THE ORIGIN OF LOVE: THE SONGS AND STORIES OF HEDWIG – INTERVIEW WITH COSTUME DESIGNER ERIK BERGRIN

Photographs of Hedwig by Mick Rock | Talent: John Cameron Mitchell | Interview by Benjamin Price | Costume Design by Erik Bergin @ The Industry MGMT | Video by Brian Lynch and Pier 59 Studios | Production by Liz Vap/FeralCat Productions | Wig and Makeup by Mike Potter using MAC Cosmetics @ Ray Brown | Costume Assistant Lauren Hoffman | Makeup Assistant Andrew D’Angelo 

John Cameron Mitchell rose in the world of cult-entertainment after directing, writing, and starring in the award-winning film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). His Broadway production of Hedwig garnered him a 2014 Tony Award for Best Revival of Musical and a Special Tony Award for his return to the role in 2015. His seriously impressive depth of work includes the improv-based film Shortbus (2006), and 2010’s Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman which scored an Academy Award nomination for her role. He executive produced Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation (2004) and has played recurring roles in HBO’s Girls, Martin Scorsese’s HBO series Vinyl, The Good Fight and current season of Mozart in the Jungle. Mitchell has also been busy behind the camera directing and co-writing the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s punk-era How to Talk to Girls at Parties starring Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman.

“At last! My journey to Oz, long-deferred by silly obstacles like unemployment and air fare, is a reality! I shall strap on a Cubist corsette and chromium wig, regale you with haphazard stories from 55 years of fake rock stardom and wail your favorite Hedwig songs like some kind of wonder woman within. Please prepare for my eminent arrival”, Mitchell said.

Producer David M Hawkins said, “John Cameron Mitchell is one of the great artists of our generation – a multi-award winning writer, actor and director. I first saw him on Broadway as Dickon in ‘The Secret Garden’ in the early 90’s and next in his Tony winning rock star turn in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’. Since producing Hedwig in Australia in 2006 I have become good friends with John, our connection means the world to me. We have talked since 2008 about a concert tour to Australia and at last the stars have aligned. We intend to bring a decent hit of the Greenwich Village vibe to Oz. I am so very excited to share  this incredible artist with my country. You are in the best hands for one hell of a ride meeting the original Hedwig, and the man behind her!”

We had the chance to interview the artist behind the transformational costumes, Erik Bergrin, and discuss Hedwig, lucid dreaming, and finding inspiration as a bored teen at Blockbuster.

Photo by Eva Mueller at the artist’s studio

What was your inspiration behind the costumes for the tour?

John came to me and said he was thinking about a costume that had this cubist, geometric, Trompe-l’œil, black and white thing happening that wasn’t Hedwig but Meta-Hedwig. As in, it has some reference to Hedwig in the costume and there should be panels that are removed during the show to become more boy in the end. He mentioned there was not going to be a built set, but that the costume should act somehow like a set–which was the sentence that made me convulse with excitement. I love doing huge wearable things, which I think is one of the reasons he came to me.

Initially I made tons of drawings of huge pieces on wheels that would drag behind him. All of these outfits packed with tricks such as a gigantic overcoat that would slowly come apart and piece by piece be thrown onto a giant magnet board behind him to reveal a story on the inside. Or this huge mirrored contraption that would come out backstage and be placed around John, and he would spin in a circle and the drawings on the costume would come to life in an animation reflected through the mirrors of the contraption. But I had to edit it down after every meeting and not let my imagination get carried away. I knew he was going to the Sydney Opera House, so I thought it would be fun to play with multiple overlapping triangle shapes. Basically my inspiration was working in these parameters, but still making it my own.

How did you get involved with the project?

I met John years ago as an extra on one of his films, “Shortbus.” We stayed in touch and I guess he thought of me after seeing the pictures from my latest art exhibition, Shadowwork. It is a series of 9 large figurative fiber sculptures, each about 7 feet tall. I have a background in costuming and I work as a costume tailor for Broadway shows, so I think it was the combination of my large costume work and the fact that I know how to create for the stage. I was working on the costumes at the same time as preparing for Shaddowwork. At a meeting with John, I met Mike Potter who did the wigs, hair, and makeup for Hedwig since the very beginning and we became very close. He was helping me with both shows and I was helping him with sewing the wigs. We worked closely, bouncing ideas off each other, so the wig and costume were from the same world. It made the whole process such a blast!

How did the idea of the gender binary and Hedwig’s transformation from female fantasy to undressed man come about?

I always felt that the film is more about finding yourself and less about gender or another person that can define you.

And speaking of Mike Potter who has been with the show since the beginning, the film and original show, I will quote him as a more qualified source…, “It’s like she gradually sheds her armor. Her costume and hair are almost a defense mechanism. But she comes to realize she doesn’t need any of the things that she think she needs. i.e. all her artifice, in order to be whole. She’s only whole when she’s stripped bare. It’s like being reborn.”

How does the idea of Hedwig’s iconic character come into the costume construction?

Hedwig was always famous for her brilliant handmade-style clothes and is now busting out on an international stage. Enjoying the spoils of her riches, she is debuting a next-level, more mature, steel-hued Meta-Hedwig look. Shining like the brightest star. The tour is called The Origin of Love, and when the show opens John comes out singing the titular song. The sleeves open up to reveal the faces from the origin of love animation, and when closed the front of the sleeves form Hedwig’s tattoo. Mike Potter’s wig and makeup are classic Hedwig, but aged to show her impending mortality, as he says in the show.

When you began your artistic career making costumes for the clubs in NYC while in school, did you ever think it would become a career in fine art/ performance?

I don’t think so? But I’m not sure because I never really had any goals. Which I know is unusual to say, but I never really did anything with a goal in the end. I started sewing when I started making costumes. Eventually, I put a book together of the things I made and got hired at a costume shop my friend was working in. Then I hopped to other shops and spent a long time working with really brilliant tailors. Every day I used to leave feeling terrible because I was working with super talented and experienced people and I wasn’t able to do anything properly. That kind of experience really humbles you when trying to learn. It taught me to put severe focus into everything, because I never wanted to have that feeling of a broken spirit when I left the shop. I soon realized that the fear of not wanting to feel like that caused a snowball effect that grew until it was impossible to do anything right. As soon as the tiny seed of fear was planted, I kept at it and at some point something shifted, and I can’t at all tell you when, but things seem to work like that with me.

Some of Erik’s early sketches of Hedwig’s transforming costume

Can you elaborate on how your background/education in psychology influenced your work on Hedwig?

I would say everything in my life up until I made this costume are causes and conditions for the way I designed it. All of the experiences in my past have subtle effects on how I design, so its difficult to distinguish how each particular experience directly influences me. I can, however, tell you that my psychology education brought me to my study of eastern philosophy and meditation, and lucid dreaming. One instance where lucid dreaming directly influenced the costume happened a couple of weeks into the project..

I was hitting a block when I was sketching. When I get stuck sometimes I’ll turn to my dream practice for advice. I do several exercises during the day that help me become aware of the fact I am dreaming when I am asleep. When you’re in a dream you’re in a subtle part of your subconscious, so there are all of these practices you can do to explore the darkness or shadows you have lurking in there. I was in the middle of a dream that had my best friend in it, who I have a deep and long history with, and I became lucid and turned to him to ask for help.

I turned to my friend and said, ”What should I do with my project?,” In a quick and desperate manner, because I wanted the answer before I woke up. Every time I leaned in close to ask him this question, his face morphed into wolf features. He wasn’t answering so I asked again, “WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY PROJECT?” The wolf morph happened again, and again he didn’t answer, so I asked a third time and this time we fell together off of a balcony to the ground floor. We were looking at each other and he said to me,”This is all I ever wanted. For you to be nice to me…” I completely froze and remained still for a minute, just staring, and it generated this incredibly raw feeling of tenderness. I immediately had my heart broken open. I woke up after a minute or so and even when recalling this now I get choked-up. It left me in a sensitive and vulnerable state. I woke up a minute later and the strong feeling was still there. I knew what I had to do was stop working from a mass of thoughts and references and just hold this feeling to guide my mind to make the decisions. I made some drawings from this place of vulnerability and it all came together that day. I trust any design that comes from that place. I had so many moments like that when I was making, “Shaddowwork.” These experiences have taught me my creativity is best accessed from a place of vulnerability and tenderness.

What was it like working with John Cameron Mitchell?

Magical. He’s the perfect mixture of professionalism and fun. He is super sharp, always coming up with new puns. Working with someone who can bring a costume to life so magically is so valuable. I had my idea of what the costume would look like on him, and then he would try it on and animate it in a whole new way. You just have to surrender to the magic because it’s so much greater than anything you could have come up with in your head. It forces you to detach yourself from your original ideas. Something like that can only come from someone who has the magic.

When did you first watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch (the movie or the Broadway adaptation) and what did you feel from that experience?

I think I was 18 on a really boring vacation in Florida with family, and I rented it from Blockbuster video. VHS. My sister fell asleep and I watched it alone, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it the next day. I don’t think I fully understood all of it, but was so mesmerized by the way it looked and sounded, that I watched it a couple of times in the 2 days. The songs stayed with me. I got the soundtrack and the more I listened to the soundtrack the more I wanted to watch the film, and the more I watched the film the more I wanted to listen to it.

What was it like working with the legendary rock ‘n’ roll photographer Mick Rock?

It feels like you’re working with a legend. Reading about his background and everyone he’s been on tour with and the iconic shots he has photographed, it’s all in him as soon as he walks in the room. He had amazing stories; I could listen to them all day.

What was the inspiration behind the photoshoot and video?

The goal was to really capture this next interpretation of Hedwig in an amazing way. This is a whole new direction for the character, which was truly born for The stage. Mick Rock, who already shot one of the penultimate Hedwig photos as well as so many other iconic rock photographs, was the perfect photographer to capture it.

As an artist and costume designer, what is your goal with each piece? What do you want the viewer to take away from your work’s message?

I definitely made Shadowwork as a way to get something out of me. I know there are ways to merge the dream state and the conscious state. I’ve read a lot of about it and have experienced glimpses where the lines were almost blurred. It’s like lucid dreaming. When you become lucid in the dream state you can call out to different shadows in your subconscious. Shadowwork was one of my ways of doing this in the waking state. Building this series of my own mental hell in order to get it out and confront it. So one of the larger goals is to merge the dream state and the waking state.

For this costume, I think I just wanted to live up to the legacy of Hedwig and make the fans excited and proud.

What can we expect next from you? Are you going to collaborate further with John Cameron Mitchell on any other projects? Or Mick Rock?

I am currently doing a book called WORDS AND PICTURES  about my Shaddowwork series consisting of stories, drawings, and photos… and about John and Mick: I HOPE SO!!!!!!!!

SOCIAL WORK – THE NYC FASHION BRAND FUSING EASTERN REVOLUTION AND WESTERN REBELLION

The SS19 presentation of Social Work, the brainchild of Qi Wang and Chenghui Zhang, was presented this past June on the sewing room floor of a factory in the New York City garment district. The Spring/Summer collection was modeled on the actual workers of the factory as well as traditional models, blurring the lines between manufacturer and consumer, proletariat and bourgeoisie. 

 Both Wang and Zhang met at Parsons, where they graduated in 2017 from the fashion design program, after interning for such brands as Ralph Lauren and 3.1 Phillip Lim. During their time at Parsons, Zhang was awarded the Hugo Boss Scholarship and went on to be featured in the likes of Vogue Italia & High Snobiety

 Much of Social Work’s designs involve the inventive manipulation of textiles and silhouettes. In their S/S 19 collection, their inspiration comes from 60s youth-oriented counterculture in the western world and the concurrent Great Cultural Revolution that happened in China, and the distinct contrast of sociopolitical changes presented by these two sides. 

 In the Western world, new cultures, lifestyles, and anti-authoritarian movements were booming. The influence of government was undermined. While in China, the whole country was enveloped by the political terrorism pursuing the “true communist ideology.” Many of the silhouettes in this collection combine the western 60s mod styles with Chinese workwear uniforms, and designed for both genders, incorporating slogans from George Orwell’s 1984.

The resulting collection is a mash-up of the muted tones and unique prints of 1960’s home decor and the symbolic bright red and austere, traditional clothing of the working communist. The Social Work lookbook images offer a clear artistic representation of the tension between rebel and revolutionary.

Photography by Chris Shoonover and Jonathan Schoonover | Makeup by Agnes Shen | Hair by Akira Nagano

WEB EXCLUSIVE – DESAMPA: NIGHTSKIN

Undercover Double Breasted Raincoat, DESAMPA’S Mask

Photography: Hans Eric Olson | Stylist: Michael Louis Umesiobi  | Talent: DESAMPA
Interview: Sarah Conboy | Creative Direction/Production/Grooming using EVO Hair Products and Lab Series for Men by: Mike Fernandez

DESAMPA isn’t an artist that’s afraid to get controversial. In fact, his work seems to beg for controversy. In our conversation with the Brazilian-native, the number of taboo subjects we touch on is numerous. But it’s not just with us: these subjects come through in all his work as a musician, whether lyrically or in his various music videos and art projects. From sexuality to immigration to the constraints of the music industry, nothing is off-limits. Rather than shy away from it, DESAMPA talks about these things with a refreshing honesty and passion, finding inspiration in these taboo realms.

Self-described as an artist for a “dystopian future filled with hope,” DESAMPA tackles the issues most personal to himself, and in the end, produces a product that everyone can somehow relate to. It’s his emotional depth and harrowing voice that draws the listener in, and his smart aesthetic that keeps them guessing and interested. DESAMPA is an enigmatic figure, always disguised by elaborate masks; an intriguing, partially-hidden identity. But despite this, DESAMPA wears his heart on his sleeve—speaking to the love and loss, trials and tribulations that all humans experience.

Here DESAMPA talks to Iris Covet Book about being an immigrant in Trump’s America, gathering inspiration from fetish play, and why he wants to be this generation’s Björk.

KYE “Rave Me” sleeveless tea, LUAR Origami belt, Reebok by Pyer Moss Vector Track Pants, Adidas shin guards, Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit 2, Mask by DESAMPA

 Grapa Wrap Vest – Sigilo, Mask by DESAMPA

To start, can you share your background?

I’m Brazilian. Born in São Paulo, 1991. I moved to New York two and a half years ago. I decided to move here right after a residency program. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Red Bull Music Academy. It’s this amazing residency program that they do every two years in a different city, and they bring out 60 musicians from around the world. It’s really competitive, and I was selected in 2015 to go to Paris. So that really changed everything for me, musically. I got more contacts and networking and I was like, “It’s finally time to move to New York.” Because it’s been my dream since I was a teenager, due to my influences in architecture and artists, musicians, films. After Paris in 2016, I was like, “Okay, I’m leaving São Paulo. There’s no scene here for me.” I was trying to create one, and it didn’t pick up. So I just moved [to New York].

How did you get into music? Is it something you always have wanted to do from an early age? Did you take music lessons, et cetera?

Yeah, I started taking piano lessons when I was seven. I was also classically trained at one point. I had the option to pursue classical music, but I was too confined. I thought, “I don’t see myself in this. Maybe I don’t want to be perfect; I just want to be honest,” and that’s when I left classical music to the side. Not that you can’t be honest with classical music, but it’s just that what I was doing, my compositions…they weren’t looked at as good, from the classical perspective. I’m like, “Well, they’re good for me and they’re honest, so I’m just gonna do my own thing.” That’s when I started using the computer to produce music, instead of the piano. I started making beats and electronic music. So I jumped towards that part, and also tried to incorporate the classical music aspect into my compositions. But yeah, it was always music. I don’t know how to do anything else; I suck at everything else. So it’s just music. I don’t even know if I’m good at it—it’s just the only thing that I know how to do.

Your music seems to defy categorization—how would you describe it yourself?

I just usually say it’s “futuristic soul” music. Because when I say I’m an electronic musician, people go listen to my music and they’re like, “Yeah, this is not electronic music.” I’m like, “Okay, so…soul?” and then they’re like, “Yeah, this is not soul.” So I’m like, “Okay. Futuristic soul.” Meet in-between. I tend to use soul music on top of the electronic beats, so I would say “futuristic soul.” It sounds cheesy…

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I usually tend to just look to the future, you know? Try to create the sound of what people are going to be listening to in the future. Like what Björk was doing 10 years ago—people are doing it now. I kind of drink from her fountain. I want to do something that people will be doing 10 years from now. So Björk is a really big influence for me, artistically. Sonically also, but artistically. [She has] a consistent career, and that’s what I want to have. It’s not based on hype, it’s just based on consistently good work and good music. That’s what I’m about.

Undercover Double Breasted Raincoat, DESAMPA’S Mask

Reebok x Pyer Moss Printed Turtleneck, Craig Green X Bjorn Borg Padded Trousers, Face Harness by Stian Louw

What about Brazilian heritage—how has it influenced your work? Specifically, how did growing up in São Paulo influence your work?

We have a lot of national holidays, [and] they have specific music for them. Like we have specific music for Carnival. They’re kind of like jingles, you would say, but they’re not promoting any product. They seem like a jingle; a small track. It’s like Samba and Bossa Nova. So yeah, I grew up every year being inserted in this scenario, of Brazilian holidays and Brazilian holiday music. That led me to Bossa Nova. Dug deeper, and found the voice of Elis Regina. She was like the biggest singer in Brazil in the ’60s. I got obsessed with her voice. I’m like, “How come we don’t talk about her? How is she not being talked about everyday?” Because what she did was so…nobody was doing that back then, in Brazil. She really inspired me. I said, “I want to do something that nobody’s doing here in São Paulo.” I grew up Brazilian, and  [I’m influenced by Brazil], not even [just] with music, but art and food and architecture as well…we wear our emotions on our skin, so I tend to do that with my music. It’s very raw. I don’t know if you’ve been to or read anything about São Paulo, but it’s such a raw city. It’s violent and beautiful and concrete and ugly. It’s everything at the same time. Graffiti tags everywhere. I’m tending to bring more of that aggression from São Paulo into my own music. I think that’s really important. Because in New York, compared to Brazil, everything’s safe and well-kept. It’s polished; [the United States] is a polished country. Brazil is definitely not a polished country. It’s how it comes…dirty and clean…contradictions all around. That really inspires me, and the architecture there inspires me. We have this…he’s the national treasure: his name is Oscar Niemeyer. He’s brilliant. He did some buildings that are oval and very round, curvy buildings. He really inspires my music as well.

So, you describe yourself as a multimedia artist—what does this mean to you?

I use that term just so I’m not stuck inside one box, you know? When I try in the future to do something [like] I don’t know, maybe fashion, I want people to take me seriously. Or anything else. Architecture. If I want to design a building, I have to study for that. But eventually, if I’m interested in that, and I accomplish that, I don’t want people to be like, “Ugh. That singer designed this building.” But at the same time, right now, I’m experimenting with different materials to create masks and molds of my face. I’m really obsessed with face masks and heads and torsos. So I’m experimenting with that…and currently I’m doing some faces with ice; I’m studying ice and how it sticks to the face. I did a mold, and I’m trying to create a lot of replicas of my face and eyes. Also, I do a lot of videos. I have so many videos that I shot in Brazil this past year, that haven’t been released yet. I direct. I’m not doing all these things by myself, by any means. I have always had friends and other creative people helping me out with all this stuff. So I have plenty of videos that I directed and came up with the storyboard and the mood and everything. Also some videos don’t even have music. I’m itching myself to put music, because that’s what I know how to do. But at the same time, I’m like, “No, maybe this should be a silent film” or something. So I’m exercising that. I don’t need to put my music out everywhere; it can be silent as well sometimes.

You explore themes of sexuality and politics in your work, to name a few. Do you think it’s important as an artist to spread a larger or public message, or are these just personal to you?

Both. They’re really personal to me. In any of my tracks, I’m not talking about things that I haven’t experienced, or that I’m not close to. Everything that I’m talking about like immigration and sexuality and being dumped and loving unconditionally, all of that is close to me. I’m facing that right now. Immigration—what is [it like] being a Latino guy from Brazil in New York, in this country ruled by Trump? It’s something [in which] I have no option. I live it 24/7. Because in Brazil I’m “white,” and then I leave there and come here, and I’m “Latino.” But at the same time, in some Latino communities, Brazilians are not considered Latinos. Where do I belong even? If Brazilians are not considered Latinos, but they are considered Latinos to white people, and in Brazil I’m white…I fluctuate between things. So I’m trying to find the light in all that, in the difficulties. The track  I am referring to has not been released yet, it’s going to be on my EP that I’m hopefully releasing by the end of this year. It’s just taking so long because of labels and life…

Speaking of labels—you’ve self-released music. What is your reasoning behind this? Do you think the music industry is restrictive in your artistic process in any way?

It is pretty restrictive. From what I’ve learned, labels are not signing albums anymore unless you’re a bigger artist. They don’t want to risk it. It’s a risk for them to sign a full album––nine tracks. It’s a lot of tracks to be mastered; it’s more promotion and more singles and videos and all that. There’s no money in the music industry anymore, so they’re signing smaller EPs, and if that works out, then maybe a second EP and if that works out, maybe an album. So nothing’s certain anymore in the industry. That passes onto the musicians, because they’re like, “Shit. Should I maybe just format my music for how people are consuming music nowadays?” Because people just listen to singles and [watch] music videos. People just want to see visuals with music, and singles. So that affects me, because my biggest dream is to tell a story in an album, in a 10-track album. A lot of people are like, “Don’t do that. Because you’re gonna end up self-releasing it again, and nobody’s gonna hear it.” So I have to work around the walls of the music industry, that’s for sure. It’s kind of limiting, at some points. Even if I’m an independent musician. But I also want to have a career in music, so I need to think of those things when I’m finalizing my project. Whether it’s an EP, an album, a single—I gotta have in mind the way people are consuming music nowadays.

LUAR Brooklyn Jacket, Willy Chavarria track pant, Mask Slick It Up

KYE “Rave Me” sleeveless tea, LUAR Origami belt, Reebok by Pyer Moss Vector Track Pants, Adidas shin guards, Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit 2, Mask by DESAMPA

You are working on a new album, correct? You posted on Facebook about losing most of your work for it. Can you tell me the story about losing your external hard drive?

I had 50% of my album done, or something…70%…I forget the percentage. But I had a large amount of my album. I started four years ago, and I had a lot of music that I was gonna put in it. Then I went to Brazil, and I just lost it. It was taken from me. I don’t know what happened. I put “Lost” signs on the streets and tried to find it at all costs and I learned my lesson. Because now I save all my projects in like seven different places, you know? I’m not losing this shit again. It broke my heart; it broke my trust in myself. Four years of work that I had done, and I’ll never find those tracks again. I don’t even know where to begin to make them again. I just don’t know. So I gave up on trying to find them, and I’m focusing on creating new material. That really forced me to make more stuff, and it’s more current. Because when I started writing it, I wasn’t an immigrant yet. So I had a different take. Now I have more to talk about, more life experience. More ugly, sad shit happened to me, and I have this anger to write about. So it helped in a sense. That EP came for me…I was like, “I don’t know if I’m gonna do an album again, so I’m just gonna start writing music and then I’ll figure it out.” I finish all my songs at Red Bull Studios in Chelsea, New York. They’re really great. I have an engineer there, and I have some people that are really interested in me and want to help. So they’re organizing, and giving me a bunch of dates on the schedule for me to finish this project. They were like, “I really think you should do an EP, because all these tracks that you have are really strong. They could be pushed into a successful EP.” So that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m finishing that. I’m not losing that for anything. Like I said, I saved it in seven different places. I plan on releasing it by the end of this year, with two videos as well. Both were shot in São Paulo.

Your new logo is being released in conjunction with your upcoming single “Still Here.” Can you explain the inspiration behind it?

Are you familiar with the website CAM4? It’s a website that people go to strip their clothes, but they get paid for it; they get tips. People are like, “I’ll pay you $25 and you take your clothes off ” You know? People testing out sex toys or fucking. It’s voyeuristic. It fascinates me, but it also scares me to think that relationships are turning virtual. It’s satisfying for them, just to watch another person around the world being naked or jerking off or fucking. That’s enough; they don’t want to meet people in person. It’s a combination of scary and fascinating. So my music video for “Still Here” is a play on that. It’s me in different rooms, with different fetish masks and fetish outfits. It doesn’t go directly with what I’m talking about in the song. It’s more of visual thing that I created and then decided to put the music, and bring the two of them together. In the song, “Still Here,” I’m talking about this Tinder date—the only one that I had. It was kind of successful, but then the person just vanished. In this short amount of time you give a lot of your secrets to this stranger, and the stranger just vanishes with all of your secrets. They’re expecting you to be hurt or something. I’m just saying that, “I’m still here.” Even though everything was taken from me, the fucked up things that happened, I’m still existing and still here. Also, at one point, it turns into me criticizing myself. Like, “How do I allow myself to continuously be in these shitty positions?”

You talked a little about this earlier—you often employ masks in your work. What’s the meaning behind them, and why are they so important to you?

So I never really liked showing my face, anywhere. This whole Kardashian era, [where] you have to put your face on everything all the time, doing everything possible—showering, brushing your teeth, eating, going down a slide, riding a bike—it’s too much. I’m not like that. My life is very private; I don’t share. So that mask is something that I can utilize to be creative, and create a new face for myself. That’s something I’m really interested in. At the same time, I can protect my identity. I was a kid that was obsessed with superheroes, so you can kind of see how that led into protecting my identity. That’s mainly it: I’m gonna hide my face everywhere. But also, my sci-fi obsession with different materials. Like plastic and silicone and fake robotic lenses. You know Alien, the movies? I really love that type of stuff. It’s something I can play with, “Oh, I’m gonna create this mask now. Oh, I’m gonna use this to illustrate my changed mood.” I can play with it, and it’s art that I’m producing. It’s art itself—my second face, second skin.

LUAR Brooklyn Jacket, Mask Slick It Up

Reebok x Pyer Moss Printed Turtleneck, Craig Green X Bjorn Borg Padded Trousers, Face Harness by Stian Louw

Do you create all of them yourself?

For the most part. Back in the day, when I started, no. I had someone doing them for me. I designed them, but someone else actually made them. I didn’t even touch them before they were made. But nowadays, I’m doing it myself with my boyfriend. We do it together. We find the material; we trick them out; we paint over it and put the straps. Right now, my inspirations are really the fetish masks. I’m not a fetish-y person; I don’t have a lot of fetishes. But the imagery of BDSM, the aesthetic of it, is really interesting to me. They’re made from really beautiful materials and employ symmetry. Deprive you of air, deprive you of vision. It’s really interesting. I’m leaning towards that,studying and experimenting with those materials… plastic and leather and metal, but I always have people helping me out. I really don’t like doing art by myself. I think it’s a time to bring people together—different backgrounds, different visions. Because otherwise it’s just 2-D. I want 3-D, 4-D. I want more dimensions than just my own.

As an artist, what has been one of your career highlights so far?

I think definitely the highlight was the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) in 2015, in Paris. Because a lot of musicians that do what I do—electronic and the more contemporary musicians—it’s their dream to go to this thing. It helps you out a lot, and you get to meet people. I got to meet Laurie Anderson. Sheila E., Prince’s drummer. The amount of people that they put you in contact with in the lectures and the studio space and the other musicians that they select; it’s such a good exchange, and they don’t ask for anything back. I got to play an amazing show in Paris and expand my fanbase and spread my music through Europe. That’s definitely a highlight. Then after that, I played SXSW the following year. But the highlight was definitely RBMA.

Are there any other artists that you are loving right now? Ones who inspire your work, or you admire?

There’s so many. Let’s see. The first that comes to mind: I’m really obsessed with Smerz. They’re from Oslo, and it’s this really cool, experimental House. It’s like ABRA, but more experimental, and very European. I really like serpentwithfeet. I think he’s insanely talented. I’ve never seen anyone that can sing like him. Kind of nerve-wracking to hear someone that good. Oneohtrix Point Never definitely. He’s an amazing producer. He also works closely with Red Bull, which hits close to heart. His music is really, really boundary-breaking. He’s worked with ANOHNI; he’s worked with FKA Twigs, and a bunch of female artists that I’m really into right now. ANOHNI is a really amazing artist that I get inspired by. Björk, Kelela…I don’t know. Every time people ask me that question I don’t know what to do. They shift.

What can we expect from you in the future? You’re going to be releasing music at the end of the year, but what else? What is your ultimate goal as an artist?

In the future, you can expect my EP. In the nearest future. I’m just gonna talk about the nearest future, because if I go on with my future, I’m just gonna be here all day because I have so many plans. But nearest future, an EP and music videos. A bunch of visuals—shoots, and hopefully an installation that I’m working on, with face casting and molds. What else? More collaborations. This next EP that I’m releasing, I’m not gonna have collaborations with different musicians, in the sense of “Oh, I’m getting a singer to sing with me on this.” I’m having collaborations in production, but not on the forefront. So I want to do more of that, and keep producing more and more. I really want to write a soundtrack for something, either a dance piece or a movie. I really like soundtracking things. I always have a soundtrack for things in my head, and I really want to get this out, and put it into a movie or dance piece or something.

Undercover Double Breasted Raincoat, DESAMPA’S Mask

Listen here:

Support Your Local Immigrants – DESAMPA

Ventre– DESAMPA

Red Bull Radio Alumni Mix– DESAMPA

 

 Photo Retoucher: Amanda Sperry  

STUDIO VISITS: LYNN BAN

Top by Balmain, All Jewelry by Lynn Ban

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Hair and Makeup by Nina Soriano | Interview by Benjamin Price

Scrolling through Lynn Ban’s Instagram profile is enough to understand the designer’s seductively ostentatious aesthetic. Heralding the spirit of modern women, Ban strikes an effortless balance of sensuality and strength, suggesting the dreams of her world within and summoning the mysteries of the world beyond. Ban has designed rings of glittering, articulated armor, ear cuffs akin to the Death Star, and minaudieres that resemble solid gold bricks; she is glamour, excess, and luxury, offset by a healthy dose of humorous self-awareness. Lynn has been influenced by the gritty-meets-glittering allure of New York, and her work is a reflection of the high energy, high-opulence, global-citizen culture of the city she’s been immersed in since her family’s immigration as a young girl. Her singular perspective transforms bold indulgences into bejeweled sophistication.

If we knew you as a child, would we have been able to see your future as a creative in the jewelry world?

As a child I would play in my mother’s jewelry for hours on end. I always saw jewelry as completing the outfit or playing to one’s mood and was always drawn to big statement pieces. Pile it on!

What motivated you to pursue a career in jewelry design? Did your family and friends influence your decision to go into design?

I was always interested in design, whether it be clothing or jewelry. My mother is a gemologist and I learned a lot about stones and jewelry through her and her collection. I started making custom pieces for myself; I was drawn to things that did not exist in the market so I started making pieces that I wanted to wear.

When would you say you experienced your “big break” and what has the journey been like since?

Working with Rihanna. I’ve been fortunate to work with her since I launched my line seven years ago. It’s been an incredible journey being able to do jewelry for her tours, videos, and performances, leading up to four seasons of Fenty Puma shows. She really pushes her team to do their best, and it’s so inspiring working for her. She is THE BOSS!

You have a vivacious, flamboyant, and daring signature luxury style, where does this aesthetic come from?

Fashion is meant to be fun and fantasy. I’ve always loved making a statement and over-the-top pieces. Who says you can’t wear sequins in the daytime? Fashion should put a smile on your face whether you be the wearer or spectator.

You have worked with some of the most influential musicians and actors in the world – how do these iconic talents change the work you produce? Do you feel your work becomes transformed when someone like Lady Gaga or Madonna wears it?

These artists definitely influence my work. They give me creative inspiration. When designing a piece, I think, .what would they wear and rock? When and how would they wear it?. Artists like Madonna and Gaga are both so influential through their fashion and many incarnations.

Many brands have decided to make their work more sustainable in an effort to combat the harmful effects of the fashion industry – how does your brand reconcile the mining and consumption of precious materials with the brand’s opulence and ethos?

I think it’s great that fashion and jewelry are becoming conscious of their carbon footprint and sustainability. I obviously use conflict-free diamonds. Jewelry is timeless, and beautiful pieces are heirlooms that retain their intrinsic value through their materials and design.

What can you tell us of your upcoming projects and collections? What direction is the Lynn Ban brand going into for 2018?

I am launching a capsule collection of evening bags. I’m super excited for the Lynn Ban woman to rock a killer evening bag that makes as much of a statement as her fashion and jewelry. I mean, what is more baller than a gold bullion evening bag? Slapping that gold brick on a table when you sit down for dinner says it all!

Currently there is a huge force of women standing up for themselves and voicing their power – how do you feel as a female designer in this day and age? Have these events in Hollywood, politics, and fashion affected you?

Most definitely! The escapism and fantasy and joy that we find in fashion is needed more than ever. In these socially and politically tumultuous times, women need to feel empowered and let those abusers know that #TimesUp.

What have you learned the most about yourself since launching your eponymous label and how has that affected your brand identity since you first began?

To always keep pushing yourself and take risks. Don’t be BASIC!

What is the future of jewelry design and how do you think technology will affect it?

Mining outer space and discovering new materials and stones.

Where do you see the brand in 10 years?

At the very TOP of course!

 

Dress by Paco Rabanne

For more information visit lynnban.com

STUDIO VISITS: ANA KHOURI

Sweater by Celine, All Jewelry by Ana Khouri

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Hair and Makeup by Agata Helena | Interview by Benjamin Price

Ana Khouri spent her formative years between her native Brazil and the United States. First studying sculpture in Sao Paulo, Khouri later moved to New York attaining degrees from Parsons School of Design and the Gemological Institute of America. Upon completing her education in New York, Khouri traveled to London to attend Central Saint Martins, before ultimately returning to New York to set up her studio practice. For Khouri, designing jewelry is about the myriad of ways that a piece can take shape on its wearer, and the balance the work creates with the body. Ana’s designs accentuate the natural elegance and organic lines of the exquisite materials that she utilizes, and her work’s timeless quality transcends simple jewelry design into an ethereal world. Inspired by the magic of the earth and the cosmos, Khouri’s work evokes the vast majesty of nature as a whole.

What was your motivation to pursue a career in jewelry design?

While still in art school, I had a show where I presented sculptures hanging from bodies. After the show, I received an order for ten pieces to be adapted and worn as jewelry. From that moment, it triggered a significant interest in jewelry making and led me to begin studying jewelry right after I graduated in 2004.

How did your formative years in Brazil affect your life and your design ethos? Did your parents – one an engineer, and one a pianist and teacher – influence your work and your creative career path?

Yes, absolutely. I grew up between beauty and art shaping my sensibility but always having functionality in mind. Later on, after graduation, I created sculptures for many years, which is how my jewelry business first began—it was all about creating the personal connection between sculpture and body lines.

Who is the “Ana Khouri” woman and how has she evolved over time? Is there a particular person whom you feel embodies your brand identity?

The Ana Khouri woman has an interest in or comes from the art world and values self expression through accessories. My clients usually have a uniqueness about them, something that is inherently their own. They are artistic, intelligent, inspirational and strong women who connect to my world, ideas, and work.

How do you begin your creative process when designing each new collection?

My idea of jewelry goes beyond the intended purpose of ornamentation, entering more into the realms of art and sculpture. The designs are about the myriad of ways that a piece can take shape by wearing it, and the balance the work creates with the wearer’s body. I value simplicity above all else. Simplicity in composition and in motivation, as it is really the ultimate luxury. I focus on one-of- a-kind designs and limited edition pieces. My overall approach is born from the belief that jewelry has the ability to help create a deep connection with the wearer.

The history of jewelry goes back millenia and has been associated with love, war, class, magic and everything in between—how does your brand take this history into account in the process of design?

Our brand takes history into account through art in different forms. For instance, a lot of my inspiration in terms of art and sculpture come from artists like Louise Bourgeois, Calder, and Sera who have inspired me to look at shapes in relation to space and movement. But most of all, I think that jewelry should always be associated with one’s personal history. I don’t simply want these pieces to adorn, or to stand alone as beautiful objects; I want my designs to evoke their connection to space, its vastness, its majesty, yet also relate to one’s personal history.

Is technology presently shaping jewelry design (production, form or function) and how do you foresee its role affecting jewelry design in the future?

For me, the process has consistently stayed the same. The way I start every piece is still the same for both sculpture and jewelry. I start by molding them by hand; it is a very intuitive and intimate process for me. I work on making the overall piece and then find a way to add functionality. The process of design is as important as the result. I normally spend up to six months on each design.

What can you tell us of your upcoming projects and collections? What direction is your brand going into for 2018?

I focus 50% of my time on unique pieces for personal clients, which is what I love doing most. The rest of my time goes to designing the edition pieces that you can find on the “specialty/multi brand“ stores we choose to work with like Dover Street Market, Barneys, and Net-a-Porter to name a few. We have two special collaborations lined up for 2018 that I am very excited about. I feel very challenged in my work and that excites me more than anything.

 

For more information visit anakhouri.com

STUDIO VISITS: WING YAU

Jacket by Comme des Garçons, Vintage White Dress from The Break

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Hair and Makeup by Nina Soriano | Interview by Benjamin Price

Breaking from convention, WWAKE creates a new perspective of jewelry as an extension of one’s self, personal sculpture, history, and a thoroughly modern reinterpretation of heirloom design. Wing Yau, the designer behind the CFDA finalist brand WWAKE, has successfully blended the concept of fine art sculpture with the intimacy of jewelry. The Rhode Island School of Design graduate came to New York to follow her passion for sculpture, only to find that her love of fine details and complex concepts lent themselves better to the creation of jewelry. Defined by signature shapes, unexpectedly light arrangements, and other-worldly stones, WWAKE jewelry has found a loyal following from women around the world, including notable names such as Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, and Emma Watson. In an interview with Iris Covet Book, the young artist discusses her inspirations, sustainability, and her various upcoming and exciting projects

You studied sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design, how did you transition to jewelry design?

Truthfully, I thought I wanted to be a practicing studio artist—but nothing was clicking for me. My biggest challenge was making pieces without knowing who my audience was, I kept making these little textile sculptures and hitting a creative dead-end. WWAKE was born out of a need for a more personal connection. I transformed my sculptures into wearable pieces, and when even those felt too avant garde for most, I worked with more traditional materials, such as gold and precious stones, which allowed customers to have a personal, potentially lifelong, connection to my designs. My approach to design was meant to be subversive, but as I’ve built a real community behind our pieces overtime, it’s become a lot more meaningful than that.

When would you say you experienced your big break? And what has been your journey since?

2015 was a breakout year for the brand all around, it’s hard to name just one event! I was named one of Forbes 30 under 30, we picked up our first major retailers, and we became finalists in the CFDA x Lexus Fashion Initiative! All of these things gave the brand huge exposure that I’m grateful for, which has allowed me to expand my design offering and build a team that represents a new generation of fine jewelry—everyone is savvy and passionate about what they do—from the miners, to the jewelers, to sales managers. It’s so inspiring.

How would you describe the WWAKE woman? What makes her differ from your secondary line CLOSER?

Our core woman believes in simplicity and the value of art, and while she believes in the value of tradition as well, she’s taking her own distinct approach to all rituals. WWAKE and CLOSER break the expectation of traditional jewelry design while retaining the heirloom qualities. It’s jewelry to honor, with a touch of something inexplicable, a little bit of magic. The WWAKE woman is all about subtle, quiet luxuries—the pieces are designed at a personal scale, they’re not flashy or for anyone but yourself to enjoy. To contrast, the CLOSER woman wants bold, sculptural statements from her jewelry. Our jewelry is both a reinforcement of your most valued memories and simultaneously an escape from everyday life to the world of art and the poetics behind our materials.

What design inspiration are you currently obsessed with and why?

Currently I’m obsessing over the sculptural and dramatic mineral formations found in nature, like tourmaline and kyanite, opals and ethereal-colored stones—they’re worlds within themselves, and really just take me away from wherever I may be in the moment. There’s no better sculptor than Mother Nature.

How does WWAKE and CLOSER reconcile mining and consumption of precious materials with the brands’ ethos?

For me, the process of sustainability truly starts with selecting our sources carefully. I’m dedicated to working with micromining communities who rely on this practice to sustain their families and livelihood. I’ve visited several of these communities now and am happy to share that they work with environmentally responsible practices and use their proceeds to further develop their own communities. A lot of people villainize mining, but it’s an incredible opportunity for these individuals to support themselves and develop infrastructure for their future. It’s personal. My goal with WWAKE jewelry is to connect you to the earth, and every person that touches it.

What can you tell us of your upcoming projects and collections?

We’re super excited to launch our art objects this year that will bring a new layer of artistry to the brand. We will also launch our debut couture collection in Vegas this June!

Currently there are a large number of women taking a stance and voicing their power across multiple fields and industries—how do you feel as a female designer in this day and age?

WWAKE is a company run completely by young, like-minded women, and as painful as this political climate has been, it’s driven us to work harder and fight for the future that we want to see. I want to see more female designers, more thoughtful brands that design for progress and use their platforms to bridge difficult conversations, and I want to see customers that stand behind this and make thoughtful purchases.

Vintage Dress from Nice Piece in Paris

For more information visit wwake.com

PARKER KIT HILL

Black Patent leather collar blouse Johna Stone

Photographer Emmanuel Sanchez-Monsalve, Fashion Stylist Brit Cato, Hair by Julia Kim, Makeup by Cyler

Dancer and actor Parker Kit Hill has found himself a home in the worlds of entertainment and social media stardom. Whether dancing in a bobbed wig in his apartment or starring across from RuPaul in the hit TV show Broad City, Parker makes an impact whenever a camera is near. Parker’s unique looks, style, and personality have made him a perfect candidate for fame in the age of viral videos and influence. Spend a surreal day dancing with Parker, equipped with a rainbow of eyebrow pencils, a towers of hats, and all of the platforms you could need!

Red kimono and Pants by: Gustav Von Aschenbach, Black Hat by Essenshel, White Hat by Essenshel, Black Platforms by iRi


Top Image: Coat by Sharon Wang
Bottom Image: Red kimono and Pants by: Gustav Von Aschenbach, Black Hat by Essenshel, White Hat by Essenshel, Black Platforms by iRi Coat by Sharon Wang

Yellow denim jacket by Johna Stone, Black windbreaker pants by XB OFCL, Black Platforms by iRi, White Sheer Knee socks by we love colors

Right Bottom Image: Beige coat by Sharon Wang, Caramel Jacket by FGJ, Black Platforms by iRi
Black Patent leather collar blouse Johna Stone

Olivier Lapidus Departs from Lanvin

Olivier Lapidus, photo by Pascal Le Segretain

Lanvin parted ways with its artistic director Olivier Lapidus yesterday, the French fashion house reported. Mr. Lapidus, who joined the brand in the summer of 2017, had only overseen two shows at the struggling brand. His sudden departure is one that some are calling a pattern.

Joanne Cheng, interim CEO of Lanvin told WWD, “Olivier steered the Maison through a transitional period between ownerships,” and “We thank him for that, and wish him every success for his own brand and future endeavors.” The in-house design team will be responsible for further collections until a new artistic director is found.

Last month the Maison was acquired by Fosun International, a Chinese conglomerate after a bidding war ensued to purchase and revive the brand, which has been struggling with declining sales and an identity crisis for the past several years. After the sudden firing of acclaimed designer Alber Elbaz in 2015, the company hired Bouchra Jarrar, who lasted for 16 months. Quickly afterward, Lanvin brought in Mr. Lapidus.

Alber Elbaz, photo by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin

It seems clear that the house has been struggling to identify their customer, further reflected by the stark contrasts between the last three artistic directors. The shoes left behind by Alber Elbaz, creative director for 14 years, are indeed proving difficult to fill. Mr. Elbaz joined Lanvin in 2001 and remained the creative director until 2015. During his tenure, he is credited with finding the optimal balance between heritage and commercial success at one of the oldest couture houses in France. In addition to his unique interpretation of fashion, he was beloved for his warm heart and genial personality.

Perhaps due to the acquisition by Fosun and a desire to start with a clean slate, or maybe as a result of the harsh words of fashion critics towards Lapidus’ work, the house will need to attract new talent. We will certainly be looking forward with eager anticipation to the new chapter of this iconic house.

MATTHEW STONE

Beginning his career with an involvement in numerous counter-cultural movements, and rising to notoriety as a founding member of the South London art collective, !WOWOW!, Artist and Art Shaman Matthew Stone is bringing bodies together through his life-sized digital paintings.


Photography by Wikkie Hermkens | Styling by Sonny Groo | Interview by Ashleigh Kane

In the early 00s, Matthew Stone took the teachings of Andy Warhol’s Factory era and the concept behind Joseph Beuys’ Social Sculpture and transplanted them to London, where he and a group of friends had just graduated from Camberwell College of Arts. Consciously eschewing the rental market, they founded !WOWOW! and housed it, and themselves, in an abandoned store in South London with a revolving roster of exhibitions, residencies, studios and parties. “When I was young, I had a really strong vision of how I wanted to live my life”, Stone recalls over the phone from his studio in Hackney, “and I was specifically interested in squatting.” Having grown up with his family in a cottage on a canal in Bath, England with no permanent source of electricity – just a generator which Stone says was often not in use – it’s not hard to understand his draw towards other people. Now 35, content with living alone and much less the party animal he once was, Stone’s work is still crowded with bodies. He contributes to his own series titled “Interconnected Echoes” whereby he interviews the people he admires, has participated in several group as well as solo exhibitions, photographed the cover of FKA Twigs’ M3LL155X album cover, and most recently exhibited his life-sized digital paintings at Somerset House under the title Healing With Wounds.

Here he talks to IRIS Covet Book about connection, spirituality, and shares some invaluable advice for young artists.

Upper World Portrait, 2017

Can you talk about the process in which you make your paintings?

I physically paint and then photograph the strokes individually and create really high-resolution images of each brush stroke. Then I cut them out in Photoshop and use them to texture 3D models that I make of people. I’m working in 3D CGI software and using virtual cameras and lighting setups. Then with a printer, they’re finally printed onto linen with a technique that I developed. I only ever print each once so they live like actual paintings in the sense that there is only one of them.

Why did you want to work in a digital realm?

I didn’t want to make something that was backwards facing. I wanted people to look at them in a way that they look at contemporary imagery, in that they have not seen something else exactly like it before. To look at it with that freshness, with those eyes, and then start thinking about their bodies and each other. For a long time, I wondered whether that was through photography, or pushing photography into sculpture. With this technique, I feel like I’ve nailed the method (laughs) and now I can get on with just making paintings. The majority of the work was developing the technique and there were years when I worked on it without showing anyone any development. I went through waves of development without over-excitedly sharing it with everybody, and that was a big education for me.

One of the reasons that I’ve stopped doing lots of other different things and focused on the paintings is because I’ve realized that I can do everything I need to do within other realms, within this world of painting. Because of the way that I work in 3D virtual space, I can’t help but think of them, when I hang them on the wall, as a window into that space. Increasingly, I’m doing things in life-size so as you look at them, you’re looking into a virtual reality or mixed reality.

The people who appear in the paintings are not based on real people, they are completely invented like avatars that I’ve posed and painted. But those figures have started reappearing through different images, so it’s almost as if I’m investing in these metaphysical beings that live in the world that is my painting.

You came to London from Bath at age 18 and began to study at Camberwell College of Arts. What artists did you admire back then?

I wrote my dissertation on the spiritual content in Andy Warhol’s work and argued that you could read a religious trajectory in his work. Then I came across Joseph Beuys and was really interested in his work from a performative perspective. Through him, I developed these ideas around the artist as Shaman.

Were you always intrigued by spirituality?

My mum was a Catholic and as a result – and as a reaction to that – she was very much like, ‘You are not going to be indoctrinated in any way.’ We were left to work that stuff out on our own. Looking back, I had an interest from a very young age in mysticism; The X Files and UFOs, which I feel were very much of the times.

Can you talk about the out of body experiences that you have had?

They’re not something that I had a ton of but there are some significant ones – and I wish I could go into them at will, but I can also go into altered trance-like states. I used to do a series of performances where I would perform under the stage name “The Art Shaman” and the structure of the performance was that I would get a cover band to play Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones, and I would use the song to enter altered states.

What was the significance of Paint It Black?

Maybe something about the drumming. It has this rhythmic pull. In a sense, me talking about myself as a Shaman stemmed from that period. At that time it was very playful, essentially. But people, other artists, have found it intensely problematic. Someone wanted me to publicly apologize – which is almost as pretentious as me calling myself a Shaman (Laughs).

Why did it bother people?

I think they thought that it shouldn’t be a self-bestowed title. There’s definitely a question about using something like that – like spiritual appropriation – but, for me, the word itself, in its contemporary usage, describes behavioural patterns that are different on every continent and so it doesn’t feel super specific as a term, it feels quite general. I’m not trying to cut into any tradition that I’m not a part of. It’s more in an abstract sense that I’m trying to push the boundaries, or trigger thoughts, about the role of the artists and whether that extends beyond an individual creating expensive objects.

I use it to trigger intellectual debate because increasingly I’m interested in intuitive moments of thinking. There are certain points when I’ve thought – because of explaining it, over and over again – ‘why am I doing this?’ and that maybe I should just say that it was a phase, but I realized that me having said it had its own resonance and power anyway and that I have to live with the consequences of that – whether or not they are uncomfortable. More recently, I feel like I’ve gotten a bit more of a practical and personal practice that relates to it – there’s more humility. But I’m not going to take it off my Instagram account.

After university, !WOWOW! was founded. Did that come about because of situational circumstances or was it planned?

When I was young, I had a really strong vision of how I wanted to live my life and I was specifically interested in squatting. In college, I was obsessed with reading about Warhol’s Factory and had this idea of collaborative and collective living. I was thinking about Joseph Beuys’ Social Sculpture, which was the idea of an evolving artwork that was multi-author – it was all of society.

Once we graduated, we were like ‘let’s not pay rent, let’s go and squat!’ and so we started it and invited people in and it spiraled from there. My hope at that time was that people would perceive some of my activities within it as being a kind of living artwork and certainly not one that I’m the only author of. I was really interested in the idea of presenting a network of people as an artwork and I always had a great reticence to concretely transfer that to a gallery – in terms of installing people into a gallery. So yes, it felt like something that was situational in a sense because if you took it out of the environment that it had sprung from, it would become an illustration of it.

Feminine Teachers, 2017

Other People’s Energy, 2017

You mentioned earlier that you want to see if the artist can be more than someone who is just making expensive objects. What do you think the role of the artist is today?

Everyone as an individual has a political responsibility, so obviously, that includes artists. I don’t think my work has ever really been about art or the art world. Obviously, it emerges from the history of art and in lots of ways my work is very much about the history of religious art in terms of the use of the body and flesh, but I feel like my work has always been about interactions between people. Looking at the idea of collaboration over competition. Coexistence and compromise in conflict and how complex networks of power and connection occur. When I was younger I felt like I had the answers for things, but as I go on my thinking changes. Now I know that my thinking will probably change again in the future. I feel, with my work, I’m trying to frame the development of that thinking more than my thinking specifically.

Healing With Wounds featured the Somerset House show titled Utopia. Is utopia something you explore in your work?

I’ve always been interested in the idea of being engaged in developing ideas or using creativity to envision a more just world, but I’ve never claimed to be an activist. Essentially my thinking about optimism and utopias has always been about questioning if these dialogues are useful? Is it better to acknowledge the violence that already exists by making violent work? Or should I, as an artist, focus on promoting visions of a post-violent world? I’ve looked at art and culture that has explicitly been violent and understood it as potentially being part of a critique of violence, but instinctively, I’ve never said, “well I’m going to make violent imagery because that is a way to show people that it’s a bad thing.” I feel uncomfortable thinking in that way and I don’t know if that’s because I’m naive and I can’t deal with reality, or it’s because that type of imagery can be traumatic and does little to destabilise violence.

I go back and forth between thinking about how the power structures unfold in the images I make and how they deal with violence and what they suggest. More recently, I’m realizing that there is a lot of ambiguity in the ways in which you can read the body language of the people in my paintings. That’s quite important because I don’t think the world needs simple illustrations like “violence is bad” because the world is more complex and intelligent than that. If I can create anything where when people look at it and think about what’s happening, then that feels like the more useful contribution. Ultimately, when people look at my work, I want them to feel something and I want them to think about what they feel.

What advice do you have for young people coming up?

I always say, “listen very carefully to the advice that you give others because we verbalize our own insecurities when we criticize other people, when we give them advice.” The other thing is, “pay attention to your own mistakes, they might be the only original ideas you have.”

    Matthew Stone with his dog Beau. Follow Beau @ beauthehound on Instagram 

All art work © Matthew Stone images courtesy of Choi&Lager
For more information visit matthewstone.co.uk

LUKE EDWARD HALL

Charmingly-maximal, Luke Edward Hall’s whimsical take on interiors offers an escape from the mundane white box of minimalism.

Photography by Wikkie Hermkens | Styling by Sonny Groo | Interview by Dustin Mansyur
Full look by Burberry 

Peruse through Luke Edward Hall’s instagram feed, and one will find a story vibrantlylayered in color-clad interiors, candy-colored hues of hand painted ceramics and drawings, and peppered with images documenting the 27-year-old creative’s quixotic travels. Stylishly dandy and tousle-haired, Hall curates a dreamy world as if seen through the most decadent shade of millennial pink lenses. A visit to his North London studio enforces the idea, with it’s bubblegum-painted walls and scatter of colorful tools and materials strewn across his work table. Daring fabric remnants, bouquets of colored pencils and brushes sprout charmingly in a collection of vintage mugs and vases, vintage photographs, magazine clippings, and the occasional tchotchke clutter the artist’s space like a decorated nest. In the center, a spot is cleared away, just big enough to entertain a drawing in progress.

Hall has been dubbed by Vogue.com as the ‘interior design world’s wunderkind’, a hefty seal of approval for a budding artist and designer. With a variety of blue-chip collaborations with companies like Burberry, Drakes, and Stubbs & Wootton already in his portfolio, Hall is positioned thoughtfully for longevity. His idyllic watercolor brush strokes, and gestural, simplified drawings elicit an understanding of the same subtleties of Matisse or Picasso’s more expressionistic works, while an array of products he’s created in-house suggests similar branding sensibilities of such design heavyweights as Jonathan Adler or Kelly Wearstler. The romance exists in the visual language Hall uses to couple his creative vision with commercial potential, resulting in the fanciful prism of his nostalgia inspired work.

Here IRIS Covet Book offers a glimpse into the auspicious world of Luke Edward Hall.

‘Gervase by the Pool’, 2017 (has been sold)

You actually studied menswear at Central Saint Martins before you established your studio in 2015. Your career has really blossomed as an artist, but also as a designer of objects. What influenced your decision, or what shifted your focus, I should say rather, post-graduation, so that you went down this career path as opposed to choosing to stay in men’s wear design?

I always had an interest in antiques and interiors as well as fashion. While I was studying menswear, I was also selling antiques online. When I graduated I met an interior designer in London, whose style I really admired. So I ended up going to work for him, and that’s how I got more involved with interiors. It wasn’t something that I decided, it happened quite naturally.

Then what helped you to make the decision to venture out on your own after working with that architect that you mentioned?

I always knew that I wanted to have my own thing. When I was working full time, I started designing fabrics. I began putting more work up online, and I started doing much more drawing. Then, eventually, I got a few commissions — enough that allowed me to set my own thing up. I worked quite hard to get my work out there, so that I could be able to go out on my own.

What avenues did you pursue to increase your exposure?

Obviously, I’ve had a lot of work up on Instagram from the beginning. But, early on, I started making products like cushions, fabrics, and prints of my work. I had a lot of product that I could sell. I just tried to make sure that I had my work out there as much as I could. Eventually it began being published in magazines.

Do you do all of your fabrics in-house or are you licensing your designs through a fabric company?

It’s full-time in-house. Coming from a fashion and interiors background, I always appreciated good fabric. After I sketch up the design, I’ll print them out and work with a factory to produce them in very small runs to be used in my cushions and other products.

Can you describe what your studio’s like? Do you share space with others? What is it like when you are there?

I work with my friends in an art gallery where I have a space in the back. It’s really nice because it’s very close to where I live, five minutes away. I have this corner of a room that I’ve painted pink. It’s where I work on all of my projects.

What’s a typical day in the workroom like for you?

I go in every day because there are lots of new things happening. I always have meetings and a variety of projects to work on. Sometimes I’m working on foreign accounts, sometimes I’m drawing, other times I’m painting pottery or sourcing fabrics.

Voluta and Luca Cushion by Luke Edward Hall

You describe your aesthetic as being informed by a love of history, an appreciation of beauty, and a sense of playfulness. Do you have any specific historical influences that you find inspiring from which you pull inspiration?

I draw inspiration from history because often I’m inspired by the stories. I love looking back at ancient Greek myths and legends, also English folklore. I love reading about times in history, like the 1920s and ‘30s, especially in London. I’m quite nostalgic.

Your work is very sophisticated. How do you draw the line between playfulness and something that’s considered kitsch?

The thing is, I do like a little bit of kitsch, but I don’t want what I do to be so gaudy and outrageously mad that it becomes off-putting. I think you can be playful with color and print without sacrificing elegance and sophistication, which is a nice balance for interiors. I love playing with tradition or history, and trying to achieve the balance of pairing something very old with something very new. Curating the right pieces together is always a fun process.

I feel like today people consider minimalism and modern design as being somewhat synonymous, especially when we’re talking about interior spaces. Your approach is anything but minimal and yet reads as modern. Do you think there is a shift in the consumer market towards a more “decorated” approach?

There’s a general shift toward people being more interested in a more maximal approach, which I think there’s lots of reasons for that. Like with fashion, things come in cycles. I don’t really think of my lifestyle as maximal…it’s more that I just like being surrounded by my “stuff ”. I like having lots of color and pattern, and that look is typically classified as maximalism. The thing with maximalism in the interiors I like, is that it offers a little bit of a fantasy. I guess that’s why I look at the past, as well. I like the idea of creating something magical into which you can escape. The world we live in at the moment is quite grim at times. I think that’s partly why more people are taking to this trend because perhaps they need an escape from the everyday as opposed to living in a white box.

Based on your Instagram, it appears as though you travel a great deal. Is it a source of inspiration as well?

Travel is a huge source of inspiration. Italy is a really inspiring place for me to visit and work; I go there a lot and bring inspiration back. I always feel refreshed after going to the countryside in England because I find the city to be quite intense. Travel for me is just as important as my studio days. When I travel, I end up working every day, and always get re-inspired by the many things I come across.

You’ve collaborated with so many high profile companies already across several different luxury consumer markets, Burberry, Drakes, Christie’s, Stubbs and Wootton, and even Samsung, what have been some of your favorite collaborations to work on and why?

They’ve all been great for their own reasons. I only collaborate when it feels like the right fit. It has to be something that I feel really passionate about and connected with. Burberry is an amazing company to collaborate with because their reach is worldwide. It was very exciting when that opportunity happened. I also have always loved Stubbs and Wootton, so it was really fun to work with them to turn my drawings into embroideries for their slippers. Drakes was also a great collaboration that gave me the opportunity to see my drawings on silk for ties and scarves. It’s a great experience working with other people when they do something really well. It allows me to add my touch to it, and we come together and create something beautiful.

Luke Edward Hall x The Store ‘Face Bowl’ (available from The Store x Soho House Berlin and The Store x Soho Farmhouse)

Vases From Left: Lemons, 2016, Flower Prince, 2017 (Personal Collection)

You’re working on many different projects that span different disciplines, do you do all the your own business development or do you work with an agent?

It’s sort of a mixture. I don’t employ anyone. I just work by myself. I have an agent for Europe and they get me more illustration jobs. Most of the work comes to me, though. If the project involves working with a bigger company, I may hire someone short-term if needed, and I have relationships with vendors to produce what needs to be done.

I feel like drawing, itself, is such pure, analog art form. Now, we’re living in a post-digital world, all connected to a screen, advertising ourselves online on whatever platform we can. Do you think that social media and the Internet are simply just an extension of the artist’s tool kit?

I don’t think everyone has to engage in social media. I completely appreciate the people being like, “Oh, I’m not doing it. I’m not doing Instagram,” and that’s totally fine. For me, I like having a visual diary to see and process what I’m working on. I’ve always liked working on blogs and documenting what I’m doing. I’ve received lots of work through Instagram. When I got my first big job, which was for the Parker Palm Springs, it came from Instagram. So I owe a lot to it really, because it’s helped me. If you don’t need it, fine, but it can definitely be a great tool. If you can get greater exposure, then I think, why not make the most of it?

Warhol said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.” You have an ecommerce portal on your website, you also have 1stDibs shop, and you did a pop-up shop last year. I’m curious what entrepreneurship means to you. How do you maintain the balance between art and commerce, being commercial without sacrificing your vision?

I’ve always been fascinated by retail. And while I like drawing and painting, I also like making products. When I first started selling antiques online, I’d go buy old antiques and restore them for resale on 1stDibs. I love graphic design and the process of branding things, so creating a variety of products with my artwork was natural. Now, I’m thinking about doing a little exhibition next year, so I’m setting aside time to work on those pieces. Maybe people think, “Oh, well, you’re not a real artist, you’re more of a designer.” I don’t really mind what label I’ve got. I think you can have all of these worlds that fit together, and I quite enjoy doing it.

I saw images online of your pop-up shop. Do you ever think you’ll venture into doing a little shop, a flagship store, for all your creations to live within?

At some point, I will probably do some shop type of thing. The thing is that at the moment I’m doing one-off pieces. I almost went down the route doing more products, but I’m now fixating more on hand-made ceramics, which are hand-painted and all one-off pieces. During the holiday season, I make more pieces and products for online and pop-ups. Right now my focus is on projects like the exhibition next year, which is going to be drawings, prints, and ceramics.

Do you have any advice that you might give to a young person considering to choose this as a career path?

Make sure you feel it pulling your heart; be brave. Go for it and believe in yourself. When something is completely yours, I think people always pick up on that. So do what makes you happy, because that’s what people respond to. You need to couple that with being on it as a business, thinking about social media, and having a bit of a strategy to give you direction. I do think you do need to have both sides – a creative side and a business side – in order to make it a success.

You’ve worked on many of amazing projects and I’m sure you only want more, but what do you envision for yourself in your future?

That’s the thing. I don’t actually have a plan. I’ve got so many exciting stuff happening, like the exhibition next year, and I’m going to carry on doing more interior projects. I’ve only been doing it for two years by myself so there’s still a lot that I want to do. I’d love to do a book and I like the idea you have, maybe, opening some sort of showroom. But for now I’m also just playing it by ear. I’m happy to just let things happen.For more information visit lukeedwardhall.com