Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Miles Aldridge Interview for Twin Magazine blog

This week presents a double bill of exhibitions for Miles Aldridge fans. The London photographer’s intensely colour saturated and fantastically glamourous images are now on display as part of the I Only Want You to Love Me and Short Breaths shows, exhibiting at Somerset House and Brancolini Grimaldi respectively.

Twin caught up with the photographer at the opening of his retrospective to talk about childhood memories of the camera, why flaws make a woman beautiful and the age of postmodern photography…

When was the first time you realised that you loved photography?

I went in and out of photography throughout my childhood and teens. My dad gave me a camera when I was about ten. He was an art director and bought a Nikon in the sixties to photograph the Beatles. He gave me this camera I think to kind of get rid of me really; it was a summer holiday and one reason go off and do something. I remember hanging up one of my sister’s doll by the neck and taking a photograph of that, it was quite a cinematic image from the beginning.

But I didn’t pursue photography, because my father was an illustrator I pursued drawing. I went to art school, was determined to be an illustrator and became one. That went quite well but I found it boring. Photography kept coming back into my sphere of experiences. I thought photography would be a way to become a filmmaker, I didn’t intend to stay a photographer. I picked up this camera, that my father had given me, again in my early twenties and started taking pictures. That coincided with a grunge movement in London, which was a really simple route for me to follow.

At that point the idea that you were not a professional fashion photographer was a bonus — it meant that you were authentic. I hadn’t trained or assisted anyone to be a fashion photographer. The real fundamentals of being a fashion photographer are really more the credentials that I had, meaning that I was a guy who had a camera who had a girlfriend that he photographed a lot. In a way that was more authentic than somebody who’d done lots of tests with models.

What I’ve always liked about being a photographer is that it puts a frame around something that you see, whether it’s your girlfriend or a doll hanging by its neck. By putting a frame around it, it becomes a picture. By containing it, you’re able to judge whether its interesting. For example, I don’t think I’d be very good at theatre direction because I don’t like the way the eye is able to rove freely on the stage. Ultimately, I’m not sure if I have the talent for storytelling. I think more my talent lies in presenting frames around images.

How do you see women represented in your images? They are very beautifully stylised but then upon second look there is something cracked underneath that perfect exterior.

I think the women are very beautiful heroes of the picture and in a way, we kind of worship them. They’re to be adored and represent the world that they come from and we live in presently, because that world is not a happy place of contentment. I read the newspapers everyday and it’s unbelievable how bizarre, inhumane and amoral the human animal can be.

I don’t feel comfortable presenting beautiful women as perfect beings. I think about them much more as broken, wounded and beautiful at the same time. Beauty goes hand in hand with being wounded. In movies a heroine who has it all and is successful is not very likable, but if she’s suffered and is a representative of this society that she lives in, then we have empathy with her. When people see the pictures of these goddesses that I make, they’ve all got cracks in them, they’re not immaculate. They represent, not complete unhappiness, but the questioning and troubling nature of our times, which is what I’m after.

That’s also interesting because you say you are inspired by Fellini and Hitchcock, who have very specific types of women in their imagery as well.

Yes, there’s often a mother figure, a girlfriend, a wife. There’s three kind of archetypes and that’s mostly the women I know. My mother is a very strong memory for me. The fact that she died when I was young and then short of vanished, I think for anyone creates a mystery about the mother figure. You’re left with the enigma of what she left behind: her makeup, her clothes in the wardrobe, who is this woman that is gone? To quote Robert Smith from The Cure, ‘Nobody ever knows or loves another’. I think that’s interesting and there’s some truth to that.

How do you see yourself in terms of your work? It would be too simplifying to say it’s just fashion photography, especially now that we are seeing fashion photography as more of an art form.

Luckily I’ve been of a generation where photographers have pushed through. People like Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon had exhibitions, but it’s interesting that Avedon’s exhibitions were about his so-called personal work. I’m coming from a postmodern point of view where I’m taking pictures for a fashion magazines that I know go on a gallery wall, whereas Newton was taking pictures for a fashion magazine only and then they went on a gallery wall.

I’m coming from a much more technical point of view. I know I have to make these pictures work so that they can be enlarged in scale. And again with Avedon, even though he was the greatest living fashion photographer, in order to be taken seriously as an artist he had to do pictures in asylums, things that document. Instead of photographing his beautiful models, he now had to go and photograph the white trash of America. All of that is brilliant work, but when people ask me if I have any personal work, I do have personal work but really this is my personal work.

I’ve probably taken Newton’s and Avedon’s lead in the sense that you document your world as well as the clothes. I’ve probably taken that to a degree beyond where even they had imagined. When I have meetings with Vogue Italia, we don’t talk about clothes at all. We talk about women, ideas about women and what these metaphors and symbols might mean. Fashion magazines have transformed over the last ten years because of the internet, they have less power to dictate to the photographer what they need from them. I think I’ve moved into that vacuum. I present an idea instead of just accepting commissions because of my very lucky relationship with Franca Sozzani. She will give me enough rope to hang myself in that she will let me do what I want to do.

How has your method of working changed since the earliest and most recent pictures in this exhibition?

The earliest picture is from around 2004, so it’s ten years of work more or less, yet it all hangs together as one body. That was the intention quite early on. I wanted the work to have a signature, whether it was in the colour, focus, clarity or in the kind of bittersweet imagery that was being made. I wanted it to be within the same universe yet be as broad as Shakespeare. It’s working on the human condition: those ideas of love, mothering, death, addictions, religion, the relationship between your child and you and vice versa. Everything begins with the human so it’s a small but at the same time huge universe.

Read the full article here.

Percy Lau and Cat Potter Studio Visit for Dazed Digital

Dazed collaborates with YKK to showcase and support new design talent for the sophomore edition of our New Breed project. As the largest manufacturer of fastenings in the world, YKK also sponsors the coveted ITS ACCESSORIES award. This platform for young designers challenges participants to incorporate the company’s zips, buttons and more in innovative ways, with one winner receiving the financial and industry-focused support to produce their collection.

After previously paying a visit to YKK brand ambassador and shoe maverick Kei Kagami, Dazed Digital headed to the London studios of competition finalists Percy Lau and Cat Potter to discuss their creative process, points of inspiration and how they are breathing new life into zips, snap buttons & co.

Percy Lau

“In the very beginning, I wanted to make jewellery to make people happy. Now I want to make pieces that make people think,” says accessories and jewellery designer Percy Lau.

Her latest collection “Seeing is Believing?” is a range of clear resin eyewear that utilises eye-catching optical illusion techniques. Having focused on mathematics, physics and chemistry prior to beginning her university studies, the range provided the perfect excuse for Lau to reference her other professional passion. “I used loads of physics theory about refraction for that work. My educational background helps me a lot. Science, techniques and materials inspire me the most,” she says.

Spectacles are also the focus of her designs for the ITS ACCESSORIES project. “Eyewear is a symbol of your horizon so I love to design those kinds of pieces. With YKK being a zip product, I thought of it as something that can open and close a horizon,” the 24-year-old explains. In this instance, she incorporates the element into multifunctional sunglasses/spectacles/reading glasses hybrids. Once again her love of science glimmers through as Lau drills, saws, moulds and pierces her pieces with an almost mathematical precision.

Although she just graduated from Central Saint Martins this summer, the young designer has already won competitions like the Swarovski live project thanks to her otherworldly creations, ranging from kingfisher millinery sculptures to acrylic fingernail dentures to nose-shaped necklaces. Lau plans to set up her own studio post-graduation, but ultimately wants to “influence and inspire others, and change their mind about the jewellery and accessories industry”. Naturally this also entails not letting her creations be pigeonholed into any genre of aesthetics. “I don’t want to label myself in terms of style. Style cannot explain anything. It’s more about doing your own thing rather than putting something onto ourselves,” Lau states, soon adding: “In design, if it's a good concept, it doesn’t matter how it develops.” 

Cat Potter

When Cat Potter presented her graduate footwear collection in 2012, her masterfully crafted creations immediately caught the eye of footwear giant Jimmy Choo, who awarded her the MA Final Collection Award for Excellence. Fusing the ancient material wood with modern digital techniques, Potter’s architectural designs were conceived using CAD/CAM software, created around the 3D scan of a foot and then precisely carved using 3-axis milling machines. “I don’t see footwear as just a practical object. Even if it looks like a shoe and does everything that a shoe is meant to do, I still think that it should be able to stand in an environment by itself and bring something to that environment,” the Swiss native explains. 

Having previously completely her studies in fine art and curation, Potter finally found her vocation after enrolling in a diploma course at London College of Fashion’s Cordwainer’s College. “I thought, well it’s year, might as well see how it goes. I immediately loved it, this mixture between sculpture and the craft of footwear. On my first day I knew this was exactly what I want to do,” she enthusiastically says.

An avid photographer in her spare time, the 27-year-old finds inspiration in themes including European folklore culture, furniture and Swedish architecture. For her latest project with YKK, she is working on vacuum-forming leather around wooden high heels, fastened up through the use of snap buttons. “Working with YKK has been really interesting. I went to their offices in London and they have so many fittings and fixtures that I found it hard to choose just one. It was quite challenging because I would never use zippers or poppers, but it made me think about my aesthetic in a different way,” the designer states.

Whether she is experimenting with new fastening techniques or digital software, one thing that always remains is Potter’s love for artisanal design, something which can be traced back to her childhood. “When I was younger I lived near a jewellery designer. There were these little boxes full of gold, brass, and other bits and pieces. I just remember going over the top of the table and staring at all of them,” she recounts. “It was a beautiful workshop. It’s that kind of life that I still want really - having a studio and being able to create what you want with really good materials.”

Read the full article here.

Kei Kagami Studio Visit for Dazed Digital

Dazed and YKK join forces to celebrate the spirit of fashion craftsmanship for the 2013 edition of the International Talent Support’s ITS ACCESSORIES competition. The contest is sponsored by the Japanese fastening manufacturer giant, which selects a small group of upcoming designers to reinterpret their products through innovative creative solutions. Aside from a prize of €10,000 for the winner, all finalists will be able to glean advice through their process with exceptional womenswear/accessories designer and YKK ambassador Kei Kagami, who also teaches hands-on workshops for the company at prestigious fashion schools around the world. In a prelude to our series of upcoming studio visits to ITS finalists of the past and present, Dazed stopped by his North London studio to learn about Kagami’s work methods and commitment to artisanal design.


No doubt about it, Kei Kagami lives and breathes the creative process. His workspace is filled with all aspects of it: multiple clothing rails full of archive pieces, rows upon rows of fascinating footwear constructions, mannequins hung with brand label tags, stacks and stacks of fabrics, sewing machines, mechanical tools, even a picture of him riding a motorcycle from his Selfridges Bright Young Things window installation. “Francis Bacon’s studio really encouraged me. Basically it’s a mess but I thought it was brilliant,” he laughs. But perhaps the abundance of materials and creations only helps envelope the designer all the more in his creative world. Classical instrumental music plays in the background, adding a sense of zen-like concentration to the sensory overload of it all.


Hailing from Tokyo, Kagami’s original career path saw him pursue a bachelor’s degree in architecture, something he soon supplemented with a simultaneous tailoring diploma course at Bunka Fashion College. “At that time I didn’t really put a boundary between fashion or architecture. For me it was one and the same thing: starting from something flat and two-dimensional and making it three-dimensional,” he explains. However, fashion soon won him over. “I just wanted to create something for myself and express what I wanted. With clothing, I can design, draw patterns, stitch and wear it. I thought that is fantastic. I can express myself in each process and manage everything by myself up until the very end,” Kagami says.


Having held a fascination for all things British since his childhood, the young designer came to London in 1989 to work alongside his hero John Galliano. After three seasons, the studio declared bankruptcy and relocated to Paris. Kagami decided to stay in London and enroll in the MA Fashion course at Saint Martins college, graduating alongside Alexander McQueen and Wakako Kishimoto. But while some of his peers went on to have houses backed by major luxury groups, Kagami stayed true to his craft-focused roots. “I don’t really like fashion. I love clothes, creation and making conceptual things,” he openly admits, adding: “I’d never been fascinated by money. If you get a job from a commercial company, obviously you get paid a lot, but I rather preferred making what I wanted.”


Kagami describes his love for handmade and unusual creations as “a matter of craftsmanship. I don’t want to have a boundary between thinking and actual making. Intrinsic, genuine creation is both. I have always had that kind of spirit.” When it comes to this introverted style of production, the designer literally calls his studio home. “I have a favourite area in the back of my studio, surrounded by many machineries, which I love. Usually we work on shoes there. Sometimes when things are busy, I will sleep in my studio upstairs and often go to this space on my own before I go to bed,” he says.


His creation over a corporate way of thinking struck a chord with YKK, who began their collaboration with the designer when he proposed a design to them in 1998. Said piece was a dress constructed entirely of zippers. “The idea was about using zips as a textile but still each piece had a function. I don’t like using things just for decoration. Each part has a meaning. That functional beauty is an important element for me,” Kagami states. Since then, the international manufacturer has continued to work closely with the designer. “I like working for YKK because it has an educational value and is not business-minded,” he says. With the company’s backing, he has been able to create radical designs like resin fibreglass and mechanically constructed metal footwear, but Kagami is quick to admit that his avant-garde ideas don’t come easily. “To do something new in fashion is very, very difficult, so many things have already been done. I do struggle each time, to be honest. That’s why I try to use different materials, I believe it is still possible to create something new,” the designer explains.


This concept of the new seems to become all the more difficult in the frantic pace of today’s fashion cycle. “Nowadays things are too mass-produced, too commercial and everyone basically works in fashion as a business for money. To break it, you have to do something extraordinary and extreme. If someone doesn’t do something creative, eventually culture will stop developing. I’m more interested in contributing to culture or education in the end. If I could be an influential designer to someone else, that would make me more than happy,” Kagami notes. His words of advice to young designers starting out? “Do something radical and truly express yourself rather than thinking about what other people are doing. The power of the trend vector in fashion is too strong, new designers should break it to keep their identity.”

Read the full article here.

Stavros Karelis of MACHINE-A Interview for A Shaded View on Fashion

Dear Diane and Shaded Viewers,

Since its inception in 2009 through the powerhouse quartet that is Stavros Karelis, Anna Trevelyan, Ella Dror and Ashley Smith, MACHINE-A has been a retail haven for upcoming design talent. After a relaunch earlier this year, the store now resides in Soho's Brewer Street and stocks international labels like Raf Simons and Bernhard Willhelm alongside new names like Alex Mattson, Agi & Sam and Ashley Williams.

In the following interview, founder and head buyer Stavros Karelis discusses the rebirth of MACHINE-A, retail versus e-commerce and the driving force behind London's fashion industry.

What inspired you to start MACHINE-A?

I always wanted to create a space where many young creatives will collaborate on different projects and push the boundaries of fashion retail. A space where all young emerging brands would be accessible to customers. That was an initial raw approach that got shaped into what MACHINE-A is today: a dedicated space to showcase international, British and emerging brands and a place where all the latest trends are concentrated under one roof, offering the most exclusive products to our customers. 

How would you describe your work process as a team?

We have worked together for quite a long time and that has created a strong bond between us. We are very appreciative and grateful for that. For me personally, working with our fashion director Anna Trevelyan and PRs Ella Dror and Ash Smith has been an amazing process that I wouldn't have done any differently.

We talk about everything, all have different opinions and see things from different angles. We are all very respectful of each other, and want the same thing which is to promote and showcase the newest talents and position them along with international and up and coming brands. It is a team effort and we all are young professionals who work hard to achieve what we feel is right. 

What do you look for in a designer?

Talent is the most important thing, but I also see the quality, ethos, hard work, determination and a great understanding of how to produce a beautiful collection with approachable prices. 

As a retailer, how do you find yourself challenged by the creative vision versus commerciality debate?

I think that these two parameters don't sit opposite, but instead, they can coincide in order for something to be successful. A retailer needs to be commercially appealing to attract customers, but a directional and clear creative vision will create a dedicated crowd and a niche to the retail market. 

What things have you decided to do differently in your relaunch and why settle down in Soho?

The previous store and current store are very different in terms of brands, selections and direction of the store. Having said that, the core of the store, which is the creative team, is the same. As result our beliefs and how we feel the store should be, remain the same; we want to promote and showcase the best of London as a fashion capital, concentrating on the emerging brands and graduates. 

Soho is an ideal place to be because it is so vibrant and centrally located. I strongly believe that Soho is transforming into a shopping destination that will be more visible in the next few years, and it works perfectly for the concept of MACHINE-A. 

What makes London such an attractive fashion capital?

London is such an amazing city to be in, the creativity here is absolutely unique in comparison to any other city in the world. Every year the number of successful examples of creatives that are working in key industry positions is increasing because the best fashion colleges of the world are in London, and as such it produces a vast number of talented people and puts the city on the top list of fashion capitals in the world. 

How do you see the relationship between retail and e-commerce developing, do you see the latter threatening the other in any way?

They are both so interconnected that I cannot imagine the one could exist without the other. In order for a retail business to survive and have a long lasting successful growth, it needs e-commerce to open its sales to an international market. However, in order to secure that the e-commerce will be successful one needs the gravity and reputation that the retail space provides, which is absolutely necessary for the brands to feel comfortable, and the customers to feel safe to place orders and to know that they will always find the products they are searching for.

What does the future hold for MACHINE-A?

MACHINE-A was launched almost 4 months ago, and the reviews so far have been fantastic. For us, this is a great beginning of a bright future. Our main focus is to move forward securely and build the safe grounds that an enterprise needs.

From a creative point of view, we have started with a wonderful selection of brands that we will increase each season, and our efforts have been concentrated on securing all the exclusive and hard to get products from our favourite brands. As we would like to keep our customers always satisfied, we have planned a number of exclusive products and collaborations with designers that will be available from our retail and online store.



Read the full article here.

J.W. Anderson Interview for Dazed Digital

In between sending male models in ruffled shorts and strapless tops down the runway, rolling out the sophomore collection of his successful collaboration with Topshop and designing the premier capsule collection for Versus Versace, this season sees J.W. Anderson launch his first ever advertising campaign.

Created in collaboration with Dazed co-founder Jefferson Hack’s MAD London agency and art directed by Dazed & Confused's creative director Christopher Simmonds, the images feature new faces Lucan Gillespie and Oliver O’ Brien lensed by Jamie Hawkesworth and styled by Benjamin Bruno. The seemingly simple yet striking photographs offer a tactile visual experience upon closer inspection: soft car carpet replaces the ubiquitous cold studio setting whilst the shiny lacquer of a crimson car door or sheen of a ruched leather dress juxtaposes the matt texture of the foam menswear and knitted womenswear constructions. In short, just as with each one of Anderson’s collections, there is a lot more to these visuals than first meets the eye.

Dazed Digital: What made it feel right do your first advertising campaign this season?

Jonathan Anderson: I was approached by Jefferson. He triggered in my head to try to capture an image of something. He got it. It was just a point and level at which we were at. To do imagery is ultimately like a full reflection, to be where you are and sum it up into a single image or a series of images. It gives you an overview of what the overall character is.

DD: What was the concept of the campaign?

Jonathan Anderson: It was a view take of a boy and a girl; they were suspended architectures within a space. The objects like the car door and lights are used to articulate the silhouette.

DD: What was it about that idea that was in unison with the visions of both collections?

Jonathan Anderson: In terms of where we are at the moment - in terms of design, brand, where I am at at the moment - it’s about this idea of a shared wardrobe. It’s never become about gender per se, it’s just that in the beginning women started buying clothing from the men’s collections. That’s how it started, it’s an articulation of style really.

I like the ambiguity; the idea of the girl being always posed on the floor and grounded, which to me makes a different silhouette, whereas the man is more of an elongated silhouette. There’s something quite interesting in terms of the proportional heights of it that balances out the balance of power in the image.

DD: Why did you decide to use car carpet to line the floor and the walls of the set, as well as car pieces as props?

Jonathan Anderson: It was taking a car map and the idea of it consuming the space, the mundane and the beige. It softened the environment to give it warmth. The abstraction of the car pieces are mere embedded objects to glorify the silhouette. I always like red and beige together, the tonal texture of those things in the plastic-ness of the car and the dryness of the carpet.

DD: Speaking of casting, what was the reason behind choosing new faces to front the campaign?

Jonathan Anderson: I love when Benjamin Bruno and Jamie Hawkesworth work together; I’ve known Jamie from way, way back when I first started and then Ben and him started to work together. What’s great is that they are able to build characters. Fashion is about characters. All imagery - no matter what it is - has to feel like something you want to rip out and stick on a wall. It was about trying to find characters no matter what form. We did a lot of casting to find who the boy and the girl could be and what was modern about them. I think you look at good imagery as imagery that you want to keep. Certain imagery you will remember and certain imagery you will destroy. The idea here is to try and create imagery that you will remember.

DD: Was there anyone in particular that inspired the way you think about fashion advertising as more of an art form rather than a commercial mode of communication?

Jonathan Anderson: Certainly the team inspired me, Ben and Jamie inspired me massively. Every time they do something together, I find it’s the most modern thing I’ve seen. That’s what it’s about and for me it fits the brand and with what I like. It’s theatrically awkward. I love the idea of awkwardness in people, there’s something so beautiful in the awkward self.

DD: Which is quite refreshing when a lot of advertising is so highly stylised and photoshopped.

Jonathan Anderson: I just don't think you need to be sold something. Consumers are intelligent and want to see what you’re thinking. Good advertising makes you think. No matter if it’s fashion or anything else, it just makes you think. Ultimately the idea of the image is for you to take away what you want from it.

DD: There was such a big controversy around your AW 13 menswear collection, people were shocked to see men in such feminine clothing. What did that reaction say to you?

Jonathan Anderson: I never really thought in that way. When you’re working so insulated in a studio, you don't see the reality of what will be when you let it go into public domain. Do I care what the reaction is? I find it interesting. Last season really triggered something in people. We are still not comfortable with men and fashion. It’s never been more fashionable to like fashion, but men in fashion is very hard.

I didn't feel like I could find anything modern for men at that point. I didn’t find styling modern, it was too controlled. Even in casting, none of the new kids were exciting enough. There was something that was lacking and for me it had to go to a modular state. It had to go to the mundane and be selfish in a weird way; focus on how to cut a neckline and how to improve something or how to just find something.

You have to be ready to make mistakes. The harsher the criticism, the better the brand will be. You’ve got to roll with the punches. You need the criticism to be able to compel yourself into something else, reject something or not reject something because you believe in it that strongly. That’s the whole point of this exercise. Especially menswear is like a laboratory of working out everything, because it’s where you can articulate into womenswear. Whatever's not modern on a woman can be modern on a man in terms of line or garment and what is not so modern on a man can be modern on a woman. It’s ultimately about trying to find modernity, awkwardness and wrongness that makes you feel uncomfortable. Does it work? I don’t know. Will it work? I have no idea. It doesn’t really matter, it’s about a process.

DD: You were saying this campaign is more of a reflection of where you’re at in this moment. Where do you see your brand, yourself and your advertising as an extension of your brand going forward from this point?

Jonathan Anderson: I’ve been going since 2007. A lot of people think we’ve come out of nowhere, but we have been working a long time to get where we are. Fashion today moves very quickly compared to what it used to, but I feel you have to keep new with what is happening all the time. You have to keep everything to a certain level. Collections are there to make people think, shows are shows, advertising has to be an extension of what you are thinking and ultimately, you let the consumer decide.

This year we’ve got a lot on, it’s going to be a very good year. If we can continue doing advertising, increasing sales and increasing visibility, what will come in the future is to reach the masses. I love when mass media is challenged by what we do. That’s part of the game.

DD: After your latest collaboration with Nikon, do you have any other projects lined up for the future?

Jonathan Anderson: That’s the last of our projects at the moment, but never say never. I really like doing different projects out there. It lets you into a different market, you can explore things you’ve never done before and it's part of the brand. I don't see the brand as a closed door, it never will be. We'll always be open to different collaborations to different things because to me, it’s what keeps it alive.

Read the full article here.