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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Q&A: Jonny Johansson

Not long ago Acne was a relatively unknown skinny jeans company from Sweden. Now with 16 stores internationally, phenomenal collaborations with Lanvin and jeweler Michael Zobel, and an exceptional collection for fall '09, it's ballooned into the brand that everyone is obsessed with. We caught up with founder Jonny Johansson as he vacationed with his family in Stockholm. By Kay Barron

The last year has been great for Acne. The recession has been good to you!
The recession has been good in the sense that it means I can focus on what I really like and almost "clean up" what I do. When I was in London a year ago I met an American guy who was recently bankrupt. He didn’t have any money so I took him for a drink and bought him some food. He was a vintage collector and a writer, but he is a musician, too, and he told me that even though his business is on its knees, he has never felt so creative. I think that’s inspiring. For me fashion had become too narrow. Everything had to be so fucking luxurious, and the whole creative and expressive part disappeared.

There is something intrinsically Swedish about Acne that I can’t put my finger on. Can you explain?
I am Swedish! I think that our clothing is functional and related to architecture. It is graphic, but I wouldn’t say it's minimal, which people often say it is. Maybe it's a lack of growing up with couture and extravagance. We had this plan from the start that everyone is on this journey and we know that we’re not perfect and next season we might be more or less interesting. We accept things as imperfect, we almost treasure it. I don’t think people take us too seriously.

Really, even now?
It's only clothing, you know. If you try to keep up with all the amazing and creative people you'll lose your personality, your focus and your ability to find something a little bit personal.

So there's no master plan?
Our plan is to work with people we like and admire. Acne is built on other people. I feel the spirit of everyone I work with. Now we are designing furniture, and for me it's so much fun! Few people have the luxury of trying out different disciplines. If I worked for a big house, it wouldn’t be appropriate to try out different things as there would be a heritage to respect.

Or maybe you get bored easily.
It might be a bit of that.

How do you see the company growing? You mentioned perfume earlier. Will we see that soon?
I am really interested in it, but I think those kinds of brand extensions feel very commercial, so we’re not doing perfume for now. We have lots of other projects lined up that I’m really excited about, but we are taking things slowly. I don’t want Acne to be super mega and absolutely everywhere. In the end, people will find you.

I think Acne has changed the price people expect to pay for quality.
If we’ve done that then I am very proud, especially if they are buying pieces that they are going to wear for a long time.

Do people shop differently from country to country?
In some places. New York is made up of different societies—Chelsea, Brooklyn, the Village, etc—and I don’t think we have reached all of those groups yet. But everywhere we are, we are attracting a really diverse community. That means that we are doing something right.

When is London getting its Acne store?
We’d really like to do that, but we need to find a location. A while ago we were thinking about Mount Street [in Mayfair]. But now when I go there, there doesn’t seem to be anyone walking around. Everyone is in Scott’s restaurant. That’s the only place on the street that's always busy!

You were in bands for a number of years. Do you still play guitar?
Yes, of course. Music is meditation for me. If I’m tired or really excited about something I’ll go to my cellar and play music for hours and hours.

What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m sorry, I have been listening to Metallica. I just really like their latest album. I bought a drum set and that is why I’m listening to them, to practice.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Definitely. I wish I had known more when I started. It sounds sad, but I still wish I had had a fashion education. Of course, there is strength in not coming from a fashion background, but at the same time I am missing some skills.

It’s never too late to go back to school, Jonny!
Haha! That’s just what my mother said.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

I BeBe, Therefore I Am

BeBe Zahara Benet was born and raised in the West African nation of Cameroon. But like so many before her, she high-tailed it to Paris, where she soon developed a flair for the haute art of feminine illusion. Today, BeBe is best-known for her role on RuPaul's reality show Drag Race. Her lip-synching, show-stopping, side-splitting performances clinched the competition, while endearing her to viewers and leaving more than a few well-contoured pouts agape. In New York to attend a fundraiser for an upcoming documentary on her life, BeBe sat down with Hint to discuss everything from tucking to keeping it real. By Sarah Fones

Tell me about the documentary and working with [director] Emily Branham.
We had such chemistry. To me it's an honor to find someone who wants to tell my story. And it's not only about what I do for a living or why I do it. It's about empowering people. We all go through our battles.

Did you reach any revelations?
I will tell you that you have to respect and accept yourself. This is my story, what I've had to overcome. Who says that I am not representing a man? First of all, it takes a man with a lot of guts to be able to do what I do. And a lot of men cannot do it!

Even early on in Drag Race, a lot of viewers singled you out as the winner. How confident were you?
When I went on the show I was really confident about what my persona is all about—the BeBe persona—and very comfortable in my own skin. I didn't focus too much on will I win, but will I represent BeBe the best way possible?

Some of the girls on the show were definitely more likable than others. Was there anyone you didn't get along with?
I was very upfront with everybody and I let it go. I wouldn't go behind anyone's back and badmouth them. I've had so many interviews where people ask me about Rebecca [Glasscock]. There were things about Rebecca I didn't care for, but I made sure I told her.

You kept it real?
All these characters I met, all these drag entertainers, are the same people out of drag. That's how Shannel is, that's how Rebecca is, Akashia, Nina Flowers. Genuine.

What are some of the less glamorous aspects of drag?
All that underwear! The make-up is one thing, but when you have to go through all the undergarments just to look like that.

Do you wear Spanx?
Oh, no! But you have to tuck, and then sometimes you have to wear, like, corsets to make your waist really small. It can be really tricky because you want to make sure everything is in place!

What role does fashion play in your performances?
Drag and fashion are like husband and wife. A lot of designers get inspiration from us, just as we get inspiration from designers. But I think it's more the other way around, because drag entertainers are thinking crazy. Sometimes you look at the costumes and it's like, What were you thinking when you put this together?

Do you have any idols?
I love Beyoncé. She can go from glamour to fantasy to raw—everything! That's also my character. My character can go from African queen all the way to Chinese doll.

Who else?
Diana Ross. Love Diana Ross. And Grace Jones! Grace is so edgy. She's just so fashion-forward and makes you want to like something, even if you don't know how that thing works.

Do you watch Lifetime movies?
No.

(Gasp). Well, if there was a movie being made, who would play you?
Oh my god! It's such a tough question. I know Grace Jones could. I know Beyoncé could. Yes, I'd like Beyoncé to play me.

If you met her, would you be starstruck?
No, I never get that way. We are all human beings. I've witnessed that from the show, how people act toward me.

You mean CAMEROOOOOOON!!!!
Oh no! (Laughs). Oh. My. God.

Are you over that?
Do you know, I'll be in the airport and I'll hear somebody go "Camerooon!" Seriously, from nowhere. And they say it in so many different ways. You have a guy with a very deep voice saying (drops voice) "Ca-mer-oooon." And then you have (in a high voice) "Ca-me-roooon!" Or they go, "Face, face, face!"

How do you respond?
I strike a pose.



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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Screen Saver, Part III

Next in my series of chats with big-screen costume designers is the charming, quiet and sun-kissed Michael Kaplan, who shot out of the gate with his first film, the camp classic Can't Stop the Music, in 1980. Just a couple years later he irrevocably changed the fashion vernacular with Flashdance and Blade Runner. But as he tells me, his next film and dream job, Burlesque (with Cher!), just might be his greatest moment yet. By Cesar Padilla

Let's start with your first film.
Yes, Can't Stop the Music, the Village People movie. There were four of us working on the film and I was assigned the Village People.

How was the experience?
It was the epitome of what was going on at the time. One thing I do remember, which was a first, is [producer] Allan Carr asking me to accentuate the Village People's crotches.

So you were responsible for that?
Yes. (Smiles.)

Was there anyone who didn't need a little something extra?
No, they all needed stuffing.

Were people getting laid on set?
It was a big job and I had my mind on work, although...well, I can't go into detail out of respect for the dead.

Were you getting laid on set?
No, I never combine work and play.

Let's talk Valerie Perrine.
Valerie was supposed to play a high fashion model and, well, it was a little bit of a stretch so I suggested having a make-up artist from the fashion industry do her make-up. Everyone thought it was great idea except Valerie. She was furious and felt challenged. When the day arrived to start filming she said okay, but on one condition. She allowed the make-up artist to do only half her face and she would do the other half because she felt she knew what worked best for her.

How did the split face turn out?
She did two screen tests with each half and she was right. She knew how she looked best. We have the same eye doctor and just the other day I saw her for the first time in a long time. I wondered if she remembered any of that.

You also worked with Michael Jackson. What was that like?
I did two Pepsi commercials with Michael. It was strange because all his comments had to do with food. We'd be deciding on a shirt color and mention the color peach and he'd say, "oh, peaches and cream." Or I'd mention salmon and he would say, "smoked salmon on a bagel." For the color cherry he said, "I love cherries, do you like cherries?" He asked everyone in the room. He was very childlike and sweet.

Did you always want to be a costume designer?
I majored in sculpture, painting and illustration, but as I was graduating I realized I wasn't meant to be a fine artist. After some soul-searching I realized costume design was something that really fascinated me. Not so much fashion design but creating characters with clothing, creating a world. Being a costume designer is such a great job, I may be unemployed at the end of every film but every time I start one it's a whole new cast of characters and a new world to create. So much better than working in a bank.

What's your earliest fashion memory?
There was this movie I was very interested in as a child called The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing, with Joan Collins. She played the original Gibson Girl, Evelyn Nesbit.

Why do you think it resonated with you?
I only saw it once, but it kicked off something.

What was the first piece of clothing you ever made?
It wasn't really a piece of clothing. I painted someone's body for a ball at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The first piece of actual clothing I made was for a party I was invited to at the West Hollywood Women's League. It was their first annual spring formal and all the men had to come dressed as women and all the women as men. I designed a cream-colored silk floor-length ball gown for myself.

Sexy or demure?
Demure, please! It was backless and on the bias. I looked ravishing. My date, Daphne Parker, wore a cream silk tailcoat and top hat. I didn't make her outfit.

Do you still sew?
I can, but very badly. I would be fired if I had to sew the costumes.

What's your process for a film?
I do lots of sketches. Early on I did all my own sketches. Now I do rough sketches and give them to an artist.

Have you saved all your sketches?
I've been better about it as of late. I do have most of the sketches from Blade Runner.

What are the films you are most proud of?
Probably Blade Runner, Flashdance and Fight Club.

Blade Runner came very early in your career, followed immediately by Flashdance. How did your participation in those epic cinematic moments come about?
For Blade Runner, Ridley Scott was interviewing people and most of the costume designers in the union were talking to him about silver mylar as a means to convey the future, but he wanted to meet someone young and fresh with new ideas. At the time I was the newest member of the union. Someone said he should meet the newest member, so we met. After that Ridley recommended me to Adrian Lyne and that's how Flashdance came about. I have to say, I love working with Brits.

With Flashdance, not only did your fashion choices influence a generation, but you influenced fashion for the rest of time! How does it feel to have achieved such a global impact?
I love it.

American Apparel wouldn't exist without Flashdance.
I've had directors say they're doing a movie and they want me to start a trend like Flashdance. But you have to have a good script to start with.

How did you come up with the Flashdance look?
I read the script and thought a lot about the characters and what they would wear. Jennifer Beals was a construction worker without a lot of money, shown reading fashion magazines. The idea of a sweatshirt covered all the areas of her life. As a dancer she would personalize her clothes and Jennifer has very beautiful shoulders. If she didn't have beautiful shoulders I would have covered them.

Do you still have the sweatshirt?
Yes, I kept one of the three we used.

What's your dream film?
I think I may be about to make it. I'm in the process of finishing The Sorcerer's Apprentice, but the film I am about to start is Burlesque.

Burlesque, the new Cher film?
Yes. I have worked with many beautiful people, but this is a musical with so many beautiful women. There are eighteen numbers in the entire film. It's about a young girl, played by Christina Aguilera, whose parent dies and she decides to go for it and get the fuck out of town. She heads west and winds up at a burlesque club run by Cher!

Have you worked with Cher before?
I worked as a sketch artist, fabric shopper and assistant costume designer on the Sonny and Cher Show, after the Cher show. It was my first job. I doubt she remembers me. We had little contact.


What can we look forward to, clothing-wise, in Burlesque?
I don't know yet. I need to go on my vacation next week and separate myself from this last film before I start on this one.

How was working on the most recent Star Trek?
It was terrible for me. I got sick in the middle of production and I wasn't able to enjoy the project as much as I would have liked. It was interesting because I never watched Star Trek and I told the director that I probably wasn't the most qualified for the job. He answered that he wanted a fresh take on Star Trek and that qualified me even more. I was so afraid I was going to wake up one morning to a legion of trekkies outside my door.

On the other end of the spectrum, Fight Club is a very sexy movie. Was that something you were conscious of while making the film?
[Director] David Fincher and I spoke before I started creating the look for the film. I said to him I know you don't like color and flamboyance, so how far can I go with Tyler Durden. He said not far.

It's a very homoerotic film. It caused a lot of boners.
In the audience maybe. I just followed the road map of the screenplay.

Speaking of boners, what was the air like on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith?
You could cut it with a knife. I love working with them. I've worked with Brad a few times now. It was my first time working with Angelina. Once we got to know each other everything went great.

What's been your biggest fashion faux pas?
I don't regret any of my work.

What's your guilty pleasure?
You sound like Barbara Walters.

But she can't smile like I can, Michael.
My guilty pleasure is bacon, french fries, calamari—anything that combines fat and salt.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Q&A: Stefano Pilati

In their own selfish way, fashion victims help the world go 'round. But no one wants to see the end result of hoarding, not even the creative engine behind one of the world's great luxury brands, Yves Saint Laurent. So last night at Barneys New York, with a little encouragement from Julie Gilhart, Stefano Pilati launched New Vintage, an eco-friendly capsule collection made from unused fabrics left over from previous YSL collections, with an emphasis on wearability and affordability. Naturally all fifty limited-edition, numbered pieces sold out within minutes, including a Downtown bag in remnant khaki that Julie craftily scooped up ahead of time. But I also managed a little selfish hoarding of Stefano...

Lee Carter: Did you just fly in?
Stefano Pilati: No no no. I got here a few day ago.

Have you been working nonstop or do you take breaks to romp around the city?
I know I look tan, like I've spent the afternoon in my garden, but actually I've been working nonstop. Normally the summer is more relaxed, but this one, no way. I didn't stop one day. After this I have the cruise show, then men's, then I start to work on women's.

Always moving.
Always moving. I do eleven collections a year.

That's crazy. How do you recharge yourself after a show?
Normally I disappear.

As in, you become a shut-in?
No, I go to Hawaii or skiing in Idaho. You know, I can't really stop thinking about collections, but at least I'm not under so much pressure.

Did you go to the Tony Awards last night? I thought I saw you in the audience on TV.
No, I read about it in the papers. It's not really a part of my world, but I could see Billy Elliott a hundred times.

Let's talk about your New Vintage project with Barneys.
Julie approached me to consider how we could educate the customer about the environment and recycling.

Is this the first time you've done something like this?
Yes. Well, this is the first time I've said it so clearly. I might have considered these aspects in my collections before, but I don't always communicate it. My mission is to challenge people, not to shock or be obvious.

New Vintage feels like it comes from the heart. How do you consider the environment on a personal level? I assume you recycle at home?
Yes, this for sure. And also at work I tell my assistants not to waste too much. For me there are two environments. There is a woman's environment and how she wants to present herself to the world. And then there is the larger environment, which is total. There is nothing more important. We have to start disciplining ourselves. So I wanted to get rid of some fabrics, starting with the ones I like.

Is this the start of a brave green YSL?
I think fashion should get to a different level. But you know, it's fashion. I'm not trying to be the President of the United States.

Or Al Gore?
Or Al Gore.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Q&A: Christopher Bailey

Given his fantastically glamourous job as Burberry's creative director, you might think Christopher Bailey is the type to have glitzy million-dollar condos stretching from Rio to Goa and keep a staff of well-pressed butlers, chauffeurs and vase-dusters. But no. The real Christopher Bailey, with his tousled red hair and generous smile, is a Bob-Dylan-listening, sloppy-sofa-relaxing country boy, as he told me just hours before hosting the star-studded christening of the new Burberry headquarters in New York. Which, apparently, is just part of the job...

Lee Carter: The Burberry tartan is one of the most famous trademarks in the world. What are your own trademarks, passions and fetishes?
Christopher Bailey: One of my biggest things is that I love the countryside. People don't usually associate that with a fashion designer, but it's something that's really important or me. I was brought up in the countryside. I love gardening and spending time in agricultural surroundings.

How very British of you. You're almost as British as Madonna. Do you have horses, too?
I do have horses in my field. That probably makes me a big fat cliché.

More like a thin cliché. You're quite thin.
Well, I'd like to be, but I'm drinking too much.

Welcome to the club! Burberry is such a quintessentially British brand. Are you an Anglophile?
I've never considered myself an Anglophile. I've lived all over the world. I've lived in New York, Munich, Paris, Milan for a long time. Now I'm back in the UK, which is kind of weird. I do love my roots. I do love England and its diversity, but I also love being in other cities. I'd get claustrophobic in one place. Today we're in Manhattan, tomorrow I'm in London, Saturday in Yorkshire...

What's in Yorkshire?
That's where I live. I have a home there, a little cottage.

It must be a very sweet cottage.
It is a very sweet cottage. It's also very old, from 1633. It's an old farmhouse, surrounded by fields and cows and horses.

I bet you've done it up very nicely.
Actually I just finished a huge renovation. I hope it's nice. It's very simple. I love it.

What's your taste when it comes to interiors?
I don't like things when they feel too prissy or untouchable. If you're going to have a sofa then it should be a big sloppy sofa. I like a bit of grime and dirt as well. I don't like things too spotless and perfect. The same with clothes. I want clothes to feel like you own them, not like they own you. They should be a little disheveled and broken down.

Like they have stories to tell.
Yes, exactly. I love stories and poetry.

Do you really like poetry?
I don't love poetry. [Laughs.] We have something on English TV at the moment. They're trying to promote poetry in the UK, so I'm going to start reading poetry. I think I haven't been patient enough in the past.

I know music, too, is one of your interests. And I hear you discovered One Night Only, the band that's playing at tonight's launch...
I wouldn't say I discovered them. I would love to say that. I guess I found them before they hit.

What does music mean to you and how does it play into your work?
Music is so important. I love so many different types of music, from classical to one of my favorite artists, Bob Dylan. I love Joni Mitchell, the Stones, punk, the Pistols.

I'd love to see a punk-inspired Burberry collection. What would that look like?
I'm always a little influenced by punk anyway. But I like it when you discover that it's influenced by punk rather than wearing safety pins all over.

Not that you've never done that.
Not that I've never done that.

What's the most outrageous thing you've ever worn?
I was never crazy, but I did dye my hair blue. That's not so wild.

A lot of designers pretend like they lead normal lives, but it's rarely true. What's a typical weekend like for you?
I spend a lot of time in my studio working on a gazillion things, from fragrances to new buildings to designing furniture, and of course all the collections. But I also have my life outside the office, though I'm not a party person. I like to celebrate but I prefer intimacy to big parties, so I will usually go out for dinner or cook for friends and family. I spent last weekend with my family. We just cooked, read the newspapers, drank too much.

Let's talk about the new New York headquarters. It's a huge undertaking.
Yes, a labor of love. It's slightly smaller than our new London global headquarters. We designed it with the same plans, same layout, same furniture. But we do not have the big Burberry sign in London.

Neon just feels so New York.
Exactly. It's one of only six grandfathered buildings in New York where you can do that, so it's a big deal for us to be able to affect the iconic Manhattan skyline, which I love. And everyone here has a great can-do attitude. You guys are always glass half-full, whereas maybe in the UK we're a bit glass half-empty. There's always such camaraderie in New York. It's a pleasure being here.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Q&A: Vince Aletti

Music, arts and culture critic—and voracious collector of magazines and photographs—Vince Aletti has one of those tirelessly inquisitive, faultlessly analytical minds. He's widely acknowledged as the first to document the disco movement, and throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s he wrote for a variety of magazines, including Rolling Stone, the Village Voice and Artforum. These days he reviews photography exhibitions for The New Yorker and recently he's been spending a lot of time at the International Center of Photography (ICP), curating This Is Not a Fashion Photograph and co-curating Weird Beauty (both currently on view), as well as working on an upcoming Richard Avedon retrospective. Here, by phone, I interrogate the interrogator...

Lee Carter: Are you a fan of fashion?
Vince Aletti: I've been interested in fashion photography for a long time. I collected fashion magazines, issue by issue, to get a better sense of the work of photographers I'm interested in, especially Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. For me it's the best way to understand what a working photographer does.

Did you meet Penn or Avedon?
I became friendly with Avedon in the last five or six years of his life. We met a number of times, but mainly we stayed in touch by mail.

What was it like to meet the person you worshipped?
Intimidating, of course. I met Penn as well, at his studio with Peter MacGill from Pace/MacGill gallery. Then I met him separately for breakfast once or twice. It was difficult to have a conversation that wasn't just a series of questions on my part about things I'd always been curious about, but they both put me at ease. They were both very charming and intelligent men.


Twiggy by Richard Avedon

Speaking of Avedon, you're working on an upcoming show of his at the ICP, with co-curator Carol Squiers. What's been the most challenging aspect so far?
Trying to fit in all the great pictures. Avedon was a ruthless editor of his own work, so there are plenty of photographs that we'd like to include that do not exist as exhibition prints. But just making space for the available prints is turning out to be a challenge. There are so many extraordinary images, from the early Paris collections work to later sessions with Penelope Tree, Twiggy, Lauren Hutton, Barbra Streisand, Veruschka. We want to tell the most complete story about Avedon's long and prolific career in fashion, but right now we wish we had a third floor to work with!

A friend recently showed me Male, a book of male portraits you compiled. It's really beautiful.
Thanks. Yes, in addition to my collection of magazines, I have a smaller collection of photographs. I showed some of it last year at White Columns and much more of it just came out as a book, which I'm delighted to have out in the world. I also have a book of my disco columns coming out from DJhistory.com in London later this month. It's nearly 500 pages!


Male

Yes, I'd read you were the first person to write about disco. Is that true? Were you a disco bunny?
I was probably the first established rock critic to write about the music that later became known as disco—in Rolling Stone in 1973—mainly because I'd been going out to clubs like the Loft and Tenth Floor. But I was never any kind of bunny—a little too serious for that, I'm afraid. I was one of the few people who actually went to clubs close to the time they opened, at midnight, and left before the bunnies arrived en mass around 4 am. I liked watching the dance floor fill up and overflow.

When you collect photos and magazines, what criteria do you use? What do you go for?
It sounds cliche, but something that speaks to me immediately, that grabs me and means something emotionally. This is how I went through ICP's collection and culled images for This Is Not a Fashion Photograph.

How do you think fashion photography will fare in this recession?
I hope fashion photographers continue to be inspired by whatever gets them going, no matter what the economy is doing. I hope people sail through the recession without losing sight of the role fashion has in our lives, which is to keep us diverted. We need exciting pictures to get us through the day.

Last question: which designers are you wearing right now?
Head-to-toe J. Crew and Adidas Stan Smith sneakers.

What a perfect Sunday afternoon ensemble. I'm in my pajamas, so you're clearly more fashionable than I am.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Q&A: Alexandre Herchcovitch

Paris, late-90s. That's when I saw my first Alexandre Herchcovitch show and witnessed the Brazilian's impeccable, abstract sense of color, shape and proportion, not to mention his knack for provocation. I remember thinking it was as if Couture and Carnaval had a steamy one-night-stand. Years later at São Paulo Fashion Week, as he, Pat Field and I donned neon wigs and sped off to the Festa de Peruca (Wig Party), I learned of his drag roots and skull collection. Which is to say, Ale is full of surprises. Here, a few more...

What's your first fashion memory?
I remember observing my mother while she was dressing to go out. I used to sit on the floor inside her closet and help her choose what to wear. I recall her wearing, in the middle of the 80s, an extra-tight stretch catsuit with leggings and a bat-sleeve sweatshirt, and always with extremely pointy high-heeled pumps. I remember another time she came home with very short hair, half blonde and half red. I thought it was beautiful!

Who were your childhood idols? Were they female like mine?
At first, there was my mother. I was always at her side. Soon after, when I was a teenager, Boy George showed through make-up and clothing that there are no physical limits when it comes to gender change.

You've told me you got your start in the drag scene of São Paulo. What's the funniest escândalo from back in the day?
I started my career as a designer by making clothes for drag queens (not being one of them), prostitutes and transvestites in São Paulo. I dressed the first and most famous Brazilian drag queen, Márcia Pantera. I've made more than 300 outfits for her, but today she has none of them. Her shows were very aggressive. She did things like hang upside down from the club’s lighting, dive into the crowd, bathe herself in beer onstage. Naturally, the clothes could not survive this. One time, Márcia started undressing and threw the accessories I'd made for her into the crowd. At the end, the hostess kindly asked the audience to return them, since they were part of my collection, but to my surprise, no one did! I was shocked and sad with the loss of those precious pieces.

Pretend you're in a beauty pageant. What would your evening gown look like? And your swimsuit?
The gown would be fairly simple, well-cut and structured, probably navy blue, and made with wool, my favorite fabric. The swimsuit would be made with fabric, probably the same as the dress, to match.

Do you wish you were less or more famous?
I never cared about doing what I do to be famous. I don't care for fame. I actually run away from it.

What does the bad economy mean for you? Will you still show your collections in New York?
Sure! I don’t believe in anything that is interrupted and doesn't have a sequence. A crisis serves only to motivate our creativity, and this is what the world needs, better ideas.

What's the most exciting thing coming up for you? Any hot news or collaborations?
I will open a big store in Rio de Janeiro within the first half of this year. Less than a year ago, I joined the management group of a Brazilian brand, InBrands, and we are in a very interesting growth process. I'm also releasing a line of bandages with Band-Aid. And 2010 will be even better!




Ale with muse Geanine Marques


Ale & Alisson Gothz

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Screen Saver, Part II

By Cesar Padilla...

For the second installment of my illuminating, hilarious and sometimes salacious Q&As with costumers (notice the vowels), I caught up with goth mama Arianne Phillips. And let me tell you it was no easy feat, considering she's constantly on the road styling for Madonna, Courtney Love or Lenny Kravitz (her former roommate). Plus she's one of the most sought-after costume designers in Hollywood, with film credits that include Girl, Interrupted, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Walk the Line, which garnered her an Academy Award nomination in 2005. But caught up with her I did, and I made sure to cover all the bases. We talked candidly about everything from drugs and male idolatry to dressing the Material Girl and (not) doing Guy...

You just finished a film last week. Can you tell me about it?
It was the new Tom Ford film. It's his directorial debut and it was awesome. He's a natural director and it was so great to work with someone who has such an amazing vernacular for costumes and clothing. The story is so great. I've been attached to it for a while, since he chose to go for independent funding. It's based on the Christopher Isherwood novel A Single Man. Set in 1962, it stars Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. I guess I'm becoming the mid-century girl.

What was your first film and how was the experience?
Bail Jumper, a small indie film in New York that was very patched together. I had absolutely no experience other than the music videos I had styled. I was learning on the fly. It was down and dirty and I wanted more!

What's your dream film?
It would be a moody spectacle starring Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet and Tilda Swinton, directed by Bob Fosse, Fellini or Kubrick, with cinematography by John Alcott, Sven Nykvist, Robbie Muller, Chris Doyle or Harris Savides. It would be a period piece on location in London, Paris or the south of France, with music by Bowie, Eno, Stephen Trask and Mozart.

What's your worst moment on set?
It was at the beginning of my film career. I was getting my trailer door kicked in by an angry actress who I neglected to get thermals for. The producer told me I should go home and not come back for a few days.

What's your worst diva moment?
Me? Diva? Never!

Do you sew?
Only in an emergency.

What's the first thing you ever sewed?
The holes in my rainbow toe socks circa 1976.

I know you're into black. Do you ever wear color?
No. Black, black, black! I'm a tired ol' goth!

What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be all my Halloween costumes—a witch, an actress and a princess.

Who do you want to be when you grow up?
In all seriousness, my mother. She is an awesome woman.

What was on your walls when you were 15?
There is a funny story about that because it was my 15th birthday exactly. I had very liberal hippie parents and I told my mom I wanted to do mushrooms. She said the only way I could take them was under her supervision, which is the same thing she did on my first date. I had to take them in the house and I had to get them myself because she wasn't going to score my drugs. So a few of my girlfriends came over for a sleepover and right as we were peaking my mom walked into the room and sat on the corner of my bed. There wasn't a inch of space on my walls that wasn't covered with a poster of a British rock star—Rod Stewart, The Bay City Rollers, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, etc. We were listening to rock music and she decided that this was the time for her to give me her feminist dissertation on rock gods and male idolatry. In particular, you may know this poster, Robert Plant in the tightest pair of hip huggers, with the biggest bulge imaginable. My mom was going on about these men I didn't know on my wall and we were just tripping our brains out.

Still into rock gods?
Well, just last night I had a moment. [Night Ranger's] Sister Christian came on the radio and, I don't know, I just had a moment and turned it up.

What's your biggest fashion faux pas, personally?
A deconstructed hippie grunge plaid baby-doll dress or a collaged/decoupaged pair of wooden platforms that I wore in high school.

What's your dream decade?
The future.

What's your guiltiest pleasure?
Anything salty followed by a sugar chaser. All of my memories are built around food. Food is my inspiration.

Best Courtney Love moment?
We're at an Oscar party and she and Jack Nicholson are smoking cigars in the dark. Too many more to mention.



Best Madonna moment?
My first meeting with her and Jean-Paul Gaultier in her apartment in New York, listening to the Ray of Light CD before it was released, planning and discussing the costumes for the Frozen video.

Worst Madonna moment?
Being chased by rabid paparazzi in Italy en route to the MTV Europe Music Awards. I thought we were going to die in that car.

What was working on Swept Away like?
It was one of the best times I ever had. We were on a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean. It was a very intimate crew. I got permission to leave a week early and then I was called back when they decided to add a musical number at the very end. We needed an outfit and I couldn't find one so I ended up at the Versace showroom in Milan. I remember it was truffle season. It was awesome. See, all my memories are tied to food.


Madonna in Swept Away

Tell me your favorite outfit of this Madge tour.
The sexy robot section, the crystal football shoulders and the Joan of Arc silver armor breastplate in the final section.

Any onstage accidents?
In 1989, Lenny Kravitz ripped a pair of vintage bell bottoms onstage and, to my shock and horror, he turned around and out popped the jewels!

Your favorite rock band right now?
Wilco, Goldfrapp, Vampire Weekend, The Ting Tings, Duffy.

Who taught you air guitar?
Jimmy page, of course!

What's your next project?
I'm flying to Rio to shoot the cover of W with Madonna and Steven Klein. It's our third W cover.

Last question, and please be honest with me. I really want to bone Guy Ritchie. Do I stand a chance?
No way.

That sucks. Thanks, Arianne. See you in L.A. in a few weeks for mango margaritas.


Sketch for Hedwig and the Angry Inch / still from Walk the Line / Arianne's Oscar nomination certificate

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Screen Saver, Part I

Cesar Padilla, owner of Cherry vintage store, pops a few questions to Emmy nominated costume designer John Dunn...

Having a vintage clothing business in New York City has afforded me the privilege of working with many creative and talented people. Over the next few months, I will be conducting a series of interviews with costume designers from the worlds of film and television. First up is John Dunn, whom I met when we worked on The Notorious Bettie Page. I've since had the pleasure of supplying clothes to him for Factory Girl, I'm Not There and the pilot of Mad Men, the show for which he's currently nominated for an Emmy...


The cast of Mad Men

Let's start with the basics. What was your first film?
New York Stories, directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Nick Nolte and Roseanna Arquette.

What was the first outfit you ever made?
I was in the first grade and my teacher, Sister Mary Joseph Ignatius, had a class contest. Each of us had to make an outfit for the Virgin Mary on her holy day. Most of the kids made things out of crêpe paper and foil. I went home at lunch and picked an armload of flowers from our lilac bush. I fashioned a spectacular robe and crown out of them.

Who have you most liked dressing?
Gretchen Moll as Bettie Page. Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan and Heath Ledger as Robbie in I'm Not There. David Bowie as Andy Warhol in Basquiat. Guy Pierce as Andy Warhol in Factory Girl. My favorite films ever are The Women (the 1939 version), Doctor Zhivago and Bonnie and Clyde.


I'm Not There

What's your dream film?
Javier Bardem and Cate Blanchett, directed by Todd Haynes.

Typically, what's your biggest challenge?
Convincing film directors to add dream ballets to the script.

What was your worst experience?
It's one of my life goals to never work in Shreveport, Louisiana, ever again.

Your most embarrassing moment?
Stabbing an A-list actress in her butt with a huge safety pin when I was adjusting her pregnancy padding on our first fitting. No regrets, though. Except not having a trust fund.

Now, darling, what was your worst drama queen moment?
How dare you? Don't ever, ever ask me that question again.

Lee and I love it when a bulbous cockhead is visible through pants. Was it your idea to make Seth Rogen's trousers such a prominent feature in Pineapple Express? I'd like to think that was your expert tailoring.
We weren't even thinking about that! We spent countless hours fitting that suit so it would look like a cheap suit that Seth's character had stolen from his uncle's closet.

Do you sew?
Yes, but don't tell anyone.

What sewing machine do you use?
One that someone else is operating. I'm pretty lousy, but when forced at gunpoint to sew, I'm almost passable on a vintage Singer Featherweight. They're indestructible and unstoppable.

Where were you when you heard that you were nominated for an Emmy?
One of my closest friends called me at six in the morning while I was in my bathroom upchucking some bad shellfish. I instantly felt much better.

What are you wearing to the Emmys?
It's a black tie event and Mad Men is set in 1960 New York, so I'm going in a vintage tux à la Jack Lemmon in Days of Wine and Roses.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Q&A with Simon Foxton, half of &SON—with stylist Nick Griffiths—and fashion director of i-D and Fantastic Man. Fred Perry commissioned &SON to create its seventh men's Blank Canvas collection, which is anything but blank...



For Fred Perry’s Blank Canvas project, you and Nick created four styles inspired by the camouflage of wartime British battleships, but in a pulsating fiesta of rainbow colors. How much absinthe were you on?
Well, none, to be honest. The designs are inspired by the use of dazzle camouflage from the First World War. Dazzle camouflage was inspired by cubist and vorticist painting which was in new at the time. If you have a look at the real thing, it is so out there—huge ships painted like art-deco ornaments. So strange and appealing.

Do you play tennis? How would you describe the intersection between sports and fashion?
I've never played tennis in my life, but Nick is a keen badminton player. Sport has been such a major influence on fashion for at least the last forty years. As the idle rich have become increasingly body-conscious, the use of sportswear is now seen as a shorthand for health. Of course, it's a two-way street, with the catwalk or guest designer now informing most of the sports brands. Fashion and sportswear are more or less interchangeable.

Can you tell us more about &SON? What’s the mission? What projects have you got going?
&SON is a creative practice that Nick and I set up about 18 months ago. We both come from a styling background, and as we enjoy working together, we decided to create projects that would utilize our different talents and experience. It's about doing things that are creative and not just the run-of-the-mill styling jobs. We're very into collaborative projects. Apart from the Fred Perry Blank Canvas range, we have been working for some time with the Italian company Stone Island, creating a new advertising campaign for them and consulting on many other facets of their business. We are about to get started on a new major collaboration, but we can't say who yet and we're about to print a limited-edition range of T-shirts.

Would you say &SON is a reaction to drab menswear? Should men make more of a statement with what they wear?
No, don't assume that we will only be coming out with things in giddy colors and jazzy patterns. We felt that that look
was right for Fred Perry, but we can do sensible and tasteful, too. As for men making more of a statement, I'm not sure that's always such a good idea, when you see some of the statements currently being paraded. Rather than make a big statement, I'd prefer that men were a bit more thoughtful in their choices.

What role, if any, does gayness play in your designs? Is &SON the best of both worlds?
Well, I'm gay and Nick is straight, so I guess we come at it from both sides and generally find a good balance. But that's kind of too hard to answer, really, because I think what you are informs what you do in some way. I don't sit down and think: Right, I'm going to design a queer pair of pants. I just design what I like and what I think others may like.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Q&A with men's designer Juun J., Seoul's answer to Hedi Slimane (circa Dior Homme), by Virginia Jackson-Reed...

The Seoul fashion scene has yet to reach the level of global notoriety of cities like New York and Tokyo. Why do you think that is?
You're right, there isn’t a designer in South Korea who reaches that level, but the Korea fashion scene has just begun. I, too, have just begun.

Your Lone Costume line has garnered comparisons with Dior Homme and Raf Simons. Would you say this is fair, and in what ways do you stand apart?
Although I now have my collections in Paris, I had my first collection in Korea in 2000. I showed were very slim suits. I think that's why I'm compared with these two labels. But my first collection in Paris was totally different. The silhouettes may still be similar, but I guess the origin of design is different.



Early on, Lone Costume had a womenswear component. Why did you stop?
Actually, there's never been womenswear in my collections. However, I used to let the female models wear men’s outfits or make a little bit of women's just for the men's show. At present, my women clients wear small sizes of my Juun. J men's collection.

Your line balances both refinement and edge. How do you achieve this?
Before I started my own line, I worked at other brands for ten years. I worked hard to bring out the true spirit of those brands rather than always creating something new. It was a great experience for me and I have a firm belief that fashion is an art and a business at the same time.

You've collaborated with English artist Simon Henwood and Japanese artist Nuts several times. What draws you to their work?
I’m a big fan of these artists, especially Simon. My inspirations are from people always. And as you know, Simon draws the “Real People.”

Trench coats are a recurring theme. Are they your signature?
I love trench coats a lot. When you are styling with a trench coat, all the other items have to be very simple as it has a fairly unique presence by itself.

What three things would you say sum up the vibe of your label?
Trench coat, structural transformation and novelty.

Who best embodies your aesthetic and why?
Ironically, my muse is Charlotte Gainsbourg. Her tomboy image is very attractive and has strong power in it.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Q&A: Christian Louboutin

French footwear phenom Christian Louboutin was recently in New York to give a lecture at FIT about his creative process, inspirations, fetishes, designer collaborations (he famously created the sandals worn in Yves Saint Laurent's final show in 2002) and how he's built an empire in just 15 years. We tracked him down for some pearlettes of wisdom...

You're known for your red-sole trademark. What other trademarks do you have that we can't see?
Some technical secrets that have their basis in my background working with showgirls.

What's your lowest and your highest heel? Do you see them changing?
Ain’t no high heel high enough. The current range of heel heights is 1/2 - 6 inches, but one never knows.

How many hours does it take to make each pair of shoes?
The time can stretch from a day to a year. There is no rule.

Do you mind it when women refer to your shoes as Loubies?
Nicknames are often friendly, so I consider it a compliment.

We know an American heiress who wears only your shoes. Any idea how many clients like that you have?
I've never known.

When you see the Pope's red shoes, are you jealous? Could you design his shoes better?
Since I am not dreaming of designing men's shoes, then I am fine with it. Anyway, jealousy is generally a sin.

You were quoted in the NY Times as saying that parties have become like a business meeting. What was the last good party you went to?
The Rose Ball in Monaco a few weeks ago. It was in honor of Pedro Almodovar, and the whole Almodovar “family” was there, so it was a great, 100% fun party.

If we were to take you up on your MySpace invitation to "suivez-moi, jeune homme," exactly where would we end up? And what would be on our feet?
It depends on your legs, baby.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Q&A: Frida Giannini

By now, you know all about Gucci's massive concert/auction/benefit/store launch tonight at the United Nations: the mega-draw (Madonna), the acts (Chris Rock, Alicia Keys), the slebs (Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow). I caught up with Gucci creative director Frida Giannini for some tidbits you might not know...

This is a very special night for Gucci. What is it you hope to achieve?
Yes, it is very special indeed. We are raising money for both UNICEF and Raising Malawi, so we hope that the event is a huge success in every way. We are underwriting the entire evening, so 100% of funds generated goes to children affected by HIV and AIDS. Of course, it is also a party, so we hope that everyone has a great time.

Is there a larger message in having the fundraiser at the UN?
There is. The UN is a completely international place. It is bigger than New York, it is bigger than the United States. This global notion parallels the cause to which we are so dedicated. AIDS is a global crisis, one with which people from every country should be concerned. It is much larger than Africa, and we need to remind people of that.

Can we expect to see more grand gestures like this from Gucci?
This is a very special celebration for a very special occasion, the opening of the new Gucci flagship. We will have to wait and see what happens in the future!

The bag collections you've created for the new store look great. What was your inspiration?
Thank you. I wanted to create something extraordinary to parallel the beauty and scale of the new store. There are two collections of bags: the Heritage collection and the New York Exclusive collection. Heritage is a one-of-a-kind collection of bags that represent the ultimate in luxury. I looked through the archives and resurrected several iconic models that I reworked in skins. Additionally I resurrected a vintage print called "Leonardo," which was first created in the '50s. For this print I was inspired by the timing, as its introduction in 1953 coincided with the opening of the first Gucci New York boutique the same year. The New York exclusive bags are more playful, but also collector's items. The Gucci Loves New York bag is of course a tribute to this fantastic city. All proceeds from the Gucci Loves NY products will go towards the care and maintenance of the playgrounds in Central Park.

Can you tell us about your own love of New York? What fond memories do you have of our city?
New York is unlike any city in the world. It has inimitable energy. It is filled with such a multitude of different kinds of people, filled with culture, and filled with history. It is the only city where you can get anything you want at any hour, which I absolutely love. I have many fond memories of coming to New York, but some of my favorites are going vintage shopping with my design team in Soho. And each time I fly into New York and see the skyline of Manhattan, I am in awe.


The new Fifth Avenue store...


The exclusive bags...

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