IRIS WOMAN – LAURE HERIARD DEBREUIL

Since launching her multi-brand luxury boutique, The Webster, at the peak of the recession in 2009, Laure Heriard Debreuil has forged a career as a respected authority within the ever-changing landscape of the fashion industry. An FIT graduate, Laure got her start at famed fashion house, Balenciaga, then under the creative control of renowned designer, Nicolas Ghesquiere, earning her fashion credentials, first as a part of the brand’s merchandising team before moving on to become a top merchandiser for Yves Saint Laurent’s RTW division in Paris. Now, catering to a cult-cool crowd and building a brand known for purveying a trend before it’s even had time to be set, Dubreuil is something akin to a mystic tastemaker. Her own recognizable personal style sets the aesthetic tone for an instinctual buying process when it comes to working with established, well-known design houses or of-the-moment designers at the top of their game, often times collaborating with both to create exclusive, site-specific products for her boutiques.

Responsible for editing The Webster’s recherché selection of designer offerings, the Parisian-born CEO quickly evolved the delectable brand over the last 8 years, developing worldwide brand partnerships with Le Bon Marche, Target, and the Ritz Paris while expanding its boutiques to include additional locations in Bal Harbour, Florida; Houston, Texas; and most recently, Costa Mesa, California. Each boutique provides the indulgent sensory experience of the ultimate walk-in closet, integrating a luxurious, intimate, home-like ambience with contemporary artworks and customized antique furnishings. Carrying exclusive brands such as Balmain, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Loewe, Saint Laurent, & Vetements, The Webster’s women’s and men’s selection offers expertly curated ready-to-wear and luxury accessories, including shoes, bags, jewelry and watches.

In 2012, just three years after opening her 20,000 square foot Miami Flagship, Dubreuil took the dive into the world of e-commerce, using the same attention to detail to translate the exquisite nuances of her brick-and-mortar into an online shopping platform for customers around the globe. Notably, and at no great surprise, for the past two consecutive years Dubreuil has been among BoF’s Top 500: The People Shaping The Global Fashion Industry, as well as participated in WWD’s prestigious annual CEO Summit. Currently serving on the expert committee of LVMH’s annual fashion prize which fosters young talent, Dubreuil has rightfully taken her place as a revered member of the fashion community.

Here, IRIS Covet Book shares a conversation with creative wunderkind and fashion-business queenpin, Laure Heriard Dubreuil.

IRIS07_LaureHeriard-Dubreuil-1Laure Heriard-Dubreuil photographed in Manhattan. Dress by Vintage YSL, Earrings by Aurelie Bidermann, Necklace and Ring by CVC Stones.


When did you first know that you wanted to be involved with fashion, and how did you arrive at that decision?

As a child, I was always interested in fashion, whether it was playing dress up in my mother’s closet or selecting new clothes for my brothers and sisters. As the oldest of four children, I was always making “looks” for them. After finishing university in Paris and Shanghai, I decided to act on my strong interests in fashion and enrolled in FIT in New York City, with a focus on visual merchandising.

Where did you first begin your career and did you have a great mentor in the early years of your career? What was your biggest take away from the experience?

I first began working in fashion through an internship while studying at FIT. Through this, I met Nicolas Ghesquiere who was at Balenciaga at the time and there was an instant connection between us. He hired me at Balenciaga to work within the creative studio and I learned so much from him. I consider him one of the most influential people in my career, still to this day.  

What made you decide that you wanted to become an entrepreneur and build your own business from the ground up? Was there a catalyst that acted as the motivation for change?

I would not say there was one specific catalyst, but it’s in my blood – I am from a very long line of entrepreneurs and my parents were always very encouraging and supportive of starting my own business.

Most professionals experience growing pains from time to time, and such experiences can offer us insight and learning. Can you relate a specific incident that at the time was a challenge, but in hindsight, has been one of your biggest sources of growth?

The renovation process of The Webster was a key learning experience; the process took so long and was much more challenging than I expected being in an historical building. We opened the South Beach permanent location in 2009 at the peak of the recession – I felt that things could only get better from there!

Define what success means to you? Is it a way of being, an attitude, or list of accomplishments?

Success is a way of being! For me, if I am happy, I am successful.

What double-standards for a professional man and woman do you believe exist in regards to society’s attitudes about power, success, and ways of being in business?

Double standards exist in today’s society, but I am hopeful things will continue to improve for women, especially within the workplace. I take significant pride in being the Founder and CEO of The Webster and hope that I can inspire other young women to follow their passions and take risks.

What qualities do you try to exude as a leader, in life and professionally?

Honesty, loyalty, hardworking, passionate, and understanding are the qualities I try to live by each day both in life and professionally.

What have been the biggest benefits of having a point of view and personal style that have helped you on a professional level?

Personal style has given me a confidence to think out of the box and not be afraid to push the envelope. It’s helped me to trust my instincts and have confidence when making quick decisions.

Personal style nowadays is one form of branding. Why is branding so important now, more than ever with the advent of the internet and development of social media?

With the internet and social media, the arena has become increasingly competitive, branding is how you differentiate and position yourself within an already saturated market. It allows you to speak to multiple audiences through  concise and clear messaging.

What adjectives would you use to describe The Webster brand? What methods do you use to reinforce this brand?

A few adjectives I would use to describe The Webster would be unique, exclusive, timeless, and sunny. We work tirelessly on ensuring the décor and ambience of the boutiques are inviting. We play close attention to every detail, including plush carpeting, customized and antique furnishings, contemporary artwork as well as a signature orange blossom scent that is consistent throughout all our locations. We are always collaborating with designers to offer site specific exclusive products. This has been a key defining thread present since we opened in 2009, and has become part of our DNA.

During an economic time when many companies were experiencing a downturn during the recession, what made you decide to launch your company then?

We made the decision and there was absolutely nothing that could stop me! I fell in love with the art deco architecture in Miami’s South Beach. We experienced so many obstacles but were so determined and felt such a tremendous sense of accomplishment once we opened.

How soon after opening did you begin to focus on the e-commerce market? Do you find a balance between the revenue your company creates through traffic online or in person?

We took our time, evolving organically by launching our website in 2012 and e-commerce (with Farfetch) and have continued since then to carefully expand online, while replicating the experience through unique, exclusive pieces and product drops.

Does The Webster have plans for greater expansion with more brick-and-mortar stores? Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you can discuss?

I am super excited to launch a worldwide exclusive collaboration between The Webster and Lane Crawford! It was inspired by our interpretation of the energy and spirit found in Miami, Florida, where The Webster’s first and flagship location was built. We will be launching over 70 products from more than 20 brands in all of our locations as well as online, collectively.

Do you find that the consumer experience of shopping in person is unique to your store?

I hope so, it’s our ultimate goal to ensure each visit to The Webster is special. We want our clients to feel comfortable spending time with us, especially with how fast paced our lives are, it’s important to make the experience special.

Who are your favorite new designers or who is on your radar?

ATLEIN, Wales Bonner, and Nadine Gosh!

What do you look for when you walk into a young designer’s showroom? How do you gauge what will sell in your store and does that differ in the various markets your store is present in?

I listen very much to my instincts as well which makes it special/different and we like to build long-term relationships with our designers, so it’s important for the young designers we partner with to have market and production knowledge, so they can grow and to have their collections to be sitting next to the biggest names in the industry. We also work very closely with our sales associates and in house stylists, listening to their feedback while ensuring our selection is interesting yet timeless. Our buys are uniquely tailored specifically to each of our four locations.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Do you find this expression to be true? What do you love about your job the most?

Absolutely, this is the motto in which I live by! One of my favorite aspects of my job is having the opportunity to visit the showrooms and spending time with the designers and their teams.

What practices or habits have been beneficial for you in the mastery of your career and personal evolution?

I attribute my success to my parents, who instilled in me at a very young age to be responsible, respectful, and to always work hard for anything I wanted. This has helped define who I am, both professionally and personally.

Are you involved with any charitable initiatives or organizations? If so, please expound upon which causes you support and why you were drawn to them.

mothers2mothers is a tremendous organization that is very dear to me and am grateful to be an ambassador. I had the opportunity to visit South Africa, where the charity was founded, and was completely blown away by the work they are doing. What is so special about this organization is that they empower women living in townships with HIV by employing them as mentor mothers, who work as support system to other new mothers that are also HIV positive. This helps to not only remove the stigma about getting tested, but encourages women to disclose their status while also educating them about the necessary steps to give birth to healthy HIV negative babies.

When do you feel most creative?

I feel my best creative ideas happen during holidays in the summer, when I am super relaxed and happy spending quality time with my family.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Never take no for an answer. I firmly believe that if you have determination, anything is possible!

What’s next?

You will have to stay tuned!! We are currently focused on the launch of Lane Crawford and continuing to grow within our existing locations!

IRIS07_LaureHeriard-Dubreuil-2Top and Skirt by Chanel, Hoop Earrings by Céline, Pumps by Saint Laurent | Shop Webster exclusive including a new collaboration with Lane Crawford on thewebster.us

REI KAWAKUBO/COMME DES GARCONS: ART OF THE IN-BETWEEN

Rei Kawakubo is a designer’s designer. Throughout the course of her 44-year long career, her work has showcased her as a premiere fine artist whose medium is fabric. Rei’s work moves beyond the human body, pushing past the boundaries of commerce and fashion and transcending into the poetic and conceptual world of thought. The late designer Lee Alexander McQueen said of Rei, “I think that every designer you ask will be influenced by Rei in one way or another but what makes them a good designer is them moving the Rei concept on for their own label – the tulle over a suit, masking a jacket over a coat, pearls trapped inside layers of fabric – moving it forward, not just taking it, digesting it and regurgitating it the same way.” Kawakubo, though short of stature and reserved in nature, is a goliath in the fashion world whose influence has extended through every level, down to the world of high street (Comme des Garcons’ collaboration with H&M is one of the most successful and well regarded to date). She has been accredited to influencing Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, and has affected the worlds of technology, architecture, interior design, and many other creative industries due to her innovative thinking and the hands-on approach she takes to every aspect of her brand: from store design to web interface.

IRIS07_ReiKawakubo-1Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Body Meets Dress-Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997; Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kawakubo began her career as an outsider to the fashion world, studying fine art and literature at Keio University in Tokyo, this experience led to a deep understanding of the arts, poetry, and philosophy which can be seen in every garment and presentation that Kawakubo creates. After finishing her education, Kawakubo found herself working in the advertising department for a textile company, then as a freelance stylist, and subsequently designing for and launching her own label Comme des Garcons in 1973. Her label arrived on the Japanese fashion scene at the same time as Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, but what set her designs apart was her outsider view of fashion as a vehicle of sculpture and fine art rather than being formally trained in the classical ways of making clothing. In the early 1980’s she created an uproar at her debut Paris fashion show where journalists labeled her clothes ‘Hiroshima chic’ due to her frayed fabrics, distressed garments, dark color palette, and general aversion to traditional beauty.

Since the 1980’s, Kawakubo and Comme des Garcons have revolutionized the world of art, fashion, and design. The house has collaborated with many notable brands such as H&M, Converse All Star, Nike, Moncler, Chrome Hearts, Louis Vuitton, Supreme, and many others. Every fashion, art, and cultural influencer in the industry has been touched by Rei’s work in one way or another. Previous IRIS cover star and world famous milliner, Stephen Jones, once said in an interview, “Now, if you ask any designer who their favorite designer is, or who do they most respect, they will say Rei Kawakubo. I think that’s because she is a true original. She’s stuck to her guns. She does difficult things that are beautiful.” The work of Comme des Garcon is so richly layered throughout the decades that the upcoming retrospective exhibition delineates just an aspect of the beautiful work she has created.

Rei has always denied traditional titles of “fashion designer” or “artist, but prefers the more humble and interpretive epithet “clothes maker.” Recently, however, she’s begun to consider fashion as a form of art, and it is no doubt that the garments of Comme des Garcons are a fusion between art and fashion. This is a new inbetween space for Rei, at least on the level of self-awareness. Andre Bolton, the Head Curator of the exhibition, remarked: “She’s long occupied and explored another in-between space— Fashion/Commerce. From the outset of her career, Rei always viewed the creation of fashion and the business of fashion as a unified project. If, as Andy Warhol proposed, “Business Art is the step after Art,” Rei is its fashion manifestation. In this respect, Rei is an enigma, since her artistic practice remains legible and assertive, even in the context of its commerciality. Ultimately, it’s within this elastic zone between Fashion/Commerce that Rei’s “art of the in-between” occupies and most powerfully expresses itself.”

IRIS07_ReiKawakubo-3Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

On display through September 4, 2017, the exhibition at the Metropolitan of Art’s Costume Institute is entitled Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. The retrospective exhibition is an examination of Kawakubo’s fascination with interstitiality, or the space between boundaries. This in-between space is revealed in Kawakubo’s work as an aesthetic sensibility, establishing an unsettling zone of oscillating visual ambiguity that challenges conventional notions of beauty, good taste, and fashionability. Rei Kawakubo, speaking of her own design choices, said, “I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent.” Not a traditional retrospective, this thematic exhibition will be The Costume Institute’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983. The Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas P. Campbell, remarks that “In blurring the art/fashion divide, Kawakubo asks us to think differently about clothing. Curator Andrew Bolton will explore work that often looks like sculpture in an exhibition that will challenge our ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture.”

Kawakubo has broken the barrier between art and commerce by constantly searching for “newness”. Andre Bolton remarked that, “For Rei, however, her clothes are simply expressions of her endless search for originality or what she calls “newness.” In 1979—two years before her Paris debut—Kawakubo declared in an interview wit The New York Times: “I felt I should be doing something more directional, more powerful … [so] I decided to start from zero, from nothing, to do things that have not been done before, things with a strong image.” The concept of starting from nothing, a constant quest for reinvention, has ingrained itself into Rei’s design process. This is a mantra that guides Rei’s design decisions and creates fashions that not only stand apart from the genealogy of clothing but also resist and confound interpretation. She blurs the lines between garment and sculpture by obliterating our preconceived notions of the “shirt” or the “dress.”

Rei rarely has given any interviews. In fact, in one now fabled interview she reportedly drew a circle in black ink on a sheet of white paper and walked out; this served as an “explanation” to her then-collection Body Meets Dress — Dress Meets Body. Susannah Frankel, the fashion journalist who witnessed this performance, interpreted Rei’s answer as a demonstration of the collection’s indecipherability. Through the symbol of a circle, Rei was expressing the essential meaning of every collection: emptiness. Rei seems to enjoy confounding the editors, critics, and consumers of her work by offering obscure titles that serve to only muddy the waters of understanding. Bolton says of this Kawakubo phenomenon, “At best, they provide a code to be deciphered; at worst they serve as a red herring designed to divert, distract, and ultimately bewilder. Rei’s titles, like the collections themselves, can be read as Zen koans or riddles devised to expose the futility of interpretation. In Zen philosophy, koans are designed to confound the intellect by rendering analytical reasoning impossible. The most famous koan is mu, which roughly translates as emptiness. (…) It’s also central to the work of Rei, who as early as 1985 declared in Interview magazine: ‘The void is important.’”

Comme des Garcons is made up, conceptually, of space and emptiness. Most designers work to create volume and use materiality to take up space, but for Rei it is oftentimes more important to highlight the void — the space between. The exhibition’s title, “The Art of the In-Between”, comes from this poetic absence of space and Rei’s masterful hand at balancing tension between eight recurring themes: fashion/anti-fashion; design/not design; model/multiple; then/now; high/low; self/other; object/subject; and clothes/not clothes; all of which are explored in the Met’s retrospective exhibition in organized zones. “In her work, Rei breaks down the false walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness.” remarks Bolton informing about the inspiration behind the curation.

IRIS07_ReiKawakubo-2Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The first section of the sprawling exhibition—“Fashion/Anti-fashion”—centers on the early work of Comme des Garcons which debuted in Paris in the early 1980’s. The Parisian press had very strong reaction to the work owing to Rei’s apparent repudiation of Western fashion and its conventions. Bolton remarks, “These collections are significant for introducing the concepts of mu or emptiness, expressed through Rei’s monochromatic— principally black—color palette, and ma or space, expressed through outsized, loose-fitting garments that created a void between skin and fabric, and between body and clothes. (…) Wabi and sabi are aesthetic principles rooted in Zen Buddhism and are closely associated with the art of the tea ceremony. Wabi denotes decay and transience, while sabi denotes poverty and simplicity.” In Rei’s work, these Zen concepts are expressed through her work as asymmetrical forms, irregular finishes and trims, and imperfect creations.The tailoring and technical mechanics of dress-making are very important to Rei because they highlight the importance of the unfinished. Rei is the archetypal modernist designer. This modernism is most ardently expressed in her constant search for originality and “newness”. Rei is fascinated by the tension between originality and reproduction and between elite and popular culture, drawing parallels to other avant-garde modernists such as Warhol, Duchamp, and many other fine artists who play with similar themes.

Rei’s revolutionary experiments in fashion, art, and commerce have led to a natural hybridization in “in-betweenness,” which are taken to their logical conclusion in the final section of the exhibition—“Clothes/Not Clothes.” Focusing on Rei’s last eight collections, this wing of the retrospective represents her most radical, profound, and poetic ideas and creations that have never before existed in fashion. Rei’s previous collections have their confrontational novelty; however, they insist on existing as “apparel”. “These clothes are divorced from the delimiting requisites of utility and functionality and exist as purely aesthetic and conceptual expressions. The garments featured in “Clothes/Not Clothes” share qualities with sculpture as well as conceptual and performance artworks” explains Bolton.

In celebration of the opening, The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, took place on Monday, May 1, 2017. The evening’s festivities were co-chaired by Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, and Anna Wintour. Rei Kawakubo and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy served as Honorary Chairs. The event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements. The exhibition features approximately 150 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from the early 1980s to her most recent collection. Kawakubo breaks down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness. Her fashions demonstrate that interstices are places of meaningful connection and coexistence as well as revolutionary innovation and transformation, providing Kawakubo with endless possibilities to rethink the female body and feminine identity.

IRIS07_ReiKawakubo-4Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Body Meets Dress-Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997; Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Exhibition Dates: May 4-September 4, 2017|Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue|1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028|1(800)662-3397

IRIS MAN – B. JEFFREY MADOFF

From fashion design to producing multi-media promotional content for luxury brands, and more recently delving into the world of entertainment through directing and producing, Jeffrey Madoff has proven to be  a modern Renaissance man of the creative industry.

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Interview by Benjamin Price | Grooming by Heather Schnell
Jeffrey Madoff photographed at Madoff Production Inc. in Manhattan. Worn throughout this feature: Shirt byYSL, Vest by Engineered Garments, Tie by Fendi, Pants by J Brand, Shoes by Vintage Cufflinks, Watch by Seiko Limited Edition Arctura Chronograph

Jeffrey Madoff is constantly on the hunt for the next stimulating phenomenon in fashion, media, and marketing. He is a director, photographer, writer and professor in New York City. He is the founder and CEO of Madoff Productions, a company that handles film and video work such as commercials, web content, music videos and documentaries. His impressive list of clients include Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Hermes, Tiffany & Co. and Victoria’s Secret. His online videos for Victoria’s Secret has won a coveted Webby Award, and Madoff’s documentary films about philanthropist Brooke Astor and the iconic dancer Martha Graham have both been well received by press, such as The New York Times. In addition to these many accolades and accomplishments, Madoff also adds professor to his resume by teaching a course at Parsons School of Design, Creative Careers: Making a Living with your Ideas, which challenges students to explore various careers in the fields of fashion including photography, public relations, styling, becoming an agency owner, etc. Special guests of the class include Joe Polish, Founder and President of Piranha Marketing Inc., Sarah Laird, founder of artist representative agency Sarah Laird & Good Company, and pioneering stylist and Creative Director, Freddie Leiba, to name a few.

We met with Jeff in his Chelsea offices for a photoshoot and interview, surrounded by Jeff’s collection of antique televisions and radios which highlight his obsession with media and storytelling. He was dressed in a somewhat eccentric outfit of tropical leaf printed pants, white button-up, and brown leather vest which highlighted his personality and individual style. Speaking to Madoff, you instantly pick up on his cutting wit and intelligence, and his ability to take anything you say and make it into a clever joke or use it as a footstep into a more broad and intellectual realm of conversation. His brain is running at a mile a minute, it is almost difficult to keep up. However, past the dry sense of humor and sarcasm, you can find a trove of wisdom in each anecdote and joke. We sat down to discuss Madoff’s upbringing, his multi-faceted, ever-changing professional path, and new projects in the making.

In your class Creative Careers: Making a Living with your Ideas, there is a regular question that you ask each guest who comes to speak and share stories of their career development, so I am going to return the favor and ask you: If we knew you as a child would we have predicted this career path in any way?

If you knew me when I was young…It probably would be more informative of the direction that I’m going because I had a movie theater in the basement of the house. I took my dad’s eight millimeter projector, and I would go and rent films and design posters and walk around the neighborhood to get fifteen kids that would pay a quarter each to see a movie. That covered the popcorn, potato chips,and Coca-Cola.

When I got into film… that was a transition where I felt, “wow this is something I really want to do.” Fashion was almost a reflex. I wanted to start my own company, but I never had a desire to be a designer and probably the best thing that I learned after being in business was that I didn’t want to be in that business. But I learned, in terms of filmmaking, that they were very much the same business in terms of the protocol. When you’re designing clothes you come up with an idea, you sketch the idea, you cost it out, ask yourself what are the materials, what will the labor entail, how much can you sell it for, you have a deadline, etc. That’s the same thing with the movie business, the same thing with the play; the protocol and dynamics is the same for all of these business. I was able to take what I learned and apply it to the other things that I do. I have enjoyed telling stories since I was a kid, and that’s what I do, so the transition from fashion to film was not a big leap.

In your career you have handled media production for huge clients such as Victoria’s Secret and Ralph Lauren, but also have started your own fashion label, and are currently producing your own Broadway play, and film. However, do you think there is any validity in the phrase, “a jack of all trades, but a master of none”?

I think that one ought to explore whatever they are curious and passionate about. People may say “no” to you, but don’t say “no” to yourself. The most important thing is being engaged in what I’m doing. I’m excited about what I’m doing. The enterprising part you mentioned is figuring out how to make money doing this so that I can do what I want to do. The business side of the business I don’t find very interesting, but it’s necessary. You spend eighty percent of your time on the business of the business, and twenty percent on the creative stuff you really like.

Money is not the primary motivator; I’ve been fortunate enough to figure out how I can get paid for the ideas that I have. But for me, the primary thing, aside from providing for my family, is to create a platform that allows me to do what I want. It sounds nice and easy, but it’s hard work to do that.

Don’t say “no” to yourself if it’s something you really love, and go after it because you also never know what’s going to hit, you never know what’s going to manifest and maybe even change your life.

The brain works by being both pragmatic and business oriented, but also being able to create and tell stories and have both abilities. A lot of people think they don’t have that ability because they assume there is a “left brain” person and a “right brain” person.

The bicameral nature of the brain actually doesn’t function that way; there’s a tremendous amount of crosstalk between the hemispheres of the brain. That was a really simplified notion of how the brain works and a very inadequate study of cognitive neuroscience. I think a lot of times it depends on what’s at stake; if it’s something you really want to do and you’re passionate about it, you either figure out how to do it or figure out how to align with the right people that can help you do it.

The world is a really interesting place. I have kind of insatiable curiosity about so many things, and I don’t think there are really any boring topics, just a lot of boring people. So many people complain that they are so bored with New York, but if you’re bored in New York, there’s a problem with you. Nobody owes you an interesting life. You need to make your own life interesting, and you need to pursue what’s interesting to you so you can feel engaged.

You’ve worked with many different brands, producers, actors, etc.; how do you know when you have found the right people to work with or collaborate?

I am totally agnostic, and by that I mean that I don’t care about someone’s age, gender, religion, sexual preference, etc. all I care about is if they have a sense of curiosity, a sense of empathy, sense of humor, intelligence… and if you’re lacking in those I’m not going to be too interested. What’s meaningful to me as a person who has those qualities is that you can actually engage, learn from, and exchange ideas with them. Laugh, cry, embrace, and those are the things that are really interesting and important to me.

How has being a teacher at Parsons affected your view on these interpersonal relationships?

That’s part of why I teach; teaching allows me to continue to learn, and I love learning. You get an emotional connection with your students. As the leader of that classroom I want to foster participation and engage my own curiosity, and hopefully inspire. I don’t think that you get an education, I think you take education. That means that you’ve got to be aggressively involved in your own education and you’ve got to pursue those things. Having a sense of curiosity makes me a good teacher because I’m on that journey with the students. I learn a lot from the students you know, and just because I’m older and in front of the class doesn’t necessarily mean that my insights are more valid. It is a fruitful exchange of ideas that’s really fun for me.

It seems to me that fashion is on the precipice of great change. Companies across the board are no longer sticking with the methods of marketing, advertising, production, etc. and the consumer’s needs are changing. What do you think it takes now for a brand to stay relevant?

Lasting long enough to manifest stuff and having a strong online presence, which is so important, but also having something tangible. Because that’s what ultimately will build your brand more than an online presence. That’s why Amazon has opened brick-and-mortar retail stores and why Apple opened retail stores. Nobody knows yet the impact of this technology and what social media will affect.

What is something that you think is missing now in the digital age? How have people changed in their business dealings and methods of communication?

The operative phrase for me is: wherever you are, be present. Be present when you’re talking, be present in the classroom, be present when you’re doing your work, and I think that’s really important. We’re in a world with so much distraction. People are constantly checking their cellphones, and it shows a lack of respect for the other person there because you’re not showing them the attention they deserve just by being present.

How do you feel about the future? In this political climate, there are very dire concerns for art and media industries as well as the economy in general. What do you predict will happen within these realms for creatives in the US?

I think that there is actually a positive aspect to Trump’s election. I came up in the 60’s and was involved in marching against the Vietnam War, marching for civil rights, etc., and this is the first time since the 60’s where I wondered where the outrage is and why everyone isn’t marching on the streets.

Although I’m certainly not happy with his election, there’s a few things that we’re seeing that I think are positive outcomes. One is that it has mobilized a popular movement among all age groups who have become more politically engaged, and I think that’s really important. People take way too much for granted, even their right to vote. Liberals were too complacent; with complacency comes a certain kind of arrogance, so although nobody can believe Trump was elected, it’s time to get over that. We have to get involved on the local level in politics. Politics is not just a national game. Make your presence known; organize through populist gatherings, disrupt a town hall meeting, and ask your elected representative hard questions. That’s part of the American way: freedom of speech, right to assembly and protest, etc. Trump has fostered a rebirth of engagement with people in the political system.

The unfortunate thing is people talk at each other and not to each other, and eventually there needs to be cooperation and compromise, which is what politics is, so things can actually get done that benefit us as a nation. The environment is not a political issue. I was recently listening to someone arguing with Neil DeGrasse Tyson about climate change, and he said, “you know the wonderful thing about science is it’s true whether you believe it or not”.  I love that statement because I think that informed debate is really important, critical thinking is really important, and questioning things is really important.

What advice would you give a young student or entrepreneur who is starting their career?

Don’t take advice, learn for yourself. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn. Anybody who takes advice doesn’t have the requisite curiosity and initiative to do something. Talk to people who you trust and don’t be afraid to put yourself at risk, and don’t say “no” to yourself. Don’t short-cut your own opportunities by disqualifying yourself, enough people will disqualify you out there so don’t do their job for them.

I don’t have any big maxims of truth because I think you find out by doing. There’s no way you can know what you’re going to go through until you start going through it. I don’t know all the answers.

One of the guests that you brought into your class said, “success is opportunity meeting preparedness” and I think that that is great maxim for people to think of when entering the work world.

I think that’s true, but first I think you also have to develop the ability to recognize opportunity, and have the confidence to risk so you don’t stop your own progress. I have met people who are tremendous financial successes but who I’m surprised can make it out their front door without running into the wall.

I think you have to define success for yourself. People ask themselves that question and I think you have to ask what does success look like for me? What is success? Is it acquisition of material things or is it doing what you love?  

What does success mean for you personally?

I have two answers for success. On a business level, success means the ability to say “no” to opportunities without catastrophic financial consequences. Personal success, to me, is to love someone and be loved back…that’s my family, my closest friends.

For more information: madoffproductions.com Madoff Productions 224 W 29th St #10, New York, NY 10001 (212) 265-0137

IRIS MAN – SCOTT BROGAN

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu

Scott Brogan is an outlier of altruistic intention with an optimism that radiates from his aura. His ability to lead with a passionate confidence is always tempered with a sensitivity towards those whom he is leading. Perhaps it is because his focus is outward, directed with goal for the betterment of many, not just himself.

After spending a decade of his professional life as a political consultant, in 2005 Scott founded his non-profit, Brilliant Lecture Series, to enhance the lives of Houston’s youth and community. With its mission to educate, inspire and entertain, Brilliant Lectures Series works to provide transformational experiences by generating new ideas through lectures, direct in-school and exchange programs, and cross-cultural opportunities. By presenting national and international leaders, humanitarians, philanthropists, artists, authors, entertainers and entrepreneurs, the non-profit brings the stories and lives of aspirational role models to a wide and diverse audience through its unique programming.

Since its inception, the organization has presented over 94 luminaries, including Queen Noor of Jordan, President Mikhail Gorbachev, Dame Julie Andrews, Maya Angelou, Lauren Bacall, Sidney Portier, Betty White, Joan Rivers, Diane Keaton, George Clooney and Diana Ross to name a few. Reaching more than 105,000 patrons through its Conversations with Brilliance series, and millions more through digital media, the program hosts someone “brilliant” who will take the audience through his or her life, always followed with a question and answer session. The events, which are open to the public, provide an opportunity to have insider access and individual dialogue with extraordinary leaders for those in the community who cannot afford to take part in the world of private receptions and galas. Recordings of the events are made available to local schools, hospitals, and organizations for research and educational purposes.

Committed to bolstering today’s youth, Brill Talks, one of the organization’s programs, focuses on engaging middle and high school students through direct, interactive learning experiences with local, national, and international members of society. Students are able to learn and become inspired from the life experiences shared by such leaders who speak to them about their own journeys in life and what has compelled them to reach their heights of success. With its goal to have open dialogue designed to improve interpersonal relationships and build cross-cultural understanding amongst students, Brill Talks motivates students to stay true to their dreams and set goals for themselves, while making a difference not only for themselves, but also for their communities, locally and globally.

Here Iris Covet Book, had a chance to catch up with the man who is as “brilliant” as his brainchild.

How long have you lived in Houston and what were you doing before you began your non-profit?

I’ve lived in Houston since graduate school – going on 25 years. Houston is an exciting and international city that I am proud to call home. Before founding Brilliant Lecture Series, I had a political consulting firm focusing on targeting and strategy for political campaigns.

What inspired you to create the Brilliant Lectures Series?

I founded Brilliant in 2005 at a time when nothing like it existed in Houston. So many times when iconic, positive role models come to Houston, they appear at very expensive events that are not realistic for most people’s budgets.

I wanted to provide a way for everyone to be able to see and hear these remarkable people. Our tickets begin at $25 to help make them accessible to nearly everyone.

What it is the mission and vision of your organization?

The mission of the Brilliant Lecture Series is to educate, inspire and entertain by presenting national and international leaders, role models, philanthropists, artists, humanitarians, performers, authors, and entrepreneurs to the great city of Houston.

How is your organization giving back to the community? What kinds of community outreach programs has it created?

We provide affordable tickets many times further discounted through various collaborations with other non-profit organizations in the community. We gift hundreds of complimentary tickets throughout the year to various groups and individuals that are uniquely impacted by the philanthropic interests of our speakers and artists.

Because George Clooney is very involved with helping resolve the genocide in Sudan, we invited all Sudanese refugees living in Houston and their families to join our Conversation with George Clooney. For our Conversation with Sidney Poitier, we provided complimentary tickets to students from 100 Black Men and College Connections so they were able to share this once in a lifetime experience with an American legend.

  Why do you value this cause or feel personally connected to it?

Over and over I have seen first-hand the impact the programs have on people of all ages and backgrounds. One grandfather brought his grandson to see Sidney Poitier. I was able to provide an opportunity for them to meet. The grandfather was sobbing with gratitude. Sir Sidney was able to put into elegant words the importance of having dreams, persistence and patience that his grandfather was not able to articulate for his grandson. It was a moment I will never forget.

Who have been some of your favorite celebrities to collaborate with?

That’s a tough question. Her majesty Queen Noor was our very first program so this one certainly means a lot to me. She is a smart, thoughtful and elegant lady born in New York who married a king. She has used her position to make a tremendous difference on issues from women’s rights to Middle East peace. I admire her a great deal. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were fascinating. Listening to their stories of Watergate and current political affairs from their very unique perspectives, shed new light on the important issues facing our country and the world.

I was asked to host George Clooney for his first program like this in North America. He is funny, smart and an all-around class act. We had some very enthusiastic fans that were convinced I could help make them Mrs. Clooney.

Why do you think it’s so important to share the stories of these individuals in the format that you do?

People come to each program with a very personal relationship with the speaker and how he or she has touched their life. Though they are the most famous people in the world, I try to provide a safe and comfortable platform for them to share the journey of their life – the ups and downs. Our speakers were not born into their fame or positions of influence. As they peel back the public persona in front of the audience and share stories not often shared publicly, people relate to them in ways they never thought possible.

Has there been any celebrity whose story surprised you?

I had the honor of hosting my friend Dr. Maya Angelou twice to sold out programs. With her majestic and powerful voice, she told her story. She spoke in 7 languages, sang, recited her poetry and spoke to each person’s soul like an old, treasured friend. The audience sat in deafening silence as she shared in brutal honesty her challenging childhood and sang with her in unbridled enthusiasm. Her words echoed through the huge theater and cathedral electrifying everyone with humility, grace, compassion and hope like only she could deliver. She used no notes or teleprompters. She sat alone in a regal purple dress urging everyone to rise – rise to fulfill their greatest potential.

Does the money you raise only benefit Brilliant Lectures or do you partner with synergetic charities?

We always partner with other local non-profits whose mission compliments the speaker’s message. I always want Brilliant to be a vehicle that amplifies the good work of other charities and schools in Houston so the impact of our work continues for many, many years. I believe that if charities work together more and compete less with each other, more can be accomplished and lives can be bettered.

Any upcoming Brilliant Lectures programs that you are excited about?

We are working on several exciting projects including Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cicely Tyson, Amal Clooney and the Vienna Boys Choir.

Do you have any personal experiences with the children who are benefitting from your organization that have been touching or uplifting for you?

I took twelve students to Amman, Jordan at the invitation of Her Majesty Queen Noor. The students lived in a boarding school with students from around the world for a week. The personal and cross-cultural experience for these lucky students was life changing. On the last day of the trip, all the students in the school created a large circle. Each student tossed the ball of yarn to another student as they shared a personal gratitude to the other student. At the end, every student was symbolically connected to each other in a web of yarn – there was not a dry eye in the room.

These are the future leaders of the world who now share a common thread through the global impact of the Brilliant Lecture Series.

How can others get involved or donate to your cause?

Ticket sales only pay for 40% of our annual budget so we rely heavily on support from individuals, foundations and companies to sustain our work. No contribution is too small. We encourage everyone to pay it forward so we can continue to bring the most influential and inspiring people to our great city. For sponsorship and VIP opportunities, visit our website at BrilliantLectures.org.

What advice have you received that has helped you navigate the process of forming a non-profit and developing it into a successful community asset?

This is a very timely question. Very few founding directors of major non-profits are still alive. There are thousands of charitable organizations with executive directors who do an amazing job as custodians of someone else’s dream but there are very few who have started these successful groups from ground zero. Every triumph and error is a teachable moment and I’m always learning.

How do you envision Brilliant lectures growing or evolving in the future?

You have to think big to be big. I want our programs to reach an even larger audience from around the world. As we boldly lean into our second decade, I will expand Brilliant to other platforms to reach millions of people around the world.

I also want to present speakers that never or rarely speak unscriptedly in public so the audience truly has an experience like no other. I am frequently told that an idea I have is impossible – that it is never going to happen. If I can dream it, it is possible and that’s exactly what I intend to keep doing.

What makes you feel confident / powerful?

Faith. I’m convinced that everyone can feel confident regardless of their circumstances with faith. Faith in a higher power, in mankind and most importantly in yourself. It can uplift the most desperate and frustrating of experiences.

We are not created weak or intimidated or fearful. These are temporary states of the mind. They are learned emotions that everyone has the strength to overcome. I feel confident knowing I am the only ‘me’ that will ever be created and my capabilities are as limitless as my mind, my imagination and determination will take me.

Define what success means to you?

I think everyone struggles with defining success for themselves. Success is being able to look back at the totality of my life and know that the world is a better because I was here. Some of the saddest people I’ve met have more money and influence than many people can ever dream of. Money, alone, does not make for a successful life. I have great enthusiasm for my work and I believe success and satisfaction come when your passion and your profit collide.

When I speak to students, I always encourage them to find their passions first – happiness and comforts will come. Being bold and confident to take the leap of faith to follow your passions can be the hardest step of all. But the rewards are beyond measure.

What has been your greatest fear (or challenge) that you have overcome?

I always try to approach challenges as temporary boundaries. There is always a solution though it may be hard to discover and take longer to get to than we would like. You either get through it, over it or under it. Many times, our dreams are bigger than our circumstances but your circumstance is temporary and your dreams are forever. In days of frustration or fear, know there is a way to the other side of the wall.

Have you ever reinvented yourself and if so, how did this prove beneficial in your personal evolution?

What a great question. I’m not so sure I would describe it as a reinvention, but rather a course correction. I am learning, and growing, and adjusting every day to be the best I can be. If we stop evolving, we get stagnant so I’m a firm believer that moss doesn’t grow on a rolling stone. There are so many opportunities that will present themselves to you in the future both personally and professionally that you can’t imagine today. Be open to change and prepared to seize the moment! Carpe Diem!

What would you like your personal legacy to be?

I hope that in some small way my time has inspired others to dream more, learn more, do more, become more and share more.


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IRIS WOMAN – DANCIE PERUGINI WARE

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu

A fifth generation Texan who has risen to the top of the public relations game over the course of the last thirty years, Dancie Perugini Ware possesses a well-honed intellect and sharp wit with which she leads her all-women firm. Influenced by the life stories of many powerful women, the firm that bears her name is testimony of their impactful mark on Perugini Ware. At a time in the 80’s when female entrepreneurship was beginning to bud in the mainstream, Ware pushed through gender boundaries and staked her claim as a respected leader in her industry. Her nationally-regarded firm boasts representation of a diverse roster of influential clientele of national and global brands in retail, hospitality, real estate development, and the arts; including Fertitta Hospitality, Simon Property Group, Louis Vuitton, Texas Medical Center, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston Symphony, and the University of Houston.

Dancie is also passionate about historic preservation and serves as trustee of Galveston’s Rosenberg Library, Texas’ oldest public library, and is also an avid supporter of Houston’s Julia Ideson Library Preservation partners. Known for her love of architecture, Ware is collaborating with Ace Theatrical on the historic restoration of New Orleans famed Saenger Theatre, which suffered significant damage during Hurricane Katrina, as well as the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. Her own firm’s offices recently underwent a stunning renovation with Houston-based design firm Mayfield and Ragni Studio (MaRS) located in the historic Niels Eperson building in downtown Houston. A modern mix of high-gloss white floors, open-concept floorplan, mid-century furniture collected by Ware herself over the years, and contemporary art, create a space that is a slick and energetic hub for her team to work efficiently and be inspired in.

Here, Iris Covet Book had a chance to sit down with this issue’s Iris Woman during her recent photoshoot.

I’m curious when you first knew that you wanted to be involved with public relations as a career, and how did you come to that decision?

I’ve always been a reader, even from childhood. I started with Nancy Drew and typical children’s books. I used to think that The World Book wasn’t so tedious, so I’d read every one of them. History books were always a fascination of mine as well. I was always drawn to the biographies and autobiographies of particularly strong women, from Madame Curie to Queen Victoria. That wasn’t contrived, it was a just natural interest from childhood. We had a wonderful library growing up in Galveston, which I frequented weekly!

As I grew older, I began reading more popular magazines like Seventeen and Glamour. I was about fifteen or sixteen and I read a profile of a young woman, I’ll never forget it, her name was Karen Bacon. At that time, she was the head of public relations and special events for the Mayor John Lindsay of New York. I read about how she approached every project with a unique curiosity and creativity. I felt like I was Karen Bacon. I learned more about what she did and her background and I thought that’s exactly what I wanted to be doing.

So, I realize now that I have been influenced by women all of my life. Later, I was mentored by a remarkable and legendary advertising executive by the name of Anna Wingfield. She had an impact on my career post-college. By mentoring me, she gave me the confidence that I could accomplish it all on my own.

What made you decide that you wanted to then become an entrepreneur and build your own firm from the ground up?

After graduating college, I knew what I wanted to do, but opening that door with limited experience was very difficult. So, I created a couple of jobs for myself. At 21, I had a radio show, a newspaper column, and I worked as a teacher for high school seniors.

How did you balance all of those activities?

I created those opportunities so I made time for them all. I discovered that in life, if you want to do something and that path isn’t open, you just have to make it open. Find your path, set your goal, and things happen. I have always enjoyed hearing a young woman’s perspective. At that time in the 80’s, all of the radio broadcasters were men. There was the sports guy, the guy who talked about politics or there may have been a money guy, but there were no women’s perspectives. My talk show formed out of the desire to hear a woman’s perspective on these matters. So I started a half hour radio show that only interviewed women. I interviewed women in politics, women who were authors or writers, or women in the arts, about all of these diverse topics. It really worked out for me! The only reason I stopped doing that after about two years was because I was juggling too many things in my schedule between the column and teaching school. I still had in my mind that I wanted to pursue a fulltime career in public relations, but I was finding my way because that door had not opened yet.

And when did it open?

I volunteered for every charity or organization, just like you build up a portfolio. After about three or four years of doing these types of freelance PR jobs, I applied at a top-notch firm in Houston. It was a very large agency, primarily advertising and public relations that had the most prominent clients. I knocked on the door with the portfolio I had developed on my own, and they gave me a shot. I stayed there for about three years, working under the direction of the senior partner, Anna Wingfield. From there, I had an opportunity to work for a quite a prominent family of the name of George Mitchell who is now known as the “Father of Fracking”. He was an entrepreneur who was leading one of the largest independent oil and gas companies in America at that time, and his wife was focused on historic preservation. It was a natural fit. I worked for Mitchell for about three years while I was building up my additional clients and then my company really began to take off.

Most entrepreneurs experience growing pains, especially in the beginning when they’re starting something new. Was that ever the case for you?

Well, it took me awhile. I have to say that when Mitchell approached me, and we had a number of ambitious projects at the time, it took me about six months to get the nerve up to believe that I could do this on my own. It wasn’t an overnight decision. Once I did, I never looked back. I have to say that every year has been more positive and more profitable than the year before.

What double standards do you believe exist within societies attitudes about power, success, and ways of being in business for a man versus for a woman?

Candidly, there’s no question in my mind that women still have to work harder, smarter, and faster.

And did you ever experience discrimination personally simply because of your gender?

I’ve never felt totally discriminated against as a woman, but I have felt certain challenges throughout my life because of being a woman.

Is there a specific incident that stands out in your mind?

I think it’s a challenge when a woman has her own company and is then declined their status credit, and declined their status in a financial relationship with a bank. For example, when one of the first things a banker asks is a copy of your husband’s financial statement. That may be in the past now, but I think it’s still very difficult for women who are starting out on their own to be able to establish those types of financial relationships. For getting your company going, it’s good to find a banker who believes in you.

Concerning this topic of gender equality within the workplace, what do you think that it’s going to take to close the wage gap? Currently the national average is that women make 20% less than men.

I think there is no question that the wage gap exists across the board and in just about every industry. I think the only way that they’re ever going to succeed in wage equality, is for more women to be in executive positions in the decision-making world, then that ultimately will change. It is changing, and there have been dramatic changes. I look back when I started in my career, at times my salary was half of what a man’s salary was in the same position. It can be very discouraging and that’s why women have to work harder, smarter and faster. You have to take the risk and you have to have the confidence that you can move on, because there are many companies that will value you in the workplace. If you can’t find your niche, then you can make your own.

What advice would you give to your younger self, or to younger team members at your firm?

Become financially independent. That’s what I encourage for all women.

Can you define what success means to you? Is it a way of being, an attitude, a list of accomplishments, etc…?

I would say it’s an attitude and an overall sense of well being, as opposed to the latter. For me to be successful means to be insightful and innovative in your way of being. Accomplishments? They come and they go. But for me, when a client has confidence in you and values your opinion, that’s real success.

What qualities do you try to exude as a leader, not only professionally but with all of the community-related projects that you’re involved with?

I think that integrity is something that is very rarely found. So I would say high ethical standards with a sense of decency and respect. I think, respect and goodness are still very important. When you focus on demonstrating these qualities, ultimately, you will be respected and rewarded for that.

CEO’s like Jeff Weiner and Oprah have more recently promoted the idea of “compassionate management.” What are your thoughts about this management style and is it something that you incorporate at your firm?

We firmly believe in leading by inspiration. Wisdom and compassion are key components of any great leadership style, but inspiring your team is relevant at every touch point. We strive to inspire confidence, loyalty, and enthusiasm. We want to enable our team and motivate our team to deliver an inspired product that goes above and beyond our clients’ expectations.

When you first meet somebody coming in for an interview to be hired by your firm, is it something that you innately feel from them when they come in?

Without a doubt! I still prefer to do every interview. I really have to say a lot of it is intuitive to get a sense of whether or not they are going to have the commitment, perseverance and the passion that I’m looking for. We have a very active internship program, because of the fact that I did not have the opportunity to do an internship while I was in college. I have made that a very important core principle that we will give as many opportunities to new graduates as possible. Within a year, perhaps, we’ll have as many as 10-12 through the year.

Dr. Emma Seppälä is the Science Director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. I recently read an article about findings from her research. One of the things she discovered is that high-stress environments in the workplace actually break down the culture and morale of the organization.

I very much agree with that. There are a lot of cues one can pick up. There are cues that someone is overstressed or having a client conflict. I can often pick up on those unique cues and it’s my duty and responsibility to size up and be the steward. It goes back to constantly reading. I know this sounds really strange thing. The only way anyone can grow in this business is if they’re attuned to the media. Today that includes blogs, stories online, video clips, newspapers, and books. Now, I read about everything online now. I read the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the LA Times, the Guardian and several local papers daily. I’m constantly learning with this whole mindset. You cannot sit back and not be fully absorbed with what’s happening in the world around you. In everything, we’re all connected. In our business, you have to be connected to just about every industry. That’s what I look forward to every day connecting with my team and interfacing with a broad variety of clients, so that everyday I feel I am learning and helping my team members to learn, and that’s very fulfilling!

With the development of social media’s popularity and it’s integration into business, many people are seeking to use this platform to achieve “influencer” status through a well curated brand. In light of this, what do you think makes for a lasting brand?

The brand has to be authentic and that’s the most important factor for a brand to survive. The DPWPR brand is all about authenticity and creativity. Everything we touch, we think about how to make it the most unique, how to make it totally relevant, but also how to create a campaign, a program, or strategy that is new, fresh, and different. And so, I’d say the brand, our brand is about authenticity coupled with creativity. There are many ways to create a brand. Everything we do–our space, our logo, our fonts, the paper we use, as well as digital presence on our social media platforms–no detail is neglected.

Andy Warhol said, “I never read. I just look at the pictures.” I think probably, nobody understands this better, than perhaps, a publicist. How does a captivating image help a publicist and her clients?

We value and believe photography is one of the finest art forms. Therefore, in that, we emphasize the need for the very best photography when working with our clients, to depict their product, their real-estate development, their food operation and presentation. The images are incredibly important, and that can only be achieved through good photography. Now, that said, I also feel the power of the written word is extremely important.

And when there’s a marriage of the two?

Then I think that’s when you got a winner.

LOGAN BROWNING

Logan Browning’s intelligence, humor, and passion for both social activism and performance have culminated into a new controversial Netflix series entitled Dear White People.

Photography by Raul Romo, Styling by Rafael Linares @ Art Department, Creative Direction by Louis Liu, Editor Marc Sifuentes, Interview by Pauline Snyder-Goodwin | Coat by Victoria Hayes

Success has been no stranger to Logan Browning in both her personal and professional life. Browning started at an early age to pursue her career in film and TV all the while reigning as homecoming queen and honor student in her hometown of Atlanta, GA. With a starring role as Sasha in Bratz: The Movie, Playing Brianna in Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns, and as Jelena on VH1’s Hit The Floor just to name a few of her successes, it’s no wonder this multi-tasker will star in the lead role as Samantha White in Netflix’s original series, Dear White People which debuts April 28, 2017. Browning plays Sam, a biracial film major at a fictional Ivy League University where she hosts a radio show called Dear White People. The show becomes popular amongst black students on campus, and leads to discussions on racially charged topics that students typically avoided. In the trailer she addresses her radio listeners; “Dear white people, here’s a list of acceptable Halloween costumes,” classical music and images of elite white people serve as a backdrop. She proceeds by listing a series of ubiquitous costumes white people could dress up in: “Pirate, slutty nurse, any of our first 43 presidents. Top of the list of unacceptable costumes: Me.” Images of people wearing blackface pans across the screen against a crescendo of the classical music piece.

The 10-episode, satirical comedy is an adaptation of director, Justin Simien’s 2014 successful independent film of the same name. Simien has also written and directed the episodes and has found his new series in the fire of controversy sparked by the trailer release. The trailer has fueled some viewers into boycotting the streaming media giant or cancelling their accounts altogether, generating a lot of attention and awareness to the show. Much of the discussion has been superficial, based on the title, alone. But viewers will soon have actual content, in the form of episodes, to discuss.

Browning, under the direction of Simien, endeavors to deliver an insightful and entertaining series while offering a perspective and a criticism on one aspect of race and class tension in our society. With a combination of clever, progressive, and thought-provoking writing and a cast of comedic, young starlets, this Netflix original series is sure to ignite discussions among audiences across America.

IRIS Covet Book recently caught up with Logan Browning in her adopted home of Los Angeles to learn more about the young starlet and her involvement in the original Netflix series.

Top and Pants by Raisa & Vanessa, Shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti, Sunglasses by Sama Eyewear

When did you first know you wanted to become an actress? How did you initially get started in the industry?

I can remember my aunt telling me about a time I was riding in the backseat having a full-on conversation with myself as multiple people with different accents. That was possibly an early sign of a disorder, but more than that, it was apparent that I really loved becoming different characters. I loved doing it for myself, but I also performed for my family all the time. I started in the industry the way any how-to book would tell you: move to LA, get an agent, and go on auditions. All this came after I was a part of a competition called IMTA. At the same time, my parents were trying to figure out how to support two households while living in Georgia while I was chasing my dream as a 14-year-old in LA with my godfather and later on with my older brother as my guardian.

Tell us how you got involved with Netflix’s Dear White People.

I hate to disappoint readers with such a simple answer, but I just auditioned like everybody else. Sam felt natural to me, and I believe that and my commitment to her voice, are part of what awarded me the role. I also came fully dressed in my version of the character and even styled my hair into an exquisite pompadour. I wanted “Sam”, so I confidently walked in as “her”.

How did you prepare for your role as Samantha White? Do you find that you relate to her in any way?

I went around telling white people to stop appropriating my culture. Just kidding! I read. A lot. I read the original screenplay of the film. I read letters written by Dr. King. And I read books Justin mentioned during his press tour for the film. I also went to a radio station to shadow a DJ and learned how to work the boards.

You attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Any parallels to the campus setting in Dear White People?

Well speaking of setting, I give major props to the set designer of Dear White People. To date, it is the most gorgeous set I have ever been on. They basically built an Ivy League school in a warehouse. The halls were connected for continuous shots. There was velvet and leather and ornate wallpaper, chandeliers and columns. I was mesmerized. It reminded me of the day I visited Vanderbilt with my dad before deciding to go there. I remember how beautiful the campus was. There is a sense of community that Vanderbilt and Winchester have in common, but I think the self-zoning of groups and ethnicities is represented on most campuses.

What’s been memorable about working with director Justin Simien in the Dear White People series?

Learning from him! His mind is beautiful. His humor is sharp. He’s very Zen. He’s an interesting person to watch because he seems to always be thinking. I mostly appreciate his encouragement. As an actress, I still have a lot of growing to do. His notes to trust my instincts, and not to worry about things not happening the way they are written on the page if I’m honest, were such confidence boosters. Those stuck with me throughout filming and will continue to live with me as I work. His approach gave me a sense of calm which is necessary when I’m really excited about a scene and begin to overthink it. Working with Justin has made me a better actress and a more in-tune human.

Dress by Helo Rocha, Bangles by Djula J

Any personal life experiences that helped shape your role as Samantha White?

I’m a fighter. I’m a little lady. But I’ve always been the friend/daughter/sister whose intent is to protect the nest. Through my experiences with confrontation and debate, I’ve learned yelling may scare people but it doesn’t guarantee that anyone will hear you. That is a part of Samantha’s journey. She has a natural kick ass personality, but she’s also a very emotional and sensitive gal who can move mountains. When I play her, I sometimes feel like I’m living part of my life all over again.

Given our current political climate in the U.S., how do you think viewers will receive Dear White People?  What would you like them to take away from the series?

With the state of our nation and even global political turmoil, it’s undeniable that when we ingest any form of art our radars are up for offensiveness, conspiracy, corruption, and the like. Of course, a title like “Dear White People” is going to conjure up a lot of curiosity, and I proudly stand behind the show as something that transcends both intentionally and coincidentally. Specifically speaking, no one on our production could have known that Dear White People would be airing in a Trump presidency; we wrapped filming on Election Day. I’m sure when it came time for editing, the voice of the show became even more specific with cuts and choices because all eyes will be on this show wondering what it’s all about. Time and art play important roles with each other. Dear White People was written in a Bush Presidency, released as a film in an Obama Presidency, and will air as a show in a Trump Presidency. The temperature and tone is constantly changing with time, but the reason this title prevails is that there are deep rooted systemic issues that we will always battle as a country. At the end of the day, it’s 10 episodes of a 30-minute show. I want people to walk away having enjoyed the characters, the humor, the truth, the opinions, and feel open about discussing the themes of the series.

On VH1’s Hit the Floor, you played a team captain for a NBA cheerleading team called the Los Angeles Devil Girls. Dancing was a key part in this role. How did you train for this?

As soon as we wrapped the pilot episode I enrolled at The Edge Performing Arts Center and took Ballet, Jazz, and Jazz Funk classes every day. In a very limited amount of time, I needed to garner technique, flexibility, and confidence. Technique came from the classes I took, and ballet was the core of that learning process. My flexibility came from a lot of hot yoga and stretching every second of every day. Confidence was something I gained as I became more comfortable with myself. I was playing catch-up with women who have been dancing since they were 3 years old. I had to understand that I was hired to play the captain of this fictional dance team because they saw something special in me as an actress that they didn’t see in any other actress or dancer. I learned to own my sex appeal and strength as a woman. A lot of my confidence came from the support of the women around me. The dancers helped me pick up choreography quickly, taught me the tricks of the trade, and encouraged me to believe that I was truly a dancer.

What’s it like playing a satirical comedy role vs. a drama one?

The biggest difference for me, is playing up the humor. In a drama, I try to make the humor very organic, but with a satire, the goal is to get the audience’s mouth open with laughter so they can digest the message you’re feeding them.

What are your all-time favorite movies?

That would be such a long list. The Silence of the Lambs is the first thing that comes to mind. My dad loved that movie so I love that movie. I obsessed over the silently lethal Anthony Hopkins, and he became one of my favorite actors to study. I love Miss Congeniality and The Blind Side because watching Sandra Bullock is a treat. She is a truly transformational actress.

What would be your dream role to play in a film or tv series?

During our photo shoot, we were on location by a cool sign that read “Sade”. If there was ever a biopic about her life I would do everything possible to be considered for that role. She is so naturally intriguing. I would love to tell her story and transform into her for a film. To play any living or once living person’s story would be a dream. The responsibility of portraying a real person is a challenge I’m up for.

Shirt by Dodo Bar Or, Vest by Shahista Lalani, Jeans by Thomas Wylde, Shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti

How do you keep yourself energized during long hours of filming?

You are liable to find me curled in my cast chair taking a powernap! Number 27 on my list of being a small human is: “fits in most places”. I also stretch. Sometimes you just need to wiggle your joints and lengthen your muscles to get the oxygen flowing through your body and into your brain. Stretching also refocuses me and makes me aware of my body and emotional state. Drinking water is one of my magic weapons. Coffee never gives me the lasting energy that nourishing my body with water does in the long run.

What’s your go-to work out to stay fit?

A boxing class will always whip my ass into shape. It’s high-cardio, endurance, focus, balance, agility, and strength training. I also do a lot of yoga. I never feel like my muscles are super-cut after, but I do know I’m building a strong core and inner strength that will support all my other athletic activities and my general well-being.

Who are your favorite musicians? Who are you currently listening to?

A few of my favorites are: Ben Howard, Thelonious Monk, Lecrae, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, Tracy Chapman, Sade, George Stanford, Kendrick Lamar, and Frank Sinatra. I’m going to stop myself because now I’m just listing my entire Spotify library. I’m currently listening to the Big Little Lies soundtrack, and also Thundercat because my big brother told me to and he knows good music.

Last concert you went to?   

I saw my friend’s band perform at SXSW; LoMoon. They’re amazing—hop on early. An actual concert I went to see was The Brian Culbertson Funk Tour in Newport Beach with my mom in October.  

What charities in your community are you involved with?

I’m passionate about working with young people and people displaced from their homes. The outreach I do is mostly geared towards those two groups. One of my favorite outreach programs is called Young Story Tellers. It is a program that selects 5th graders to be paired with a writing mentor. They write a play, and after a few weeks actors show up to do cold reading performances of their plays. It is the most fun because kid’s imaginations are marvelous! I’ve been a sheep, a witch, a superhero, you name it! It’s also a great experience as an actor because we audition for these kids and have the responsibility of bringing their wildest imaginations to life by performing their play for the entire school after only a few hours with the material. We get creative and use whatever we have with us as props. It’s one of my favorite things to participate in because these kids learn early that they are important, talented and supported. I’m also very active with the Black Lives Matter movement. I attend meetings, marches, rallies, and stay knowledgeable so that I can help share important information via my platform.

What advice would you give aspiring actors wanting to pursue a career in television or film? What hurdles do they need to overcome?

Go to college. Finish school. Get involved in your theater. Read. Hang around and play with children. Their imaginations are without borders. The more childlike you can become with your truth and creativity, the less limited you will be as an actor. Knowing yourself is important. You must spend time alone and go deep into your past. You need to discover who you were before life came at you. Who God made you to be before ideas shifted you. Kids can know themselves quite simply because their experiences are limited. We are made up of our life’s journey. The longer we exist the more we must navigate to find our true selves. We are who the world sees us as, tries to mold us into, how our parents showed their love or didn’t, our failures, accomplishments, produced art, expressed and unexpressed ideas, our conscious minds and our instincts. We are the molded-clay, masterpieces, of God.

Coat by Styland, Top and Belt by Zana Bayne, Underwear by Agent Provocateur, Earrings by Victoria Hayes, Boots by Christian Dior

 

Hair by Dritan Vushaj @Forward Artists using Sachajuan, Makeup by Nancy Cialdella using Anastasia Beverly Hills, Laura Mercier, and Giorgio Armani Beauty, Manicure by Stephanie Stone @Nailing Hollywood using Chanel, Video by Heather Sommerfield, Production by XTheStudio. Special Thanks to Mike Liotta @True Public Relations and The Dream Factory LA Studio. Special thanks to Blowpro. 

PIERRE ET GILLES

40 ans, 2016, Model : Pierre et Gilles, Without Frame : 105 Å~ 84 cm, With Frame : 123.5 Å~ 102 cm Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris˝ Pierre et Gilles, Courtesy Galerie Templon, Paris et Bruxelles

Interview by Alvio Mancuso

Intro by Benjamin Price

Pierre and Gilles met in Paris in their 20’s and soon thereafter, they began an artistic collaboration that would influence a whole generation of creatives. Before meeting in 1976, Pierre had established a career as a photographer and Gilles as a painter. Once Gilles took his brush to the first portrait, their union as artists was formed. Pierre and Gilles have worked in unison for forty years, photographing icons such as our cover star Rossy de Palma, Kylie Minogue, Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Madonna, and so many others, all of which have been catalogued in a fabulous new book entitled Pierre et Gilles: 40, published by Flammarion.

Their work explores concepts of identity and how we view celebrity, culture, sexuality, and ourselves. Photographing everyone from icons in popular culture to strangers they found on the streets of Paris; Pierre and Gilles create fantastic dreamscapes and insert their models into the realms which they create. Images are then edited, and through Gilles’ paint and airbrushing, they are manipulated manually for color, light, and anything else the duo seeks to create. Transforming people into mermaids, Hindu goddesses, and monsters, their work questions our perception and blurs the boundary between reality and fantasy, ugly and beautiful, boy and girl, etc. The two brilliant artists had time to sit down with Iris Covet Book and discuss their lives together, their career, their models, and their future.

How did you meet and when did you realize that you were going to have such a fruitful artistic relationship?

Gilles: We met in September 1976, it’s been forty years. We met at a party thrown by the designer Kenzo (Takada) for the opening of his boutique at Place des Victoires.

Pierre: It was love at first sight. It was a good party, we were all drinking and Gilles jumped me! Then we left the party on a scooter and we haven’t left each other’s sides since.

Gilles: Pierre was a photographer, and I knew his photographs and his work. I was painting and making collages and after a few months we started to work together. It came to us very naturally. We were each doing our individual jobs and ended-up helping each other and sharing ideas. One day I got the idea to paint on one of Pierre’s photograph because the colors were not right for our vision, so I started to paint the eyes and the face, and we found something we loved and we worked together from that day forward.

Pierre: After that we never wanted to work separately and we didn’t want to work with anyone else. Only the two of us.

What was your first project together, and do you remember what the experience felt like collaborating with your lover for the first time?

Pierre: Our first project was a series of photographs of our friends inspired by photo booth picture strips because Gilles had a big collection of those from many years ago.

Gilles: I was addicted to these photographs! I was taking them every day and asking all of my friends to be in them. I started a huge collection. We got inspired by these photographs because the colors were really bright. Then we started a series of Polaroids with our friends; they were making faces and having fun, but we thought that the colors were not bright enough, so I painted the colors and retouched the faces and felt we found something important there. We were so happy, and working together was so comforting. We felt that we were lifting each other up. Pierre had his own personality, and I had my own, but we totally felt that we were completing each other since that first project together. Pierre was more into fashion and I was an artist drawn by contemporary art; putting our two personalities together was good for each of us. You have an instantly recognizable aesthetic to your work, how did you develop your distinctive style?

Pierre: To have a style comes naturally, you don’t have to look for it.

Gilles: It came pretty naturally, but when you see the first image that we did together called Les Grimaces, a series of nine portraits on different colored backgrounds, you can already recognize our style. Of course it evolved and was more pop at that time. You need to stay true to yourself, and we did stay true to ourselves. We were inspired by pictures that we would see on the street markets in Morocco; they were de-saturated portraits of celebrities. We also both grew up surrounded by the Pop Art of Andy Warhol, and other artists like him, which inspired us as well. Our style comes from a lot of different elements: image conception, light, the way we paint the photographs: it’s our spirit.

You work in a multi medium platform: photography, painting and even set design and building. Why is it important for you to work this way?

Pierre: We are very crafty, and we love to do everything ourselves from the beginning till the end.

Gilles: Above all else, what we like to put forward is the subject (that we our photographing) because our subject is the inspiration. We started with the photo booth inspired photographs which were mostly portraits; we have always done portraits with the body and the stage as well. However, most of the time we focus on only one person. It can be more, but it is very rare for our usual work. There are icons that we love whom we are drawn to because of their personality. Our models are very different, all with different origins, sexuality, and every body type from very muscular to slim. We love unique people and love to explore the differences.

Pierre: We want to be part of our subject’s world.

Who were your early influences or mentors?

Pierre: We were very inspired by cinema.

Gilles: Pop Art was also something that was very important for the two of us. I have loved Andy Warhol since I was fifteen years old when I discovered his work and his personality. He wasn’t hiding who he really was: his homosexuality, his life, and the people that he surrounded himself with. We were inspired by the movies from James Bidgood like Pink Narcissus. We found in his movies a sensibility that resonated with our own. Your big breakthrough was a shoot you both did for Facade magazine, and it included pictures of Andy Warhol, Iggy Pop, and Mick Jagger.

Vénus marine, 2000, Model : L.titia Casta Without Frame : 122.5 Å~ 91.5 cm, With Frame : 228 Å~ 164 cm The Cultural Foundation EKATERINA, Moscou ˝ Pierre et Gilles

What happened when those photos came out and how did you feel about the publicity?

Pierre: Yes, it was very impressive to meet these people.

Gilles: We started strong with all these personalities; it was an underground magazine for a small audience, a bit like the equivalent of Interview Magazine at that time. Working with these celebrities brought us to the spotlight and that is when it really started for us. First, we were working only for magazines and then we did our first music single cover for Amanda Lear. We were working for press, newspapers, different magazines like Gai Pied and Playboy, fashion show invitations for Thierry Mugler, etc. We were doing a lot of different things and it was a very good training for us.

Much of your work is inspired by celebrity, mythology and religion. What is it about these themes that draws you?

Gilles: That’s true we do work with these themes. We like when people play a role, but a tailored role that will fit their personality. A role that we feel they can play and that will elicit our sensitivity. For instance, when we shot Karl Lagerfeld, we thought of his cat and then we thought about the James Bond movie Spectre and the cat in it, so we sat him in a big chair with his cat. We mix reality and fiction, and we play with different elements that will fit with our model’s personality.

Pierre: We also play with color and try to find the color that fits with the person we are photographing. We have a very close relationship with all the people we work and we had worked with. When we look at our work, it’s like a family album. It’s a mix of celebrities, but also unknown people and friends. We love both worlds!

What are the qualities that you look for in a potential male model for your art? Are their any nuances in masculinity that you are attracted to?

Pierre: It depends a lot on what we want to express at the time of the shoot.

Gilles: We work very rarely with models from agencies, and we like to work with unique personalities. We are mostly drawn by someone’s personality first. We don’t have any definite physical features that we like to work with; we can work with someone very androgynous, very masculine, very slim, very muscular, with unique facial features. We love to express something different and create different emotions.

Do you have recurring muses that you have worked with over the years? If so, what has made your collaboration with them successful?

Gilles: We have recently worked a lot with Zahia. Also, Marie France with whom we worked with when we began until recently. Zuleika (Ponsen) was a muse since the beginning whom we photographed a lot. She starred in our portraits called “La Meduse”, “La Pleureuse”, etc.

Pierre: We worked with Dita Von Teese as well and we actually are currently working again on a new portrait of her. We photographed a lot of boys as well that are not necessarily well-known.

Gilles: We love to work with all these people because they inspire us, they just understand our world and they can play so many roles.

How does it feel to have four decades of celebrated art work under your collective belt with a highly anticipated retrospective book Pierre et Gilles 40 commemorating your careers?

Pierre: We did this book year-by-year instead of doing it by theme. It allowed us to see the evolution of our work through the years.

Gilles: Our style is still here but has evolved. We started with something more Pop and simple “mise en scene”, and then you can see that we evolved to something more complex and developed. The models change through the years. It reminds them of the good memories of working together when going through the book. It’s been a fantastic journey through the forty years. We are so happy to see what we did, but we are not nostalgic, just excited for what is coming next.

What do you think about the reaction audiences have had from your work throughout your forty-year career? Do you see a difference of how U.S. audiences react versus European?

Pierre: We feel that our images can touch people everywhere in the world…

Gilles: …In Japan, Russia, Australia, Europe, America… we don’t feel like there are a lot of borders.

How does it feel to have used your revolutionary subject matter and style to bring a mainstream voice for gay culture?

Pierre: It was pretty natural. We didn’t really have to put it forward, but naturally, as we are a couple and we did not hide it, it came out. Also, the inspirations which we followed with sincerity touched the gay community. We received a lot of letters from gay people who told us that our work helped them to accept themselves and their sexuality.

Gilles: As we said, our work explores the difference between individuals and shows people the beauty in homosexuality, and that is very important to us as well. What was one of your most memorable photo shoots that we will find in your new book?

Pierre: It’s pretty hard for us to choose because every shoot is unique. Every time we meet new people it is a new surprise. As we live in the present, we love the last images that we did. For instance, we just photographed Beatrice Dalle whom we have known and loved for a long time.

Gilles: We recently shot K-Pop celebrities, and we loved that very much as it was new and interesting to us.

You have worked with some of the most iconic artists, designers, performers, etc. including Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Dita Von Teese, Kylie Minogue, Karl Lagerfeld, Mick Jagger, and Iggy Pop; what was your favorite collaborative experience?

Pierre: I loved to photograph Sylvie Vartan as she was my idol when I was a child and as a teenager; I was way more impressed when I met her than when I met Madonna or Kylie Minogue for example (laughs).

Gilles: Though meeting Madonna was also an amazing experience, she was at the Ritz Hotel in Paris and she made someone call us to go meet her, and that same night we went to the Zingaro Circus together with Jean-Paul Gaultier. It was in the 90’s. They are incredible memories. We met Kylie Minogue in Sydney when she came to our exhibition, and then we shot her in Sydney. We have worked with a lot of amazing, unique, and different personalities and it has given us these incredible memories.

Are there any celebrities, designers, or artists that you would like to work with that you haven’t yet?

Gilles: Yes, for sure! There must be people we didn’t work with that we’d like to, but we like surprises so we’ll see. It comes to us pretty randomly depending on people we meet and the occasions. It takes time, but we trust the future.

In a digital age where people can easily manipulate photos via Photoshop, why is it important to you to stay true to a more organic process of airbrushing and acrylic paint that you have perfected?

Gilles: We started retouching pictures way before Photoshop. At that time the pictures were almost never retouched. Even today we stay true to ourselves following the same process. We still retouch everything by hand and we still build our set in studio. The only thing we changed is that we started to shoot digital, but it has not been a long time that we switched maybe two years, and we are happy with the result.

Pierre: We really stay true to ourselves, we stay very artisanal and crafty. We love to build our own sets. Our models are really (physically) displayed in it. We are a very small team and we love to do everything ourselves. We just have an assistant and the both of us. We take care of each step of the process from the set design to the final frame we use for each photograph.

When your careers first began in 1976, did you find it hard to gain acceptance from either realm of art or fashion?

Gilles: There were people that loved our work since the beginning and were very supportive. We waited until 1983 to do our first exhibition due to the fact that before that people and art galleries were not ready to show our work. It happened only in 1983. We started with the smaller formats, and now we exhibit our bigger formats, but the most important thing for us this whole time has been to stay true to ourselves.

In the future, what projects can we expect from you?

Pierre: Just the continuation of our work. A new “novel to follow” (laugh). .

 Sainte Mary MacKillop, 1995, Model: Kylie Minogue Without Frame: 85.7 Å~ 71.4 cm, With Frame: 112.7 Å~ 98.5 cm, Collection St.phane Sednaoui, New York ˝ Pierre et Gilles

CINDY SHERMAN – IMITATION OF LIFE


Untitled #363, 1976/2000, gelatin silver print, framed: 115/8 x91/8 x1in.(29.53 x23.18 x2.54cm)

From her early beginnings photographing herself in costumes in the 1970’s to becoming
a legend in the realm of photography, Sherman has made herself a fixture in gallery spaces as well as auspicious private collections. Through her use of identity, acting, and exploring tropes of character development, Sherman has created some of the most thoughtful works of photography that hold up a mirror to society while simultaneously bringing humor and beauty. The Broad is not the first to put up an exhibition of Cindy Sherman’s work; however, The Broad has dedicated itself to the works
of Cindy Sherman for over thirty years and
its collection is unmatched. In order to truly understand the scope of Sherman’s work, it is necessary to experience it live, in person, and organized– like the scenes of a movie. It was
a privilege for us to speak with Philip Kaiser, the guest curator for this special exhibition, and learn how he directed these pieces and his interpretation of Sherman’s work.

Untitled #92, 1981 chromogenic color print, 24 x48in.(60.96 x121.92cm) | © Cindy Sherman, Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures

Eli Broad collected Cindy Sherman’s work since the early 80’s and key pieces have been contributed to the exhibition from Metro Pictures, the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and The Menil Collection. Do you know why Cindy Sherman was chosen to be The Broad’s very first exhibition? Was there any reason you were asked to be the guest curator for the show? Do you have a special relationship with Sherman’s work?

The Broad invited me to be the guest curator for this show. I have worked
with many artists of the so-called Pictures Generation – artists who combine interests in popular culture and conceptualism – and I am thrilled to have curated Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life at The Broad. With over 125 works by Cindy Sherman in the Broad collection, it is fitting that The Broad chose Cindy Sherman for the first special exhibition.

The Douglas Sirk reference “Imitation of Life” is the perfect description of identity, representation, and Hollywood tropes. How does having the show in Los Angeles act as a backdrop for this show and play with these ideas?

Cindy Sherman chose the title, and
not only does ‘Imitation of Life’ nod
to Douglas Sirk’s 1959 melodrama, it
also emphasizes Sherman’s thorough relationship to movie culture, and of course imitation is at the core of her artistic practice. Located in Los Angeles, the heart of moviemaking, the exhibition’s theme is the relationship between Sherman’s work and the cinematic.

Upon entering the show, the scale of the site-specific murals is quite impressive and cinematic. We begin the exhibition in chronological order to explore Sherman’s early prints and collages in the 1970’s, which are relatively smaller. Then the works grow in size through time. How do you feel the grand scale of the photographs affect the viewer? As curator, how does
it affect your decisions in carving out the exhibition space?

The scale of Sherman’s work grows over time partly because of changes within the medium of photography that allowed artists to print larger. Photography is
still a fairly young medium within fine art, particularly when Sherman started working in the 1970s, and viewing Sherman’s work chronologically allows viewers to see some of the changes that have occurred within it in the past 40 years: from smaller scale to much larger formats, from analogue to digital, and most recently from chromogenic printing to dye sublimation, which is how her most recent body of work from this year is printed directly on aluminum.

Certain large-scale works affect the viewer by formally creating a bridge
to painting (the history portraits,
for example, are printed at a scale
that mimics old master paintings).
The wallpaper murals are taken from Sherman’s 1980 rear-screen projection series. The series uses the cinematic technique of projecting onto a translucent screen from behind and then posing in front to make it look like the subject is in another environment. In the murals for example, the characters appear to
be outside but the photographs were actually taken in the studio.


Untitled #447, 2005, chromogenic color print 48 x 72 in. (121.92 x 182.88 cm) © Cindy Sherman Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures

In 1997, the MOCA Los Angeles exhibited a major retrospective of Cindy Sherman. Would you say “Imitation of Life” is a continuation of this discussion? How has her work evolved since then?

Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life is a survey of Sherman’s work made over
the last 40 years, centered on Sherman’s relationship to cinema. This exhibition includes work made as recently as this year, and presents many works that have never before been on view in Los Angeles. It also includes the feature length film that Sherman directed, Office Killer, further solidifying her connection to film.

A couple of my favorite series in this exhibition are the Centerfold series and the Pink Robe series. The idea of format orientation (horizontal vs. vertical) plays a very important role on “the male gaze” and the female form in art history to current images in magazines. Do you see Cindy Sherman as a feminist?

Cindy Sherman’s work dissects identity and representation within the realm of mass media in contemporary culture.
By photographing herself (she usually works alone), her chameleon-like personas generate work of utter beauty and disturbance, borrowing the language of media from cinema and television, to advertising, the internet, and old master paintings. Her persistence to focus on the fragmented self for almost forty years is radical and distinct.

While many critics and art historians have read Sherman’s work in relation
to feminism as well as many other theoretical frameworks, the artist does not subscribe to any one particular reading of her work. Certainly, Sherman’s work dissects how meaning is assigned to images, particularly images of women, in our contemporary world.

Are there any works that will be new to the Los Angeles patrons? There seems to be a heavy influence from film and Hollywood in the selected works; will we be seeing any never before seen cinematic work?

The exhibition is framed with works
that reference film; it begins with Cindy Sherman’s 1980 rear-screen projection photographs—reimagined as two massive murals—in which Sherman used a cinematic technique, and ends with the new works, inspired by film stars of a century ago. These new works are on view in Los Angeles for the first time after debuting in Sherman’s New York gallery this spring.


Untitled #474, 2008, chromogenic color print 90 3/4 x 60 in. (230.51 x 152.4 cm) © Cindy Sherman Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures

In the The Broad app for the show, Humberto Leon, from design duo Kenzo, discusses Sherman’s keen understanding of the role of clothing, beauty, and fashion to create her images. How has Cindy Sherman challenged ideas of beauty and youth?

Sherman started creating works for various fashion magazines in the early 1980s, and in these works challenged ideas of beauty by placing the characters in positions that were less-than- aspirational. While fashion photography typically attempts to present our best selves, Sherman, wearing couture clothing, posed with messy hair, bruises, blood, and awkward facial expressions. Sherman questions more than just ideals of beauty though; she uses visual language from media and creates works that disrupt assumptions about beauty, status, vanity, and art itself.

Sherman has also done work with Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, and M.A.C. cosmetics and most recently dressed in popular fashion brands satirizing selfie poses for Harper’s Bazaar’s Project Twirl. Do you think Sherman’s work is holding up a camera or a mirror?

In 1981, Sherman was commissioned
by the art journal Artforum to create a body of work that has come to be commonly referred to as the centerfolds. Ultimately, Artforum chose not to publish the works in fear that they may be misunderstood. The reason I point this out is because as soon as 1981, Sherman was creating works that challenged audiences, pushing the boundaries
of what was expected. Sherman has
done many commissions since then,
and the resulting work has often been confrontational and challenging. As for your question, I think Sherman’s work uses the camera to mirror particular themes in society, often by means of humor, the grotesque, and artificiality.


Untitled Film Still #58, 1980, gelatin silver print, 8 x10in.(20.32 x25.4cm)

The show finishes with some of Sherman’s most recent works created in 2016 completing a range of work in four decades. As guest curator, could you go through your responsibilities and what you wanted to make sure visitors would take away from the exhibition?

It has been a huge privilege to work with Cindy Sherman’s artwork in the Broad collection. My curatorial effort has been to turn the Broad collection’s comprehensive holdings of Sherman’s work into a meaningful show, which requires editing, sorting, and generating connections between the series, as well as identifying and securing key loans.

This exhibition is on one hand a comprehensive survey of Cindy’s work, on the other hand it puts an emphasis on movie culture and the cinematic. Cindy Sherman is one if not the most influential contemporary living artists, and the exhibition offers the rare opportunity to be amazed by her various incarnations. The interconnectivity of each distinct series allows us to expand our ideas of Cindy’s practice and lets us understand how focused and broad the work has moved throughout the years.

Untitled #70, 1980 chromogenic color print, object:20 x24in.(50.8 x60.96cm) © Cindy Sherman, Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures

Interview by Chelito Villaflor

JONAS MEKAS

iris04_mekas_webJohn & Yoko on a cruise boat up the Hudson river, July 7, 1971 | 17 x 22 inches, Archival Photographic Print. Edition of 3 + 2 AP, 2013

Recognized as one of the leading figures of American avant-garde filmmaking, Jonas Mekas is a pioneer in the craft and has become an icon in the world of fine art. Through his accomplished career as a filmmaker, photographer, poet and organizer, Mekas firmly established filmmaking as a widely accepted means of artistic expression. Through his lens, Mekas has captured some of the most beautiful, provocative, and interesting moments of celebrities, nature, and Mekas’ distinct view of life. Some of his most famous subjects include noted filmmakers, Jacqueline Kennedy, and artists like Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, and Elvis Presley. Another large portion of Mekas’ work is concerned with the more intrinsically personal moments of nature: family, being human, and appreciating life beyond the conventional.  Known also as a curator and an icon of contemporary American culture, Mekas documented the works of many other famous artists, notably listed are the works we have published here of John Lennon with Yoko Ono on a cruise boat and Andy Warhol posing with an academy award. Jonas Mekas’ work has been exhibited at the finest museums worldwide, and is this issue’s Icon in recognition of his lifetime of work innovating the world of film and photography.

-Benjamin Price

iris04_mekas_web2Andy Warhol, 1971 | 17 x 22 inches, Archival Photographic Print. Edition of 3 + 2 AP, 2013

RJ RAIZK

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Creative Direction by Louis Liu | Makeup by Lydia Brock

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RJ Raizk presents himself as an embodiment of his brand: an austere and seemingly-aloof specimen of cool, tinged with angst–an inevitable by-product of any creative trying to “make it” in New York. But there is something more seductive and sincere about the artist than his all-black-wearing persona. The 29-year-old who transplanted from Ohio to attend School of Visual Arts just over a decade ago, has been incubating his creative sensibilities with a New York state-of-mind. “I’m just planting all the seeds, so I can get the fuck out of here.” His breed is the kind of artist that is navigating a post-digital and post-recession career path while reenvisioning ways to create a sustainable life and career as an artist.

Already amassing a hefty resume of commercial projects and commissions with MTV, Restoration Hardware, and several of New York’s finest hospitality spaces, including trendy Meatpacking nightclub, Up&Down, The Tribeca Grand Hotel, and several private residences commissioned by interior design clients; RJ’s work is dynamic and impactful, making it easy for his audience to connect with his work. Much of his work could be interpreted as studies in dualism, drawing inspiration from some of the most diverse geometric structures and organisms found within the natural world as seen in the artist’s intricate and polarized black-and-white pattern work. Raizk’s work fluidly moves between analog and digital processes, at times incorporating both into the same piece.

While modernizing representational subject matter through simplified form and playful design, Raizk’s work is balanced by a highly-controlled process in which he attempts to utilize his physical body for a mechanical “printer-like application”, creating nearly-perfect pattern-repeating murals that are only seemingly-organic. A glance through the artist’s portfolio, which he endearingly refers to as his “pattern book”, reveals that RJ’s work is delicate and energetic at the same time. Patterns that look like constellations, electrons, cell mitosis, photosynthesis or seed-germination all make an appearance
in optic black and white ink on paper, all created entirely by hand. It is easy to be awed by the kind of discipline such detail requires, “I’ve done this one for the entire entrance of Up&Down,” he exclaims proudly, pointing to a pattern that could easily be the microbial makeup of a plant under a microscope.  “I did this one for my friend’s place and I’ve done it for restaurants, to prints on canvases for people, to just prints on paper.  I’ve done it just about everywhere. I’m leaving it open to every type of medium. It doesn’t have to be just drawn or painted.”

Many of the patterns within his body of work have been scanned to create digital file assets that can be further manipulated and used as source material for RJ’s intricate digital collage work. “A lot of people don’t understand that digital work takes about as much effort and time as analog. They don’t think digital is as authentic as you doing it by hand.  But in actuality, the amount of time and effort it takes to make a digital piece is the same because you’re collaging this giant thing and it’s your work.  So, just because there’s a computer between you doesn’t mean that it’s less effort.” For last year’s Miley Cyrus-hosted MTV Video Music Award, the artist was commissioned to create advertising collateral featuring the popstar, and suggested that the computer is simply another medium. “I love that I can combine my digital with my hand-drawn and I think that’s one of the best stuff I’ve done.”

iris04_rj_feature_online3Work In Progress: Constellation Mural, Hand Drawn Silver Ink On White Wall, At Collective Design Fair, 2016

Raizk’s first solo show, hosted by friend and fashion powerhouse, Nicola Formichetti, the artist made a return to a more traditional process of pigment dye and acrylic paintings on canvas, showcasing his skill-set as an abstract painter. Paintings carried over from the solo exhibition were quickly snatched up by Restoration Hardware’s newest division, RH Contemporary Artists, which markets a curated selection of artists’ work to it’s long-established cult-following consumer base in the world of home decor.  The potential of dipping his toe in the world of interior design and luxury furnishings and fabrics isn’t a bad idea. It’s easy to envision Raizk’s titillating patterns as fabrics, wallpaper, or carpeting that could wrap any textiled surface.

Positioning oneself for potential licensing deals is good business for any artist. Still, for many millennial creatives living in New York, post-graduation career aspirations can seem daunting, especially when trying to understand how to generate the cash flow to make a dream happen. “If you’re looking into studio spaces, they’ll be $2000 a month that’s a 300 square foot box with no window. If you want a window, then it’s over $3000,” he said, recalling the reality of astronomical rent that has posed a challenge for so many of New York’s artists. “But yet, everyone needs artists, but no one’s willing to cater to them.”

Merging his talent with a business-savvy drive, RJ’s career path hasn’t come without its criticism. “They are like, ‘Why don’t you just get a job on the side?  Why don’t you do this?’  And I’m like, ‘You guys don’t understand.  If I had a job, I wouldn’t devote any time to this.  I’d be coming home, going to sleep, waking up, going to the job.’  I need freedom to be able to make stuff, because then, the payoff is actually worth it, now.  It’s frustrating, because no one really understands and they’re just like,

‘You just don’t want to work. You’re just lazy.’ And I know that’s not true, because how did all this stuff happen?”

Fortunately, Raizk has effectively been able to maneuver said challenges, learning to employ the same cerebral dance between left and right brain (as seen in his pattern work) and flow effortlessly between them at will. This duality carries over into the profound underlying themes within RJ’s work. This is apparent in his crayon drawings of aliens that have become popular cult t-shirts. The series features aliens trying to understand a variety of human emotions, masquerading as tongue-in-cheek t-shirt designs that could easily be sold for the masses.

“I hope you know I’m not that serious,” he jokes while showing me a crayon drawing of two aliens holding hands with a sphere of rainbows drawn around their hands with the slogan “Searching for a connection”. One could understand them as a deeper commentary on the theory that life is a computer simulation being understood by a post-human civilization, an idea effectively juxtaposed by its delivery in the form of an infantile crayon drawing, reminiscent of childhood.

“Are we nothing but aliens experiencing human emotions for the first time?” I propose.

He agrees, “I think so.”

Here, Iris Covet Book sits down with the New York City-based artist at our photoshoot in Soho, NY.

iris04_rj_feature_online4Right: TERRAIN, 2016 | Black pigment dye and acylic on canvas | 60 x 48 inches | Available on rhcontemporaryart.com
Left: 
GRADIENT, 2016 | Black pigment dye and acrylic on canvas | 72 x 48 inches | Available on rhcontemporaryart.com

When did you know you wanted to become an artist?

It’s funny, when I was a child I was constantly drawing all over the walls of my parents’ house. At the time, my mom freaked out because I had just destroyed her newly painted shutters. She actually ended up saving the shutter with my markings on it. In class, I was one of those kids that never paid attention to the teacher and would just draw and scribble on the side of my notes and on the back of tests, wherever I could find an empty space on paper. I guess I could say I wanted to be an artist my entire life.

Has this been a career path that you always saw for yourself?

Ever since I was about 13, I knew that a normal life was not for me and I could not handle a 9-5 office job, it would give me anxiety and still does to this day thinking about it. I had this deep instinctual feeling to follow my dreams and what truly made me happy, and that’s how I decided that unless I pursued art I would not be happy. I would rather die than not do what I like to do for the world around me.

What influences have helped shape your creative process?

I was one of those kids who loved electronics and video games, the universe and the cosmos and the stylized drawing of anime and Japanese art. A nerd at heart. The way they could create such movement and drama with such simple line work was what really intrigued me. I’m also inspired by how organic structures of plants and the cosmos create such beautiful patterns.

Was there ever a time you were afraid or uncertain to express or put yourself out there creatively because of what others might think?

I want people to appreciate it as much as you do. When I was younger it was more difficult but now it has gotten a lot easier, the feedback has been nothing but positive so it keeps me going.

Is your work an emotional process or more of a technical process?

When I paint it is more emotional, and free flowing due to the movement of it. When I draw its more technical, I go into an almost robotic mode when I draw, it’s very repetitive. When I combine the two I feel the most complete.

When commissioned for interior design projects, how do spaces and architecture inspire the work that you create within them?

I have a portfolio of all my patterns that I have drawn over the years, and continue to make new ones for myself.

When I am commissioned for an interior design project I select the pattern that works the best with the space. With paintings, it’s the same process, I’ll show examples and work with the style of painting they want for their home.

What is something you hope your audience experiences when they enter a space that you have done?

Ultimately, I just want people to feel good about what they see and give them a feeling of awe. That’s why I like doing hospitality spaces so much, because if people are enjoying themselves in
the space, I feel like their reactions will be more positive.

So that you automatically feel energized being in it?

I’m basically taking a really stark, boring space, adding something crazy to it that is mine. So, it’s basically like me going out and leaving a giant autograph in a space and people really love it.

iris04_rj_feature_online7Work In Progress: Constellation Mural | Hand Drawn Silver Ink On Black Wall | At A Private Residence,2016.

Do you feel like an incredible amount of energy has surged through you physically when you have completed a mural?

After I’ve finished, then I’m basically brain dead. I’ve been focused during the whole process and then once I’ve finished, I literally cannot do anything else. I feel like I’ve given all of myself to this work.

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur in addition to being an artist and is there a balance between the two roles?

They do go hand in hand, you have to be smart about your work and how it represents your brand, your brand being yourself. Today, people want to know everything about you and what you represent.

How have you overcome the challenge of making art a viable business and what advice would you give young creatives hoping to make a career as an artist?

I have overcome the challenge by being very patient. You have to be patient. Sometimes the world isn’t as forward thinking as you are but overtime the world will catch up to your speed. My advice to young creatives is, keep practicing your craft and keep doing what you love to do. If your heart and soul is present in your work, you will always find success. Especially in this day and age with social media and all the other platforms that we have to show our work to the world. Keep putting your work out there, and positive things will come to you.

What makes you feel nostalgic?

I was a small town boy, in Wilmington, Ohio growing up. When I think about the fun I had running through the streets, bike riding through the neighborhoods, walking to the one gas station to buy candy, climbing trees, I feel nostalgic.

What makes you feel cerebral?

I love walking around the city and listening to music, I could do it all day when I’m not working. The music I listen to ranges from ambient, vapor wave, electronic, techno, hip-hop and classical. Music in general at all times makes me feel very cerebral.

Do you have anyone that you look up to professionally?

Yayoi Kusama and Keith Haring, I believe we are cut from the same cloth.

How has art helped you discover yourself or the world around you? What personality traits has it helped you develop?

It’s the core of my being and is the basis for everything I am.  ‡

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