Marina & the Diamonds
Interview with Marina Diamandis aka Marina and the Diamonds.
Originally published in Hope St Magazine- Issue #4
Photography by Alexander Jordan
In a world full of manufactured pop stars there is a tendency to dismiss any individuals within the pop music genre as lacking in substance. Not to name names, but these young pop stars tend to have little want or desire to express true creative but rather strive for fame and fortune – and maybe a sport-star husband. And, while that’s fine, there is a part of me that yearns for a pop star I can really get behind, one that attempts to express their identity, conveys messages of enlightenment, delivers narrative and truly expresses themselves through their chosen vehicle; and while that certainly exists in our ageing pop icons, it has been kind of lacking in the contemporary world of popular culture. This may seem an inappropriate statement to make, but we want more from women in the public eye. Women who aren't afraid to define themselves as feminists, women who are not afraid to stand up for their ideals and women who are self aware and considered are – regrettably – a relatively rare commodity.
In her career, Marina Diamandis performs under the stage name Marina and the Diamonds, but has had many incarnations, and although her music and her aesthetic have varied, she has always been a fiercely independent and truly modern pop star. Not content with being pushed and plastered everywhere as just another pretty face, she has been fearless in discussing important issues from feminism to mental illness. Marina really is an interesting artist who approaches her celebrity in a very honest and genuine way, which sadly isn't the norm. Willing to discuss the need to express her personal ideals and her duty as a woman to fight for equality in all aspects of life, Marina is an artist who more than ever she comfortable and confident within her art and her music has progressed thematically with her new album 'FROOT', which focuses on more generalised themes of what it is to be human. Being that this move away from more personal material shows confidence and development as an artist, the production of the album has progressed with her using a live band for a more organic, raw sound.
1. We’re very excited about your new album ‘FROOT’; can you describe it for us?
The sound ranges from simple and sparse to textured and rich. My brief to my producer David Kosten was to produce me like a band. There aren’t a huge amount of electronic elements this time round.
2. How do you think it its different from your other records in terms of your progression as an artist?
Well, I wrote this album alone and co-produced it with one producer so those are the largest differences. The production sound is a world away from my first two records though. It has a very real and human feel due to all the drums and guitars being played live. My songwriting has progressed quite a bit. I think I’ve played with the idea of structure and arrangement a lot on this record.
3. When your last album tour ‘Electra Heart’ ended, you took a break; what were you up to during that downtime?
Just living a life. Doing the exact same things that you guys probably do! I hadn’t had any stability in my life since I had moved country at 18 and I badly needed to sit still for a while. I was 27 and ready to simplify a lot of things. It was a good time for me.
4. How does it feel now that you have killed Electra Heart?
It doesn’t feel like anything, to be honest. Since the start I had already planned when I was going to end the concept. It felt bittersweet as there were many very good memories from the album, fan contribution and touring but it was a relief to get back to being myself.
5. Electra Heart seemed like a chapter in your life that you needed to go through to grow; what do you think this new chapter holds for you?
I think it’s about cementing myself as a songwriter and educating the media on that. My fans know me and know where I’ve come from but I don’t think that the music press really understand what I am yet. I think I’m finally accepting that I may always be an anomaly.
6. You have talked briefly about depression, being in the public eye did you ever feel a pressure to keep it a secret?
No. I don’t mind discussing it in interviews and I don’t feel embarrassment for it. It seems slightly taboo, socially speaking, but most of us will suffer from it at some point and I like using music as a vehicle to discuss wider issues like this. I think it was more that I felt a pressure within myself. I wasn’t fully able to acknowledge that I was depressed for such a long time because I didn’t really know what was wrong. I thought it was a character trait and that that was who I was. It was only when I began to feel different that I understood I had been depressed for the larger part of 10 years. Emotionally speaking, it was the biggest break through in my life.
7. You seem to have gone through a major period of growth and reflection, do you feel more at ease, or happier within yourself now?
Yeah. I think ‘FROOT’ is very much a product of that and documents that period of my life.
8. Is it difficult to expose yourself in a creative form; do you ever feel vulnerable?
Oddly, no. I feel a hundred times more vulnerable speaking to somebody one on one about my worries or problems than I do singing them to 10,000 people. I think that’s what made me a songwriter.
9. You recorded your new album ‘FROOT’ with a live band; how important was it for you to capture that live sound?
It was a part of me that was never expressed in the first two albums and I felt like I needed that to be part of musical identity. Being raw and human is so important to me and I think, with pop music and pop producers, there is a tendency to erase that in the name of professional sonic quality.
10. One of the new tracks ‘Immortal’ deals with how we leave our mark on the world; how do you ultimately want to be remembered?
If I’m honest, I’m not really interested!
11. Your aesthetic has always been very strong and like your music has changed quite a bit, how would you describe the aesthetic behind ‘FROOT’?
It’s surreal and colourful, classic yet has a synthetic, modern twist. My original references for my first press shoot were “Cyber Dolce Vita! Sci-Fi Liz Taylor” and such. I love reinterpreting classic femininity in a modern way.
12. What would you like to change about how the world perceives women in the entertainment industry, and do you think it’s achievable?
I’d like to change the perception that if a woman looks a certain way and sings certain music, she isn’t behind the creation. A lot of the times, SHE IS. Particularly if she is successful. I think it’s achievable to change the way we are perceived but it needs to be talked about in a public way. And I will be talking about this a lot over the next year. It’s my duty as a musician and as a woman.
13. You have always defied set genres or categorisation with your music, do you think that we or the Industry attempt to pigeon hole artists too much?
It’s natural to a certain extent. I don’t blame the media for not understanding who I was on the past two albums. I was playing with a lot of different ideas and was still figuring myself out. But ‘FROOT’ is the point where this is going to shift for me. I can feel this happening already and it’s such a sweet relief for me.
14. If so, do you think playing with your own identity - or perceived identity - was a reaction to the need our culture has to label, or put people into a box?
I don’t think so. I think it was more a response to what I thought people – my label etc. – wanted. I wanted to be popular and I saw contemporary pop music as a vehicle to express my ideas and feelings about love, femininity and identity.
15. There is always a debate about the word ‘Feminist’, with some female celebrities rejecting or distancing themselves from the term, would you call yourself a feminist and how do you respond to those who don’t?
I am a feminist and that means I believe in equal rights for women. I don’t want to respond to those who don’t.
16.Your last album really examined the world’s obsession with fame, glamour and sex; what areas will ‘FROOT’ examine?
There are lots of different themes but I think what fascinates me and compels me to write is subject matter that illuminates what is at the core of being a human being: feelings and problems that we might privately think are strange but are in fact very universal.
17. You have said in interviews that you are very inspired by pop culture, what inspires you about it?
Pop culture is a mirror in which society is reflected. I’m interested in how people think and so social issues and cultural shifts inspire me.
18. You seem so much more self aware and considered then many people connected to the pop industry – is it difficult to maintain both success and substance in an industry where the two can sometimes seem mutually exclusive?
Thank you for saying that, it’s very nice and a real compliment that you think that. I can’t know if it’s difficult or not though because I don’t know any different. It’s who I am.
Originally published in Hope St Magazine- Issue #4
Illustrations by F.Lee. fleebites.tumblr.com
The world of fandom is a scary place, full of obsession and extreme excitement over things that from the outside may seem trivial, or even stupid, but I have always been obsessed with super fans. I think part of me is a little jealous that I have never felt the rush of loving something so much that I want to dedicate my time, money and passion into it; another part of me finds it hard to imagine being so dedicated to one specific thing. I guess I’m more passionate about the fans themselves rather than any particular fandom. It’s difficult to discuss fandom and not mention the directioners, who are probably the most intense and loyal fan base going, but I love the old ladies that are so obsessed with Donny Osmond that they follow him around the country, visiting Mormon churches because that’s where he performs, just as much. I love them all; even the woman that was so obsessed with Shane Ritchie that she was reduced to making her own merchandise - who knew it, but apparently there isn’t a big market for Shane Ritchie merch – even going as far as to cover her car, which she actually drives about, in public, with pictures of his face.
I love a superfan. So of course I was hugely intrigued when I first heard about this huge phenomenon in fandom creeping around the world. I am of course referring to “the brony”. For those of you that haven’t heard: the brony, or bronies, are usually older male fans of the TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, typically ranging from 18 to 35. You remember My Little Pony right? Well this is the new version. This fandom, and now fully-fledged subculture, developed in the depths of the internet when discussion began over this new animated “kids” TV series. This show, that was originally intended for young girls, has created an obsessive legion of dedicated fans keen to express their love for the show and the messages it promotes -which I guess would be expected if it was coming from its intended target market, rather than a grown adult male. I should at this point mention that adult women do make up a portion of the My Little Pony community, and although the term brony was intended to be gender neutral, many female fans have adopted the title 'Pegasisters'.
The reason overwhelmingly cited by bronies for being drawn to the show tends to be the animation, but the general sentiment is that they came for the animation and stayed for the characters and storytelling: like the birth of a viral video, much of this popularity seemed to happen by accident. Spreading through the likes of 4Chan, discussions about the show became more and more common, the show itself becoming an internet phenomenon. When rationalizing their fandom, the bronies’ first argument is that the show is just so good: it crosses cultural, gender and age barriers; the characters are well rounded, each with their own individual motivations and personalities; the show’s narrative is consistent, but engaging, with animation that is apparently so good the bronies constantly brag about it. All of this is tied together with an uber-positive message of acceptance, togetherness and - of course - friendship. When considering writing this article I knew at some point I would have to watch the show; the strange thing is, I had seen so many documentaries and articles about the fans of the show that I was almost hesitant, as if I was going to watch one episode and become a brony, like this was completely outwith my control - like smack. But alas, I watched a couple and remain addiction free.
The Bronies, like many modern fandoms, are nurtured by the web. Type ‘My Little Pony’ into any search engine you will be surprised just how many varying online touch-points the bronies have created for their show: from traditional blogs and news sites like 'Equestria Daily' to dedicated Tumblr blogs; a whole section on 4chan dedicated to pony chat; endless forums, Facebook pages and of course YouTube, where legions of fans create original music, remixes, dubbing and anything and everything you can possibly think of. If it exists, then somewhere there is a Pony version. This for me is one of the most interesting aspects of the fandom: sure, it’s not unheard of for fans to creatively express their love and commitment for the object of their affection, but I have never seen such a diverse and dedicated creative community; and, although I absolutely love the tragic-ness of terrible, monstrous drawings of celebrities, this really isn’t the case with the bronies, who create exceptionally well made artwork and drawings, create their own characters and even make their own merchandise. One of the strangest aspects of these creative expressions for me has to be the music. Musically talented bronies have taken to creating music based around My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which gets them huge online followings and is the perfect accompaniment to the strange brony raves that happen at conventions. Yup, you heard me - brony raves. Creative expression is definitely nothing new in the world of the superfan, but the quality and variation with which these bronies produce work is definitely unusual.
Now, the dark side of the fandom - you knew it was coming, there is always a dark side. Because bronies receive so much hate and criticism without critics generally having any knowledge or information about their subculture, I was almost unsure how to approach this. Much of the hate they receive is fully based in ignorance; that the very idea that a man would watch a show aimed at children must mean he is a deviant, or worse yet, a paedophile. This notion is both ridiculous and dangerous. To be so blinded by your own perceptions of what is or isn’t acceptable behaviour for any one person is disgusting, and really says a lot of how, as a society, we view men and how they should behave. Perhaps, as some have suggested, it is in fact this idea of masculinity - or pressure to live up to it - that has greatly contributed to the My Little Pony fandom: an extreme reaction to this “pressure” upon men to be rugged, strong and overtly manly, in a world in where we have surely evolved to contain a much broader spectrum of masculinity - no longer requiring the hunter caveman to do all the manly things. Some suggest that these softer, more sensitive men have longed for an acceptance of their identity as male - a new understanding that to be male can mean that you are sensitive …with feelings and everything! Women have been fighting for a long time to gain acceptance; to avoid being pigeon-holed because of our gender and to be seen as something other than the traditional roles we are assigned, so we should surely extend that courtesy to others. Having said that, much like the furry community, there is a relatively rare - albeit out there - sexual element to the fandom. With one quick search on the My Little Pony 4Chan board you will be inundated with anthropomorphised ponies in sexually explicit scenarios. Like furries, this can be the element of the fandom that people focus on, implying that this rare element defines the entire community. And, much like the furries, while for some there is a sexual element, for most the appeal is the escapism - a true and pure childlike escape from the horrors and stresses of the real world. And, although some may argue that this extreme escapism isn’t healthy, we all do it. Perhaps most will do it in a more socially acceptable way like alcohol, sex, drugs or - hell - even Harry Potter, but we all strive to escape in some way or another.
My feelings on bronies are difficult to sum up. On one hand I aim to be open-minded at all times, to see the positive sides to this subculture, of which there are many: the comradery that these individuals feel; the positive message that the show, as well as the fans, promote; a safe haven for individuals that have, perhaps, felt at odds from more mainstream popular culture. But at the same time the cynical part of me hates their happiness, and god I know that’s such a horrific thing to say. It just all seems a little unrealistic, I suppose it would be nice to live in a world where everything was magic ponies and talking dinosaurs but alas that is not the world we live in. And further still is this extreme form of fandom ever healthy? To dedicate so much of ones time and money into a hobby, for lack of a better word, seems irresponsible. That is something that is true of all fandom's, not necessarily just ones based around a show aimed at little girls. For many, the show My Little Pony and the fandom surrounding it, has been a great support and positive force in their life: finally, a place for them to feel at home. So I guess that positivity - along with their very inclusive nature, charity work and positive message - really outweighs any bad points. And so, I guess I say good on you bronies, let your freak flag fly.
Interview with Ada+Nik
Originally published in Hope St Magazine- Issue #4
All images Ada+Nik AW15 - NOIR DESIR
Noir Desir the AW15/16 collection by Ada+Nik is described by them as embodying the darkest desires of the twentieth century gladiator. And its really sums up not just this collection but their brand entirely. Redefining our notions of masculinity Ada+Nik have been a brand I have been drawn to since their inception. Sure part of that is due to the powerhouse talents of the creators Ada Zandition and Nik Thakkar coming together which you can assume is going to be interesting. But also due to their aesthetic ideals, their dark matter vision has an almost gothic warrior feel while at the same time having a powerful androgyny. Combining sustainability with high fashion is a commendable feat, but Ada+ Nik have went even further this collection merging redemption into the mix with their collaborative project with Holloway Prison and the London College of fashion in the hopes of creating a bespoke piece. This really ties into what is very commendable about the brand a social awareness that is surely talked about but very rarely followed through in the fashion industry. How appropriate that this would all take place in a brand then generally focuses of menswear, an area which off late is going through its own metamorphosis. Being bigger and better than ever. Combing this social awareness, bold dark aesthetic, fluid ideas of gender and their passion for embracing technology into their garments really cements Ada+Nik as truly a brand for this generation.
- You have just recently showed at London Collection: Men with your AW15/16 collection, how was it received?
We are so humbled by the incredible reception to the show and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We feel that Noir Desir is a defining collection for Ada + Nik and represents what we stand for as a creative partnership.
- Where did your latest collection draw inspiration from?
AW15/16 ‘Noir Desir’ embodies the darkest desires of the twentieth Century gladiator, reflecting an evolution of our signature outerwear including Italian leather bikers, geometric bombers and longline coats - our defining vision of Greco Roman meets 1970s British Punk culture.
- You have worked with fashion films, in the past and again with your latest AW15/16 collection what draws you to this medium?
We are drawn to film as a medium because of our deep shared passion for narrative, enabling us to share our vision of the Ada + Nik man. We approach each film with this vision, resetting the boundaries of the previous film to create something that is both unique and compelling.
- You have collaborated with tech brand Narrative on a leather jacket with a build in camera, is wearable tech an area you want to move further into in the future?
Both of us are huge technology enthusiasts and futurologists so we’re always looking at ways to creatively enable our product and add layers of functionality. In addition to the Narrative Jacket – we featured Moto 360 timepieces from Motorola on the wrists of models. The Moto 360 device functions with Google's Android Wear operating system and fits our aesthetic and the Ada + Nik man perfectly.
- I heard something about a bespoke piece created in partnership with Holloway Prison inmates, can you tell me more?
Redemption and forgiveness are the primary creative themes this season and we wanted to fuse this into the DNA of the product at the same time as working to give back to the community so we approached the team at Holloway Prison and London College of Fashion (LCF) to produce a bespoke piece in the The Ministry of Justice’s workshop within Holloway Prison. We hope that the programme will give this small group of inmates a better chance of rehabilitation when they're released.
- You have both had great careers on your own, what drew you to working together, is it different working in a partnership, do you ever disagree?
We both have very similar mindsets - particularly when it comes to Ada + Nik. We were drawn to working together for this reason and our working relationship is very seamless. We read each others’ minds, come to the table with similar inspirations and yet, as we are not together every moment of every day, we draw inspiration from various different aspects of our individual lives. We’re very collaborative as a brand too and love working with partners to bring our multi-platform vision to life.
- As a brand you have received a lot of attention from your conception, is that something that you feel the pressure of?
We definitely thrive under pressure which helps drive us!
- Menswear is really coming into its own of late, what do you think the reason is for this increased interest in men's fashion?
Pioneers and rebels. Individuals and industry heroes pushing against the grain and the increase in creative freedom for the 21st Century man who is coming into his own now - breaking the mould that was set in place by the industrial revolution. We’re extremely happy to be part of this set of visionaries redefining a genre.
-What would you say is the identifiable feature of Ada + Nik?
We look back into ancient concepts of masculinity and fuse that with our innovative dark matter vision. We express this through multiple creative canvases - fashion, film, art, photography, architecture, technology and the portfolio continues to grow.
- You combine quality traditional materials with innovative new fabrics, why is that important to you?
Our vision as a brand looks both into the past and future to create what we feel is most relevant to the present - so it is with our use of sustainably intelligent materials and innovative tech fabrics - brought together - we use them to create our signature style. For example in our signature outerwear we bring together heritage Yorkshire wool with high-performance antibacterial sneaker net.
- Your clothes have been worn by quite a few celebrities, is there anyone you would LOVE to dress?
Nik had the honour of meeting Kanye West properly in LA a few weeks ago and we're excited to see him wearing Ada + Nik in the future. I'd also love to see actor director Xavier Dolan wearing Ada + Nik as well as A$AP, Jared Leto, Alex Turner and G-Dragon. We also have a lot of girls wearing Ada + Nik such as Angel Haze and I think that FKA Twigs would look great in one of our biker jackets.
- Known for a darker edge, what draws you to create a darker aesthetic to your collections?
The “darker edge” was the base of the formation of the brand. We met in Paris four years ago, and were both dressed in dark tones, it was this fusion of mindsets and creative overlap that spawned our aesthetic.
- What would you say your collections say about the idea of masculinity? I ask that because although sometimes androgynous there is a strength to your aesthetic, a sort of futuristic gothic warrior feel.
Our creative mission is to redefine this. We create menswear, but really it is genderless luxury clothing. It was never a question pre-Industrial Revolution if a man wore a dress or a kilt and true historic heroes - Hercules, Zeus, Achilles, even Superman wore genderless garments - this is something that we’re pioneering to redeem on a cultural level.
- As a brand you have actually avoided the suit, which is actually pretty revolutionary as menswear traditionally is heavily suit focused, what is it about suits that you want to stay away from?
Previously there has been an over-dandification of British menswear and we feel that now is the time for the more rebellious side of British punk and our pre-industrial revolution vision to have its moment and remain timeless. One day we would love to see bankers and corporate workers have the opportunity to dress in refined sophisticated menswear that is not a suit.
- What does the future hold for Ada+Nik?
We have a few creative collaborations for 2015 and want to continue to pioneer our vision and edit and evolve culture to make a positive impact. We’re building out the product portfolio to give our community more variation and complimentary accessories etc. We also have our next show in London for SS16 and will be exhibiting in Paris again.
Originally published in Hope St Magazine- Issue #4
All illustrations Laura Callaghan
With her collection of sassy, strong women, and images that burst with pop culture, we have been fans of illustrator Laura Callaghan for a while. With a rich and explosive colour palette that beautifully adds to her already super strong narrative, Laura manages to create characters and women that you feel like you could know, could be friends with or that you wanna hang out with. Merging a very traditional medium with her contemporary pop aesthetic, she presents a vision of our culture: one of sassy strong women. In a world filled with the notion that women should be delicate and pure, Laura Callaghan's ladies pack some punch. Women with balls - the truly modern femme fatale - but sometimes sweet and delicate, and therein lies the beauty of her work. These characters - these women - are well rounded: real human beings. Not male ideas of what women should be or look like, but rather fully formed women, represented differently in different shapes and sizes, styles and personalities. This south London based illustrator’s work will have you gagging for more, and you will constantly find extra details or references in her extremely visually rich work. We caught up with her to get her opinion on everything from girl power, to how she represents women.
Zines/Comics: You have dipped your toe into the world of zines and comics - is that an area you plan to go further into? What do you like about the medium?
Yes definitely, I’m aiming to get a new ‘Fancy’ zine out every 6 months or so to sell at zine fairs and online. Zines are a good way to collate work together without the pressure of making sure everything included looks perfect, they’re a cheap way for people to get their hands on my work too! I’ve slowly been making bits and pieces of narrative work, mostly short comics for anthologies etc. – it’s something I want to work harder at and gain more confidence in. Comics are labour intensive and require a completely different skill set to illustration but I think they are the most exciting artistic medium there is.
Girl Power: There is strength to the women in your illustrations - what is it about strong women you love?
What’s not to love? I am a woman, I want include fully fleshed out female characters in my work whether they’re comics or illustrations. People tend to have an idea of what a ‘strong’ woman is, a confident stance or glare, and yes that features in my work but there can be strength in vulnerability, in allowing yourself to feel sad or frustrated. I want to reflect that in characters also - all kinds of strength!
Your Characters: Are the characters in your illustrations just aesthetic ideas or are they fully formed characters?
They’re fully formed characters, I always have a character or personality in mind when illustrating or it would get very dull and limiting!
Eye for detail: There are so many little details in your work; do you use that that add to the characters narrative?
I do yes, every detail in a character’s environment can add to their story and personality. What they are reading, what they’re eating, what they deem important enough to tack to a wall or what they discard. It’s all important!
Fashion: You choose a lot of bold fashion choices in your work, what draws you to certain fashion choices for you illustrations?
It’s part of fleshing out characters, what we choose to wear can say a lot about us I think. On a purely aesthetic level I like illustrating very intensely patterned, coloured clothing and brave fashion choices – an art piece within an art piece!
Colour: One of the first things I notice about your work is your colour palette, have you always been so bright and colourful?
No not really, I used to use a much more earthy, subdued colour palette. But as my style changed the use of colour just seemed to fit. I’ve only begun digitally colouring quite recently so it’s partly through unbridled excitement about not having to mix my colours, I can just click and get eye popping fluoros – woo! I think the use of super bright colours in my watercolour work is a bit unexpected also, there tends to be a lot of sepia washes in traditional watercolour work.
Pop Culture: You reference lots of pop culture in your work — what draws you to a particular pop culture reference?
Most of my work takes part in the present so pop culture references ground it, to give it a time frame. It’s a bit of an insight into the character…and sometimes I really just want to draw a poster I like or a book I’ve been reading!
Hidden Messages: Are there any hidden messages or inside jokes in your work? There is so much going on that you could easily sneak a couple of things in there…
Haha yes I do, subtle things or something that makes me laugh! I’m making some new paintings now, which have lots of references in them, that I’m sure no one will get, but that’s half the fun!
Beauty: What is beautiful to you?
Oh… it’s really difficult to define what beauty is! The ugliest thing to me is disingenuity – that’s the best I can do!
Representation: Your work is predominately regarding women — is it difficult deciding how to represent them? Is it an aesthetic thing or a more considered choice i.e. women of different sizes, women of colour etc.?
No I don’t find it difficult, once I have an idea of the scenario and the atmosphere deciding on what a character looks like comes quite naturally. I am definitely conscious of including WOC and women of different shapes, sizes, features etc. in my illustration. My main audience is predominantly young women; I want people to connect in some way with what I’m doing, how is that supposed to happen if half of those women don't see themselves represented positively in my pieces or in media/art in general?
Inspiration: Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
Books and films tend to be the catalyst for starting a piece, but each illustration will draw on different reference points. At the moment I’m working on a series of paintings for an exhibition and am looking at Old Dutch Masters, they handled composition and the balance of figures and interiors so well. I’ve also created a whole Pinterest board dedicated to ‘80s power suits – the ever inspiring shoulder pad.
On-line: You work seems to pop up everywhere on-line – how do you feel our increasing dependence on the Internet? Has it changed creative practices?
Oh definitely, though I can’t really speak to how much it has changed as it’s all I’ve ever known! The amount of reference material out there can be overwhelming, everyone with a smartphone and Wi-Fi access is a curator now – it’s great, it brings people closer to your work. I think a lot of art was (and is) made in a vacuum, by a particular kind of person for a particular kind of person – the internet goes some way in removing those barriers and putting things out into the open, for everyone.
Narrative: You fit a huge amount of narrative in one image, how important is it to you to tell a story?
Massively, I’m drawn to work with a narrative focus and want to create my own. I like the idea of getting lost in an image and the viewer conjuring up their own interpretation of a scene. On a basic level it also makes illustrating a piece a lot more fun!
Femme Fatale: Is there a particular understanding of the ‘femme fatale’ that you favour in your work? Do you represent the spiteful or negative connotations of classic Hollywood femme fatales, or do you celebrate them as powerful, independent women?
Hmm, I think the classic Femme Fatale is a male construct, a mysterious and alluring figure that only serves to propel a male character’s story forward. Yes these women are independent and rebel against the traditional notion of what a woman should be, but often this power is equated with ‘evil’ and the women are either maligned or undergo some metamorphosis, which softens their character. So yes I admire the independence these characters signify but resent female characters in film being pigeon holed – the meek subservient ‘good’ partner, or the strong, callous ‘bad’ temptress.
Future: What else would you like to achieve and where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ahhh I can’t think that far ahead! In the short term I would like to self publish a collection of comics, do more watercolor work, perhaps work with a fashion brand and hopefully find somewhere to live where the rent doesn’t cost 60% of my monthly earnings!
Unzipping The Truth
Behind fetishes and sexual subcultures
By Mona Lisa Maclean and David MacAffer
Photography by Anette Schive
Originally published in Hope St Magazine- Issue #4
When deciding the specific areas to investigate for the subculture section of this issue we knew we wanted to look into the sexual side of subcultures, but at the same time we knew it would a tricky feature. It’s hard to find an area more misunderstood or misrepresented than fetish. With mainstream popularity on the rise due to books like Fifty Shades of Grey, fetish is starting to become a more acceptable topic of debate. Now before you scoff at the mere mention of Fifty Shades... please understand that I didn't want to mention it either, and that it will in no way shape or form have any influence here, but regardless we must acknowledge that this single book has opened the mainstream world up to the idea of getting a little kinky. However, although we acknowledge its influence, we also acknowledge what it really is: a terrible written piece of Twilight fan fiction that is not successful thanks to strong narrative or well developed characters, but rather thanks to the sad state of female sexuality; particularly for the older lady, who in order to enjoy her sexuality - whether it be vanilla, or a little bit kinky - must do it through such a trashy book.
The sad thing is that fetish is very normal part of human sexuality. The mere make-up of human beings means that we all have slightly different sexual identities. Okay, not all of us are into what people widely consider to be ‘fetish’ acts, but we need to create an openness to what sexuality is about: not one size fits all. The biggest misconception about fetishes must be the idea of them all being criminal or perverted. What most people don't realise is that Fetishism is a form of paraphilia (“paraphilia,” according to Robert T. Francouer’s The Complete Dictionary of Sexology, means compulsively responding in a sexual way to an unusual or socially unacceptable stimulus), but not all paraphilia are fetishes, so we must separate the assumption that individuals that take part in a fetish should be lumped together with those that have a psychiatric disorder. So what is the point of this feature? We aimed to give you a little peek into the world of fetish: a place of no judgement, where we can discuss some of the most interesting fetishes we have discovered, so please get your kink on and delve in to the weird and wonderful world of fetish.
I was introduced to objectum sexuality, or objectophilia, as a teenager. Young, callous and borderline sociopathic, I found hilarity in the website of a woman who was in love with, and (as officially as you can be) married to the Berlin Wall. It is tricky to write about objectum sexuality without referring to people like the aforementioned Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer (Mrs. Berlin Wall), or the unofficial spokesperson for objectum sexuals, Erika Eiffel (Tower) as 'victims' or 'sufferers' of a disorder, because the scattering of media coverage of this sexual orientation has tended to paint objectum-sexuals as being 'broken' by a past trauma or sexual perversion; also problematic is the assertion by the OS community and 3rd party sexologists that attraction to objects traditionally viewed as inanimate is not in fact a fetish, but simply a rare sexual orientation. The argument against the fetish classification is based around the fact that OS is as much about love as it is physical intimacy – if not more. Objectum sexuals don’t just want to have sex with the objects of their desire, but they feel the full spectrum of emotions that any boring old vanilla heterosexual person would; imagine poor Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer on the 9th of November, 1989, tuning into the news and seeing her husband torn to shreds in the name of political unification. Respondents to a study carried out by the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality in 2010 tended towards kissing, cuddling – above-the-waist activities associated with romance and intimacy - rather than a raw sexual desire. However, although the nature of their beloved objects wasn’t alluded to specifically, many complained they were unable to engage in carnal pleasure with their partners because of exposure. It would – to use a slightly base example – be difficult to fuck the Berlin Wall without attracting negative attention.
‘Partners’ of objectum sexuals are not exclusively famous landmarks; although the media tends to latch onto sensationalist stories like the women who loved the Berlin Wall/Eiffel Tower/World Trade Centre etc., the majority of objectum sexuals love far more mundane and benign objects: small and large structures, mechanical objects, vehicles, technology. Although not exclusively so, the vast majority of recorded objectum sexuals are female, and notable amounts are trans men, raising very interesting questions about the nature of sexuality and human attraction. Unfortunately for objectum sexuals, their desire to distance themselves from fetishists and normalise their sexuality leaves them easy targets for mockery in the media and in culture at large; while many other fetishes may be dismissed in the mainstream as outlandish or perverse, they are - in a sense - relatable because they come from the same psychosexual impulses that drive majority sexuality. What sets objectum sexuality apart is the preference for romantic intimacy, something that even the most vocal OS campaigners may struggle to achieve mainstream acceptance for.
By Mona Lisa
When we think of sexual subcultures and fetishes we tend to assume an edgy aesthetic full of black leather and whips, all taking place behind the door of some sexually deviant dungeon. So, when individuals reveal a fetish for balloons, because of the introduction of a relatively childlike object into the context of a sexual fetish, collective assumptions are made of paedophilia and corruption of youth. However, this fetish is not to do with children, but simply put — a love of balloons. These balloon fetishists, or 'looners' as they are known, have a sexual attraction to an object; but, unlike objectum sexuals, looners are completely loyal in their sexual attraction to one kind of object, the balloon playing a major part in their sexuality and love map.
Just like most things, there is much variation in the world of balloon lovers: some have real human relationships, whilst others are exclusively sexually interested in balloons. Although like all fetishes it is a completely personal and diverse identity; just as we are all different, so too does the fetish present itself differently in each individual. A looner’s preference will generally fall into two categories; firstly, the popper. The popper will receive the maximum pleasure from the popping of the balloon. This individual will find new and exciting ways to make the balloon pop, even sometimes doing what is referred to as “torturing the balloon” in different ways. Secondly, the non-poppers; the non-popper is the more sensitive of the looners, on occasion forming deep and meaningful bonds with the balloons. They avoiding popping a balloon at all costs, and can in the most extreme cases feel that a death has occurred upon popping. In is most commonly in the non-popper camp that this affection - and sometimes even true love - can occur between a looner and their balloon. As well as popping preferences, there is also a wide variation of other specific tastes in the looner world. These ideas of balloon perfection can range from size to colour, to shape, and even to materials. There is also a variation in how they will interact with the balloon; for example some choose to ride the balloon, some to squeeze it between body parts, some like to place the balloon inside one's clothing, and there are many more; as with most sexual preferences, there are endless variations of taste.
According to various scuzzy and unverifiable sources, a porn actress named Lisa Ann recently retired from her career, and in doing so ceded from her position as the ‘Queen’ of PornHub, the largest ‘adult’ website on the internet. The image of a porn star most frequently portrayed in the media is of a dim-witted, surgically enhanced, blonde twenty-something, but what is fascinating about Lisa Ann is not that she’s a brunette, but that she reached the height of her success at the age of forty-two. In fact, ‘MILF’ and ‘Cougar’ are amongst the most frequently searched tags in pornography, so at the very least the porn industry can be proud that it’s less terrified of women over forty than Hollywood is.
There are, however, some people whose sexual proclivities cannot be sated by just a middle aged man or women; gerontophilia is a fetish for the elderly. ‘Elderly’ is a vaguely subjective term, but generally speaking it relates to attraction for those over sixty years of age, or anyone who bears the hallmark physical features that accompany our advanced years – the more wrinkled and withered their subject, the better. Considered an off-shoot of chronophilia – a sexual preference for a partner with a sizeable disparity in age – gerontophilia is in controversial company with its siblings paedophilia and infantophilia. While gerontophilia is treated with mockery and revulsion in popular culture, it does not provoke the same moral outrage as other forms of chronophilia due to elderly partners’ ability to give informed consent to sex. Nevertheless, the psychiatrist T. C. Gibbens posited that gerontophiles’ desires stem from a sexual phobia of pubic hair and their sexuality may ultimately manifest itself as paedophilia as a result. This extreme perspective is contrary to modern research, which has revealed that gerontophilia is as much emotional as it is physical; the life experience and perceived wisdom of the elderly manifests itself as a loving respect and desire for intimacy.
In 2013, Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce released Gerontophilia, a film exploring a loving and mutual relationship between a young careworker and an elderly resident of the home in which he works. The release of the film helped gerontophiles begin to disassociate from seedy ‘bang a granny’ stickers in phone boxes, and at the very least prompted a discussion in the mainstream that began to normalise it; although in truth if you ever needed evidence of its existence, you needn’t look any further than the line of models waiting outside Hugh Hefner’s bedroom.
By Mona Lisa
Pony play is just one of the many forms of animal roleplay in the fetish/sexual subculture world. Now the first thing to address is what most people wrongly assume about this fetish: members of the community of ‘ponies’ and ‘riders’ choose the horse as their particular animal of choice, but it has nothing to do with actual animals — no bestiality here folks, the pony here is human, as is the rider. Pony play is part of the world of animal roleplay, of which there are many variations from cats to puppies, even cows. As with all roleplay, the idea is transformative — for the participant to take on the role or guise of something or someone different to themselves for the purposes of sexual fantasy. There is of course the BDSM element — pony play is connected to the world of BDSM — but not exclusively. Pony play may take on a power exchange element, most commonly the pony in submission to the dominant rider.
So what exactly is pony play, and what does it entail? Pony play is where at least one of the participants dresses to resemble a pony, horse etc. This is done by various means, but many will wear actual horse paraphilia like bits and bridles etc. - think Madonna's confessions tour and the Equestrian section, with the super high fashion horse/bondage themed outfits. Not purely satisfied creating the aesthetic illusion of a pony they will also assume equine mannerisms and behaviour, such as eating behaviours, horse training procedures and grooming. This practice, like many roleplay and BDSM behaviours, can be a form of escapism, but there are a small number of individuals in the pony play lifestyle that maintain their horse persona 24/7, and even “hybrids” that will maintain a full time animal lifestyle, splitting their time between two or more animal types. Participants in pony play tend to fall into three groups: cart ponies that pull a sulky, which is a lightweight cart containing their rider/owner; riding ponies are - as you probably assumed - ridden in a variety of forms - occasionally the pony will be on all fours with the rider on their back, but as this can be dangerous to the ponies back, the riding can take place upright on two legs with the rider on their shoulders; and finally you have show ponies, who - similar to real show ponies - show off their dressage skills, often wearing overly decorative outfits, harnesses and plumes.
Total enclosure fetishism is not for the claustrophobic – participants are enclosed head to toe in order to achieve a state of sensory deprivation and sexual arousal. Various means are employed to enclose the body, ranging from the mild enclosure provided by sleep sacks or body bags, to the moderate feeling of a zentai suit, to the ultra-tight body coverage provided by rubber or latex, or even vacuum beds. Traditional bondage utensils like straps, ropes or stocks are often introduced to supplement the enclosure and to heighten the feeling of helplessness, but this is not mandatory. Unlike claustrophilia, which was propelled into the mainstream by the death of the British ‘spy in a bag’ Gareth Williams in 2010, Total Enclosure enthusiasts aren’t turned on by being crammed into small spaces specifically; while, for many, the enclosure lasts as long as it takes them to reach orgasm, one woman who runs a blog called Latex Lifestyle lived for the entire twelve months of 2005 in full latex enclosure, often popping out for her shopping with ‘Sir’ in a latex burka and a concealed gag.
Total enclosure is a moderately extreme form of submissive bondage, and one of the most extreme that doesn’t involve pain. One of the purported benefits of submission in a bondage activity is achieving ‘subspace’. Submissives report not just heightened physical sensation, but an altered mental state as well; a trippy, dreamy sensation that can disassociate mind and body and make them feel ‘high’ without any chemical influence. Not surprisingly, this fetish - like many others discussed - has an emotional component. Given the potential dangers of enclosure, there must be a deep level of trust and comfort between the dominant and submissive parties, otherwise there is a potential for a ‘subdrop’, when pleasure is replaced with anger and frustration – I guess the equivalent during boring old vanilla sex would be brewers droop, or a text from your mum during.
Like with many BDSM activities, total enclosure crosses over into the sex lives of many other fetish groups; the aforementioned claustrophilia, mummification, rubber and spandex fetishism. Although it may seem alien to those uninitiated in the world of kinks and fetishes, Total Enclosure is actually one of the most well known in popular culture, thanks largely to Quentin Tarantino who brought our old friend the gimp into the mainstream in his 1994 feature Pulp Fiction.
By Mona Lisa
Although to many people fetishes or sexual subcultures seem - to majority moral sensibilities - inappropriate or unsavoury, this is down to their prejudice of what defines sexuality, or what is appropriate sexual behaviour. Of course, any reasonable human being should understand that these preferences are extremely varied and while some people like to be tied up and some like golden showers, when this is between two consenting adults, what goes on behind closed doors is nobody else’s business. But what if your sexual ideologies are seen as taboo due to the object of desire and their criminal tendencies? The fetish I am referring to is called hybristophilia: a paraphilia that draws sexual arousal from being with someone that has committed a crime such as rape, armed robbery or murder. Now, when describing this fetish as such, it’s still a little ambiguous, but all becomes clearer if I describe the most common cases of hybristophilia: The serial killer groupie.
The serial killer groupies are, more often than not, women who develop extreme sexual - and sometimes emotional - feelings for a well-known serial killer. Some believe they can change or save him; some are convinced of their lover’s innocence; some are drawn to the idea of the alpha male – ‘cause what is more alpha male then butchering multiple victims? Publicity over this phenomenon tends to focus on the - shall we say - better looking, and more charismatic of the serial killer bunch. So, your ken doll of mass murderers, Ted Bundy; the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez; or Mr. Helter Skelter himself, Charles Manson. But these are not the only men who have woman after woman mailing fan mail and confessions of love to their jail cell: Jeffrey Dahmer has a huge female following, which is a tad unrealistic, considering he identifies as gay; Henry Lee Lucas - who lets just say was never pretty even when he had both eyes; and Ken Bianchi, who even convinced a female fan to try and kill for him.
So what attracts these women towards men who have committed atrocious crimes? Well, no one really knows for sure. Psychologists all seem to have their own explanation: some believe that these women are almost living vicariously through these killers, sharing in their crimes; some of course want to parasitically leech their fame and publicity, and hopefully earn a book deal; some claim these men are the “perfect boyfriend” - at least they always know where he is and it’s much harder for him to cheat, and you don't even have to do his washing; some believe that it’s purely a form of fanaticism - rather than love Bieber they choose Bundy; and some claim the women themselves are so purely damaged that they are “love-avoidant”, seeking a relationship that is doomed from the beginning, given their partners are in prison and such… To be honest, it’s such an unusual phenomenon that we will probably never know why these women love these men, but what I will say is that not all of these women are what even I sometimes ignorantly assumed. Many of them are successful, beautiful, wealthy women; Lawyers and doctors. Women that by our standards are too smart to be manipulated by these crafty killers but yet they still love these awful men.
Illustration by Jessica Slinger/Feral Threads
Originally published in Hope St Magazine- Issue #4
The strangest subculture you have never heard of
Remaining open minded and objective is something we strive to do at all costs, but there are certain subcultures that seemingly will never gain that objectiveness from outsiders. Maybe they’re too shocking, too strange or just too crazy, but it’s important to keep pushing your limits of open-mindedness and acceptance, even when it’s something that seems a little nuts, and this could not be more true than when discussing otherkin. The subculture of otherkin has existed since the ‘90s, but some do argue that the basic ideology has been around since the ‘70s. You could even argue that much of its - almost spiritual - connection with animals can be traced back to some Native religions, but it’s since the World Wide Web reared its ugly head that we have seen this massive increase in those identifying as otherkin.
Otherkin identify as as non-human; they believe themselves to be spiritually and/or physically ‘other’ than human. They relate to a non-human species through soul, mind, body or energetic resonance, or believe that they host such being in their body. Confused yet? Well hold on, it gets more confusing still. While otherkin believe that they are non-human, there is still much debate within the community on the specifics. Each otherkin seems to have his or her unique and personal feelings as to what being otherkin means. For the most part otherkins feel that their non-human identity is purely a metaphysical construct and understand that they are completely human – in this life at least. However there is a rare section of the otherkin community who believe that either: physically they should be non-human; that they should aim to reject their humanity; or that they can even somehow change or shift into non-humans.
Otherkin came into its own as the internet hit it big, tracing back to the online elven communities of the ‘90s; more specifically, the Elfinkind Digest: a mailing list for “elves and interested observers”. This mailing list began to bring likeminded people together and very rapidly expanded to include individuals who felt a connection to creatures and animals rather than just elves. To explain this variation of self-identification they coined the term “otherkin” - meaning “kin to the other”. Simultaneously, there were separate communities forming that identified as vampires, and to a lesser extent as dragons, and although they are seen to be part of the otherkin umbrella, they do have their own separate communities. Additionally there are separate communities for therians, or therianthropes: an offshoot of otherkin who identify only as earth based animals - creatures that are know to exist/or have existed on earth, like wolves, dogs, cats, horses etc. - whereas regular otherkin are not limited by earthly creatures, and can identify as supernatural beings like elves, faeries, angels, demons, aliens, celestial beings and many, many more. Online communities are really where otherkin were born, and still live today. Sure, there are meetings and events offline, but the most prominent touch points for the community are still online. This varies from forums to social networking sites like YouTube and Tumblr. This huge online presence has been an advantage for otherkin in terms of spreading their message and information, as well as providing support and guidance to those already living the lifestyle or going through their awakening; but the double edged sword of the internet also means that the otherkin community have experienced a backlash - particularly on Tumblr - from individuals criticising, mocking or down right bullying them.
I bet at this point you’re thinking: how do I know if I'm an Otherkin? Well this is another factor of the subculture that makes me a little sceptical, to say the least. The process of discovery is called an “awakening”; an “awakening” within the otherkin community is used “to denote the point/s of realisation that one is not (solely) human.” To some the “awakening” process is instant: one day you are 100% human, the next you have the mind of a bear. To others this is a longer process. When referring to themselves within the movement, the correct vernacular is to state your ‘kintype’ as such: catkin or demonkin etc. So if you identified with a dragon you would call yourself dragonkin, wolf would be wolfkin… you get the picture. Now you may ask how you know which kintype you are? Most otherkin claim they were overwhelmingly drawn to their specific kintype; so, if you are super into wolves, then that’s because you are a wolfkin…
…okay, maybe that came across as a little judgemental. To me it is definitely strange, but what the hell do I really know about anything? I am merely one person with my own perspectives and viewpoints - and hey, maybe some of these otherkin have genuinely reached some sort of new level of consciousness where they have been able to connect with their animal totem. I mean, I actually believe in psychics and ghosts, which to many should get me a one-way ticket to the nut house, so who am I to judge? I became fascinated with the subject of otherkin a few years ago, but it was something that I never heard the media pick up on. Maybe that is due to the perceived ‘strangeness’ of this community, or merely because they receive so much criticism they don’t wont to overly publicise themselves. Nevertheless I was intrigued. When considering any culture, subculture or community different to your own, you always want to try to maintain cultural objectivity - judging individuals by their standards rather than your own - which is great, and I almost always do, but I have to admit with otherkin it is difficult.
Let me explain why I am so sceptical. For me, it’s not the fact that otherkin exists in the first place, but rather it’s the great surge of individuals who are suddenly willing to define themselves as ‘other’. I guess it could be argued that they always felt like that - they just didn’t know what to call it. Well yeah, sure, I suppose that’s possible, but what seems more likely is that many involved in the community are merely following a trend. When you feel different and ostracised, all you are longing for is support: a connection or a place to belong. And living in the very “I” centred world we find ourselves in, the youth of today are no longer satisfied with just wearing a rebellious outfit, but rather they make huge claims about their identity – claims, which you tend to realise as you age, were wrong; half the time, what you thought at seventeen is far from how you feel at twenty-seven.
Some otherkin claim to have multiple kintypes; I have seen individuals claim as many as six or seven, rationalised as multiple reincarnations. Also: so many of these otherkin seem to be wolves! Basically, everyone seems to identify with “cool animals” – yes, okay, this isn’t strictly true, I have seen one person claim to be a raccoonkin - but generally most claim to be dragonkin, wolfkin, demonkin etc.: grand, powerful creatures or animals that perhaps give them the power and freedom they lack in the real world. The same social demographic of disaffected suburban youths used to be emos or goths, because during those awkward adolescent stages it provides a much needed community, which in turn provides solace and support from this big, bad world. Of course, that is not to say that all otherkin are children, but even the people who carry this into adulthood may be doing it for very similar reasons: to live in false reality in which they are strong, powerful dragons on the inside. Sorry if that sounds patronising, it’s definitely not true for everyone, but sadly it seems to be for most; hell, even the woman who wrote pretty much the only book on otherkin, A Field Guide to Otherkin, has since rejected her otherkin identity. Identity is not something to be picked up and put down on a whim - to change as often as you change your hair colour: it is a fundamental element of what makes you who you are, and some people have to fight a war throughout their life just to live true to their own identity, and that is perhaps the most problematic element of the otherkin community – their misappropriation of dysphoria.
Some members of the otherkin community see an overlap with the transgender movement, whether they are trans or not - anecdotally, there does seem to be a proportionately higher number of transgender individuals within the otherkin community, than the community at large. They see themselves similar to transgender individuals in that they were to born into the wrong body, which they clumsily categorise as ‘species dysphoria’. This idea, like much of the movement, varies greatly from person to person. Many reject the concept, seeing this comparison as completely disrespectful to the trans community; some partially embrace it - they do not “necessarily believe that they are trans-species but rather associate more with the term dysphoria and its capacity to be used to describe a state of discontent, or discomfort that lead to depression, anxiety, indifference etc.” – but an ever increasing number embrace ‘species dysphoria’ entirely. This to me is one of the most problematic aspects of the culture. Gender dysphoria is a clinically recognised condition. There is a permanency to transitioning and gender re-assignment that is simply not present in the otherkin, who pick up and put down their kinships seemingly at will - or at their convenience.
There is an intense strangeness to this community. Otherkin seem so certain of the major statement that defines their identity, and while for many of them this may be a life long journey, for some this is nothing more than a passing teen rebellion. Normally I aim to approach things like this from an anthropological perspective and maintain objectivity, but with otherkin this has been a struggle. The otherkin community lacks coherency, with its offshoots and varying viewpoints. To confront the inevitable scepticism the world at large has for the otherkin, they cannot be afraid of criticism; they must embrace the burden of proof upon them and present a united front. To be understood and taken seriously they must endeavour to create a coherent statement as to what their culture entails. Of course there are always variations to any subculture, culture et al. but overall there is a generality to their identity lacking from otherkin at the moment. I believe in reincarnation, but perhaps when it's presented to us in such a tangible form we become sceptical - maybe that's why it's hard to empathise with otherkin. Having said all that, to extract power or self-confidence from the idea that you are something other than human - a powerful creature energising you from within – may actually be a huge positive. If you feel lacking in some way then maybe this totem can be a great motivator which can spur you on to overcome life’s adversities and prosper. All scepticism aside, I would love to live in a world where human beings can identify with something other than their species – I would be a cat. Obviously.
Those who come from the sky
Originally published in Hope St Magazine Issue #3
Images of Glenn Carter by Martin D. Barker
Raelian Images by the British Raelian Movement
Did you ever think that the theory of evolution is just that: a theory? Do you believe in UFO’s and life on other planets? Do you think that life on earth was actually created by a group of human-like extra-terrestrials? Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ through a scientific cloning process? Want to take up sensual medication? Do you think geniuses should rule the world? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you might be interested in meeting the Raelians.
They have been called a sex cult and anti-Semitic for the use of the swastika in their logo, they have claimed to have cloned the first human baby in 2002 and been accused of doctrinal plagiarism. But alongside the many high-profile criticisms of their group, there is also a great deal of socially progressive elements to Raelism: helping victims of female genital mutilation; fighting the good fight for LGBT rights; advocating sex positive feminism; promoting the benefits of masturbation, condoms and birth control; taking a strong stance against genetically modified foods; and, just like every Miss America contestant, striving for world peace. To try to demystify their intentions and separate fact from fiction, we investigated this much-maligned UFO sect, in case you fancy a seat on the Mothership.
Founded in 1974 and based in Geneva, Switzerland, with a current estimated worldwide membership of 60,000 people, the International Raelian Movement is a UFO religion that believes life on earth was created by a scientifically advanced group of extra-terrestrial scientists. These extra-terrestrials have been popping in to check on their little science project (us) for centuries, being misinterpreted as Gods, cherubs or angels by various cultures. The original ancient astronauts, the “Elohim”, created humankind in their image through cloning 25,000 years ago, and have maintained constant contact with us through a series of prophets. You may have heard of a couple of the Elohim’s prophets: Buddha, Moses, Mohammed and some guy called Jesus. The prophets’ jobs were to guide humanity and give us little hints about the Elohim, so when we, as a society, have reached an appropriate level of scientific understanding, we will be ready to find out whom our real, real mummies and daddies are.
The modern day, and “last prophet”, for the Raelians is their founder and head honcho Raél. Raél, whose real name is Claude Vorilhon, received his “New Commandments” after multiple visits from the extra-terrestrial Elohim, which he documented in the first of his many books, The Book Which Tells the Truth. Abandoning his career as a professional test driver and automobile journalist he established a new religious movement. The final messenger’s ultimate mission is to lead the Raelian followers to construct “The Raelian Embassy for Extra-terrestrials” or “Third Temple”, currently pencilled in for construction in Israel, pending Government approval. This mighty $20 million construction is to be the official welcome wagon for our Elohim “creators”, serving as a base for all things Raelian. This gateway to welcome the Elohim has been the mission of the Raelians for some time, and along with informing humans about the existence of our extra-terrestrial creators it gives a central purpose to the entire movement. Raelians have ruffled more than a couple of feathers in established religions with their denial of the existence of both the ethereal soul and a supernatural God, claiming instead that when the Apocalypse/Revelation comes, humans who have undergone the Raelian baptism ceremony (the “Transmission of the Cellular Plan”) will be resurrected “scientifically” through the use of mind transfer and human cloning, implanting their minds, personality and memories into a freshly made cloned body. While these beliefs may seem wacky to some, there are some surreptitiously questionable ideals espoused by the Raelians: their governmental framework, Geniocracy, which advocates a certain level of intelligence (genius level) as a criteria for government; their concept of Economic Humanitarianism, where workers displaced by automated labour machines continue to accept a wage and live a life of leisure; and the Order of Raél's Angels, a part of the Raelian hierarchy who fulfil a variety of roles between staffing the embassy, and satisfying 'any' needs of the Elohim, who at present (on Earth at least...) consist of Raél alone.
While the Raelians throw around pseudo-scientific claims like no-one’s business, much of the Raelian doctrine is a little hippie-ish, and truthfully there is an element of the benign to much of the Raelian movement: they embrace the existence of UFOs and extoll the virtues of sensual meditation. But that has not stopped people branding them with the dreaded C-word: cult. To be honest, most alternative religions will at some point be branded with cultish tendencies, and in a post-Jonestown, Heavens Gate and Branch Davidians society, everyone is terrified of another cult catastrophe. It can be very difficult to define whether a group is, or isn’t, a cult, many times things have only become clear once the shit has hit the fan, but the term ‘cult’ is often used by the media and moral scaremongers, who, whether appropriate or not, attach it to any and all alternative religions. It is something that has consistently happened to the International Raelian Movement, particularly after their claim that a woman underwent a cloning procedure resulting in the birth of a daughter — Eve — the world’s first cloned human being. This led many crying ‘cult’, and bringing an air of suspicion and scrutiny over the movement.
‘Cult’ is a word in today’s society that we throw around without great consideration, but as Glenn Carter president of the UK Raelian Movement tells us, it is a derogatory term with implications that carry great weight. Glenn says, “the word cult is pejorative, it is an insult. It is literally like you calling me a derogative name if I’m homosexual or due to the colour of my skin.” Of course what the majority of people incorrectly assume is that any alternative religion is a cult, and cults do bad things like mass suicides, or carry out terrorist acts. While yes, this has happened, it only happens in a statistically insignificant number of cases. The infamous cults or alternative religions that most will know about are the ones that are well known for a particular reason, and not usually a positive one. Assuming a group/movement or alternative religion is a cult, purely based on the fact that it is “alternative” and outside the traditional religious institutions we’re used to, is extremely ignorant and dangerous. Glenn says “it’s wrong to echo bigotry, no matter where it comes from. I do not think that minor religions are weak minded cults because they are the ones that are standing against the majority and I’ve never found a weak minded black sheep, I have found many weak minded white sheep.” Many of our major religions of today were once branded with the label cult and were heavily persecuted for it; lets just say it wasn’t always easy to be a Christian. There is power in language, and once a particular negative association has been made it can be very difficult to shake.
Another more facile reason for the constant implication of cult status towards the Raelians is their perceived similarity to Scientology. Due mostly to its well-known members Scientology is the modern poster boy for cults, the first name anyone will think of when we say ‘cult’ in 2014 (we’re not saying you’re a cult, please don’t sue us T*m Cru*se!). Although the Raelian movement’s doctrine is very different to the beliefs of Scientology, people to tend to perceive them as very similar, Glenn Carter has this to say on that particular issue: “our philosophy is nothing like Scientology, the only thing that you could compare is we are a religion of science and Scientology claims to be based on science.” The Raelians lack the aggressive signup policy of the Scientologists, and there's no evidence that they take money from followers, but I have a feeling that the reason people connect the two is a little more obvious than all that… it’s Aliens. Aliens are the reason why. But let’s not forget we live in a society of fear: fear of the new, fear of the unknown, and fear of the different.
So what even defines a cult anyway? In order to classify a religious movement as a cult, it must display three main characteristics. Firstly the charismatic leader: a guru who becomes worshipped more than the broader religious principles. Secondly, thought reform: indoctrination with a great focus on confession, criticism, and self-criticism in a systematic manner. Lastly, heavy exploitation: usually carried out by the guru or other high-ranking individuals towards lower cult members, the exploitation is most likely to be economic or sexual. So, if we were to consider these characteristics against the more mainstream religions, the lines become a little blurred, yet it is only the alternative religions that tend to be openly criticized for being cults. It seems that in the eyes of the general public there can be no new religions, only cults. Now some might argue that the International Raelian Movement has been termed a cult due to its rather unorthodox doctrine, and sure to most people the idea of humans having been created by a race of technologically advanced androgynous beings that contact their beloved creations through their “last prophet” on earth, Raél — a former minor French pop star and race car driver — seems a little far fetched; but so surely does a man rising from the dead, or turning water into wine, or the idea that a religious entity can possess you leading you to speak in tongues, or can give you special spectacles or a seer stone in a hat to translate a book of religious text. We have to understand that when examined under a microscope of rationality there are unusual aspects to all religions; if you choose to have faith however, then you will accept these aspects as part of your chosen religion, so surely you should grant every individual with the same right with respects to their own spirituality?
Like most religions there is an element of taking the bad with the good when it comes to Raelism; there are some scientific claims that I’m not sure as are factual as they claim to be, and although Raél does potentially have the appearance of a cult leader in the making, appearances can be deceptive. And, while there are some questionable aspects of Raelism, there are also many positive: their constant message of peace; their support for topless rights of women, that women should have the same rights as men to remove their tops when desired without legal ramifications; their association with Clitoraid, an organisation whose mission is to end female genital mutilation and who offer reconstructive surgery to victims, assisting them to reach their first orgasm; their support for Aramis International who fight for the rights of LGBT individuals; the International Raelian Movement recognizes gay marriage and ordains openly homosexual clergy. Glenn tells us: “the movement stands against bigotry in all forms, whether there are women being discriminated against, we stand with them, gay men, gay women, transgendered individuals, bisexual men or women being discriminated against we stand with you. We stand always with the oppressed and work against the oppressor for minority group, for those being oppressed”. While, as mentioned, there are some aspects of Raelism I remain suspicious of, they serve a lot of good causes and everyone I've spoken to comes across as a good person who just wants to make the world a better place. Every religion has skeletons in their closet, and that makes us naturally wary of any new ones, but what are the true intentions of the Raelians? The truth is out there...
All images By Dean Freeman from his 1980s Youth series
Originally published in Hope St Magazine- Issue #4
There are some creatives with a career and talent so immense that it’s difficult to appreciate the sheer mass of it, and this is really the case with photographer and filmmaker Dean Freeman. I have to confess even I didn’t quite realise that so many of his photographs are so familiar to me, from the infamous Forever Spice book, featuring a Spice Girls minus Geri on their 1998 tour, to the images of David Beckham with short, cropped hair – okay, a little bit of a Spice Girls theme there, but this man has really shot them all, from Katy Perry and Michael Buble, to Kelly Brook and the iconic George Michael. Known for his up close and personal photography, he has been the fly on the wall in many a celebrity’s life, shot editorials for countless magazines and is responsible for a ridiculously impressive amount of advertising images.
So how do you build a career like this; where do you start? There is something so exciting about seeing where it all began and gaining a real insight into the mind of someone as prolific as Freeman. Before he was photographing the rich and famous he was documenting his own friends; here we can see his trademark style emerging, raw snapshots of life for young people in the ‘80s unfolding before our eyes. Capturing the spirit of a situation is doubtless Freeman’s best skill, which he does so beautifully in the previously unpublished series of images accompanying this article. Before there was Terry Richardson there was Dean Freeman, but unlike Richardson, Freeman does not need to encourage edginess, his work maintains a delicate beauty in which he nurtures the images rather than exposing them for shock value. These beautiful images offer an insight, not only into the everyday lives of those involved, but an insight into the genesis of a photographic icon. A true visual storyteller, Freeman creates a raw and unbiased narrative, drawing us into the intimate world of the subject matter.
Why do you choose this documentary style of photography?
I don't see myself as having a documentary style, I just have my own eye and I see things, I capture things, I frame things a certain way. I see it as realist style maybe, as its simply real and fresh and funky.
Your work with celebrities is well know, which do you prefer to shoot: normal life or the world of celebrity?
People are people real, and surreal. I don't like the word or image of ‘celebrity’, they are just people I photograph. It’s the same eye and challenge and way with people that I bring to a shoot with a global icon and star, as I would a moment in time shooting a kid on the streets of Rio.
Who has been your favourite celebrity to shoot?
That’s a loaded question. I’d say the late Dennis hopper .
You have this innate ability to capture so much feeling in the spilt second of a photograph; is that something you work on, or do you just innately know when to take a photo?
It’s something you either have or don't. I see things, I am always seeing things; my eyes roam a room, the street, the face of a model or actor or character I'm shooting. It’s hard to explain, it’s a feeling. The eye scans fast, and the feeling is fast as to what is right and how to direct the person, or how to re-frame the landscape or detail I'm photographing. Split second decisions and a constant re-scanning. Being decisive and fast is always helpful when being a photographer and director
You have had such a long and impressive career; what is your biggest highlight?
Thanks. The book I conceived, creative directed and photographed of David Beckham just when he became a global icon sold over 1 million copies globally, but the biggest highlight is that I still love what I do, I love to create and see new places and work with new and inspiring people, and there is so much colour and beauty in the world, and a positive side to people that I love to capture in these challenging and sometimes dark times.
What draws you to a particular subject matter? Are you looking for something, or is it more like an instinct that guides you?
I don't always get to choose my subjects, but when I do – e.g casting models – it really is an instinctive feeling for what that model gives off in the brief time we connect at a casting. Yes, their beauty plays a part, but that’s never what wins me over, it’s a joke or laugh or way of walking, an inner peace and confidence or artistic energy.
Your work is always very intimate; how do you create the trust between you and your subject?
Talking to them, getting them onside and making them part of the process: the subject’s trust is everything.
You have given us a selection of images of youths in the 1980s that are just so amazing; can you tell us a little about them?
They are pictures of my circle of friends in London when I was around 17, there was no plan or project, I just enjoyed documenting my family of friends. Within those images and times captured was innocence and love, a diverse group. They went on to be pop stars, fashion editors, lawyers, film directors, artists.
You have created such a beautiful snapshot of time with your 1980s images; was that your intention?
I didn't really have any intention to be honest, I was not anecdotic, I left school at 16 and started being an assistant photographer at 17. Photography also ran in the family, as my father is a legendary photographer. I just had the desire and pleasure to carry a camera around and capture my friends at parties, listening to music, on the go – living out teenage lives.
How big an influence did that time period in the 1980s have on you and your work?
It’s stayed at the essence of how I shoot ever since: snap shots of time, real and engaging.
How does it feel to be the observer of so many people’s lives?
I don't really think about it, I've enjoyed meeting so many people. I was recently a guest at some good friends’ villa in Brazil, and as gift for their hospitality took family portraits and made a book for them, that was as much an observation of what I can use my skill for.
To me, your work strives for a great honesty, whether it is real people or celebrities; is that something that is important to you?
Honesty is always the best policy.
Are there any celebrities that you would love to shoot, or maybe even do a book with?
Yes, but I’d rather leave that to fate.
You created a beautiful film called ‘Selfie’. In this modern world of social networking sites and selfies, do you feel like individuals are overly documenting their own life?
In the early ‘80s period of the photos you are showcasing we had no mobile phones or computers. Social networking was leaving a message at your mate’s house, mailing a hand written love letter, meeting in a club. It’s hard to fathom where the selfie thing is going. It’s everywhere. I have spent the last few months in Brazil and Istanbul and selfie-sticks are sold on every corner and used on every street. I find it sad that people don't enjoy the now more, just being in that place or moment. I cant say I don't take the odd selfie or post images of my travels on Instagram – follow me, @deanfreeman7 – too, but the mass need to share images of the self is less about the snap shot in time; that concerns me, that with needing to look one’s best even young pretty things are retouching and photo shopping their online selfies... we are all going to get old and die.
What do you think of Kim Kardashian releasing a ‘selfie’ book?
If it makes her happy!
To someone starting out in this business, what advice would you give?
Communication is the key and I don't mean social media. Just forget the camera or phone that’s needed, it’s but simply a device. Forget technique and effects, start by communicating with your subjects and world around you, and simply observe – then the camera, as a tool, is simply an extension of your eye.
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 23/12/2014
Living in the world between fashion and art, the duo of MaryMe-JimmyPaul have created showstopping designs. Inspired by pop culture and their own original narratives, this Dutch based duo bring an edgy mysticism to the current crop of on-the -ise fashion talent. MaryMe-JimmyPaul — otherwise known as Marie Burlot and Jimmy Paul — have created breathtakingly elaborate silhouettes and a rich brand aesthetic, with their latest collection “The WalkAbout” evoking tropical and tribal utilitarian chic. Combining rich prints with bold silhouettes (and exciting use of faux fur to boot) MaryMe-JimmyPaul are definitely a brand to watch.
Firstly, can you tell us a little about your brand?
MaryMe-JimmyPaul is a duo of fashion designers Marie Burlot and Jimmy Paul. We both graduated from the art academy Rietveld in Amsterdam, and ever since we worked together as MaryMe-JimmyPaul. We have created a lot of collections since, and have done a few runway shows and exhibitions — national and international.
There are so many interesting elements to your brand — colour/texture/silhouette — but if you had to choose what would you say is MaryMe-JimmyPaul’s signature?
I think silhouette, in the extreme fashion shapes, but also in the wearable part.
You talk about evoking feeling or emotion through your work, what do you hope people felt about your last collection?
The last collection, The WalkAbout, was about surviving in extreme climates and trying to find your own way in a new world (for us ‘surviving’ in the world of fashion) by growing up. We wanted people to feel safe and warm; offer a sort of sanctuary.
You say that your brand exists between art and fashion: would you call yourselves artists or designers?
When we started we were still finding our handwriting and we wanted to do fashion in the art world. Over the years we went more in the fashion world, so I think we can say we are fashion designers with an art background.
How do you balance your partnership? Are there ever any issues or disagreements?Of course! Everything we do we discuss and sometimes we don’t agree, but that’s normal. But we always find a way in which we both are extremely happy with the end result.
There has been a dark side to your work — like the JonBenet Ramsey collection — but combined with a bright and colourful aesthetic: is the juxtaposition important to you?
Absolutely. All of our collections consist out of different layers of emotions and inspirations. Some of them are not that visible for the audience, but clear for us. Combining different sources that have nothing to do with each other is what give our work this extra ‘edge’.
Where do you draw your inspiration for MaryMe-JimmyPaul; not for a specific collection but the brand overall: what inspires it?
We always are very inspired by pop culture, past and present. And our childhood memories. From there we create our own stories.
Consider who would best fit in with your brand, If you could dress any historical figure who would it be?
Someone between Cleopatra and Joan Of Arc.
From inspiration, to inception, to producing a final collection what is your collaborative process like?
First we come up with a story we want to tell. We collect images, videos, music etc. that portray this emotions. Then we start sketching and we make the first big sculptural piece/dress. From there on, the collection is almost designed by itself. It’s a very organic process. Another important factor in our work is the presentation of the work. Whether it’s a photo shoot or a show, everything around it needs to exhale the same story and feeling of the collection.
What's next for MaryMe-JimmyPaul?
Now we are working on our new collection, which is an extension of the previous collection. Also we are now doing productions for a few shops, like V-Files in New York.
Goth: The Immortal Subculture
Originally published in Hope St Magazine- Issue #4
Illustration by Anette Schive
“The virginal brides file past his tomb
Strewn with time's dead flowers
Bereft in deathly bloom
Alone in a darkened room”
“Bela Lugosi's Dead” by Bauhaus
While most subcultures tend to be connected to a particular time period - meaning that sooner or later they ultimately die - the goth subculture has prevailed. While you can of course track its origins to a particular time the 1980s, since then we have yet to know a world without the goth. And we’re not just talking about a couple of remaining, dedicated followers, or the rebellious teen that decides on an “old school” aesthetic to stand out: the goth is just as prevalent as ever. Although it has adapted and changed over the years, its dark heart stays true to its core, and may truly live forever.
In the 1980s the youth of Britain had experienced two tone, punk, the casuals and new romantics, but it was time for a change; the corporate world and the media had long since realised that there was a great marketing opportunity within these youth cultures, and thus began the rape of true subcultural authenticity. There was really only one thing to be done: paint it black. Just like many subcultures, you can trace the beginnings of the movement to a particular place, and for goth it was the club night ‘The Batcave’. Opening in 1982 ‘The Batcave’ was situated at 69 Dean Street in Soho, London, in the Gargoyle Club. Combining elements of the new romantics and punks, goth was born. From the new romantics they took the rejection of traditional masculinity and heavy theatrical makeup; from the punks they took the raw, kinky edge and anarchic spirit. These elements combined with a heavy dose of black, black, black, birthing the traditional goth. Created by Ollie Wisdom and Jon Klein from the band Specimen, ‘The Batcave’ was the perfect new venue for emerging Gothic bands - bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees, Bauhaus and The Damned to name a few - and was full of subcultural hybrids who dressed in black leather and lace, occult silver jewellery, heavy make-up and huge hair.
What we are fundamentally interested in here is the staying power of the goth, a subculture unlike any other. Alternative and emerging subcultures will appeal to newer generations of youth, but these tend to become diluted and corrupted as they are changed to suit the needs of the individual. Just think of punk: okay, yes, there are still people who share an aesthetic similarity to the first wave of punk, but in this contemporary world these tend to be posers drawn to the look rather than any particularly strong political ideals. The genuine punk ideology transitioned into post-punk, and then into hardcore, which of course created a plethora of alternative scenes and subcultures, like emo - scenes that have many similarities, but at the same time have created a fully formed new subculture that rejects or at the very least re-appropriated many aspects of the original Punk scene. These subcultures have faded in and out throughout the years, never remaining consistently present, but goth remains un-altered. Sure there are variations: trad goths, metalheads, fetish goths and cyber goths to name a few. These groups all have their own specific music and aesthetic, but crucially they all stay true to the original goth ideals. Goths of the world: please do not think we are lumping all of the different types of you together, there is a huge level of variation in the subculture - but also a consistent and unwavering faith in the original ideology. In order for a species to survive, it must adapt, and that is exactly what goth has done.
The significance of goth is huge, but to understand just how huge we must first understand subculture. It is a term that gets thrown about - in the media, particularly in the fashion press, hell we have probably even done it in this issue - but it is one of the most misunderstood and misused terms in the world. Fundamentally, a subculture is a group within a larger culture that exhibits distinctive aesthetics, behaviours, ideals, values and norms at variance with said larger culture. As one of the leading scholars of the subject Dick Hebdige states, these groups tend to form “when like-minded individuals come together to share an interest in order to develop a sense of identity and belonging.” A group of individuals merely dressing alike is not enough to qualify this group as a subculture: these groups pop up all the time, but can rarely be classified as a ‘true’ subculture of any grand cultural significance. In order to meet the subcultural standard a group must obviously have a distinctive aesthetic: a style to define their group membership. Members of said group must be willing to accept the label assigned to it, or accept the identity of being part of said group. All members must be committed - we see so often now aesthetic can be picked up and put down on a whim - being a part time punk or an after-work skinhead will not work in subcultural terms. The group must be autonomous and self governing, not relying on society’s rules, but rather assigning their own regulations. Lastly, and most importantly, they must have distinctiveness - not only in their aesthetic but in their tastes, ideals, values and beliefs as well.
The catalysts for these groups’ emergence can be varied, but overall one of the most significant factors is human beings’ need for close groups; our tribal need for our society to be made up of smaller packs, rather than this increasingly individual world. We are truly now living in the world of the individual and although so many of us strive towards it, we are also desperately grasping to find our tribe; whether your tribe is fellow One Direction fans or the tribe of the fashion blogger, in some way or another we are longing to find the group we belong. This tribal need to belong is in turn affected by other factors: socio-economic factors such as politics, race, gender, class, and cultural factors like common associations or reactions to cultural phenomenon like music, art, fashion etc.
So why goth? How does it persist? What makes someone a goth? A penchant for black and a love for the darker things in life? That surely isn’t really enough to inspire a movement that has persisted for thirty years and rising. Although it’s our cultural tendency to lump all similar things together – so all those guys that wear black must be goths, right? – goth is not just a simple catchall term for the dark, the “strange” and the alternative: goth celebrates individualism, diversity, intellectualism and creativity, and does so with a consistent and recognisable aesthetic. It is within this core ideology that the longevity of goth is explained: other subcultures react to cultural moments but goth reacts to cultural convention itself. Although the music and the black clothes are important - perhaps even the love of the ‘old world’ - when all is said and done the goth is one that represents the other - the outsider, the outcast of the outcasts - and hence it’s staying power. There will always be an outcast, and the funny thing is to be an outcast, one must first feel ostracised and alone, but when you are goth you are never alone; it’s a community for outsiders and that is the true staying power of goth, because as much as some individuals want to separate themselves from society, it’s merely a desire to separate from a society that does not embrace or accept them. Goth provides an inclusive safe haven; goth is a direct rejection of mainstream or pop culture norms. From the clothing, to the music, to the ideology, Goth eschews consumable or shallow mass culture in the most relatable and appealing way. Sure, it’s problematic to paint ideas as being black and white, but in this situation it literally is black and white; light and dark; mainstream and alternative; Pop and Goth. Ultimately it’s no fluke that goths have lasted this long, their relationship with the mainstream is symbiotic; after all, there is no light without dark.
Originally published in Hope St Magazine- Issue #4
Photography by Josh Shinner
Blackpool is more than just a tourist town: it is a British institution. From the mid nineteenth century, people flocked to Blackpool for what was thought to be a healing property in the waters, and its status as the go-to holiday destination in the North was established. One of the first towns in the world to use electric streetlights, Blackpool’s diminutive geographic stature has long belied its drawing powers as a destination resort – it is even speculated that the Luftwaffe avoided bombing Blackpool during the Second World War so that Hitler might take up holiday residence there after he conquered the UK. Blackpool is an anomaly however; it lacks the metropolitan draw of London or Manchester, the history and architecture of Edinburgh or Bath, the quaintness and middle-class safety of Oxford or Brighton and Hove. Blackpool is a bastion of working class values and entertainment; it is gritty, Northern and real.
Although it’s no secret, it may still surprise people to know that the delicate, ethereal synth pop of Rae Morris was developed and road-tested in her hometown of Blackpool. Cutting her teeth on the Lancashire club circuits of the Northwest, Morris has been compared to British dream-pop royalty Kate Bush and the Cocteau Twins; and, while Blackpool is more associated with Ken Dodd, professional wrestling, bingo, karaoke and funfair rides, Morris remains fiercely true to her roots. Her debut album Unguarded was well received by critics and the public alike, and thrust Morris into the limelight, prompting mass praise, but also scrutiny about her personal life. Hope St caught up with Morris to talk about her journey from Blackpool Promenade to downtown LA – where she recorded Unguarded with the current King Midas of pop production, Ariel Rechtshaid – as well as music, sexuality, melancholy and feminism.
You are very proudly from Blackpool, which has a unique place in British cultural heritage; how has it affected or inspired your music?
For me, growing up in Blackpool was a very normal experience. It was only when I came to search for creativity and culture as I began my musical journey that I realised it's significance. The fading decadence of it all became very stimulating to me. Being on the sea front, at the foot of the north pier, thinking back to the people who have passed through and the times that have come and gone. It's a very thoughtful and nostalgic place. It brought me to look deeper into things and be considerate of deeper meanings, I think.
You have been signed for three years; are you excited to finally have your album out there?
Oh yes, absolutely. It's felt like a very long three years but they have also flown by because of the amount of things that have happened in that time. It's nice to finally have music out there for people to discover or stumble upon.
You are still very young; do you ever worry that your music will not be taken as seriously due to your age?
I think the industry has a deep fascination with age and young people. I think if anything, the industry takes people of a younger age more seriously than people of an older age. I believe that it should never have any significance and I’ve not had a problem so far.
You said that you were never attracted to the limelight; how do you feel as your fame continues to grow?
It's very strange because I do not see that side of things at all. I feel very excited and grateful to see a queue form outside one of my gigs but that is about as crazy as it gets! And it's just wonderful. It's so incredible to know people are having a good time and enjoying what you're doing.
Your music has been described as melancholic; why do you think that is?
That is because most of my songs are written in moments where I have felt very in touch with the more melancholic moments of life. Humans are very complicated emotional beings. I like to document those emotions and try to capture the passion of it all.
You went to LA to record your album; did you feel a culture shock being there with such renowned producers as Ariel Rechtshaid and Jim Eliot?
At first I struggled to get to grips with the fact that I didn't need to wear a jacket all the time and the clothes I took were completely wrong. But apart from that, I adjusted really well to life in LA. Ariel and I worked together so naturally. That was so important. If we hadn't have got on so well I think it would have been hard to be so far away from home.
Recording is such a different atmosphere and process than touring; which do you prefer?
Touring is my first love, so I would always say I prefer being on the road and playing music live, but making my debut album was an unforgettable experience. I can't wait to spend this year touring whilst thinking up new ideas of what to do next.
What inspires a song? Do you draw from real life or difficult times? Is that hard?
It never feels hard because it comes very naturally to me to just channel an event straight into a song. I have lots of feelings all of the time, so there never feels like a lack of things to write about. I question everything and am fascinated by the people around me. If you're surrounded by interesting humans, I feel there will always be something to write about.
You have already collaborated with lots of artists; is there anyone that you would love to work with – a dream collaboration?
I would so love to do something with Coldplay one day. It's been a dream of mine for a long time and Chris Martin is one my absolute song writing heroes.
There has been some attention over your sexuality and your relationship with Karima Francis; how do you feel about the pressure to define your sexuality?
I think it's incredibly important for youngsters, just growing into themselves, to know that there are no rules and no boundaries. Young minds need limitless possibilities and high ceilings so they can figure things out for themselves. Humans are fascinating, complex beings, each different to the next: wildly unique and priceless. In my eyes, a human is a human and that is the only definition there should be.
Do you ever find it difficult being young women in an industry that tends to commodify or objectify female artists?
I've been very lucky to be surrounded by a team of people who listen to me and respect the person that I know I am, but it has taken me a while to prove my point I guess. I've had to hammer home that I’m not going to be the artist that fits the stereotype or the formula that is proven to work. There are some amazing female role models out there at the moment in music. It feels amazing to be part of a time where things are changing and young female musicians are being true to themselves.
In terms of music you listen to, where do you draw inspiration?
Definitely female vocals. I love a lot of male musicians and bands but the interesting textures and turns in the voices of people like Feist and Cat Power changed my life when I first heard them.
What are you ultimately attempting to communicate as a songwriter?
At this time, from the beginning to now, my message has been honesty. Opening out and revealing all. It's important to me for people to know that coming from a very normal, small town back ground should never hold you back from living life in the way you would like to.
So what happens to fashion when it tries to out-fashion itself? Everyone rejects fashion itself out of irony. Am I living in an episode of Ab-Fab, or is ‘Normcore’ seriously a thing?
By now you will probably have heard about ‘Normcore’, even if you’re not exactly sure what the hell it means. Let me attempt to clarify it for you: ‘Normcore’ refers to a unisex trend of dressing in extremely conventional clothes; wearing clothes that are entirely non-descript and that make absolutely no direct aesthetic statement. Bland is best when it comes to ‘Normcore’: no patterns, colour or boldness. Think school uniform colours, dad clothes, small town tourists in the big city, geography teachers etc.
‘Normcore’ wasn’t intended to be a fashion fad. The term was created by the trend forecasting collective K-Hole, not as a description for any particular style but rather a description for an attitude: a way of being. In their Youth Mode: A Report On Freedom, they state, “Once upon a time people were born into communities and had to find their individuality. Today people are born individuals and have to find their communities.” The report, and the term ‘Normcore’ itself, refers to culture as a whole rather than merely artifacts of said culture, like clothing choices. This message has been largely missed by the mainstream and has been fully appropriated into just stylistic fashion. While aesthetic representation of ‘Normcore’ is not missed by K-Hole—“Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness”—like many subcultures, the overall cultural message is the important matter and the ‘look’ associated is, as it is in this case, window dressing.
The interesting thing about this ‘Normcore’ fascination is that it’s hardly a new thing; we just have a nice new name for it. What particularly springs to mind is the hardcore subculture who, in a response to the overtly aesthetically focused punks, decided en masse to simplify their wardrobe into extremely non-descript, basic clothing. Looking to push the focus onto their music and their message, these hardcore kids were determined not to turn into in-your-face alternative fashion attractions like the Punks before them, choosing simple clothing like jeans, windbreakers, collegiate sportswear, plain t-shirts and new balance trainers. The look was very simple and “normal”; fashion was a distraction. This sentiment was set in stone when hardcore dancing really kicked off and the items of clothing were valued for their practicality over anything else.
The name ‘Normcore’ is one of the countless puns on the ‘core’ from Hardcore, and while you can see distinct parallels in their ethos, but yet again the fashion world has taken something with genuine cultural significance and boiled it down into a fashion trend that will doubtless become obsolete before we could even listen to a full Minor Threat album. Nevertheless, it has been snatched away by the ever-hungry monster of fashion and we must accept that it has been re-born under their definition. Think of it like ‘Normcore 2.0’: no longer concerned with our overly individualized society, but rather a trend embracing chic simplistic cuts and the balance of minimal leisure wear, and sometimes even so called ‘ugly’ clothes.
To be honest ‘Normcore’ was bound to happen. In a vast world of endless stylistic choices and limitless outfit possibilities, we have been spoiled for choice for too long. In a way, it’s a comment on todays individualism-seeking society, are we all yearning to belong again? Has our culture’s lack of authentic organic subcultures forced us into a state of utilitarian dressing? Fighting for so long and so hard to be seen as authentic individuals, has it all just become too much to bare? Is ‘Normcore’ our white flag of surrender? Is this an example of a new societal indifference to playing the ‘outsider’? Anthropologically speaking, human beings naturally form groups for many reasons, security being the most prominent: there is strength in numbers you know. Personally, I believe that in the West we have just too much choice, and that we feel constantly contradicted. It’s like shopping in a huge supermarket and just having no idea what to eat, sometimes so much choice isn’t a good thing: you end up constantly looking for something better. To belong or not to belong, that is really the question. I think it would be extremely sad to live in a world filled with people ironically wearing dad jeans and plain sportswear, all adhering to the doctrine of utilitarianism; but at the same time I wouldn’t want the world to be full of elaborately decorated peacocks, where every high street had become a catwalk to show off their latest trailblazing outfit: you would never be able to truly appreciate a great look ever again. We must find a balance somewhere between the two and embrace our personal aesthetic whether it is ‘Normcore’ or not, and stop living or dying by fashion trends. If only we had all just paid a little more attention to K-Hole’s original Normcore definition, “to be truly Normcore, you need to understand that there’s no such thing as normal”, I think we would all be a little better off.
We LOVE Eurotrash
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 30/04/2014
From current affairs to porn stars; singing dogs to supermodels; we at Hope St. are looking back at the weird and wonderful world of Eurotrash.
Eurotrash was the camp cult hit T.V show of the ‘90s & ‘00s. The tongue-in-cheek review show covered a plethora of topics in its distinctive kitsch style. Spanning a massive 16 series, Eurotrash dominated British late night T.V, thrusting us into a world of surreal stories and bizarre individuals. For those of you who are a little young to remember Eurotrash, imagine the
You can’t talk about Eurotrash without talking about the voice dubbing, by far the best thing about the show. European dialects were dubbed over, and in their place a regional British one. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear an elderly German stripper talking in a very exaggerated Geordie accent about the effect of the Berlin wall on stripping? I definitely do. Described as 'Legendary Madness' it was a world full of Eva and Adele ("The Eggheads"), the poodle loving (not literally) Jacob Sister's and of-course Lolo Ferrari. Lolo Ferrari was the quintessential Eurotrash star, "the women with the largest breasts in the world,” and she made regular appearances on the show until her death in March 2000. As well as reporting on every strange aspect of pop culture, Eurotrash was no stranger to celebrity guest appearances: from Kylie Minogue to Boy George, and even supermodel royalty Naomi Campbell. Eurotrash was always fun if sometimes a little cheeky; the satirical tone of much of the show gave it a facetious edge. Documenting the ridiculous traditions and trends from around Europe, it celebrated the unique: and the more outrageous the better. So Eurotrash we salute you!
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 12/05/2014
‘Too much good taste can be boring’ – Diana Vreeland
Garish animal prints or shoulder pads; clothing with giant logos or lettering splashed across it; bum bags or colourful faux-fur, double denim and brightly coloured leather. While this reads like a list of so called ‘crimes of fashion’, in a world where fashion changes faster than ever before items will return to being ‘in style’ so fast that consumers are often left trailing in its wake, perplexed over what’s hot and what’s not, and giving them license to get a little trashy.
This Trash Fashion phenomenon is best seen in Moschino’s latest collection: with Jeremy Scott at the helm, their Fall 2014 ready-to-wear show was an exploitation of ‘trash-chic’ with an ostentatious colour palette, double denim, cow print leather and enough gold statement jewellery to make Mr T envious. But the trashiest statement of this collection is the worshipping of McDonalds, the de facto king of consumerism. In typical Jeremy Scott fashion he took a rather literal approach to translating his inspiration into a completed product: from happy meal handbags to creating a Moschino McDonalds waitress, who looks like she has never even seen a Big Mac, let alone eaten one, but his approach is none more appropriate than when creating for Moschino, a brand synonymous with a tongue-in-cheek attitude: as Tim Blanks states, ‘Frank Moschino loved nothing more than poking the bear of fashion orthodoxy with flagrant infusions of trash.’
But Scott isn’t the only designer willing to get a little trashy. There is nothing trashier than a bum bag, yet bum bags were featured in the Chanel Spring 2014 couture show paired with – gasp! – trainers. The love for trashy footwear was carried through to their Fall 2014 ready to wear collection with trainers again and even the introduction of the knee-high trainer. Now, like most right minded people, I generally bow down to the almighty fashion savant Karl Lagerfeld, but even I struggle to get on board with a knee high trainer. However, this is not the first time and definitely won’t be the last time a designer will break the rules of being ‘well-dressed’.
Many designers, such as Ashish, are constantly playing with the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ taste in a kind of Trash Fashion Olympics, but this is not just a practise for established names: the new generation are at it too. Unisex clothing brand Isolated Heroes employ a larger than life trash attitude to their optimistic clothing. The brand, founded and run by Samantha McEwen is focused on empowerment through dress; a process of metamorphosis achieved through a rainbow of vivid tones, clashing colours, distinctive prints, illustrative embroidery and oversized, interesting silhouettes. Isolated Heroes continues to worship at the altar of trash with every new collection, most recently combining a Dalmatian print with her already iconic use of bright faux fur and colourful leather to cement a place in the trash taste evolution.
In the immortal words of Coco Chanel, ‘fashion changes but style endures’. This is what the trash idea is all about: style is not fashion. Fashion is transitory by nature, therefore things will always be entering or leaving their brief moment in the fashionable sun; but style is eternal because it exists as a celebration of individualism. Designers who evoke a trashy look are bound together by a joint passion for creating through their clothes an inspiration for their customer’s individual style. To innovate fashion, designers must explore a vast range of motivation, and this has to include trash, or ‘bad’ taste. Lets hope these designers continue to rebel against fashion industry doctrine: in the words of the legend that is John Waters, ‘fashion can use bad taste, fashion can take the worst thing that everybody threw out and make everyone want to buy it again, that’s a magic trick, that’s art isn’t it?’
Originally published in Hope St Magazine Issue #3
All images Martin D. Barker
What’s the deal with lady pubes? Why are people so afraid of them? Seems like the hairy beast living in our pants is soon to become an endangered species.
In 2013 the photographer Petra Collins’ Instagram account was deleted suddenly and without warning. The offending image that apparently led to this suspension was a photograph of Petra from her waist down, wearing bathing suit bottoms in front of a sparkly background. Doesn’t sound too offensive, does it? Well, we neglected to mention the real ‘shocking’ part of that image; She dared to show her body in its natural unaltered state. Yes, an unshaven bikini line — the dreaded lady pubes.
Now, in 2014, this whole hairy issue is back in the media spotlight due in part to an A-list celebrity’s rather candid statements about the age-old debate ‘to have hair or to not have hair’. In a chapter titled ‘In Praise of Pubes’ from her new health and beauty manual The Body Book, Cameron Diaz states, “Personally, I think permanent laser hair removal sounds like a crazy idea.” and that “The idea that vaginas are preferable in a hairless state is a pretty recent phenomenon, and all fads change, people.” Now, Cameron is not some radical muff campaigner — there will be no celebrity telethons to save pubic hair—but rather, what she is stating is that it should be every woman’s choice. And let’s face it, permanent choices about the way we look are never really a good idea, especially when dictated by fads. Does everyone remember when you just HAD to have a belly button piercing? This stuff is cyclical, people! But what’s interesting about the pubic issue is the sheer shock and media attention has generated.
This isn’t the first time fully grown vagitation has got the world in a tizzy. American Apparel for example has pretty consistently played with the ladybush, even displaying mannequins in their New York City store sporting full fur bikinis, much to the shock and horror of the general public. They also ran an ad in Purple Magazine that featured a model wearing lace underwear with her pubic hair showing and people were outraged. Ignoring the fact that our bodies in their natural state can be used as a shock tactic to sell clothes, it’s important to focus on the fact that the American Apparel pubegate is really just the symptom of a wider prejudice in society.
When discussing this article with male friends, most of them do try to be diplomatic, but the consensus is ‘say no to pubes’ and a little further research, a little further afield, found the general answer to be ‘say HELL NO to pubes’. And while of course I’m not pigeonholing all men, and it’s all anecdotal, more often that not I found that they were actually shocked or repulsed by the idea of a woman having pubic hair. What is the reason for this full on pubic prejudice? This sprouting of hair in the pubic area is a sign of our womanhood, should we so drastically remove it? Are we turning ourselves into prepubescent sex dolls for the pleasure of our male admirers? You would be pretty hard pushed these days to find a female porn star with any pubic hair. Those who keep it are a niche, condemned to grubby fetish sites and ‘retro’ videos, and the contemporary fad of women ridding themselves of all body hair was really catapulted into popularity by the porn industry. God forbid a man would have to “deal” with a woman’s lady garden, that’s really unthinkable (never mind the overgrown garden they have going on their boxers more often than not). And, although men’s grooming is starting to be a lot more prevalent, it’s really not the issue: woman’s grooming is, and this is hardly the first time that form and presentation of a woman’s body has been dictated primarily by the preference of men.
This big contemporary fascination with the hairless vagina really took off in the porn industry during the 1990’s, when porn stars began removing hairy obstacles with bikini waxes to enhance your viewing pleasure. This quickly became the standard for a women’s physical sexuality, but this wasn’t the first time there was prejudice towards pubes. Just think of the classic female nude; the likes of Bosch or Titian all depicted a hairless vagina. Even Manet’s Olympia in 1863 had her lady garden hidden from view and she was a prostitute. No judgment intended, but you know she probably wasn’t too shy about a crotch flash. One of the first western art pieces with visible pubic hair was Francisco de Goya’s 1800 painting “La Maja Desnuda” which was deemed to be so shocking that it was hidden by its owner, the Prime Minister of Spain. When it was finally seized during the Spanish Inquisition it was deemed ‘obscene’.
What’s interesting to ponder here is whether the artist simply removed the hair from the female form preferentially to meet his aesthetic vision, or did these women actually have hairless lady bits? Removal of pubic hair is definitely not just a modern concern. You can trace back female hair removal all the way back the ancient Egyptians. In fact, the men of ancient Greece preferred a hairless pussy, and so hair removal was achieved either by plucking or singeing with a burning lamp or hot ashes. Now, ladies, don’t you feel lucky that we don’t have to use hot ashes anymore? When the crusaders were in the Holy Land they discovered many of the Arab women removed all pubic hair, so they brought this hairless fashion back with them. It caught on for a while in the Middle Ages, but interestingly enough, like most fads, it all but disappeared. By Victorian times pubic hair was back. So back in fact, that in Victorian Britain a common token of love gifted from one lover to another was a lock of pubic hair. In the collection of the museum of St. Andrews there is a snuffbox full of the pubic hair of one of King George IV’s mistresses — how romantic!
But alas, the lady garden was not here to stay and now we find ourselves in a situation where women are going to more extreme lengths than ever to rid themselves of their hairy friend. This practice of women removing pubic hair is not new, so why is it still a major issue, especially in feminist circles? What strikes me as odd is that many women are still not in complete control of their own bodies. Throughout history, from Ancient Greece, to the Roman Empire, to the Crusades, to the Renaissance, to Victorian Britain... hell, pretty much any time, women have been subalternated by a patriarchal society in which men generally have held the money and the power, so many women naturally feel pressured to bend to their husband’s preferences. As a good wife (or potential wife) it has primarily been your mission in life to fulfill his wants, needs and desires. So if he preferred you bald, you were bald (God, I would be a terrible wife). But increasingly this social dynamic is no longer as prevalent. It’s 2014, we are supposed to be strong independent women who make our own money, run our own lives and choose our own partners, yet so many women still feel pressured into a particular body standard.
We live in a world where skinny is best and hairless is beautiful; where failure to fit into those cookie cutter molds is far from the norm. In a lot of people’s minds difference is exclusively a bad thing. And here lies the real problem. Everyone is individual. There is no possible way that everyone can at all times fit into such a narrow window of socially acceptable attractiveness. In our aesthetically focused world, looks are just important as your job, your education or your achievements. We are bombarded with images of these perfect beings, which we must aspire to be like at all costs, which is an impossible and thankless task. However, there are shortcuts we can take, right? Simple steps to achieve beauty? Remove all body hair, starting with the pubes! Symbolically, pubic hair is seen as either masculine or animalistic, not dainty and youthful as women should be. And, ultimately, this is my issue with the whole debate: Society’s preference should not come into it, only the preference of the individual should. All T here, I’m not particularly hairy, so I couldn’t have grown a full fur bikini even if I wanted to (and believe me, I’ve tried). I have also tried no hair at all, which was fine if you’re into that kind of thing, but normally I sit kind of in the middle. Anyway, that’s all irrelevant. What matters is that it is my choice, my preference — no-one else’s.
This isn’t an attack on men, but more of a plea to women everywhere: Take back ownership of your pubic hair. Save it from its endangered status. Take the power away from its natural predators. Whether you embrace the bush or not, make it your decision. If, as a woman, you prefer the hairless look, then go for it. If you love to rock a fur bikini, then that’s just beautiful. Maybe you prefer a little in between, trimmed but still there? That’s cool too. There is no right or wrong way to look. We need to stop holding women’s bodies to a ridiculous, cookie cutter standard of beauty. Pubes or no pubes, just do whatever makes you happy.
The Clueless Effect
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 10/04/2014
It was the yellow tartan ensemble heard around the world. Having just finished watching the 1995 cult classic Clueless for what seem like the millionth time, I can’t help but wonder: will we ever really be beyond Clueless?
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 20 years you probably know all about Clueless. The 1995 teen comedy was loosely based on Jane Austin's novel 'Emma' and became the sleeper hit movie of the 90s, gathering a strong cult following. The film’s fashion created a vibrant world full of bright colours, fluffy backpacks and of course a plethora of tartan. The writer/director of Clueless, Amy Heckerling, and the films costume designer, Mona May, envisioned a style to contradict the popular grunge fashion of the time, but why are we still obsessed with their uber-feminine, tartan clad look?
With the release of Australian rapper Iggy Azalea's new Clueless inspired video for her single ‘Fancy’ it’s surprising that this movie still continues to have such a strong influence in a world where a trend survives as long as a Big Mac at a fat camp; but she is hardly the first person to inject a little Clueless realness into their look. This Clueless effect can be seen from House of Holland’s Autumn/Winter 2008 show; to high street fashion from New Look to Topshop; to the Versace Fall 2013 RTW collection; to the Wildfox Spring/Summer 2013 line; to the Moschino cheap and chic Spring/Summer 2014 collection; to Antipodium’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection. What is it about this particular teen classic that keeps designers rollin’ with their homies?
To investigate this trend we spoke to the man that is fast becoming the world authority on teen cinema, writer and director Charlie Lynne, whose new film 'Beyond Clueless' is a 'part historical account, part close textual analysis, part audio-visual mood piece and part head-over-heels love letter to the teen genre', 1995-2004. Lyne an award winning film critic, editor of the blog 'Ultra Culture' and self confessed teen cinema lover appears to be the perfect man for the job of unraveling this mystery. 'Teen movies are fascinating because they make up perhaps the only genre that's explicitly aimed at people of a certain age, and an incredibly impressionable age at that. These are movies that say "we specifically want to be seen by the people who are most likely to be influenced by what they see”’. These movies have served as a muse for designers and inspired many wider cultural trends, but although their collective impact was great, no single release inspired more than Clueless, the archetypal teen movie. Lyne states that ‘Clueless is a perfect film, so it’s no wonder it’s remembered with such fondness, but more significantly it arrived at a time when teen movies were in a dire state, in one fell swoop it kicked off a whole new wave of teen films, convincing filmmakers and their backers alike that there was still an appetite for these films.’
When we think of Clueless, we are drawn to the fashion—and why not? But Lyne points to a combination of both style and substance, ‘Clueless and She’s All That and so on have very distinctive looks, but I think they never would have taken off if they weren’t engaging as films at the same time. The style of the films helped them take off as a genre, but their quality is what makes them—and by extension, their style—so enduring.’
To me, the fashion of Clueless is so enduring because it’s larger than life, the perfect example of optimistic clothing. In the turbulent financial, political and social times we find ourselves living in, what better way to escape—if even just for a little while—than with a fluffy pen or some group co-ordinated black and white workout gear? A tartan wardrobe isn’t going to fix your financial situation, but at least you can fill out those job applications in style.
Beyond Clueless is showing at various festivals across the world over the summer and will be more widely available later in the year.
Queen of the Night: Susanne Bartsch Interview
Originally published in Hope St Magazine Issue #3
All images @bartschland
Susanne Bartsch has been described as the "Patron Saint of transformation and inclusion" and as "Mother Teresa in a glitter G-string". A goddess-like figure to the fashion elite, club kids and the fabulous freaks and geeks of party scenes in most major cities in the world, this New York City event producer’s parties have drawn outlandish nightlife crowds since the 1980s and to this day she has no intention of stopping. Although mainstream fame has eluded her—which in my opinion is a travesty—I suspect that is by design. From humble boutique owner importing then unknown designers like Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren and John Galliano into New York City, to infamous club event producer, Susanne is the Pied Piper, (albeit far more glamorous) of inner-city nightlife, with her parties consistently known as the place to be for over thirty years. She has discovered, promoted and nurtured more iconic creatives than probably anyone else, but yet she is a legend many people have never heard of. From her work in charity with the Love Ball to her history changing events that encouraged the careers of some infamous celebrities like RuPaul and Amanda LePore, Susanne Bartsch is really the glue that holds New York nightlife together in the exciting and creative world of the club kids. Her hugely decadent events can be traced all the way back to the post-disco era, emerging as a cure for the disco hangover and to inject a fresh vibrancy to the club scene. More than just mere club nights, her events became a catalyst of creative fever and inspired a whole new generation of flamboyant young creatives to craft spectacular outfits and reclaim the night. Just like the infamous Blitz club, her events became a place where new and interesting individuals were born; but, unlike the Blitz club, there was no snobby door policy, rather an attitude of embracing and celebrating difference. Susanne is a prophet of future talent and her skill for spotting the next superstar has been scarily accurate. Her avant-garde events are something that I'm sure we all wish we could have attended: those parties that became talent laboratories with Susanne the mad-but-brilliant scientist. She embraces her party guests and her place as the inspirational matriarch of the scene: a true icon of the night, her constant drive to bring people together and encourage creative souls to express themselves is bound to be her legacy.
As the Queen of the nightlife, what makes the perfect event?
Major elements: the mix of people, great music, cool space and the secret ingredient: the guests’ excitement to be there.
How do you manage to keep your events fresh and different?
I love what I do and make the kind of parties I want to attend at that moment in time. Also I’m not afraid to try new things, I love change. My approach to my events is: it’s an adventure.
Who would be on your dream guest list, dead or alive?
My parties are not about VIP Movie Star attendees, my dream guest list is an ever-evolving mix of creative people who like to dance, socialize, and bring the party with them, rather than wait for someone else to jump on a table and get the party started. My dream guest list is the table jumpers themselves!
What's the greatest party you have ever attended?
There is not ONE, as in “this was THE PARTY!”. The Life Ball in Vienna is pretty major and my AIDS Benefits (Love Ball, Balade De L'amour and the Hoppening) do stand out in my mind. And in the present—because that’s where I prefer to live—I am absolutely thrilled by MY party KUNST at Verboten in Williamsburg.
If you had no limitations or restrictions to throw a party, what would you do?
As part of the entertainment, have a bevvy of fab people and artists in major looks, some in couture ball gowns, jumping out of airplanes parachuting down to my party to opera music. The ultimate stage: the sky.
Your events fuse fashion, art and performance, but are there still boundaries left to push?
There will always be boundaries to push. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, something comes along and blows your mind.
Can you still be shocked or blown anyway by an outfit?
Yes. As for being shocked: don’t ever blow-dry your hair in the tub wearing Paco Rabane! But seriously, as recent as a couple of days ago Andy from Disco Smack DJ’d at my party KUNST and he looked FABULOUS, and I’m constantly blown away by what the kids are making out of nothing, looks you've never seen before, one offs, it’s ultimate haute couture.
A fashion pioneer what inspires your visual style?
Travel, and it doesn’t have to be to India, it can just be around the blocks right here. I am also inspired by people, opera, paintings, music, nature…
Over all the years of events, fashion and icons, what person sticks in your mind?
Of course many of the countless kids I encounter, and some of my favorite designers: Westwood, McQueen, Galliano and Gaultier, and always Leigh bowery & Trojan
What was the most exciting, creatively inspiring time period for you?
Right now. I have amazing things in the works. The “Flower Power” era as well as the “Punk Years” was pretty cool as well.
Your Bartsch boutique on West Broadway carried some incredible designers' work before anyone else stateside, who are some contemporary designers that excite you today and who do you think will be the next big thing?
I’m a muse of his. He’s been doing looks with me for years and making clothes for major celebrities but he’s not a household name yet. I predict he will be soon. His name is Zaldy.
You have been associated with some of the most exciting entertainers over the last couple of decades so you have a sixth sense when it comes to spotting talent?
Yes. I have a good eye and I trust and I am not afraid of my instinct
You seem to have this obsession with bringing people together and inspiring and encouraging creativity, where does this drive come from?
There’s an energy and a unity that happens, whether it’s at a house party, nightclub, on a yacht, or at a dinner and I got my first taste of it at “New London in New York”. My first event I ever did... It’s sexy, and the mix of people include those you haven’t met yet but want to, old friends, and a few really glamorous new kids you’ve never seen who are having the time of their lives. When I put together an event where all the pieces gel it’s magic and everyone’s smiling at me and each other, I feel energized and I cant help but smile: and it’s been scientifically proven that smiling’s a natural anti-depressant.
You've been an inspirational figure and something of a matriarch to the people you've been associated with over the years, what compels you to nurture and expose their potential as you do?
It’s my calling! I love to inspire and it’s such a give and take process. Chances are, whoever is inspired by me inspires me just as much as I do them, when there’s energy between people that develops and lasts more than a moment or an hour, it’s because there’s a frequency you’re both tapped into and your creating it together. One hand washes the other and something alchemical and magical is usually produced as a result.
Despite launching so many careers, you seem to have deliberately avoided mainstream success: why is that?
I’ve never been hot for it. I’ve always been attracted to the offbeat. If I were hungry for the mainstream, I would have figured out a way to be a part of it. And “success”, be it mainstream or marginal, is a moving target and doesn’t guarantee happiness.
You have been a longstanding advocate for the LGBT community and RuPaul has credited you with championing him in New York and propelling him to mainstream success, how do you feel about the increasing acceptance of LGBT culture and how would you like to see it progress into the future?
I want to see it become a non-issue, because it’s not an issue, we're all one and the same.
What would you like to be remembered for, and what would you like your epitaph to read?
I think everyone wants to be remembered in a positive way and so do I. I hope I made a difference in this world and in people’s lives... and if I was seen and loved by 3 or 4 people, I really don’t think anyone can ask for much more than that. On planning my epitaph… well I’ll let you make up my epitaph, but I am really grateful how good people have been to me, and so at this moment, let’s say… "you made my night".
In a world of 15 minutes of fame and success, how have you managed to sustain your career for so long?
Fames not my goal; creating is.
And finally, what has been your greatest achievement?
The biggest event of my life had nothing to do with parties, fashion, art or music. That is becoming a mother to my boy, Bailey.
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 11/11/2014
There are many young designers termed the next big thing, and most of the time it's a catchy hook to draw attention to these up-and-comers; but I have a feeling that this won't be the case for London based Christian Cowan-Sanluis. Exploding onto the scene with his selfie hat in tow, this designer (who is currently still studying) already has celebrities donning his clothes, and his SS15 presentation was definitely a must-see. With a playful, sassy humour to his brand this young designer is definitely a one to watch; from glitter chaps to – of course – the 'Selfie Hat', Christian Cowan-Sanluis perfectly merges humour, power and sexuality in his womenswear collections all the while having his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. We caught up with Christian to find a little more about his brand, something that we suspect you will hear a lot more of in the future.
Can you describe your brand in three words?
Humorous, youthful & sexy.
You have received a very rare amount of success early in your career, do you feel the pressure of that?
Not at all, I'm just so pleased people have liked what I've done so far! I just wish I could make more!
What’s your view of womenswear at the moment; what’s missing?
Womenswear is so varied, I really think everyone is doing everything, although I do think that Universities should encourage their students to be more humorous. I've found a lot focus on making their students the next Margiela.
Your selfie hat played really well on youthful trends, is youth culture something that interests/inspires you?
Definitely! I grew up watching TV, playing video games and being on Facebook. I think this has completely influenced my work, I'm sure it has with most of my generation. The thing I loved about the selfie hat project is people either love it or hate it, it's interesting seeing people's reactions.
What made you choose ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ as your SS15 inspiration?
I was obsessed with the vintage TV show "Beverley Hillbillies". They find oil on their ranch and become billionaires and move to Beverley Hills, it's such a fun story I had to do a collection on it.
You collaborated with ‘Lucky Little Blighters’ on a capsule jewellery collection this season, is jewellery an area you are looking to expand into?
Yes definitely, it was so great to have proper Jewellery, I'm definitely expanding into this.
Is there anyone else you would like to collaborate with?
I'd love to collaborate with a really amazing footwear designer: mission for AW15!
There is a kind of sassy humour to your work, is that something you set out to achieve?
100%! As I said I grew up watching music videos, and those are just filled with sassy people, so I think my mind is rigged to only design for sassy people, ha!
Although many of your outfits are on the skimpy side there is a strength to your girls, what women inspire your work?
Yes, I like to show the body as a way of empowerment, it's not that their showing their body's to impress someone, it's that they love themselves and want to show off! Pretty much every woman who's said fuck it and just done their own fabulous looks. I really get inspired by so many of my friends and artists, right now I'd have to say Carmen Carrera, Shania Twain and my Mum (she's super glam).
Obviously Lady Gaga and others have already been seen sporting your clothes, who else would you love to dress?
I'd love to dress Cher or Elton John, those are the dream people! And the playboy bunny girls!
You have played a little with video, do you think fashion films are something you will use again?
Yes I love video. I will definitely be doing more, I'd love to direct music videos too.
How is success effecting your studies?
Destroying it! It's so hard juggling the two! Let's hope LCF are understanding and don't kick me out!
Have you got any ideas of what your inspirations for your next collection will be?
I know exactly what I'm doing, but it's all a surprise! But it fits in with an event in America.
What’s your vision for the future of your brand?
Just to keep on expanding, do all manner of accessories, furniture... clubs?
Is The Printed Magazine Doomed?
Featured in Guardian Comment Is Free Section
Creators and publishers of printed ‘zines and magazines across the globe are dealing with the growing possibility of their chosen medium being rendered obsolete by the rapid expansion of online media, many already offering internet-only subscriptions and exclusive content for social networking followers. The potential of the iPad as a sustainable and viable platform is one that many creatives take seriously, however, when it was announced recently that Apple will now require iPad editions to have any nudity pre-censored it immediately provoked a reaction from the makers of lifestyle/high fashion ‘zines such as Nylon, Dazed & Confused and Vice, one group mockingly referring to their latest as the “Iran Edition”. Apple’s decision raises a serious question to the makers of cutting edge publications: tone down content and wave goodbye to artistic integrity to make sure your seat on the bandwagon is secure, or take a stance and risk being left behind should the digital generation decide to ditch their earthly belongings and embrace a lifestyle of transient online information and free media.
Embracing the concept of digitalized media and adjusting your product accordingly is certainly seen as an increasingly pragmatic idea. The overall circulation of arguably the most recognizable name in the magazine world, Vogue, has plummeted by 37% in recent years. Big name publishers IPC Media, Condé Nast and Future Publishing have battened down the hatches and invested heavily into the Internet as well as TV, radio and mobile. But the looming threat casts a shadow from these corporate leviathans all the way to the grass roots photocopies and staples style publications. Creator of the infamous underground ‘zine “Murder Can Be Fun” John Marr declared in his 1999 essay named “’Zines Are Dead” - “The quirky spirit of zines hasn't died. It's just migrated to the web. If I was starting out today, no way would I mess with hard copy — I'd go straight to the net. It's cheaper, easier, and faster. Unfortunately, everyone knows this. The web has made a reality out of the fantasies of certain dewy-eyed zine theoreticians: everyone these days really can be their own publisher.”
But can the magazine as a concept ever really die? Personally, I suspect that Marr is simply pessimistic and jaded by 24 years of paper cuts and photocopier ink under his nails. There were previous examples of a time when a new mass media introduction heralded doomsday for magazine publishing At the turn of the 20th century with the introduction of Motion Pictures; from 1920 onwards with the growing popularity of radio; and in 1949 with the first official broadcasts of network television in the USA.
The magazine publishing industry withstood these incidents like survivors of a nuclear holocaust in some far-fetched science fiction story, waiting for the fallout to dissipate and adapting to their surroundings to build a new future. The growing motion picture industry caused so much interest that wasn’t satisfied by simply watching that it actually spawned a selection of new magazines dealing with cinema, movies, film stars and production. Radio, while popular, was swamped with intrusive advertising and not visual enough to land a fatal blow on the publication industry. Television was popular but the mass appeal caused a renaissance in the publishing world: by introducing viewers to a whole host of culture, hobbies and interests, the demand for niche publications grew massively. The magazine publishing industry is notoriously cutthroat and transitional; will it really succumb to another similar cultural shift?
Whilst the Internet is a magnificent resource and the prospect of having our primary media source composed of user generated content is wonderful and liberating, but will humanity ever accept the idea of completely ephemeral media? The Internet can offer faster, relevant news and information, it can provide a multimedia experience on demand, but it cannot provide you with something tangible and that is the fatal flaw. Humanity views ownership as a marker of status, we crave possessions because they anchor us and act as a safety blanket. This is simply a period of transition and the shift to digital media has already produced compromises between Internet and print with exciting new concepts such as augmented reality proving to be very popular. Of course there was going to be a lull whilst people explore the possibilities of fully digital media but with the inevitability of subscriber content taking over it is only a matter of time before the grass doesn’t seem so green any more. Sterile, saturated and recycled are descriptions already beginning to circulate about blogging and webzines before their popularity even reaches its zenith. It would be sensationalist to claim printed ‘zines and magazines were going to cease to exist, but then we live in an age of sensationalist media. We can rationalize a hypothetical scenario of a crazed loner living in a house with years of hoarded newspapers stacked to the ceiling, but can anyone imagine the same grotty house piled high with compact discs, USB memory sticks or external hard-drives?
The Best Drag Movies EVER!
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 22/09/2014
With the massive breakthrough success of RuPaul's Drag Race, everyone seems to have fallen in love with the almighty Drag Queen, and why wouldn't you? These beautiful creatures use their Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve & Talent to entertain and mesmerise. From fishy Queens to pageant Queens, the world of Drag has never been so popular in the mainstream. Being a massive lover of all things drag we were slightly concerned that some were not aware of how vast the world of drag truly is, so to remedy that we at Hope St. decided to create a must see list of the six best drag movies ever — at least in our opinion. Now don't get us wrong, we absolutely bow down to mother RuPaul, but you will just gag at the other amazing queens in our selection of movies; and you never know, Ru might make an appearance or two.
1. Paris is Burning
If you haven't seen this documentary directed by Jennie Livingston you must remedy this immediately. Paris is Burning was filmed in the 1980s in New York City, and centers around the time honoured tradition the drag ball. Filmed in the "Golden Age" of the scene, the film takes us from spectacular ball performances to gritty interviews, covering issues of not only sexuality, but also of race, class, gender and AIDS with beautiful honesty. Everything about this film is so raw and real, and if you’re anything like me you will find yourself longing to have earned "legendary" status by slaying it when you walk, or to be part of one of the iconic "Houses" of the drag ball scene. Paris is Burning has become a must watch for any young Queen and not just for the vogueing, which originated in the drag ball scene. If you are interested in knowing more about this fantastic culture, consider Paris is Burning a must in your drag education.
2. Wigstock: The Movie
Next up at number two is the legendary Wigstock: The Movie: another documentary, but this time focusing on the annual drag festival that was held in New York City in the 1980s & 1990s. Hosted by the Mistress of Ceremonies Lady Bunny, Wigstock is a dream festival full of performances from legendary Queens like Lypsinka, Joey Arias, Tabboo!,
3. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
To Wong Foo is a 1995 drag comedy movie starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo. I must admit when it comes to drag films this is by far my favourite, I have been watching it since I was 10 years old and will never tire of it. The film centers around the three queens’ — well, technically two Queens & One drag Princess — journey from New York to Hollywood, to compete in "Miss Drag Queen of America Pageant" and of course all does not go completely smoothly. After a run in with a racist, homophobic Sheriff, and then car trouble, the Queens find themselves in a small backwater town. There are so many good things about this film, and while the story is hardly revolutionary, the three main actors’ performances are amazing, the supporting cast is great with lots of familiar faces, the lines are really iconic and the outfits even better. It's a relatively PG drag movie but great all the same. Oh, and in case you are wondering what the difference is between a drag Princess and a Queen, there are four steps to becoming a full fledged Queen:
1. Let good thoughts be your sword and shield.
2. Ignore adversity.
3. Abide by the rules of love.
4. Larger than life is juts the right size.
4. Connie and Carla
So this one might be a bit of a controversial choice because the two main leads are actually women who end up pretending to be drag queens, but Connie and Carla is really a great drag movie. So you get it, right? They are women pretending to be men impersonating women. But ultimately it is a celebration of the essential message of drag, which is truly accepting yourself and being fabulous while doing it. Like RuPaul says, we are all born naked, the rest is drag. The supporting casts of Queens are amazing — my personal favourite being the delectable duo Peaches and Cream — but Toni Collette as Carla and Nia Vardalos as Connie are so endearing you will just fall in love with them. Connie and Carla is a fun and campy journey with drag culture’s tongue in cheek humour, and the musical numbers are hilarious. Give this movie a chance, it's a bit of a slow burner but there are some hidden gems of hilarity in there, my favourite being the scene when the guy pushes the candle onto the stage when Connie and Carla are performing 'Papa, Can You Hear Me?' from Yentl, in the airport lounge.
5. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Last but certainly not least is The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The outlandish masterpiece known to most simply as Priscilla is the ultimate camp delight. A feast for the eyes, the movie is a modern day classic depicting the journey of Mitzi Del Bra (Hugo Weaving), Bernadette Bassenger (Terence Stamp) and Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Guy Pearce) as they travel half way across Australia in a dilapidated bus named "Priscilla" to perform in a casino in the middle of the Australian outback. The main cast are truly unrecognisable as the Queens and Terence Stamp is incredible. The contrast between the starkness of the Australian desert and the magnificent spectacular that is the Queens exhibits a grandness that To Wong Foo lacks. Although the visual spectacle — particularly the costumes — is magnificent, the script is really what makes Priscilla great: hilarious and heartwarming, yet ultimately poignant in its depiction of the serious social realities of drag culture and the prejudices they experience. It is definitely a movie not to be missed.
Originally published in Hope St Magazine Issue #3
All images Rachel Maclean
With her otherworldly films and extravagant digital prints, Rachel Maclean is one of the most exciting artists working in the UK today. Her juxtaposition of uber-colourful aesthetic and grotesque characters creates an immersive reality that suckers the viewer in with its beauty, then turns on them just as fast and imposes on them a strange schadenfreude. Her investigations into identity incorporate contemporary pop culture and found dialogue to facilitate the consumption of big ideas and encourage wider discourse, and although the coffeehouse in which Hope Street met Rachel Maclean was almost so loud as to drown out her meek Scottish brogue, her considered responses, thoughtful concepts, self-assuredness and deliberate musings cut through the static to fascinate and inspire.
What’s your process? Where do you begin?
It usually starts with an idea or a theme. I think in the last video I produced I was thinking about the ideas of class, Britishness and social hierarchy, and was also looking a lot at the grotesque; grotesque caricatures and their history in Britain as well, people like Hogarth. I collect a lot of stuff and start to look for sound clips that I can use to begin to form the script.
Where do you find the sound clips?
A lot on YouTube but sometimes I buy DVDs and watch films that I think may be appropriate… but mostly YouTube.
The sound clips are really interesting, why have you chosen this narrative method rather than writing a script?
It’s quite interesting to have that sense of something being a quotation or already existing in culture, then taking them and either subverting them or placing them in a different context, to question the original media. There is something very specific about accent and tone from an original clip that you can’t quite re-create if you were to write a script. I guess I think of it a bit like collage, these things that exist and you kind of piece together.
Do you actually make everything yourself?
Sort of. I will, say, buy a dress and then stick stuff to it.
So you have a bit of a DIY thing going?
Yeah totally, it’s never from scratch, or at least very rarely. I think if I can find something to buy that will do the trick then I will always do that, recently I have found there are quite a lot of good costume hire places for things like Tudor costumes
So obviously you will have people helping you like make up artists, but is it all very specifically your vision. Do you have a very clear idea of what everyone is going to look like?
Yeah I usually do the make-up myself. The last thing I did I worked with somebody as director of photography and there are usually one or two people doing camera assisting or lighting assisting, and usually I work with an assistant director helping out with shot lists and that kind of thing. I also usually have somebody helping out keeping an eye on stuff like if I have make up on my teeth.
Initially you did everything yourself and gradually you started to find people around you. Was it difficult to pick the right people ?
I was working entirely on my own when I was at college, it was just me in my bedroom shooting, it was all very DIY and kind of low tech. Then I got a grant through Duncan of Jordanstone visual effects research lab for a commission, and they put a crew together for a shoot and that was the first time I had worked with a crew. It was something that I never thought I would do but it worked really well.
I know that you are compared a lot to Cindy Sherman, how do you feel about that? Are you happy with the comparison?
I think I’m happy with it, I mean she is great but I think you have got to be aware that you’re not what you have been inspired by. I saw her work when I was really quite young on a school trip to the national galleries and I just thought it was amazing, so I have liked her stuff for a long time. There is something really great about it, it very sharp and its very dark and grotesque at some level, but also you can tell she is having good fun while doing it too.
Your reference pop culture a lot in your work, why is that so predominant?
I like the references that I use to be things that people will recognize; nothing too obscure, something that very recognisable that we have adapted and twisted or appropriated. I think a lot of it is a critique of pop culture: if not a critique just seeing things from a different angle or examining things from another point of view. I quite like the idea that the clips, or at least the audio clips, are things that give you the feeling of deja vu or at least if you can’t quite recognise where it’s from then you have some notion of having heard it before.
Using pop culture as you do, you are presenting things to people in a language they can understand. Is that quite important to you?
Yeah I would like it to be accessible to the point that you start watching it and become absorbed by it. But I also like the fact that it is dark and there are bits that are not so nice to watch, or are not so comfortable to watch.
So are you lulling people into a false sense of security?
I quite like that idea!
You tackle some big themes in your work from age and gender to national identity and consumerism, would you say there is on major theme that runs through all your work?
Themes change quite a lot but it is usually always to do with identity at some level: gender identity, national identity, racial identity etc. So it’s always got to do with identity, playing with identity and a degree of self-mythology. That’s something that runs throughout but I guess, recently have been done a lot of stuff that is more related to nationalism and national identity.
How to you feel about that national identity? Obviously you are Scottish and it’s a very hot topic at the moment with the issue of Scottish independence.
I think it’s interesting; it’s an interesting time. I think at least in Scotland national identity is something that we have always discussed, it’s always been present and has always been turned around and thought about. I thinks its interesting with the referendum to have the sense of having to consider not only what it means to be Scottish but what it means to be British. I thinks it’s a kind of interesting idea to deconstruct and deal with so I guess it was a timely opportunity to look at something I’m kind of interested in already.
You have looked into the whole Scottish identity in your early work, do you think that was maybe you investigating your own personal identity, being Scottish?
Yeah, to an extent. I think a lot of that was living in Edinburgh and being surrounded by the tourist culture, it felt alien to my experiences of being a Scottish person, wanting to kind of integrate into that whole fantasyland Scotland. Now it’s a really different climate and the whole fantasy world of Scotland is interesting, in particular how the SNP have completely dropped that from anything that they talk about or anything related to their campaign. At the time of Braveheart they had Mel Gibson on their flyers and it was all about that sort of romantic nationalism, so I think our relationship with that is interesting. There are parts of that kind of slightly cheesy nationalism which I feel pulls at people’s heart strings; even hearing bagpipes sometimes you can feel a bit emotional.
How do you decide what themes you will investigate in your work?
It depends. A lot of it is to do with where I’m living I think. I made ‘Over the Rainbow’ in Canada at the Banff Centre, and there was very beautiful, natural wilderness and also very intense colour in the way that you are not really used to in Scotland.
Something that is very interesting to me about your work is the aesthetics of it I love the very pink colourful colour palette but with that element of satire
There is often juxtaposition between your themes and aesthetic, how important is that in your work?
I think it’s important. I think recently, at least since doing ‘Over the Rainbow’, I have been working in a slightly different aesthetic. In the film I did recently ‘A Whole New World’, a lot of what I was referencing was film, so a lot of the audio comes from films. I was looking a lot at disaster movies, post apocalyptic movies and video games, and the way that they create these landscapes that are usually very heavy Chiaroscuro with a central glowing light in the background, so I was looking quite a lot at that kind of aesthetic.
Do you think your pleasing aesthetic helps you to get your message across in your work?
Yeah maybe, I hope it makes it compelling to the point that people are willing to stick with it. I think it is helpful to get people’s interest first and then keep it.
Do you have any chosen medium besides film?
I haven’t painted for a long time actually but I have done a lot of digital prints recently, which are kind of like painting in some way. They are shot against green screen and then the backgrounds are photographs on which I paint all the tones so they have the slight look of a painting.
You produce such a big volume of work; how many films do you produce on average in a year?
This year has been a bit mental, I probably won’t produce this much next year. But I think I have done two films this year, and I’m doing another one in the next couple of months.
You have really embraced the whole digital world, using the skills you have learned from traditional mediums. How important is that to you, is it for ease or do you actually prefer the aesthetic?
I think its really important coming from painting because a lot of what I do feels like painting; you are really just collaging images and setting up the tones and the colours. I think the reason I stopped painting was a lot of the time I felt like… well, the reason I got into video was that I was trying to cram way to much into the painting, but video allows you to do so much, while with painting there is a level of minimalism required. I guess it depends on how painting is taught, but when I was at college you didn’t come up with a grand idea and then make it: you just have a process and which you work through without knowing what then end point is going to be. I always quite liked that idea when you’re making images, you are just sort of placing things.
In a recent interview you were talking about the idea of heavenly or utopian spaces and why that prevails in a relatively secular society: can you expand on that?
I think you meet people that are atheists and there is a desire for something spiritual or something behind reality. There is a lot of cinema and there are a lot of video games that provide this kind of imaginary space. I think it’s also interesting how we live in a largely secular society, but religion still impacts so much upon the moral system. I think Scottish aesthetic value is why I am interested in making stuff that’s quite colourful and in your face: I think we still have a bit of hangover from protestant aesthetics. We tend to have a bit of a resistance to anything that is quite ostentatious.
A lot of your work is an escape, which obviously plays into the idea of people needing these ‘heavenly’ spaces. Do you think that this is a symptom of the modern world, or, with the deterioration of religion, people are looking for some other kind of utopia?
Yeah I think I find it interesting the way that things like adverts function and that they provide you with something that is very often fake but it’s still a dream world space that you want to get to, that you can never quite reach.
Much of your work seems to focus on things not being what they seem, cracks in the perfect facade, why is this?
I’m keen to set up characters that, at some level, strictly fulfill a certain sort of identity—like a female identity—and then throughout the narrative that kind of falls apart or unravels: cracks appear. I’m interested in that sort of idea: constructed identity collapsing. I think fantasies are kind of interesting in the sense that whether they are fairytales or legends or contemporary narratives, there is a sense that these spaces onto which you project your desires or fears can often be displayed in a slightly moral way than they would be in a real life drama.
Your work plays with a lot of feminist tropes whether its concerning women in pop culture, myths or history. How important is a feminist message to you?
I think in some works it’s more direct that others. With a work like ‘Over the Rainbow’ I was quite keen that the female character starts as a little girl then grows up, moving between all these different kind of stereotypical female identities in a slightly schizophrenic way, and throughout that process is actually falling apart and unraveling. So yeah I’m keen to explore these ideas, and also explore something of the expectation that females belong to or should fulfill a number of identities simultaneously. I’m interested in the little girl or the Britney Spears style sexy schoolgirl, and then moving onto the idea of mother and the complications that society can’t cope with those two things simultaneously, but at some level expects them to coexist. And then there’s the idea of someone like Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas or Beyoncé who are these very openly, or very overtly sexual and powerful and in your face women, but at the same time fulfill everything that you would imagine a man would want in a sexy woman, you know, the kind of feminism that is quite easy to take.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
What is something you look back on in your career and you are particularly proud of?
The opportunity with Duncan of Jordanstone was really good, because I don’t know if I would have gone into working with crews. Same with the residency at the Banff Centre, that was amazing, looking back I was quite young and I feel like I learned a lot with all their facilities their and support, which I didn’t exactly take for granted at the time, but looking back was really amazing.
And your exhibition with the CCA, tell us about that?
It’s really exciting. It was really nice of them to include me in this program because its part of this generation thing, 25 years of Scottish arts. It’s really amazing to have that kind of space to play with—scary too.
Are there any areas that you haven’t investigated, anything that you want you work to focus on in the future?
I would really like to do more sculpture; I have a vision of the ultimate exhibition. I like the idea of having videos installed with objects and sculpture to create a sort of immersive environment.
Although very colourful there is a real dark side to you work, do you think you use your work to project you own personal dark side?
Maybe. There is an element of humour too. I have always really liked comedy and I think humour is always dark at some level.
You act all the parts in your video, is that something that you had done before?
No I had never acted before. It can be strange but then you just get on with it. But it’s only half acting, because you don’t have to do the voice. So as long as you can do the actions you’re half way there.
Do you feel when you get in the costume you can distance yourself? Does help you get into character?
Yeah I think so, when two people are acting they have to react to each other but for me because it is filmed on green screen you are just looking at a spot on a wall.
What’s your dream for the future, do you know what would you like to achieve in the next 10-20 years?
I would really like to try and do a feature film. I don’t know what it would be like or who would watch it, but I think I would like to try.
Northern Soul the Movie
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 18/10/2014
The iconic patches; the wide leg trousers, known as baggies; salt on the floor to ensure those acrobatic dance moves are carried out to perfection; and of course, the music. When we talk about British subcultures there are many that would spring to mind — Punk, Mod, Teddy Boys, the list could go on — but there are very few with such ardent, passionate members, still loyal to this day, as followers of Northern Soul. Yeah, okay, maybe their bodies have aged and maybe they can't quite pull of the dance moves anymore, but their passion lives on.
If you have 'kept the faith' all these years you are probably more than aware of the recent release of a movie called Northern Soul. A massive surprise hit by first time director Elaine Constantine, this low budget indie film acquired only a limited release, showing in a mere 83 movie theatres; but that didn’t stop those dedicated Northern Soul fans — or 'Soulies' as they are affectionately referred to — heading out in droves to reminisce, making the movie into a cult classic. None of this is surprising considering the topic, those Soulies tend not to be a 'passive' group. It wasn’t easy to be part of the subculture way back when, and so they wouldn't let a tiny thing like a limited release stop them from enjoying that sweet soul music. As they always stated, 'it'll never be over for me'
The film's director, Elaine Constantine, is better known to most as a photographer, her work coming to prominence when published in The Face. Constantine's imagery perfectly captured the spirit of youth. Vibrant shots and an inspired depiction of British youth culture made her the ideal candidate to do the movement justice. Northern Soul is a little elusive when it comes to subcultures, almost like a kind of a secret society or club. While this might sound a little elitist, it was required to keep the movement authentic. Northern Soul is very unique in terms of subcultures, most get wrapped up the the cycle of fashion, and followers evolve from the 'outsiders' to the 'in' thing, from the street to the catwalk: but thats never been the case with Northern Soul. Always maintaing its underground status, it has sustained its purity of the original movement, and perhaps that is why the passion for the movement stays strong in the hearts of those original men and women that often traveled hundreds of miles to attend a Northern Soul club.
Although the film is beautifully shot, with great dance moves and an even better soundtrack, it's really the subject matter that will draw individuals to watch it, because in the UK, spiritual home of Northern Soul, the country is divided: those who love Northern Soul and those that don't. A big key to the film's success is nostalgia; a trip down memory lane for the Soulies who threw down salt and danced the night away in sweaty, bustling venues like the 'Twisted Wheel' or the 'Mecca Ballroom'. However, reminiscence alone isn’t the only thing that makes sure fans of Northern Soul keep the faith: in fact, many of the younger fans who weren’t alive for the original Northern Soul boom keep the movement alive, a love passed down from generation to generation, mixed with a slight twinge of sadness; a feeling that you really missed out on something, the glory days of Northern Soul. Northern Soul, the film, is the perfect tool to facilitate that feeling. Like they say in the films advertising: “If you were there, you'll know. If you weren’t there, you'll wish you had been.'
Beauty in the between: Phoebe English
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 22/09/2014
From fragile and alluring pieces, to others that are at times are raw and exposed, British luxury womenswear designer Phoebe English’s unfiltered creations rest peacefully in the space between beauty and austere simplicity. There is a utilitarian charm to the work of Phoebe English; a timeless quality that — while tricky to quantify — embodies the precision with which the garment has been constructed. Phoebe English’s AW14 collection uses the medium of the fashion video once again with breathtaking effect to accompany her latest garments. The delicately haunting video reflects not only her current collection, but also the entire brand identity of Phoebe English. Set on isolated coastal landscapes, the stark and sometimes harsh natural environment marries perfectly with the elegance and softness of the collection. Her work walks the fine line between controlled chaos and ethereal beauty: as in nature there is no one without the other, a constant struggle between delicate refinement and utilitarian chic.
For those who don’t know, can you explain the concept behind your label and the inspiration for your collections?
We are a London based, concept orientated, luxury womenswear label. Our focus is on the engineering and construction of textiles and timeless design. We are also a Made in England label; many of our pieces are still hand made in the studio by myself. Collections often come from abstract origins such as a feeling or notion that I wish to convey through my work.
Given your close working relationship with Rose Easton, how important would you say collaboration is to your label and the industry as a whole?
Collaboration underpins the entire industry. You cannot exist as a singular in fashion; it's not in the industry's nature, not in the current times we live in anyway.
What drives your interesting choices of colour palette?
They are driven by the desire to be interesting and unusual actually, so I'm pleased you got that from them! I quite like unexpected or even traditionally ugly colours, for example I love the hyper manmade nude colour of granny tights.
Rather than getting caught up in the commercial machine of fashion, with, for example, your emphasis on construction techniques, you seem to favour traditional design values; where do you think this comes from?
I spent a lot of hours wandering around the Victoria & Albert Museum when I first started coming to London as an early teen, and became really quite obsessive about its collections. I tried to understand and pin down the specific reasons why everything in that place is still aesthetically relevant today, whether it is a piece that was made 600 years BC or 2 years ago. The conclusion I came to was that good design can transcend time and cultural barriers. This was really an epiphany for me and it is something I am always striving to achieve.
There is a lovely purity to your work, is that something you intend or does it happen quite organically?
It is something I try to aim for, I want all the elements to be visible and not over crowded, so that they can be taken in. I want people to be able to 'read' it if you like.
You are becoming rather well known for your unorthodox choices of material; how important is material choice to your design process?
It is very important and is often the sole voice I use to communicate my ideas. I am not a silhouette heavy designer, I am much more surface orientated as I trained in knitwear.
With your work featuring so much juxtaposition with contrasting and layered textures and palettes, how important is the marriage of different materials and colours working together?
This is the most challenging part of my job! It is so difficult to get it right and often takes a lot of agonising over and annoyance on my part. It is so important to get the balance right and keep the visual message pure, but at the same time actually be doing enough to be saying something. If it's too loud on either side it can drown the message out. I think it must be very much like composing music, trying to get the quiet parts and the loud parts to balance and harmonise.
Is your emphasis on construction something that you feel is relatively rare in the contemporary fashion world?
I think people do nod towards it as an idea. It's difficult to put into production things that are complicated and time consuming, and that often puts people off but I have never had tendencies towards the easy option. I wish I did!
What message are you attempting to communicate with your work?
I suppose I just want people to see the love the work was made with. If people can see that and get that message from looking at it, that means I've succeeded. There is so much time and energy that goes into each piece, even the simple ones. It's such a great effort to make brand new things right from scratch every couple of months; it's a continuous and exhausting cycle of reinvention.
How do you feel your background in knitwear informs your current practice?
A great deal. I don't believe that any part of your life is wasted; everything you do goes on to form part of you and how you are in the world. My whole construction ethos for my textiles is based on rules, which I have interpreted from the rules of knitting.
If you could change one thing about the fashion industry as it stands now, what would it be?
I wish it would just slow down! And also stop being so celebrity obsessed. It stops it actually being about fashion and design; it just becomes about advertising, it's quite sad really.
How important to you is the relationship between the individual and the clothes they are wearing?
Extremely: the fact that a customer can feel a connection with the work means so much more than having a great photo in a magazine. I was recently in a shop when someone was buying one of my textile pieces and she asked me to sign the label for her. I felt very overwhelmed.
What’s next for Phoebe English?
We are working on lots of projects, one of which is the launch of a brand new web shop before Christmas, with lots of special products which will be available exclusively on the website. This has been so fun to work on; we are really enjoying developing it!
Originally published in Hope St Magazine Issue #3
Photography by Marc `Deurloo and Bas Kosters
Illustrations By Bas Kosters
With a remarkable sense of personality and humor, once you see the work of Bas Kosters it is not likely something you will easy forget. In his Warhol-esque studio, Kosters is truly bringing boundless creativity back to fashion design. Describing his work as something that is built up like a collection in a museum, Bas Kosters Studio produces a plethora of creative outputs from painting, illustration, doll making to installations: they even produce a magazine called Extra Kak that serves as ‘the brand magazine obscure deluxe of The Bas Kosters Studio’. Established in 2005, the Bas Kosters Studio describes itself as a storyteller with fashion as its language. In his latest AW14 collection Clowns Are People Too the designer has ramped up every aspect of his work with a flamboyant combination of elaborate prints and bold colour palette. Combining these with an exciting use of shape and texture Clowns Are People Too becomes a feast for the eyes, resplendent as ever while still maintaining a slight sinister edge. Describing his studio as ‘having two distinct faces, warning about alarming social issue by means of dark humour on the one hand, while trying to create enthusiasm and happiness on the other hand’, his work beautifully unites his multidisciplinary techniques, interconnecting them to form unique designs which constantly evolve, reinforcing a commentary of his chosen subject matter. With every new collection we fall more and more in love with Bas Kosters’ work, so we thought now would be the perfect time to catch up with him and try and get a little insight into the world of Bas Kosters and ‘The Bas Kosters Studio’.
How would your best friend describe you?
That I wouldn’t know. I hope they would think I am caring and creative, but probably they would say sweet, stubborn, and a bit selfish.
You are an artist and create work in a lot of different ways; can you tell us more about this?
I have never been interested in making fashion just for the sake of making clothing. I want to tell a story with my work, and I involve different disciplines to enhance my fashion story. I also believe that these other art forms add to the experience of the brand. But I must say that all the things I do are connected, and would not mean so much without the fashion being in the middle as a spider in a web.
A lot of your work has a fun but also a dark side; would you describe yourself similarly?
Not exactly, I actually always thought that there were two distinctive sides to my work, a cozy side and a more dark, opinioned side. But recently I realized that all that comes from one passion: to spread love, openness and consciousness. It was quite a revelation to myself to bring everything I do back to one starting point: Love. I think in the end I am just a loving, passionate person.
So much of fashion is about trends, how do you feel about this as a designer?
Trends are a strange thing, it is funny to see how trends can step up and find their way in global consciousness; although I try not to follow trends, nor to make my work according to them, it is quite difficult to be totally independent from this ever-changing global sense of aesthetics and reason. It just becomes a part of you, no matter if you want it or not.
You live in Amsterdam, have you always lived there?
I was born in a small town called Zutphen, after that I moved to Enschede where I visited art school. After that I moved to Amsterdam, I have been living there ever since, and absolutely love it.
Where do your ideas come from?
My work is one ongoing flow of themes, inspirations and stories. A lot of work develops over the years, but also new inspirations join the overall story. Although every collection has a different concept, there are always focus points that return, and they always start form the same base. I think it adds to my book of stories to return every time to the stories that interest me, to investigate them, and broaden them.
I loved your A/W14 show in London, when the pregnant clown give birth on stage. I thought it was pure comic genius; was this your idea?
Actually the funniest thing about it is that it was a drag queen clown who gave birth to a clown baby, because it is impossible, something that can only be dreamed of. The idea came up whilst speaking with my team about the way we would make the presentation happen, and I loved the idea, I believe it was my own actually. Maybe it has to do with the absurdness of it, but maybe also with a sense of disappointment that two men can’t have a real child like a straight couple can.
How did Noel fielding become involved with the show?
Noel has been wearing my stuff on several occasions, and it suits him so well, I love his bold sense of humor, and the way he uses himself as a canvas. I think we are a perfect match. I was so opportunistic to ask him to be involved, and I was so glad and honored he said yes. He is just the embodiment of the story of the collection, which was about looking at clowns or celebrities for our entertainment, without ever asking ourselves how it would be to be the object of constant observation by the public. In this case he was both, a public figure, but also a comedian.
What’s the future for Bas?
Happiness and health hopefully, I find it difficult to look into the future, I hope that I can keep on working and creating for a looooooong time, because that is what I love most.
What’s your message to the world?
I am a bit of a hippy; I wish the world peace, love and consciousness. I am sometimes shocked about the harm that people inflict on each other, if only the world could be one big bubbly sweet place, would that not be lovely?
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 20/05/2014
She has become the quintessential blogger celebrity, known for her enviable mane of pink hair and good looks: with over 450,000 followers worldwide Audrey Kitching is definitely an online force to be reckoned, with but not satisfied with dominating the world of blogging and modelling Audrey is expanding her repertoire to include designing, book publishing and even becoming a Reiki practitioner. When Hope St. caught up with this pastel haired beauty we wanted to get her opinion on being on the public eye, style and spirituality.
Audrey on modeling & blogging:
“I used to travel with bands as a hair stylist and had a blog since I was 15 — think AOL 2.0! I would always just take images and post little diaries about my life and over the years it kinda snowballed. Suddenly brands were asking me to model for them because of my following. It's something that kinda just happened in an organic way. It was never really a set goal from the start. It's crazy to look back on it all. I have been publicly blogging almost daily for 10 years!”
Audrey on her style:
“I have pink hair and I model, but somehow I'm way more of a tomboy than people realize. I would rather wear a suit than a dress any day of the week! My style is edgy but casual at the same time. Functionality and comfort is super important when you live a busy lifestyle!”
Audrey on the best & worst things about being in the public eye:
“The best, hands-down, is having a reach and being able to inspire, teach and help others. The worst is the judgment and speculation about my motives and who I am as a person. No one REALLY knows someone online. We are in charge of what we put in the public, but people get some sick, twisted kicks out of making up rumors about people online. I never really understood it to be honest.”
Audrey on spirituality:
“I always knew I had something special in me. I used to see ghosts and spirits all the time as a kid. They would torment me and my parents thought I was bat shit crazy. I went to see a lot of doctors, was on medication, the whole nine yards. It wasn't until I was about 18 where I realized I wasn't crazy but that I had abilities that I was tapped into that I wasn't aware of. Over the years, I've been gaining knowledge and experiences that I have been able to understand and harness the energy into a positive outlet to help others.”
Audrey on her favorite event or show:
“I think seeing Radio Head live when I was a teenager was a super important moment for me. I was a lost mess and that made me feel like I belonged somewhere on this earth!”
Audrey on what’s next for Audrey:
“I'm working on so many projects at moment. I'm launching my shoe collecting with Italian brand Kerol D. Milano this summer! I went to Milan a few months ago to shoot the campaign. It was a fantastic experience!”
Audrey on her message to the world:
“There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need to change your life, or you're the one that will change theirs.”
The Subculture of Drag
Originally published online by Crave Issue 5| Drag - September 2014
Photograph: Michael James
When we think of subcultures the most common that spring to mind are the likes of Punk, Mods, or even Goths, but we often forget the sheer impact our LGBT brothers and sisters have had on our most interesting and flamboyant subcultures; from Disco to the Freak Scene from Glam Rock to the New Romantics, queer culture has been a constant source of inspiration. While it's not all rainbows and ruby slippers with the all-too-common theft and blatant appropriation of so many amazing gay subcultures, nothing has been more exciting, groundbreaking or inspiring when it comes to LGBTQI culture than the fabulous art of Drag. In many circles – mine included - Drag has all but lost the 'sub' and is now just part of our culture, but we sometimes forget that, to many people, the idea of a man in a drag is still shocking and even problematic.
A subculture is a distinct social group within a wider culture that displays distinctive patterns of behaviour, style, ideals and beliefs: individuals who bravely strive to live authentic lives and tend to be on the front lines of cultural, political, and stylistic revolutions. While the prevalence of these groups has diminished greatly as of late, and the truly revolutionary subcultures are often considered by cultural anthropologists a thing of the past, Drag – the fiercest subculture of them all – continues to defy the trends. Drag culture, whether it be Drag Queens or Drag Kings, isn't exactly a new trend: female impersonators or individuals that subvert gender have existed throughout history and civilization from the Greeks, to the Romans, to Shakespearian England, to RuPaul's Drag Race. Throughout its long and beautiful history, the art of drag was not exclusive to members of the LGBT community, and not just to men: but let's face it, the temple of Drag was built by the gay man, and through them we are able to experience the world through both masculine and feminine perspectives.
In her study Sexual Politics Kate Millett suggests that the thrill produced by a Drag Queen arises through her de-naturalization of gender, and demonstrates how femininity is donned like a masquerade and rendered irrelevant to biology. Drag celebrates traditionally 'feminine' qualities; never soft or weak, but always fierce and fabulous. Unlike the perception of many, Drag Queens rarely have any desire to actually be women (very infrequently will a Queen transition); overall they genuinely love being men, just men that sometimes put on makeup and wear a dress. Drag itself, however, is far more than just 'a man in a dress'; this art-form exhibits some of the most beautiful creatures ever to have walked the earth, the funniest comedians around today – oh hey, Bianca Del Rio! - and is an all singing, all dancing, all lip-synching, living performance art piece. Many queens have different desires, and intentions for their particular method of drag: it can be for self expression, for the love of performing, to make cultural statements or to inspire others. Way before Lady Gaga banged on about being born that way, drag queens were rallying the troops and preaching acceptance for all. Although the drag community has been at the end of a media backlash recently with the 'tranny' debate, you would be hard pushed to find another group that has fought longer and harder for their and their brothers' and sisters' rights - not to take away from any other aspect of the LGBTQI community, but perhaps it's the fact that queens are just purely so visible: it's hard to hide in the shadow of a situation when you are 6”8 in heels and are wearing gold sequins at breakfast.
Whatever your feelings on the impact of drag queens you cannot deny the rise in popularity and cultural significance the drag subculture has had on the western world. From my perspective I think it perfectly balances true support and respect for your sisters while at the same time always reserving the right to open the library and read a bitch to filth: what more could you ask for?
So with the news that Normcore is one of the biggest searched trends of 2014, we wanted to take a peak down a darker path and have a look at Health Goth. 2014’s other big if not slightly hard to clarify fashion trend
Trends live and die increasingly faster than ever before. Truly unique subcultures or youth culture trends, eventually will be monopolized by big brands hoping to push their product by jumping on the new 'cool' trend cos u know that's what the kids are in to. This has since the Punk Subculture increasingly happened. With the birth and impact of punk. People realized that no longer are these youth trends to be scoffed at, but rather in this money-grabbing world. They represent a fantastic marketing concept. And so began the raping of youth and subcultures.
Again none of this is new information. But in this digital world we all find ourselves living in. These Trends are born, progress, are discovered and then exploited all in the blink of an eye. The speed in which this is happening as reached an all time high. With the recent trend of Normcore being the perfect example of this. And just has fast as these trends arise are pushed aside just as fast by the new "in" thing. Enter the new trend that everyone is talking about. 'Health Goth'
So what is ‘Health Goth’? Beginning life as a Facebook page created by Mike Grabarek and Jeremy Scott (not the designer) to … their new aesthetic that they named ‘Health Goth’. Stating that this was an amalgamation of styles and trends that already exist like street Goth, fetish and Internet art. These individuals merged their personal influences and inspirations into a unique personal aesthetic. This aesthetic is a colourlesss blend of classic sportswear to sports luxe. As you may have expected there is a strong focus on black but also white, hence the colourless factor. These clothes are practical sports doing ensembles whilst being considered and in the vain of fashionable. This is not purely about clothes though; there is a plethora of Internet art, advertisements from heavily branded sports brands and bionic limbs and robotic elements.
Now here is where it gets a little confusing. That is the real story behind the birth of the “true” health Goth But like so many things before; the health Goth we see today is not quite the original. Attempting to explain these two individuals enigmatic aesthetic certain relatively clueless media outlets decided to explain this new “hot” trend. This trend had caught on but in the process it had grown arms and legs. First there is the new apparent ‘king’ of Health Goth’ Johnny Love, the man behind HealthGoth.com. Next there is the focus on the health aspect. According to the original creators there was never a huge focus on actual physical excursion like dedication to the gym. And the aspect of gym or health dedication and commitment, is merely a way to explain the relatively modern trend of alternative individuals being health focused. As you do not have to the cookie cutter ideal of the gym bunny to put a priority on physical health.
Mr. Love created the site HealthGoth.com, to sell Goth inspired fitness gear and true was not the original creator of the ‘Health Goth’ aesthetic. But like any trend or style tribe it must begin somewhere. In order to make it to the grand title of subculture these trends will adapt and change. It must be somewhat frustrating to the original creators, but creating something that gains popularity is sort of a poisoned chalice. Along with notoriety comes revamping of your original concept.
Does it matter what the original Health Goth is, because now it has been through a transition it’s adapted and became something new. Health Goth 2.0. Well I’m sure if does to the original perpetrators but to most mass consumers of trends. It wont, they will gobble up ‘Health Goth’ just like any other trend. And health Goth will be used and abused just like all modern style tribes. As a massive fan of many older and much, much more culturally significant subcultures. I always have my eye on the next new youth culture movement hoping one day we will see the next punk or Goth.
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 16/06/15
Immersive really doesn’t seem strong enough when discussing Megan Broadmeadow’s new exhibition ‘Mercury 13. Presented by Galeria Melissa London her incredible new installation really must be seen to be believed, This is the Galeria’s second exhibition, following on from its first hugely successful Gareth Pugh Retrospective. With Mercury 13 Broadmeadow hopes to achieve a sense of fantasy for viewers transporting them to another realm. Playing with our interpretation of and fascination with the cosmos and the galaxies that surround us Broadmeadow draws from science fact and fiction to create a curious space, where nothing is quite as it seems. Encompassing sculpture, performance, video and installation Mercury 13 is a psychedelic journey through the stars narrated by the philosophy of astronauts. The exhibition will run at the Galeria Melissa London until 31st August 2015.
- You have worked in a variety of mediums, your new exhibition encompasses sculpture, performance, video and installation do you feel more comfortable within one particular medium or is it more whichever is appropriate to explore your chosen concept?
I use the medium that is appropriate to the idea. My passion is with sculpture; I enjoy the challenge of creating a new form, something that I haven’t seen before. Its also a physical challenge to wok with materials in a way they aren’t usually used, and I like the struggle that occurs when you first build something- quite often they won’t stand-up and collapse as you build them, you need three arms and legs!
- You have said that you aim to ‘provide an instant connection between the viewer and the work through a smile’. Why a smile? What makes you smile?
For me a smile is a breakthrough moment, it catches you off guard, and suddenly you are engaging with an artwork. Art is quite often seen as something that is serious and to be serious you need prior knowledge. If something is light-hearted to me it is more accessible. Friends make me smile- lots of things make me smile – I love life and always try to have fun!
- Tell us about your new exhibition Mercury 13?
The work is an immersive installation, which includes, sculptures videos. I’ve used lots of mirrors to create a sci-fi fantasy space in which you have the sense of looking into infinity.
The work is an exploration of the cosmos and the human desire to travel into outerspace. The other central theme is the idea of that the cosmos that is a landscape. One that is strange and alien to us. Its something that we can fantasize about but never really grasp or enter fully.
- Mercury 13 is said to play with our interpretation and fascination with the cosmos and galaxies around us, what drew you to the particular topic?
This work came from a research trip I made to the National Space centre in Leicester. I've been thinking a lot about the combinations of the man made objects and unexplainable landscape of the cosmos. While I was there I saw information about the Mercury 13 women, and felt like that would be a good starting point to begin to create work around this topic.
The thing that struck me was their dedication and desire to go to the edge of human limits. But I guess what I decided to do was make a journey that gave them the chance to fly. I think that my aim was to turn things around and make a celebration for them. There are some more poignant moments- as I added a soundtrack which is a compilation of quotes of astronauts who did go into space, and so here I think you get the sense of what they missed out on.
- The name ‘Mercury 13’ refers to the 13 women in 1959 that passed astronaut training comparing them to male astronauts of the time, of course none of the women were actually allowed to got to space or be astronauts at all, why name your installations after this, is it a tribute to these women?
I think the work is a tribute to these women-There is the idea of unfulfillment - but I guess what I decided to do was make a journey that gave them the chance to fly. I think that my aim was to turn things around and make a celebration for them. There are some more poignant moments- as I added a soundtrack which is a compilation of quotes of astronauts who did go into space, and so here I think you get the sense of what they missed out on
- What does the future hold for you? Have you started thinking about your next project yet?
I'm currently making new work, I have some commissions and I recently won the Mark Tannner Sculpture Award. This is enabling me to spend more time in the studio, testing out new ideas. I will present those in a solo show at Standpoint Gallery in London next April. Ive been collecting prisms, and bismuth crystals these are going to form the starting point for new experiments in the studio.
Liverpool John Moores University: Fashion Graduates
Originally published online by The Skinny on 28/05/2015
It's that time of year again when the fashion world waits with baited breath to scope emerging graduating talents; end of year shows are a huge highlight up and down the country so The Skinny is taking a peek at the work of one of our favourite institutions, Liverpool's John Moores University – better known as the LJMU – ahead of their highly anticipated annual catwalk show showcasing the best and the brightest of the Northwest of England. They will also be participating in much renowned Graduate Fashion Week: one of the most prestigious and highly anticipated graduate fashion events, not just in the UK, but worldwide.
Showcasing some of the UK's very best contemporary fashion design, the collections are extremely varied in concept, drawing inspiration from themes such as gender identity, 80s football culture, doll's tea parties and the Renaissance. Although the LJMU Graduate Show is super exciting, we also wanted to focus on the unsung heroes of the fashion world, so as well as Fashion Design students, we also caught up with Fashion Communication students to talk about their work and future aspirations.
Fashion Communication is an area that can be overlooked, generally garnering less attention than its design counterpart, but in the past few years the number of students has skyrocketed: put simply, “Fashion Communication focuses on visual and creative skills ranging from advertising, branding and media, fashion analysis and trend prediction, events and public relations as well as styling and photography”. How we interact with and view fashion is just as critical as the designs themselves, and these interactions are delicately curated by these students. While we are very excited to see those clothes haul ass down the runway, we also wanted to recognise the fine work of the Fashion Communications students who make up half of the course at LJMU.
Engaging in self-initiated projects these Communications students represent the next generation of stylists, photographers, editors, art director, trend forecasters – the list could go on. From editorial experience to working with PR or event companies these students will at times even work alongside their design counterparts to create bespoke imagery. This year they even created their own publication titled Unfold Magazine, focusing on editorial themes from culture and diversity to sustainability and the environment.
Each student's experimental and individual creative flair is encouraged and is reflected in both the Fashion Design and Fashion Communications students work making the LJMU show a must see. You can also follow the course at www.wearefashion.co.uk.
LJMU Degree show opens in the John Lennon Art and Design Building on the 28th May with two special opening night catwalk presentations. It will be fully open to the public from the 29th May until the 12th June
f you are unable to make those dates then you can also check out the talent from the LJMU at GFW (Graduate fashion week) in the Truman Brewery in London 30th May - 2nd June.
Rachael Plows (Fashion Design)
A exhibition called picturing science in New York triggered my inspiration which looked at space objects and sea creatures through new technology. This made me look further into deep sea and space and its connections to earth in the future.
My trademark pieces are the two knitted jumpers as I wanted to showcase my print and shapes in different types of knit. I thought It would be interesting to have a contrast of a hand knitted jumper with and jacquard knit. The jacquard incorporates my print whereas the hand knit reflects the print within the shapes of the knit.
What is the biggest lesson you learned while studying?
I've learnt that its important to stay humble and take every opportunity no matter how big or small and learn from it, and to always put your all into everything you do.
If you could pass on one piece of advice to someone interested in studying fashion what would it be?
If you're not desperate to work in the fashion industry and work day and night to get there it isn't worth going into. If you're motivated and are willing to push yourself to work as hard as you possibly can its the best experience you could imagine.
Sophie Pittom (Fashion Design)
Tell us about your collection?
My 'Faded Grandeur' womenswear AW16 collection is a composition of deteriorating extravagant interiors, decaying foliage, and injections of bold neon. Vintage lace becomes new and fresh with modern elements of bright neon plastics while extravagant embellishment and hanging threads link decaying and ostentatious ideas together to form innovative tactile garments. These are placed with carefully considered classic shirts with masculine details to contrast to the relaxed feminine silhouettes.
The inspiration for my collection emerged from my visit to Brodsworth Hall as I was drawn to lavish interiors being carefully preserved contrasting with aspects that had fallen away over time. Details such as fading wallpaper and fraying upholstery influence my distressed textile elements that are then transformed with the addition of bright neon plastics replicating bold electric wires. This heaving textile element is partnered with relaxed 1920 style feminine silhouettes with hint of masculine details such as shirt collars and plackets.
My signatures are my textile elements and attention to detail. Different processes including machine embroidery, applique, embellishment, hand embroidery and beading are brought together to form heavy couture level surface decoration that takes hours to achieve.
My trademark pieces are 1920s style slip dresses with a heavy use of lace as I am entering the Sophie Hallette lace competition, and have taken a variety of different lace designs and explored combining them with different techniques. The lace in 'Faded Grandeur' has been felted, over-layed, appliqued, fresh cut, painted, stiffened and embroidered to really push the boundaries of how lace can be presented.
Sinead Russell (Fashion Communication)
Ken Grant & Alexander McQueen..
How would you describe your aesthetic?
What area of fashion do you hope to be involved in?
Art Direction, Photography, Styling & Graphic Design. That's a lot. Maybe more than that as well.
Tell us about your graduate collection?
I made two Graphic Publications, one was a Northern Youth culture magazine based on Boyhood & Girlhood. The other was a Northern Ireland mural & troubles inspired zine. I wanted to make my work as broad and as approachable as possible, but still personal for me.
Anna Higson (Fashion Communication)
What drew you to study fashion communication?
I originally started on the Fashion Design pathway, but soon realised my interests lay with the drawing, illustration, graphics, layout and the making side of fashion so I switched to Fashion communication.
In the last few years I've really developed my photography, I take my camera everywhere with me trying to find places, people and textures that bring a fresh eye and a source book I can use for my fashion imagery. The career opportunities in fashion communication are broad and if you are freelance you can work for a range of clients to keep your ideas fresh.
My Dream is to one day have a successful Zine that combines everything I love, Textures, Music, Culture and story's told through photography. I am inspired by many photographers and hope to have a name for myself working on high profile projects from music to fashion and lifestyle.
Your Future? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I really want to stay in the North, I love Liverpool and the North West as there is there is so much culture and places to draw inspiration from. There is a movement away from the South which particularly centres around the Arts and I want to be part of this. Using Liverpool as a base I hope to travel in Europe and beyond to extend my visual language.
Tell us about your graduate collection?
I have two final projects, one is a Zine concept called Wander which is about exploring a city and documenting all its little and overlooked stories mixed with fashion photography and music I've seen in the Northwest, combining typography and illustration.
The second was a Trend-package based on the Outland, country workwear mixed with found textures and photography. I loved gaining inspiration from farming, its often overlooked but I was so inspired its been one of my most enjoyable projects.
Interview with fashion designer Kevin Geddes
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 06/07/2015
Ever since revealing his AW15 collection in a selection of orange hues, we have been fascinated with Kevin Geddes. In a world where many can be guilty of over-designing, Geddes simplistic and clean, yet technically beautiful collection was effortlessly and professionally controlled. The idea to create an entire collection in one colour may seem limiting but Geddes played with tone and texture creating a consistent and wearable collection.
- How did working with many other designers (like Richard Nicoll and Lulu Kennedy) at the beginning of your career influence your current practice?
I found working with other designers before starting my label invaluable. I got a real sense of how damn hard it was going to be and just how much you have to give. Unless you have a bucket load of cash, which I don’t, starting up is tough and is a real juggling act. I’ve taken different things from everyone that I’ve worked with and for. It’s good to see how others do things but ultimately you have to find what works for you.
- How would you describe the Kevin Geddes brand?
For me the label is a culmination of many years work and experience. I’m not sure I’m ready to call myself a brand just yet. Its still early days and I want to ease into it. For me the label usually focus’ on garments that are familiar to many with sports references and clean, simple lines and details. I should go on about how it’s aspirational, functional blah blah blah. But really its just stuff that I’d wear if I were female. Clothes without too much bullshit involved.
- Your AW15 collection used a purposively limited colour palette inspired by the artwork from graphic novel, ‘Death Sentence’ what drew you to that particular topic?
I look at all sorts of stuff and am a big fan of comic books. This one was located in London and dealt loosely with issues that interest me. Initially the collection had more colour but I just kept coming back to a few pages that really spoke to me. As I’m making quite small collections I just thought bugger it, let’s take a bit of a risk and have fun with ORANGE.
- Next season its said that you will reference your past making bespoke corsets, can you tell us anymore about this?
YEAH!! I’m excited for that. I’m using specific corsetry cotton in the collection and trying to work in some of the construction techniques that I learnt to sew with. As I said above though, I try not to run too heavily with themes, so I’m hoping that it won’t look too obvious.
- What’s next for Kevin Geddes?
Seriously, I’m not sure. I want to be in a show room for LFW and I need to push the label commercially this season. It’s what I’ve been building towards. Beyond that I’d rather not plan too much at this stage. I’ve never really been in a big rush. I’d like to think that the label will grow organically at a rate that allows it to support itself without exerting too much pressure on a small business.
Capital Style: Edinburgh International Fashion Festival 2015
Originally published online by The Skinny on 03/07/2015
Returning for its fourth installment, the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival (EIFF) is back. Although growing constantly, the Scottish creative scene can lack the kind of grandiose events typical of our extremely London-centric fashion world – the kind of event that might display what we have all known to be true within Scotland for years: that we really are an exciting and innovative creative hub with talent rivaling any nation. In the extremely capable hands of its creators, husband and wife creative powerhouses Anna and Jonathan Freemantle the 2015 theme is SUSTAINABILITY and EDUCATION. Featuring runway shows, exhibitions, workshops and talks in some of the most beautiful venues in Edinburgh, with events like the EIFF Scotland can truly stand up and be recognised as one of Europe’s top fashion destinations.
- How would you sum up the fundamentals of the EIFF?
We launched in 2012 and are heading into our fourth festival this July. The Festival was conceived as a place where fashion engages with other art forms and it’s environment, as a place where they cross-pollinate and share ideas. We want to explore the original creative idea, the spark behind the creative impulse. So the festival gives a platform for the industry's great contemporary thinkers, mavericks and innovators to have a voice outside of the commercial humdrum of the industry. We are a non-profit organisation that has been structured solely to cover costs and much of the ethos of the festival reflects this. We are not exclusive; the majority of our events are created with the intention of being accessible to all.
To quote Coco Chanel “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
So the festival is very much a changing, evolving creature. We want it to speak a truth that is universal and yet inspire a kind of creative brilliance that is rare and to be protected.
- The festival has come on leaps and bounds since its inception, what else would you like to achieve?
This year marks the start of our deeper look at the issue of sustainability. The fashion industry is beginning to find a conscience, to look at issues of excessive waste, fast fashion, disposable culture and has shown signs that it wants to return to a more bespoke, conscious attitude. But this process is very much at the beginning and there is a long way to go, we would like to play a part in helping this evolution along. We can't go on as we are.
- Its was said that EIFF looks at fashion as art, prioritising the creative ideas rather than brands, how difficult is that to maintain in what can be an extremely commercial/ brand focused industry?
We look at the people behind the brands, the great thinkers and makers, the creatives. Behind even the biggest brands are artists and philosophers from whom all the best work comes, even if it ultimately ends up in a major fashion house or high street brand as a product. One of the fashion industry's greatest strengths actually lies in it's commerciality. It is accessible on many levels by almost everyone - so we don't turn our back on this, just look behind the curtain to see who's actually behind it all and then creating a platform for these people to speak, exhibit or share their knowledge.
- Your 2015 program is yet to be announced, can you give us an insight into what we can expect?
This year's festival is heavily focused on looking for a sustainable future for the fashion industry. Our 2015 theme is SUSTAINABILITY and EDUCATION. To this end we have partnered with ZERO WASTE SCOTLAND on two key events, both looking deeply at the challenge of sustainability and working towards immediate and long-term solutions. Speakers from industry leaders (H&M, IKEA) as well as academics and mavericks. We also take a moment to celebrate the work of the late Louise Wilson with a conversation chaired by Sarah Mower celebrating her significant contribution in shaping contemporary fashion. As one of the foremost educators of her generation her legacy continues through the many designers whose careers began under her visionary guidance. Her tough, no nonsense approach and sharp wit produced a generation of brilliant designers. What made her approach so effective? Former students (Jonathan Saunders) and colleagues at Central St Martins discuss the impact that she made on their lives and the ripple she caused throughout the industry.
- Anna once said that the EIFF aims to celebrate wonder and fearlessness within the industries of fashion and art, is that an ethos you still subscribe to?
Absolutely. This is our forever-mantra.
- The festival has events from talks to shows, exhibitions, symposiums and workshops, what was behind the decision to have such varied events?
It's more about giving an open enough platform to show the full spectrum of creativity, to look in greater depth and from different angles. We want to be accessible on many levels and keep changing the format so it isn't predictable.
- Although growing all the time what else would you like to see happen within the Scottish creative scene?
I don't have an idea of what I'd like to see in particular - just for the expansion to continue. There's always more potential for growth. I'd like to see more focus on Scotland being part of an international fashion market, in the same way that it is beginning to be seen in the global art community. I think there's too much focus on 'branding' Scottish output and not enough focus on nurturing the actual content. We need more funding for venues, and for events (like us). This is crucial. Ultimately is comes down to content - and that means talented young designers. In this sense there is lots to be excited about.
- Not that the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival isn’t enough but what else do you both have planned for the rest of the year?
This is a massive year an many fronts. Anna is launching a big project in South Africa as well as developing the festival in Edinburgh. I have just launched my own gallery in Johannesburg, HAZARD which is a natural extension of the festival. HAZARD is a contemporary art, fashion and lifestyle space that encompasses and art gallery and vibrant cultural hub in the heart of Johannesburg's CBD (More here: http://www.hzrd.co.za). I'll be bringing a small-curated selection of the gallery's best artists to the festival this year.
For more information about attending events at the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival, keep an eye on their website for programme announcements very soon. Expect runway shows, exhibitions, gala parties, interactive workshops and talks in some of the most stunning venues in Edinburgh.
A Fashion Guide to European Cities
Originally published by The Skinny on 17/07/2015
Okay, so you have the incredible architecture, the food and the culture, but what we love most about Europe is the FASHION! From some of the most influential fashion houses, to revolutionary once in a lifetime designers – as much as we love fashion everywhere, there is always something special about European fashion –, always a little riskier, a little bolder and always with a particular sartorial flair. Join us on our fashion tour of Europe as we choose the designers who sum up our favourite European destinations.
First up, London: some would say the most influential fashion destination in the world. Now, we are a little spoiled for choice, considering the sheer amount of London based fashion designers, but what really sums up this very complex city? You can’t talk about fashion and London without mentioning the great Alexander McQueen, a true trailblazer, a real jewel in the creative crown of London. Controversial and edgy, while remaining effortlessly beautiful, his work perfectly sums up the constant dichotomy of the city itself; but what about the new generation? Nowhere produces the amount of fresh, young fashion talent like London. New designers like Nasir Mazhar bring an urban edge to the fashion world by introducing authentic youth streetwear, and like London always does, they keep the fashion world on its toes.
When considering the fashion of the Dutch, think expressive: extremely expressive. In no other country will you find more interesting and unique designers. With contemporary designers like Bas Kosters and MaryMe-JimmyPaul leading the way, it’s never just about fashion, but rather about art. Colourful, quirky and unlike fashion in any other part of the world, the city even has its own fashion week the Mercedes-Benz fashion week Amsterdam. But, if you really want to get a real feel for fashion in Amsterdam check out ‘Red Light Fashion’, an initiative that transforms prostitute windows in the infamous Red light district into exhibition spaces and studios for clothing, shoes and streetwear designers.
When you say Paris and fashion in the same breath, the first thing most people will think is ‘haute couture’, and rightly so. Paris is the centre of chic and hand-made elegance, and while there are so many Parisian designers we felt Jean Paul Gaultier really sums up French fashion. Sure, his classic chic and luxurious designs are something that we all dream to be able to afford one day, but his work is also sexy, sometimes a little edgy, with that tongue-in-cheek sense of humour that is oh-so-French. While Paris will always be the centre for Haute couture there is an urban side to Paris, a melting pot of different cultures and the spirit of youthful rebellion, perfectly expressed by the label Pigalle. Designing clothes that reflect his diverse urban environment, the brand creator Stéphane Ashpoo is fast becoming the King of streetwear and an ambassador for the street culture of Paris.
Recently it seemed discussing fashion in Milan was verging on a history lesson: sure it has more big brands than you could shake a stick at, but is really lacking in fresh young design talent, especially compared to say, London. Milan is truly the land of the massive fashion house and the big brands are exciting and they are still extremely relevant, from Moschino, to Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada, the list could go on, but what about the contemporary designers giving us a feeling of youth, and the future of fashion? Fausto Puglisi is definitely making waves in the fashion world with lavish, traditionally Italian baroque prints, embroidery and embellishments, and his innovative skin exposing cuts are fast making him a celebrity favourite. On the subject of favourites, there is another Italian fashion brand that has become coveted by fashion insiders: MSGM. Irreverent, yet supremely wearable pieces that play with colour, texture and print, to create some of the most exciting fashion making its way from Milan.
Scotland: Isolated Heroes
Berlin: Bobby Kolade
Copenhagen: Ivan Grundahl
Gyo Yuni Kimchoe
Originally published online by Hope St Magazine on 17/08/15
Based in London, but originally hailing from Korea, Gyo Kim and Yuni Choe are the creative duo behind the womenswear label Gyo Yuni Kimchoe. Aiming to change our perceptions of sustainable fashion, Gyo Yuni Kimchoe put paramount importance into the conceptual drive behind their clothes, all of which centres on environmental and social issues, exploitation and animal cruelty. Striving to combine what they describe as ‘London’s rebellious attitude’ with ‘new sustainable vision and fantasy’, this brand is already a big favourite of the likes of Fashion Scout, having been awarded a merit award for their previous collection ‘SS15 Weed Gardener Corps’. With their AW15 collection ‘Thanatos Expedition’ a massive hit, and their Resort 16 just being released, we caught up with Gyo Yuni Kimchoe to talk about sustainability and the ethos behind their eco-friendly fusion of traditional and futuristic.
Where did this strong love for nature come from?
We are dog lovers and animal lovers. But our respect toward nature came from education probably. We learned that the world is endangered. Just keep thinking about the other people, other species, other countries and the world, and being empathetic and sympathetic grew our love for nature and for the world.
The philosophy behind the creative direction of your brand is said to be ‘Respect of life and Nature’, can you tell us more about this?
We believe changing people's mind is more important than just using natural materials (but we still try our best to only use eco-friendly materials). That is why we set our philosophy as respecting instead of just saying sustainable. We really respect life and nature and we hope other people do too. So, we are creating collections that have a story or a message of respecting life and nature in it and we hope people like our collection and listen to the messages.
There are particular issues that are of great importance to your brand: environmental and social issues, exploitation and animal cruelty; why these particular issues?
Those are just some of the big examples that we want to talk about through our collections. As I said above, we want to change the world through fashion but actually, fashion industry makes so much troubles. All those listed issues are strongly related to fashion. Starting from just growing cottons, the process of dyeing, exploited labours (especially child labours) in many countries, too many wasted cheap clothing, animal cruelty from fur and leather industry etc etc. there are too many. We are one of them and that is why those issues are really important to us and we want to start from there.
Sustainability has almost become a buzzword in the creative industry, how do you integrate sustainable ideas into your collection?
We try many different ways of integrating sustainability into fashion. In general, we are trying our best to use eco-friendly materials and process. No leather or furs are used in our collection and we are more using recycled materials and recycled clothing. Developing patterns that reduces wastes of cut fabrics and producing everything ethically. In terms of our collection, we use our collection as a narrative tool of sustainability. We choose a specific sustainable issue in the beginning of each season and try to find different techniques, silhouettes and images that are related to the specific issue. Then, we develop and create our own sustainable fantasy and imaginative solutions. Through the collection and the season, we speak out about the issue thorough interviews, print materials and our social media channels as if it is a sustainable campaign and finally, at the end of the season, we donate part of our sales profit to an organisation to help other people or lives.
All images Alis Pelleschi
In a world searching for the “real” thing, only to find carefully considered wannabes posing and pretending to be interesting, we are often left disappointed: it sometimes feels like youthful, creative game changers don’t exist anymore. But that really isn’t the case with photographer and filmmaker Alis Pelleschi. Her raw, edgy style and her eye for the cutting edge makes me think of a time when the UK was producing the best, the brightest and the fucking coolest. Photographer, filmmaker co-creator of MEAT clothing and part of the duo Serious Thugs, there really isn’t much this gurrrl won’t turn her hand too. Originally from Bradford and now based in London, Alis has had work featured everywhere from Super Super, iD and Vice to the British Journal of Photography. Meanwhile, her latex-based clothing brand MEAT is worn by the coolest around. We wanted to catch up with Alis to find out what she loves about the pop culture so frequently referred to in her work, what the future holds for her, and the perils of the internet.
Your photography and your clothing brand MEAT are both heavily inspired by pop culture; what is it that draws you to it?
I guess I've always been interested with my own, and society's obsession with popular culture. I love our British pop culture mentality; it's quite unique in a way. Advertising, celebrities, mass consumerism, it surrounds me everywhere I go. It's difficult to not be inspired by it!
How do you balance your photography/filming with also running a clothing brand?
It's stressful, but I wouldn’t change it. I get to fulfil different creative aspects with each business. Having a massive whiteboard definitely helps. I am a workaholic. This year, I'm trying to spend a bit more time concentrating back on my personal photography and have a couple of portrait projects I'm working on. I need to learn to delegate more!
You are part of Serious Thugs, a photographer, filmmaker and a designer; are there any other areas you would like to branch out into?
This past year I've really got in to fitness, I'd really love to bring out my own protein shake and gym wear. My own fitness video!!
You have managed to photograph some celebs before they really hit the mainstream, including Charli XCX and Brooke Candy; do you think you have an eye for spotting new talent?
I definitely seem to know when I see someone and think they will do well or be big. It's sometimes harder to get magazines to believe straight away, but I'm sure they always kick themselves later. I guess I've always followed my own taste of whether I think something/someone is cool and let that talk for itself.
You make use of the internet in a big way but there’s a lot of competition for exposure; how do you think you’ve managed to make yourself stand out?
I guess people like to buy into something. So you need to have something distinctive (whether they hate or love it) to tap into. My work has always been an extension of me and my life so I guess I'm kind of immersed into the worlds I create. I've always just stuck to what I'm interested in, or influenced by the world I live in, it's all quite personal to me.
It’s a kind of poisoned chalice, the online world; as much love as you can get, you can get just as much hate; how do you keep that negativity away?
Mmmm it's hard! I wish I could disconnect, but struggle to switch off. I think I have quite thick skin now, so I generally manage to just laugh at myself and the funny awful comments you can get. I would love to do a year detox from everything online, but just isn't possible!
You work has such a strong aesthetic; where do you get your visual inspiration?
Mainly from people I meet, or have met. I get visually inspired by people and stories and characters. I like telling a story.
You create such a strong narrative; do you consider yourself a storyteller? Would you ever consider a feature film?
Wow, subconsciously already answered this without realising. But yes, that's probably what I see myself as. I would really love to work with an amazing DOP and team and create something really intense and funny, but I'd really need some time away from everything else to really concentrate on it. There's so much work that would go into it.
There is a really strong humorous or satirical element to your work; how important is that to you?
I try to not dictate my work too much, just show it as I see it and the viewer can make of it what they want. I'm never laughing at people, but laughing at our own relatable silly quirks or vices or obsessions. I've just always commented on worlds that I know, or the way I see things, so it's always personal but I just let it come naturally.
How would you describe your personal brand?
I guess I'm approachable, normal northern girl that people can relate to, as I'm quite open about so many aspects of my life. My work has become an extension of me, and having the clothing brand too, it all kinda merges.
Furthermore, how would you describe your aesthetic?
I hope it's ever-changing. I'm in this weird limbo at the moment, where I feel like I want to change my photography style, and what people presume me as being. I hate being pigeonholed or being made to feel, as an artist or a photographer, you can only have one signature style and that's it. I'm all about transforming, growing, changing. Ultimately, my work will always be about people and characters. I'm really interested in just concentrating on large-scale intimate portraits.
Second Life: Artificial Life Experience
Originally published in Surface Zine Issue #1
All images Second Life
The early 2000s were a turbulent time in the digital world; we were on the brink of mass hysteria after the Y2K bug, and with our lives being increasingly dependant on the internet, people were in a tizzy over how the world was changing and so a new digital panic emerged. With viruses, chat room predators and credit card fraud, people were terrified of the internet, but one of the major scapegoats causing the most concern was Second Life. Blowing up straight from its release in 2003, this online virtual world developed by Linden Lab became the place to be for the tech aficionado; however, like most things associated with those that worship at the altar of technology, the majority of people had no idea what the hell it was. The company behind Second Life describes it as a 'platform', but seriously, what the fuck does a 'platform' mean in this cyber context? It's similar to MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) in that there's a world your chosen character/avatar can explore, but unlike these online roleplaying games there's no designated objectives, traditional gameplay, rules, or winning and losing: so is it just an elaborate chatroom? With users spending most of their time interacting with other users Second Life is notorious for its chat qualities – but then why not just go to a chat room? Well, traditional chat rooms don't usually involve an expansive and interactive world you can explore. While debate still rages over what Second Life actually is, it can be summed up as a melting pot of all these things. Ultimately it's a virtual world centred around interaction between multiple users, and at the dawn of the modern internet era it was a revolutionary way for users to express themselves.
While you can talk using your real voice, it's the avatars that ultimately interact. Avatars (also called residents) serve as the virtual representation of you, in Second Life. Taking any form the user chooses – human, animal etc – users can fully customise their avatar's aesthetic, creating a character that resembles themselves, or more often than not their ideal or fantasy identity. These idealised avatars are one of the main appeals of Second Life: the ability to create the perfect you; or perhaps if not the idealised you, then rather a persona you want to try on for a while. And just as important as the avatar itself, is the activities said avatar gets up to while in this virtual world: from purely chatting to other users, whether friends or strangers; to taking part in some seedy gambling. The activities you can get up to in Second Life are more varied than you would think, and while many of the users are looking to live a relativity tame Second Life experience, much of the world is a den of sexual experimentation, exploration of fantasy and fetishes, and pretty much everything else that comes under any of the banner of twisted, perverted, sexual etc. Users were free to explore and indulge in fantasies that they would never dream of attempting IRL, and as we all know about human beings, most of us are pretty sick and twisted, and some are just straight up fucked up. If we're given free reign to live out whatever fantasy or sexual defiances we desire, then of course things are gonna get a little dark. Therein lies the big issue of Second Life, and that's where the post-millennial fear stemmed from: was Second Life really corrupting the youth and turning them into sexually deviant basement dwellers who couldn't tell reality from virtual reality?
In reality the internet changed the world, it's kind of like a new global society was formed, and just like any burgeoning society there are teething issues. To this day we still struggle to separate the real from the virtual, and there seem to be more questions than answers. Where do we draw the line? If we live in the real world with a set of moral codes and rules of appropriate behaviour, then we must assign those same rules to our online world; but is it really the same, and are our real and virtual worlds so linked that they can't truly be separated? As a society we seem to be in a sort of digital limbo: on one side the reality, and the other the online. How do we handle things that take place online, and what about their real world consequences? Is that the only important part? We struggle with these issues daily: issues of revenge porn, online bulling or even the virtual warfare of drone strikes. Piloting a drone is like playing a computer game: death and destruction carried out on a screen, removing remorse or culpability for the real world consequences. It's much easier to bully someone online, there are no eyes to see fill with tears. Mainstream media tends to portray the youth of today as more vicious and hateful than ever – that they bully so violently – when in reality there have always been bullies and we have just provided them a more convenient delivery system; and those would be bullies who may have sat on the fence in the past? They might as well join in 'cos it's just so easy now. The youth of today are no more sociopathic than their elder counterparts, but there is a separation of actual and virtual: a learned cluelessness of real world consequences.
Talking about the youth of today not only serves to make me feel super old, but also serves as an important distinction to be made when discussing anything online: age is an undeniable factor in how we perceive the digital world. Obviously those of you born after the birth of the internet will never know a pre-internet world, and so perhaps we should look to you to take the lead on how we should perceive things. In many ways Second Life was ahead of its time, and while it does still have active users, if it was a concept created and developed in 2015, it would be swallowed into the mammoth black hole of the 'net with barely a peep. Those drawn to it would still be drawn to it, and those like me who don't see the appeal in creating an online version of myself, accurate or not, would not get involved. But with the sheer amount of social media and online platforms we use now, the same kind of panic Second Life caused in 2003 is inconceivable. People were genuinely terrified that they would end up in some sort of Matrix-type situation where their real life bodies were merely kept alive while we lived out our lives online; or that a massive computer virus was going to destroy our computer systems, launching all the world's nuclear missiles and destroying us all; or, my personal favourite, that evil robots will eventually take over – and hey, maybe one of things will happen. Maybe we were correct to be afraid, doesn't Stephen Hawking think that Artificial intelligence will be the thing that destroys the world?
Regardless, people born post internet don't have nightmares that all human social interaction will be gone and we will only talk or fuck while plugged in; gone is the dystopian fear, the digital panic doesn't exists. I guess the wheels are already in motion, the dye has been cast. There is nothing we can do about it now. Rather than living in Second Life as an alter ego, do we not already live in a virtual world? It doesn’t seem things are real or legitimate until they are on the internet. Think about it, really: if I tell you something has happened in the world, an event, for example the death of a celebrity, would you believe me if you couldn't see anything online? No, of course not, because the separation of real and virtual is a myth, and it has been for a long time. Rather than being a grand, sweeping change all of a sudden, like everyone using Second Life, it slowly crept through the back door through e-mails, online news, social media, filesharing, Skypeing, blogging: not changing our lives hugely all at one, but instead creeping in one social network at a time. So while everyone was worried about the avatars taking over, the real artificial life experience snuck up on us, so we might as well just lie back and accept our virtual fate.
2015 MDes Fashion Promenade
Originally published online by The Skinny on 08/09/2015
With the huge success of the undergraduate degree show, the Glasgow School of Art is gearing up for their Graduate presentation. Opening 12th September and running until Friday 18th September, the Graduate degree show is unmissable for all you Glasgow creatives, and the opening event of this showcase week for the GSA graduate talent is the 2015 MDes fashion Promenade. Intended to extend, develop and hone their individual ‘design signature’, the MDes in Fashion and Textiles at Glasgow School of Art is home to the most exciting and innovative fashion talent in Scotland at the moment, and taking place in The Vic on Friday 11th September, their opening spectacular will consist of three back-to-back presentations held at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm. Showcasing collections from designers both homegrown and international, this event should be filed under ‘must see’ in the Scottish fashion diary. The presentation will be designed by GSA Interior Design graduate Paulina Brozeck, and will subsequently be displayed in the Reid Building as part of the 2015 Graduate Degree Show.
Featuring the work of local talents the likes of Greg Learmonth whose collection focuses on a ‘rowing club mentality of uniform and dominance’, all in white and cream hues. His collection is a development of white-waxed cotton belted macs and drill bombers, with silk jersey off the shoulder blousons weighed with pleated wool pants. Adding texture, large sized cotton jumpers expose the collarbones and heavy wool blankets add a sports edge. Linen pleated dresses are crushed and androgynous, finished with collection of classic, graphic silk scarves and ribbed wool sweatbands. Ellen Carrick’s sportswear inspired knitwear will also feature in the GSA 2015 Fashion Promenade. Ellen cites the influence of Street Style and Subcultures in her collection; juxtaposing formal and casualwear, she mixes smart trousers with bomber jackets, marrying tailored and sportwear styles to create a rounded, summer menswear collection. Hayley McSporran, winner of the John Mather Rising Star Scholars presents her collection ‘S K U L P T U R V ( ) I D’, the creation of conceptual, sculptural but ultimately wearable pieces for Womenswear, inspired by the abstract sculptural forms of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. The offset forms and details in Hepworths sculpture inspire the collection’s silhouettes, contrasting soft draped silk and jersey dresses against more structural wool outerwear pieces. Emma McAndrew's men's knitwear collection, which ranges from fine knit intarsia jumpers to chunky over pieces, was inspired by industrial machinery such as aircrafts, motorcycles and cars – things generally associated with men. Emma's love of intarsia knitting helped her to achieve a bold, graphic, colour-blocked aesthetic, and her collection of jumpers – developed from a combination of flat layouts and Emma's own fabrics – boast an uncompromising visual impact. Callum Mckay showcases his unique contemporary twists on fashion trends throughout recent history. Stemming from his love of travel and popular culture, Callum incorporates silhouettes of large shapes, fused with an urban aesthetic. Identifying the 1950s as a decade imperative to fashion's history, during which time the wearing of denim and jeans is synonymous with youthful rebellion, Callum's menswear capsule collection pays homage to the 'tropical ambience' of Costa Rica, and the 'urban notoriety' of denim street wear.
Bringing a little international flair into the mix is Aleem UI Hassan from Pakistan, whose collection heavily focuses on deconstruction. Entitled ‘Primordial Deconstruction’ it explores the similar characteristics of decay in wood and metal, two very different materials. His collection fuses mixed media with classic tie-dye to create an eye-catching mix of elegant and contemporary styles. Hailing from Seoul in South Korea, Sujin Lee’s work is inspired by a lifetime immersed in nature. Celebrating beauty in nature, Lee aims to create a dreamlike atmosphere with hand drawn botanical illustrations printed onto the garments. From Taiwan, Ho-Fan Wu took inspiration from the floral patterning found on the traditional Japanese kimono, subverting convention by creating irregular arrangements and juxtaposing them against geometric patterns. Wu’s research informed the decision to use foil printing rather than digital printing as a nod to the ancient Japanese craft of Ise-katagami, and the shapes too are Japanese: the lampshade silhouette having been adopted from Victorian dresses by the Lolita subculture so popular in contemporary far East culture. Wu’s collection is comprised of skirts, with a selection of capes in varying lengths with a diverse selection of front lapels. Yifei Liu from China cites ‘time’ as the influence for her collection and breaks it down into three conceptual ideas. For ‘decay’, she buried in soil garments and fabrics that would later be incorporated into her collection, so that they might ‘communicate with nature’. For ‘shelf life’, Liu was influenced by a narrative device from Wong Kar-wai’s critically acclaimed 1994 film Chungking Express, comparing the production and expiration dates of produce to birthdays and lifespans to inspire flock and embroidery text work in her collection. Lastly, for ‘germiculture’ she conducted an experiment of cultures of bacteria, using felting in her collection to reproduce their textures, creating a diverse and conceptual collection.
· The 2015 Fashion Promenades Presentations will take place at “The Vic” at 6pm/7pm/8pm Friday 11th September.
· The collections will be on show in the Reid Building as part of the 2015 Graduate Degree Show.
· Graduate Degree Show opens Saturday 12th September and closes Friday 18th September 2015.
ECA Degree Show 2016: Performance Costume Design
Originally published online by The Skinny on 16/05/2016
Aficionados of the performing arts, keen to cast their cultured eye over the next generation of costumers would be well served to clear their diaries between the 18th and 20th of May, when the Edinburgh College of Art will be presenting their Performance Costume show for 2016. The final year students will be combiningtheir creative flair and technical prowess to mastermind evocative performances inspired by a myriad of interpretive mediums, from theatre and opera, to music video and installation.
Poppy Anne Richards' first project is inspired by the seminal gothic classic novel Nortre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo. Drawing inspiration from the grandiose architecture of the Notre Dame cathedral itself, Poppy has designed the costume for the Virgin Mary as a symbol of fate, crucial to the tragic narrative, simultaneously depicting the birth of Jesus and his inevitable death. For her second project, she has created a costume for the character Barrington, the socialist hero of Robert Tressell's novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, integrating themes of Scottish working class history, traditional industries and the socio-political struggles of the twentieth century, with particular focus on Thatcher's effect on Scotland and the struggle of the miners in 1984-1985.
Injecting her work with a sense of humour and playfulness, Rosie Whiting takes inspiration from two contrasting gender based ideas. Paying umbrage to Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, Rosie presents an immersive, theatrical experience in which the audience dine alongside Louise Bourgeois, Nina Simone, Emmeline Pankhurst, Mata Hari, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Conchita Cintron, Martha Graham and host Marlene, a performance that questions the relationship between women, work, fame and finding a place for feminism in the 21st Century” In 'Boys', a film and performance installation based on Dunsinane by David Greig, Rosie presents a vehicle with which to explore the relationship between boys, visual stereotypes of manliness and the pointless nature of war, all held together by the powerful narrative of the letters serving boy soldiers sent to their mothers.
Zoe Longbottom uses design to reimagine the traditional context of a story. Drawing inspiration for her practice from two well-known fiction books, she skews the preconceived narrative and provides a comment on male society throughout history, focusing firstly on the iconic character of Peter Pan from J.M.Barrie's novel of the same name. Zoe's reincarnation takes place in a nightmarish post-apocalyptic world which twists the perspective of the story, imagining Peter Pan as an evil spirit that steals children and takes them to Neverland. She visualises the theme of time using clockwork and skeletal elements to reference time standing still in Neverland. Her second project was based on The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Using bright colours and bold prints she emphasizes the flamboyance and eccentricity of the characters and used exaggerated silhouettes to implicate their animal traits.
Drawing inspiration from the epic Icelandic folk tale Laxdæla Saga by Unknown author Jessica Van Tromp's first project focuses on the romantic epic's love triangle. Revolving around the beautiful Gudrun the love triangle intersects with the saga's further themes of Jealousy and Hatred. Emphasizing the strong sense of place, the Icelandic landscapes played a major role in the development of this work, and the use of natural dyes and fabrics strive to establish a level of authenticity in the final aesthetic. Her next project focuses the fairy queen Selene, from 'The Happy Land' by W.S Gilbert. Using whimsical colours and opulent fabrics, Jessica hints to a lavish fairy world, whilst simultaneously paying homage to the burlesque beginnings of The Happy Land in a refreshingly literal manner.
Georgia Adele Noble's first project was inspired by Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, 1930's love story set in the vivid world of the circus. Informing the work with its rich embellishments, contrasting colour palettes and exaggerated shapes, the circus' rich aesthetics are only added to by the enigmatic characters, particularly the ringleader, August. Next Georgia tackles the opera Turandot by Giacomo Puccini. This powerful and tragic love story was sentimental choice for Georgia, who hopes to help opera become accessible for a modern audience without undermining its inherent glory through transformative design, combining intricate colours and textile details with contemporary evolutions of traditional silhouettes.
Originally published online by The Skinny in May-June 2016
It’s the most exciting time of the year for fashion students, finally all their hard work and stress is coming to an end and culminating into the final years’ shows. From degree shows around the country to Graduate fashion week, there are plenty of opportunities to scout fresh, young fashion talent. One designer who is due to be attending graduate fashion week caught the eye of photographer Igor Termenon with her collection ‘Crux’: Lauren Eliza, who hails from the prestigious Heriot-Watt university. Situated in the picturesque Scottish borders Heriot-Watt has long been considered one of the best fashion schools in the country, with unrivalled facilities and an innovative syllabus of textile and fashion programs specifically designed to “match the needs of the global, and increasingly fast-moving textile and fashion design industries.”
Lauren’s work aims to investigate the area of “urban reality; of maturing in a rough, concrete surrounding.” Using her own photography which she then turned into digital prints, she presents her urban wear purposively towards unisex: “materialising from the idea of strange beauty, photography uses the lens as a personal narrative to visualise looking past the harsh and ugly surface of the city and finding attraction in areas that would be otherwise overlooked.” Another strong concept investigated by this collection is the idea of gender fluidity; avoiding the rigidity of what are becoming dated views of gender norms, Lauren’s collection aims to be accessible to all spectrums of gender identity, marrying ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ elements to create contemporary garments that are not bound to traditional ideas of gender. She examines personal identity by drawing on “emotive and conceptual stigma to take a documentary style approach within her work”. Lauren’s urban-appropriate palette of greys and pops of green merge with her vibrant digital prints to create a genuine representation of city life, contrasting urbanization and slithers of nature. Creating an almost utilitarian aesthetic, Lauren draws from her Glasgow upbringing, citing the influence of ‘brutalist architecture and chaotic colours to portray a modern interpretation of both masculinity and femininity”, informing her signature urban aesthetic. Striving to not be bound to a single category, Lauren states that: “I would neither categorise myself as solely a women’s or menswear designer, more of a creator of things.”
You can see Lauren’s work at the Heriot Watt degree show, opening with a fashion show on the 28th May at Abbostford House and running from 30th May to the 2nd June. Her portfolio will be on show at Graduate fashion week 5th-8th June, and on 24th June she will be taking part in the ‘Height of Fashion’ Show at Holyrood House, celebrating Scottish Fashion. And if all that isn’t enough, feel free to visit Lauren’s website www.laureneliza.co.uk.
Photographer: Igor Termenón – igortermenon.com
Hair & Make Up: Shaun Lavender
Models: Vendela Gebbie & Stevie Newall @ Superior
The Bullshit of Control
Originally published by The headcase on 16/03/2017
The dangerous thing with mental illness is believing you have a handle on it; lulling yourself into a false sense of security; believing you’ve finally tamed the wild beast that’s been living inside you for all those years.
During all the time I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety – which, to be honest, is my entire life - I can remember them peaking and dipping simultaneously, and oppositely.
In a depressive period I’d be thinking of suicide; during the anxiety I felt like I wouldn’t have to kill myself, because my heart was conveniently going explode from all the stress, thus saving me the bother.
This is probably familiar to a lot of people. But the most useful thing I’ve learned over these years of mental health rollercoastering, is how my depression and anxiety continue to change and evolved with time - and about the total myth of control.
The problem is that you become so familiar with the demon you face in the mirror, that that very familiarity fools you into thinking you know it – and have some sort of control over it.
That’s how it went with my anxiety. Even today there’s a part of me that still believes it’s helpful; that it has protected me; that I wouldn’t be anywhere without it.
I wouldn’t say I’ve had a difficult life, but it may have been harder than some, and lacking most of the comforts children need. In many ways I believed my anxiety to be helpful; it became one of my coping mechanisms. When you don’t have the familial support most people grow up with, the world can seem like a scary place to a kid, so you develop things to cope.
And they work well… for a while.
You tell yourself the anxiety is just part of your personality - and to be honest, it kind of is: it’s fused into your personality. It becomes almost impossible to know where the Anxiety ends and You begin; you’re in a symbiotic relationship with your mental health.
But it's okay, because people don’t notice…yet.
You can play people, convince them that you’re easy going and just hope they never see through the cracks. You panic when someone peers through the looking glass and sees the real you, the one that isn’t coping and never has been.
And so you deflect, you maintain, you still think you are handling it all.
Maybe it was youth, maybe hope, maybe arrogance - and probably a mixture of all three - but I still believed that my anxiety was helpful, so I nurtured it. I would almost boast how little I slept, or how long I could work for, never revealing the real price to people, never talking about the constant pressure I felt all through my body. And the truth is that even that starts to become familiar.
I remember once a peer of mine, someone I saw every day, clocked me. She described me as a swan: calm and graceful on the surface but under the water paddling furiously, fighting against the current.
When you are so up and anxious all the time, you forget what it feels like to be, for lack of a better word, ‘normal’. And the less you talk about it the more you internalise and blame yourself; nobody else seems to have these issues, these worries, so you can’t talk about them because then everybody will know.
But it’s okay, because you are in control.
Throughout my mental health journey and, to be honest, in my life, I’ve found that the idea of control is pretty much bullshit. You don’t have control, you never had it, and thinking that you do is pretty ridiculous. I think we all believe we are in control at some point in our life. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking!
But then it happened. It changed. The anxiety I thought I knew so well, the beast I thought I was in control of, changed. I always used to make jokes about having a breakdown - self-deprecating jokes are kind of my thing. I’m not sure I actually believed it would happen, until it did.
Anxiety was no longer just a part of me, it WAS me. I couldn’t separate myself, from my condition; my illusion of control had vanished. I couldn’t see a way out.
The problem with anxiety is that it’s a cunning beast. Sometimes it comes on instantly; sheer panic, overwhelming and debilitating; but other times it’s a snake that’s slowly coiling its way around you so gently you don’t notice the danger until it’s too late. For me, the snake is the worst, whispering in your ear, validating every anxious thought:
Everyone you love is being slaughtered right now, probably.
When you leave the house, it’s gonna burn down with your pets inside, definitely.
The people that love you don’t, and never have. Y
ou have cancer, you will end up homeless, your career will fail, you are a fraud!
You are completely convinced it's the truth.
The mirage of control stopped me from seeing the anxiety for what it truly was, something alive, something evolving. For all the things I had been forced to address - the panic, the not sleeping, the paralysing fear - over the years through medication, therapy or support, I couldn’t sense how the most frustrating aspect of my anxiety was evolving in the strangest way.
My perfectionism, which I thought was merely a personality trait, had become a monster.
Perfectionism is a pretty common thing for people with anxiety, and like my anxiety I deemed it helpful, beneficial even, to work to the best of my abilities to reach my personal standard. And perfectionism is praised: people see it as a good thing . . . until it becomes crippling.
To be honest, it’s one of the most fucking irritating aspects of this whole experience. Being a writer, it has made life pretty difficult because it doesn’t feel like the perfectionism is a symptom of my anxiety, so I still convince myself that I’m right, I’m justified. My concerns are valid, because nothing I do is good enough.
These thoughts aren’t my anxiety talking. I’m just right in realising something isn’t up to scratch, because the fear of being exposed to anyone in a less than perfect way is horrifying; literally the most terrifying thing in the world to me. Of course rationality would ask me, ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ or tell me, ‘it’s no big deal’. But it’s a big deal to me. In that moment, it’s basically life or death. Rationally I know that perfectionism is a fallacy: it is literally impossible to achieve perfection.
But here’s the kicker: in my head I’m not trying to be perfect. I know that I’m not good enough.
You know that saying, ‘pride comes before a fall’? Well that pretty much sums it up. I was proud that I was so in control. I felt that because I’d overcome so much, I could overcome anything if I just tried hard enough - and now here I am beginning my new journey with the latest incarnation of my anxiety.
I‘ve had to go back to the beginning and start over, and lets face it, it probably won’t be the last time. I’m sure that over the years my anxiety will change again and again, and some new fun symptom of fear and worry will appear, so hey, I’ve got that to look forward to!
But it’s not all doom and gloom: these issues may seem like weaknesses at first, burdens you carry that others don’t, but now I see them as both a burden and also a gift. Few people get to peek behind the curtain of their delusions, and at first it seems sad to lose the cosy bubble you felt so secure in, but sometimes the journey is necessary to relate to the world around you. You can’t unsee, and you can’t go back again, your gift is one of perspective and compassion.
In the words of Søren Kierkkegaard, ‘Learning to know anxiety is an adventure which every man has to affront. He, therefore, who has learned rightly to be in anxiety, has learned the most important thing.’
Alternative Style Icons: Pat Butcher
Originally published by Fashion Fix Daily on 16/04/2017
Developing your personal identity can take years, and while experimentation and trend watching is fundamental, your personal choice of style icons is also crucial. Now, from my perspective, a true stylish individual is never someone who says Chloë Sevigny or Kate Moss is their ultimate style inspiration. I mean duh, of course they are stylish, but true style tends to come from a mixture of sources, and sometimes the best finds come from thinking outside the box. So as a little inspiration for your inspiration, this series will present some alternative style icons for you to consider, beginning with the Queen of Albert Square. With literally the best earring collection in the world: Pat Butcher.
Now, this was a difficult decision; who from the world of EastEnders should I choose? Not ‘cause I’m a fan, but more because they have given us some very stylish ladies. To be honest this article was nearly about Dot Cotton, but alas, I went with the sometimes harshly named ‘Fat Pat’. Why? Because she was bold, covered in prints and THE EARRINGS! I’m really feeling over the top earrings at the moment, and she is definitely ultimate earring crush material. Let’s break down some of the essential Pat looks.
Always a fan of the not-so-subtle pattern, Pat wasn’t afraid to sport an eye catching design. From the animal prints to the bright colours, Pat’s silky blouse looks were fierce and let’s be honest, it was pretty rare back in the day to see a luscious curvy lady embrace an out-there look. A wallflower, Pat was not.
I’m not quite sure, but I think my well known love affair with faux fur stoles is possibly directly inspired by Mrs Butcher. Pat loved to rock an iconic fur, whether it be a stole or full coat – while I’m on the subject, Pat always rocked a pretty eye catching coat in general.
THE ANIMAL PRINT
Pat is hardly the only Albert Square resident to have a long standing love affair with prints of the animal variety, but there isn’t really anything better in life than Pat Butcher in some leopard print. I feel like she’s worn leopard print in every variation imaginable; she even slayed in that weird grey/silver leopard print.
We could not mention the iconic style of Pat Butcher without mentioning the earrings, and to be honest, I don’t feel we can ever discuss statement earrings without saying the name ‘Pat Butcher’. She was so known for her earrings that it became a term within pop culture, if you say someone has ‘Pat Butcher earrings’ everyone instantly knows what you mean. Pat’s earrings were big and bold just like her, and so wonderfully accentuated by her short, bleached haircut, which by the way also deserves an honourable mention. Pat Butcher is so synonymous with her massive earrings that Pam St. Clement (the actress that played her) named her memoir ‘The End of an Earring,’ which is pretty much the greatest thing that has ever happened.
Like all strong women, Pat had balls. She was fierce, and no matter what she was going through she always had time to put on some earrings and a rather garish lip colour. If that’s not your bag then cool, but you have to respect her for those choices. To Pat, these aesthetic signifiers are much more than just window dressing, they’re more of statement: ‘screw you, world, you will not beat me’. I am Pat Butcher. RIP.
Originally published by Fashion Fix Daily on 16/04/2017
*Disclaimer: Fashion Fix Daily is not responsible for any negative effects of reading this article. Possible side-effects may include: obsession, abandoning all other genres and trying to sing along with a language you don’t speak. Proceed at your own risk.
Firstly, what is K-Pop? At its simplest, it is Korean pop music; at its most complicated it is an amalgam of varied music styles engineered for maximum entertainment – a government sponsored expression of East Asian culture. The export and popularity of South Korean music to the rest of the world is referred to as the ‘Hallyu (Korean) Wave’, and in 2014 alone contributed an estimated $11.6billion to their economy. K-Pop as we know it began in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that Korean-made music started to spread beyond China, Japan and Southeast Asia. Slightly reminiscent of Western 1990s & early 2000s pop music, with a little kitschy Eurovision thrown in, K-Pop itself is very vast, with the scope of content varying from the most innovative and exciting musical acts in the world, to absolutely crazy, kitschy, not-sure-if-it’s-stupid-or-amazing gimmick groups – I’m looking at you, Crayon Pop.
Interested? To help navigate the labyrinthine world of K-Pop, here is the first lesson of K-Pop 101.
Idols are basically South Korean pop stars. Nurtured, and at times completely manufactured by talent agencies, some of these idols are trained for pop stardom from their early teens. Gruelling training, allegations of slave contracts and pressure to adhere to extreme beauty standards are some of the negative aspects of being an idol, but there is a price to fame, and the hard work certainly pays off. By the time they debut, these idols can sing, dance, rap and act; not just satisfied with creating pop stars, agencies are creating all-round entertainers. Although there are solo idols, the main bread and butter of K-Pop is the idol groups. These groups generally have between four and thirteen members, but a recently formed group called NCT have an ‘infinite member’ concept, with three sub-groups debuting so far under the names NCT U, NCT 127 and NCT Dream. Unlike western pop acts, the idols’ positions within their group are a bit more clearly defined, with roles such as leader, vocal, visual, rapper, dancer and ‘maknae’ (the youngest).
Like all pop music, K-Pop is a fusion of many different styles; songs can include elements of hip-hop, R&B, rock, EDM etc. Although the majority of the songs are sung in Korean, there are always key English words and phrases within the songs, and usually the band names themselves. What sets K-Pop apart from western music is the huge variety of audio-visual elements, within a single song there may be multiple elements and genres merged together to create the perfect pop experience. Most songs will be accompanied by a specific choreography which tends to be very complex and will usually include a key dance move which is referred to as the ‘point’ dance move. This will be copied by fans, and in many instances, a song is recognisable purely by performing the point dance move.
Fashion is of major importance within the K-Pop world. While fashion in K-Pop has always been interesting, it’s not always been particularly current or innovative. Acts usually determine their aesthetics based on their particular ‘concept’ which can lead to some interesting outfit choices, but more recently stylists in the world of K-Pop have developed a much keener eye for extremely on-trend styles and designers. A huge part of this is definitely due to the emergence of fashion influencers within the Korean culture industry, and it’s impossible to mention fashion and K-Pop together without talking about the King of K-Pop: G-Dragon. Merging the world of high fashion with over the top K-Pop aesthetics, G-Dragon has cemented his place as a true fashion innovator and pioneer whose influence extends across the world. Getting your clothes on a K-Pop star is a gateway to the lucrative market of the East, so idols can often be found wearing the most exciting designers before celebrities in the West are sporting them. If you’re looking for the new fashion capital of the world, I would suggest looking towards Seoul.
As mentioned, idols are trained in an agency setting, and when you first encounter K-Pop it’s a topic that comes uploads. The three agency powerhouses are SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment & JYP Entertainment. Agencies are talent companies that hold auditions to scout for young talent; once talent is spotted, the companies offer these children development contracts. These contracts offer training in singing, dancing, languages, education, media skills and anything else an idol in the making could possibly need. In return, these kids must sing, dance and perform to an often ridiculous schedule. There have been many allegations of mistreatment – idols being forced to get plastic surgery, working when ill and performing through extreme sleep deprivation – and while that is, of course, cause for concern, the argument made is that these companies invest millions of dollars into training an idol while only a small number of them will become successful enough to make return on that initial investment.
For me, one of the most interesting elements of K-Pop is the fans. In the West, we have experienced some crazy fandoms, from Beatlemania to the One Direction fans, from Beliebers to Taylor Swift fans. But nothing – and I mean nothing – compares to K-Pop fandom. One of the reasons for this is the constant feeding of the fan hunger. Unlike celebrities in the West, K-Pop idols are contractually required to be in direct contact with their fans; through social media, live video apps, fan meetings and performances, an idol fan can be chasing the dragon constantly. There is always something new to watch, listen to or go to, and a hugely dedicated army of ‘subbers’ provide subtitles to translate their favourite idols TV appearances for the ever-increasing international fanbase. These fans never have to look far for a new hit of K-Pop goodness, which makes them want it ever more, and they are loyal – crazy loyal. Fandom wars are a constant reality. Like the Beliebers, these fandoms all have a collective name: BigBang fans ¬¬– VIPs, BTS fans ¬– Army, EXO fans – EXO-L, SHINee fans – Shawol. The fandoms also have an associated colour in which merchandise will be released, and one of the oddest elements is definitely the fan chant. At live performances, fans will chant a pre-arranged chant routine along with the song, including emphasis on specific parts of the song and members. The only thing I can really liken it to would be a football chant, but much more organised. K-Pop fans are nothing if not devoted, and they spend money ¬– and lots of it – on gifts for their beloved idols, from arranging charitable rice donations on the idols behalf, to sending catering, food and coffee trucks to them during their busy work schedules.
One of the things you will notice when you enter the world of K-Pop is the unusual language, so to get you through those what-the-hell-does-that-mean moments, here is a very brief terminology guide.
Aegyo: is basically acting cute, and South Koreans love it.
Bias: is your favourite member of a group.
Selca: the Korean term for ‘selfie’ – yup, they had a word for it way before we did.
Chocolate Abs: the six packs of male idols, so named due to their resemblance to a chocolate bar.
Concept: Groups are given a ‘concept’ (a look), either for the band generally, or purely for a specific single. Concepts can range from sexy to cute, to even vampire. All the marketing for a single will reflect this concept: music video, fashion and makeup.
Skinship: a platonic, but intimate act of touching between two friends, usually of the same gender: things like holding hands, linking arms, hugging, kissing on the cheek or slapping butts. Within the world of K-Pop it can be used to titillate the fans; although meant to non-sexual, sometimes an eyebrow could be raised.
Oppa/Hyung/Noona/Unnie: honorific titles for people older or younger than you. Korea regards age as extremely important, and these are terms of both respect and endearment. There are many of these terms but these four serve as a great intro.
Oppa = females speaking to older males
Hyung = males speaking to older males
Noona = males speaking to older females
Unnie = females speaking to older females
Sasaeng Fan: simply put, a sasaeng is an obsessive fan of a specific idol or group. Now I do love me an obsessive fan, but sasaengs take obsession to creepy new levels, following their idols in cars & taxis, causing traffic accidents, kidnapping attempts, breaking in and hiding in the idols’ homes, and even in one instance installing CCTV cameras in one idols home parking garage.
Header Image courtesy of YG Entertainment
When Your Idols Let You Down
Originally published on Fashion Fix Daily on 23/04/2017
We all have idols, some are a passing phase and some are with us forever. They can have a fundamental effect on our lives, our tastes; sometimes our whole identity. So it's no wonder that it can be so earth shattering when they turn out to be – well, put politely – disappointing. From crazy religious dedication to awful political views, that ‘oh god’ moment when a celebrity you love is revealed to be a monster.
The inspiration for this piece came off the back of an interview from John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) claiming a great experience meeting the ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and a possible friendship with none other than Donald Trump. Now, let's get real here, I don't think anyone one was under the impression that we were about to get a well-thought out intellectual comment on politics from a member of the Sex Pistols; while they were revolutionary, exciting and non-conformist they are hardly known for their political acumen. There was a massive sigh of disappointment hearing someone who once stood for rebelling against tyranny and attacking social conformity vocally supporting the absolute worst of today's authoritarian figures. To be honest, some of these statements weren't too shocking from Lydon, as he may have lost his punk credentials along time ago. Remember his butter advert?
Now this one hurt me bad. If you were to ask me about my favourite collections ever, so many of them would be by John Galliano. He is, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most innovative creative minds in the world. During his time at Dior, the exploration of fetishism in his Fall 2000 couture collection or the Cleopatra realness served in his Spring 2004 couture collection blew me away. But it was his fall 2009 ready-to-wear collection under his own name will go down as one of my favourite collections ever! This Russian-Balkan, folklore, fantasy fairy tale dream makes me drool even when I see it now and truly cemented his place in my mind anyway as one of the all-time creative greats. But, then came the incident; in February 2011 Galliano was suspended following his arrest for an anti-Semitic tirade in a Paris bar. It was then revealed that this was not a one-time incident as Galliano was reported to have made a similar anti-Jewish comment the year earlier.
For those of us who remember the nineties, Clueless was fundamental to our lives; to be honest even the children born in or after the nineties worship it. The perfect teen movie with a killer wardrobe, Clueless is legendary. God, even the rubbish TV show was iconic – just try to get past the fake Cher and Tai. Starring in both the movie and the TV show was Stacey Dash. As Dionne, she was Cher’s other half and her outfits were just as amazing as Cher’s. Now this is where it gets weird. Since Clueless, Stacey Dash didn’t really do much of note – well apart from being in a pre-Kim Kanye West video. And apart from somehow not ageing, like, at all, she was busy becoming a Republican. Now when I say Republican I mean like… seriously Republican. In 2012, Dash cemented her allegiance with a tweet, endorsing super-Mormon robot Mitt Romney. She then entered her famous statement in the gender-specific bathroom discussion:
“OK, then go [to the bathroom] in the bushes,”
Completing the trifecta of awfulness, she recently came out in support for Trump’s Muslim ban. Well done, Stacey. Ironic that her most famous role would be starring in a film called Clueless, when she is in fact so Clueless.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Melissa Joan Hart
The Best Drag Queen YouTube Shows
Originally published on Fashion Fix Daily on 06/05/2017
With the return of RuPaul’s Drag race, if you’re anything like me your thirst for drag queens will be at an all-time high. Let’s be honest, one episode a week isn’t really enough, so I decided to create a little list of some of the best drag queen YouTube shows. Just to clarify, these are not how to transform into a drag queen, there’s a whole ‘nother article in that. This is purely for entertainment purposes so get ready to get that YouTube playlist together.
First up, and this probably goes without saying;
I’m sure most avid fans of drag race are already well aware of Untucked but I thought I would add in case anyone missed the memo. Untucked is the behind the scenes look at the queens during the elimination process. There have been a couple of variations of the format and to be honest I miss the old Untucked, the fights were iconic; Shangela vs. Mimi Imfurst literally throwing drinks, Laganja’s infamous Meltdown, Willam and Phi Phi’s fight… just really the fights, all the fights.
Definitely one of my favourite YouTube shows, BEATDOWN by Willam Belli. BEATDOWN’s concept is very simply Willam reacting to a selection of YouTube videos shown to her. Doesn’t sound that interesting, but if you know Willam, then you know it will be funny. Props to the people that find the videos as even in my deepest darkest YouTube loops I have yet to come across some of this depravity. Seriously the videos are amazing, but let’s face it you will watch for Willam’s razor sharp wit, which is always on point.
UNHhhh – Trixie Mattel & Katya
Whether you were a fan of these two in their season or not, please don't let that deter you from giving this series a watch, and while you are at it don't let the lack of a concrete concept for this show deter you either. As they say "it's a show where we talk about whatever we want, ‘cos it's our show and not yours" and that is pretty accurate, they cover everything from dating and flirting, to religion and wet dreams. Trixie is a truly funny lady but for me, Katya really makes it, from her general strangeness, to her fan, to her endless talk of the movie Contact, to sucking on her rubber chicken. UNHhhh, along with BEATDOWN, are definitely my must watch drag queen shows. I would particularly recommend the Halloween episode – for the rubber chicken.
Fashion Photo RuView – Raja & Raven
Fashion photo RuView sees RuPaul’s Drag Race season 3 winner Raja, and who should have been the season 2 winner Raven, review outfits from the main stage of the show. Raja and Raven will critique outfits from Drag Race or occasionally different queens from social media, a positive review will gain you a ‘toot' and a negative review will get you a ‘boot' and if you are really slaying you could even get the pretty rare to come by ‘shoot'. I have a kind of love-hate relationship with this show, I love Raja and Raven but sometimes I strongly disagree with their opinions. I also sometimes do not understand their personal outfit choices, to be honest there are a lot of ‘boots' from me, but hey – it’s two drag queens judging people, I'm in.
Alyssa Edwards probably has the honour of being the most charismatic drag queen out there. The show name is taken from the infamous challenge on her season, ‘scent of a drag queen’ which really cemented her completely clueless humour; that’s the thing with Alyssa, she doesn’t actually have any idea why she is funny, and that’s why the show is great. Alyssa is constant entertainment, from the facial expressions to the tongue pops, to her unique take on the English language she is entertainment gold, and that’s probably why Alyssa’s Secret has been running for so long now.
Hey Qween with Jonny McGovern
Ever wanted to watch a chat show with your favourite drag queens and other LGBTQ+ icons? Well, Hey Qween is for you. A pretty traditional chat show, host Jonny McGovern and his drag queen sidekick Lady Red interview guests, including the majority of drag race stars and other icons like James St. James, The Boulet Brothers and Mathu Andersen. Keep an eye out for the segment ‘Look at Huh!' where the guests are encouraged to spill a little T or throw a little shade at their sisters. As a bonus, if you enjoy Hey Qween, check out ‘Hot T’ – a gossip show also hosted by Jonny with Lady Red a rotation of other quests. The concept if pretty simple, they discuss a selection of gossip and rumour printed in very reliable sources like the National Enquirer. This show really serves as a vehicle for Jonny McGovern's comedy skills and for Lady Red's ranting, which is pretty iconic.
The Avant-Garde Beat: An Alternative to Cut Crease
Originally published on Fashion Fix Daily on 11/05/2017
First, let me clarify: no shade intended here. If you love a cut crease or some winged eyeliner then that's cool, you do you boo! And while - if done right - it can look fierce, I feel like we are inundated with the same makeup looks over and over again, and people are painting themselves to look the same, so for a little palette cleanser I thought I would put together an antithesis to heavy contouring, highlighting, massive false eyelashes etc. Here are some makeup artists that are truly maintaining the artistry in makeup.
Ryan Burke has been a much talked about makeup artist and photographer for a while now. Belonging to the modern day club kid scene in New York under the patron saint of nightlife, Susanne Bartsch, Burke’s painting stood out even in a world of over-the-top looks. As well as being an ambassador for Pat McGrath, Burke’s makeup was originally part of his process as a photographer. Focusing on self-portraits, Burke describes his style as “an aesthetic derived from the use of unusual materials and makeup to create otherworldly personas”. Using a bold colour palette and geometric shapes, Burke really creates walking art.
One of my absolute personal favourites on this list - perhaps due to our mutual love of red eye shadow - is makeup artist Anna Regaldo, better known as Succuvus. Falling on the gothic side, Succuvus tends to use rich or dark tones on the eyes and lips, set against the base of her pale skin, with added drama being achieved by bleached or no eyebrows. The contrast of the light and dark, and the refined subtlety of her work balances perfectly on the line between horror and beauty. Said to be inspired by religious and satanic themes, her muse is Renaissance art: something that can really be seen in not just her colour palette, but also the beautiful drama she achieves.
Not all makeup is extreme; there is an art to well done subtlety, and this is very much the case for Phoebe Walters. Known for her intricate drawing with string and use of curls of hair, Walters is already moving in big fashion circles, from Paris fashion week to the pages of Italian Vogue. Creating reserved looks with splashes of colour, Walters really excels at bringing out the natural beauty of her model, while still maintaining a rawness that is loved within the fashion industry. Youthful and fresh, her makeup isn't overpowering, but rather understated and serves as a perfect antidote to overt contouring and extreme, caked-on makeup looks.
Belonging to the Kat Von D artistry collective, Kelsey Anna Fitzpatrick is known for her diffused lips and her painterly aesthetic, and definitely a makeup artist to keep your eye on. While well rounded as an artist in various makeup styles and even able to turn her hand to special effects, it is in the dreamy, almost ethereal looks that she really excels. With a delicacy to her touch, her work is truly remarkable living art. Her glossy eye looks and diffused lips are re-posted over and over on social media, the most identifiable of which are the diffused lips, which are reminiscent of the K-beauty gradient, with a gothic flair.
London based professional makeup artist Gregory Kara states in his Instagram bio that he is a Kabuki Art lover, and this love informs his very unique aesthetic. Combining geometric shapes with Kabuki-inspired design, Kara creates tribal and mask-like looks. Working within the fashion industry and stating on his website that he aims to "make the realm of the fantasy accessible bringing it into the reality of everyday life", I definitely feel like we will be seeing much, much more of Gregory Kara's incredible work.
Working in fashion, Bea Sweet is probably one of the coolest contemporary makeup artists working in the UK today. From working in fashion, to working with celebrities like Fka Twigs, Charli XCX and Paris Hilton, she is probably most recognised for her editorial work, particularly with photographer Charlotte Rutherford. Having contributed to multiple publications like Wonderland, Novembre, i-D, Hunger, Galore and Nylon magazine, Sweet is interested in promoting a varied vision of femininity, which goes against the ideals put forward by the mainstream media. Interested specifically in the variations of femininity which can be in direct contradiction with conformist ideals presented in our society, she says, 'I am obsessed with women, no matter what form they come in. I think diversity should be celebrated and when I get a chance to show this in my work I go for it. There’s more than one type of beauty.'
Cover image courtesy of Novembre Magazine and Bea Sweet Beauty