial. But Doma has remained committed to his aesthetic even as that trend has died down, and maybe that’s why he’s still here when so many of those designers died fast and hard (anyone remember En Noir?). Those baggy and frayed clothes came in a diversified palette for SS 2017: black, white, hunter green, mustard yellow, and navy. There wasn’t much anything going overly conceptual here, but jut about any of the pieces would ne nice to wear. I’m as sick of writing about MA-1 jackets as the next person, but Doma’s were quite nice: baggy sleeves, loose hem, and kimono flaps that could be attached in lieu of using the zippers. I also love the t-shirts that came with an extra piece of fabric tye-dyed to look like red flames. The womenswear pieces were nice but all looked a bit too ‘90s Yohji to really make an impact. When Doma was still in Paris, he was massively overshadowed by the glut of revolutionary designers living in the city. Italy was a good choice for him; his slightly oft-kilter clothes allow him to provide welcome respite from the glut of corporate luxury houses.

Marni SS 2017: Consuelo Identifies the Male Counterpart to Her Waify Nerd Intellectual Lady

Consuelo Castiglioni has defined a whole genre of women with the Marni label. You know the type of woman that I’m talking about here: she works in a gallery or perhaps runs an antique design bookshop, she has big classes, a waif-y build, an a charmingly odd personality. Muses include Margot Tenenbaum, Patti Mayonaise, and the flashback younger version of Orange is the New Black’s most endearing paranoid schizophrenic, Lolly Whitehill. The label’s menswear offering have always felt less essential. Most likely this is due to the assumption that any guy who looks stylishly normcore doesn’t have much interest in fashion. The problem is that isn’t really true, and Castiglioni has finally defined the man who buys Marni with SS 2017.

Adorned in an inexplicable amount of Velcro, Marni SS 2017 was fashionably dorky, proving that a confident can be as magnetic as a confident whatever else. The first look was a doozy: a light blue leather trench coat over a sloppily cut suit and a checked shirt. Followed by an even stranger ensemble: leather shorts (!) checked crewneck, and flip-flops. Nothing quites makes sense with Marni, but when put together it looks quite well-defined.

Fendi SS 2017: Working Man’s Fabrics, Rich Man’s Garments

Silvia Fendi used the terry cloth favored by Pablo Picasso as the jumping off point for the Fendi SS 2017 menswear collection. Though not used in every look, the fabric was used in most and influenced the overall direction of the collection. That direction was laid back and luxurious. But that’s kind of what Fendi always is. So this was a pretty good Fendi menswear collection.

ANNND that’s really about it. It felt like Gucci was about to lead a revolution in Milan, but it seems more accurate that Michele simply had a revolution at Gucci. Most of the other good collections (Calvin Klein, No. 21, MP) didn’t use a runway show, opting to show off their garments to buyers. Milan Men’s Fashion Week was extremely lackluster.

The Battle for Florence

Text Adam Lehrer

Pitti Uomo, the bi-annual menswear trade show held in Florence, is generally a dandy traditionalist’s wet dream. It is the land of the suited, with buyers and editors running around wearing immaculately tailored three-piece suits and the occasionally awkward top hat. But more recently, the tradeshow has held special fashion shows for more left-leaning designers with its Pitti Imagine campaign: Hood by Air and Jeremy Scott’s Moschino have both recently held shows during Pitti Uomo. Pitti Uomo’s SS 2017 showcases were particularly special. The tradeshow held presentations for the world’s arguably two most important menswear designers of the moment: Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy. Raf Simons was arguably the first high fashion menswear designer that celebrated truly alternative methods of dressing, drawing inspiration from the codes of Post-Punk, Krautrock, and various youth cultures. Gosha is arguably the first menswear designer to come around that has actually come close to matching Raf’s menswear idea domination. But unlike Raf, Gosha isn’t much of an appropriator. Whereas Raf Simons mainly borrows aesthetics from various sub-cultures; from horror cinema visions of high school uniforms (FW 2016) to the commanding presences of guerilla warriors (FW 2001); Gosha takes inspiration from his network of young male Russian skaters and artists and tries to come up with new ways to dress them. Both approaches work, and Gosha and Raf are the confident weirdo and outsider’s designers of choice.

Pitti Uomo was an excellent gauge of where menswear is at in 2016. There is a massive spectrum of options in luxury, and it mainly comes down to what type of man you are and what you want to express about yourself. Pitti Imagine, indeed.

Gosha Rubchinskiy SS 2017: Italian Sportswear in a Counter-Cultural Russian Context

Gosha Rubchinskiy, clearly energized by the opportunity to present a show outside of Paris and even more so by the historical energy of beautiful Florence, tried to pin-point the best method to filter Italian sensibilities through the aesthetics of his own brand. The show’s location, a 1930s tobacco factory, was the most Soviet looking building that the lush landscape of Florence had to offer and a fitting metaphor for Gosha’s distinctly Russian view of Italy. The collection still emanated the wide-eyes enthusiasm of a Soviet-born kid learning to express himself as a flood of Western imagery suddenly enters his sphere. But in this case, Gosha focused on Italian sportswear brands as opposed to Americana heritage (there was some of that too, but more on that later); Gosha collaborated with a whopping five Italian sportswear labels and applied a Russian skate aesthetic to all of them. There were Sergio Tacchini red tracksuits, Kappa skin-exposing sportswear, FILA paneled sweaters and Tennis sneakers, Retrosuperfuture ‘70s recalling shades, AND Superga sneakers. Under any other circumstances, so many collaborations could feel trite. But Gosha’s post-Soviet wonder towards all things Western immediately makes his ideas feel both fresh and subversive. He has a fascinating perspective on brands and logos and how those icons fit into Russian sub-culture. That is why people want to buy into him: the man has a voice. It wasn’t just the logos that felt Italian however, and Gosha also referenced Pitti Uomo sprezzatura culture sharp tailoring with immaculately cut blazers in red and various pinstripes. But keeping true to his casual aesthetic, a sixth collaboration with Levi’s saw the tailoring styled with jeans and corduroy’s (sure to sell out in a heartbeat). This was an incredibly accessible collection and I would wager that its influence is already making its way throughout the industry (not going to lie, as soon as I saw this I started looking at Fila’s website, thinking I might alter my look to something more akin to Russian Christopher Moltisanti). But despite its accessibility, it still felt punk and subversive. Surely aided by the nothing less than artful styling of Gosha and Vetements mainstay Lotta Volkova (note: there was still only one black model, surely a damper on an otherwise perfect collection), Gosha’s post-Soviet Russian punker dream vision of Italian sportswear felt like a celebration of two wildly different cultures.

Raf Simons SS 2017: Raf Simons and Robert Mapplethorpe (Do I need to Say More?)

Just when I thought that Gosha couldn’t be beat for Pitti dominance, I log online and find that Raf worked with the Robert Mapplethorpe campaign. Holy shit. And it wasn't just like Raf went through the Mapplethorpe archive and put some of it on some t-shirts. No way, not Raf. There is no designer on Earth who collaborates with the fine art and music and cinema worlds in a way that feels as right as Raf Simons. When he collaborates with an artist, like he did with Sterling Ruby, he actually collaborated with him, as in Sterling co-designed the collection. Mapplethorpe has long passed, so this isn’t a collaboration but a curation of Mapplethrope imagery. Raf used the medium of fashion, the medium he knows best, to offer a new perspective on Robert Mapplethorpe while also doing what he does best: making incredibly striking and luxurious garments.

Unlike Raf’s other artist collaborations, the Mapplethorpe foundation actually contacted him (in conjunction with new HBO documentary Look at the Pictures). That is his influence in creativity today. Not one look throughout the show didn’t feature at least one print of a Mapplethorpe photograph, which were presented in a thoughtful and smart manner. The oversized dress shirts that opened the show (desirable products to begin with) featured gorgeous screen prints of Mapplethorpe work. From there, the presentation of Mapplethorpe imagery grew more fiercely experimental: some images looked like they were actually hanging framed on top of the garments, some poking through some monumental oversized, asymmetrical sweaters. Raf said that every look in the collection represented a piece in the Mapplethorpe archive. Therefore, much of the looks were based on the ever-stylish and fascinating Mapplethorpe himself. Mapplethorpe learned photography through self-portraiture, and he often depicted his interest in the leather and BDSM scene. Models wore leather caps and vests styled with various mega-desirable coats and one baggy pin-striped collared sweater (which I will certainly be saving up for). The show was equal parts exhibition and fantasy: bringing a dream to life. If there was one missed opportunity in the show, it was again that nagging casting diversity issue. There was only one black model in the show. Mapplethorpe was well-known for being fascinated and sexually enthralled with black men (his longest term boyfriend being of course Jack Walls). Therefore it would have made a powerful statement for Raf to diversify the show a bit.

Nevertheless, this show proved that Raf, now almost a year past his tenure at Dior, is having a serious third act resurgence. Whereas his last show drew influences from a well-spring of Raf’s heros (David Lynch, Martin Margiela, Cindy Sherman), SS 2017 is devoted to one and only Robert Mapplethorpe. Is the most important artist of our time really a menswear designer? As hard a pill as that sentiment might be to swallow for some fine art snobs, I think this collection could argue that notion to the grave. Raf is consistently redefining the possibilities of narrative in the medium of fashion, and he does so by making clothes that people still want to wear. Do you realize what a delicate balancing act that is?

Winner of the Battle for Florence?

Raf. Man, I really wanted to be picking Gosha for this one, considering he’s the freshest menswear talent since, well, Raf. And Gosha’s collection was perfect, seeing him dive into the Italian location of the show but filtering it through his Soviet punk aesthetic. It felt so right. But Raf just pulled off the first successful art exhibition as a fashion show, and did so presenting clothes that I still want to buy all of. 10 years from now, Raf Simons SS 2017 will be remembered as a pioneering fashion collection, and perhaps even the most exciting of Raf’s career. Raf wins. He wins every time.