FETISH KING: A Conversation Between Rick Castro and Rick Owens

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The unedited version of this interview can be found in Autre’s Spring 2019 Print Issue. Preorder here.

Rick Castro is a legend in the queer underground scene of 1980s and 1990s Los Angeles. It was a time when Santa Monica Boulevard was rich with male hustlers, shirtless in the California sun, and the nightclubs were liminal landscapes of desire and liberation. To those who know him, he is "The Fetish King." Alongside artists like Ron Athey, Catherine Opie, Sheree Rose and Bob Flanagan, Vaginal Davis, Kembra Pfahler, and Bruce LaBruce, Castro utilizes queer identity and the physicality of the body to express themes of marginalization and oppression. A one-time fashion stylist for the likes of Bette Midler, David Bowie, Herb Ritts, and Joel-Peter Witkin—the latter of which helped him buy his first camera—Castro’s fantasies, fetishes, and fascination with the demi-monde manifested into imagery involving extreme leather bondage and rope play. From his factory in Italy, fashion and furniture designer, Rick Owens chats with Rick Castro over the phone. They discuss fetish as an idée fixe, their former love life, the subcultures of Los Angeles and Castro’s upcoming retrospective, Fetish King: Seminal Photographs 1986–2019, curated by Rubén Esparza, opening at Tom House in April.

CASTRO: Hi, Rick! I haven’t talked to you on the phone since the ‘80s.

OWENS: (laughs) Yeah, but I’ve seen you in person since then, don’t make it sound so tragic. So, let’s talk about when we first met. We met because you had seen the nipple ring I lent to you for a shoot?

CASTRO: I didn’t know who made it at the time, so I asked the storeowner if she had any more, and she gave me your number. So, I gave you a call the following day. I used those on the saxophone player for Tina Turner.

OWENS: I remember! It was an amazing picture. That might have been my very first credit!

CASTRO: It was your first credit! Those were the days, Rick Owens. I remember like it was yesterday…

OWENS: How do you do your contemporary B&D imagery? I feel silly saying B&D, is that what I call it?

Castro: Just call it fetish. I always like that term, fetish.

Owens: Fetish.

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Castro: You know Rick Owens: our connection has always been fetish, whether we understood it or not.

Owens: I agree with you, we both have a love of fetish. But I always thought the leather bar aesthetic was about ritual, and about men who were oppressed and brutalized for being gay, taking control and going up against their oppressor. They were creating that cycle under their own terms. The new generation is more liberated. It doesn’t have that darkness anymore. Because men don't have as much oppression as they used to. This is just my interpretation, which could be all wrong. There was real triumph in becoming the master after being submissive for so long. In that small arena, in those dark rooms, you became the master… Are there more questions you want me to ask?

Castro: I’m more comfortable asking questions than answering questions...

Owens: Oh, god, you always have to be a top.

Castro: (laughs)

Owens: Although, you were kind of a bottom...

Castro: (laughs) I don’t see it in those terms...

Owens: Oh, okay. (laughs)

Castro: (laughs) To me, your aesthetic is very much like the dark side of Los Angeles.

Owens: Yeah, I agree.

Castro: Well, we romanticized it, for sure, and the idea of it being so esoteric. There was that whole cult side of Los Angeles. There were more cults in Los Angeles during the silent era, even to this day. But in Los Angeles, you can do anything. I've always thought in my mind that I can do whatever the fuck I want, even when I was a young kid. I used to just rebel for any reason.

Owens: I think we both were interested in the whole mythology of the movies, and the whole corruption behind it.

Castro: Well, we would definitely take the way we were seeing it. I remember when you had your studio on Las Palmas, and when I came to visit you, you had Veronika Voss on, and that had been on for a week, right? You just watched it over, and over, and over, like a backdrop.

Owens: Yeah.

Castro: And then, you would switch to Death in Venice and you would have that on for another few weeks. That's fetish my dear, that's fetish. (laughs)

Owens: (laughs) Well, I’m glad everything is coming full circle. Congratulations on everything.

Rick Castro’s retrospective, Fetish King, opens on April 6, with a reception that runs from 6pm to 8pm, and runs until April 27 by appointment. Click here to learn more. Preorder Autre’s Spring 2019 issue to read the unedited version of this interview.

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The Interminable Apprentice: An Interview Of Fine Jewelry Designer Elie Top

Elie Top may just be one of the most glamorous men in Paris. Working silently under the likes of Yves Saint Laurent before his passing, and Alber Elbaz for Lanvin before Elbaz left the helm of the fashion house, Top has gained a keen and sharp insight into the world of luxury jewelry and accessory making. Elbaz’s exit was a perfect excuse for Top to take what he learned as an interminable apprentice and start his own eponymously named label. His new collection, entitled Mécaniques Célestes, is an insight into the ornamental aesthete’s lifelong fascination with all things baroque, classical and talismanic. Gold, diamonds, precious stones and other metals reinterpret the armillary sphere – tiny universes atop a finger, atop a breastbone; perfect and encapsulated. When we met Top, we ambushed him with an interview proposal during a cigarette break from hosting his recent pop up at Maxfield’s in Los Angeles (it was his first ever visit to Los Angeles). Our conversation oscillated between his memories of working with Saint Laurent, his love for jewelry and his new collection.

SUMMER BOWIE: So when you were much younger did you know that jewelry design and accessories were going to be your career path?

TOP: What do you mean by younger? Which age? [laughs] 

BOWIE: A child.

TOP: When I was really young I was more into architecture and was sketching very precisely in a maniacal way. Mostly churches and castles. I was very inspired by the 18th century French style and Italian and Austrian things, and was very obsessed with the Baroque period. So not very modern.

BOWIE: Where in France are you from originally?

TOP: I was born in the very north of France, close to Belgium in the countryside. So really a very small village. There were factories because it’s kind of an industrial area, but at the same time, there’s a lot of farms and animals. So it’s a strange mix between both.

BOWIE: So not that many Baroque influences.

TOP: Yeah, I don’t know why I’m obsessed with that! I went to Italy for the first time when I was quite young. I was maybe nine the first time I went to Rome, then I went to Venice, then I went to Bavaria, and I used to go quite often to Versailles and places like that. But around eleven or twelve I decided I wanted to work in fashion and I started to sketch more fashion things...but not especially accessories. It was more general - but then I went to fashion school in Paris at seventeen. I went to work at Yves Saint Laurent when I was around nineteen as a general assistant in the studio when Yves Saint Laurent was still there.

BOWIE: How did you get that job?

TOP: Thanks to school. I went in as an intern for two months and they kept me around which was quite cool. I was doing illustrations. Then Alber [Elbaz] arrived because he was doing the Rive Gauche collections. It was late 90s and that’s how I met him; when I was twenty-one. I think he didn’t know exactly what to do with me and he didn’t have anybody to work on the jewels and accessories in general, because Loulou de la Falaise was no longer doing the jewelry at Yves Saint Laurent. So he just asked me to start working so I started doing sketches and working with manufacturers, which is how I got started. He encouraged me and pushed me to work in this direction. And I was working at the same time on handbags and leather goods. But progressively over the years, I just gave up everything but the jewels because it’s what I liked the most.

BOWIE: What is it about jewelry that makes it so appealing?

TOP: I think it’s quite close to what I used to sketch when I was a child. It’s the same way that I’m looking at it and the way I’m imagining it. There’s always so many variables, and it always involves these architectural problems. As I like to sketch very precisely, everything is the same thing, actually. Like all the castles and all the jewels are the same. I’m very passionate and precise so I can really sketch for hours.

BOWIE: And then you worked for Lanvin as well?

TOP: Yeah, when Alber arrived at Lanvin, he called me and we started to work together immediately.

BOWIE: And do you prefer now working on your own better than for these major fashion houses like Lanvin and Yves Saint Laurent?

TOP: Hmm… It’s very different for me, because for me Alber, and Saint Laurent - and LouLou as well because I worked with her too - they felt like a continuation of my school years and they were really great mentors, because they really helped me. Alber and Loulou encouraged me and taught me a lot. And now I’ve grown up and I can do my own thing. It’s more about that freedom to do something for yourself and not for somebody else, which is very different. It’s more difficult in a way because when you work with my state of mind - I was very devoted to those people - I would do my best to please them and now I have to please myself which is something very different. [laughs]

BOWIE: Were you nervous at first about doing your own thing?

TOP: Yeah. It also took me a long time to find my own aesthetic, because it was so mixed. Like for instance with Alber, I had a lot of freedom but he was always there, so it was a mix of him and me, and it was very connected to the theme of the fashion show so we could do something one season and the opposite the season after. So it was always attached to the collection. Suddenly we were without clothes, and we were without a theme. It wasn’t coming out of me. So, I had to look at my previous work to find the elements that were really me. Because I could see how all the ribbons were completely Alber, and everything which was more Baroque and with all the mixes of materials was more my story. I realized that my story’s all about system and structure, so I tried to extract that. It took me a long time to realize and to find myself. For fifteen years I was working for so many people and a lot of clients and it became more of a mathematical exercise, where you have to find their aesthetic and then create it yourself. It was a sort of a game. But then suddenly I didn’t have anybody else and I didn’t have any other variables to work with.

BOWIE: And what was the difference between what you learned working with Alber Elbaz and Loulou de la Falaise, and what you learned working with Yves Saint Laurent?

TOP: Oh they’re all such different people. [laughs] For Loulou it was more about her own personality. She had a lot of freedom in the way that she could mix things that were very cheap with things that were very expensive. It was more about the way she was thinking about style and the way that she was mixing a lot of ethnic and Bavarian shapes. African themes mixed with Parisian couture. But she used to do it in such a free way because it was completely her own personality; very intuitive. I don’t work like her at all, because she wasn’t really sketching. She was more about taking the elements, mixing them, and it was more organic and a very sensitive experience. And actually Alber is a bit the same in his way of working because he’s not really sketching, but always doing fittings and fittings, and it’s all about words. He talks a lot as he’s trying to find the story and trying to find some keywords to define what he wants. And then he is really all about the body of the woman and...many fittings. But Yves Saint Laurent was the opposite in the way he was working. He was always sketching, very precisely, and if it wasn’t looking exactly like the sketch, he didn’t want the clothes. Alber would just be sketching basic silhouettes, and then he was progressively transforming everything and doing everything directly on the body in the fittings. He wasn’t attached to the sketch.


"At the end, sometimes, there would suddenly be one thing that was so moving, people would really start crying. And this happens so rarely because it is beyond fashion...you’re not talking about fashion anymore. You’re going somewhere else."


BOWIE: And it seems like you have a more specific vision that you put on paper, and then you try to realize it very directly, as opposed to this very sensual experience where you have an idea, and you play until you find it. 

TOP: Exactly. I’m really sketching exactly what I want to see with the jewels, and I don’t move from that. Whereas Alber was working like a lot of women - Vionnet, Chanel, Grès - all those women weren’t sketching, but just doing fittings.

BOWIE: Do you have any great memories of Yves Saint Laurent? Any in particular?

TOP: Sometimes. It never happens to me anymore but sometimes--and I think it’s why people are so attached to him--during the fittings we’d have goosebumps. Sometimes when the model would come in and do a twirl in the clothes it was just so perfect, so impressive, so moving that everybody’s jaw dropped. It’s impossible to describe the experience. Even when I’m talking about it I remember it so clearly.

BOWIE: You start to get goosebumps? [laughs]

TOP: And some people would be crying during the show which was really strange because the show, to be honest, was very old-fashioned. At the end, sometimes, there would suddenly be one thing that was so moving, people would really start crying. And this happens so rarely because it is beyond fashion...you’re not talking about fashion anymore. You’re going somewhere else.

BOWIE: It’s very transcendent.

TOP: And I think that’s the reason people were so attached to him. Because it was something else, not only about clothes. He was doing something else. 

BOWIE: And did you feel that yourself too?

TOP: Yeah, once I was really crying.

BOWIE: Well can you tell us a little bit about this collection?

TOP: This collection is the first I’ve shown and now I’ve developed a few new pieces and I’ve done some variations on those themes. It’s called Mécaniques Célestes. It’s all about the armillary spheres, the planets, and globes. Actually my work in the beginning was trying to unify my two aesthetic tendencies, which are from my childhood and my industrial side. And I thought it was coming from living in the middle of all these factories, and mechanical and industrial landscapes. Then my fascination for something more Baroque, more precious and narrative came, so I tried to find a way to put these two opposites together in the same piece. So that’s the reason there is this thing that you can hide or show. And when it’s closed it’s a bit more radical and pure. When you open it, for me, you’re telling something more poetic and more narrative. Then I found inspiration from the principles of globes, for instance from the sugar bowls you see in Parisian bars. I saw the way it opens and closes and I was looking in and thought, “oh that’s perfect.” And that was really my starting point. [laughs] 

So I had already sketched a few things but couldn’t find exactly what I wanted to put inside, so I was always looking for the perfect matching thing about the system and the mechanical on the inside and outside and what would be the good unity between everything. Then I found an amazing book with the same title called Mécaniques Célestes about the whole collection of these armillary spheres from a really great antique store in Paris. It’s exactly what I needed so when I found it, I sketched everything and that was really the start of it. What I also really liked was how you can always hide the most gorgeous part to give something more playful, but it depends what you wear with it. It all has to do with your own attitude and clothes.

BOWIE: Yeah it’s really quite romantic, this combination of the celestial and the industrial element. If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be?

TOP: Talking about my collection? Strangely, when it came out it was a mix of futuristic and medieval at the same time, and structure is important as well.


You can visit Elie Top's website to see more of the collection and stockists. Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Interview by Summer Bowie. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Danny Sangra On Working With Metallica For Brioni’s Enlivening New Campaign

Metallica is a quintessential American band. However, there is nothing American about Brioni (an Italian menswear brand founded in Rome in 1945) and there is nothing American about its new creative director Justin O’Shea (a former womenswear buyer who hails from Toowoomba, Australia). So, its interesting and very bold that O’Shea would ask the heavy metal band if they would be the new face of Brioni, a stale brand that he hopes to reinvigorate with a bit of American cool and muscle car masculinity, mixed with Brioni’s lineage of tailored Italian gentlemanliness.  Today – Independence Day – also happens to be the same day that O’Shea is showing the first collection under his direction during Paris Couture Week. Brioni has also released the first of a series of short films directed by a London-based filmmaker Danny Sangra. Most of the films star O’Shea as a caricature of himself, which Sangra has written to perfection. The character could be described as exigent, obtuse, out of touch, and self obsessed – everything that you may expect from someone so entrenched in the fashion world. In Brioni’s standout film – starring James, Lars, Kirk and Robert – O’Shea plays a ditz who has no idea who Metallic is. It’s silly and ridiculous, but fun and Sangra is too talented of a filmmaker to not pull it off. We got a chance to ask Sangra about the new Brioni campaign, collaborating with the brand’s new creative director and what the hell it was like to work with Metallica.

AUTRE: So how did this collaboration come about and what was your first reaction when you were told that you'd be working with Metallica? 

DANNY SANGRA: Actually, Justin asked me last minute. I was supposed to be shooting a Balenciaga project and then filming his other film project for Brioni the day after that in Europe. I wanted to do the Metallica job but felt it would be too crazy to try and fit in a three day shoot in San Francisco two days before I was due to shoot seven films in three days.

However I knew the ideas Justin had for the film were funny and I really wanted to write the script. It would have killed me not to be able to do it as we have made 5 films together already. But as luck should have it, my projects all got moved around. 

After I sent the script to Justin, I kept asking him ‘I don’t know man, do you really think they will do this?’

AUTRE: It looks like you've collaborated with Justin when he was a buyer for MyTheresa - how did you two first meet?

SANGRA: We met when Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week asked me to write a film with him as the main character. I wanted to meet him before I wrote a script but he’s always traveling and I’m hardly in one place all the time. Luckily I flew into London when he was staying at the Edition. We had a few drinks and once I got home I wrote a script immediately. 

AUTRE: What were your first impressions of him? 

SANGRA: I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he was actually really easy going. I thought there might be a wall at first, many people are worried that you will make them look bad. However, he straightaway said that he wanted to make fun of himself. That film turned out pretty successful.

On set I was really impressed at how well he remembers scripts. I wrote a pretty heavy amount of dialogue for him and he turned up with it memorized. I don’t remember him making a mistake - and there was a lot more dialogue than what’s in the final edit of that film.

AUTRE: Where did the concept of the short film with Metallica come about? 

SANGRA: Justin called me about shooting Metallica and that he wanted to do a ‘behind the scenes’ but make it funny. He wanted to be the guy that had no idea who Metallica are. He had a bunch of ideas about how he could interact with them. Then I wrote a script that could work as a series of films.

AUTRE: Was much of it improvised?

SANGRA: I’ve been writing Justin as a certain character lately. It’s not really him, I think it’s a hyper version of what many people think he might be like (It’s also a character he likes to play up to). We’ve spoken enough that it’s easy for him now to play around with his script. For Metallica, we only had a few takes to get it right, so there wasn’t much room for major improvising on set. We mainly came up with ideas before the shoot. I was also working out each band member on the day – trying to work them out before asking them to do things.



AUTRE: What were your initial thoughts about Brioni before making the film, because the brand is a little bit old fashioned?

SANGRA: To be honest, I didn’t know too much about them and what I did know about them, didn’t make me think we could make films like this for them. I thought I’d have to make something more serious. Justin and I developed two film projects once he became creative director, both of which are far from old fashioned. There was a moment when we were filming the second project in the Brioni head office and I couldn’t believe we were allowed to do it with no restrictions. Many of the brands that people believe are the coolest brands don’t have that much freedom. For me it’s about a brand that is open to new ways of doing things. Some things work and some don’t but it’s being open to new ideas is what counts for me.

AUTRE: What do you think about these major fashion labels bringing on maverick designers or anti-designers, do you think that it allows more room for filmmakers to have budgets to work on bigger projects?

SANGRA: It allows filmmakers to develop new ideas for brands. Ideas that might have been typically binned with previous designers. I’m not saying a new maverick designer makes it better than the previous, it just makes it new. Fashion always demands ‘new’. I’m not sure about the budgets side of things. They are getting bigger in some respects, but I think it mostly allows for filmmakers and creative people who aren’t as established, to get the jobs they couldn’t before. This is down to the new designers wanting to work with people they know and lesser-known creatives that are developing new things.  If anything, maverick designers and anti-designers allow for risk. The creative progress devours risk.

AUTRE: What was it like working with Metallica, what was the atmosphere like on set?

SANGRA: They’re actually pretty relaxed, I think by now they are pretty used to it all. The set was relaxed because my DP and my wife (who is often my producer) were working with me. We’ve all worked and hung out with Justin and Zack before (Zackery Michael - the campaign photographer) when we shot the Carolina Herrera film in LA.  I also used the sound guy who worked on the Some Kind of Monster documentary.

AUTRE: Was there anyone in the band that you got along with more? 

SANGRA: Not really, I had about an equal amount of time with each one. However I spent more time with Robert because I ended up putting him in more scenes. I started putting him in the background of James’s scene but I cut out the bit where you catch him trying to head bang side ways in the mirror. Plus I gave Robert the punchline scene of the film.

They did have a guy with them that thought Justin was serious. He kept telling the band ‘I don’t know if you’re doing what he needs’. None of the band told him that it wasn’t serious. The guy left the shoot thinking it was real.

AUTRE: What's on the horizon for you, Justin and Brioni?

SANGRA: I have another series of films I made with Justin. We shot some in Paris and some in Rome, at the Brioni head office. I think they have just come out today for his 4th of July show.

AUTRE: We featured one of your earlier projects, a more personal film, do you feel more of a responsibility when you are working with a big fashion brand? 

SANGRA: I guess I feel more responsibility to anyone that’s paying me to make something. Big fashion brand or small label just starting out. They are expecting something for their investment. When I make things for myself, I don’t expect much. I just have an idea and make it. It’s the time I get to experiment. I’m lucky that the majority of my films for brands allow me to make what I want. Most of the scripts I write, you can tell are mine. You know when it’s not really my film.

AUTRE: Anything else that you have on the horizon? 

SANGRA: I’m shooting another film with MyTheresa and Balenciaga, which I’m pretty excited about and I have just shot a series of shorts for The Standard Hotels. I’ve also just got word that people will be able to see my feature film, Goldbricks In Bloom, in October. There’s some other things but as usual I’m not allowed to say!


See the Brioni "Behind The Scenes" film below, starring Metallica, directed by Danny Sangra. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photos provided by Danny Sangra. Follow Autre on instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


With A Little Help From Our Friends: An Interview With The Design Duo Behind NYC Fashion Label Private Policy

text by Adam Lehrer

 

Private Policy is the gender-neutral fashion label by two Chinese-born fresh-faced recent Parsons grads Haoran Li and Siying Qu. Only two collections in, the two designers have created a smart albeit colorful range of menswear fitted products that can also sensibly be worn by women. The clothes seem to reference V Files-approved street wear, colorful and a bit off, with a focus on high fashion tailoring and embellishment: a simple fitted turtleneck comes exaggerated by orange bondage belting, a velvet bomber jacket is equipped by fluffy tassels, gigantic fur-laden scarves adorn the shoulders of brown down jackets.

True to the Parsons fashion education, Li and Qu have a business sensibility that is not always but often lost on young designers, perhaps instilled in them through internships with the likes of Calvin Klein, Alexander Wang, and Phillip Lim. In other words, they want to be the kind of designers that make dope clothes worn to death by their well carved out customer bases. Their clothes wouldn’t look at all out of place in the underground clubs of Bushwick or the dive bars of the Lower East Side; clothes meant to be worn by an exuberantly young creative force growing less and less concerned with dressing in accordance with their private parts and income brackets. These garments are sensibly chaotic.

ADAM LEHRER: Where did you guys grow up?

HAORAN LI: We are originally from China, but we grew up in different places. I lived in Canada for high school, in Toronto. I came to New York for college. She went to high school in North Carolina.

LEHRER: Did you first become aware of fashion living in China, or did you get more of a sense of it living in Canada?

HAORAN LI: My parents are jewelry designers and were focused on art.

SIYING QU: My family: career wise, though everyone is in business, everyone has this love for fine arts. When I came here for high school, in North Carolina, I had the chance to learn more about fine arts and fashion. From there, I realized fashion would be the perfect career for me. It’s a combination of art and business. We don’t think focusing on business is limiting, but a challenge. We are fashion designers, not artists. We are designing a product.

LEHRER: You guys got a sense of what luxury meant to you personally at a young age?

SIYING QU: Yes. My mom, for example, has amazing fashion sense. She has an eye for details. She paid a lot of attention not just to the clothes, but to the details of the garment as well.

LEHRER: You guys went to Parsons. What brought you to that school?

HAORAN LI: I decided on New York because I like the style of it. It’s chill but it has unique things too.

SIYING QU: I applied both in New York and London. When I visited the two cities, New York, especially Parsons, has a very strong sense of both the design and business of fashion. I find it fascinating.

LEHRER: How did you guys meet? When did you guys realize you had a creative kindred spirit?

HAORAN LI: We were in the same year of school, but we never had class together. She was working on menswear and I was majoring in women’s. But senior year, we were working on our thesis collections, and our working tables were next to each other. That’s how we got to know each other more.

SIYING QU: During senior year at Parsons there is a lot of stress on the thesis collection. You try to pull four years of study into one collection and show not just what skills you have, but your personality, what you stand for. Under that stress, we worked next to each other. He would help me with styling. I would help him sew a pocket.



LEHRER: You did womenswear, and you did menswear. Did you find similarities in the ways you wanted men to dress and the ways you wanted women to dress?

HAORAN LI: I majored in womenswear, but my focus is in textiles. I do patterns, and I construct garments. I do very simple shapes, but with very complicated fabrics. She’s very good at silhouettes and shapes.

SIYING QU: Also, our vision for menswear has very sensible style and a simple silhouette, but with a design touch to it. When you wear this piece, you feel comfortable, you feel like yourself. But still, your piece will not be the same as something elsewhere.

ADAM LEHRER:  There seems to be a sub-cultural referring at work in the clothes, is that accurate?

SIYING QU: A major inspiration for our brand is contemporary Downtown New York City.

HAORAN LI: We like Soho, Chinatown, the Lower East Side. We like how they dress here. Our friends live here, and they inspire what we do right now.

LEHRER: It’s a menswear brand, but it’s made for men and women. Was there a decision to name it a “menswear” brand as opposed to “gender neutral?”

SIYING QU: Every silhouette and fitting so far is men’s. We mark it that way, because that’s how we fit the clothes.

HAORAN LI: After we made our garments, a lot of girls were really attracted to them. That’s how we decided to go in a genderless direction.

SIYING QU: From a personal perspective, my girl friends and I all wear menswear, for a different style. Womenswear, I think, has too much design going on, or the silhouette isn’t clean enough for me.

LEHRER: What are your ultimate hopes and goals for the brand?

SIYING QU: We have a lot of hopes. Of course, in selling. We hope to make this a stable brand so that we can bring the ideology of the dress to a bigger audience.

HAORAN LI: We want to bring the Downtown New York style to more people.

LEHRER: How do you see your customer, and how do you go about widening the space for who that customer can be?

SIYING QU: We have started to do trade shows and presentations. While we were talking to the press, we realized that our designs alone brought the customers to us. The buyers are drawn to our colors and textures, in the midst of this big New York environment.

LEHRER: Right now is an interesting time in fashion. High fashion seems to be made for a very specific person, with a very specific set of beliefs. Do you feel like you’re in a unique place in fashion that you might not have been if you graduated three years ago?

HAORAN LI: Three years ago was another story for fashion. Right now, fashion is more and more close to ordinary people. There’s less class in fashion.

LEHRER: It’s less about class and more about taste.

HAORAN LI: Yeah.

LEHRER: You guys are two collections in now, and the demand for new product has never been this substantial. Is the team just you two?

SIYING QU: For design, just us. If we need help, we have a big friend group. We love them so much. They’re so generous. It’s a good feeling. They really like the design. We have a marketing manager in China. We just came back from there. China will be another big market for us. Today, we think, as a young brand, it’s important to make a global presence. Also, from our background, being Chinese and then studying here, traveling a lot, we have that international sense. Hopefully, we’ll go to Paris next. I believe that people in Europe will have a unique viewpoint.


Find stockists and see current Private Policy collections on the label's website. Text, interview and photographs by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Pushing Boundaries: An Interview With Claire Barrow

text by Adam Lehrer

UK-based fashion designer Claire Barrow has always married art and fashion in a way that feels proper. While most fashion labels re-interpret graphics by their favorite artists, Barrow has used her garments as a vehicle for her own images.

Born in Stockton-On-Tees, UK, Barrow found herself seduced by the sounds and imagery emanating from her local record shop as a teenager. While her classmates listened to Top 40 and wore their school uniforms, Barrow listened to bands on the atonal side of the rock spectrum (from Slayer to Sonic Youth) and found her own style by deconstructing and adding flair to her own school uniform. “I would wear all these ‘80s earrings. I would put patches on. I cut my tie,” says Barrow. “Getting into music, I just preferred metal and punk. I was finding my own records and being fully immersed in it. Music became my entire life.”

Barrow moved to London in 2008 to study fashion. Even though she already was making pictures, fashion seemed a more realistic career than being an artist. “There was a fashion course at my college, so I did fashion.”


From the beginning of her practice in fashion, Barrow illustrated on the garments she created. Those images, steeped in iconography of radicalism and sub-cultures, have made her one of the most exciting designers on the London Fashion Week ticket since she debuted her collection at Fashion East for Spring/Summer 2013.

But Barrow is a tireless creative and it was only a matter of time before she would grow interested in seeing her imagery take life on canvas. The exhibit ‘Claire Barrow: The Bed, The Bath, and The Beyond” that was on view at London’s M. Goldstein Gallery from April 17 to 24 found Barrow rendering the most private aspects of daily life, from taking a shower to using the restroom, and examining the ways in which we renew and revitalize ourselves in lack of spirituality and religion.

Claire Barrow and I spoke over Skype to discuss the exhibit, but also what it means to maintain a fashion brand in this exhausting system, why she is re-evaluating her place in this system, and her hopes of uniting a whole world of creative mediums under the Claire Barrow brand.

ADAM LEHRER: So many of your garments can stand alone as artworks. Were you interested in being an artist before you became a fashion designer?

CLAIRE BARROW: No. I wanted to be a fashion designer. Fashion seemed more realistic than being an artist. I wanted to be trained in how to make garments.

LEHRER: Does the interest in fashion come from creating something with an application? You can wear clothes and engage with garments in a way that you can’t with art.

BARROW: I don’t think I thought about the bigger picture. I’ve always illustrated the clothes I’ve made. I’ve enjoyed it. But now is the first time I’ve ever done canvases, which is really fun.

LEHRER: I’m sure. How does it feel in comparison?

BARROW: I think it’s a lot more confrontational. When someone wears clothes, they can hide. Namely, it changes for each viewer and wearer. I present models with their hair and makeup done. There’s a whole [aura] around it. People take what they want from fashion and use it in different ways. Plus, people need to wear clothes. With art, they’re just looking at that one thing. People can’t really interact with it. They can’t interrupt it in any way. It’s different.

LEHRER: Does it feel more vulnerable to have your images hanging on a wall than it does when making clothes?

BARROW: It feels equal. It’s hard to make clothes because you have to worry about everything – the fit, money, time. I don’t know the art industry quite yet, but it feels like you always have to prove yourself in the fashion world. There are so many people trying to do it. With the art, I don’t feel as much of that. That might be because I’m in an interesting position, having my own gallery show now. It might be different for me.

LEHRER: Everyone always talks about this connection between fashion and art. Usually, it’s just a brand taking an artist they like and turning their work into prints. Whereas, I feel like your garment work has been a vehicle for art. Do you agree with that?

BARROW: Yeah, I think so. I want to be taken seriously as an artist. Each garment is a whole presentation with its own concept. The concept that I just did was the “retrospective,” which was taking references from every era from history rather than one. Each garment made up the bigger picture.

LEHRER: I know you are friends with Reba Maybury (editor of outsider art and body mod mag Sang Bleu). I follow all your friends’ Instagram accounts. Your fashion brand is tied to these more subversive projects. Do you feel like a part of a loosely affiliated collective?

BARROW: Yeah, maybe. I feel like it’s coming to the surface now. There’s always been a strong group. We’re also just hanging out together, doing whatever. So that’s good. I actually want to come to New York.

LEHRER: To live or to visit?

BARROW: To live for a bit, I don’t know. Maybe three months.

LEHRER: People associate New York with being the most commercial in terms of fashion. At the same time, we have these really extreme brands – Ekhaus Latta, Moses Gauntlett Cheng. There’s this whole new thing going on that might fit in with what you’re doing.

BARROW: I think I’ll come and hang out with some of those guys. London feels a little stale at the moment. But that could be me right now.

LEHRER: People always talk shit about the city they live in.

BARROW: I feel like people don’t like London anymore. It’s so expensive. There’s less opportunity for young people. It’s harder because we have to pay huge student fees now. We’ve got really shit government at the moment.

LEHRER: We’re in a similar boat.

BARROW: No, because Bernie will win.



LEHRER: I hope so. Also, about the show, I want to talk to you about what your idea was around the “cleansing aspect” of the shower.

BARROW: I feel, personally, that I don’t hold onto anything sacred. I don’t have many beliefs. The only one I kind of have is self-preservation. I worry about social situations. It’s this social thing, rather than religion. I don’t have that much faith. But it’s not pessimistic. The characters in it are quite cute, and I wanted it to feel quite cute. It’s quite commercial, like cartoons in an advert or something like that.

LEHRER: So you’re not religious or spiritual at all?

BARROW: No. But I hate saying that. It makes me feel really sad and guilty. My parents made me go to church every day until I was 12. Some kids saw me going to church and started picking on me about it. It was weird.

LEHRER: So the shower is cleansing yourself of all the bullshit around you?

BARROW: It’s cleansing yourself of yourself and getting reborn every day.

LEHRER: You said your first reference was the anxiety of modern British life. Where do you think that anxiety is rooted?

BARROW: Social. People worry about being accepted, being normal, and fitting into a certain social scene. That seems like the main concern for young people right now, rather than worrying about what’s going to happen to them after they die. Now, we know everything, so it’s all about worrying about yourself.

LEHRER: That’s interesting. Now that we know that we’re going to be dead, all we worry about is who we are when we’re alive, who thinks we’re cool. Running a fashion brand and putting an exhibition together at the same time is a ton of work. Where do you think that work ethic comes from?

BARROW: I know how hard it is to do the two and continue making something good. I work as hard as possible. I don’t take it for granted. I haven’t had a family that has gotten me into places. I came from the north and I’ve tried to make it on my own.

LEHRER: I just read an interview you did with Eloise Parry in Heroine Magazine. You two talk about bonding over a Slayer patch. It got me thinking about your work. Aside from a few designers, when brands reference underground subculture, it’s always the same stuff. A Peter Saville graphic here, a Bowie reference there. You seem to really know music and subculture. Do you ever feel at odds with your interests and what most high fashion is trying to express?

BARROW: I think if you know about subculture, you know what people are not going to like and what you should use. One should respect that genre and subculture. People will be like, “Punk fashion: that’s what I’m trying to do,” and it doesn’t look punk anymore. But that’s a good thing! That’s real punk, rather than going for something that looks like “punk.” That’s real subculture.

LEHRER: When you look at Chris Brown wearing a studded leather jacket, you think, 'how punk could a studded leather jacket actually be?'

BARROW: But that’s the thing. ‘70s punk fashion isn’t punk anymore. Being punk now is being creative and new. It’s trying to push boundaries.

LEHRER: Do you think the Internet is collapsing subculture, combining and spreading it out? Do you think it’s a good thing that the focus is more on the individual? Like, someone can go online and find out about every type of music and decide what they like.

BARROW: I think so, yeah. I think it’s hard to create and be a part of a subculture now. It’s all nostalgia. There’s no music subculture now that has come from completely nothing, maybe Trap. It’s all about the individual. I think it’s a shame not to be an individual in this world.

LEHRER: You seem like someone who likes to fill up her head with different culture. Have you always been like that?

BARROW: Yeah, ever since I was 14. I was very quiet. My parents only liked popular culture and chart music. I started dressing quite strange at school. I would wear weird things with my uniform to dress it up a bit.

LEHRER: What were the first metal and punk bands you liked?

BARROW: I used to really like Carcass, when I was like 16. That was quite strange. One of them is from where I’m from. I liked New York Dolls. I liked Black Flag. I liked Sonic Youth. All the classic ones, I think.

LEHRER: To me, it seems like the name Claire Barrow could be associated with a wide scope of creativity. It couldn’t just be a fashion brand. It could be art. I know you said you want to do performance. Would you ever see your end game as the name Claire Barrow being associated with a whole dearth of culture and creativity?

BARROW: Yeah, that’s what I’m going towards now. I’m actually skipping a collection. That’s going to be weird. Everyone’s going to be mad, which is fine. That’s my life. I just want to do a bit of everything, honestly. And that’s so scary. It’s hard to make any money if you haven’t got a set job. But I want to go into different areas now.  

LEHRER: The fashion calendar feels like it’s going to collapse anyways.

BARROW: I don’t know if it will. People say it, but how could it actually collapse?

LEHRER: I know. People keep buying clothes.

BARROW: Half the fashion industry consists of these really commercial brands that no one’s heard of, but they have really rich customers. To rich people, there’s no problem.

LEHRER: There are so many amazing designers coming out of different cities. It’s a tragedy that we have this calendar that doesn’t seem conducive to new talent.

BARROW: The biggest problem is the new talent. How can you fund it? Let’s see what happens. That’s kind of why I want to take a break, to figure out that sort of thing. How could I do a couture thing where I only show a few pieces? It’s kind of a way to get your power back.

LEHRER: Did you find that painting for art gave you more ideas for fashion?

BARROW: It's made me feel the opposite. It’s given me more ideas for art.


Click here to visit Claire Barrow's site to view current collections and stockists. Text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Photographs by Flo Kohl. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Gardens of Pleasure: An Interview with Designer Yaz Bukey

On a quick trip to Los Angeles, we caught up with Paris-based designer Yaz Bukey. Her eponymous label is a trompe l’oeil pop art explosion of plexiglass that combines the aesthetics of advertising and everyday objects, like cigarette boxes and lipstick. Bukey is also an Ottoman princess and her ancestors were once the rulers of Egypt. In fact, one of those ancestors, Mehmet Ali Pasha, King of Egypt, gave the Concorde Obelisk to Napoleon. Despite her royal blood, Bukey is more modern than ever. Her collections are inspired by everything from ancient mythology to Boy George. In fact, Boy George is a customer of hers – so is Björk. Lately, Bukey has been eschewing the traditional runway presentation and showing her collections in the form of a performance that is half burlesque and half vaudeville shtick, with a splash of erotic revue. One regular performer is retired gay male pornstar François Sagat. We got a chance to catch up with Bukey in the Hollywood Hills to talk about her work, life and inspiration behind her current collection – as well as her wildly ambitious plans for the future of her label, which includes an all encompassing universe splashed with her vision. 

DOUGLAS NEILL: How do you like being in Los Angeles? Is the sunshine inspiring?

YAZ BUKEY: It’s true that we need sun. For me, I love the fact that you can be isolated and at the same time in a big city. This is the thing that I love here. That’s why I would like to move here. My dream would be to have my house with my garden. I love plants. And behind, I have my atelier, and I can work from there.

NEILL: You like having a space for peace?

BUKEY: Yes. I need that, more and more. Before, I was always thinking, “I have to stay in big cities, like Paris, London, or New York.” I think that we really need to be resourced by nature. Here, you have everything – the sea, the gardens, the desert. Everything is here.

NEILL: Your aesthetic is very unique and instantly recognizable. How would you describe it in a word or phrase?  

BUCKEY: It’s all about trompe l’oeil. Through this material – Plexiglas – I arrive to have pieces that you don’t know if it is a print, or if it is an object. Same for the home decor that I am starting to make more and more. You can have different pieces that you put on your wall. I like that a clutch can become a box that you have in your house. It’s accessory for yourself and accessory for your home.

NEILL: It transfers well from situation to situation.  

BUKEY: I like the fact that, when you wear something, people in the street say, “This reminds me of this movie or that pattern.” It’s storytelling. You don’t need to speak. Just having a piece can pop up images in your eye.

NEILL: What was it like meeting Björk and selling your first collection to her?

BUKEY: That was the first big move that happened when I launched my brand. I was sold in three stores. One was Kokon to Zai in London. They – namely, Marjan Pejoski – are very close to Björk. She did the swan dress and this big pink dress that she wore at the Cannes Film Festival. Before going to going to Cannes to show Dancing in the Dark, Björk went to the store and bought each of the pieces I had made. She started wearing it, and then she contacted me to have pieces for her show. It shifted the brand, actually. She’s so inspiring. I like when people are bold like this, you know? She’s not scared of wearing something weird, something that people can even laugh at. People could say, “Oh, that’s so ugly.” She doesn’t care. That’s a side of her that I like.

NEILL: You are a part of a really fascinating group of artist and designers in Paris. Do you inspire or influence each other?

BUKEY: We have a close group of friends. Each of us is in his own world, of course. The one that is closest to me is Vincent Darré in terms of aesthetics.

NEILL: He has a great personality. He always makes me smile.

BUKEY: He’s a very happy person. There is also Michel Gaubert, who does the music for my show. I love talking to him. Sometimes, he’s like, “Oh, I thought of you when I saw this image.” We have a lot of exchange, whether musical or otherwise. I was more into music before. I wanted to be a singer. But it was not possible due to my family. [Laughs.] They wanted me to go and do political science. I went to study it. But after three months I was like, “I don’t understand what they’re talking about. Please let me do something else.” They accepted that I do something else, but it had to be kind of like mathematics. I figured out that industrial design was not so bad. I went into graphics to be able to be close to the music industry. I wanted to do the album covers. Slowly, that shifted to perfume bottle designing. From there, I met this old lady who was the head of this very famous fashion school in Paris. Vincent went to the same school. Camille Bidault went to that school.

NEILL: Did you guys know each other before school?

BUKEY: No, we were all from different eras of the school. This lady has changed all of our lives.

NEILL: What’s her name?

BUKEY: Marie Rucki. When you arrive to that school, she says, “Everything you learned from your parents is shit. We’re going to empty it and refill it with what you like.”

NEILL: So she is responsible?

BUKEY: She is responsible for a lot of designers. The school has been there for forty years, and she’s still there. She’s over 80.

NEILL: I always attribute creativity to what people do on their own. I always forget that a teacher can be a huge influence.

BUKEY: A teacher can change your life. Or they can make you hate something.

NEILL: There’s a rumor that you are a descendant of royalty. Is this true?

BUKEY: My great great grandfather was the king of Egypt in the beginning of the 19th century. It was a family that ruled from the beginning of 1800 until 1953. The last king was King Farouk. The first was Mehmet Ali Pasha, who comes from Italy and Greece. He was the one who offered the Obelisk to Napoleon when they lost the war against him. For me, the most inspiring person from my father’s family is Princess Fawzia, who was the sister of King Farouk. She was the first wife of the Shah of Iran. She stayed there two years. She was a party girl, and she couldn’t stand it, so she left. She’s beautiful, like a Hollywood actress. I’m going to Egypt next week, actually.

NEILL: What are you doing there?

BUKEY: I have some of my father’s family there – aunts and cousins. In 1953, the family lost all of their houses and mansions – everything. Everything belongs to the state. You can still live in it, but you can’t sell anything. You can’t restore it. It’s unfortunately fading away. I haven’t been in 25 years. I’ll have to hide the tattoos. [Laughs.]

NEILL: For your collections, you stage, dramatic, beautiful, and elaborate scenes, instead of the typical runway show. Are runway shows boring to you?

BUKEY: Very boring. Sometimes, I go to support friends who do shows. All the journalists and stylists, they have so much to see right now. They travel so much. I believe you have to give them something else. I love performing. I used to perform myself, a few years ago. Unfortunately, now, I can’t during my shows, because I need to do the interviews. Being able to take care of the music, the image, the photography, the design, the furniture – for me, it’s a global art. That’s what I like.

NEILL: It’s like a painting.

BUKEY: Yeah. And I like working with the same crew. I like adding newcomers in. Now, we have more and more well-known people who want to be part of the show. They call me and say, “Hey, can I be part of the show next season?” If it fits, I’ll let them do it. I have a little list.

NEILL: Can you give an example?

BUKEY: I would love to work with Marie-Agnès Gillot. She’s one of the main dancers in the Opéra Paris. Right now, it’s not the right moment, because the next collections are not fitting her. At some point, I would love to work with her, having her dancing.

NEILL: I agree. The fashion show is…

BUKEY: It’s so quick. A show is only seven to ten minutes. Very sad.

NEILL: Now, they’re doing it where you can watch the show on the computer and buy it right away.

BUKEY: This is the thing that people started doing to avoid copying. I wish that we just did one collection per year, and that we showed it for Spring/Summer. In the end, it’s a lot of work, a lot of research. You put your heart in there, and it’s only living in the store for two months. The value is down right now. That’s why everyone tries to do things very quickly. You don’t have the time to go deeper into your research. What I liked, back in the day, was that you could be interested in an image or artist, look for it in a library, and then find other things that inspire you even more. It takes you from one spot to the other. That’s what we need right now.

NEILL: That’s exactly how I feel about collecting records.

BUKEY: Collecting records, you go to the store, you search and search. You don’t find what you’re looking for, maybe, but you will find something else.

NEILL: You don’t have enough time to research?

BUKEY: Right now, everything is quick. Three seasons ago, I worked a lot on Bob Fosse’s work. In the end, you speak to the journalists, and they don’t even know who he is. You’re like, “Come on. This is not possible.” [Laughs.] Let me do a few moves for you.


Purchase the Hibiscus Clutch here


NEILL: Do you have any hand in choreographing the performances?

BUKEY: I work with this boy who used to be my student. (I worked at Studio Berçot after I was student there.) He shifted from being a stylist to dance. He has a group called House of Drama. His name is Aymeric Bergada Du Cadet. We have this very close relationship. More or less, we do everything together. I am around Christopher Niquet a lot as well. He lives in New York. I really believe in his eye. When I finish my collection, I always say, “Hey, can you have a look at it?” He always has the right words.

NEILL: It’s like you have a little family.

BUKEY: Yes. The dancers are all young kids. I like to have those young girls around, to show them the way as well. “Maybe don’t go there… Do more of this.” I help them out with their daily looks, so they are elevated.

NEILL: What do you look for in a performer? I know you just worked with François Sagat.

BUKEY: He used to be a porn actor. Before that, he also did Studio Berçot. He was in my sister’s class. he worked in the fashion industry and then got fed up from it. I see his porn work as an artwork. He’s not afraid to have bubblegum looks. I like that. I understand very well why he went into that. Now, he has stopped after five years. He has a brand now of men’s underwear. It’s called Kick Sagat. When I asked him, “Would you perform?” He said yes. We performed together three times before, in clubs. It was quite a pain in the ass. We were dressed in cat suits, and people would pull our tails.

NEILL: A lot of unexpected issues.

BUKEY: I used to be very stressed with the performers. “Okay, you have to do it perfectly!” Now, I know that they will give it their best. Let them be. “Do how you feel the best.” There’s no competition between them. Everyone has her own character. We work with MAC for the makeup. I always tell him, “It’s not just one makeup for the show. I need one for each girl that shows best their character and personality.” It’s quite free. I like to leave each person who works with me a lot of freedom.

NEILL: Would you say anybody could come? Do you have auditions or casting?

BUKEY: Auditions, no. But, for instance, we have worked many seasons with Anna Cleveland as a model, and this season she said, “I want to dance.” She’s not a dancer, so we did more rehearsal with her. But in the end, she was amazing. The star of the show. Then again, the character has to go with the show. One season we will use someone, but the next season I have to say, “I’m sorry, but you won’t be in.” Then, they come back. It’s like a family, as you said. Also, I need to be sure they didn’t gain weight. [Laughs.]

NEILL: Where do you look for inspiration when it comes to your collections?

BUKEY: For the Hollywood collection, it was the dancing of Bob Fosse, the actresses of classic eras, Samuel Goldwyn. I make all this research, and then I pull out my own story. For the collection, My Heart Belongs to Paris, it was the Pink Panther, Henry Mancini’s music, and American in Paris. My American in Paris was an American girl tourist. She arrives to Paris. That morning, at the Café de Flore, there is a big scandal. The Mona Lisa has been stolen from the Louvre. There are many stories as to what happened – someone stabbed the Mona Lisa, someone what in love with her. I make my own story out of it.

NEILL: It sounds almost like a dream. You have all these things that you filter through.

BUKEY: Yeah. Also, there are images that were inspiring for me when I was a kid. My father was an ambassador who pretty much specialized in the Arab world. We lived in different Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia, where there were no movies or anything. My father helped me a lot with my cinematographic side. We would watch and rewatch and then act out a lot of musicals.

NEILL: So that was very inspiring to your collections now?

BUKEY: Yeah, yeah. One of the first things that inspired me so much was Boy George, Culture Club. The only way out was to go to these shopping malls in Saudi Arabia and walk around. I was obsessed by the album covers. When I saw Boy George and the Culture Club I was like, “Yes!” I would dress like a mini Boy George. I put my hair in braids. My parents would freak out, of course, because I ruined all my mom’s makeup.

NEILL: Can you talk a little bit about your current collection, Gardens of Pleasure?

BUKEY: There is a cartoon in France called Asterix. It’s about a little village that fights against the Romans back in the day. There is one that is called Twelve Worlds of Asterix, where they have to do Olympic things. I started listening to the music. It was a cartoon from the 70s. I found out the guy who did the music, and I found this album that he made, Tropical Fantasy. It was amazing. I took a bit of Tropical Fantasy, and then I wanted to do my own Gardens of Eden. What will I have inside that? La chicholina, for me, is the sexual side of beauty. The birth of Venus. Poison ivy. Cupid. Aphrodite and Zeus. It’s totally different, but I do my own story.

NEILL: Do you bring a character to the story?

BUKEY: The show starts with the priestess of the island, doing the welcome dance. Then, we have different personalities who come out for different tableaux. We finish with Adam and Eve, but Adam is eating the apple.

NEILL: Where do you see you and your brand going in the future?

BUKEY: I want to grow it into the thing I call Yazbukeyland. I want to make a lifestyle around the brand. You are able to have furniture, bedsheets, glasses, rugs, oil paintings, perfume, car (the Yazmobile) – everything. You can be in that fantasy world, you know? That’s what I want.

NEILL: Is there anything that you want everybody to know?

BUKEY: Not too long ago, I saw that Boy George bought a piece of mine. I was in his concert last year in Paris, which was amazing, and he kept saying, “My friend Jerry is here!” And I though, oh, Jerry is my friend too. I contacted him and said, “I really want to do something with Boy George.” Lately, I sent him two pieces, and he wrote me back on Twitter saying, “I really loved my gifts.” He was like, “Follow me!” Like, oh my God, from age 11 to age 42, the circle is there. I really hope one day we can do something. Maybe he can sing during my show. It’s possible. He is so open. 


To find retailer's or purchase Yazbukey's collections online, click here. Photographs and interview by Douglas Neill. Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Finding Her Own Muse: An Interview With Lindsay Jones

text by Jill Di Donato

 

Right now, Lindsay Jones calls work her lover. A series of heartaches are behind the line of unisex luxe party clothes Jones launched this spring with partner Labana Babylon, called Músed. “She [Babylon] was my muse and the muse behind the label. When I was going through this heartache about two years ago, she was going through something similar and we had these nurturing phone calls with each other and it really did inspire me to shift my focus.”

The “muse” is something Jones, classically trained in sculpture (she attended The School of Visual Arts in New York City, but dropped out after two years, when her internship for Zac Posen was giving her more “hands-on experience”) is something Jones has given a lot of thought. From Playboy model (back when the magazine still ran nudes) to indie screen queen, catching the eye of Larry Clark, Richard Kern, Richard Prince, and Jonathan Leder, Jones has made a name for herself in front of the camera.

“I was first scouted for Playboy when I was in Sundance with my boyfriend. I was 18 years old, and so embarrassed, so afraid I was going to upset my boyfriend, I just walked away,” she tells me over the phone. Could you believe I literally walked away from that opportunity?”

Jones laughs and tells me how good it is to hear my voice (up until now, we’d just been corresponding by email) and I think she’s awfully polite for an “It Girl.” But Jones is not just any “It Girl” with a fashion label. She has a vision, and she’s gracious, and she appreciates opportunities…. even when she walks away from them.

“Years after that, I was more comfortable with my sexuality and I was asked to shoot for the calendar. I was so excited because I realized how iconic Playboy was, and then I end up getting edited out. I’d told everyone and I was humiliated. It was so painful but I learned a lesson. Never say anything until it’s solid.”

It so seems the third time was the charm. “When I got the call that Hef had approved the [six-page pictorial in December, 2014] I had given up that it was even going to happen. But it did.”

Of the experience, she has nothing but good things to say about her spread. “It took a moment in time when I was vital and everything was in the right place.” And she’s not just speaking of her figure.

Two years earlier, before Hef’s thumbs up, Jones she was asked by a producer to meet Larry Clark who was casting for his 2012 film Marfa Girl, winner of the Golden Marc’Aurelio Award at the Rome Film Festival in 2012. “Larry’s very specific in his vision, so it was an honor to be cast. Behind the scenes, it was a blast. I kept cracking up when Larry was like ‘hit him harder,’ to the kid I had to beat, and that was hard for me because I’m so shy and submissive in real life, I would never hit anyone. So my reaction was to laugh. But that worked. Larry liked my cackling.”

A Renaissance woman, while working in front of the camera for Clark and Richard Prince, Jones also kept training as an artist. She studied at the art institute in Tribeca for about two years and then interned with Miguel Adrover. As an intern for Zac Posen and Marc Jacobs, Jones created her collection for her former brand Outlaws of the Border. Though the brand has since dissolved, it received praise from Japanese Vogue for "brilliantly blended Victorian elegance with Goth taste." All the while, Jones kept making art, working alongside Aneta Bartos, Richard Kern, Terrence Koh, and Martynka Wawrzyniak. Most recently, she teamed up in February 2016 with sex positive feminist artist, Leah Schrager.



By now, Jones was ready to get back into the fashion industry, and this February in New York Músed launched its debut collection. Of creating the line, Jones says, “It made me remind myself that I don’t really need anyone. Independently as a woman, I’m very capable and powerful. I can succeed if I really nurture myself and the women around me. I like the idea of the Goddess. There are three women in my brand’s logo and they stand for inspiration.” As for the ultimate muse, she defines it loosely, and I would expect nothing less. After all, the lines in Jones’ world between artist and viewer are always in motion. “The ideal muse? Maybe it’s a person or something in nature or a dream. There are so many places for inspiration to come from.”

Currently, Jones is focused on developing Músed. She consults for recent CFDA Vogue Fashion Award winners Gypsy Sport as well as and cult street wear label Whatever 21.

Exclusively for Autre, The sculptor/muse/designer answered questions on spring style, inspiration, and how to dress for your body.

Autre: How do you like to blend high and low fashions seamlessly?

Lindsay Jones: Celine and the dollar store is a good start. Stick with monochromatic and simplicity to blend the two. There is a lot of room for texture.

Autre: Where do you splurge and where do you skimp?

Jones: I like expensive shoes. I will go cheap on a hoodie.

Autre: When you shop vintage, what do you look for?

Jones: Vintage Chanel, Hermès scarves, and fur.

Autre: How does a woman know what flatters her body?

Jones: It really depends on the individual. I think what feels good on your body usually looks good. That said, long lines flatter. Do not cut the body in too many places, especially if you wear tight clothing. You never want clothing to cut into your flesh. Vertical lines slim or lengthen. Wear horizontal lines if you want a bigger anything.

Autre: Which artist influenced your design aesthetics the most?

Jones: Louise Bourgeois is my idol. My own work comes from a very internal place. I look to all my favorites for inspiration at points. I relate with Tracy Emin in the way that she is a poet, with a lot of feminist punk rawness oozing out of her.

Autre: What was your favorite look from the European shows?

Jones: Fendi. I want every one of them on my body now.

Autre: What’s next for Lindsay Jones?

Jones: I don't think I have even scratched the surface of my highest success as an artist. I am grateful for every single collaboration and platform for my work. 


Click here to see the Músed collection. Photography by Chris Luttrell. Text and interview by Jill Di Donato. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Calamity Serenity: An Interview with Preston Douglas and Harry Patterson

Walking around New York Fashion Week: Men’s, you are likely to befriend other dudes that are as obsessed with fashion as you are. It makes you feel like a bit less of a weirdo. One such friend I made at this last round was Preston Douglas Boyer, a guy who looked a bit like a cross between a Hesher longhair and a teenage Supreme worshipper that was actually a Houston-based fashion designer who just released his first collection of motocross inspired and geometric printed line of garments back in February.

Boyer is something of a Hypebeast. You can watch videos of him on YouTube as a 14-year old giving his informed opinion on the latest drops of Jordan’s and luxury brand sneakers. That taste for luxury sneakers later translated towards clothes, and Boyer initially worked as a stylist for Houston and international musicians that would come from the city. Last year he took the plunge and started designing clothes that he wanted to wear, all while studying marketing at the University of Houston.

Also interesting is that his partner and brand equal is Harry Patterson, who is in charge of production for the brand. The guys are equally invested into the garments as they are into the production of the brand, indicative of kids who grew up in an era where image was everything and everywhere. Designers like Boyer are going to start appearing more in the industry. As opposed to the designers before them that found themselves influenced by Rei Kawakubo, Le Corbusier and Joy Division, we are about to see a lot of kids that have been mainlining Supreme and Nike for as long as they can remember. Read on for my conversation with the guys.

ADAM LEHRER: So yesterday you told me that you started the brand because you felt something was missing from fashion. What was that thing that you felt was missing?

PRESTON DOUGLAS: I really felt like functionality within luxury menswear was missing. You buy a jacket for $1,500, you buy a pair of jeans for $1,500, and you can have that for the rest of your life and as far as functionality goes our jacket has three jackets in one. You can style it 20 different ways. You can’t style a Saint Laurent bomber jacket like that.

LEHRER: You can’t even put it on unless you weigh less than 140 pounds (laughs).

PRESTON DOUGLAS: I want to change up the patterns. I love geometric patterns.

LEHRER: Yeah.

PRESTON DOUGLAS: Being a consumer for so long, starting with sneakers, I have an appreciation for color that I feel like a lot of menswear lacks. When I buy a piece and spend a thousand dollars on a jacket, I want that to be a piece that when I go out people are like, “What is that? Where did you get that? Who made that?” And then you tell them, "Preston Douglas."

LEHRER: So you feel that men’s fashion for a while now has been black, black, dark colors. So you want a larger pallet?

PRESTON DOUGLAS: Black is my favorite color but I want a larger palette… but tasteful. I love prints but if you’re just doing all black and all whites and grays and then you just put together some print shirts, I don’t like that as much as incorporating said print into a variety of pieces.

LEHRER: You mentioned you wanted Harry to tell the stories. What were the stories with these first few designs you came up with?

PRESTON DOUGLAS: Basically the collection’s called Calamity Serenity. The past two years of my life have been polar opposites. My life about two years ago was complete despair and chaos, I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. I didn’t know how to function. So that’s the calamity, the black represents that chaos.

Then before I knew it I hit this point in my life where everything started to change. My life the year after is serenity. It’s a complete antithesis to calamity and you can see that in the colors. I feel like everyone has a point in their life where they’ve been through some really dark times - when you are ready to give up. I hope my story can help someone else.

LEHRER: Growing up, what designers made you think about apparel more than footwear for a brand?

PRESTON DOUGLAS: Christophe Decarnin. I remember looking at his look books. Really I got into luxury menswear because of luxury sneakers. Kris Van Assche for example. Ann Demeulemeester. Rick Owens. All these people had amazing sneakers. It’s all out there now with social media and Hypebeast and Highsnobiety.

LEHRER: Then socially too it’s become more accepted for dudes to be into fashion.

PRESTON DOUGLAS: Yeah! 8th, 9th grade when I started to get into sneakers and started my YouTube channel, I’d get called faggot or gay. Every single day all the time. I got major bullied for wearing colorful shoes, colorful Nikes. But I went to a private school so the only thing I could express myself with in terms of fashion were my shoes.

LEHRER: Exactly.



PRESTON DOUGLAS: I kind of created my own friend group and found my own path through creativity manifesting itself in a lot of different forms. First being sneakers; I had a sneaker resell business. I started a photography business. I started styling rappers and interviewing people when they came into Houston. Then with fashion, I felt like I’d been a consumer and seen enough to where I saw myself being able to fill a gap.

LEHRER: So you’ve always been entrepreneurial?

PRESTON DOUGLAS: Yeah I’m an entrepreneur first because nothing can happen without it.

LEHRER: As far as growth goes, what are your highest hopes for what the brand could be in a couple years?

PRESTON DOUGLAS: In a year I’d like to be showing in New York, possibly LA. I haven’t really been out there enough yet to see if my aesthetic and my brand fits with that culture and that lifestyle. There’s a lot of people in LA I look up to with regards to the fashion industry. So keeping it within the United States first and growing my local recognition and name and getting my manufacturing down.

LEHRER: So Harry, what’s your end of the brand?

HARRY PATTERSON: I was a production designer, I started out designing stages for concerts. Mainly live music, that’s what I thought I wanted to do for a while. I’ve done a lot of stuff making music or art. But while Preston is designing the clothing I want to be designing the set.

LEHRER: So it’s not just a one-man designing type thing? You guys are working in unison to bring two different ideas into one setting?

HARRY PATTERSON: Yeah I think that’s really important. This time he hit me up when the line was done and wanted me to DJ. I got him to take photos at one of my shows in Houston and he was like “I’ll give you a deal if you DJ my fashion show.” In December I called him to catch up and I ended up doing the production for it. I was skeptical at first, I had never worked in the fashion industry before but it worked out really well. 

LEHRER: Were you interested in fashion or have you just gotten more into it now working with him?

HARRY PATTERSON: A little bit. Not as much as I am now. I never thought I’d be working in the fashion industry.

LEHRER: I feel like a lot of creative people just happen to end up in it in one way or another.

PRESTON DOUGLAS: Yeah! But the show in Houston was a really cool opportunity. I’m really glad Harry was involved because there was talk of moving Houston Fashion Week to the next level.

HARRY PATTERSON:  I actually thought that was what fashion week would be like when I went. I was like “ehh I’ve seen this in the galleria before,” this is going to be a bunch of clothes I’d wear to church. So it surprised me. In the past three days I’ve met more people in the fashion industry than I know in the music industry. It’s nice it’s smaller because it’s more of a collaborative feel.

LEHRER: Yeah I get that.

HARRY PATTERSON:  It’s harder to get that vibe with people in music. 


Shop the Preston Douglas Calamity/Serenity collection here. Text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Photographs by Clay Rodriguez. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


A Fashion Renegade Makes His Mark: An Interview With Designer Charles Elliot Harbison

Growing up near the Appalachian Mountains in his home state of North Carolina, New York-based fashion designer Charles Elliot Harbison was disconnected from the glitz, grunge, and all things in-between of New York fashion. Nevertheless, he still managed to find his way to aesthetics. Though it might seem surprising to the average New York cool kid, Harbison learned about style at the church. “There was propriety in it,” he says. “There was personal exhibition. There was worship. It was never thoughtless. I remember white shirts, blue blazer, bowtie, some suede bucks. That’s when I became acquainted with style.”


New York Fashion Week has solidified its position as the most commercial of all the Fashion Week’s. But as New York commerciality has reached its apex, a crop of young radical designers have emerged displaying awareness of contemporary art and pop culture and shining light back on American fashion: Eckhaus-Latta, Moses Gauntlett Cheng, Vejas, and Harbison.

But Harbison still stands out as something of a renegade even amongst this crop of wildly exciting fashion design talent. Though Harbison comes from a fine art background, having studied fine arts and painting at North Carolina State, he does not shy away from things traditionally “chic,” inspired by the luxurious approach to sportswear his mother employed when he was a child. He has leaned towards the subversive since he started his brand three years ago, employing a gender-neutral approach to his garments far before the industry jumped on the trend. But even with that, it’s not hard to imagine Park Avenue women loving to wear his modernist, color-blocked, and astoundingly beautiful clothes, allowing him a customer far wider in demographics that some of his contemporaries could ever conceive of reaching. “I don’t think [subversiveness] has to be relegated to just casual wear or crude construction,” says Harbison. “I want to do it through the filter of elegance, expense, and aspiration.”

Harbison also has some serious fashion education. Having learned about textiles and fabrics in Central Asia, studied fashion as a post-grad at Parsons, and worked for Michael Kors, Billy Reid, and Luca Luca, he has a leg up on his contemporaries with flat-out knowledge over the construction of garments. How would you describe those garments? This writer would say, “subtly striking.” They aren’t unwearable pieces of clothing architecture or tattered to shreds in the name of art. Harbison creates a form-flattering silhouette and then applies blocks of vibrant color to make the statement. They are the types of clothes that you find yourself staring at without realizing it. “Color, texture, embellishment, contrast, valence, proportion,” says Harbison. “I just wanted to be true to that when I started Harbison.”

He also has the ability to tell stories without grandiose displays of conceptual creation. Everything that Harbison presents in his shows, he sells. Much like Dries Van Noten, or even Yves Saint Laurent (minus the couture), he adheres to the tenets of ready-to-wear. And yet, he still conveys strong and discernible ideas. Patti Smith is the brand’s muse, and Harbison has also told stories centered around Erykah Badu, Aaliyah, and Nica Rothschild. The strong and cultured women that breathe in his garments has attracted the attention of Beyoncé, who wore custom Harbison to Kanye’s Yeezy Season 1 presentation (and Solangé wore the same in Paris some weeks later) and brought massive attention to the brand. “What the muse does is allow me to work them into my stories,” says Harbison.

When I meet Harbison in his small, clothes-filled office near Manhattan’s City Hall, he is in great spirits despite a busy morning. Though his brand sat out the last NYFW, he is still moving forward. His next collection will be the first “gender-neutral” collection where the clothes are cut in ways to fit a man and a woman’s body. He laughs a lot, and has an ease in explaining his ideas that is absent in a lot of creatives. We spoke at length about his history and the direction of the brand.

LEHRER: Are you still religious now?

HARBISON: I have a spiritual practice. I go to church in Harlem. It feeds me culturally as well as spiritually. It’s nice to have this whisper of my early life an hour away. [I live] in Bushwick. Every Sunday, I get to be around black people from the South.

LEHRER: Does it ever rub you the wrong way that something you’ve been doing for a while, gender-neutral collections, is now a trend and being done by like, Burberry?

HARBISON: It completely bothers me. When I launched [the brand] in 2013 it was inconceivable for the buyer to understand a man in a womenswear lookbook. They couldn’t understand seeing one coat on her and the same coat on him. From a market point of view, this is a women’s collection. But the cuts are neutral. This is how my friends and I live. When I was at Michael Kors, I would wear women’s samples as a dude. I never felt like my masculinity was compromised. Of course, I’m queer, but I saw straight guys and girls doing the same thing. By and large, America is slow to this idea. You have Selfridges with their gender-neutral merchandising.

LEHRER: They had a gender-neutral section in their store. Like, Hood by Air and J.W. Anderson.

HARBISON: Fully. You have Gucci putting dudes in pussy bow blouses. You have Jayden Smith as the face of Louis Vuitton womenswear. I feel like a lot of that gets filtered through novelty, comedy, and trend. But for me, it’s just a way of dressing that makes sense. I want to do it from a slick point of view. It makes me a better designer and marketer.

LEHRER: A lot of brands will throw dudes in a women’s lookbook or a show for a statement. You’re thinking about it in terms of the products.

HARBISON: The pant cut, we fit on a guy and a girl. The tunic cut, we do it in a way that works well on him, but it gives her tailoring options if she wants to do something more waisted. The transformability of the clothes allows them to become whatever you want them to become. It’s not just a visual statement. The shit feels good. There are a lot of clothes that are “exclusively for women,” but even that’s not true. Like, dude, it’s your life. If he wants to wear a dress, I don’t care. I just want to make cool ass shit that makes people happy.

LEHRER: Do you feel like buyers are starting to have a bigger say in what the collection is?

HARBISON: Store buyers, often, now see themselves as the end-all-be-all. It removes a lot of the excitement from the shopping and dressing process. What if someone had done that to McQueen? What if someone had done that to Galliano?

LEHRER: I shudder to think of the buyer telling Alexander McQueen what to do.

HARBISON: In the beginning, McQueen and Galliano were making crude but interesting stuff. There were problems with construction, but there was an idea there, and it was supported by the industry. It wasn’t until they got money that you saw their actual genius. Their processes were supported.

LEHRER: Color is a big part of your collections. Your brand came out three years ago, and at the time, the big predominant thing was street goth, ninja goth. Were you put off by the excessive use of black?

HARBISON: No, not put off. But I did want to offer something different. I design through the filter of art and modernism. The beginning of my arts education was in fine arts and painting. I love fine arts first.

LEHRER: When did you decide to transition from art to fashion?

HARBISON: In undergrad, I ended up weaving seventeen yards of this beautiful fabric. For me, it was like speaking to my Native American heritage. It didn’t feel right to wrap it on a canvas. So I thought to make some garments. That moment in undergrad, my junior year, was when I decided to figure this shit out.

LEHRER: You went to central Asia to study textiles. What did you learn over there?

HARBISON: I studied in Turkmenistan in undergrad – indigenous fabric construction. When I graduated, an opportunity came up to go back to the region for a year. I hadn’t found a job, so I thought, why not? I wanted to understand more about myself. There was so much mystery around that area. It’s an area that no one has really claimed. It’s former Soviet territory, but the population is South Asian, and they look East Asian in language and food. It’s influenced by the Middle East. It was also my first time out of the country, and it was the best decision I made. Fell in love with the fabrics. Spent time with students in their villages, and saw how they lived so casually amongst beautiful things.



LEHRER: And then you started working so you went to Parsons for some post-grad work, and then went to work?

HARBISON: I cut my teeth at Michael Kors Collection. 

LEHRER: Your designs are much more radical than Michael Kors. What did you learn from him?

HARBISON: I learned so much: quality, detail, fabric, merchandising, selling, and how to dress people. Michael knows his way around client connection in a really amazing way. There’s an approach to his fashion that is really respectful of the genre. Though I approach novelty and art, I wanted [my clothes] to be rooted in shapes that are classic. I don’t make a lot of conceptual pieces. I love sportswear, so being with Michael was the best place for me. 

LEHRER: You said you started your own brand by accident. What was that accident?

HARBISON: I burnt out. I was at Billy Reid and walked away. I started traveling. I had an Eat Pray Love experience. It was awesome. I read Patti Smith’s Just Kids, and that changed my life. She and Robert [Mapplethorpe] were the muses for my first capsule. I came back to New York from St. Croix. I had an interview at some collection, and when I walked in I thought, “I’ll be damned if I can do that.” Fashion week was coming up, and I didn’t want to skip a season. So I just made my own samples and shot some thing myself. Those images fell in the hands of Mark Holgate at Vogue and Virginie Smith. They said, “Do you want this to be a thing? We’ll feature you.” It’s been a hella crazy ride since.

LEHRER: I want to ask you about Patti Smith. You said she was the brand’s muse. What is it about her that you find so inspiring? Aside from, well, everything.

HARBISON: Beside everything she’s ever done? Patti walks this modern line of femininity, which I think is amazing. In her relationship with Robert, she was the stronger entity. He was the more fragile of the two. The relationship was beautiful and modern in that way. I find Patti’s lack of self-consciousness aspirational. She and Robert were vehemently sure of what they wanted in New York. That reminded me to take the risk. I was also able to touch this late ‘60s world that I love. In my mind, I feel I would have really done well in that time period touching on the modernist artists that I love. 

LEHRER: You’ve done collections based on Sade, Aaliyah, Erykah Badu. Do you always design with a specific woman in mind?

HARBISON: For example, last spring I imagined Erykah Badu singing in a Zen garden carrying a Bryce Marden painting. This story allowed me to imagine seemingly contradicting things and bring them together. That’s a challenge that I like. I want to offer things you’ve never seen before.

LEHRER: New York has gotten known of being the most commercial of the fashion weeks, but there is a whole crop of designers and brands coming on the scene who are making innovative things. Why do you think this is happening now? Has the commercialization hit a tipping point that is being rebelled against?

HARBISON: Completely. You see the evidence in the industry itself. The commerciality is no longer commercial.

LEHRER: The biggest brands are all struggling too.

HARBISON: Exactly. For younger designers, there’s no desire to make something you already see in the world. Design based on replication doesn’t feel responsible. Also, with a global market, we’re comparing ourselves to everything around the world, even things that aren’t “high fashion.” Everything becomes a reference point. Everything influences what we find fresh, new, artful, and relevant. 

LEHRER: You said you don’t want to be Ralph Lauren overnight. Would you ever want to be that big?

HARBISON: Yeah. [Laughs.] I love designing things. I feel like I have a dialogue for cars, homes, architecture. I love aesthetics. I would love to have the opportunity to configure aesthetics in different areas. As far as how big Ralph is, that is something that I think I’m still grappling with. For me, what is most valuable is having a lot of product for people to opt into. I want a lot of product in the world.

LEHRER: You sat out this fashion week. People talk about the speed of the industry – Raf leaving Dior, etc. Is that something you struggle with or not?

HARBISON: Yeah. The speed of the industry has brought me to my knees before. I think it can compromise design integrity. For me, skipping out this show season, I needed it from the business standpoint. I needed to figure out how to approach these marketing events in a way that’s more thoughtful of the business revenue. How do I give all these eyes access to the collection? You can opt out of [the traditional fashion schedule]. You don’t have to make four collections a year. You can make one. You can do this thing however you want to do it. That’s why I have so much respect for Raf and him walking away [from Dior]. It no longer worked for him, and that’s wonderful.

LEHRER: He’s supposed to be this radical, punk designer. Dior was weighing on him for a number of years. It was like he said, “Fuck that.”

HARBISON: Exactly. To be happy. How modern is that?

LEHRER: Did you have designers or artists that you looked up to when you first got into this? 

HARBISON: Yeah, Dries [Van Noten] and Azzedine [Alaia]. 

LEHRER: I was thinking about Dries when you were saying everything comes down to product. Dries has a way of telling a story only using pieces that he will sell on the racks. That’s definitely what I see with you. 

HARBISON: Thank you. That’s the goal. Dries has created a world that’s wholly his. His client base is totally devoted. My favorite pieces to wear are all Dries. I want to make that the case for Harbison. “I’m always going to go back to Harbison because it makes me happy.” I want my customers to say that


Visit Charles Harbison's website to see current collections. Text, interview and photographs by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Mad About The Boy: An Interview With SHOWStudio Editor Lou Stoppard

With the massive outpour of round the clock fashion coverage and inundation, SHOWStudio editor’s Lou Stoppard still firmly stands out. As a writer, broadcaster, and curator, Stoppard offers both a conceptual understanding of fashion as well as an open-mindedness to the changes in the industry that allows her work a warm resonance that rings true throughout the media. As SHOWstudio editor, Stoppard has picked the brains of designers ranging from Nasir Mazhar, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Public School, Cottweiler, and many more. Perhaps most infamously, Stoppard was granted a two-hour interview with Kanye West following his Yeezy Season 2 presentation. In all her interviews, Stoppard manages to ask thoughtful and conceptual questions while still putting her subjects emotionally at ease. As a result, her video interviews offer true portals into the inner-workings of designers’ brains.

Lou Stoppard’s exhibition Mad About the Boy will be showing at Fashion Space Gallery London until April 2. Stoppard curated the exhibition as an exploration of the concept of youth in the fashion industry, specifically how the idea of the teenage boy is constructed through fashion collections and images. The exhibition combines the contributions of designers such as Raf Simons, Hedi Slimane, Gosha, Jun Takahashi, JW Anderson and others with those of artists and image makers like Larry Clark, Nick Knight, Judy Blame, Mark Leckey and others to construct and break down the fantasy of the teenage boy.

Stoppard took the time to answer some questions we had about the exhibition.

Adam Lehrer: Do you think that the ideas presented by designers such as Raf have been positive in shifting ideals of masculinity at large?

Stoppard: I think it’s definitely becoming easier for men to say they are interested in “fashion.” Alex Bilmes, editor of Esquire, talked about this when I interviewed him for SHOWstudio’s In Fashion series. He mentioned that for a long time men felt comfortable saying they were interested in “style” but not “fashion.” [The idea of fashion] felt fey or niche. I think that has changed. Partly this is due to the spotlight on menswear and with the way that designers are speaking to men. Designers like Raf often draw on obsessions or ideas that tap into a collective consciousness: certain musical genres, films, and books (you saw that particularly with the David Lynch tribute at his [Fall-Winter 2016 show). I think menswear designers of late often explore rites of passage and themes of growing up that tap into men’s sense of their own masculinity. There’s also a wide range of different views of ‘manhood’ presented in menswear- much wider than the vision of femininity presented by womenswear.


"I do think that part of the thing people are obsessed with to do with youth is this idea of freedom: freedom to create, freedom to reinvent, freedom of indemnity. And part of that is the notion of experimentation that people tie to youth."


Lehrer: Do you find that there is ever disconnect between how male teenagers are presented in fashion and how actual teenagers in real life dress and what they are interested in?

Stoppard: Of course. Though I think certain rites of passage or events and ideas all people connected with as a youth – sex, space, social groups etc – crop up again and again in fashion’s depiction of the boy.

Lehrer: What is it about youth that you think so fascinates fashion?

Stoppard: That’s sort of what I’m trying to explore with the exhibition. I think to some extent it’s aesthetic: fashion loves a slim and lithe body. On the other hand it’s more abstract: youth is fleeting which appeals to an industry that is all about change.

Lehrer: You've said there is an element of nostalgia in the ideas of youth in fashion, can that ever be stunting to a creative process? 

Stoppard: I think nostalgia is, to a degree, inevitable. Designers tirelessly reference their obsessions, which do tend to be formed during formative, youthful years. They often reference the things that first got them interested in fashion and style; bands, icons, clubs and so on. To a degree it’s about looking back but it’s also about reinventing. They make things the way they wanted them to be, or create characters they wished they could have been. You see that a lot in the work of people like Jun Takahashi and Hedi Slimane.

Lehrer: I know you quite like wearing certain menswear brands, do you think the explorations of youth in menswear has led to this gender fluidity in the products sold by high fashion brands?

Stoppard: I do think that part of the thing people are obsessed with to do with youth is this idea of freedom: freedom to create, freedom to reinvent, freedom of indemnity. And part of that is the notion of experimentation that people tie to youth. There is a whole section of the exhibition about gender fluidity. When you look at the way someone like Alessandro Michele at Gucci looks at gender it is very much tied to the freedom of the kid.

Lehrer: Was there anything particular about the work of Tony Hornecker that you thought he could add to the overall feel of the exhibition?

Stoppard: Well Tony did the set for all those original Meadham Kirchhoff presentations and shows, and I knew that I wanted to restage a bit of their SS 13 menswear presentation, which is one of the most beautiful and intelligent fashion displays I’ve ever seen, so working with Tony just felt so apt. Ben Kirchhoff also suggested Tony as being perfect to handle the restaging, so obviously it felt respectful.

Lehrer: I know the exhibition explores different ways that the male youth has been portrayed in fashion, but is there any singular idea throughout the various images that you feel could sum up the entire idea of the exhibition?

Stoppard: It’s about cycles and tropes, in a way, I suppose.

Lehrer: Do you believe youth in fashion will always be a concept heavily explored, or will we move on at some point?

Stoppard: Almost every designer draws on their own life and formative influences, so I think youth will always be there in fashion, even if it’s only due to creatives reflecting. 


Mad About The Boy, curated by Lou Stoppard, will be on view until April 2 at Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion, 20 John Princes Street. Text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Photograph by Flo Kohl. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Subculture Capital: A Conversation With Valerie Steele On the Line Between Fashion and Fantasy And Her New Book About Queen Of New York Nightlife Susanne Bartsch

Thomas Skou

Fashion and nightlife are enmeshed in a seductive tango that relies on the notion of pleasure. I often wonder if the pleasure of fashion is about dressing for yourself or for being seen? One could make the same argument about going out on the town. Indeed, there are many ways fashion and nightlife mirror one another. Each is an art as well as enterprise; each is mercurial; each can convey status and each sets and rejects trends, most typically from the ground up. If you’ve ever danced in a packed club or slithered your way into an outfit, you know that both fashion and nightlife are a celebration of the individual body—how it feels, how it looks, how it moves.

In fashion historian Valerie Steele’s latest book, Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch, which was released today by Yale University Press, readers can delight in a marriage of fashion and nightlife that examines each as an elevated art form. Her book presents approximately 200 looks from the personal wardrobe of Queen of New York Nightlife, Susanne Barstch. Bartsch, who is known not only for her elaborate parties, in particular, The Love Ball, which ultimately raised more than $2.5 million for AIDS research and advocacy, but also for celebrating the performative aspect of fashion as wearable art. New York, known to set the bar for both fashion and nightlife was Bartsch’s playground in the 1980s. And play she did, with a fantastic collection of avant-garde looks from Rachel Auburn, Body Map, Leigh Bowery, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, Mr. Pearl, Vivienne Westwood, and Zaldy. For the first time, Bartsch’s admirers can thumb through her wardrobe and feast their eyes on the corsets and headpieces, the bodices and gowns, the glitter and artistry worn by the impresario back when New York City itself was untailored, unsavory, and unadulterated.

Dr. Steele is the director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, has curated or co-curated many innovative and award-winning exhibitions, including London Fashion, The CorsetFemme Fatale Gothic: Dark Glamour, Daphne Guinness, and many more. Autre was able to have a one on one conversation with Dr. Steele about Susanne Barstch’s place in the history of nightlife and fashion, subculture capital, and whether fashion is fantasy, or an intermingling of both.

Jill Di Donato: You talk about how democratic Susanne was—the motley crew that she brings together. But through experience in the New York club scene—especially the idea of the velvet ropes—there seems to be a paradox there.

Valerie Steele: That’s what Susanne’s contemporaries were pointing out. She was different because she was much more inclusive. Most of the club scenes were very much the velvet-rope type—keeping out all but the elite. She was much more about having a heterogeneous group coming, in terms of race, age, class, and sexual identity.

JD: What clubs did Susanne work with?

VS: Savage, Bentley’s, and Copacabana were the three main clubs that I mention. But there were events from any number of organizations, ranging from the CFDA to Armani.

JD: How would you characterize 1980s club fashion?

VS: In terms of what you see in the show, you see a lot of people from her world who are very much in that post-punk, post-glam look. They are highly decorated. There’s a lot of do-it-yourself and gender-bending.

JD: What do you think of punk today? Do you think it is dead?

VS: It exists on multiple levels. On one hand, new generations keep re-discovering punk styles. On the other hand, fashion designers keep reviving what they think of as punk style. Both of those things are happening simultaneously. They don’t mean the same thing. I realized that when I did my gothic show. Goth kids were doing something different than what designers were doing, but both were drawing on some of the same sources.

JD: What do you think of club fashion today?

VS: I really don’t know very much about it. It’s not—per se—the point of the show. The show was to explore the outer-fringes of the fashion world, the fashion underground, and its relation to the more commercial, mainstream fashion. My impression is that the club scene today has much less of an influence on the mainstream fashion system than it did in the past. However, that’s always subject to change. Fashion is always about pendulum swings.

JD: You use the term “subculture capital.” Could you explain that a little bit?

VS: The idea of cultural capital is that it’s an inherited capital—not necessarily economic—but certain cultural things. You went to a school where you learned certain things. You have the right kind of manners. You have inherited things from your culture that will brand you as a member of a particular elite. Subcultural capital, then, exists within various subcultures. You know the right kind of music. You might know the band personally. You would know things that were valuable within that subculture that would make you an “insider.”


"For whatever reason, I’m drawn to the hidden meaning of fashion."


JD: Do you feel all subculture will eventually become mainstream?

VS: I don’t think it’s so much that subculture becomes mainstream. I think aspects of subculture are constantly being appropriated by the mainstream. That can be painful for members of the subculture. When I did my book Fetish, I interviewed all of these leather guys. I asked, “What do you think of Versaci’s collection?” They said, “We hate it!” I asked, “Why? It’s so cool.” They said, “Now no one can tell if we’re people who mean it or who are doing it for the fashion statement.” The point is, the fashion system is a great, big vacuum cleaner that hoovers up all kinds of good looks. It vacuumed up hippies, punks, fetish, glam. You can’t blame the system; that’s what they do. But when it’s incorporated into the fashion system, it does mean something different. It doesn’t mean that members of the subculture can’t retain, for themselves, a different set of meanings. It just means that it’s no longer a secret subculture.

JD: Appropriation has such a negative connotation, but can it be a compliment?

VS: It’s inevitable. Just suck it up, because it’s going to happen. You can fight against it, but it’s like pissing in the wind. It’s not going to help you.

: You had said that fashion was the F word a long time ago. Do you still feel that way?

VS: That article was about the attitudes about academia in fashion, specifically, not in the culture in general. When I was in grad school, people in universities thought of fashion as bourgeois, conformist, anti-feminist, and superficial. Everything bad. I think there’s more of a respect for people studying fashion as a legitimate topic, in large part because of queer studies. Traditional feminism was anti-fashion, saying it was oppressive to women. Within the queer studies movement, there was a sense that fashion could be turned to one’s own purposes. It could be subversive or self-expressive. Eventually, that got through to people in academia. That said, there are still very, very few places where you can get a Ph.D in fashion. Very few. No room has been made for it in the academic framework, possibly because it’s such a cross-disciplinary field. Where would you put it? It’s like how women’s studies, basically, got dumped in the English department. Fashion studies—would it go in art history? It could fit there, but also in other departments.

Autre: Last year, The Museum at FIT lifted the photography ban, to the delight of Instagram feeds of fashion lovers. Did you have anything to do with the museum allowing photos on Instagram?

VS: Yes, I was very keen on that. The media manager and I did some research, and it became quite clear that museums all around the country were allowing photography. It was this old hold-out against a new generation—refusing to allow things to be photographed. I had to push to get that through. Other members of the museum were really anxious about it. But that’s how a younger generation relates to things. It’s very important to allow photographing in the gallery.

Autre: From Instagram, it seems the crowd-favorite is The Blonds piece, with the jaws. Do you have a favorite?

VS: Anything by Mr. Pearl. I’ve known Mr. Pearl since the eighties. I interviewed him for my Fetish book, for my corset book. I took him on a tour to the Fashion Institute to see their corset stuff. I’ve known him for a very long time, and I think he’s brilliant. He is the founder of high-fashion corsetry. It was very nice for me to see so many of his pieces that Susanne had saved. We showed them to a curator from Somerset House, and they’re going to be doing a show for Mr. Pearl in 2017 in London. It’s well-deserved. If I could acquire things from Susanne’s collection, it would be the jaws corset, and one of Mr. Pearl’s corsets.

Autre: In the “classic ten” context, what’s the one wardrobe staple you could not do without?

VS: Oh, I suppose shoes, don’t you think?

Autre: Anything particular—a heel? A boot?

VS: No, it depends. It could be a shoe, a boot, a sandal. It could even be a sneaker. (Before I did my first book, I knew nothing about sneakers. Now, I’m becoming obsessed with them.) But I do love hats. I have so many of them piled up. I don’t understand why there aren’t more hats.

JD: What would Susanne’s message to contemporary youth culture be?

VS: Accept who you are. Be pleased with who you are. I’ve talked to lots of people, and they’ve all said to me how encouraging and liberating it would be to meet Susanne. They might feel like a freak out in the real world, but she would come up to them and say, “You’re a superstar! You’re so cool!” I think that enthusiastic acceptance has been one of her great contributions. Whatever her spaces are—whether they’ve been parties or her store—they have been spaces of acceptance. Everyone talks about trans kids. Way back when she had her store, she had a trans person receptionist. She’s been way ahead of her time in that way.

JD: Is there something in Susanne’s work in particular that gives you inspiration?

VS: I’m drawn to things that are subcultural aspects of fashion. My friend Richard Martin—he used to be the director at FIT—said to me once, “Val, we always write the same book, don’t we?” All of his books were about fashion as art. All mine were fashion in terms of sex, gender, and subculture. For whatever reason, I’m drawn to the hidden meaning of fashion.

JD: Do you know if Susanne took her makeup off before bed?

VS: You know, I never asked her. But she’s Swiss German, so I bet. They are very clean.  


Find over 80 looks from Bartsch’s personal wardrobe at the exhibit, Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch, which runs through December 5, at The Museum at FIT. You can purchase the book here. Intro text and interview by Jill Di Donato with additional reportage by Van Arthur. 


Noah's Arc: An Interview With Supreme's Former Creative Director Brendon Babenzien On A New Fashion Frontier

As I first walk into the flagship store for Brendon Babenzien’s Noah brand in the NoLiTa neighborhood of Manhattan, Babenzien is a little on edge. The store, beautiful in its design as it is, still smells of paint and there appears to be a credit card issue (that issue is now completely fixed). So Babenzien politely requests that we take a 15-minute recess and I poke around the store.

Staying true to the brand’s slight adherence to its beach community theme, the store stands out in the neighborhood full of high fashion boutiques with its white brick exterior and nautical logo on the glass door. Inside is something like a portal to Babenzien’s head. There is an old issue of High Times with John Lydon on the cover, a stack of records, and numerous trinkets and gadgets that would serve a variety of activity-based functions.

And then of course there are the products. Babenzien has cultivated an aesthetic with Noah; equally informed by beach community prep and skateboarding grunge; but these products have a malleability that could serve a variety of personal styles. They are also high quality and priced exactly in accordance with their qualities. A t-shirt is $48, a sheepskin jacket is $2,000. The whole point of Noah is that the customer is buying a product and not into a brand. Thus, you pay for what you get when you need it.

News launched that Babenzien would be leaving Supreme in February, and Noah was announced shortly thereafter. He is quick to say that he wasn’t unhappy at Supreme, but his daughter had just been born and that instilled in him a drive to start vocalizing his ideas about garment sustainability and smart shopping. Babenzien’s message isn’t all that different than that of say Vivienne Westwood: buy less, buy high quality, buy beautiful.

Babenzien is immediately disarming once conversation gets rolling. He has a mystical surfer guy vibe with a soft cadence to his voice that allows him to deliver philosophies without coming off as too heavy. He and I sat down at the Noah flagship to discuss the brand, sustainability, activity, and how style is everything and fashion is nothing.

Adam Lehrer: I’m really into the whole Noah concept, I grew up on Cape Cod.

Brendon Babenzien: Oh you did, nice!

AL: When I first read an interview about you, you were talking about growing up in a beach community and how that informs the brand.

BB: Did you see the reversal sweatshirt? That literally is from this memory that I had from the clammers working when I was a kid. They’d be out there in the middle of the winter and would be wearing these two-ply sweatshirts. They weren’t even wearing jackets really and they would be digging all winter. My brother would dig for clams just for easy beer money. And my version of that, or what I grew into, was surfing. You share this common experience [living in a beach community]: surfers, fisherman, and people that are just generally beachgoers.

AL: It’s a lifestyle.

BB: You all share this common physical experience: the look of the water, the smell of the water, the beach, the sounds that go with it. I’ve always loved how a surfer and a sailor doing different activities on the same body of water - they share food locations.

AL: There’s like six restaurants, four bars.

BB: I’ve always really loved that overlap. That’s an underlying constant in the brand, but it’s not a nautical brand. It’s one part of the culture. A one-dimensional brand recognizes how you’re going to work. Apple is Apple: it’s clean design. But I think with clothing, that’s influenced by culture, it can be limiting. I’m into a lot of things why can’t I express them all under one roof? If it’s from one voice, it comes off natural. Because we’re small, and the brand is singular, I think it works.

AL: Is that something you were maybe thinking about at the latter days of Supreme, that you wanted to express all the things you love as opposed to a few specific things: art music, skateboarding…

BB: Supreme already does that better than anyone. They throw all these cultures into one place and have it make sense. It wasn’t so much that they’re not doing it so I want to do it. This label is more about me growing up and my personal experiences. There are things that I wanted to say about how I see the world. The only way to do that is to put your own brand out into the culture, and to use your own words. I was only one of many people that went into making Supreme what it is, granted I was an important part of it. But it wasn’t just my voice. It was just time for [Noah], plain and simple.

AL: I’m really interested in how you talk about how the effort put into being fashionable can overrule having style. Does Noah have a specific customer or are you trying to make products that allow people to be who they are?

BB: It’s a really tricky thing. You make all this stuff in a really particular way but then you talk about people being individuals but then you are asking them to step into your box.

AL: (Laughs) Right.

BB: So for lack of a better word, it’s a fucked up situation! That’s one of the reasons that I talk about activities and what they do and what they think because that’s really the thing that gives rise to their personal styles. We’re not asking people to come in and be a “Noah person,” we’re asking them to be themselves and see if any of these products fit their lives.  If you want to run in these shorts or you decide this is the year that you’re going to buy a sheepskin jacket, and which one is it? Maybe it’s ours. Maybe it’s the Tom Ford one, I don’t know. But we really like the piece and we hope the customers can do their own things with it. So we aren’t really asking people to join this culture, it’s more how do we intersect with people.

AL: A lot of designers seem to say that they don’t buy into trends, but you’re really a trend averse designer, is that conscious or are you just trying to filter things into the world?

BB: I definitely get nervous with the designer term because I really don’t know if I am. I’m a glorified stylist: I don’t have any design training, and I couldn’t cut a pattern if I tried. I’m something else, but I don’t know what that is yet. The trend-averse thing, it’s not a thought. From the time I was 13 working at a surf shop, I’ve trusted my instincts. Sometimes that leaves you ahead of the curve. We try not to analyze it so much here. I’m not even sure we are trend averse. They are just clothes. But I feel like we sit really closely with the world and I’ve often thought that people that make things, whether it be fashion or television shows, are so closely related in their thinking. I’d love to think that we are ahead of something, but I really don’t think we are.

AL: One thing that I found interesting was that the spectrum of price points is vast, but all the products are priced exactly as they should be. A t-shirt is $45 or a jacket can go up to 2 grand. Is it important to you that the product always matches its price point?

BB: Yes. One of the things at the core of this, from the business side and maybe culturally, we produce garments that make sense and we don’t over-produce. Sometimes the price is really high because you are making a small quantity of a beautiful thing in a very expensive fabric. That is design to me. But a t-shirt shouldn’t be $200, I wouldn’t want to wear a fancy t-shirt. When you have a store, there’s an advantage to things not being ridiculously priced, because you cut out the wholesale component.

[Brendon walks over to the Noah store’s racks of clothing and motions toward a shirt] We have a cashmere shirt, and it’s expensive it’s $800.


AL: I felt it though, it’s nice.

BB: Oh, it’s incredible. If I was in the wholesale department, or I was in another brand that was in a position to buy that fabric, it would be $3,000. That’s a real thing.

AL: And I also think that brands like modern day Saint Laurent selling cut off denim skirts for 1200 dollars just to maintain brand integrity is sick.

BB: I have a hard time critiquing Saint Laurent because of all the “luxury brands” I actually think they are doing a pretty phenomenal job. The clothes are pretty normal.

AL: And that’s interesting because it does go into Yves’s philosophy of normal clothes made in the most luxurious of fabrics.

BB: There’s some stuff where you really see the rock n’ roll influence and maybe there are some people that couldn’t get it, but then they’ll have a coat that by most standards is pretty preppy.

AL: I think it’s more the styling that makes it look subversive.

BB: Yeah it’s incredible. My criticisms of the fashion world mostly have to with it pushing products on the public. Products that people might not be interested in after a year. That has to do with more of my personal consumption. If you buy my jacket you can wear it for 30 years, cool. If you buy something wear it once and throw it in to the back of your closet, we have an issue.


"We live in a fucked up world where there is no perfect answer. So what do I do? I make clothes, I understand brand culture, and I have things that I want people to see. So I open up the doors and communicate every aspect of the process. Focus on how style is style and you need not buy 100 things to look cool."


AL: What’s interesting though is that the people who aren’t smart about shopping buy so much shit, but people like me who do care about a quality product are going to trust you more as the person behind a brand, and they will want to buy Noah.

BB: You would hope. Styling is a huge component. There are things in this room that on one person might look really preppy but on another might look more mod or English punk or whatever. It depends. If I get a 50-year old guy from Naples and he buys this [double breasted jacket] he’s going to look Euro. But someone else could wear it and look like Shane MacGowan. That’s there the style component comes in.

AL: With Supreme, the only thing in front of the brand is the red box logo, has it been weird transitioning to someone who is in front of the brand, doing interviews, in some sense being the face.

BB: Yes (laughs). I’m not a huge fan, but I’m getting more comfortable with it. As a father I feel a responsibility to start communicating these ideas. I’m not good if I’m not taking the little amount of connection I have to people. If I’m not doing that, I’m kind of being irresponsible. If I can maybe open someone’s mind to buying less or starting their own business, then I need to do it. But I don’t necessarily enjoy it.

AL: I just remember when you were at Supreme one video of you came out and everyone was like, “Brendon Babenzien speaks,” it was a big deal, just to hear you speak at all. Now there’s tons of press. It has to be different.


BB: It’s a lot. I’m not stoked. Did you see how stressed I was this morning? It was pretty much because of this. I like talking to you, I like talking to people. All the writers that have come in are informed and cool and it’s a pleasure to have these conversations. But I don’t want to be fucking famous.

AL: And fame can be a by-product.

BB: Here I am trying to talk about consumption issues and buying less and I’m selling products. We live in a fucked up world where there is no perfect answer. So what do I do? I make clothes, I understand brand culture, and I have things that I want people to see. So I open up the doors and communicate every aspect of the process. Focus on how style is style and you need not buy 100 things to look cool. I would argue that people with less money and access that know how to dress are far superior creatively to people that can buy anything they want. It’s easy to buy a Celiné piece and look fresh, Celiné is incredible!

AL: It’s harder to go dig up an old Yohji Yammamoto jacket at a thrift store.

BB: Forget that even. Maybe you can’t even afford that, and you have to co-opt something. That’s why I think skateboard culture and hip-hop culture were so impressive in the early years. These kids had nothing, but they would go buy stuff at Army Navy stores and workwear and make it look fucking cool.

AL: And it’s been influencing everything ever since.

BB: That’s style. To not have to go out and buy the latest and the greatest thing.

AL: You’ve said Supreme was more about the artists, musicians, skaters, surfers, writers, and athletes, are these still your people with Noah?

BB: They’re not even separate. You can’t separate music and fashion and skateboarding and style. Think about skateboarding: the style isn’t just the fashion, it’s the doing. You watch the old Dogtown doc, they say you have to have style. How your arm sits, you land. The clothes are an extension of that. You can say the same thing about a painter or a writer, the physical action of what they do is natural. It’s a style. Because if you skip that process of skating, running, or painting, and go straight to just trying to look a certain way, there’s nothing there. There’s no substance. Shopping shouldn’t be a fucking hobby.

AL: With Supreme something everybody liked were the campaigns with people like Lou Reed, do you still want to use the brand to highlight people that you admire?

BB: Without a doubt. I don’t know that I’m in the position to do that yet, there are costs involved. We’ve already started in some way, these bandanas are from some Japanese kid who cuts up bandanas. We’ll do that, when we can.

AL: To finish up, just sitting here I see people coming in and you seem so interested in people. And stories, and you have ideas and an overall message, do you see yourself in some sense being a storyteller?

BB: I think I like people, I joke a lot that I don’t like people but I just don’t like bad people. I definitely like a good story. I don’t know if I’m the storyteller or if I like other peoples’ stories and want others to know those stories. Maybe I’m the person who spreads the story. Because you realize that there are so many people that do amazing things and don’t get noticed, maybe they don’t have connections, or can’t talk to the press, or don’t understand social media. They never get their due. It’s fucking crazy. Or these days if you aren’t into alternative music or lifestyle, you’re nothing. Why? I met these guys at a wash house the other day. They were these big MMA guys from Maine, like brawlers. And they were there getting some of their clothes washed. They have a big factory in the woods in Maine, and they make MMA fighting gear. And they were super cool, smart, fun to talk to, interested in New York. We talked for like an hour, because they were really interested in fabrics. But if you saw these huge guys walking in and they said, “Yeah I love textiles,” you wouldn’t know how that happened. I love that shit.


The Noah flagship store is now open at 195 Mulberry Street in New York. The online store will be live on October 22, 2015. Text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Images by Thomas Iannaccone. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Tattered to Shreds: An Interview With Chapel NYC's Patrick Matamoros On The Perfect Tee

The first time I met Patrick Matamoros, we decided to drive to Malibu – to John Frusciante’s house – to shoot a wet t-shirt contest fashion editorial with some of his incredible vintage tees. He had just come in from New York where he would sell his tees either on the street or in pop up shops throughout the city – and often got arrested for not having a merchant’s license. There were original Vivien Westwood and Malcolm McClaren seditionary tees with Minnie Mouse getting fucked by Mickey, and Snow White getting gang banged by the Seven Dwarves. It was the kind of subversive brilliance that came out of a late 70s punk London when donning swastikas and chains was the cool thing to do. Today, a lot of these t-shirts have become a lot more rare and sought after. Ten years later, Patrick is in Los Angeles and has a virtual library of some of the rarest t-shirts in the world – what he calls a “t-shirt orphanage.” His biggest clients are Rihanna and Kanye. It’s hard to find anything about the umbrella company, Chapel NYC, which he uses to slang his threadbare wares. Patrick is also very secretive about where he finds his t-shirts, but he is not shy about telling you that he’ll travel far and wide to find some of the coolest tees you’ve ever seen. Patrick has a laid back, ageless California soul whose living room consists of a half pipe and a DJ booth that usually has a Waylon Jennings record spinning on repeat. After all this time, we got a chance to catch up with Patrick to ask him some questions about his life in vintage tees, the great lengths he goes to source his tees and his brand, Chapel NYC. Chapel has also curated a fine selection of rare tees for the Autre store – we are rolling out a batch this week and next, so grab one or two before someone else does.

Oliver Kupper: When did you start collecting tees?

Patrick Matamoros: My first vintage tee was my cousin’s Beatles t-shirt. It was from the early 80s. It was worn and thin. I had a crush on this girl in the eighth grade—a cute, Mexican gothic girl. She had never talked to me before. She came up to me and said, “Nice t-shirt,” and walked away with an attitude. I went and got the rest of my cousin’s t-shirts.

OK: Those t-shirts were original concert tees?

PM: Concert tees didn’t really start until the seventies. You’ll see t-shirts before then, but hardly ever official. Maybe you’ll get something made up for a photo shoot for a record label. T-shirts weren’t fashion until the seventies.

OK: What’s the craziest length you’ve ever gone to source a tee?

PM: I bought a t-shirt from a homeless guy once. I was on a bus, and this guy is wearing a 1976 Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt. It was amazing. I start talking to him to see if the t-shirt meant something to him, but someone had given it to him at a shelter. I bought him a new t-shirt and paid him $40.

OK: Did you sell it?

PM: Yeah. Almost immediately for $350 or $400.

OK: There are specific tees that people seem to like over time. Have you noticed any trends?

PM: I’ve gotten a bunch of new clients recently that are very young. Ten years ago, people were wearing t-shirts ironically. These young kids that are collecting tees and getting into tees are not doing that. When they’re wearing a Brandi t-shirt from 2002, they’re really, really into it. There’s nothing ironic about the way they wear a Christina Aguilera or Mariah Carey t-shirt. I’m not exactly a fan of most of those people or their music. But I think it’s cool that these kids aren’t doing what we were doing ten years ago. They are actual fans of everything they wear. 

The trend right now is very much early 2000s and late 90s. A lot of cartoon stuff; a lot of Disney t-shirts. Not like Mickey Mouse, though.

OK: Tell me about the days when you were a street merchant in Soho. How did you go about doing that? Where did you sell them?

PM: I used to sell at the markets on the weekends. I was looking for more opportunity to sell my stuff. Some guy who sold on the street in Soho asked me to sell with him. The first day that I was out there, I made $2,000. I thought, “Maybe I’m onto something here.” I set up every day at the corner of Prince and Mercer. I used to have to fight for that spot. No one wanted that spot, but I made it hot. People were always there. People started setting up next to me. Everyone knew to find me there. If I didn’t show up, I’d get phone calls or texts from clients saying, “Hey, you weren’t there yesterday.” I kept getting arrested. Not for doing anything illegal; Bloomberg didn’t want any street merchants. He created a task force to get rid of street merchants under the guise of trying to fight counterfeits in Chinatown. He started arresting street merchants for any offense. If you were half an inch over a line where you were supposed to be, you would get arrested instead of getting a ticket. That’s how they go about intimidation.

OK: They put you in holding?

PM: Oh, yeah. I got arrested three times in four days once.

OK: That was outside of a hotel?

PM: At the time, it was a L’Occitane store. Now, it’s the Nescafé store.

OK: New York has definitely changed. Is that why you moved back to LA?

PM: I was born and raised in LA, and I like enjoying my life. No matter how successful you are, you keep plugging away, but you don’t see yourself moving forward. I decided to make being happy my number one goal. That worked.

OK: When did you sell your first t-shirt?

PM: I don’t have a great story to that. I was trying to pay some bills. I went to a store that bought vintage clothes and sold some t-shirts to them to pay my rent. I would say it started before the t-shirts, when I was in the mod scene. I always had impeccably tailored suits. People would always come up to me and ask where I got my suits. I would say, “Give me your number. If I find something, I’ll give you a call.” I was really into old things. I wasn’t into shopping at the Gap.

OK: Does every t-shirt have a story?

PM: Oh, yeah. It might not register on the t-shirt necessarily. That’s part of the story, but it isn’t the story. Take this Motorhead t-shirt. The story is the person who wore that t-shirt.


"That’s the story of their life, the t-shirt. How many times did someone snort coke or shoot heroin in that t-shirt? That’s what I’m after. That piece that you look at and say, “Fuck, man.” Where did this t-shirt come from?"


OK: Who wore that Motorhead t-shirt?

PM: Someone who really loved Motorhead. At what point do you think they said, “There are too many holes?” It’s destroyed. You can’t wear that again. That’s the story of their life, the t-shirt. How many times did someone snort coke or shoot heroin in that t-shirt? That’s what I’m after. That piece that you look at and say, “Fuck, man.” Where did this t-shirt come from?

OK: In terms of counterfeits, how do you know that they’re real? A lot of people can print t-shirt on vintage linens. Can you tell the difference?

PM: Yeah. I see so many t-shirts. You match the wear of the t-shirt to the wear of the print. You see enough fakes that you can tell. It’s t-shirt archaeology.

OK: What is an era to which you find yourself gravitating?

PM: I love as early seventies as I can get. It’s hard to find t-shirts from that era. T-shirts didn’t really come into being until 1975—that’s when you see t-shirts for a purpose. If you do find a music t-shirt from pre-1975, it’s pretty special. I care less about rarity than about how intrinsically cool the t-shirt is.

OK: It seems like it gets pretty niche. You have everything from hip hop tees to 70s concert tees.

PM: These t-shirts are all orphans. I’m their caretaker. I’m trying to find the right home for them. You might like that tee, but it’s not yours. You know when you put it on. You really know.

OK: It’s the t-shirt orphanage. It seems like t-shirts speak to you. If you buy and wear vintage tees wholesale for the sake of resale, it feels like a difficult thing to give up. Do you have trouble giving up t-shirts?

PM: All the time. But my clients respect what I do. When I say a t-shirt is $1,000 and they agree, I respect that they have money to buy it.

OK: It also seems easier to put a price tag on things when you have your own personal value to it. People will put any value on a t-shirt, but you seem like you have a legitimate, distinct value for a t-shirt. It seems worth it, if you have the money.

PM: People get really upset when I tell them the price. I don’t feel bad. Maybe, sometimes, I feel bad a little. It’s not the hard work that I put into finding the pieces. That’s important, but that’s not really it. It’s all relative. Someone walks in with a Balenciaga bag, and they start complaining about the price. I tell them, “You know what, maybe it’s not for you.” I take the option away from them. That’s when they really want it. Go to Barney’s, got to Bergdorf’s, go to Maxfields—try to find something this fucking cool for $500. Come back, and now it’s $600, because you’ve aggravated me. The aggravation tax is $100. And I’ve done that. They’ve gone and come back, and I’ve charged them the aggravation tax. They don’t even question it. They know they were wrong. For them, it has value. They could afford it, and they questioned me. I’ll even send them to all my competitors. Here are the four stores that are my competitors—if you find anything this cool, I’ll give it to you. I give people that challenge all the time.

OK: It’s ironic that the vintage t-shirt market has become a luxury market. They’ve become the definition of luxury, in the sense of how rare they are and the value you put on them. There’s a distinct value to them outside of monetary value.

PM: A lot of the other stores sell according to how rare it is. I don’t care. I’ll sell blank t-shirts for $500. All I care about is how good it looks on you.

OK: What’s the coolest shirt you’ve ever seen?

PM: That’s tough. I have a Lou Reed t-shirt that’s pretty cool. It’s just his face and the words, “Lou Reed.” The back says, “Rock n’ Roll Animal.”  But it’s so thin and fragile—it’s absolutely beautiful.

OK: What’s a typical buying trip like?

PM: I get my best tees from old clients. Buying shirts isn’t the same as it used to be. You used to be able to buy stuff. I used to be able to go to thrift stores and find things, but that doesn’t happen anymore. Really, I’m getting all my best stuff from people like myself or ex-collectors. Buying trips aren’t what they used to be.

OK: Has the market become saturated?

P: It’s the opposite. We’re drying up. Because of the Internet, people know that they have valuable things. They’re selling the things themselves, they’re saving them, they’re giving them to their kids. People are keeping things when they used to donate them. There used to be a circle of life of t-shirts. That’s not happening anymore. The supply line has been broken.

OK: But the t-shirts are still around. They might come back later.

PM: When they do, even a basic tee is going to be hundreds of dollars. A common 1989 Stones tee—which you used to get for $60—is now $150-$300. Christina Aguilera t-shirts from 2000 have gone for $350. In ten years, even those things are going to be impossible to find. Let alone a nice 70s Stones tee—those things are going to be out of any well-to-do someone’s price range. That t-shirt is going to be $3,000. That’s what they’re going to be going for.


Click here to purchase tees from the Chapel NYC collection on Autre. Follow Chapel NYC on Instagram. photographs by Sara Clarken. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


A Pantone Dream In Rib-Knit: An Interview With Designer Giuliana Raggiani i

The turtleneck has had a bizarre reputation. Like a pop star with a long career, it had a murky past (worn by sailors and thieves looking for a warm outfit for prowling in the night), caused a sensation when it first hit the scene, began slowly fading into the background, then started acting strangely in front of the press (think of the beatnik and his beret or Steve Jobs’ monograph wardrobe of Issey Miyake-designed turtlenecks), but now the turtleneck is making a comeback in a big way. Last February, when the fall 2015 collections started hitting the runways, the turtleneck hit the spotlight for a sartorial revival, like an aging diva getting her groove back. This is why designer Giuliana Raggiani is right on the money. Her label Giu Giu’s fall collection is highlighted with classic wide-ribbed turtlenecks that can be layered or worn a la carte, depending on how brisk the weather. Raggiani’s love of turtlenecks dates back to the fashion staple’s glory days – her grandmother, Palmira Giglia, was responsible for the “Nonna Turtleneck,” which sold at her luxury womenswear boutique on Boston’s Newbury Street. They became a must-have for any discerning, chic woman’s wardrobe. In fact, there are a lot of things going on in Giu Giu’s fall collection that encapsulate Raggiani’s passions, interests and biographical background. The color palette – brown, amber, dashes of fuschia and hints of blue – is borrowed from Gustave Klimpt’s “Le Tre Età Della Donna” or “The three ages of woman,” which depicts a woman in her three major life stages: childhood, adulthood and old age. There are also pieces that are inspired by her background in ballet – the slouchy, cozy knitwear that a dancer may wear during warm-up is contrasted with pieces that mirror the linear rigidity of plies and pirouettes. And the title of the collection, Tangling, comes from the practice of meditative "doodling,” which is called zentangling – a practice that is said to lead one to more mindful living. Examples of these doodles can be found in the textiles and patterns of the collection. We got a chance to catch up with Giuliana Raggiani to discuss her new collection, its inspirations, and her love for turtlenecks. 

Oliver Kupper: So, tell me a little bit about your background, when did you know that you wanted to become a clothing designer? 

Giuliana Raggiani: Honestly, I think I expected to become anything but that. I grew up in New England in a first generation Italian family, and from an early age my Nonna taught me the importance of craftsmanship in clothing. Frequent trips to Neiman Marcus and Saks, embroidery lessons, and the importance of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes in one’s wardrobe. At the time, I’d roll my eyes, but secretly took mental notes. 

As I got older, being part of a ballet company left me with a strict schedule, and little time for exploration in design. So it wasn't really until I had to trade in my point shoes for a pencil when I reconnected with fashion. This eventually led me to moving to New York and attending Parsons School of Design, and then discovering my love of knitwear at Central Saint Martins in London. Serendipity is funny. That’s when you know some things are just meant to be. When it’s out of your control, yet falls together like it was already mapped out for you. 

OK: What is your personal design philosophy? 

GR: Clothing should be a template for a person to feel comfortable in your own skin. Like you’re wearing nothing, and everything at the same time, because it feels so good on your physical body. I try to always design with a mindful intention - Garments that excite the senses more than just visually. Touch. Mixing textures through fiber & stitch, the ability to explore, roll, tie, twist, reverse, etc… Engaging your inner child & play. One of the main reasons I love knitwear. It makes the possibilities in achieving this endless.

OK: Can you tell us about your love of turtlenecks? 

GR: It’s not so much any turtleneck, but specifically the “Nonna Turtleneck.” Palmira Giglia, my grandmother, was the genius behind these pieces. They were produced under her original line “Vaccaro,” which sold at her infamous luxury boutique on Boston’s Newbury Street from the 60s to early 90s. A staple item in every woman’s wardrobe. A weird little squiggle silhouette off the body, yet when worn, voilà! Perfection. Completely covered, yet effortlessly sexy and chic. These turtlenecks were everything to her. She kept an archive of every color from each season, which I remember vividly as a child - A pantone dream in rib-knit form. When she passed away exactly one year ago, as an homage to her, I decided to reincarnate them under the “Giu Giu” label. 


"Completely covered, yet effortlessly sexy and chic. These turtlenecks were everything to her. She kept an archive of every color from each season, which I remember vividly as a child - A pantone dream in rib-knit form."


OK: Who is the Giu Giu woman – can you describe her? 

GR: She’s a chameleon. She can be a he too…has a sense of humor, and an air of quiet confidence. Weird, but sophisticated, has a soft spot for nostalgia, and an appreciation for good design. I want her (or him) to feel like their decision in wearing a Giu Giu piece doesn't confine them in a “category.” It’s a blank canvas kind of label, with a bold energy. Ageless and genderless. 

OK: Do you have a personal design hero – in fashion or otherwise?

GR: In Fashion: aside from Nonna ~ Dries Van Noten, Kansai Yamamoto. Otherwise: Charles & Ray Eames, Marina Abramovic, Erwin Wurm 

OK: Okay, lets talk about the current collection – its inspired by your background in ballet right? 

GR: Right. I’m usually drawn to extreme contrasts. There was something about the rigid and linear movements of ballet, versus the dancer’s relaxed warm-up silhouettes and layering that I wanted to reflect in this collection. The matching suit-sets (symbolizing the aesthetic “perfection” in ballet), knitted in cozy qualities (enhancing that undone, off-stage dancer appeal). The palette was inspired by Gustav Klimt’s “Le Tre Età Della Donna," a piece recently gifted to me, and close to my heart.

OK: What is Zentangling?

GR: My best friend’s mom came to visit from Hawaii last year and she shared this new practice with me. To tangle means to doodle, so it’s essentially meditative doodling. I gave it a go and fell in love. The results led me to the different intarsias and repetitive stitch patterns seen in the textiles throughout the collection. “A mindful practice on pen & paper, using slow, careful, and deliberate strokes. As you create your tangles you relax, gain focus, and may find unexpected inspiration.” 


You can learn more about Giu Giu and see the full AW 2015 collection by visiting the label's official website. The collection is also available for preorder here. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper


Siki Im: A Fierce Warrior of Design Takes His Brands to the Next Level

photograph by Youngjun Koo

Growing up in Germany, New York-based designer Siki Im was passionate about skateboarding, punk rock, hip-hop, art, graffiti, and unwittingly, fashion. Luckily for his rabid fans that pick up every single one of his pieces released under his Siki Im or Den Im brands, Im has never abandoned those passions. In fact, his influences live and breathe within the materials found in every single one of his collections.

Originally interested in art, Im grew disillusioned with the business of art and decided to unleash his creativity in a more applied field. He studied architecture at Oxford University, but a chance meeting with David Vandewal, who was designing under Dries Van Noten and later Raf Simons, saw Im plunge headfirst into the world of fashion design, “He really liked what I was wearing, and offered me a job,” says Siki Im.

Im first worked as a designer for Karl Lagerfeld, and later took on the duties of head designer for Helmut Lang after the namesake designer retired from fashion for a full-time career in visual art.


In 2009, Im started his own brand Siki Im, and later the more relaxed brand, Den Im. His menswear collections are startlingly personal, and Im designs with his interests and passions embedded into every detail. He envisions his brand as more than just fashion; he thinks of it in terms of a multi-disciplinary creative studio. The studio has also designed cars, furniture, and all manner of design-friendly objects. Im has just collaborated on a highly successful collection of activewear with Isaora, and won the Woolmark prize for menswear for his innovative use of wool.

Im debuted his Spring-Summer 2016 collection, entitled ‘Youth Museum,’ at the first New York Fashion Week: Men’s in July. The collection was personal, reflecting on Im’s youth as a skateboarder dreaming of one day living in the city that fascinated him, New York. The presentation, that included opera singer Anthony Constanza singing LCD Soundsystem’s ‘New York I love You’ and a finale set to Sonic Youth’s ‘100 %’, was a revelation. For the first time in the two brands’ existences, Im opted to show the Siki Im and Den Im collections together, highlighting the garments’ transformative abilities. What makes Im special as a designer is his ability to draw on his own influences while still being talented enough to create garments that allow the wearer a multitude of options for styling. The whole collection felt very much as if Siki Im is about to be regarded as one of the best designers working today. Im and I sat down to speak about his collection, his interests, and the sophistication of taste created by the Internet.

Adam Lehrer: Growing up as a skateboarder, what was it about New York that obsessed you as opposed to say, LA?

Siki Im: It was probably that I couldn’t identify with the “LA scene:” the weather, the beach, “super chill,” and all that. In Germany, where I grew up, it was pretty rough and urban. I liked that, that’s what drew me to New York.

Yeah in Germany in ’91 to ’92, skateboarding wasn’t mainstream at all. It exposed me to music like the Descendants and Operation Ivy. In the ‘90s, skateboarding was kind of connected to hip-hop, and kind of connected to punk and hardcore.

It was a sub-culture that led to a lot of other culture. I’ve always loved hip-hop and hardcore punk.

AL: You have a wide breadth of influences and interests, have you always been predisposed to getting obsessed with various bits of culture?

SI: I always liked some weird shit but it’s not intentional. It might be because I grew up bi-culturally and was into sub-cultures and nothing mainstream. I was curious to see the world from a different angle. I never had a mentor. I just did a ton of research. We didn’t have Internet; It was all about going to shows. I saw Shelter, Youth of Today, and other bands. And then the hardcore scene had magazines and records. I was into vegan cooking and anti-fascist literature. It wasn’t just about music; it was a whole culture. I’d go to this record shop to buy DIY records. It was the same thing with hip-hop at the time: it wasn’t big. I went to youth centers and there’d be people with backpacks and spray cans that would be free-styling.

AL: Do you miss that at all?

SI: I just downloaded Spotify, and I think it’s great but I don’t use it. It’s too easy. I make music so I know how much effort and time goes into making a song. I remember buying a record and smelling the plastic, reading the lyrics, and looking at the credits. I do miss it. But I don’t want to be nostalgic. That’s kind of what the Spring-Summer 2016 collection, “Youth Museum,” is about.  I’m very proud of and happy about how I spent my youth. I did a lot of cool stuff. My memories are strong and inspiring. But, I need to move forward. I can’t live in my past or in nostalgia.

The way I read it, especially when you had that amazing opera singer come out and sing the LCD Soundsystem song, “New York I love you, But You’re Bringing me Down,” was saying that New York is different but we’re still here, we might as well enjoy it.

I think you wrote it quite well in your article: you love [New York] and you hate it. There are so many great things here, but there are also things that make you want to leave. But you can’t leave for some reason. The good thing about working in design and fashion is that while it’s all about trend and youth, the work is also about me.

AL: How did you develop an interest in architecture? Was it just because you were fascinated with the urban environment?

SI: I was actually about to go to art school. I had my first exhibition when I was 17. I was really into graffiti and after that I started painting. I did an apprenticeship painting with a successful artist. I got accepted into some good art schools in Germany. But, I wanted to do something applied. I didn’t have much knowledge about architecture, but I always loved spaces and buildings without really knowing why. I admired a few architects like the Bauhaus architects and le Corbusier. I decided to study in England, because architecture in Germany is more widely regarded as engineering where as in England it’s more design.

AL: More creative?

SI: Exactly. The school that I went too thought of architecture in a conceptual way. Again, I was faced with weird shit.

AL: How’d you like living in England?

SI: It was cool. I was a studious super nerd. But we would go to London once a month to see a show. At that time I was really into breakbeats, ninja tune, all that stuff.

AL: Were you always interested in clothes; did you have favorite brands?

SI: Funny enough, I think I was always into fashion. Skateboarding helped me with style and gave me a taste for styling. I remember in 9th grade I was supposed to do an internship. I applied for fashion companies in Cologne, but I got an internship with a photographer. I was interested in fashion without realizing it.

AL: You started working right off the bat with amazing designers, how did you end up working with those guys?

SI: I met this guy who came from Belgium that was a designer for Dries [Van Noten] and Raf [Simons], David Vandewal.

AL: (laughs)

SI: No seriously, it was that easy almost! Like right away, I was his assistant. And now he’s my stylist.

AL: Oh shit.

SI: Yeah, now I’m his boss!

AL: That must be gratifying.

SI: (laughs) No we’re just a really good team, you know? We have really similar taste, so it makes working easier. I was really lucky. I didn’t need to apply for anything.

AL: I’m curious about what your day-to-day was like with Karl Lagerfeld, were you designing with him?

SI: Yeah I was designing men’s and women’s: fittings, going to factories, and traveling around the world. At that time he was really into New York so he would come once a month. He’s super funny and totally different than what people see from the outside. Among designers he’s known as super funny, witty, and smart. He has so much knowledge.

AL: And then at Helmut Lang you were head designer after he left the company?

SI: Yeah, the Karl Lagerfeld studio had closed and I was looking for a new job and they had just started the new Helmut Lang, so I just joined them.


"Everything is elevated now. We are making high fashion but we find inspiration in Cholos and farmers in Kenya."


AL: I can imagine that was stressful taking over for someone like Helmut, he was one of the most legendary designers of the ‘90s.

SI: Yeah, there was a lot of baggage, especially because he was one of my favorite designers and I have a lot of his pieces. It was challenging in the beginning. I think we did a great job to give the brand a new identity.

AL: So how did you come to the decision to start the Siki Im brand and design firm?

SI: I always dreamed of having my own creative studio and 2009 was the right time to do it. I had no idea it was going to start with fashion. I envisioned it as a multi-faceted design studio. So now we don’t just do fashion; we do furniture, interior spaces, cars, and products. That’s what interests me

AL: I was curious because it does seem like there are some pretty exciting menswear designers based in New York right now that actually just showed in New York.

SI: Which ones?

AL: There’s you, Robert Gellar, Alexandre Plokhov, Patrik Ervell, Proper Gang. But then there’s so many designers that still do shows in Paris. It’s obviously the first NYFWM, and I know you were a big part of putting it together, do you see it maybe growing to the same level as Paris and London, or is that the idea?

SI: I think so. It’s just started. I think it’s a strong city. But I think it’s just as important to have an identity. It was great to separate the men’s shows from the women’s to give us more of a voice and to show our true colors instead of playing second fiddle at the womenswear shows.  

AL: For me it felt like, for you and Robert especially, those shows are going to take the brands to the next level, and I feel that type of creativity puts New York Fashion Week: Men’s on the map, maybe even more so than your Calvin’s and your Ralph’s.

SI: I think that it’s all important. If it was all Robert and I, that would be boring too. That’s what makes us human. I think everyone has a voice. I’m just blessed that people like what I do. I love showing here. Everyone is always telling you to show in Paris, and there are business reasons, such as buyers and production, to go to Paris, but I love New York. Let’s make New York cooler. New York, will never and should never be like Paris. We should have our own identity.

AL: Do you think that menswear as a business is really as on the upswing that the New York Times Style section says it is?

SI: I mean, if the New York Times says it then it must be true….? No I’m just kidding.

AL: (laughs)

SI: I think it is. The average man is more into culture in general. I think Apple actually had a huge influence on exposing culture to more people and making us more aware of design and details. That extends to movies, to music, to better TV shows. All the TV shows are amazing! It all cultivates a more refined taste. It is all part of one evolution.


AL: Would you ever be interested in taking on womenswear?

SI: Yeah I love womenswear. That’s what I did in my past. We have women’s stores and women’s editorials. We cut in woman sizes. It’s just a matter of time and infrastructure to do a women’s collection.

AL: I know you’re probably crazy busy as it is, but would you ever run your own brand and also take on one of the big houses?

SI: That’s a good opportunity for sure. It’s a different way of designing. You are creative within certain outlined boundaries and parameters. That’s what makes a great designer. But, if I was going to take something on, I would want it to be a brand totally opposite to my own brand. I would rather do some really Madonna brand, like how Raf modernized Dior. If the ideologies are too similar to my own brand, than it’s almost boring.

AL: So, let’s talk about the new collection. You’ve said that this is your most personal collection yet. Why now did you feel like it was the right time to do an almost autobiographical collection of garments?

SI: I think I put my interests and soul into every collection, but this season it was just going back to how I grew up in the ‘90s. Instead of using a concept or theme, I used my story and my youth. When CFDA announced the separation of men’s and women’s fashion week and we wanted to be a part of it, we decided it made sense to do our extension line, Den Im, together with Siki Im in the show

AL: It looked great, by the way.

SI: Thanks! It was definitely because the main line is pretty out there and we wanted to make the show a little more approachable. It was a challenge because both lines have their own identities, but can also live together. It became a challenge to make the show feel natural. I usually wear both together.

AL: Yeah I have a few Den Im pieces and what I think is really cool is I have this asymmetrical hoodie with two zippers, and I can wear it like that or I can wrap it around me, or I can make it look a little more abstract if I want to. Is that a conscious decision at all?

SI: Yeah, totally. How you wear it is up to you, and I love that. We can only propose certain ways to wear it that we think are different and fresh. But we do love to give you a lot of freedom. I love movies that have an ending that is open to interpretation. For me, that is more human.

AL: That’s really cool, it’s like the Sopranos fade to black ending.

SI: Amazing, yeah.

AL: I hate how style editors talk about ‘elevated streetwear’ in that it almost feels demeaning. Like, you take someone like Nasir Mazhar and call it streetwear, but that guy is an amazing designer of fashion.

SI: Yeah, we’ve been doing so-called ‘elevated streetwear’ since our third season. When Americana was still in we started doing drop-crotch sweats and elongated t-shirts. But think of it this way, Jay-Z is an elevated rapper.

AL: (laughs) That is true.

SI: He is a CEO multi-millionaire. It’s the same thing with the iPhone, it’s an elevated gadget. Everything is elevated now. We are making high fashion but we find inspiration in Cholos and farmers in Kenya. It’s also a marketing tool.

AL: I feel like it just might be an overused term, to me fashion is being able to spot things that are beautiful or cool and re-purposing them for high fashion. Maybe I’m over-thinking it.

SI: Not over-thinking it, what it is, I can tell from your tone that you are maybe a little annoyed by the labeling.

AL: I just think an amazing designer is an amazing designer.

SI: But people just label things. I’m sure Alice in Chains didn’t want to be grunge. But it’s just easier for marketing. We’re humans, we’re dumb. We like to put everything in boxes.

AL: Yeah.

SI: What does streetwear mean now anyways? There are kids in the street wearing $300 sneakers, and there are yuppies wearing $300 sneakers. Everything is democratic, but also flat, and that’s great. My job is to make it less flat, whatever that means. At least people look cooler. In the ‘80s the yuppie was super ugly, now the yuppie has an iPhone and probably rides a fixed gear bike. That’s the new yuppie. That’s you and me.

AL: (Laughs) That’s true, and smart. So you have all these new collaborations coming out with the eyewear, I just saw the Isaora running gear. How do these collaborations come about?

SI: I really like the idea of being a design-led creative studio. For me, as a young small company, these collaborations are great ways to show people what I’m into and what I like to design. Our running line started because Rick from Isaora wears my clothes and I wear his clothes. And, we thought it would be cool to do a little collaboration, and it turned out to be a huge success, actually. It’s been crazy. And on trend. I love anything design: sunglasses, ceramics, homewear, water bottles. I love that shit.

AL: Does it feel like more and more of these opportunities are coming up?

SI: We just got accepted to be a part of CFDA and that’s a huge honor. The Woolmark next round is in January, and just keep designing good stuff and being challenged by it. 


You can learn more about Siki Im by visiting the brand's official website. Text and interview by Autre's fashion editor-at-large, Adam Lehrer


Exploring Margiela's Genius: An Interview with Alison Chernick

photograph courtesy of Chernick

photograph courtesy of Chernick

How do you make a documentary about a subject who never shows his face and insists on being interviewed only by fax? When the subject is Martin Margiela and his eponymously named cult label Maison Martin Margiela, the legend alone is enough material. In the short documentary The Artist Is Absent, an obvious riff on Marina Abramović’s highly present retrospective performance at MoMA, documentarian filmmaker and writer Alison Chernick explores the myth, the legend, and the genius that is Margiela. Indeed, Margiela was a pivotal and controversial fulcrum in the world of high fashion – upcycling car seatbelts, blonde wigs and winter gloves, he created garments that defined sartorial rebellion and he made fashion adventurous. Starting with his breakout collection in 1989 and ending with his abrupt departure in 2009, the collections produced by Maison Margiela defied convention. The documentary, which has been produced by the Yoox Group, features the likes of Jean Paul Gautier, Raf Simons, and Geert Bruloot, who is largely credited with discovering Margiela and his talents. In the following interview, Chernick, who has created award-winning documentaries exploring artists like Matthew Barney and Julian Schnabel, talks to Autre about her first fashion documentary and her journey unlocking the mystery of Margiela. 

Autre: You’ve done a lot of documentaries about major contemporary visual artists, like Matthew Barney and Julian Schnabel, what was different about making a documentary about a designer versus making a documentary about an artist?  

Alison Chernick: A documentary on a fashion designer comes with an innate rhythm, a visual aesthetic, a beat that gives the footage fluidity as fashion is so much about body movement.  Fortunately for me he also is a complex and intriguing character so the film can also offer some deep commentary as well. A film on a visual artist is a totally different beast, often more esoteric with less of a natural rhythm.

Autre: What did you personally learn or discover about Margiela through the making of this documentary?

Chernick: What an original thinker he was. He was a leader, a provocateur, a maverick, a sentimentalist…the anti-designer. 

Autre: There has been a recent wave of documentaries about designers, why do you think fashion is being noticed more and more outside of the fashion world?

Chernick: Fashion is accessible to the masses and that’s why fashion films have such a large following. Everyone has to wear clothes; therefore each can connect to this material, literally, in some form or other.

Autre: If you were able to sit down with Margiela, what would you ask him?

Chernick: I'd chat with him about his new paintings - he's been painting and I look forward to seeing them.

A rare 1992 photo of Martin Margiela. Archives Villa Noailles

Autre: Have you always wanted to make documentary films?

Chernick: I sort of fell into it -- but there is an endless wealth of material to document, so there is never a shortage of topics -- its all pending accessibility

Autre: Can you name one documentary that really floored you, a documentary that made you want to make the same kind of films?

Chernick: How about docufiction? I often find that fiction can often get to the truth before documentary…I was floored by Hirokazu Koreeda's Nobody Knows. I’m also a big fan of Maurice Pialat. The Cove was pretty mind-blowing. Capturing the Friedmans was also was riveting. 

 Autre: Are there plans to making a feature length Margiela documentary?

Chernick: Not sure…not as of right now, but there has been talk.

Autre: What do you hope the audience watching the documentary will learn about the designer?

Chernick: I hope it will inspire artists to put fear aside and think outside the box, lead and don't follow. Follow your instinct. 

Autre: What’s next?

Chernick: Docufiction!

The Artist is Present will see its premier on Yoox – a premier fashion destination. There will also be selections from Margiela’s past collections available for purchase. You can explore Alison Chernick’s previous films on her website. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

Music Fucks with Fashion: An Interview with Cozette McCreery

photograph by Nick Dorey 

I first met Cozette McCreery when I was trying on a flower and knit embellished coat and did a few twirls of delight. Her head nod of acknowledgment anointed me with a sense of cool that shook me up a little. After hours of online research I couldn’t get enough and I started to run off on tangents of whether or not to question her on her time as Lucian Freud’s muse or her stint in Israel as a shepherd in training. As one third of the design collective Sibling along with Joe Bates and Sid Bryan, Cozette is part of a special order of epic ladies whose stories from clubland can keep you wide awake and high… like a good Netflix binge. When I finally grabbed a moment with her during her preparation for the AW 2015 women’s Sibling show in London, I decided to ask her the hard hitting questions on the designer clothes, raves, and 80’s era Madge that fueled her. 

BJ Panda Bear: What was your most epic outfit of that rave era?

CM: Thankfully no one brought cameras or had smart phones as I probably looked like a sweaty mess! Not sure if it was ‘epic’ as frankly it was pre-raves when all of us club kids really dressed up (I’d wear Alaia, Gaultier, vintage YSL, full red Jasper Conran suits, Alastair Blair, Rifat Ozbek and Patrick Kelly to clubs. Trying to either be very Robert Palmer video or a Roxy Music groupie) and raves were just not the place for full catwalk looks. I’d be in a Shoom T shirt, Alaia leggings and Travel Fox. Or a full Conran multi-strap dance all in one, leather wrap mini (it was like a belt - to quote my Father) and Nikes. Raving was all about the music and dancing and getting really really sweaty, less about the venue and wether your lipstick had smudged. I was also listening to a lot of Hip Hop at the time so that influenced how I dressed too.

I didn’t get back in to dressing up for a club night until Richard Mortimer asked me to take over the door at Boombox. Every Sunday I had the chance to wear my new designer frocks (Gareth Pugh, Jonathan Saunders, Raf at Jil Sander, Giles) and heels. 

BJ: Last seasons epic homage to Madonna circa “borderline” tugged on all my happy strings. What music have you been listening lately to as inspiration for the new collection and life in general? 

CM: I was always a massive fan of Madonna, still am, but that period was the one I love the most and the one I tried desperately (seeking - haha) hard to imitate in my dress. I listen to music all the time and usually instigate the choices for both the men’s and women’s shows. For men’s AW15 I wanted something that sounded like it could come from a young guy’s music collection, played loud in his bedroom. As it was an evening show (and all pink!) I also wanted it to be a bit sexier especially as Matthew Josephs had cast these buff guys. Women’s AW15 is still to be decided as I keep listening to stuff and thinking yeah this is great then walk to it and think nope not going to work. That’s why it’s brilliant to work with Nathan Gregory Wilkins as he’ll offer ideas and we can bat things off one another and Phoebe Arnold our womenswear stylist has good suggestions too. 

As for my day to day listening well, it’s a bit random. I don’t tend to stick to one genre and try not to be a music snob so if I like the latest Ke$ha I’ll buy it. If iPod shuffle kicks out Rage Against The Machine, Odd Future, Prince and then One Direction and Selena Gomez I’m really happy.

Sibling S/S 2015 photograph by Lorenzo Cisi

BJ: How did you get into DJing?...Name your top 5 - 10 songs you love to spin? 

CM: My ex boyfriend Adam put me forward to this all girl DJ group called Hey Ladies. Funnily enough DJ Fat Tony tried to get me to DJ when I was in my late teens but I couldn’t see why I would give up working in fashion to do it. Probably not one of my best decisions ever as he has joked that I could have been massive by now! Anyhow, Hey Ladies started it and we’d DJ at these great parties and record launches. When the group disbanded I just kept going as I still had people booking me and I really enjoy it. I’m good at parties because I never have a set-list. The last one I did was a really mixed crowd: teenage boys to middle aged aristos and 90’s pop stars but I had them dancing at 4am to The Rolling Stones and Blur so I must have been doing something right especially as they then kept me (hardly forced to be honest as I was having fun) there for another hour. 

photograph by Terry Richardson

BJ: A lot of Sibling reminds me of all the great Kansai Yamamoto, famous for his work with David Bowie, with his knits, textures and color. You both have dressed iconic musicians, the Mariah moment is pretty supreme, who do you want to see wear Sibling next? 

CM: Why thank you. Kansai is quite incredible. Am really glad that he’s getting recognized himself beyond Bowie. Ha ha yes Mariah! Matthew Josephs our menswear stylist was with her in NY and was frantically texting me that she wanted to wear the dress to her album listening but I was drinking cocktails with friends and not looking at my phone. By the time I got back to Matthew she was in it and on Vine singing. AMAZING! And we’ve had similar with Pharrell and Harry Styles. Who would we like to see in Sibling next? EVERYONE! Maybe the person reading this. 

BJ: What new musicians do you see really being the center of the fashion scene right now? 

CM: I’m a big fan of Sky Ferreira, Alison Mosshart you know all the slightly tomboy rocking girls. Are they new? (Laughs) And Pharrell of course. And Bieber in his Calvins. Badgirl Riri covered in Nasir Mazhar. Joni Mitchell and Courtney Love in the Saint Laurent Music Project adverts. Patti Smith in Made By You Converse (of which I am also a contributor, gotta love us erm old birds! Little old me and Patti Smith, still can’t get over that) music and fashion are always a very good pairing. Whatever style and age.  

Visit the Sibling London website to explore stockists. Text and interview by BJ Panda Bear, who is a blogger, curator, DJ, fashion obessor, fixture of LA nightlife, and much more. Follow Autre on Instagram to stay up to date: @AUTREMAGAZINE 

Pharrell in GQ shot by Terry Richardson

THE THINGS HE CARRIED: MAXIMUM HENRY COHEN

“Living in New York City… has taught me to be extremely compact and intentional about the things I carry with me,” says Maximum Henry Cohen, the slight, unassuming 22-year-old mastermind behind Brooklyn-based leather goods brand Maximum Henry. “There’s a lot of baggage that we carry around with us out of habit.” Cohen is sipping Coca-Cola from a glass bottle, sitting in one of the sweeping factory windows of his Williamsburg waterfront studio, a loft space shared by a few other artisans and draftsmen. In the background, the dull hum of various machines cutting wood and shaping metal creates a strangely comforting white noise. Outside, a tranquil snow of the early-March variety falls on red brick scrawled with graffiti. One of Cohen’s goals in creating his own artisan leather goods brand was to downsize, to eliminate that unnecessary extra baggage, “to make something... that someone could carry and really consider their own.” Everything about Cohen—from his humble, down-to-earth personality to his streamlined workspace to his pared-down website to his handmade business cards— suggests an understated elegance. He pays the utmost attention to detail in the creation of his rustic yet sleek (and amazingly affordable) wallets and belts. “I was… that kid who would make duct tape wallets in the seventh grade and sell them to his friends,” Cohen remembers. Eventually, he set out to make the perfect leather wallet; a wallet that was just big enough to fit everything he needed but nothing more. Beginning in his bedroom with some scissors and a pair of discarded leather shorts that he rescued from their bleak thrift-store fate, he eventually moved into his living room and finally to his own studio, a modest space carefully curated in accordance with his taste for the basic and pure. A weathered steel architect’s lamp casts warm light over the dye-stained wood of his leatherworking table, over which a Singer sewing machine, a relic of vintage Americana, presides. Various tools are arranged neatly above the table, held upright by a homemade leather strap. He keeps his sheets of leather in a beautiful old footlocker and his finished belts, hung from hooks high above his drafting table, cast long shadows on the white walls of the studio. The objects Cohen crafts are simple, functional, full of charm and integrity—the kind of objects one wears or carries for years on end until those objects almost become a part of them. “I get the most inspired when I see something that’s been carried for more than half of someone’s life,” he says thoughtfully, “Once you carry something for a little while, you establish a connection to it.”

ANNABEL GRAHAM: Can you tell me about how you started making your own leather goods?

MAXIMUM HENRY COHEN: I’ve been making leather goods for... let’s see, five years now. It started when I would make duct tape wallets in the seventh grade and sell them to friends, but I don’t really count that.

GRAHAM: I remember those!

COHEN: I was the kid who would sell them to his friends, I made a lot of them. I stopped when I got a little more interested in film, stop-motion animation, and claymation, and skateboarding and things like that... until I started high school, which was actually a reform school in Montana for two years. I learned how to sew there, I made some pants and things like that, but I also made teddy bears and things to send home to my family. That’s where I really started to feel a little more comfortable with a sewing machine, creating things and turning flat fabrics into objects that had character and life and substance. My first leather wallet was in the summer of 2008. A friend of mine’s girlfriend was planning on donating a pair of leather shorts to Beacon’s Closet but she gave them to me instead, I just cut them up to keep the leather. I couldn’t find a wallet that was simple enough and didn’t have an obtrusive logo in it and I was going through a phase of just not wanting to wear or carry anything with anyone else’s logo because I didn’t feel like it reflected my own character. The only wallets that I could find that didn’t have a logo on them were really high-end, and it felt a little silly to me that the cheaper wallets were the ones that were overdesigned and too big… They were also covered in logos, while the really expensive ones were very simple. That was the premise, kind of my mission statement for my first wallet, to make something that someone could carry that had room to be really broken in and age well.

GRAHAM: Did you make your first wallet for yourself or for someone else?

COHEN: I didn’t even know who it was for while I was making it, or what I was doing for that matter. I ended up giving away my first fifteen or so prototypes. I would carry it for a few days and if I liked it I would give it to a friend, then make myself a new one. I would do that with all different styles for a while. Sometimes I would make one and it would feel too big and clunky, or I would make one that would be too small, and couldn’t even fit money or a Metro card, so it would be pretty useless. Once I established the pattern that I still use today, I started taking it a little more seriously. The internal stitch was a big breakthrough for me. I realized that you could sew something inside out and then turn it outside in and the stitching would be on the inside, that way it won’t tear when you carry it through the years, because the stitches aren’t exposed. That was also exciting for me because I was still learning how to sew leather and I had to work around the fact that I couldn’t sew straight, the internal stitch hid my messy stitching until I learned how to control my sewing machine.

GRAHAM: When you started out, were you just making the wallets out of your home?

COHEN: Yeah, I was making them in my bedroom, with desk scissors, a box cutter and a ruler. There were leather scraps all over my rug, all over my desk, in my trash can, just everywhere, and it was really messy, but really fun and kind of... it felt really natural and homemade, because it was, entirely. In the beginning it was literally with things I found around the house, and I just figured things out as I went along. Then I moved into my living room and I had this little table, this really low table, and I was just hunched over it for what felt like five hours a day, just making all sorts of little things, little tobacco pouches, iPad cases, wallets, all sorts of stuff.

GRAHAM: So you’re from New York.

COHEN: Yeah. I was born on the Upper West Side, and then when I was nine my little brother was born and we moved up to Westchester County. I remember I had never really walked in grass without shoes on before, because I was a city kid, and the whole suburban thing was a big transition. It didn’t really fit that well, I didn’t really enjoy it very much and I missed the city a lot. I moved back at my first opportunity after graduating high school early. I was able to live in Harlem and to work for my dad’s company for a few months, then I started college, and I’ve been back ever since.

GRAHAM: Is there anything in particular that inspires you in your work?

COHEN: I get the most inspired when I see something that’s been carried for more than half of someone’s life. My grandpa’s possessions really amaze me, as well as a few pieces I’ve found at flea markets and garage sales, things that have stood the test of time. Not just because they haven’t fallen apart, but because they haven’t been thrown away. Once you carry something for a while, you establish a connection to it. I’ve always been intrigued by people’s wallets, I found it was an interesting way to connect to people, because most people have a very intimate connection with their wallets. Sometimes there’s kind of a strange story behind how they got it, or a happenstance kind of thing, like, “Oh, I got this because it was seven dollars at a garage sale in Missouri,” or something like that. And then they end up carrying that for fifteen or twenty years, and it transforms into a totally different object with different meanings. I found that a lot of people were just looking for something that was really simple, and there were so many brands that were over designing that I just wanted to make something that is simple and functional.

GRAHAM: It’s interesting, you carry a wallet every day, it’s just this one thing that’s always with you, it almost becomes a part of you.

COHEN: Yeah, and it wears in in different spots, depending on how many cards you have in it, or how much cash you carry, or if you hold on to receipts. It wears differently if you keep it in your front pocket or your back pocket, it’s very personal.

GRAHAM: How did you start making belts?

COHEN: It started with the first apprenticeship I did in the fall of 2010. I was working for a guy named Ryan Matthews, who is an oddities collector and leather smith. He collects taxidermy, old medical artifacts and some really beautiful antique lamps. He’s got the most incredible collection of weird stuff I’ve ever seen in my life. He used to do leatherwork for Polo and he would design belts for Double RL and Ralph Lauren vintage collection. He would make these Navajo recreation belts that would sell for something like fifteen thousand dollars at the Ralph Lauren store. He taught me how to dye and edge leather, how to attach buckles and to distress the leather to make belts that looked really old. My next apprenticeship was with this woman named Barbara Shaum, who is, I believe, 87 years old. She has a leather shop on East 4th street between 2nd and 3rd where she makes sandals and belts. It’s a really old-school business, and everything that’s made is made right there, either by her or by someone who works with her. There would be all these guys who would come in saying, “Hey Barbara, it’s time for me to get a new belt, it’s been forty years on this one,” and they would take off this decrepit, old, worn till the very end, belt… something that she had made in the 70s that had lasted 40 years. She taught me how to cut leather from the hide, how to mix dyes to get all different shades, how to attach buckles in a way that they’ll never fall off, and a bunch of other little tricks.

GRAHAM: You’re also interested in film, right?

COHEN: A little bit. My dad works in television and did throughout my entire upbringing, so I grew up visiting his production office on the upper west side all the time, and visiting his friends on sets in LA too. Most of my best friends now are people I met through the SVA film program. I’ve drifted in such a different direction from what they’re doing now, but because we have such different backgrounds, and we spend all day thinking about our specific crafts, we’re able to offer each other advice and insight from different standpoints. My friend Tom just started a production company called Yellow House Pictures, and they’re working on a lot of really cool, exciting projects. I feel like I’m been more in love with written stories than films specifically, just as a form of storytelling. I love reading and I love short stories... historical fiction is my favorite genre. If I were to get back into film I think it’d probably be from a writing standpoint. I dropped out of SVA after one year. I was really turned off because there were all these teenagers who had grown up in the suburbs and were so self-righteous and overly confident, myself included. [LAUGHS] I didn’t feel as though had enough life experience to be a story teller just yet, I was disgusted by how much money I was spending to not be taking school very seriously. I dropped out and started barbacking at a bar in Williamsburg called Hotel Delmano. I was working really hard mentally and physically, I would go home at the end of the day with some money in my pocket, feeling tired and good. It was really fun because while I was working I was also training to become a cocktail bartender. I was promoted to a bartender just after my 20th birthday. I’ve met more people through the bar industry in New York City than through any other social experience of my life. I was fortunate enough to work in three of the best bars in New York over a period of 4 years; Hotel Delmano (in Williamsburg), Elsa and Black Market (both in the East Village).

GRAHAM: All of those bars have a really cool worn-in, vintage-looking aesthetic that sort of matches yours.

COHEN: That’s not by accident. “Objects with character” is sort of a consistent theme... They were all built acknowledging things that have withstood the test of time. A few of the owners of Hotel Delmano are metal workers and furniture designers that make the most beautiful things. They have been and continue to be huge role models for me. I would constantly notice new details about the bar that I had never seen before, like, “Oh my god, I didn’t even see that little chandelier that’s hanging in that corner, or the way that they painted that pipe, how it’s a slightly different color than the wall, or how they distressed the whole room to simulate aging and water damage.” It takes you to a different place. Seeing the way those people have turned making beautiful things into their full-time living is so inspirational, because that’s really all I want to do, is make things that people admire and feel good about.

GRAHAM: You live in Williamsburg now. Having grown up in Manhattan, what’s your feeling about Brooklyn?

COHEN: I’m so happy to be here. It feels like home to me. I’ve made friends with so many people around the neighborhood, from the guy who makes my sandwiches at the deli to the shopkeepers at all of the cool little boutiques around here. I know the buildings so well, and walking down the street I almost always run into someone I know. It has a neighborhood feel that makes me really comfortable. There are so many inspirational small businesses. Sometimes on Sundays I set up a table and sell wallets on the street, which has helped me a lot to see absolute strangers’ gut reactions to what I’ve been working on. After you spend X amount of hours on something, you grow attached to it, almost the way a parent feels about a newborn baby. It takes you out of your bubble. It really helps me to see how differently people react. My products’ quality is a reflection of my level of craftsmanship, even looking at things that I made six months ago makes me shudder sometimes, because my work is constantly evolving.

GRAHAM: Going back to literature and writing, who are some of your favorite authors?

COHEN: I love George Saunders, Denis Johnson. I would say E.L. Doctorow is my favorite author, and Ragtime is my favorite book. It’s set at the turn of the century, and it covers both fictionally and non-fictionally what was going on during that time period, which is my favorite type of book. Before that, I read The Cider House Rules, which I really enjoyed, but my friends would make fun of me for it, ‘cause I guess it’s kind of a girly story. [LAUGHS] I also like some more spiritual pieces, Siddhartha is really beautiful and influential, about how one can live with absolutely nothing. The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, has been a staple in my life. I wouldn’t consider myself religious in any way, shape or form, but I do try to stay in tune with my own integrity and karma, and that was a guiding light for me in my late teens. My ideal day would be cooking my own breakfast, riding my bicycle to the studio, working and making things all day, hopefully meeting with some clients who are really excited about the products I’m making, eating a delicious dinner at one of the amazing places in the neighborhood then going to bed to do it all over again the next day. That’s pretty much it.

GRAHAM: The books you named and even your ideal day all seem to go along with this theme of almost simple, Spartan existence—making things yourself and existing without all the “noise.”

COHEN: We’re living in the information era and there’s just so much everywhere, and it can be really overwhelming. To take a step outside of what’s going on and to look at what you connect with and why you connect with it... I don’t think you connect with things for the reasons you think you do right off the bat, there’s usually something underneath it. That’s what I strive for in my work, to make things that look upon first glance like something that’s almost normal, but then once you wear it and once it becomes a part of you, you fall in love with it. It has a much longer life span then something that is flashy and will end up falling apart one day.

GRAHAM: And the more you study one of your wallets, the more little details you notice.

COHEN: I tried to design them to be as simple as possible. I try to leave room for character to be developed, to just lay the foundation and then the rest is up to whoever wants to carry it. I have friends who have drawn on the insides of their wallets with Sharpies and things like that, and it’s the coolest thing because they’re taking something that I made and just transforming it into something that is theirs. I did start putting my brand on the on the inside of the wallets, but they are also available without them. I don’t want to throw my image in anyone’s face, you know, if they want it, they can have it and adapt it to their own style. The original concept for things without logos came from Hotel Delmano, which is really inspiring. They don’t even have a sign outside, they don’t have a business card, they don’t have coffee to go with their logo on the cup. There is no logo for Hotel Delmano. You can seek it out and go there, but you can’t take any of it out with you. That’s why people keep coming back, it’s because their product and experience stands on its own, not a commercial piece of branding. My favorite client is someone who has been referred by someone else who already has a piece and really appreciates it. I’d rather have those people tell their friends, or get them for their friends, instead of having advertising to bring in customers.

GRAHAM: So you don’t want your face on a park bench anytime soon? [LAUGHS]

COHEN: [LAUGHS] No, definitely not. That’s kind of the wrong idea... At least for right now.

GRAHAM: What’s your goal for the future?

COHEN: I’ve been in a developmental stage for a really long time, making different prototypes and styles and colors, and I would really like to go into production mode and be able to make ten times what I’ve been making in the past, and expand to make new products... eventually even a clothing line. For the time being, I’m just focusing on nailing down my craft and making some things that feel like they can be taken through anything. I’ve been working on some guitar straps and some small bags. I’m also looking for retail stores outside of New York to carry my pieces. I’d really like to see the wallets around the world, in France and London and Italy and Australia. It feels really local right now. I’ve already gotten them in pretty much all of my friend’s pockets, so I’d like to start moving on to other likeminded people that I don’t know just yet. I’m also really excited about a couple projects I’m working on with my friends that are using their skill sets and combining them with the things I’ve been working on. I just shot a look book with my friend Dave, and my friend Alex is putting it together in a little printed book that I can pass around to friends and shops around the world. Basically, this craft is so exciting for me because it’s given me the excuse to base a profession around the things that I like doing and the people I like interacting with. And to me, that’s what it’s all about—work that doesn’t feel like work. I look forward to coming to my studio in the morning, which is a sign of moving in the right direction.

GRAHAM: If you could be anywhere in the world right now other than New York, where would you be?

COHEN: There’s this lagoon in Jamaica called the Blue Lagoon, which is fresh water that comes from the center of the earth, so they say, and it tastes amazing. Swimming there is one of my ideas of paradise. It’s pretty easy to think about being other places when it’s wintertime in New York. [LAUGHS] But whenever I leave New York, I find myself missing it after just a few days. I guess it’s another implication that I’m going in the right direction, missing my home when I’m on vacation.

GRAHAM: Is there a way in which living in New York City and growing up here has inspired or affected your aesthetic?

COHEN: Most people that live in other parts of the world travel everywhere they go in a car that allows them to just throw things everywhere, and they have more space than they know what to do with. Living in New York City on a budget has taught me to be extremely compact and intentional about the things I carry with me, the things I keep in my home. A lot of people’s wallets are bigger than they need to be, because they’re carrying things that they don’t even remember they have in there. It’s essentially baggage from the past that’s unnecessary and weighs you down. Because my wallet design is smaller than the standard one, it almost forces people to downsize, to simplify their lives. There’s a lot of baggage that we just carry around with us out of habit. It’s pretty important to have a streamlined existence [in New York], because extra things just drag here, and that’s why I like the “no frills” design policy.

Text and photography by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre. Visit the Maximum Henry website to view more. 

Something Season-Less: An Interview with Fanny and Jessy

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Fanny & Jessy met in their first class at the London College of Fashion. For the past few years they have been making a name for themselves on the London indie fashion circuit with their incredibly unique label that mixes luxury sportswear with a fine twist of tomboy attitude. With collections entitled I Hope You Die Soon and Sea Foam In Your Eyes Fanny and Jessy embrace the ethos of rebelliousness and almost seem blasé about all the hullabaloo that is the business of fashion. I recently got a mass email invite to a party celebrating the launch of their new online store that started off with, “Dear...Blah blah blah….” You’d think they were being cheeky if Fanny & Jessy weren’t more concerned with making great, wearable clothes that hold a distinct element of individualism that stays true to the boundary breaking aesthetics of the designers themselves. Always forward thinking, Fanny & Jessy are expanding with their brand online with the recent introduction of an e-shop and they just released a string of short videos, one for each day of London Fashion Week, directed by filmmaker Danny Sangra for their new 2013 “something season-less” collection entitled Welcome to Uscopia. We recently caught up with Fanny & Jessy to discuss their new collection and what kind of plans they have in store for the future. Read interview and see more photos fromt their current collection after the jump. 

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PAS UN AUTRE: Who is Fanny & Jessy?

FANNY & JESSY: Two girls from Somerset that met at London College of Fashion and started a fashion label.

AUTRE: How would you describe the aesthetic of Fanny & Jessy?

FANNY & JESSY: Sexed up tomboy-ish luxury sportswear.

AUTRE: What are some of your major inspirations?

FANNY & JESSY: Our inspiration changes each season along with our own tastes and interests but we are always hugely influenced by the idea of escapism and with the natural world.

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AUTRE: Can you talk a little bit about the new collection?

FANNY & JESSY: It's a very natural progression from AW12, which we felt was the collection that best reflected us most as a brand. For SS13 we added in a few more feminine pieces; dresses and skirts, but still sticking to our original tomboy aesthetic. The inspiration was derived from magnifying earth scopes and unusual terrain, and the print was manipulated by our psychedelic print master friend Leif Podhajsky.

AUTRE: What is the best part about fashion?

FANNY AND JESSY: Fashion gives everyone a way to express the way they would like to portray themselves to the rest of society. You can read a lot about someone by what they wear, it is one of of our best communication tools we have so it's exciting to be able to contribute to that. For us having a fashion label also gives us a great sense of independence as designers, we get to work for ourselves and have the freedom to explore creatively.

AUTRE: Who is the one person you've always wanted to spot wearing Fanny and Jessy?

FANNY & JESSY: We would love to see the 1960's Jane Birkin in Fanny and Jessy but we would be happy to settle with her daughter Lou Doillon or model's Freja Beha Erichsen or Abbey Lee Kershaw. They are all women with natural, effortless style that we adhere to.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FANNY & JESSY: We had a party last week which was the launch of our E-Commerce Store - so we are very excited about embracing the digital side of Fashion, we want to get closer to our customers and the Fanny & Jessy audience and there are so many ways now which allow you to connect more widely online. To start us off we released 5 film stings with film-maker Danny Sangra for each day of London Fashion Week - this is the beginning of many projects that we have lined up to support our new direction! Keep your eyes peeled.

You can visit Fanny & Jessy's online shop or website to see more. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

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Lucia Cuba on Gender, Strength and Politics

Can fashion be used as a medium for social change? If fashion is an artform and one of art's inherent powers is to change people minds then the answer is yes.  From 1990 to late 2000 the former president of Peru Alberto Fujimori was engaged in an alarming series of human rights abuses including the forced sterilizations of men and women as part of a family planning campaign called Contraceptive Voluntary Surgery.  As a result nearly 300,000, mostly indigenous, women were coercively or forcefully sterilized during these years. Medical procedures where executed without consent, using fake signatures and untranslated "agreements", and under unsanitary conditions. In most cases no post-operatory information and treatments were provided. This caused secondary effects related to the surgery, terrible complications that in some cases lead to the death of patients. Fujimori is currently serving a 25 year prison term for his involvement in the kidnappings and mass killings carried out by an established paramilitary group called the Grupo Colina death squad which was supported by Fujimori and former head of Peru's intelligence service Vladimiro Montesinos. But will justice be served for the victims of the forced sterilizations? In 2001, a brave group of 12 women from the town of Anta, in Cusco, Peru denounced the violation of their rights and after 15 years of protest the public prosecutor's office has reopened the case, but there is a risk it may be dismissed.  Peruvian social activist and designer Lucia Cuba, who recently graduated from Parson's in New York, has started Articulo 6, named after the statute in Peru's general health law that all persons should have the right to choose their own contraceptive method, as a way to give greater visibility to the case and to open a dialogue about issues of human rights, gender and justice. I got in touch with Cuba to learn more about the Articulo 6 and how she is using fashion design to broaden awareness.  

PAS UN AUTRE: You are both a social scientist and a fashion designer – what brought you to these two seemingly disparate paths?

LUCIA CUBA: I was brought up in a household that is very concerned with social issues, and highly motivated by the arts and sciences. As a child, this environment nurtured all sorts of creative impulses, and I remember making some of my own clothes from an early age. While in college I became interested in the social sciences and decided to study psychology. To my surprise in 2004 a group of people who knew I sometimes created clothes invited me to participate in an experimental runway show. At this time, I was beginning to focus on my practice as a social psychologist in human development and public health, however this re-encounter with design opened a parallel world I finally decided to fully explore. During this time, independent fashion and design in Peru were growing exponentially and the context was also very stimulating.

In 2005 I created an independent brand called LUCCO, while I kept on working as a consultant and coordinator in different projects related to the social sciences. I had the need to explore how both practices could connect, and how they could grow together, as one; I started to realize that if I could not find clear connections between them, I needed to develop my own. Everything that came after, took place in a very natural way.

Today I feel that both “sides” of my work have merged in a symbiotic, dialectical and very productive relationship. I can’t think of another way of approaching my practice, but from the understanding of social sciences as a foundation for fashion and design.

AUTRE: You just graduated from Parsons for fashion design – what are some of the differences between the world of fashion in the US versus Peru?

CUBA: Aside from the fact that fashion systems in the US are more internationally established and recognized, I would dare to say both worlds behave in similar ways: They are both fundamentally powered by the idea of fashion as a commercial project, object and experience, one that basically responds to in-depth research on consumer trends. Their foundation does not grow through critical thinking and social analysis, for example. They both urgently need a strong educational reform in the field so as to develop local understandings of fashion, advance theoretical research, and broaden the way we understand and accept different fashion systems.

AUTRE: You had an internship at Kenzo in Paris - can you talk a little bit about what kind of impact that made?

CUBA: My experience in Paris came right after I won a local “young designers” contest and when I had just started a PhD in Public Health. Until that point I was totally attracted to my new practice as a designer, but I was also very involved in my practice as a social scientist. With the award came Paris, and with Paris came experiencing the reality of something that had been, until then, an ideal of what I had heard fashion “was supposed to be”. This experience included a short stage at Kenzo and classes in a local fashion school. This was my first experience in a “formal” environment of the fashion industry. Until then I had been working as an emerging independent fashion designer in Peru.

Two special things happened to me during this time. I started my practice as an active speaker and researcher on fashion—analyzing emergent fashion systems in Peru—and I confirmed that, whatever I was looking for as a designer, I wasn’t going to find it in a formal, traditional or conventional fashion environment.

AUTRE: It seems like the first big socio-political project that bridged the world of art and design was Project Gamarra - what was the project about and what is the Gamarra Commercial Emporium?

CUBA: The Gamarra Commercial Emporium is one of the main clusters of micro and small firms in the country, a key regional actor in trade, production and development of the Latin American textile and garment industry. Gamarra is located in the district of La Victoria, in Lima, and is also a conglomerate of histories of entrepreneurship marked by important migratory processes that began in the 1960s, due to increasing economic and social crises that forced people to migrate to the capital city. Today, over 20,000 firms are located in Gamarra, spreading through 34 city blocks and employing 70,000 people. It receives over 60,000 daily visitors and reaches 800 million dollars in annual sales.

Project Gamarrais an activist-design project that aims to raise awareness about the importance of understanding the Gamarra Commercial Emporium not only as an industrial cluster, but also as an urban ecology—a site of creativity and a space of confluence of diverse peoples and cultural identities. This project also aims to promote open dialogues among designers, students, business owners, neighbors, politicians and consumers in an attempt to promote self-reflection, the strengthening of social cohesion and sustainable practices in this urban context. The idea is to re-think of Gamarra as a creative and sustainable space.

The project creates a number of small but highly visible projects created by designers, photographers, filmmakers, artists, etc., in conjunction with local firms and exhibited in public spaces inside and outside Gamarra, aiming to give these preoccupations great visibility among consumers, decision-makers and the local media. It’s main objective is to promote the commitment of local firms and authorities towards the advancement of creativity, cultural diversity and sustainable practices within Gamarra.

AUTRE: I'd like to discuss the Articulo 6 project - how did you first hear about the forced sterilizations and what was your initial reaction?

CUBA: The first time I heard about the case was in 2002. I remember reading about it on the newspapers, but also reading about other cases of human rights abuses that took place during Alberto Fujimori’s first and second term as President of Peru.

The second time I connected to the case was almost six years later, during my PhD studies in Public Health, and while having group discussions about the “social determinants of health”. My classmates and I decided to follow the case closely and chose it as a case study for the course. During this time I got to interview former congresswoman Hilaria Supa, and Maria Esther Mogollón, a journalist and activist on gender rights. They have both supported the victims of this case for more than 14 years, empowering them and helping them to pursue justice and reparation.

However, It wasn’t until the past presidential campaign in Peru in 2011 that the case returned to the public eye. The case acquired a lot of visibility and was strategically used as a key issue against Alberto Fujimori’s daughter, who was – ironically – running for president. I became convinced that I could take action, and use my work to give this case and the issue it brings forth, greater visibility. While I was geographically far away, I felt emotionally committed and connected to a case that exemplifies the situation indigenous women face in contemporary Peru.

I started to draft the project while processing the incredible amount of information that exists on the case, and connecting with people involved in documenting, researching and actively promoting justice for women and men affected by the sterilizations. I traveled back to Lima and Cusco that year to conduct research, and I had the opportunity to interview two very inspiring women engaged in a permanent search for justice. They shared with me very personal and horrifying accounts of their experiences. These and other testimonies have been essential materials for my work.

The name of the project Articulo 6 is chosen in ironic reaction to the General Health Law of Peru which sustains in its Sixth Article that “all persons have the right to choose freely the contraceptive method they prefer, prior to the prescription or administration of any contraceptive method, appropriate information on the methods available, their risks, contraindications, precautions, warnings, and the physical, physiological, or psychological effects that might be caused by their use”, and that “the application of any contraceptive method shall require the prior consent of the patient”. These are regulations that were completely ignored when the massive sterilization campaigns took place.

AUTRE: After 15 years, why did the prosecutor finally open the case? What is the status of the case currently?

CUBA: The case was conveniently “archived” in two different occasions, and attracted renewed attention in 2011 when it became a key issue during the electoral debates. Even though Ollanta Humala, Peru’s current president stood up for the victims during his campaign and even though he spoke loudly and clearly about the need for justice, the case has not being solved yet.

On March of 2012 the case was re-opened for a third time. The Association of Forcefully Sterilized Women (AMAEF) from Anta (Cusco), accompanied by activists, intellectuals, journalists and politicians approached the Attorney General, to yet again present over 2,000 testimonies and other pieces of evidence that have existed for years. However, all this evidence appears to be “invisible” in terms of the legal aspect of the case. At this point in time, the case appears to have lost its political importance, and we are afraid that it will be archived yet again.

AUTRE: Will the women who had to undergo these sterilizations finally have justice - in what form?

CUBA: As abstract as it may sound, I believe that justice is the least they deserve; yet perhaps the last thing they will receive, if things continue to move as they have in the past.

They know that the sterilizations are permanent, that they where subjected to harmful and inhuman conditions. They were disrespected and hurt. They have mourned and, as one of the women I interviewed told me, they have cried so much that even their tears are now gone. Another women told me that “they just want to be untied”, liberated from a kind of binding condition of injustice. It makes you rethink in what form should justice come. There is no amount of money that can compensate for their loss. Can one put a price on fertility? However, they do demand medical and psychological attention, but more importantly they are demanding to be treated with respect by health and government officials, to have the State officially recognize their loss and the violence they were subjected to. If this does happen, I believe a very symbolic and crucial healing process may begin to take place.

I strongly believe that justice should also come from all of us. All Peruvian citizens need to know that this happened, and they also need to remember it. We need to finally accept that this happened to all of us, and that the responsible one is not a single person, but a complex logic of vertical power and racist ideologies that unfortunately do not only stem from the State. Peru is a country defined by inequality and discrimination. We need to feel responsible, related, and act upon this.

AUTRE:Articulo 6 has a very important message – how will a fashion collection get the message out - could you produce this collection for stores or boutiques across the world?

CUBA: As a fashion designer and social researcher I will always struggle, trying not to let one of my sides win over the other. In this project I am very aware of the highly social and political issues I am raising in the form of garments, and that garments—as I conceive of them—can transform into bodies that advance and open debates as well as new understandings. One of the foundations of the project is to use fashion platforms to talk about the case, but also to discuss the narratives that can be touched upon while presenting it: issues of gender, strength and politics.

I understand garments to have agency, and that when they interact with people and things while performing themselves (in a runway, a photo shoot, a video, a conference, etc.) they may generate emotions, raise questions, foster divergent thought, and challenge established memories. If I know that the garments I created can make at least one person more familiar with the case, if I can move them towards it and prompt a reaction, a feeling and perhaps even an action, I will be satisfied. I strongly believe that we are all capable of letting people know more about this case, and to explore the ways in which we can all take part and change things.

The next part of the project does actually include the development of new pieces inspired in the initial garments and their trajectories as migrate and transform into more “public and commercial garments” that spread the message of the piece in numerous ways. I am aware that this project won’t solve the case. But it can definitely give it greater visibility. It can also let people know that we are all capable of talking out loud not only about ourselves.

AUTRE: Do you think fashion should be more of a medium for social change?

CUBA: I believe that it already is. However, it appears to suffer some sort of blindness towards its own powerful agency and the potential impact it could have if conceived as a device and a medium to transform and change things. In order to so we need to see fashion less in terms of material objects for consumption. We need more fashion that acts, critiques and reacts. We need design and actions for transformation, stronger activism and less narcissism.

AUTRE: Whats next?

CUBA: I am preparing to present Articulo 6 in Peru in August (in Lima and in Anta, Cusco). The idea is to engage in an open discussion about the case and its current situation, and not only about the project. In September I will be presenting the first collection of Articulo 6 in the New York Fashion Week. This experience in itself will constitute another “action” of the project. Later on I will develop at least 10 more actions that stem this work, and I am currently looking for funds to develop them. A total of 12 actions will be performed as part of Articulo 6. I want them to represent the 12 of Anta: the group of brave women that made the first formal accusations and that became a symbol for the case.

To find more about the project, its actions, and the case, and to pledge your support visit the Articulo 6 website. Photography by  Erasmo Wong Seoane, Model  Carla Rincón for IceBerg, styling by  Lucia Cuba & Yasmin Dajes, assistant production Joy Rosenbrum, hair by Olga Sonco. Text for this article by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre.