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Over the decades, Australian photographer Murray Fredericks has fallen in love with the salt flats of his native Outback. During his first visit in 2001, Fredericks reported experiencing an intense calm - a sense of diminutive oneness, the kind that could only be felt by a small being below an infinite sky.
The enchantment was cast.
In the years since that first fateful visit, Fredericks has returned time and time again to these limitless horizons - only this time, he brought a mirror. The resulting photographs, part of Fredericks' now-showing "Vanity" series, are as surreal at that first trip so long ago: in this unflinching flatland, simply reflecting anything different is jarring if not wonderful.
I'll skip the art history critique - "Vanity" is damn cool to look at, and should be revered for that quality. Even more impressive: every single image in the series is the result of physical, not digital, manipulation. With a simple tool and a simple landscape, Fredericks makes images that would challenge even Photoshop savants.
Check out more selections from the series below, then visit the artist's website here for more.
As part of this year's Milan Design Week 2017, Italian architecture studio Piuarch collaborated with renowned landscape architect Cornelius Gavril to cover its Milanese office in a cascade of 2,000 blooming bouquets. The flowers were hung using a storied technique where live stems are grafted onto the vines of potato plants, creating a wholly organic look while still juxtaposing the suspended bouquets with the ground they're floating above.
The result: an ethereal façade that livens up one of Milan's historic streets. Visually, "Flowerprint" is a Magritte painting rendered in leaves and stems - "Golconda, 1953" meets the gardens of the Villa d'Este. If you're in the area, enjoy the Instagram fodder. However, if you're either off the continent or can't make it to Milan before the flowers wilt, enjoy the photos below.
Last year, 12 architects from all over the globe were invited to the remote village of Baoxi — in an area south of Shanghai, still untouched by China's building boom - to demonstrate the viability of bamboo construction. Bamboo, the rapidly-growing reed native to China's forests, has long been posited as building material, but this inaugural "Bamboo Bienniale" (one every two years) is perhaps the first step towards realizing its true potential. In a country choked by smog and cement, this naturally-occurring, biodegradable material could present a novel solution to urban China's notoriously polluting behavior.
In the present, however, the Bienniale's mandate (and gorgeous mountainous setting) create some truly stunning visuals - architectural yet organic, urban but at home in the wild. See more photos of the Bienniale structures below:
A list of all 12 architects and their structures, courtesy of our friends at designboom:
Ge Quantao (China) - bridge
George Kunihiro (USA) - existing ceramic workshop
Li Xiaodong (China) - bamboo product research and design center
Simon Velez (Colombia) - boutique hotel
Anna Heringer (Germany) - youth hostel / design hotel
Kengo Kuma (Japan) - contemporary celadon ceramic museum
Keisuke Maeda (Japan) - invited ceramist workshop
Mauricio Cardenas Laverde (Italy – Colombia) - eco-energy efficient experimental house
Suk-Hee Chun and Young-Chul Jang (Republic of Korea) - bamboo restaurant
Madhura Primatilleke (Sri Lanka) - public ceramic workshop
Vo Trong Nghia (Vietnam) - welcome center
Yang Xu (China) - art hotel
Since the dawn of the “Space Race” thrust fabric research into the public consciousness, our societal vision of the future has always included high-tech clothes. From Starfleet jumpsuits to Bond’s gadget-packed suit suits, the pop culture of the time reflected one simple sartorial idea: with the right technology, your clothes could passively improve your life. To a world that was still getting over Tupperware, these dreams of lifestyle-augmenting apparel were, well, a moonshot.
In 1969, the moonshot landed. That year, the father-son team of Wilbert Lee Gore and Bob Gore heated some plastic rods, got frustrated with how slowly they were stretching, and ushered in the future. The Gore family’s invention – a waterproof membrane that could be cut and sewn as readily as a textile – laid the groundwork for some of the world’s first truly-durable waterproof garments. Now, with high-tech fabric alone, simply wearing the right clothes could improve your life. While another, arguably more famous, moonshot also landed that same year, for the world of technical apparel, the invention of GORE-TEX wasn’t just one small step – it was a leap towards the future.
Nearly five decades later, technical apparel has transformed from curiosity to expectation: “athleisure” dominates sales charts, leggings have usurped denim jeans, and running shoes carved from autonomously-woven yarns cost less than a month’s worth of your afternoon coffee breaks. Our pop culture has eagerly reflected this acceptance of high-tech clothing: from the invisible camo bodysuits of “Ghost in the Shell” to the hidden armors of “Deus Ex”, our decades-old vision of the clothes we wear granting us benefits past just avoiding a “public indecency” charge is now moving faster than ever. Last July, Thomas Moon and Paul Lee decided they could move even faster.
Through a closed-list soirée on New York’s Lower East Side, Moon and Lee launched ONU – “Clothing For People Who Do Everything.” With no official pronunciation (“It’s meant to be pronounced in any particular way that you like using sounds that are native to multiple languages”) and a devotion to making technical clothing that’s as streamlined as it is stylish, ONU is seeking what it means to be truly “adaptable.” While GORE-TEX redefined technical apparel as a genre, with ONU, Moon and Lee want to carve out a whole new category: “EveryWear,” or, high-tech clothing designed for performance, well, everywhere.
Last month, we sat down with Moon, Lee, and Justin Kim – the ONU team – to discuss their vision, their research, and why the future of apparel means not running home to change.
AR: How did you get the concept for the ONU brand? How did the three of you even get together in the first place?
JK: It’s been in existence since June of last year. We launched with a small event in New York City but we have no physical location, so that event was a place for us to have an introduction to the brand.
But, it’s funny that you pronounced us as “oh-new.” [The brand] isn’t pronounced in any particular way – it’s meant to be pronounced in any particular way that you like using sounds that are native to multiple languages and cultures around the world. We are really emphasizing being a global brand that’s as international as possible.
The only way this brand could even happen is through the internet. Paul is working in conjunction with people over in Taiwan, traveling all the time, while Thomas and I are working remotely as well. We’re a “tech startup” in so many ways in addition to being a product company.
TM: When you look at a lot of brands, there’s so much “strategy” in terms of rules you have to follow that at a certain point, it’s almost redactive, right? It defeats the brand and the purpose of it. That’s one of the reasons behind that particular element with the name – we allow people to say it however they want. When we do collaborations with people who do video or photography work with us, we want to bank on their expertise. Otherwise, what’s the point in hiring someone who’s really good at their craft if you’re just going to make them do it the way you want it done. That’s not really a collaboration.
JK: Every single collection is a collaboration and a capsule collection that’s presented as such. The first one we launched in New York, with a launch event in New York, by a designer – Diana Eng - who’s based in New York. We collaborated with her on everything from the bare ideas to the final product. Then the second collection, which was launched just end of January, was launched in Shanghai, by a designer – Christina Liao – who is based in Shanghai. It’s a very international collaboration on all levels.
Could you tell me a little bit more about your vision for ONU? That phrase you guys use – “Clothing For People Who Do Everything” – is pretty ambitious. How can technical clothing really improve our everyday lives?
JK: *laughs* Well, Paul’s wardrobe has vastly improved since we got started on this. Right, Paul?
PL: Yeah, the company was really built more out of necessity than anything. I’m a creature of comfort, and all of a sudden moved from LA (where the weather is an immaculate 72 degrees all the time) to Taiwan, where it’s not just hotter but also 90%+ humidity. The three lifestyles Justin, Thomas, and I all lead are very different, so we wanted to be able to create clothes that could fit all of our lives without being defined by them.
JK: We really consider ourselves “performers” in the sense of not only how much we travel and move around, but what we demand from our clothes. What we were looking for is something that fit everything. That includes commuting to work, living your life, and then also play afterwards.
We started by saying “work, play, and live” as the three parts of our lives where one, we need to be clothed, and two, we don’t want to change our clothes just to move within those three. If I dress in clothes that make playing basketball easier because I’m going to go shoot hoops later, then everyone is going to associate me with a certain “b-ball” look. I don’t necessarily want to be associated with a certain activity and have to plan out my day so far in advance.
Basically, we started to see clothes as a limiting factor.
Thomas’ story is very interesting in particular because he comes from the perspective of being an athlete and someone who’s like an extreme performance athlete in all regards – but he started making these clothes himself, and that’s how he fell into the fashion design space actually.
TM: Yeah! *laughs* So I used to freelance in New York for a lot of ad agencies, living every year as “hustle for six months, make my year’s salary, then leave for six months.” I would travel and run races or go rock climbing, and through that I realized I didn’t want to carry so much crap because you have so much gear as it is. I wore a lot of merino, but performance cuts aren’t the most flattering. So, I decided to take it into my own hands.
I found a place here in New York that was willing to make patterns and samples for me, and then I would contact different merino vendors from different parts of the world and ask them if they would send me fabric samples. Then, I would make stuff and test it out.
*laughs* Some of the stuff worked, and some of the stuff did NOT work. It’s a little disheartening when you’re in the middle of the jungle and your shirt starts to fall apart. But it’s your shirt, you made it!
Eventually, it got to the point where the clothes I was actually making for myself were good enough that people started asking me for them. It’s interesting – I remember talking to Ricky, the owner of Isaora [another technical apparel brand], and he was like “dude, you should get into business for yourself,” and I told him that I never would. He then told me: “This is how it always starts.”
When we talk about “Clothing For People Who Do Everything,” a lot of the brands that produce clothing that is in our space promise things from their clothing that is simply unrealistic. When people say that it’s “the best t-shirt ever,” I mean, let’s be real: there’s no such thing as “the best t-shirt ever.” All we wanted to do with ONU was apply good design to innovative materials so that when you wear your garments, regardless of what you do, they almost become invisible.
I think that alone provides an opportunity to open doors for people to do more than what they were originally thinking they were capable of. If you know your jacket is waterproof, you’re less hesitant to go out in the rain – but if you have a cotton hoodie, you know you’re gonna get soaked. It’s not just the versatility of the garments and what they’re capable of, it’s that these garments almost allow you to be versatile along with it.
JK: That doesn’t just mean “sports” either. Re-envisioning and redefining performance in everyday contexts is something that hasn’t been explored really well, and that’s a big part of what we do with each of our products.
TM: We want to make sure that our clothing is a benefit to people. If you have a jacket on and it starts to rain and your jacket is waterproof, that’s a benefit in itself because now you don’t get wet and you show up fresh to wherever you’re going. That now gives you the capacity to pack lighter and still look good. You now have one garment that can handle a variety of situations.
Returning to your point about “opening doors”, did you ever think you were going to be on the “creator” side within fashion? Were you artistic when you were younger, or was your foray into design pure necessity from which you never looked back?
TM: I guess art kinda runs in my family. We’re either artists or doctors. *laughs*
I was a designer for a long time for many ad agencies, so I guess designing apparel was never really something I thought of myself doing. But, after you get to a certain point in your design journey, [your design fundamentals are strong enough that] sure you won’t understand the nuances of a new subject, but you can self-teach yourself anything.
PL: While none of us are formally-trained in fashion, we bank on the expertise of fashion designers and fashion production houses because we do know our limitations. We look to buttress our capabilities by working every season with experts in their fields and truly collaborating with them.
And that’s how you end up with incredible pieces like the Laser Lace Shorts, for example.
TM: Exactly. I think it’s also because we have a huge capacity in terms of the technologies we have access to. A lot of the time, designers don’t get access to some of these because of the minimum orders they have to create that give larger brands those same materials. Since we’re doing smaller runs, we don’t have to worry about creating hundreds of thousands of garments, we just have to worry about creating one hundred, so let’s push it.
Tell me about some of those innovative technologies you have access to. What really goes into ONU clothing?
TM: Right off the bat, I think one of the biggest things is that we actually have our own R&D to make our own tech. For that first collection, we created a fabric called “Synthmere” that came exclusively from our research and development. It’s a synthetic-based cashmere which has a cashmere core wrapped around with nylon and tencel to protect the cashmere.
In the second collection, we developed the fabric that goes on the Baselayer and the Qipao dress. It’s a N66 nylon facing coated with C6 DWR, with merino wool underneath [editor’s note: this is a BFD].
Then, in the third collection, we have something very special coming out which I can tell you has microscopic jade particles in it that we’re actually developing right now. For each collection, we try to create some sort of new and innovative fabric. It’s not just about innovation in terms of the design: we want to look at the design the designers come up with and think about what’s going to be the best application in terms of the material.
Our whole process is a little bit backwards in terms of how fashion designers normally work. Typically, they’ll pick the fabrics first then create a design based on that, but we’re doing it the opposite. We want to be first be mindful of the design, then choose fabrics that make sense for it.
That sounds so exciting - you get to push boundaries with your apparel, from both sides of the design/production equation. What energizes you the most about being in this new, young “technical apparel” segment?
TM: I think a lot of people are trying to put us in the athleisure market, but we’re more of an “innovation” company which happens to make clothing and I think that’s something that’s important for us. Down the line, hopefully those initial technologies will have been fleshed out, but we have also been contacted by our manufacturers and they are very happy to develop new technologies for us and with us based on requests that we have. It’s pretty crazy.
PL: Just seeing the eagerness of a lot of these big huge companies wanting to innovate, hitching their wagon to our vision of moving clothing forward is really exciting. I never expected it this early on.
Question for Paul and Justin: being e-commerce only, I’m getting some almost “Ghost in the Shell” vibes from all of this. There’s a connected network, international reach, and then all of a sudden, ONU will materialize for events. How did you even think up this concept for the business?
JK: We took a very intentional approach to staying out of the reseller/wholesale stockists market because we really wanted to make sure that, in the end, we could provide the best value for our customers. In the end, that’s all that keeps you coming back to a brand, right? A style can change every season for different brands, but we’re not trying to make a brand signature style. We’re creating a brand with longevity that hopefully people will keep coming back to.
*laughs* The “Ghost in the Shell” reference… that’s pretty esoteric. But also really eerie and coincidental considering how this brand came to be.
It’s the whole “Deus Ex Machina” idea of it all, right? We’ve played upon those themes quite a lot in the lifestyle photography and the writing, copy, and most recently, our second collection is very technical in nature and therefore tech-inspired. But wow – I think that’s a really good metaphor for what we’re doing.
I don’t want to push this a direction it may not be, but would you classify ONU as “techwear”? Or is it technical apparel that’s bordering that space? I know “techwear” has a certain connotation in fashion as a whole.
JK: That’s why we’re working to create our own category of “EveryWear.” Hopefully, as time progresses, that will become a coined term. You know, “athleisure” had to come from somewhere, right? It’s not just about the certain demographics that already exist – we’d rather create one.
For example, women don’t have their own techwear space really. There are a couple little pockets here and there, but we wanted to really grow that out for women with Collection 2. So, we made their stuff as dope as possible.
The Qipao dress? It’s insane.
TM: Right?! Every piece is thoughtfully designed, conceived, and has just so much going on that it’s really difficult to encapsulate the whole collection into a simple theme. I think that’s why the techwear community has been latching on to us We’ve designed things in a way that it can reference certain styles – we reference “Blade Runner” in a lot of our photography, for instance, with the neon and neo-noir themes – but it can also fit normally with someone who’s just at work.
In that way, we are trying to be versatile, truly, in the clothes themselves from a utilitarian point of view, but also versatile in style. So yeah, the visual part [of techwear] isn’t nearly as important to us.
Who – or what brands - would you say are your real contemporaries in the space? Some pieces immediately take me to Arc’teryx Veilance, then there are others like the Membrane Pullover that are perhaps more on the Stone Island side.
TM: I think we’re talking about brands that are mostly menswear. I don’t think there’s really a competitive brand on the women’s side – Lululemon Lab does some cool stuff, definitely. They do have some interesting pieces, but the composition of their textiles isn’t really anything new.
JK: We don’t see many brands really innovating with any experimental technologies as much as they are experimenting with shapes and patterns. For us, we don’t really have other brands that are precisely in our space.
For instance, you mentioned Stone Island. There’s relevance there. Of course, there’s ACRONYM, and ACG, and there’s a lot of reference there. And then there’s NikeLab, which is definitely very relevant to us. Outlier is a huge one on the men’s side. And [Arc’teryx Veilance] is close to us – Snowpeak, as well.
So, I guess it’s more like other brands that are working with some of the same technology that we’re close within the space. But style-wise? That’s a tough one, man.
PL: From the very beginning, we noticed that there was not another brand that incorporated all three as very strong pillars of their company and of their vision. We knew from the get-go that there wasn’t anyone going to be like us, particularly in the space that we wanted to create.
We pick and choose what we like in other companies, whether that’s the performance here or the aesthetic value there, and we really amalgamate that into something that’s truly our own and unique. That’s kind of been the goal.
That’s a good place to be in.
JK: But also, this is not the endgame for us. There are going to be a couple “next steps” for the company, and this [the current state of ONU apparel] is just one component of a larger company we want to build out.
So where do you see ONU in the Year 2020?
TM: (without hesitation) I see us working with KAAREM. *laughs*
We’ve got our calendar pretty tight up until then. KAAREM will be working with us in 2020 – they’re an amazing brand, I mean the way they go about creating their garments is just incredible.
JK: There’s not much we can go into about it, but it is a collaboration with another brand as opposed to a single designer. That’s the future of where we’re going. We will be expanding our business along more of the business-to-business side as well. For instance, the technologies that we develop – those fabrics like Synthmere – we’ll be able to have those available for other companies to use. We want to be able to do this R&D and not just hoard it for ourselves, but eventually be able to open it up and to share this knowledge with other brands that get into this space.
TM: Right. Because somebody might be able to do something amazing with something we created that we would never think about. It’s far from us to stop somebody from doing something super dope for people to have.
JK: I mean, that’s how we started with a lot of our stuff, too. Like those laser lace shorts that you mentioned were a great example of this: why not have the mesh pattern and it be a lace, and have that have some sort of utility to it? And then why not have it be like a skort instead of just a skirt? Taking something that already exists, flipping it, adding a unique perspective to it.
But of course, ONU’s going to push that boundary first.
TM: This is almost like our test for the people that we want to eventually release it to.
Almost like Arc’teryx and GORE-TEX Pro Shell?
JK: Exactly. We’re lucky because we don’t have to deal with the crazy minimum order quantities that big brands do – they can’t even make decisions or have access to the libraries that we do just because it’s cost-prohibitive.
TM: Yeah, it’s really cool. Sometimes, you see the stuff made and get it in hand and it’s like “oh my god, we made this!”
JK: It’s almost like, “what do we do with this?” As opposed to the designer getting a couple of swatches and being told “here, pick.”
I know the brand is still young, but to wrap it up, what’s your favorite piece that ONU has ever created?
JK: The men’s stretch shorts. I wore them all summer, literally all summer long almost every day, and they’re the best pair of shorts I’ve ever owned. The shorts are all bonded around the leg-holes so you don’t have the extra weight of the seams weighing you down. All summer, my friends were like, “are you still wearing those same shorts?”
TM: My favorite is the Merino T-Shirt from the first collection. I think that piece in itself is incredibly versatile. Being a traveler, you really can take that with you and go run through the jungle, go climbing in it, but then you can also go out to dinner because of the Bemis that’s on it. It makes it look really premium. Paul, what’s your favorite piece?
PL: It would have to be is the latest jacket we just released, both the men’s and women’s. For me, it’s a testament to where this company is going. Each collection, each item we go for is going to try to one-up the last, and the jacket really was a big step because I never expected to be able to make something so amazing, so soon in ONU’s lifetime. Being able to push that boundary – not the way that it looks, but the energy, the love that went into it – that’s what really makes it my favorite piece right now.
Finally: unrelated, but I ask this to everyone I interview. What is your all-time favorite pair of sneakers?
TM: Nike Gyakusou Lunarspider LT 2’s, 2010. Done. That is my hands-down, favorite pair of sneakers that Gyakusou has ever produced. And they don’t even carry the Lunarspider LT 2’s anymore! They were kicked out by Nike in 2012, and it’s so annoying.
JK: *laughing* Which one of us is the designer? Take your guess.
PL: I have mine – the adidas Stan Smiths that were made with Primeknit. These were the very first sneakers I had that used that knitted woven material, and that just blew my mind. They were so much better than any other sneaker I had owned in terms of comfort, and to me, that was just an evolution of the material.
JK: And mine is really similar. Mine is the Nike Flyknit Racer. They have just been the most revolutionary shoe for me over the years. I’m a bit of a sneakerhead, and these just completely changed the game for me. I like the Oreo’s the best – they’re just super pretty. They go with everything.
The following was the cover story of the Spring/Summer 2017 "Art of Fashion" print edition of SHEI Magazine. All rights reserved by owner.
While most high schoolers pinch pennies to buy fresh threads, Zwade Devenish had a different plan for that spare change on his dresser: “I saved my allowances from 9th to 11th grade because I wanted to make clothes,” he laughs. “I had money saved up, wanted to do a collection, but had no idea how to do it. So I just ran into a fabric store and started buying by feeling.”
For Zwade, those two years of saving – and that one fateful afternoon where his senses led the way – have blossomed into nearly a decade of following the passion that stoked his high school frugality all those years ago: designing beautiful, sensuous clothes. With a resume that includes experience at the world’s most buzzworthy names in streetwear (Billionaire Boys Club) and luxury (YEEZY), to his own personal line of private client couture (the eponymous “Zwade Devenish”), it’s easy to forget that the artist himself is not yet 30. Talk to him about his art, and that temporary amnesia becomes a borderline gaslighting: there’s no way someone this skilled, this dynamic wasn’t alive for the “Seinfeld” premiere.
Yet, to call Zwade Devenish a “prodigy” is to sell short the countless hours of hard work that have enabled his craft. Michael Jordan was cut from his middle school basketball team; it was the thousands of midnight three-pointers, not raw talent, that crafted the sport’s greatest player. Here, in a world every bit as glamorous as championship sports, is another phenom forged through their passion and devotion to pure human potential. As Devenish prepares for a busy spring season, SHEI Magazine sat down with Zwade to talk about his triumphs, his inspirations, and clothing as art.
AR: Tell me a little bit about how you got started in fashion.
ZD: I met this counselor in high school, a woman named Tracy Karas – she saw my work sketching and designing junior year of high school, and really believed in me. One day, she told me that “this guy Chris [Bevans] and Billionaire Boys Club are going to be at this [NYC Teen Live] event.” I felt like the stars were aligning. I shot my collection, brought photos, and went. Chris gets up to speak, and at the end - as people are asking him questions – the moderator, a woman named Bevy Smith, turns to him and says: “This guy in the back was the first one in the room. You should ask him a question.”
That guy was me.
I forget what he asked me, but after his Q&A we spoke briefly, and I showed him the photos of my collection. He wasn’t just nice to me – he was legitimately impressed. He looked over everything I designed, turned to me, and said: “For you to be thinking on this level is f*cking crazy.”
I was so nervous - this was someone in the industry that understands my work and respects it! We talked a little bit more after, then he told me flat out: “you should come to Billionaire Boys Club.” I started working in fashion professionally, when Chris [Bevans] discovered me.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
Since forever. I was born in Trinidad, and my Mom owned a boutique. I would spend a lot of time in there and see what type of projects she was working on. I was fascinated with how a garment was executed – I’d see a lady in town wearing something, and just wonder how it was made.
That fascination stayed with me when I moved to the US. In high school, I saved my allowances from 9th to 11th grade because I wanted to make clothes. There’s a quote from Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: “Preparation meets opportunity.” I had money saved up, wanted to do a collection, but had no idea how to do it. So I just ran into a fabric store and started buying by feeling. I only had two garments [out of eight] sketched, but ended up choosing materials for every piece entirely by what I visualized in my head. Then, I made my first collection. That was Spring/Summer 2013.
Tell me about your first fashion internship with Billionaire Boys Club. This was at Roc Nation HQ in New York, right? What was it like to be there, in that environment, surrounded by that incredible creative team?
It was really DOPE. *laughs*
I learned so much from Chris himself. Chris and the BBC team had me involved in every part of the brand from designing and styling lookbooks, to communicating with factories and making sure our samples were in on time. One of the things he taught me early on was that your schedule can be so demanding, but if you really love what you do, none of it matters. I also learned how important it is to be ahead of everything. It doesn’t matter what’s trending now – at BBC, we were focused on the bigger picture. We were pushing brands forward.
Usually you think of internships as “grab coffee” or “run to the store”, but they had me actually working in fashion. That’s how me and Chris really built a relationship – I’ve seen people my age feel so entitled [at internships], but those people crash and burn. I just went in there and went to work. I didn’t jump in there and start taking pictures for my Instagram, like “Yo here’s me with Pharrell! Here’s me at BBC!” I was just part of the team.
Related, but I also learned how to be around celebrities/high profile people and not be shook up about it. Those relationships mean so much to me now going forward, too.
Your personal line, “Zwade Devenish”, has some truly elegant – even, dare I say, artful - pieces. What inspires such exquisite, ornamental work?
I don’t even know where to start. I’m really inspired by Rhianna, Naomi Cambell, and Cassie - those women exude confidence. They could wear a garbage bag and just be killing it. I always tell people that I design for a woman who is confident in her skin, but comfortable in her clothes. It’s not really about me [as the designer] – it’s all about how YOU wear the garment.
Sometimes I’m inspired by music, sometimes I look at Naomi’s catwalk and think “I got it.” I might listen to a Rhianna album, try to understand her mood, and think “she’d rock this.” I’m also inspired by the mystery of Cassie: you don’t see her, but you know her. But ultimately, I’m focused on the customer. Sometimes I go over to Chelsea, see a woman walking down the street and just think “that’s the woman who wears my clothes.”
I know Naomi’s got one of my garments, and I can’t wait for her to wear it. *laughs* I’ve never been starstruck, but I was then. Naomi Campbell is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous.
AR: Fashion occupies a dual role in our society: it’s both legally necessary (outside of a nudist beach) and a medium of artistic expression. What’s your take on clothing as art?
Clothing is art. Point blank. The end.
We’re gonna be buried in clothes. It’s just so important. When I design, I understand that clothing is an artistic expression of someone’s feelings or mood.
It’s almost like looking at someone’s playlist. They listen to A$AP Rocky, they listen to Future – ok, they like trap. If they’re wearing Celine shades and a Goyard bag, mixing brands but doing it well, then you just know they understand fashion.
Take Alexander McQueen, my favorite designer – you can’t look at his garments and not think that they’re art. I remember reading this interview with him where he said he was just inspired by this certain natural scene he saw and created an entire collection based on that. That’s art. And it’s one of his dopest collections ever.
Zwade Devenish has, for the first time, entered the menswear world. What are some of the challenges that come with adopting “fashion as art” for a male audience?
It’s totally different. I wouldn’t say I’m “adapting” to menswear because somehow I get involved with mens clothes at every turn. However, to my heart, I’m a womenswear designer. Every blue moon, every time I get inspired, I come out with a few pieces for men.
The aesthetics are different because my customer is different. My male customer is chill, as opposed to my female customer who is sophisticated with an edge. I personally enjoy working for females more.
In the year 2020, what does success look like for the Zwade Devenish brand?
Giving back. I went to junior high school in Brooklyn then high school on the Lower East Side, but I really wanted to go to [The High School of] Fashion Industries or Art and Design High School [two application-only high schools in New York City]. I was declined from both schools. Now, Art and Design has reached out about me coming in as a guest speaker for their students. I think it’s really dope that I can come have a live Q&A and speak to the students, telling them about how it all works, even at a place that turned me down. Success for me is about reaching out to those kids who really want to work in fashion or the arts.
In fashion, your chances are always slim to none. My story is slim to none. There were no opportunities for fashion in Brooklyn, so I had to go out and find it. Chris didn’t come to my school, I had to go out and find him. So it’s really important to go out and tell the kids “do your research, find things out.” That’s my way of giving back.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you also worked on the YEEZY Season 1 collection with Kanye West – not much of that distressed sportswear vibe is present in your current aesthetic. How did that experience shape you as a designer?
A LOT. Because Kanye is really artistic, really an artist, a real real artist. *laughs*
[Working on YEEZY meant] switching gears in terms of being at BBC. There, we were always on the computer, [whereas with] Kanye we were actually cutting and sewing. A Zwade garment is executed cut and sew, so it was my style. I also learned the importance of mood boards – how to work a mood board, but still get the garment done on time.
I apply a lot of what I learned at YEEZY to Zwade [Devenish] - that street aesthetic, but still in cut and sew. I’m in that constant battle between being urban, but also chic and sophisticated. Working on YEEZY taught me how to build that reference. You’re wearing YEEZY to the airport, but once you get off the plane and go to the Ritz, you’re wearing Zwade. My customer is a traveling woman, so it’s important to understand all parts of her lifestyle. Working at BBC and YEEZY [two international, mass consumer brands] taught me a lot about that.
I hate thinking like that all the time because it might cripple the art of it, but that’s the part of being a designer. You have to bring function. McQueen didn’t bring in function at all, and that’s why his pieces are in museums now.
*laughs* But no one’s gonna wear his dress to the airport.
One final question: since this is the “Art of Fashion” issue, what’s the one fashion show that moved you the most?
Givenchy Fall 2011/2012 collection. Ricardo Tisci [Givenchy Creative Director, 2005-2017] was using pearls on mesh fabric, and everything was hand-sewn and hand-beaded. The pure technicality of making those garments was very, very hard. A collection like that can be hit or miss, but it wasn’t a miss for him. The silhouettes were simple, functional, and above all, artistic. Managing all those three - that’s hard to do. But Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy really killed it!
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
A special thank you to Mr. Zwade Devenish for making this interview possible. Learn more about “Zwade Devenish”, his by-appointment-only women’s couture line, at ZwadeDevenish.com or follow @zwadedevenish on Instagram.
This article was originally published Tuesday, January 10 on SHEIMagazine.com
Luxury, in all forms, is defined by the emotion it stirs. If Louis Vuitton didn’t provoke grandeur, their bags would be mere leather and twine – and raw materials aren’t worth two months’ rent.
The same holds doubly true for cars. After all, this isn’t just two months’ rent we’re talking about: if you want a customer to spend north of six figures when a used Camry would do just fine, only aesthetic pleasure will overcome cold, hard rationality.
When it comes to the business of luxury cars, the automotive world has evolved to borrow tactics from the fashion industry in order to stir emotion on a seismic scale. When done right, this apparel-automotive crossover doesn’t just move the audience; it immerses them. At this year’s 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI, three automakers combined the best of both fashion presentation and luxury car prestige to create truly spectacular emotional experiences.
Mercedes-Benz doesn’t just borrow from the fashion industry – it creates it. The world’s oldest luxury car brand has long sponsored Fashion Weeks around the world, lending both its capital and its unshakable image to runways from Australia to Berlin. It’s no surprise, then, that the German brand knows how to create spectacle.
At this year’s Auto Show, Mercedes opened with a bang: an 8-piece jazz ensemble caught the beat, and the show began. Like any proper catwalk, a parade of shapes, colors, and designs soon followed. Mercedes showed four vehicles in total, ranging from the gregarious GLA45 AMG (a hatchback with a spoiler!) to the altruistic Concept EQ (an all-electric SUV!), the athletic E-Class Coupe (athletic commuter!) to the beautiful-if-objectively-terrifying AMG GT C Edition 50 (550hp supercar! Exclamation point!).
One by one, some of the most gorgeous vehicles on the planet took the stage before retreating behind the curtain. Then, after each had curtsied, all four took the stage for a grand finale. All the while, the band played on.
Compared to its other Teutonic contemporaries, Mercedes stood out because it didn’t just show – it entertained. Thanks to CAD software and robotic manufacturing, having beautiful cars alone has (thankfully) become table stakes for the premium market. What matters then becomes the intangibles those cars symbolize: the image, the lifestyle, the ownership experience. Just as Burberry engages its customers with varied collections that fill every need in their life with a desirable, iconic brand, so does Mercedes. Just change the scarf for a turbo.
As an established sponsor of New York Fashion Week, it’s no surprise that a resurgent Cadillac eagerly embraces the values of the fashion world. This year, America’s luxury brand stole the show with a front-and-center feature of the Escala concept car. Positioned directly in front of the hall’s main entrance, the Cadillac booth rises like an iceberg, a massive video wall draped in stark white replete with light hardwood accents. Levitating above the water line is Escala: a sleek, grey, architectural four-door with lines as stunning as they are few.
While “put the thing on the stage” is hardly innovative, Cadillac’s Escala wows thanks to the elegance and confidence of its presentation. Like an Armani Privé show, Cadillac’s latest concept doesn’t lean on bright colors or bawdy showmanship to get its point across. Instead, it stands on stage alone: bold, sharp, a testament to the skill of its designers. It is, in many ways, automotive couture. The Escala shines because of – not in spite of – its understatement.
Still need convincing? Check out 3000 more words below.
To many suburban families, Lexus and luxury are synonyms. The very phrase “Lexus crossover” evokes an image of comfort and affluence that comes with mid-life security: whiz-bang interiors, school carpools, designer handbag. When Toyota launched the Lexus brand at the 1989 Detroit show with the first-ever Lexus LS 400, it was a competitor brand with a mission to win over these same luxury customers. Over the three decades since, Lexus has catapulted up the sales charts by sycophantically focusing on the values it has come to symbolize: innovation, function, and unyielding luxury.
So, when it came time for Lexus to launch the newest generation of their flagship LS sedan, they simply returned to their roots.
Just like the designer handbag on the arm of that same Lexus persona, the only proper way for a luxury brand to refresh an icon is through sheer spectacle. Lexus’ 2017 Detroit show was no exception.
With all the might (and budget) of the Toyota Motor Corp, Lexus constructed a light-and-sound experience for the ages. Bass boomed; strings swelled; a jet black catwalk straight out of Milan Fashion Week bisected the speechless audience. After a brief speech telling the history of Lexus LS, the theater plunged into darkness before a sinister orange glow crept across a 180° video screen.
Suddenly, the room was crackled and hissed – a ring of fire flashed across the screens as smoke filled the air by the stage. On screen, a faceless figure forged flame into fenders. From these molten strokes, a shape formed: the iconic Lexus spindle grill. From this grill, came a body; and from this body, came the molten silhouette of the all-new Lexus LS. Then, silence.
For all the crowd knew, the fire on the screen was real: judging by their breathless awe, the oxygen in the room must’ve burned away.
Finally, with the room approaching vacuum, a single shape pierced the thermobaric silence: from the back, up a ramp, and down the catwalk, drove the world premiere 2018 Lexus LS.
Stunned gasps became camera shutters, and once more, the room was aglow.
Fashion critics may pan spectacle without purpose, yet when done well (and for a deserving-enough occasion), there is nothing like it. Fendi’s recent show on Trevi Fountain comes to mind: an iconic luxury brand celebrating the city that made it an icon with an experience not soon forgotten by those lucky enough to attend.
While Lexus had to forge its own environment from a convention center floor, the effect was felt all the same. And, considering the significant role Detroit has played in catalyzing Lexus’ U.S. growth, it’s safe to say the Motor City was the ideal venue for such an effect.
In an era of “Autopilot” modes and ride-sharing apps, it is more essential than ever for luxury car makers to stir emotion. Considering the fashion industry’s historic ability to create aesthetic experience, it’s no wonder that luxury brands like Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus align with some of fashion’s most awe-inspiring tactics to create breathtaking experiences.
The result? Art in motion, both on stage and off.
With neon tubes and the Spanish countryside as his lonesome companions, Paris-based photographer Nicolas Rivals painted a journey. Titled "La Linea Roja," Rivals' photo essay contrasts the iridescent glow of manmade light with the eerie stillness of the hinterlands at night. The results are alien, even chilling: artificial shapes glow with inorganic intensity, both a part of and wholly removed from the plants and trees they've invaded as support.
Yet, despite the almost predatory discomfort one feels watching the lights in the darkness, there's a subtly-attractive, even futuristic quality to Rivals' photos. How many movies portray man augmenting nature? How many rock album covers create similar scenes? Even as cruel, glowing, geometric fangs stare back from a once-tranquil forest, it's hard not to feel awed by their possibility. View the rest of the photos in the series below:
All photos courtesy of the artist and DesignBoom.com.
Since 1957, winners of Japan's annual Good Design Award have represented the pinnacle of Japanese design to the world. Past GDA honorees have included powered wheelchairs, industrial robots, and even Nike's Flyknit Racer - all the more reason why this year's Good Design Grand Award winner wowed both judges and designers alike.
"Authagraph," the 2016 Good Design Grand Award honoree, is a world map. The map, plotted by Tokyo architect Hajime Narukawa, is an innovative portrayal of Earth's geography designed to correct misconceptions caused by the Mercator Projection, what most envision when they think of the "map of the world." First plotted in 1569 by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, the Euro-centric "Mercator Map" dramatically distorts the size of both Greenland and Antarctica, with no rational reason behind the deceptions other than Mercator's apparent wants to put Europe at the center of the globe.
Narukawa's "AuthaGraph" replots the size and location of continents according to a process that represents parts of a sphere as equally-sized regions of a tetrahedron. The inside of the finished tetrahedron is then cut out, allowed the shape to flatten into a rectangle with aspect ratio root(3):4. The final result: a rectangular world map that accommodates for both landmass size and the curvature of the Earth in an accurate way.
While "Authagraph" is unfamiliar at first, the image it presents has deep ramifications for how we manage our increasingly-imperiled planet. If humans had spent the past 450 years looking at properly-sized Africa, Asia, and Antarctica, one can only imagine the effect on our policies.
This week's featured outfit: technology meets sportswear for a conventional look that's anything but. As both design geek and novelty-seeking missile, I'm drawn to the quiet brilliance of reworked staple pieces. While cotton and wool on classic shapes certainly look great, a slew of materials science has made old-school materials more anachronism than utility. Now, thanks to some truly-innovative designers in the sportswear and outdoors industries, the silhouettes of the past meet the fabrics of the future in a brilliant, understated way.
Starting from the top, there's the jacket: this Arc'teryx Commuter Hardshell is modeled after the zip-up cotton Harrington jackets of yore, but a GORE-TEX construction (and movement-friendly design) takes the silhouette to a new plane of function. The gorgeous, neutral "Chalk Stone" shown here is from Arc'teryx 24's Spring 2015 collection. Even after a year of use and abuse, the jacket has held up beautifully.
For some under-shell insulation, I threw on the DYNE Heritage Mega Crew. Crafted from DYNE's water-resistant "Mega" spacer fabric, the whole package weighs less than half a pound yet keeps you toasty regardless of condition. Think down coat levels of warmth:weight, but without the "puffer" look. Then, there's that electric blue: fluorescent, hi-viz, straight from a Cosmonaut style guide. Package that all in a classic athletic sweatshirt silhouette, and this midlayer becomes borderline space age.
Rounding out this old-meets-new collection are the Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukkas. Lunar Flyknit Chukkas are a heritage desert boot silhouette, built from everything but: Flyknit, Lunar EVA foam, and high-tension Flywire collide to bring performance running features to a distinctly-casual shoe. Draped in this speckled blue/platinum colorway, the Lunar Flyknit Chukkas represent the best that Nike's lifestyle-focused Sportswear division has to offer.
On Thursday, September 18, Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen unveiled the next generation of the luxury brand's design language with the Escala concept. Andrew Smith, Cadillac's Executive Director of Global Design, detailed the Escala's breathtaking exterior to an intimate gathering of industry and press.
First, there's the front: the brand's storied vertical lamps have evolved into razor-sharp "L" headlights, rendered in optic white LED's. Two opposing lamps bookend the Escala's shield-shaped grill, a visual callout to the iconic Cadillac logo. The car's mean grin extends to its bulging hood, a long, muscular cover for the car's twin-turbo V8. Rumored specs include cylinder deactivation and a power output above 500 horses.
The Escala then slopes back into a "grand coupe" form, a shape familiar to many luxury auto enthusiasts. Compared to its German counterparts, Cadillac's streamlined four-door appears much more athletic, almost geometric, viewed from the side. Hidden B-pillars and elegant door jewelry are the key draws.
Finally, there's the interior. According to Smith, the inspiration for the cabin's textiles was fine men's suiting - a break from the traditional "all leather everything" that's come to define European luxury. That's not to say the Escala is PETA-approved: lush leather accents (those plush seats; that glistening wheel) abound.
If anything, the decision to use suiting-grade wool on the doors represents a confident stride away from the dogma of traditional gran coupe designs. With an emergent Cadillac positioning itself as America's luxury automobile, it'll be exciting to watch how bold strides like the Escala define the 114-year-old brand's future for centuries to come.
Check out more pictures of the Escala concept car below:
Yohji Yamamoto's adidas shows are equal parts spectacular and terrifying. The clothing is innovative if predictable, the environment is sterile, but beyond this familiarity lies the same deep sense of foreboding that made Yamamoto the toast of Paris so long ago. Safely nestled into your Space Odyssey interior, viewers are presented with a torrent of the darkness the future may hold. And it is quite literally a torrent: 53 looks were presented in this year's show, each more daunting than the last.
The sum effect is a Disneyland parade of cyberpunk, a slideshow of humanity in the eclipse of the space age. Each riot mask and synthetic poncho is pure "uncanny valley": as climate concerns and global militarism grab more headlines, you can't shake the feeling that the clothes on stage may one day be yours.
That being said, this season's Y-3 offering is also really damn cool. Anchored by the brand's new space boot footwear silhouette, this collection plays up the astral connection with seafoam greens and hi-viz blues straight from a kosmonaut's footlocker. Given this January's announcement that Y-3 is designing the spacesuits for Virgin Galactic's space tourism program, it would seem Yohji and his team have embraced their co-sign to intergalactic heights. The result is utilitarian, laser-guided futurism with a distinctly athletic touch. It is current (don't say athleisure) yet innovative - lightyears ahead, while somehow right in step.
Oddly enough, one of the strongest looks from the collection was decidedly terrestrial: a white mandarin jacket with an asymmetric zipper, finished in neoprene details. It was a welcome break from the Kubrick-esque costume design that inspired the collection, yet still alluded to the "dark space" theme while referencing Yohji's tailoring prowess.
Christoph Waltz' Skyfall jacket comes to mind - indeed, the deranged futurism of his whole character from that film may as well be a reference here. Sure, the Y-3 sneakers were great as always; but in a galaxy of tech-tinged sportswear, sometimes the dark stars shine the brightest.
After a three year hiatus from fashion, designer Aitor Throup announced that he will present an all new collection this June at London Collections: Men 2016.
The announcement came by way of Throup’s website, newobjectresearch.com. Early this morning, four short films were uploaded, featuring iconic Throup designs made into 3D wireframe models then transformed into liquid metal color right to music by legendary producer Rodaidh McDonald (the xx, Sampha). If you have five free minutes, click through and be amazed. The audio-visual experience is equals parts fixating and terrifying.
Aitor Throup is best known for his “New Object Research” line, an avant-garde exploration of form and architecture through technical fashion. First debuted in 2013 after Throup’s graduation from The Royal College of Art in London, New Object Research gained international acclaim for its techno-gothic approach to design and construction. Highlights of the collection included a field jacket with built in facial veil and an anatomically-correct human skull.
Since the 2013 collection, Throup has become synonymous with the darkness and innovation alike. He is one of my favorite designers alive, and his return to fashion is some of the best news I've heard all week. Sufficed to say, I’ll be covering Throup a lot more in the months to come.
Industrial design and architecture are intimately linked. The goal of any successful and visionary designer is to beautify progress: to take advances in function and form them in a palatable way. Some of the world’s most legendary industrial designers (Massimo Vignelli and Aldo Rossi, to name a few) were architects by training who went on to apply their architectural mindset to typography, interior design, and in countless other capacities. The common goal of those straddling the architect-designer axis is to beautify their world because of a sense of civic duty. Tinker Hatfield had another idea in mind.
Tinker Haven Hatfield, Jr. (b. April 30, 1952) graduated from the University of Oregon in 1977 with a degree in Architecture. Hatfield has neither a designer line nor a New York atelier, yet his designs appear on the red carpets of events worldwide, from charity balls to the Oscars. The fruits of his labor appear alongside Rolex watches and made-to-measure tuxedos. Knock-offs of his designs sell for five times more than the genuine articles, and in 1998, Fortune magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential Designers of the 20th Century. How does Hatfield make his living? He designs athletic shoes.
Hatfield got his start designing shoes in 1981, when he, a corporate architect at the time designing buildings for Nike’s Beaverton campus, was asked specifically by higher-ups within the company to take a crack at shoe design. During this time, Nike was tweaking its first iterations of what would become its world-famous “Air” technology. Inspired by the exposed interiors of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France, then-architect Hatfield designed the Air Max 1 around a window in the heel intended to showcase the sole’s “Air” technology. The resulting shoe would become one of the most influential athletic shoe designs ever.
Hatfield’s aptitude for functional yet elegant design was quickly recognized, and he was assigned to one of Nike’s largest accounts—the Air Jordan line. The Air Jordan, due to its highly-public showing on the feet of “His Airness” himself, had to be aesthetically attractive while maintaining its on-court performance. Hatfield’s first design, the legendary Air Jordan III, was released in 1988. The AJIII introduced a bold new idea to the world of performance footwear: a shoe could fit the needs of professional athletes and still look good doing it. This standard was reinforced when Michael Jordan went on to win all six NBA championships in Hatfield-designed basketball shoes. Massive, unprecedented, nation-wide sneaker advertising campaigns highlighted both Jordan and his namesake sneakers, and the first ever mass market collectible sneaker phenomenon was born.
Hatfield would go on to design Air Jordans IV through XV, XX, XXIII, and XXV, along with non-Jordan brand shoes like the Nike Air Trainer. Hatfield refers to himself as a “futurist” who focuses jointly on form alongside function – a nod to his architecture background. His designs function in front of millions of adoring fans, and form the modern perception of what an athletic-casual fashion piece should be due to both their looks and championship pedigree. How his designs have transcended their athletic role is due in part to formerly-contrasting, now-harmonic influences: hip hop culture and haute couture.
New York City has long been the heart of American sneaker culture, rising from its roots in playground basketball leagues and neighborhood sports shops to department store windows and international flagship stores on Fifth Avenue. An explosion of interest in hip hop culture in the late 1980’s brought the “b-boy” breakdancing culture and hip hop artists like Run DMC to the forefront of the national conscience, bringing with them the cultures’ shared emphasis on sneakers. Having a pair of clean sneakers that no one else had was a point of pride to a 1980’s New Yorker; it meant you had the best source, were the savviest shopper, and had the resources to buy brand new shoes. Breakdancing, hip hop, and sneaker culture were all intertwined. By the end of the decade, Run DMC had signed an endorsement deal with Adidas that included the group’s own limited edition “Superstar” sneaker, produced by Adidas and distributed nationwide. Hip hop was here to stay, and sneaker culture was right there with it.
Hip hop artists shouted out sneakers in songs and wore brand new pairs of sought-after shoes on stage. From the old school (Boogie Down Productions, Nas, Jadakiss, and Ghostface Killa) to current artists (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rick Ross, RiFF RAFF, and Pusha T), lyrics referencing Jordans or Nike Airs demonstrated the link between hip-hop and Tinker Hatfield’s desirable sneakers. While Hatfield had created visionary design objects, his shoes were as-so-far only associated with their function. Jordans and Air Maxes were worn by artists in “hip hop clothing” outfits that were often what the artists had worn before their rise to fame: baggy jeans, camo prints, and hooded sweatshirts. Worn like this, Hatfield’s designs were more status symbol, evidence of newfound wealth that allows one to buy expensive basketball shoes, than fashion piece (shown on rapper Nas, here, in 2010.) Two major influences would guide the transition of Tinker Hatfield’s shoes from a purely athletic sneaker to a runway fashion piece: Kanye West and the A$AP Mob.
Kanye’s 2009 transition to modern, haute couture-influenced streetwear left many long-time hip hop fans baffled; drapey, goth, ninja-esque outfits from high fashion houses seemed to contradict everything the genre stood for as a voice for the inner city voiceless. Even as leather kilts and crystal masks replaced his trademark pink polos, West incorporated Air Jordans into many outfits (pictured here on a runway at Paris Fashion Week 2011 in Hatfield-designed Jordan VI’s).
West’s own sneaker collaboration with Nike, the ultramodern Air Yeezy, draws inspiration from the Nike Air Trainer and Air Jordan VI–both penned by Tinker Hatfield. His later sneaker collaboration with adidas draws inspiration from the Air Yeezy (750) and Roshe One (350).
In New York, the upstart rap collective A$AP Mob was making high fashion part of their image from the very start. The group’s most visible member, rapper A$AP Rocky, is frequently seen dressed in pieces by designers Rick Owens and Raf Simons, coupled with Air Jordans (specifically, Hatfield’s Jordan IV’s as shown) on his feet.
As perhaps the ultimate compliment, luxury knock-offs of Hatfield’s designs by the Japanese brand Hender Scheme cost as much as $1000—five to seven times what the original sneakers cost at retail price. Hatfield’s forward-thinking designs created shoes that not only perform athletically, but also fit seamlessly into high fashion contexts as well.
Tinker Hatfield’s designs are more at home on a basketball court than on a Paris runway, yet they are a natural fit in either environment. His shoes designed for basketball’s most legendary player have become staples of both music and fashion. In many respects, his designs have transcended their original contexts to become way more than athletic shoes; yet, if called upon, every Air Jordan, Air Max, and Air Trainer produced could still aid an athlete in the way they were intended. Form and function, perfectly synthesized. That is the legend of Tinker Hatfield. Happy Air Max Day 2016.
The photo series "Stacked" by German photographer Malte Brandenburg presents an alternate, borderline-whimsical view on the intrusive monoliths of the modern city. Brandenburg's latest works photographs the tops of Berlin's housing projects, contrasting their geometric postwar architecture with the paleur of a bright blue sky.
There's a dystopian beauty to the contrast between concrete and cloudless sky. In the 21st century, housing projects stand as toxic monuments to shortsighted optimism - what was intended as postwar utopia is currently a den of crime and despair. Framed against a cloudless sky, the architectural complexity of these buildings is highlighted rather than their societal connotation. Brandenburg's simple, colorful photos are both gorgeous and significant. Check out the full photo series below:
Originally published January 5, 2016 at SHEIMagazine.com.
The cherries of the coffee plant have been used as a stimulant for close to 1200 years. Scholars trace coffee’s discovery to 9th century Ethiopia, and a number of apocryphal origin stories: a monastic order who experimented with homeopathy; a traveling mystic; a goat herder whose flock became energized after chewing on the fruit of a red bush. By the early 1400’s, in the middle of the Islamic Golden Age, Arabian traders became the first non-Africans to sample coffee beans. Word of a stimulating magic fruit spread like wildfire, and by the end of the 15th century, the world’s first coffeehouses were open for business in the holy city of Mecca.
Because the Quran bans devout Muslims from consuming depressive (if not mildly euphoric) alcohol, coffee provided the perfect compromise to the intelligentsia of Golden Age Arabia: adherence to faith, a slight head-buzz, and a burst of stimulating energy that invigorated thought rather than muddled it. Sheikh Jamal-al-Din al-Dhabhani, credited in a 1587 book on the history of coffee as the first to adopt its use, reported that consuming it as a beverage “brought to the body a certain spiritfulness and vigor”.
Italian traders soon brought the beans to post-Renaissance Europe, and by the time of the European Enlightenment, coffeehouses had become gathering places more than simply places to grab a drink. The coffeehouse was the opposite of the neighborhood pub: it was quiet, conversational, and had an aura of social decorum. You didn’t sing bawdy songs in a coffeehouse; instead, you caught up on current events with a cadre of friends, neighbors, and even visiting academics. Coffeehouses in London gained the nickname “Penny Universities”, equating the price of a cup of coffee with a value far greater than brewed roasted cherries.
Since the creation of the coffeehouse, there has always been a distinctly intangible sophistication surrounding both the location and its beverage of choice. But a codified, dignified culture? That’s much newer.
Coffee preparation has always had a ritualistic flair (see: the Bunna, or Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony), but the recent rise of specialty espresso drinks spurred on by 1970’s West Coast America has shifted the ceremonial preparation out of the home and into the café. Coffee culture itself is a relatively recent term. The coffeehouses of yore did not serve intricate and hand-crafted espresso drinks – they served water with beans in it. Fast forward to 2015, and coffeehouses have become experiences as meticulously-executed as the drinks they serve.
Since this is Design in Life, we’re going to focus on the thoughtful and contemporary evolution of the objects associated with the modern coffee culture experience. My goal: unpack the details that make up the trendy coffeeshop experience, from SoHo to Ann Arbor. I’ll highlight 3 of the world’s design hotbeds and just how each has influenced the modern coffee ritual, from the products they’ve designed to the spaces they’ve created. After all, no one pays $5 for the cup of coffee without a hearty dose of intangible goodness. You’ll never Instagram your latte art the same.
From denim to whiskey, Japan is infatuated with perfecting Western culture. A so-called “Japanese design sensibility” applied to imported cultural tropes has been used to describe everything from Americana clothing Engineered Garments to the Tokyo jazz scene as “American culture made better”. Coffee is no exception.Japanese coffee culture blew up in the 1980’s with the opening of Doutor, the island nation’s first coffeeshop chain. European-style specialty coffee cafes hit critical mass during Japan’s economic bubble, and have come to be known as “Bubble Cafes” – big, impersonal, and hurried. While Starbucks and Doutor enjoy massive popularity today, independent coffeehouses have become the new hangout spots for members of Japan’s trend-obsessed urban youth.
These smaller neighborhood spots, like Tokyo’s Be A Good Neighbor kiosk, practice coffee as ritual. This relatively new technique requires practice, patience, and an unyielding desire for gradual improvement - the diametric opposite of the Bubble Cafes. But to disciples of the Japanese pour-over coffee method, the results are worth it.
A coffee pour-over is nothing more than manual control over the brewing process. Same as before, boiling water saturates ground beans and produces a cup of coffee; only now, human intuition (not industrial programming) guides the water’s flow. The ritual of pour-over emphasizes slowness, procedure, and awareness. An attentive barista will gradually improve their skills, and produce increasingly better coffee through daily practice. The Japanese have a word for this constant subtle attention- kaizen, or “continuous improvement”.
As a result, objects of Japanese coffee culture evoke a certain thoughtfulness and economy. The Hario V60 Dripper, a 4”-tall white ceramic cone used to produce pour-overs (above), is utilitarian. It is also beautifully rendered, featuring subtle inlays and stark off-white tones that evoke china cups.
The Buono kettle, the V60’s swan-necked companion (also produced by Hario), is designed to facilitate deliberate control – you really have to upend the Buono to get water flowing. But, the handle is designed ergonomically for this tipped position, and the kettle’s slender neck is decidedly organic rather than pipette-straight. Both are easy to look at (V60 in white; Buono in grey), lack extraneous features or intrusive blinking lights, and built around function.
Even mass market objects (notably, Hiroshi Fukiwara’s “fragment design x Starbucks Japan” mugs circa 2014) retain this obsession with understatement. Subtle attention, indeed.
Japanese coffeehouses reflect these virtues with every pour-over they make. Tokyo’s Streamer Coffee Company, Omotesando Coffee, and Blue Bottle Café are a couple such places. All three emphasize craft alongside experience, serving artisan drinks in chic, minimal environments that feature distinctly Japanese design details (light hardwoods, open floorplans, natural lighting, etc.) However, the experimental furnishings and “chic modernity” of these locations are far from native. Even the most storied Japanese coffeehouses are overwhelmingly influenced by the design innovations of the world’s most coffee-obsessed region: Scandinavia.
Hot beverages and cold weather are a natural pairing. Coffee first appeared in Scandinavia in 1674 by way of Sweden, but wasn’t widely available (read: cheap enough for mass consumption) until the middle of the 19th century. Then, Scandinavian coffee culture exploded. Northern Europe’s love for coffee continues to this day: Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark took spots 1, 2, 5, and 6 in a 2014 ranking of worldwide coffee consumption per capita. Coffee breaks are intimately cultural for Scandinavians. Swedes take fika (a daily social coffee break featuring both food and drink; used as both a verb and a noun), while Danes embrace hygge (a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life; this usually correlates with “cup-of-coffee conversation”). To Scandinavians, is regional pride. Coffee culture is an afterthought: coffee is culture.
It’s no surprise, then, that another Scandinavian pride point – design culture – has impacted coffee culture. Like its Japanese cousin, Scandinavian design emphasizes minimalism and functionality through form. Northern European design differentiates itself by also incorporating ergonomic research (ex. Electrolux, Hoganas) and democratic pricing models (ex. Ikea, H&M) into the finished product, creating objects that can literally be accessed by all. Scandinavia has indeed produced some famous coffee makers – the Wilfa Precision, for example – but perhaps the region’s greatest contributions to worldwide coffee culture design are the fixtures and furnishings that have come to define the trendy urban coffee shop.
First up: the mugs. I’ll keep this short and sweet and let the photos do the talking. Both the Aida “ENSO Mug with handle” (left) and Höganäs “coffee cup” (right) are best described as modern interpretations of the stereotypical coffee mug. Unconventional handles, smooth color palettes, and organic curves define these as typically modern. The “Mug with handle” won a 2016 German Design Award.
Now, the interiors: entire textbooks have been written about Scandinavian interior design. The gist of it is a smart, minimal take on rooms defined by their core elements. Since the first wave of Scandinavian design craze took the world by storm at the 1939 World’s Fair, the Northern European take on modernity has transcended its regional origins and become a global view of everything cutting-edge. Imagine your favorite “trendy”, “hipster” coffee shop, and see how many of the following characteristically-Scandinavian boxes it checks:
- White walls emphasized by neutral colors elsewhere
- Strong natural lighting
- Wooden furniture accents, specifically on chairs and countertops
- Asymmetric or experimental furniture
- Minimal decoration, especially on walls
- Clean architectural lines
In practice, these traits create an open and natural environment that feels connected to nature. You may like faintly studious environment created by the simple, functional, and organic design details. Or, maybe you just like the way glass lightwells frame your #morningcoffee. One thing’s for certain: from Stockholm to Tokyo to Rome, if you’ve visited a boutique coffee shop, you’ve experienced Scandinavia’s impact on the coffee ritual.
In Japan, coffee culture is ritual. In Scandinavia, coffee culture is culture.
In Italy, coffee culture is life.
The Port of Venice was one of the first coffee importers on the European continent. Coffee beans were first brought to the city in 1570 by Italian botanist Prospero Alpini. By 1638, the city’s first retail coffeehouses were open for business. Original Italian roasts almost certainly tasted like Turkish and Ethiopian preparations, reflecting the beans’ origins. Only later would Italian espresso coffee develop its character.
By the end of the 19th century, espresso had become the coffee of choice for Italian consumers. In 1891, Pellegrino Artusi’s “La scienza in cucina” (considered by many to be the definitive Italian cookbook) even codified a specific morning routine that dictated certain hot drinks at certain times to insure a properly Italian start to the day. Even over 120 years later, ordering a cappuccino after 10am is considered a cultural affront.
Italian coffee culture boomed following World War I, when millions of Italian servicemen returned home after years of daily coffee rations. Recent innovations in steam-pump automated espressodemocratized the medium, making it cheaper and more quickly available for those without the leisure of luxuriously-long coffee breaks. Espresso culture gathered steam throughout the 20th century, and by 1998, Italy had both legally-codified definitions ofespresso and a National Espresso Institute to “safeguard [their] quality”. Modern-day specialty espresso has its roots entirely within Italian coffee culture, and takes everything from processes to nomenclature from the Boot. Just imagine a visit to Starbucks without barista, cappuccino, caffe, Americano, latte, mocha, orventi: in 2015, Italy’s coffee culture has become the world’s.
As the origin of espresso, it won’t surprise you that Italian companies produce the world’s finest espresso machines; and as the home of the world’s luxury automobile industry, Italian designers have a long history of making innovation beautiful. Italian design research – guided by the omnipresence of espresso culture – has in turn produced objects that are functionally and aesthetically magnificent. These products emphasize the sensory nature of the espresso ritual while creating what is perhaps the ultimate cup of coffee.