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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hooked: Comme des Garçons PLAY X Converse

Never one to pass up a juicy collaboration, Comme des Garçons is joining forces (again) with Converse on a limited-edition line of sneakers. Following their 2007 debut with Junya Watanabe Man, the Chuck Taylor All Star line is getting the full Rei make-over. But rather than spinning into the conceptual outer reaches, the collaboration goes back to basics—and this time Comme's secondary PLAY line is getting in on the action. The four pared-down styles—two high-tops and two oxfords in black or white canvas—hark back to the original military classics, offered in various color-blocking combos and embossed with PLAY's slightly disarming, unblinking heart logo.

The shoes will hit the ground running at the end of August at Comme des Garçons boutiques worldwide, as well as select PLAY retailers. At just $100 a pop, the collection shows a commitment to recession-friendly prices—and we can think of no better way to spring into fall.

—Franklin Melendez

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Final Thoughts

Style correspondent PLAY rounds up Paris Fashion Week...

The Mood
So yes, Paris had to tighten its belt in this nasty economic climate, which meant more presentations and fewer runway shows. But naturellement, everyone pretended they weren't personally affected. And actually, the reality for the average fashion editor is akin to Franz Kafka’s diary entry from August 2, 1914: "Germany declares war on Russia. Afternoon: swimming lessons."

Tweet a Trend
Like anyone else, I want to know what's new. But I never thought I'd be turning to my cell phone to read pedestrian chit-chat on Twitter. This was a case of the early bird getting the trend. In fact, the trend this season was Twitter.

Celebrity Fatigue
I first spotted Kanye West and entourage gatecrashing their way into Viktor & Rolf. It turned out Kanye was causing havoc everywhere. He was the new Bruno. Meanwhile, at Chanel, I almost got crushed by paparazzi surrounding Lily Allen, before swarming around Kate Moss in the front row. It left me wondering how more celebs don't end up train wrecks like Amy Winehouse.

Queen Beth
But the celebrity had to be Love cover star Beth Ditto, as if following the season's unofficial motto: It ain't over till the fat lady sings. Apparently her mission was to show the outside world that the old cliché of fashion being a gated community for diet-obsessed, humor-free folks is out of touch. Ditto's finest moment was performing with her band The Gossip at the Fendi party. I wanted to tweet: "OMGOMG!!! ditto does britney! nipplegate any sec!!"

She's Got the Look
Sometimes the best way to see where fashion is going is to follow a fashion editor. Based on my stalking of Carine Roitfeld, Emmanuelle Alt and Anna Piaggi, you should think preppy, mix decades (i.e. 40s and 80s for a Casablanca-meets-Top Gun look), don double-breasted blazers (like Stella McCartney's), throw on a biker jacket and, I’m afraid to say, slip into harem pants. Key colors? Black, greige and noir tobacco, which is taking over for camel, now considered not crisis-appropriate—put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Anna Piaggi (©PLAY)

Big Top
If designers have their say this fall, we'll be wearing plastic bags over our heads (Hussein Chalayan), bunny ears (Louis Vuitton), S&M masks (Jean Paul Gaultier) and Leigh Bowery sex-doll lips (Alexander McQueen).

Power Failure
As an early-adopter of Maison Martin Margiela's leather leggings and 80s' shoulders for fall 08, I'm all for power looks. But after witnessing editor after editor working huge shoulders and oh-so-fierce platforms, I got over it fast. It felt like Art Basel last year, when I counted 20 Louis Vuitton Richard Prince bags in under two hours.

Fur Alarm
What the heck was the idea behind the over-presence of statement fur? Was it to prove one’s immunity to chilly economic winds? Only very few got it right, like Carine Roitfeld, who strode across Tuileries park looking fit to squash the squeeze.

Carine Roitfeld (©PLAY)

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sink or Swiss

Our Zurich style correspondent PLAY on the Swiss Textiles Awards...

Bless the weird and wonderful imagination of Rodarte sisters Laura & Kate Mulleavy, whose go-go gothic vision—roughly resembling a pillow fight between a fairy-tale princess and Edward Scissorhands—won the 2008 Swiss Textiles Award. Who says dark times don't come with happy endings—and hefty prize money (100,000 euros)? Besides, you can't argue with a Vogue cover and Anna Wintour's nod of approval.

I had the opportunity to follow all the nominees, from fittings to the grand finale. It was amazing to watch Jean-Pierre Braganza spend hours perfecting his razor-sharp tailoring. Louise Goldin's extraterrestial knits and Richard Nicoll's pastel futurism blew me away. Throw in special guests Angela Missoni and Patricia Field, plus a judging panel that included i-D's Terry Jones, and you can see why global fashion villagers keep jetting to Zurich.

Richard Nicoll / Louise Goldin / Jean-Pierre Braganza

Last year's winner, Marios Schwab, treated us to an after-party aptly held in the old stock exchange, which brings us to the miserable world economy. Next year, the Swiss Textiles Awards will be celebrating its 10th anniversary—with past winners including Bruno Pieters, Bernhard Willhelm and Raf Simons, it will no doubt be a grand retrospective. But is the proverbial party over? It'll be a good opportunity to sober up, shed some weight and get a facelift.

And now, I humbly offer a tip to the organizers. Please no more monster shows. It really is quite hard, even for the most hardened fashion insider, to drum up enthusiasm for a two-and-a-half-hour runway show, even with Patricia Field's high-octane glam troopers. True, it's Switzerland, but even dry-as-bone bean counters lust for drama.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beer Mugging

Hint's Swiss style correspondent Play boozes it up...

Leather shorts and thigh-slapping dances aren't just perverse darkroom practices. I'm at Munich Oktoberfest, the world's biggest beer festival. And let me tell you, there's enough here to appeal even to non-devotees of wheat beer and dirndl chic. You see, if you hail from an over-styled yet narcoleptic city like Zurich (as I do), and are ever so tired of fast-fashion trends (as I am), the German tradition is full of kitsch curiosities, bar-wench charm, calorific treats and a dandy-esque disdain for what the arbiters of cool are wearing right now.


After the initial shock of encountering people of all ages strutting the city streets in embroidered deerhide shorts and dirndl dresses, you realize they actually look rather dashing. By the time you enter the Oktoberfest fairground, you feel seriously underdressed in your black hipster uniform. But it's okay, because once you've made it past the fierce security into one of the fourteen giant tents, anarchy rules. You fight your way past the masses of fellow revelers, somehow find your seat and in no time you have plates of Bavarian veal sausage with sweet mustard, pork knuckles and roast chickens arrive to your table—or, in my case, a very cheesy Swabian egg pasta. And pretzels, lots of pretzels. Of course, beer flows non-stop, from midday until 11 pm. Through it all, a live band performs sing-along anthems and before long, the cheery oom-pah-pah has everybody climbing on the wooden benches, swinging and swaying into blissful oblivion. That's what I call the sound of music.

As for Munich style, the locals love fusing Italian fashion with their own rustic DNA, which results in a preponderance of flashy sunglasses, perma-tans, contemporary Bavarian costume, brightly-colored sports apparel and BMWs. Which means the streets are refreshingly free of the Berlin Mitte brigade and skinny jeans-wearing wannabes. Instead, the luxury shopping area around Maximilanstrasse is bustling with groups of Middle Eastern women in Burqas carrying giant Dior bags, possibly to be unpacked at the legendary private pizza parties at Hotel Bayrischer Hof, Munich's premier address.

So while it's safe to say Munich won't be fashion's next erogenous zone, the city definitely cuts a dash when it comes to eccentricity. Blame Ludwig II, Bavaria's equally extravagant and bumptious king and uber-dandy icon. Think Michael Jackson-meets-Liberace-meets-Elton John-meets-Cinderella and you have some measure of the man who built Neuschwanstein castle as a fantasy retreat and an ode to his male muse, Richard Wagner.

The other dandy icon who's left his stamp on the scene is gay filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who introduced post-war femmes fatales and leather nazis to 70's German cinema. His hang-out, the gay district of Glockenbachviertel, is now home to the hip kids, among them up-and-coming fashion designer Patrick Mohr. Championing an eclectic personal style, the former model is living proof that a mustache and traditional Norwegian knit jacket can be very fashion-forward, especially if styled with Bowie pants and moccasins. Patrick's eye for what I call acid folk is most evident in Henrik Vibskov's fall 08 collection, which he worked on. Which reminds me I must now get back to making my acid dirndl for Oktoberfest '09. Watch this space.

Fassbinder graffiti, Patrick Mohr

Text & images by Play

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Lunacy Is Sexy

Why you need to know Erik Dienel-Reese, by PLAY...

I was introduced to Erik at a party I threw in Zurich back in June. Pouty and skinny, with pale blue eyes and prominent cheek bones, he's a fashion wet dream come true—enough for fellow guest, photographer and living legend Walter Pfeiffer to shoot an entire roll of film on the spot, something he never does. The theme of the party was Ready-to-Play, so I asked Erik if he were up for a private session. He was, and as you can see he makes excellent plaything material.

During the shoot, we found out we had a mutual friend in Terence Koh. Erik loves a good fashion anecdote, so he proceeded to tell me how he borrowed Terence's gold-plated Balenciaga leggings for a night of hard dancing and drinking at Berghain, the dirtiest club in Berlin. "The next morning, my legs were totally scratched up, but who cares? Lunacy is sexy," he told me, shrugging off the leggings' $30,000 price tag, a conservative estimate. His recklessness earned Erik a part in Terence's GOD film, a tale of latex, lust and death.

While he works for a top ad agency in Zurich, Erik considers his Berlin apartment his home base. But this isn't some bachelor pad. The penthouse belongs to his Jewish intellectual family, located in one of the two towers framing Frankfurter Tor square on Karl-Marx Boulevard. Built in the 1950s in typical Stalinist style, the towers were once home to Communist Party officials. Now they house the fashionable elite of the capital. Not surprisingly for Erik, even the penthouse is something of a celebrity. "I discovered our front door in one of Hedi Slimane's books," he told me. If Hedi had gone inside, he would have discovered an even more spectacular 1300-square-meter roof terrace, the perfect setting for the notorious New Year's Eve parties Erik throws for the city's bored jeunesse dorée. "Billionaire kids going overboard, aristos throwing up, A-list lawyers and champagne everywhere—the whole shebang," Erik says, recalling last year's antics. "We had to have the staircase reconstructed, but it was worth it."

But Erik isn't your typical playboy airhead. At fifteen, he received two Crosses of Merit (the highest honor the Federal Republic of Germany hands out to individuals), awarded for first aid services he and his classmates performed when their hometown of Dresden was hit by the Great Flood of 2002.

So, with looks, pedigree, intellect and glamour, it's no wonder our German whiz kid is being chased by many a prominent and moneyed aristo-girl looking to sex up her family's gene pool. Though Erik seems vaguely tempted by the prospect of an HRM title and a Brideshead Revisited lifestyle, he has no plans to give up his eligible bachelor status any time soon. He's more interested in hanging out with rock stars. There's a private Pete Doherty concert in the works, much to the delight of his mother, a huge fan.

We can safely assume the social rise of this modern-day Dorian Gray will be nothing less than meteoric. But whatever the future holds, Erik will make sure things stay naughty and vice. And since we like happy endings, we finish off with an exclusive Hint offer. Five lucky readers will be on the guest list of Erik's New Year's Eve bash to ring in 2009. Email us with why you want to go, and don't forget pictures. Start planning your outfit now.

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Henrik Vibskov and Peaches in Zurich

Photographer and Hint's Zurich correspondent, PLAY, caught up with the two mavericks...

The alliances that luxury brands make can sometimes be quite odd. Take, for example, the flagship launch of premium travel agency Kuoni last week in Zurich. The event promised a panel of opinion leaders from the worlds of art, fashion, music and science, apparently to give us a glimpse into the future of luxury travel. Among them were fashion designer Henrik Vibskov and raunch-and-roll singer Peaches, and I just had to meet them.

Who is Henrik Vibskov?
A tall Scandie with big feet, long legs, a hat, an old cardigan and suspenders.

You were introduced tonight as Fashion's Pop Star.
I don’t want to be a pop star. I just do creative stuff and I don’t really care what side of the mind it comes from—whether I play music, do drawings or paint. So I am just a creative. Inspiration is something that’s always there.

Alliances between luxury brands and the creative world are popping up all over the place. Like this event tonight, which is trying to sell us a new form of premium travel. What do you make of the trend?
It’s interesting because I get to meet people from different fields. I am a businessman, but I’m not an entrepreneur or a business spotter. That’s not my field, even if I am part of it. I am more like a creative developer. I don’t think in strategies like they do here. Sometimes people ask me what my plan is. And sometimes I don't know. The plan is to have no plan. I do a hell of a lot of things. Some of them really kick off, but 90% don't. I play around, trying out different things. It’s very laissez-faire.

Do you work mostly on your own or with a design team?
I have a little creative team, but it's a small, small company. Normally I have a team of four interns from all over the world. At the moment they come from Canada, Holland, Germany, even Saudi Arabia. I am open-minded about people and their opinions. I want to know what they think? Some people really get shocked by that.

The Internet and street-style blogs have made fashion faster, more democratic and easier to access. But if everyone follows their own style then individuality becomes a uniform. Can there still be an avant-garde?
There have always been the ones looking out for what's new. Then the new gets accepted and everybody wants the same thing. It could be an iPod or a Louis Vuitton bag—anything. I think we will always have both the masses and the individual. Maybe one day we will have a super-avant-garde.

What music are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening to a PJ Harvey track called Down by the Water. I like rock music, I have to say. I'm a big fan of Thom Yorke of Radiohead. Also the UK indie scene—the old scene and also the new scene, like Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys. A year ago I was into electronic music, but I changed. Maybe I was overloaded with electronic music.

How would you like to leave the earth?
I’ve already experienced so many strange things. I’d be fine. I’d be ready. Maybe I should build a box for myself, maybe with drumsticks? [Henrik is also a drummer in a band.] I don’t know. I would like to have some good friends around, of course. Some music, good friends, good moods, and that should make it a happy day.

And now for Peaches. I was expecting to meet a hirsute damsel-in-distress, as seen in the video for her current single, Get It. But instead she looked like a cool version of Sissi, the 19th-century Austrian Empress. As we walked out onto a fifth-floor balcony, before I could stop her, she climbed onto the balustrade and started posing. I knew right then that my interview with Peaches would be in pictures...

She put a skewer into her mouth, et voilà. "I am my own circus," she said.

"Here's another circus trick." She pulled up her hood and shook her heavy chain, like her Shake Your Dicks video.

DJing at the after-party.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Our Zurich style correspondent PLAY hooked up with cult Swiss photographer Walter Pfeiffer for a polaroid date and to talk Walter mania....

A contemporary of Nan Goldin, Billy Name and Larry Clark, and a forerunner of Wolfgang Tillmans, Heinz Peter Knes and Ryan McGinley, Walter Pfeiffer turned the everyday into a visual diary with his candid photographs, creating a free-spirited playground for his circle of friends and models. His point-and-shoot visions of youth, beauty and sexual identity—usually with a homoerotic bent—introduced a bold and controversial aesthetic.

Walter's first major art break came with the seminal 1974 group show Transformer, a title borrowed from Lou Reed's gender-bending album of 1972. Walter's contribution were photos of Carlo, a transsexual whom Walter photographed as both male and female. This was to become the Walter's genre, not unlike the Factory superstars of the 60s or the Club 371 kids of the South Bronx whom Jamel Shabazz immortalized in the 80s.

Walter's first book, titled simply Walter Pfeiffer, hit the scene in 1980. Its kinky cover of a Ken doll with one hand thrust into his underwear set the tone for the then-shocking images inside: hustler-looking boys cruising each other, drag queens at play, and barely-legal types hanging out, occasionally undressing for the camera. These were mixed with random film stills, landscapes and images of Walter's cats (a recurring theme)—all captured in Walter's signature in-your-face, tongue-in-cheek style.

Yet, although hugely influential, Walter Pfeiffer’s photography remained a relatively well-kept secret for a good thirty years. But that began to change in 2007, when i-D contacted him for an interview, resulting in a twelve-page fashion spread. Around the same time, Tom Ford would have his portrait for Vanity Fair be taken only by Walter and even sent a Bentley to retrieve him. That picture of Tom at home, robe-clad against an Andy Warhol screenprint, marked a mainstream triumph for Walter.

Recently, as I also live in Zurich, I summoned the courage to call the fearless sexagenarian. Although busy with an upcoming retrospective at Fotomusueum Winterthur and preparing a major shoot involving hunks in trunks in the Swiss Alps, he picked up. Two days later we met at the University of the Arts in Zurich, where he teaches evening classes in drawing. Let me now introduce you to the weird and wonderful world of Walter Pfeiffer.

Walter on...

His personal dress code
For twenty years Walter has adamantly worn one outfit per week, throughout the week, no matter what. "Otherwise I would forever be worrying what to wear. Every Monday is a new start."

Working with amateurs
"I love shooting good-looking friends, ideally first-timers fresh from school."

Getting a daily dose of erotica
He swears by it.

Agyness Deyn
In February, Walter shot Agyness Deyn for the May issue of i-D. How did it go? Agyness had an eye problem, says Walter, so the shoot was repeatedly postponed. And instead of a day, he got three hours. Still, she was a trooper and Walter garnered one of the six cover shots.

Fashion crises
When i-D sent boxes of designer clothes for last year's Couples issue, "I was literally on my knees,“ recalls Walter‚ “begging my friends to pose for me and help me out with the styling.“ They came through. "i-D were bargaining for a sandwich," he chuckles, "I delivered a 12-course meal."

His approach
"I don't want to always deliver, deliver, deliver. It needs to be easy, easy, easy. Fun, fun, fun. If it becomes too much, I'll quit. I want to deliver what's fun to do."

The not-so-swinging Swiss Sixties
"I was one of the first Swiss hippies," claims Walter, who no doubt startled the good people of Beggingen, the tiny village in the north where he grew up. In this photo, Walter is hanging out at Zurich's first hippie convention in 1968, wearing an outfit he made in art school. Later, a keen fan of French chanteuse and André Courrèges model Françoise Hardy, young Walter worked space-age chic, walking the mean streets of Zurich in a prissy white pantsuit.

Clockwork Switzerland
While at art school in Zurich, Walter's unerring eye for style landed him a job as a buyer for GLOBUS department store, which involved frequent trips to London. Yet each time Walter presented his latest Carnaby Street finds, the reply was: Great, but it won't work here. GLOBUS finally sacked him in 1971. Walter says he then eked out a living painting film posters and illustrating for the visionary German lifestyle magazine Twen. He stumbled into photography by taking polaroids of his friends to use for these drawings. Before long he replaced his brush and pencil with a point-and-shoot camera.

His cats
"My cats have always enjoyed a jolly good life with me,“ he purrs. Indeed, cats feature prominently in his work.

Walter discovered video in 1977. Well into the Eighties, Walter would regularly film and direct home videos starring "friends and pets." As usual, the main intention was to dress up and have a laugh. These videos remained private until 1998, when a DVD compilation, again simply called Walter Pfeiffer, came out. It's almost impossible to come by now.

His idols
Walter cites Cecil Beaton, Manolo Blahnik and John Galliano as his idols, because of their personal style and sartorial flair, while back in the day it was French couturier André Courrèges, as well as U.S. fashion designer Ken Scott, whose exuberant floral prints were all the rage in the '60s and '70s.

Heidi Klum's catchphrase
"The outs of yesterday are the ins of tomorrow."

Coming out of the closet
"Everything went wrong, but I survived."

His dream shoot
"I'd like to shoot Podolski." Lukas Podolski—gasp, sputter—the German soccer star? "Yes. He looks so gorgeous, don’t you think? I want to shoot him at Bayern Munich. I just talked to Vanity Fair Germany about it."

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Text and photos by PLAY, Hint's style-hunter in Zurich...

Founded by Alexander Brenninkmeijer (of European textiles giant C&A) in 2004, the German label Clemens en August combines old-fashioned craftsmanship with a unique business model. Each collection, limited to 40 minimal yet funky staples, is available for only three days at a gallery or museum on a worldwide tour of select cities, thus avoiding the expense of a shop or ad campaign. These impromptu images—with latex parkas by Clemens en August—were taken in the last pit stop of Zurich, at the Hauser & Wirth gallery. Next up is the Goethe Institute in New York (1014 Fifth Avenue @ 83rd St., March 29 - April 1), followed by Berlin, Munich and London.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Photographer and style-hunter PLAY on Terence Koh's latest incarnation...

You just can't control Terence Koh—art superstar, fashion extremist and all-around eccentric. He recently spoke at a political forum in Berlin wearing a Gareth Pugh latex dress and full geisha make-up. But you may know him best from his first and very controversial solo show, GOD, at de Pury & Luxembourg gallery in Zurich back in June.

That's where we first met, for a photo date. He wore Balenciaga gold robo-pants and stood in front of Last Supper of The Antichrist, the central piece in the show—and the darkest, with disciples as skeletons, a colony of poisonous ants living in the body of Jesus and so on.

His latest pièce de résistance, BISHOP, can be seen in Season's Greetings, a Christmas-themed group show of contemporary photography, also at de Pury (Dec. 3 to Jan. 27). An extension of GOD, BISHOP is a series of photos showing Terence dressed in episcopal attire and riding or posing with a white horse. (These images will also be part of the catalog for GOD, which will be released in March in what promises to be a very special and scandalous launch). Of course, it's a lot more sinister than it sounds, and I wanted to get to the heart of it—so I emailed Terence. Within three minutes, his response: "It's about a horse. It's about a love of a horse. And God fucking a horse and getting fucked back. Big hugs. T" And that, my friends, is vintage Terence.

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