REN HANG

 

Ren Hang, who took his life February 23, 2017, was an unlikely rebel. Slight of build, shy by nature, prone to fits of depression, the 29-year-old Beijing photographer was nonetheless at the forefront of Chinese artists’ battle for creative freedom. Like his champion Ai Weiwei, Ren was controversial in his homeland and wildly popular in the rest of the world. He said, “I don’t really view my work as taboo, because I don’t think so much in cultural context, or political context. I don’t intentionally push boundaries, I just do what I do.”

Why? Because his models, friends, and in his last years, fans, are naked, often outdoors, high in the trees or on the terrifyingly vertiginous rooftops of Beijing, stacked like building blocks, heads wrapped in octopi, body cavities sprouting phone cords and flowers, whatever entered his mind at the moment. He denied his intentions were sexual, and there is a clean detachment about even his most extreme images: the urine, the insertions, the many, many erections. In regards to his work with the nude male form, Ren stated in an interview: “It’s not just dicks I’m interested in, I like to portray every organ in a fresh, vivid and emotional way.”

In the same piece, Hang also stated, “Gender isn’t important when I’m taking pictures, it only matters to me when I’m having sex,” making him a pioneer of gender inclusiveness. Nudity and sex are the most prevalent themes in Ren’s work. Ren said, “I like people naked and I like sex; I use nudity so that I can feel more realism and sense of presence.” His preparation before shooting was simple and quick. Ren’s works were natural and without complex settings. There were no preferred places for Ren to shoot because he believed anywhere was beautiful and worthy to be shot.

Nudity is not a theme in the artifacts which are widely accepted by the older generation of China. Ren’s works are oftentimes misread by the public as pornography, although some articles wrote that Ren used his photographs to jam cultural traditions, which misunderstood and treated the nudity as a shame. Ren didn’t believe he was challenging the stereotype and leading a revolution. For Ren, nudity and sexuality are natural themes which he shot in his works. “Nudes have always been there. We were born nude. So talking about revolution, I don’t think there’s anything to revolutionize. (…) I just photograph things in their more natural conditions.” Ren said he was not trying to liberate nudity and sexuality since he believed that younger generations in China were open-minded and less affected by the old-fashioned cultures. Young fans still eagerly flock to his website and Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr accounts.

His photographs, all produced on film, have been the subject of over 20 solo and 70 group shows in his brief six-year career, in cities as disparate as Tokyo, Athens, Paris, New York, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Vienna, and yes, even Beijing. He self-published 16 monographs, in tiny print runs, that now sell for up to $600. TASCHEN’s Ren Hang is his only international collection, covering his entire career, with well-loved favorites and many never-before-seen photos of men, women, Beijing, and those many, many erections. We take solace remembering Ren’s joy when he first held the book, shared by his long-time partner Jiaqi, featured on the cover.

All Images © Ren Hang | Book available for purchase: https://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/sex/all/05318/facts.ren_hang.htm






JACOB SUDHOFF AND JERRY HOOKER

Giorgetti Houston was merely a dream project when Jacob Sudhoff & Jerry Hooker first conceived the idea. Inspired by an heirloom-quality chair that the couple had purchased, Sudhoff, CEO and founder of Sudhoff Companies, and Hooker, principal at Mirador Group, imagined something far grander than the lackluster “luxury” condo developments that were sprouting up throughout the Houston market. The marriage of aspirational living with one of the world’s finest Italian cabinet and furniture makers was the couple’s muse when envisioning Houston’s first luxury-branded residential building. To be fitted with cabinetry and closets designed and manufactured by Giorgetti was simply not enough, as the couple visualized an all-encompassing lifestyle for the future residents of the building. High-end furnishings, paneling, lighting, carpeting and accessories curated by the couple and crafted by Giorgetti, will fill in the brushstrokes of the brand’s identity. Even the most seemingly-minor details, such as how the bricks are laid or the color palettes that will transform the spaces, are inspired by individual furniture pieces created by the Italian label. Certain to be one of the most-sought after residences, Giorgetti Houston will boast seven stories and 32 handsomely bespoke homes that will be timeless works of art at the interstice of luxury living.

 

Here IRIS Covet Book shares a conversation with the real estate and design moguls behind this ambitious and exciting project.

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DM: Where are you from originally and how did you both come to call Houston home?

JERRY: I grew up on a farm in Tennessee in the middle of nowhere and waited my whole childhood to get out of rural west Tennessee. After graduating high school, I went to LSU (Louisiana State University) because it was the top-ranked program, which later led me to New York for three years. My older sister and her husband lived in Houston, so I always wanted to call Houston home to be close to family. I just needed my career to catch up to where I wanted to be, before I ultimately moved back here.

JACOB: I grew up in Corpus Christi and moved here in 2010. I’m from south-Texas, born and raised. I always wanted to move to the city, so I looked at New York, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston, and I decided on Houston. To break into a new city, I felt Houston was the most accommodating and had the best opportunities. I found that Houston was a welcoming city and I think everybody here will always give you one opportunity to prove yourself. So that was a refreshing aspect about working and starting a career here.

DM: Did you two meet here in Houston, and how long have you both been married?

JACOB: We’ve been together as long as we’ve been in Houston, so a little over six years and married for two years just this past Valentine’s Day.

JERRY: When I was living in New York, one of my closest friends there was from Houston, and he knew Jacob from the past. I had come home to surprise my sister for Christmas that year, and went out with friends for drinks the evening of Christmas Day. That evening, a friend of mine told me, “There’s this new guy in town, and I want you to meet him.” But that was prefaced with, “But he’s dating one of my friends, so stay away.” But that just sounded like a challenge that I could conquer. Ever since then we’ve been together [laughter].

DM: How long have you been working in your respective fields, and what gave you the desire to get into those fields?

JACOB: I’ve been in real estate for 20 years. When I was a kid, I used to enjoy riding my bike around the neighborhood and going through all the open houses. I have a photographic memory, so I used to memorize all the statistics and floor plans of the houses I’d walk through. My grandfather was a realtor and he naturally had an influence on me. At the age of 16, I started working for a broker out of Dallas named, Marilyn Hoffman. When I was a teenager, I used to ride horses. I was at an Arabian horse show in Fort Worth, and ran into her booth where she was selling multi-million-dollar mansions and horse farms. When I was 18 and after I got my real estate license, I worked for two years as her assistant. When I flew up to Dallas for the first time, she picked me up in a Rolls Royce, and we went shopping. I lived in a lower-middle-class family, and being introduced to her lifestyle was like seeing Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in real life. In fact, she was on that show many times with all her listings, so it was a culture shock for me. While I worked for her, I went on to open an office in Corpus Christi for her.

JERRY: I went to school for urban design, architecture, landscape, and have been in it ever since. I’ve been in this field for about 10 years now. Originally, I was following in my sister’s footsteps because she and her husband were the only financially-successful people in my family. I thought I was going to be a golf course architect, but I soon figured out in the first year of school that that was not my calling in life. From my experience in New York, I discovered a niche by combining my interests in architecture, landscape architecture, and interiors. Naturally, just loving the process of home construction is why now we’re involved in all three disciplines meshed together.

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DM: Do you have any professional mentors or someone who’s inspired you in your career and encouraged you to go after your goals?

JERRY: For me a great mentor is someone who has a combination of career success balanced by successes in their personal relationships. My sister has been that consistent person in life and business that I admire. With her relationship, with her family, and also with her business because she is able to balance them all. I always wanted to emulate that.

JACOB: I would say my most recent mentor is my business partner, George Lee, whom I met when I came to Houston. He is a good man that has stepped in and acted like a mentor to both Jerry and myself.  

JERRY: He’s kind of like a father figure to us now. From a business perspective, he has taught us so much. I don’t think our companies would be as successful without his advice and influence.

DM: Were there any challenges that you’ve had to overcome in order to reach the level of success that you’re currently experiencing?

JERRY: We both have had normal business growth spurts and growing pains, but luckily, we listened to people like George, and learned through other people’s hard times in order to better manage our own.

JACOB: In Corpus, I struggled more than I have in Houston. I didn’t have a mentor there, so it was more difficult. Coming here and having a mentor has really helped whenever there have been issues. George has been what’s gotten me through those challenges properly.

JERRY: We’ve had struggles that we thought were the end of the world, but I still feel like in hindsight and compared to plenty of other people we know, we were fortunate enough to make it through them.

DM: Do you have any daily practices or habits that help you as an entrepreneur?

JACOB: I think routine is very important. We are very strict to a routine. We’re in bed by 9 o’clock almost every night, and I’m up at 4. We prefer to have our days very structured. We live by appointments during the day. Weekends—we still work, but it’s more on the passion side. We enjoy looking at houses and touring properties or looking at land. I think it’s something that has helped us because we love what we do.

JERRY: Because we’re passionate about what we do, a large portion of it feels as enjoyable as a hobby and not so much like work. Even when we travel, we like to look at houses and get ideas so we can be inspired for the next project in Houston.

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DM: Thought and visualization are very powerful tools in achieving success in manifesting different desires that you might have in life. Have you ever utilized these practices, and if so, could you share a specific experience?

JACOB: On our honeymoon, we went to Borobudur, one of the largest Buddhist temples. While we were there, we chanted with the monks. After that experience, I started to get into meditation. It’s not something I do every day, but it’s something I do often. Years ago I signed up for a service on tut.com. After signing up for it and taking the initial survey, the service sends you a message from “the Universe” daily. The main message of the Universe is to just relax and visualize where you want to be. I receive those messages Monday through Friday, it’s nice way to remind myself to visualize where you want to be, whether that’s tomorrow or 10 years from now. In my opinion, visualization is a key to success.

JERRY: I like the perspective of retrospect—thinking about where you came from and trying to check in with yourself to maintain humility. I always try to bear in mind where I came from and the experiences that I’ve had because everything started with that foundation, and my future is built upon that.

DM: There’s a good balance between you two. What are some unique features or services that your companies provide to the Houston market that makes you stand out amongst your competitors?

JERRY: It’s really the integration of our companies that allows us to stand out. Everything that we can offer our clients is because of the dynamic that we bring together, from the sales and marketing to putting the structure of the deal together. It’s a truly comprehensive approach to real estate developments, regardless if it’s a high-rise condo or a single-family house. Most of the time, creatives are horrible business people, but my hat is split between finance and actual design. I care equally about both of them. My team counterbalances me since they are all about the design. That definitely goes into Jacob’s deal-making process to make sure the numbers work up front to ultimately hire our own companies to do the sales, marketing, and design. It’s a wonderful collaboration!

JACOB: And I believe we do more. I still own and manage the brokerage firm, but the main hat I wear right now is more of a developer’s partner. I help structure the deal, help raise the equity, and help manage the concept and the programming of the projects. And at the end of the day, it’s about the bottom line and profitability, but also the philosophy of sales and how the projects will absorb into the marketplace upon completion. We’re not just a private equity firm or just an architecture firm, we also own a land-planning firm. So it’s really the integration of all these together which allows us to play a large part with each one of our clients.

DM: What projects are you currently working on together, and is it enjoyable for you to collaborate with one another? I imagine you must continuously feed off each other’s energy.

JACOB: What we like is we’re able to change Houston’s landscape. So we’re bringing more architecturally significant projects to Houston. I think that that’s something that’s really exciting for us. So the first branded building that we’re doing right now is Giorgetti Houston, and that’s only the first—we’re working on several more branded buildings. I’m excited to bring and to have Houston be an incubator of unique and forward-thinking projects. There’s dozens of projects we’re currently working on and dozens more in the pipeline!

JERRY: For the Giorgetti project, we knew the piece of property, and we knew it needed to be a condo building. But at the same time, it needed to be something special, so we started thinking about brands to collaborate with. We had purchased a piece of Giorgetti furniture a long time ago, and the more we learned about its construction, along with the family heritage and philosophies that they’ve had for over 100 years, the more interested we became in collaborating with them. We jumped the gun and went ahead and did some preliminary designs for a building. We coordinated a meeting with the company to share our idea. The CEO of the company even came from Italy to meet with us. Maybe he thought we were crazy, but we were able to prove ourselves because we had studied the brand, its philosophies, and how to make an environment truly Giorgetti. It’s not just the kitchen cabinets. It’s not just the closets, but it’s the furniture, the lighting, the rugs, and the accessories. It’s how all these details translate into the Houston market.

JACOB: We went to Italy and took it a step further. After they came and agreed to further this conversation, we went to Italy to visit their factory. There we saw in depth all the details of how things are constructed and learned even more about their philosophy. Everything within our building—from how we’re laying the brick, to the façade of the building itself, to all the materials and color palettes is all inspired by different pieces of Giorgetti furniture.

JERRY: It made a lot of sense to us to try to partner with them and luckily, we were fortunate enough that they agreed. It’s actually been a pretty beautiful process so far.

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DM: Is this the first branded residential project of its kind in Houston?

JERRY: In essence, this is the first branded building of this kind in Texas, and Giorgetti is sold in 67 countries across the world. They’re actually better known in London or Paris or New York or Singapore. But they allowed us to do it first in Houston, so we’re very proud to be collaborating on this together.

JACOB: It was a perfect storm of us really wanting it, and being such a big part of the development process, that we were able to push something like this forward. Giorgetti had attempted another project that did not go through. I think it’s a big compliment from them that they wanted to be a part of our project.

DM: And how has the response been from the consumer?

JACOB: Houstonians were not informed about the Giorgetti brand. But as people got to know the brand and they understood, they developed a respect for it. Now it has really taken off.

JERRY: Sales are going well, and we’ve basically eliminated any question of the project not happening anymore.

JACOB: The quality of buyers in the project are fantastic. These are people who are art lovers and who understand quality and craftsmanship. So each piece of Giorgetti furniture is designed by an architect and for us each home is sort of it’s own piece. I actually think it’s going to be one of the few condominium projects that will be sought after once it’s built. Once they can walk in and experience what a Giorgetti home will be like, then they’ll really want it and strive for it. Giorgetti will only allow us to do this one building in Houston, so the next one will be in another city.

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DM: And what’s the timeline for completion on the project?

JERRY: Assuming sales keep going as they are, we will probably start construction at the end of this year and take about 16 to 18 months to complete. So we’re looking at completion in 2019.

DM: How do you see yourself and companies evolving in the future?

JERRY: Probably just a continuation of what we’ve seen so far. I mean, our companies are very different now than what they were six years ago, and both of our companies have quadrupled their size since then. But it’s really more of an integrated approach moving forward, being more involved with one another, both offices and projects themselves. We like having a seat at the table both financially and professionally, so it will just be a continuation of that, I think.

JACOB: We’ve made a conscious effort to go deeper with our business rather than going wider and spreading ourselves too thin. That means taking a deeper relationship with each project and wearing multiple hats in each project to have more impact. And we feel that that leads to greater chances of success.

DM: What has been your favorite project to work on besides Giorgetti, either together or individually?

JERRY: Before we were together, when I was living in New York, I spent most of my time working on the 9/11 Memorial. The firm I worked for at the time had the entire Route 9A corridor, which is the West Side Highway. We were doing the World Financial Center, 1 World Trade, and all the frontages between the buildings. At the time, that was empowering. I was just a junior designer at the time, but it was something I looked forward to every day and learned a tremendous amount from. Aside from the Giorgetti project, our first showcase home that we designed and built together is a favorite because it has led to so many other amazing projects.

JACOB: When I first got to Houston, the market was not very good. George had invested in a lot of different projects that were all in peril. I went to the different banks and negotiated the debt and purchased out all the debt at discounts. I was able to save a significant amount of capital for George and prove that I was able to achieve the results. I demonstrated that I was capable of doing more than just being a traditional realtor. And that led into having us invest and start being the private equity for all these different builders and developers. Giorgetti has been a special project because there’s been—it’s had a lot more of an emotional connection—it’s been the best collaboration between us.

DM: You both have experienced so much growth through your collaboration with one another.  I’m curious when do you feel most confident?

JACOB: Together.

JERRY: I couldn’t agree more. We do well in situations like this because we absolutely counterbalance each other.

JACOB: I think that our relationship has grown stronger over the years and will continue to grow both professionally and personally.

IRIS07_JerryJacob-5Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur|For more information visit giorgettihouston.commiradorgroup.com | sudhoffco.com

EDGARDO OSORIO

A year ago, Instagram was flooded by lavish photos of a decadent Surrealism themed birthday party in Florence. Celebrities and tastemakers such as Poppy Delevigne and Rebecca Corbin-Murray reveled in gorgeous custom gowns, elaborate Venetian masks, and Philip Treacy designed headpieces. Bar rooms bedecked in leopard, lush jungle backdrops, and bartenders dressed like lobsters helped set the scene for an out-of-this-world extravaganza. At the center of the festivities was the newly 30-year-old Edgardo Osorio, founder and designer of the shoe brand Aquazzura. A dreamer and aesthete with a design pedigree that includes stints at Ferragamo and Cavalli, Osorio’s trips around the globe inspired this epic two-day celebration as much as they do the coveted shoe designs behind the six-year-old label.

In a world where a designer’s “inspiration” can be called out as thinly veiled “appropriation,” Osorio’s work shows that as much influence as he draws from the world around him, he returns by supporting the local artisans around the globe who inspire the aesthetics of his collections.

A friendship with model and philanthropist Petra Nemcova led to the pair’s collaboration on a special edition sandal for Happy Hearts Fund, an organization Nemcova founded after surviving 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami. Happy Hearts rebuilds schools in areas impacted by natural disasters, and currently operates in ten countries worldwide. Infused with classic Osorio sex appeal, the playful but sophisticated strappy suede stiletto is embellished with handmade hearts and towers in with a 105mm heel. It is available on the Aquazzura website starting in May, and 25% of the proceeds of the sales will go to Happy Hearts Fund. As Osorio involves himself with this and other philanthropic initiatives, giving back is becoming as synonymous with the Aquazzura brand as its signature pineapple soles.

Here, the festaiolo of footwear chats with Iris Covet Book about his inspirations, stripes, and why high heels will never be a sneaker.

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Your designs are modern, sexy, and finely crafted. How do you approach designing each collection? Where does most of your inspiration comes from?

I normally start with a trip. I travel eight months out of the year and I believe that I have to travel to find inspiration. The last Winter collection, for example, is inspired by a trip to Russia – in June during the White Nights, when the sun never sets – and it was just so incredible and I came back with so many ideas. I had read about it before because I love history and historical novels, so I started reading about Catherine the Great and Peter the Great and the Romanovs. Just going there, to the different palaces, and seeing where they worked, the art collections, the decor, the way they dressed, the lifestyle…it was just so beautiful. Lots of velvet and fur and embroidery, a very rich lifestyle. I then have to ask myself “How do I turn that into something modern? How do I mix that in?” Then you start thinking of the girls in your life, I have a lot of Russian girlfriends, and then I think “how would she wear it? How would she interpret it?”.

This summer’s collection is inspired by my 30th birthday party last year. It was three days of parties, and one of them was a Surrealist ball, and the first ball was an eccentric jungle. I had a huge moodboard with tribes from the Amazon, Kenya, Papua New Guinea… all of those exotic tribes. It was kind of a multi-cultural, bohemian trip around the world. I just came back to my office and started thinking about some of the places I had been to. When I began designing the Summer collection I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. As a designer you are just inspired by everything that is around you and you have to take that all into your work.

A large part of your influences and inspirations come from your travels. What parallels can be drawn between your influences and your philanthropy?

We participate in many different charities across the world. As a global brand, you have to give back globally as well. Recently, we hosted an event that benefitted animal rights and protection. We are incredibly fortunate, and I think part of that is giving back. In the past we have worked with Natalia Vodianova’s Foundation, The Naked Heart Foundation, and in Dallas we just auctioned off experiences and products to give to AMFAR and the Dallas Museum of Art. We help in many different ways and it is so important to give back and be supportive of the communities that support us.

When I work on collections, at the same time I give back. One example is like when I worked with the women of Colombia’s Wayuu tribe to make the Mochilla fabrics for the Mochilla espadrilles. The local women wove the fabrics by hand while we made the shoes in Italy; we are inspired by Colombia while supporting local (Colombian and Italian) economies. For this Fall’s collection, inspired by the Silk Routes of Turkey and Uzbekistan, we’re locally sourcing Ikat velvets and Ikat silks there, while making the shoes in Italy using their beautiful techniques.

So what is your favorite part about the design process? The travel?

Well, actually I really love taking an idea and making it into a reality and the whole process behind it. Sculpting a heel, correcting a shoe, choosing the leathers, the trims, etc. It is such a wonderful process because you evolve from your initial idea. To make your dreams into a reality is the most wonderful thing I think anyone can do and the most rewarding. Getting to see a woman actually wear your ideas. I love whenever I walk around and see a woman wearing an Aquazzura shoe, it really makes me smile because that’s really what your purpose is as a designer. Making people happy and looking fabulous.

Do you have a muse? Icons that you always look to?

I don’t have a muse per se. I actually think that the idea of a muse is quite old-fashioned. Designers used to live in a bubble and have one or two muses, but even then they had a romantic idea of who this woman is supposed to be, but she, herself, is not even like that! (laughs) I think women nowadays can have a hundred personalities just by changing the way they dress, so I find it quite limiting to look at women in a one-dimensional way. I love the fact that Aquazzura is actually a multi-generational, multi-cultural brand. We dress sixteen year old girls, seventy-five year old women and everything in-between because everyone wants to feel young and look great. I do have many women that inspire me, I’ve collaborated with many inspiring women like Olivia Palermo, Poppy Delevigne, etc. I love to work with these women, but in a specific capsule that is limited. As a male designer I think it is great to have a female point of view, and these women are under such intense scrutiny and they’re being photographed in every magazine so they know what works and what doesn’t. It is really great input and it is really fantastic to learn from them, but at the same time it’s their point of view so it can only be a little part of the collection.

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So then what are the qualities that these modern women are looking for?

I think versatility is key. My best selling styles are very versatile and you could wear them with jeans and a t-shirt or you can wear them with a ball gown. I think it’s about changing your outfit but keeping your shoes. For example, our Sexy Thing shoe, one of our most iconic shoes, Kendall Jenner wears with jeans a t-shirt to go out to dinner in LA, but Gigi Hadid wore it to Cannes in a long Tom Ford evening dress. I think that is modernity. When women are dressing they want something that can completely change with them and I think that asset is what makes a shoe modern. It becomes timeless and it can go with everything. That’s good design.

Growing up in Colombia, was there any moment that became a defining moment for you creatively? Was Colombian culture inspiring to you?

I grew up between Colombia and Miami, and when I was sixteen I moved to London, and from London I moved to Rome, and from Rome I moved to Florence. So, I think that my style is a lot like me and it is just a mix of everything. Growing up, there was no specific moment other than when I was fourteen in London doing summer courses at Saint Martins, and I came back and that’s when I really decided that I wanted to work in fashion and make accessories. I was always creative; I loved to sketch. I have sketches when I was five years old drawing dresses and women and shoes, so it was something that always interested me. As time went by it just became more specific and I decided to focus on shoes, which is what I really loved. I was already interested in shoes before Ferragamo and I think being in Florence really enamored me with what I was doing. I got to work with the artisans making the shoes and get closer to the craft. It was a big job and a wonderful stepping stone into my career.

Well, discussing Florence, what do you think is so inspirational about the city and why did you decide to base your headquarters there?

Well, Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I am an aesthete, I love beautiful things, so being in a city surrounded by beauty, well, it helps. (laughs) It was the site of the birth of the Renaissance. It is a city that has an energy because it has been a capital of art and beauty since the Renaissance, and you still have people from all over the world who go there to attend art and cooking schools. People go there to be artistic and to discover something. It is funny because a lot of people move to Florence for one or two years just because they want that life and they want to enjoy and have a positive life. Tuscany has the biggest concentration of luxury artisans in the world. Italy is a great place to make shoes, and the biggest center is Tuscany because you have all of the factories and the artisans there. It allows you to make things that people in New York, Paris, London, whatever, could not do in the same way because you have a personal relationship with them and you can see things and fix them in a way you could not do if you weren’t there.

I read in a Business of Fashion Interview that you chose to be there because of the personal relationships with factories.

Well, you know as a designer with an atelier, you have an idea and you work with these people who interpret it and make it a reality. If you are close to them in the development process they get to know what you like and what you want and they will interpret what you want in the best possible way. You will, in turn, learn from them as people who have worked in this industry for thirty, forty years. Craftsmanship is about time because you have to learn and evolve and make mistakes. It is not like you can go to university and just learn how to make shoes, it is literally years and years of experience.

What is the quality in your design aesthetic that gives your brand individuality and has made your company so successful?

I think there is a very specific point of view that Aquazzura has. You can really recognize our shoes, even though now we have been extremely plagiarized. (laughs) The lacing, the sensuality, the playfulness – it’s a very specific point of view, it is really about the design and people recognize that. The fact that we do probably make the most comfortable shoes in luxury takes an incredible amount of time to study and engineer and understand how to make the shoes comfortable for the wearer, from the materials to the construction. Because of that, word of mouth from our clients has made the difference in the course of just five years.

IRIS07_EdgardoOsorio-3Along the Arno River, in the heart of Florence and near the best shoemakers and craftspeople in the world, the Aquazzura headquarters are situated in the historical Palazzo Corsini along with the Florentine flagship store. Pictured above, the green room.

IRIS07_EdgardoOsorio-4Pictured above, the pink room, both taken at the Aquazzura headquarters.

Why do you think most high heels are so uncomfortable?

Well, high heels will never be a sneaker. (laughs) However, there is a way to study and construct shoes that make them more comfortable. The insole, the padding, the material inside…all of these things make a difference, so I think that when you give a client a beautiful, comfortable shoe, why would they wear an uncomfortable pair?

We are actually going to be launching sneakers next year because it is such a huge part of a woman’s closet. That is the next step because I think that if you look at our collection we have every heel height and every style, but the sneaker is something we are missing. We want to be able to cater to our customers.

Would you ever consider designing men’s shoes?

Yes definitely, that’s actually something that is in the works already. We will be launching next year. We recently launched Aquazzura Mini, which is a line for young girls. We will also be launching men’s and accessories as well.
You have experienced international acclaim since your debut collection in 2011, selling at stores like Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Barney’s. How has this rapid success affected you and your business?

Department stores are a wonderful introduction for a new brand because they have such a huge array of clients and it is a great way to get the brand known and be accessible. I started in department stores and it is a wonderful way to showcase the collection and have it living in a space among other brands. You have a completely different customer that shops in a department store rather than a boutique.

You are currently making trips throughout the US to different Neiman Marcus locations, what is the importance of that for you?

Well, I love people and I love my clients and it is a rare opportunity to meet my clients. It is a privilege to get to know the people who buy your shoes, to meet them, and to get their feedback. It really helps me create products, and give women what they want. Building relationships and loyalty, which doesn’t really exist anymore, creates a bond with your clients and it is extremely important.

What about your online business? Is that something you focus on as well?

Yeah I am really happy because it has been so incredibly successful. We link our social media and make it an omnichannel, so if something is not in stock you can pull it from our store. If something is sold out on our website you can look up which retailer in the world has it. I think online is all about customer service, and we are trying to create a unique experience with that as well and have a unique selection compared to our competitors.

What are some of the differences that you see between American, British, Italian women, etc., since your company has become so international?

You would be surprised. Obviously in London we sell more boots and more heavy weather shoes, but in terms of style everyone in the world – because we live in such a globalized world, and social media is king – a trend is hot everywhere at the same time. Everyone still wants the same shoe in the same color whether they are in Australia, China, France, America, whatever. It’s so incredible!

So you think that social media and social celebrity makes style globalized?

Yes, the best sellers here are the best sellers all around the world.

Does that approach inform how you open new boutiques?

Well, I believe that we are in a globalized world and people are getting tired of seeing the same thing everywhere. Why go to a shop in Hong Kong when you live in New York or you live in Dallas and you have the exact same store back home? Why would you even walk into that store? You’ve seen it already. So, my design approach is treating them like a home. You wouldn’t decorate your home in LA like you would in New York or Miami because the environment is very different. Every store is different; every store has a different personality. They are even created by different interior designers with different furniture and colors and approaches. I like a mix of modern and classic. There is one thing that kind of pulls everything together: stripes. I think stripes are quite modern and it’s become a symbol of the brand, it actually has become part of our packaging as well. It comes from the Renaissance, and the cathedrals and churches from that time; striped pillars, striped facades, striped columns, I kept on seeing stripes. That is our common thread, back in the day there were some stores that you would have to travel to go to in Paris or Tokyo and it was an experience to walk into that store because it was so special and unique, and you would find merchandise that you could not find anywhere else in the world. I want to have the same approach to my stores, to create stores that are completely unique and one-of-a-kind, where 40% of the merchandise is unique to the store and you cannot find it anywhere else. That is why you walk into a store, or else you will just buy it online.

IRIS07_EdgardoOsorio-5Photography by Jake Toler|Art Direction by Louis Liu|Interview by Alan Bindler

MARTINEZ BROTHERS

Exposed to music from an early age through their father’s church, the two began mixing tracks and researching diverse genres of music as teenagers. With an enviable list of gigs that includes DC10 in Ibiza (where former Givenchy Artistic Director, Riccardo Tisci first discovered them), to the famed Electric Daisy Carnival in California where they attracted party-going crowds of 60,000, the Martinez Brothers are quickly moving up the ranks in the world of DJs. In the past 3 years, the brothers have partnered with a number of brands, from mass market campaigns with Pepsi to elevated cultural collaborations with Givenchy. Working with influential artists such as Tiga, Basement Jaxx, King Britt and Miss Kittin, the brothers continue to evolve and explore new sounds as their fan base spreads across the globe. The Martinez Brothers have designed an exclusive collection of hats and jackets, under their label Cuttin’ Headz, for New Era, launching their second season this fall. The first season sold out online within a single day. The brothers have also recently signed with the mega-modeling and talent agency IMG, extending their reach even further into fashion. In between recording music with their label Cuttin’ Headz, IRIS Covet Book discussed with Steve and Chris how they got their start, and their rise to club and fashion disc jockey fame.

IRIS07_MartinezBros-2

How do you think that growing up in New York, especially the Bronx, affected your taste and your career?

I think growing up in the Bronx… it could have gone a lot of different ways. A lot of different roads we could have traveled. Fortunately for me, I grew up as a preacher’s son, so I had a sheltered lifestyle. I think being in the church, being in the church band and traveling around with the band inspired us a lot. When we would get home from church or school, we would just DJ, make music, and learn about music. It was basically all music all the time. Without even being told, I knew I wanted to do it. If we weren’t in the Bronx I don’t think it would have been that way. The cultural diversity here plays a major role.

From the Bronx to Ibiza to Paris Fashion Week, both of you have come a long way in your career and your personal life. What do you think was your big break?

The first big break… I think it was definitely when we hooked up with Dennis Ferrer who, as far as house music is concerned, is a legendary figure who has made some crazy contributions. But I think once he picked us up he really molded us, you know what I mean? That was the big break. That was when everybody started questioning like, “Who are these guys?”, when he took us under his wing.

Where do you think most of your musical influences came from when you were growing up?

We listen to all types of music and we buy all types of records. When I was younger what was really driving me crazy was early hip-hop. I was inspired by going over to my grandparents and listening to salsa music, soul, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, all of that. Jazz was pivotal for us. Brazilian music, George Lenox, everything. So, I can’t really say that there is one thing that influenced us because it’s a sum of all of those genres.

In 2014, you both traveled to Paris to perform for the Givenchy Menswear and Womenswear collections. How did that happen?

We’ve always been into fashion. Riccardo Tisci came to our set in Ibiza one night and he just really loved it. We set up a meeting with the Givenchy office soon after and just really clicked. Riccardo is a really great guy and we were on the same page with so many ideas. After that, we quickly became involved with the fashion world.

What are some of the most memorable sets or gigs that you and your brother played?

Most memorable sets? Pretty much any time we play at DC10 in Ibiza it’s amazing. That place has just such a good vibe. Panoramabar in Berlin is great too; the last time we played there it was like church, we played for like ten hours or something like that. Actually in Miami this last month we played for twenty hours nonstop. All around the world we have a little special connection.

When did you feel the need to start your own music label and can you tell us more about the artists that you have signed?

I mean having a music label for us was to have an outlet for our music. People would admire our music, our friends’ music, and we wanted to set up shop to give artist friends a little more representation. So, I think our label is just an extension of our taste in music, leaning more on the experimental. Still electronic, but a little bit more experimental, maybe not always playable. It’s just like a creative outlet: broadcasting the things we like.

Do you ever have a sibling rivalry with your brother Chris over artistic differences?

I think with my brother in particular it is so easy because we are working together, making music, living together, and have been doing that all our lives. It’s always me and my brother. He automatically thought of DJing as well because it’s just what we gravitated towards. Even when we get into little fights…the little things don’t get in the way of our goals. It’s like a beautiful partnership. We are like yin and yang. We are really similar in a lot of ways but also very different, so it’s perfect. If we were too alike it probably wouldn’t work.
What is your goal for keeping the arts thriving in light of this new U.S. administration?

Like many genres of music and art, the best work has come out of troubled times, so I think this is going to fuel the arts. It definitely fuels me and a lot of my peers. I think you are going to see a lot of interesting things coming out of this because everybody now has so much emotion whether it’s negative or positive. I think in the music industry, anything can happen. I don’t know what’s the situation is going to be in the next 4 years, but hopefully we can distract from the negativity.

IRIS Covet Book likes to cast a spotlight on the charity work that are subjects are doing. What’s the focus of Cuttin’ Headz as a label and the Martinez Brothers in terms of giving back to the community?

Yes, actually we are talking to a group that has approached us about giving back and doing classes and seminars, to teach children about music. It is a big project that I want to do, and Chris and I are setting up a Martinez Bros. Scholarship. We are going to give kids in need X amount of dollars to support music or arts based programs, but that’s gonna be within the next year or so. We are still trying to figure that out, but that’s definitely one of our focuses. Everything has to be in the right time, but giving back is definitely a big part of the agenda. We want kids putting out music. Chris and I have this one kid on the Cuttin Headz label who is 17 years old! We are definitely going to have the kids involved.

I think that you and your brother are so inspiring in that way because from DJing in your room at fifteen years old to performing for Givenchy in Paris is amazing for a young person to see.

I want to let them know that they can do it too. These kids that produce out here, they have to know that they can do it too, you know what I mean, as long as they have the drive, as long as they have the ambition and if they stay focused.

IRIS07_MartinezBros-1Photography by Greg Swales|Styling by James Zumarraga|Grooming by Yanni Boyiatzis @thewallgroup|Interview by Benjamin Price

JAMES GOLDSTEIN

IRIS07_JamesGoldstein-1Custom Made Jacket by Balmain, Custom Made Hat is Mr. Goldstein’s own design, Scarf by Ashley Ashof, T-Shirt by Saint Laurent, Belt by Roberto Cavalli and Pants by Balmain.

James Goldstein is an enigma. An American billionaire living in Los Angeles, Goldstein spends his days traveling, socializing with the rich and famous, and living in a work of art in the sky. Though the exact source of his billions remains vague, we do know Goldstein has created quite an empire for himself in property and real estate investments. As a self-proclaimed NBA “super-fan”, Goldstein sits courtside at every LA home game and travels for seven weeks every year during the playoff season, following the teams’ game schedule as they tour from city to city. Mr. Goldstein has been working on his iconic modernist estate – a fantastically detailed vision of poured cement and glass that includes: a tennis court, entertainment theater, private night club, sprawling landscaping, and a commissioned installation room by renowned artist James Turrell.

When he is not traveling with his favorite NBA players, James spends his time jet-setting to St. Tropez and Ibiza, sitting front row during fashion week as a personal guest of the designers for Balmain, Saint Laurent, and Versace, or hosting celebrity packed parties at his home. Goldstein is instantly recognizable with his reptilian cowboy hats, tight leather jeans, and custom-made blazers. Aesthetic and attention to detail are important to Goldstein, and nothing proves that point more than his home which has has been honed and customized perfectly to his individual taste. IRIS Covet Book invites you to enter the beautifully designed life of James Goldstein.

IRIS07_JamesGoldstein-2Jacket by Saint Laurent, Custom Made Hat is Mr. Goldstein’s own design, Scarf by Ashley Ashof, Pants by Balmain, and Boots by Dior Homme. 

Coming from Milwaukee, Wisconsin where you were born what brought you to live in Los Angeles?

I went to college at Stanford and moved sight-unseen, and while I was there I had a roommate who was from Los Angeles who invited me to visit him during a break from school. My impression of Los Angeles was very favorable and I decided to give it a try by going to UCLA for graduate school. I’ve lived here ever since.

How did your career unfold after school?

Well, I am not sure if I had any clear aspirations at that time, but I began in property investments and headed off in that direction feeling that it would be lucrative and hopefully allow me to not spend my life working all the time. Eventually, I felt that it offered me an opportunity to have a lifestyle where I could enjoy many other things besides working 9-5. Basketball was certainly important to me at that time as well.

Did you ever want to be a professional basketball player?

I certainly wanted to be when I was younger, and I played on my high school basketball team, but I was realistic enough to know that the chances of that were very slim. So, instead of hoping to be a professional basketball player, I hoped to someday own, or be a partial owner, of a basketball team.

You have your new clothing line “James Goldstein Couture”, what was the inspiration, or the thought process, behind starting that collection?

I was approached by two of my closest friends from Milan who called me one day and said they wanted to start a clothing line. They wanted me to be the name of the line and the inspiration behind the designs. I had never seriously considered starting a clothing line because I do not have formal education in fashion design, but I have had a number of people come to me throughout the years and urge me to start a clothing line because they liked my style. I couldn’t say no because they are such good friends, and I thought maybe I could have some fun as well.

Your style is so signature and unique. How did that come to be? Did you always have a way with how you dress or did it evolve over time?

At an early age, I started following the top designers in Paris and Milan, and even in high school I always wanted to be one step ahead of everyone else when it came to fashion. I started traveling to Europe when I was young and I payed very close attention to the new clothes each season, and I tried to acquire special pieces every time I would go. I was really getting inspired by what these designers were coming up with and that became the governing determinant of what I was wearing each season. My style really evolved out of following these designers, which I continue to do.

Who are your favorite designers at the moment?

Well, Olivier (Rousteing) from Balmain is number one for me right now.

Why is that? What is it about his designs that speak to you?

He comes up with some very unique designs that are quite glamorous, amazing in their styling, and quite often made out of python which is one of my favorite materials to wear. They are all unique too. No one else will be wearing them. I know when I put one of those pieces on that people who see me won’t see that look on anyone else. Olivier is a friend of mine. He and I meet whenever I go to Paris and discuss the upcoming season. We are definitely on the same wavelength.

In recent years, I have also been buying a considerable number of clothes from Saint Laurent. I’ve bought a couple of pieces that I wear quite frequently. I’ve always liked what Vaccarello has designed for women, so I am waiting to see what he comes up with for men. So far there isn’t the same depth to the collection that there was under Hedi (Slimane), but I have bought two jackets recently from YSL that are just outstanding.

IRIS07_JamesGoldstein-4
IRIS07_JamesGoldstein-3Jacket by Saint Laurent, Custom Made Hat is Mr. Goldstein’s own design, Scarf by Ashley Ashof, and Pants by Balmain. 

What are some of your favorite destinations to travel in the world? I imagine that you do quite a bit of traveling because of the NBA games and other social events.

I travel almost seven months out of the year. There are different categories of travel that I indulge in. There are the NBA games during the playoff season which lasts for seven weeks and require travel almost on a daily basis to various US cities. Then there is the fashion travel which takes me to Milan, Paris, Moscow, Berlin, Copenhagen, etc. once or twice every year. I have my regular summer vacation spots which include St. Tropez and Mykonos, Ibiza, and so forth. Probably the most exciting traveling that I do every year is when I visit a place that I have never been to before. I try to do that at least once a year. This past winter I went to Sri Lanka and Southern India for the first time.

You’ve been referred to as a “super fan” of the NBA. How did your love of basketball first begin?

It began at the age of five or six when my parents put a basketball hoop up in our driveway and I started playing. I really took to the sport, and at the age of ten my father took me to my first professional basketball game and I fell in love with the NBA, even though at that time it was not very popular. At the age of fifteen I was offered a non-paying job as the statistician for the Milwaukee Hawks, so I was attending every home game and sitting courtside. That experience really propelled me into making basketball a huge part of my life and has never stopped.

When you’re not attending NBA games, how do you spend your free time? What are your favorite activities in Los Angeles?

I enjoy playing tennis, and having my own tennis court. I not only attend basketball games with two teams in Los Angeles, but I also follow the games on television religiously. I read the Los Angeles Times and New York Times every day cover to cover, and I enjoy going out to various restaurants, parties, and so forth. I still have a very active social life and like to hang out with people much younger than me.

There is also, of course, Club James Goldstein, which is a really impressive structure inside of your home where you host large parties and gatherings. What have been some of the most memorable events you’ve had in the club?

Well, the club was not even finished yet when Rihanna had her birthday party there, and that was a very memorable event. One of the best parties I have ever been to, even though it was in my home. (laughs) Fairly recently, on the night of the Academy Awards, there was an after party here that did not start until about midnight and lasted until 5:30 in the morning. The crowd was great, everyone was well dressed, and it was a great party.


IRIS07_JamesGoldstein-6Nestled into the side of a canyon, Goldstein’s house look out over downtown Los Angeles and beyond.

I can imagine! Those sound like two unforgettable parties. Do your neighbors hate you for all of the party noise? (laughs)

Well, there isn’t that much noise because the house is pretty well contained and situated down the hill, down a long driveway. There are a couple of neighbors who do call the cops though. (laughs)

Your home is such a phenomenal piece of architecture and I want to know how that came to be. How have you been developing it over the years, and what the are the inspiration behind these developments?

When I acquired the house, the minute I walked in…there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that it was the perfect house for me. But it was not perfect in terms of its execution and subsequent remodeling by the second and third owner of the home. Initially the house was built with a very tight budget, so very inexpensive materials were used throughout. The next owners painted what concrete there was, put in wall-to-wall green shag carpets, and did a lot of very bad things to the house.

Even though the house overwhelmed me when I saw it for the first time due to its fantastic architectural design, the house really had a long way to go to reach perfection. It took me a few years before I brought John Lautner, the architect of the home, back to work on it. We started out with one very straight forward project of replacing the glass windows in the living room. That was really my first experience with remodeling, and once I started that I never stopped.

I am a perfectionist and I wanted every detail of the house to be perfect without regard to cost. After a number of years of working with Lautner, I proceeded to other projects such as the landscaping where I took the same approach. After John Lautner passed away, I started new projects throughout the property, such as the James Turrell Skyspace, the tennis court, offices, nightclub, and the extensive terrace that I am still working on.


IRIS07_JamesGoldstein-7The furniture is custom-designed to fit the angles and design of the home. “Every detail has been worked on,” Goldstein says, “including where the stitching of the leather is.”|All interior photos by THE VHF – www.thevhf.com

What encouraged you to commission James Turrell to create that beautiful space?

I have always enjoyed contemporary art and like to attend museums and galleries on a regular basis. The first time I saw a work by James Turrell was at the Ace Gallery in Venice, and I was very excited by it. I continued to follow his work which I would see everywhere in France, Italy, and someone’s personal collection here in Los Angeles. I knew that I had to have one for myself.

Do you think that your home is close to perfection now?

Yes, I do. But, there is always going to be some fine tuning that is going on.

IRIS07_JamesGoldstein-5Integrating indoor and outdoor space was one of John Lautner’s signature architectural elements including the dramatic cliff-side location and large expanses of glass.

At IRIS we like to highlight the charitable work of the people we feature. Can you share with us any charities or humanitarian issues that are important to you which you support?

I have donated my house, property, clothing, pretty much everything that is in the house to LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They intend to keep the house how it is; preserving it and opening it to the public. I have become quite involved with LACMA, and it would have to be my number one charity at the moment.

IRIS07_JamesGoldstein-8Jacket and Pants by Balmain, Custom Made Hat is Mr. Goldstein’s own design, Scarf by Ashley Ashoff
Photographer’s assistant Tony Adams|Production by XTheStudio, Special Thanks to Roberta Leighton and Kristin Fliehler|For more information: jamesfgoldstein.com

ELLEN VON UNWERTH – HEIMAT

IRIS07_EllenVonUnwerth-1Looking for Love, 2015 © Ellen Von Unwerth

Ellen von Unwerth worked as a top fashion model before becoming one of the world’s most in-demand fashion photographers and directors. Best known for her representations of erotic femininity, her editorial work has been featured in publications such as VOGUE, Interview, and Vanity Fair and in major advertising campaigns for Chanel, Dior, John Galliano, Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret, Agent Provocateur, and Diesel. Her erotically charged images of supermodels and female musical artists play on the genres of revenge photos and glamour shots, producing work that is decadent yet kitsch, romantic but sexy, and always filled with joie de vivre. Iris Covet Book spoke to Ellen Von Unwerth about her passion for her craft and her latest book for Taschen entitled Heimat.

IRIS07_EllenVonUnwerth-2We can do it!, 2015 © Ellen Von Unwerth

Your career began in fashion as a model; did this experience influence your decision to become a photographer?

When I was a model I wasn’t interested in photography. But I was living with a photographer, and he gave me a camera. I went to Kenya and discovered that I just loved to capture the life out there. So being a model was not the trigger of transitioning to the other side of the camera, but it helped because I knew the industry already.
Did your experience as a model give you more insight on how to direct other models now that you’re behind the camera?

Back in my modeling days, I was always frustrated when posing. I wanted to do funny things and move around, and the instruction was always to stand still. I think the models energy is often tamed by the industry and I don’t follow that path. With me the models are encouraged to act, to have fun and be silly.

How did your instantly recognizable photographic style develop?

Since the moment I started taking photographs I was hooked. I love capturing life and create stories, I think my style is the result of my personality and my approach to photography and life.

Film has experienced a resurrection among young photographers who have grown up using digital. Do you shoot analog or digital (or both)? What differences do you find differ in the process of shooting analog versus digital and do you have a preference?

I started photography using only film, and I still love it. Now I like to mix digital and film depending on the context and how much time I have. Digital offers a speed that is practical, and film offers different processes that are unique.

Feminism has experienced another wave of acknowledgment and conversation, how do you think your work fits into this new era of feminism and illustrating strong, sexual, beautiful women?

I think my work has been empowering women since the very beginning of my career. I portray women as strong, beautiful, sensual, active and never dull. I don’t change my style of approach with new “eras” or tendencies.

Woman should express themselves as they feel, not follow trends.

Your work celebrates the sensuality and strength of the female form. Was there a time when your work was considered too risque? How did you react, if so?

I always had a lot of feedback of my work, in the end I don’t need to react to critics, just like any other artists. Sometimes it is pleasant, sometimes it is constructive, sometimes it is not. In my opinion it is better to be a little controversial than completely boring. It is also important to push the envelope and keep things exciting.

IRIS07_EllenVonUnwerth-5 Delight from the Source, 2015 © Ellen Von Unwerth

Heimat is a photographic exploration of your childhood homeland and the familiar environment and symbols you grew up with, how did your feelings about Bavaria and its culture change before and after this project?

What is so fascinating is that people still wear the traditional lederhosen and dirndl. When I grew up, I didn’t dress like that, I was more of a hippie, living in an alternative community. Back then, me and my friends hated what we saw as a very conventional way of living. But as I’ve grown older and moved away, it’s turned into a kind of love-hate thing. Because it’s also great that people still live like this, and hold onto their traditions. It’s really beautiful. The idea of it makes you feel kind of at home, it has something heartwarming about it. Like the world is not changing — even though it is, and very much so.

You managed to bring a sensual, playful, and modern lens to the traditional “old-world” of Bavaria, what inspired that approach?

The idea of the book came in a conversation with Benedikt Taschen. Growing up in idyllic Bavaria, we thought how great it would be to do something about this very particular part of the country, because it’s photogenic and it’s still so traditional. It would be interesting to do a funny take on it. We just thought our visual art and twisted minds would work well there.
How did you come up with the title of your latest book out now from Taschen entitled, Heimat?

Heimat” designates the concept of homeland, the place you are born, close to your family and your roots. I wasn’t born in Bavaria, but grew up there from 10 years on. I went to school there. So it’s kind of always in my head. It’s very beautiful, but I don’t really miss it. But people who were born there, they go back all the time. They might travel all over the world but they’ll always go back. It is like the mountain pulls them back.
How did you cast the models for Heimat? Were there specific attributes that you looked for in the casting process for Heimat?

For a book like this one you need girls who have a lot of personality, assume their sensuality and like to have fun. They also need to have a good portion of naughtiness, but no vulgarity. It is important that they move and live in front of the camera a bit like actresses. In Bavaria, clothes are very much made for voluptuous girls. The dirndl and so on. It’s always very décolleté, so I was looking for curvy girls.
How do you draw out a subject’s confidence if they are feeling vulnerable in front of your lens?

I always have a little chat with the person I am going to shoot ahead and we can share ideas. On set, I suggest some actions, and introduce a narrative so it is more like directing actors really.

The photo and film industries have traditionally been male dominated. What has been your experience as a woman working in photography? Did you ever feel like you had to work harder to prove yourself?

It is funny how this particular question always comes in every interview I do. I guess I may have more of an intimate feeling with the women I shoot. It was never a problem for me being a woman, I think it is more your style which counts than your gender.

Fashion photographers as well as many other creative artists, are facing a time of many changes within this industry. Do you have any advice that you could offer someone who is trying to break in and make it as a fashion photographer?

Nowadays, you can really use social media to be out there and be seen by millions of people. It did not exist before and I think it is amazing. At the same time, pictures get stolen and forgotten so fast and easily that it makes it a very hard media. But there is space for lots of creative people. My advice would be: Go out and shoot what you love or find interesting and try to find your style.

IRIS07_EllenVonUnwerth-3Tête-à-tête, 2015 © Ellen Von Unwerth
Published by Taschen | Ellen von Unwerth. Heimat (Limited Edition) | Edition of 1,500 copies + 200 APs|US$ 850
Images courtesy of TASCHEN and Ellen Von Unwerth | Ellen Von Unwerth | Heimat available on taschen.com

AMANDA LEPORE – DOLL PARTS

For the greater part of the last three decades, Amanda Lepore has dominated and dazzled the New York nightlife with her audacious and over-the-top feminine charms. After relocating to New York in the early 90’s, Lepore quickly caught attention for her larger-than-life hyper-feminine look and began frequenting legendary New York nightspots. Later when serendipitously meeting celebrity photographer, David Lachapelle, Amanda quickly found herself in her latest role: the artist’s muse. For David, she was a voluptuous, fleshy piece of clay, transmuting herself into the many fanciful characters within Lachapelle’s work, and becoming immortalized by his images. But Lepore, too, is an artist, who through years of obsessively indulging in rhinoplasties, silicone injections, and surgical procedures, finally augmented her body into the living, breathing work of art that she had always envisioned. “Amanda has no interest in being a girl,” Lachapelle once remarked “She wants to be a drawing of a girl, a cartoon like Jessica Rabbit. When I told her that silicone is dangerous, she said, ‘I don’t care, as long as I look beautiful in the coffin’. There’s something kind of profound in that; that she’s creating a moment of beauty for herself and is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.”

The iconic blonde bombshell, famously labeled “The Most Expensive Body On Earth,” recently released her juicy, tell-all memoir, “Doll Parts” published by Regan Arts, in collaboration with Vigliano Associates and Peace Bisquit, complete with dishy photos of the bodacious bod. Here, IRIS Covet Book shares a conversation between two reigning New York nightlife queens, Amanda Lepore and the legendary Susanne Bartsch.

IRIS07_AmandaLepore-1My Own Marilyn, 2002, Chromogenic Print ©David Lachapelle Studio

Hi baby, how are you? I saw your book it is beautiful! Are you happy with it?

Yes, yes I am. Did you get your copy?

Yes! Signed by you, of course. It’s really great. I am so excited for you. So much support for you, it really shows how much of a lovely person you are, how special you are. Did you find that in the process of writing this book that it was therapeutic for you?

It was kind of difficult for me because I am one of those people who really likes to live in the moment. I don’t think of the past a lot, but I do have a good memory, but it would be weird because I would remember things that weren’t so pleasant and it would follow me throughout the day. It was fun though, and I was just hoping it came out well in the end…but I am very happy with it.

Going through it is painful, and having to revisit the past is painful.

Yeah and I really appreciate everything, but going back and looking through these old memories really made me much more grateful.

It shows how strong you are and how you have grown.

Yes, exactly. You have to go through the bad things to really appreciate the good things.

At the age of 10 when you announced to your parents that you wanted a sex change, did you always have a feeling that your birth-assigned gender wasn’t correct?

I thought I was just a girl when I was really young. I just had the mind of a girl and didn’t know anything else! In my case it was genetic and it was not influenced by my environment…like a chemical; it was just natural. And my parents….well, I grew up in an Italian household and my father was kind of strict and close-minded in a lot of ways, but my parents were separated and I spent a lot more time with my mother. My mom was schizophrenic and she had a sense of humor…she was great to be around and she loved me and gave me support. I spent a lot of time with her and we accepted each other. When I was very young they knew that I was different… I wasn’t walking normally as a child. My hip sockets were not working correctly and I was wearing a brace as a child. I don’t remember this, but my mother told me. They were just happy when I could start walking and I could walk normally, so they just accepted that I was feminine. I would wear really frilly party dresses as a child and loved pink and super girly things. They just were hoping I would be a gay hairdresser or something. I wanted to do ballet, but they wouldn’t let me. They tried to keep me away from super feminine things.

I tried to get my son to ballet, but he didn’t want to! (both laugh) Well, in the book you also talk about your childhood friends Stephanie and Sandy who lived with their mother and grandmother. How do you think the twins and their household help to inform your life?

Well, they were older than me, and they were fifteen or sixteen when I first met them. One was dating my brother, and I had a habit of being friends with my brother’s ex-girlfriends. They were very cool. Very grown up for their age, and I remember their mother would let them have fake Bloody Mary’s in the morning for breakfast and they were just super cool and their parents were very open minded. I think part of why I liked them so much was because they wore makeup and did their hair, the one that was going out with my brother at the time had bleached hair with these pale pink dyed streaks that I loved.

Well, they were doing their own thing and being adventurous.

Yeah and I was feminine and pretty and I had long hair which I think they gravitated towards as well. They encouraged me and taught me how to arch my eyebrows and curl my eyelashes, taught me about makeup, how to bleach my hair blonde, and all of that stuff.

(laughing) We all needed those girls!

I loved movie stars at that time. They encouraged me to look like Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich.

It sounds like they had a profound effect on you. We were talking about you possibly becoming a hairdresser or makeup artist, and these women really helped form how you saw beauty. In the book it says that Stephanie later became a stripper in Newark and you would come to the strip club with her which led you to a fateful meeting with a trans exotic dancer named Bambi. How was it meeting another transgender woman for the first time?

I was fascinated by her body immediately. I was jealous at first because I wanted what she had. I was making these outfits for the dancers and selling them to buy makeup, high heels, and stuff for myself. I told her I would make her outfits if she would trade me hormones, and she agreed as long as I did not tell my mother. I took the doses she told me to take which was like two pills a day and I had started growing breasts in a month, my skin got more clear, and then my mother saw me come out of the shower like a month later with boobs and she said, “How did you get those?” and I said, “I don’t know, they just grew!”. (laughing)

That’s so crazy! Well, then Bambi really helped make your body achievable and it was really great for opening your eyes to what was possible. Did you consider at the time that taking hormones in that way may have been risky?

No, I didn’t think about it at all! I was getting the results that I wanted…and it seemed to calm me down too. Like, if I ever got hard it would freak me out and I would get really depressed.

You mean if you got an erection?

Yeah, like I would get freaked out! I would really want a drink. (laughs) The hormones seemed to calm me down and my grades were going up, I got a tutor because they didn’t want me to come to school dressed as a girl, and I wanted to finish school…

You sort of saw the light at the end of the tunnel with your boobs growing and body developing.

At the same time I wanted more. It was sort of the beginning of a mission.

Exactly, and that mission was accomplished in a better way then you could have ever have imagined! Then your transition became more noticeable and you decided to attend high school as a full fledged female. Your mother and close friends even helped you get dressed for the occasion; how did it feel to walk into the school with all eyes on you? Were you scared of criticism from your peers?

I just was told to go right to the guidance counselor. People were shocked, and I guess I wasn’t really there long enough, but I did not get made fun of. A lot of people were just very confused. I had substitute teachers who had to ask other students if I was a boy or a girl. It was interesting, but I think because it was a big distraction so the guidance counselor asked if I wanted to quit school.

In the book, your high school guidance counselor seemed to be a blessing in disguise. What was her reaction to your transitioning and how did that help you?

I think she felt bad for me because I would go to her a lot complaining about being harassed by the school administration, and she wanted me to go back dressed as a boy. I said it was ridiculous because I was already on hormones and had bleached my hair and it wasn’t going to be like it was. They sent me to a psychiatrist and I was diagnosed as a transexual, then they gave me the hormones legally.

So, after seeing a psychiatrist, you had to get consent from your parents to receive the prescription for the hormones. What was your mom’s reaction? What was your dad’s reaction?

My mom was very supportive, and she started buying me girl’s tops and frilly clothes. She didn’t like the red lipstick because she thought it was like hookery, and she was afraid I was going to get raped. She said, “you look like one of those girls who swing their pocket books on the corner”. (both laugh)

And your dad? What was his reaction?

He was just hoping that I would dress as a girl on the weekends, and just be a feminine gay hairdresser or something. He, I think, was bisexual because when we were younger he introduced us to this guy that he wanted us to call “uncle”.

Oh, that’s suspicious! (laughing)

And the guy was really feminine, and my brother said he thought that the guy was gay. He really was open minded with gay things and drag queens and things like that, but the sex change he used to think that I just looked pretty because I was young, so he would say, “You’re going to turn 17 and it won’t be like that anymore,” but over time he saw that I won and he lost. (laughs)

Then in the book you are very open about your gender reassignment surgery and you describe it as a celebrative event. What were the emotions you had going into surgery?

Euphoria.

I knew you were going to say that! I would be, too. Were you scared or anything?

I didn’t really care. I just wanted to get rid of…the dick. Then it turned out to be gorgeous. (laughs)

Your pussy is amazing! I have one, and they really did a great job.

It was even more beautiful then, too, as a child. It’s still beautiful though.

I will never forget when you told me that you put hair conditioner in your pussy to make it smoother and smell good, I loved that! (laughs) Anyway, a year after the operation your boyfriend at the time, Michael, and you got married. Did it feel good that you got what you wanted, or were there any underlying feelings of anxiety and fear?

I was really happy about everything! There was a lot of aftercare and I just wanted to spend time with my family. I healed very quickly though, even my doctor thought so. There was gauze over the opening and it coming out because it was healing so quickly. There wasn’t a lot of pain because I was on really heavy pain killers and I was in the hospital, and when I got out they gave me more pain killers. After it heals you have to get the dildo dilator to stretch out the interior, and when they first put that in it felt like a knife. They also gave me a prescription numbing cream to put on it which really hurt. It was very painful, but every day it got better. Having sex in certain positions would hurt, but it felt good to just be able to do it. It went from feeling like a knife to eventually being able to achieve orgasm. Over the years it just became more sensitive and got better and better.

I am sure that the hormones helped with the sensitivity too.

Well, they don’t really cut the whole penis off. It is like peeling a banana, then turning it inside out so all of the nerves are still there. Sometimes when I have sex it feels like it is expanding, but really it is getting hard and the blood is rushing there and getting tighter. It’s interesting.

Wow, I love it. Then, a year after your mother’s passing, you left Michael and moved to New York. What thoughts were going through your mind when you were in a cab on the way to the city?

I really just wanted to get away. I just thought that life was short and I should get out of being controlled and do things on my own. It seemed like the right thing to do. It was kind of hard because I thought my husband just wanted to love and protect me, and I knew it would be easier just to stay, but after my mother passed away it just felt like I had to do it.

When you lose somebody close you realize how fragile life is and you have to live it and do what you can. You are very brave, Amanda. Mandy Baby. Did you have a plan when you arrived to New York?

No. I thought of doing nails, and I started to but I was not making enough money and the cabs were so expensive and everything was so much money! This guy I met in the plastic surgeon’s office turned out to be a hooker so I had to get out of the house all of the time, and I met this marine who would see me at a coffee shop I would go to. I started dating him and he was really into S&M, and the first roommate I had in New York was a girl who worked in a dungeon, so I told him he may as well get paid and should work in the dungeon. It was around the time of the AIDS epidemic and I didn’t want to be a hooker, so it made sense to work in the dungeon.

In 1990, your friend & designer, Keni Valenti, decided to introduce you to the New York social scene. What were people’s reaction to your looks and how did it feel after working so hard to achieve them?

People loved me! They loved my look, and at the dungeon they loved that I looked like Jayne Mansfield. I had that look and was dressing up, and it really fit in at the time.

What were some of your favorite memories working the club scene in the 1990’s?

I mean there are so many. I loved all of the parties and dressing up! I still love it. (laughs)

Yeah you’re a magnet; people are drawn to you! If there is a quiet spot in a nightclub we can just put you there and it livens up.

I definitely had a better time now, since I’ve become more famous. In the past I would have to look like I was busy because we would all just naturally hangout together, the people who were working at the club. Michael Alig would say, “You have to circulate! You have to circulate!”, and now people gravitate to me and they want to take pictures with me. I genuinely enjoy meeting new people, too.

How did you come to meet David LaChapelle? Do you think it was fate?

Yes, I do think it was fate. I met him at Bowery Bar and he was asking people about me. He was checking to make sure I wasn’t a bitch and that I am a nice person because he only wanted to work with nice people. When we met he told me that before he knew me, like when he was 15, that he used to draw this woman who looked exactly like me with big boobs, cheekbones, and she was always naked and in weird situations. There’s a sketch of her in my book. He was just obsessed with me. A lot of the pictures he took of me gained a lot of attention and he didn’t want to use anyone else but me for advertising jobs, editorials, etc. Once there was an advertiser who didn’t want to use me and David said, “Well, then I want a girl with no boobs, black hair, and a pie-hole for a mouth!” (laughs)

Ha-ha! I love him…so, then what were your favorite projects that you did with David?

I think that the Armani Jeans campaign was amazing, and just huge. We went down to Italy for the Armani show and I think it was really my first taste of that movie star lifestyle I always have loved and longed for. The flash bulbs, the press was crazy…we had dinner with Giorgio Armani and all of those people. It was super exciting for me!

Did you ever anticipate that that friendship would change your life the way that it has?

No. I think that when I first started doing it I just thought I was lucky and it wouldn’t ever happen again. It just kept on going and going and going, and I didn’t think of becoming a model or anything. If I had a crystal ball and it said I was going to be doing this in the future, I would have been so shocked because I didn’t have any ambitions really I just was so happy to be a girl. I just wanted to be pretty and wear makeup! (laughs)

Yes, and be that super fabulous, gorgeous woman. The epitome of womanhood! You’ve had so many iconic images over the course of your career, how did you decide which to put in the book?

I wanted to have as many LaChapelle images as possible, and luckily David agreed to have all of them in the book. I didn’t like a lot of the old pictures, but when we were picking the images it was hard to get all of the images that I wanted. I had a lot of personal photos under my bed, a box just filled with polaroids and fashion editorials that I did. We put a lot of images that I did more recently too, where I look more beautiful now then I did then. We had these cool collab photos from the 90’s and the images David did.

He also pushed you in a way, tried to make you work even harder as an artist, in a good way.

Yeah, definitely. Actually, the dominatrix stuff I did when I moved to New York was more of an act for me and I think that helped me with my modeling and working with him. David is kind of a huge control freak and wanted everything a certain way, so I was able to work with him better than anyone because of my experience with domination. (laughs)

You were like a dream come true, really. Your trademark sense of fashion, Jessica Rabbit body, and coquettish personality are all apart of the Lepore brand, but how did that style evolution come to be?

At first it was Marilyn, Jayne Mansfield, and Barbie who were my big influences. I got in an accident while go-go dancing where I got a scar on my forehead. I was really depressed about it, so I decided to make my lips really huge and my boobs huge so people would look at my boobs and lips instead of at my scar. The look just worked for me, and I sort of look like Jessica Rabbit and Marilyn Monroe.

Well, that’s a good accident to have! Well, later you went on to collaborate with rapper & producer, Cazwell on your albums. Were you nervous to start singing live or did it feel like a natural extension of your performance abilities?

I was really nervous! It was so many words and the first song “Champagne” had so many lyrics to remember. I remember we were doing a show with (the fashion brand) Heatherette in Russia and I was in a hotel the entire time studying the lyrics. I had to perform it shortly after and people were just floored because I wasn’t really known as a performer at the time. They all thought it was going to be bad, but it turned out to be really good. Cazwell wanted to do a whole album, and we just kept it going. I continued to do that for income and then started working at that Soho Grand event with you and Joey Arias and it took it all a step further. I was depending on the tracks, but then I started doing more live, intimate performances; my voice got better and I became a better performer as it went along.

What advice or adage do you live your life by?

Just be yourself and go with the flow. Making myself happy is my main thing. Staying away from negative things and taking care of myself.

In Doll Parts, you recommend to, “Work with people who know more than you, always.” Why do you feel this so important?

Because you always want to learn more and I am always eager to learn and better myself.

What advice would you give to transgender youth who are struggling with their sense of identity in their community/family?

There are places like New York’s Callen-Lorde Health Center where you can get hormones and medical care, but it is hard when your parents don’t understand you or accept you. I hope that it gets better from all of these people who are in the spotlight, and it seems like it is. It’s hard, but you have to look for support and I think it is beneficial for a lot of people to leave their family if they can find better support from other people or organizations.

The name of the game, I think, is really to try and get as much support as possible. There is a lot more help out there now since when you started the process of transitioning.

It wasn’t easy for me at all. There was a lot of tears, fear, and manipulation on my part that was just trying to get people to do this for me. You just have to stay strong and persevere.

According to surveys done by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention & The Williams Institute, 41% of transgender teens have attempted to commit suicide. What helped you to get through the difficulties of transitioning during your teenage years?

I think it’s really hard for these teenagers in the moment, and it’s difficult for anyone who is bullied, but I think that for transgender kids they have to get hormones, operations, and all of these expensive things that make it so hard for them. You really have to remember that it’s only a short moment that is really hard, and when you are a kid it seems like forever, but you just have to stay strong and know that for as many people who may hate you at the moment there will be so many people who love you for being different.
IRIS07_AmandaLepore-2Special thanks to Susanne Bartsch, Peace Biscuit, and Michele Ruiz. Doll Parts by Amanda Lepore is Published by Regan Arts.

SOFIA BOUTELLA – BY ELLEN VON UNWERTH

Positioned to take the main stage with two summer flicks set to be box office smashes, playing opposite Tom Cruise in The Mummy and alongside Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, Sofia Boutella is ready for her close-up.


Photography by Ellen Von Unwerth | Styling by Deborah Afshani | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Editor Marc Sifuentes | Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Dress by J GERARD

Sofia Boutella is about to blow out the candle on a chocolate lava cake served up graciously by the pastry team at Chateau Marmont. Glasses of champagne are lined up across a low wooden table, ready to serve. Swarthy and saturnine, Boutella sweeps her dark locks to one side and leans over the cake, pausing momentarily as she closes her eyes to make a wish, before extinguishing the flame with a flash of her infectious smile. “Bravo!” everyone cheers while Sofia flits a bashful round of thanks. The celebration is actually impromptu during a lunch break, and Sofia is on-set for a photoshoot with Ellen Von Unwerth at the famed West Hollywood hotel. Birthday or no birthday, embodying a femme fatale for a crème-de-la-femme celebrity photographer is all in a day’s work for Boutella, who’s poised to unleash her prowess with two movies in this summer’s highly-anticipated release of Alex Kurtzman’s latest installment of The Mummy and David Leitch’s spy thriller, Atomic Blonde. Maintaining her coquettish sensuality while kicking ass is a razor wire that Boutella jetes upon with ease, even if it involves otherworldly makeup or taking a punch on set.

Hailing from Algiers, the ingénue actress is actually a multi-faceted artist who began her career as an internationally-acclaimed dancer, enrolling in classical dance education at the age of 5. Later, when her family moved to France, Sofia continued dancing, adding rhythmic gymnastics to her education, and joining the French national team by the age of 18. In 2006, with her dance troupe The Vagabond Crew, Boutella went on to win the World Championship Hip Hop Battle, making her an undeniable force in the world of dance.  With several smaller film and commercial appearances already under her belt, she made a breakout appearance in a series of iconic Nike campaigns choreographed by legendary choreographer and creative director, Jamie King. Quickly garnering the interest of several high-profile musicians, Boutella found herself dancing for Madonna, Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Usher and many others. Breaking out on the big screen,  her most recent film appearances include Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond co-starring Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, and Zachary Quinto and Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, alongside Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson.

Here IRIS Covet Book shares a conversation with the blockbuster beauty about lesbian love scenes and mystic monsters with heart.

 

Feather Coat by Vanessa Seward, Bra, Panty and Garter Belt by Maison Close, Black Stockings by FALKE, Shoes by Christian Louboutin, Choker, Earrings and Bracelet by Eddie Borgo

You worked with Ellen Von Unwerth at Chateau Marmont for this cover shoot. How did it go? What was it like working with her?
Oh my God, it was amazing! I loved working with her! I think she’s fantastic! I loved her ability to get things out of me. I’ve never shot with her before, but after working with her I felt like I understood how she’s able to get this energy in the photos. Her style really allows people’s personality to shine through in the images. She let me be myself while still giving me interesting, creative direction. It was really cool.

What did you enjoy most about working with her? Was there a specific look or shot that you loved?
I just had a lot of fun because it was going to be my birthday the day after. I was having lunch and ordered some French fries because I hadn’t had them in so long! I came on set still eating, so she started to shoot me while I was having fun with the fries. We had another moment where we were shooting at Bar Marmont and I was dancing on the bar. While we were there, they were using the kitchen for their pastry department and one of the chefs started talking to me. He asked me, ‘Do you want anything?’ I said, ‘Yeah why not. You have chocolate cake?’ So he brought me a chocolate lava cake and I started to eat it for another photo, it was so delicious! There was another moment where we went upstairs on the balcony. I told them to not freak out because I’m very agile and I don’t have issues with heights, so I sat on the ledge of the balcony. Hopefully we got some great images from that. However the photos turn out, they’re going to be so truthful because I was having such a great time!

I’m so excited to see what you created together. I knew that was going to be a dream pairing. All glamour aside, as a child did you see yourself ever acting in movies? Or what did you want to do when you were younger?
When I was a kid I wanted to be two things. I always said I want to raise dolphins. I wanted to work with dolphins because I was obsessed with the show Flipper when I was a kid. Then, somebody in my family got me into this game that was like “Doctors Without Borders.” So I wanted to be a doctor without borders.

Latex Bodysuit by Dead Lotus Couture, Shoes by Marc Jacobs

That is such a different path than what you’re on right now, but I’m sure your fans are thankful that you choose a career in entertainment. You have two summer movies that are projected to be blockbusters, The Mummy & Atomic Blonde. You have the title role in The Mummy opposite of Tom Cruise. How did you get chosen to play this character?
I was finishing the movie Star Trek and I got this script sent over. I met up with [the director] Alex Kurtzman, and he offered it to me. At first, I said no because the part scared me and having just done Star Trek, I was concerned about having to go under an extensive makeup process. I didn’t want to be a monster walking around scaring people, that wasn’t for me. But I gave it more thought, and was very attracted to the character because she had a relevant and interesting background.

What were some of those things that intrigued you about her character?
I think that she had an intriguing backstory. This is the first time there has been a female mummy. My character is a princess from ancient Egypt, the daughter of a Pharaoh and she’s promised to become Pharaoh herself because she was the only child. After her mother dies, her father meets a woman who bears another child which turns out to be a son. The promise of the kingdom and becoming Pharaoh is taken from my character and given to the son, because he is a male heir which leaves my character heartbroken and scorned. She later becomes ruthless when she comes back in modern day seeking what she was promised to begin with.

So then what was the process like working with the director, Alex Kurtzman to reimagine this character and breathe new life into it?
It was lovely to work with Alex! I wanted to care about my character and have her be heard and understood. We developed the backstory so that the audience understands her better and can have some sort of compassion for her. I think a character becomes more interesting when you understand why they do what they do in the movie.

So that she’s not just a monster, but that she has a heart and you can sympathize with her emotions.
Exactly and that was very important to me.

 

Dress by Lanvin, Black Goat Hair Jacket by Adrienne Landau, Shoes by Christian Louboutin, Bracelet by Eddie Borgo, Choker by YVY, and Sofia’s Own Earrings

 

Did you have to do anything special in order to prepare for this role or get yourself into the character?
Well, you know, the makeup process was something that helped me get into character. It would take about 6 hours to do. Of course, it was painful because they’re long hours, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Once I’d have my makeup done, people looked at me different, and I felt physically different. I also researched about ancient Egypt and Egyptian Mythology. Understanding the body language was important because I wanted her to walk around not like a monster, but as a queen since that’s who she was.  She carries herself as royalty, never moving faster than anybody. I also explored playing with the voice and speaking slower to bring in that element of power.

Did you get to have any input on the costume or the look of the character?
Yes, they really let me share my thoughts and we were able to collaborate on much of the character’s look together.

So you star opposite of Tom Cruise, who is a very seasoned actor. What was it like working with him and did he share with you any advice or words of wisdom that you might take to heart as an actor?
Being on set with him was like being at school, in a good way. I learned so much from him; he’s such a dedicated actor who loves the craft. You see him on set figuring out how to make a movie work. I learned a lot about cameras, lenses, and camera angles when I was with him. He examines those aspects and really understands how to tell stories with camera movement, and it’s something that I will definitely use and pay close attention to.

Dress and Rosary Necklace by Dolce & Gabbana, choker necklace by Jillian Dempsey Black Patent Heels by Christian Louboutin, and Sofia’s Own Necklace.

Amazing! You recently were awarded the “Female Star of Tomorrow” from CinemaCon for your role in Atomic Blonde opposite of Charlize Theron. When were you first presented with the role of Delphine and can you tell us a little bit about your character in this movie?
She is a French spy who is stationed in Berlin, just before the fall of the wall. She’s on the younger side and she’s a bit naïve, but she’s good at her job while still exploring her identity. She’s taking in the dynamic and intensity of Berlin at that time, and learning from it. She’s sweet but also a very cool, edgy kind of girl who is a less-experienced spy than Charlize’s character. When they meet, my character is supposed to do her job and carry out her mission, but at the same time there is also this romance happening between our characters.

I went to a press screening and you two have a steamy love scene in the movie.  What discussions did you have with Charlize to prepare for that scene?
I was nervous, I’ve never done a scene like that and this scene was with a girl, which didn’t make much difference to be honest. We both felt the scene shouldn’t feel forced.  But, you know, Charlize made me feel comfortable and very much at ease. At the end of the day, I was very comfortable with my body and my femininity and I don’t feel like I shied away from it. She’s super fun and such a great actress so that made it easy.

 

Dress by J GERARD and Shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti

It was very refreshing to see the openness of a same-sex relationship in this kind of scene being explored in a major motion picture. I was curious do you think that there’s a stigma in Hollywood which doesn’t allow women in cinema to portray and assert their sexuality in the same manner that their male counterparts are allowed to?
Yes, I believe that’s true. It’s much more often seen in European movies if it happens. I think we do need more movies with powerful, strong women. Charlize’s character teaches us that women can be equally strong and powerful. When I saw the movie, I called her and was like, “You were kicking ass in that film!” I’m starting to observe that sexual empowerment being explored more in films. I think that it’s still rare, but it’s good that it’s shown in this film. We need more of it. We need to normalize all these things, until you look at it and it doesn’t make any difference if it was a man or a woman. I think people want to see more of that and not shy away from it. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I think nowadays we need to focus on the opportunity to push that envelope.

I agree with you and also hope that will be the case someday. You have a background as a professional dancer. You’ve been in so many music videos and concerts. You’ve worked with Madonna, Rihanna and Michael Jackson, among many others. I’m curious how you were able to transition from dancing to acting in major motion pictures and what’s the journey been like?
I began dancing when I was five, so almost my entire life. I started acting when I was 17 and went to an audition randomly. I joined a friend of mine who was going to the audition, and I ended up booking the part instead.  I loved acting and enjoyed working on that first project, so I thought I really wanted to explore that more. After doing that film, I wanted to learn about it, so I took classes. I did a few small projects in Paris between the ages of 17 and 19. Meanwhile, I was still dancing and I thought that I should keep dancing because I didn’t feel like I had given it an honorable go. I thought, ‘I’m just going to focus on that one thing that I’ve been doing almost all my life.’ So I did, and I’m happy that I did because I’ve been a part of amazing projects for which I’m very proud.

When I moved to LA, I thought that I wouldn’t mind taking acting classes again in my spare time. My teacher was Marcy Mendoza. She was like the “ballet of acting” in terms of what I learned and I loved my year in the theater. I studied plays like Chekhov and Ibsen and it was very classical sort of material. After that I booked a movie about a year and a half after called Street Dance 2. I thought it was a great opportunity and was drawn to the character because she was a dancer. I thought that I could learn something from the part, but then I wondered, “Am I hiding?” I loved acting so much, but I felt like I was hiding behind the fact that I was a dancer.  Then I questioned myself for about 2 ½ years if I should stop dancing, because, at the time, I didn’t feel like stopping just yet. I woke up one morning and I remember feeling like I was genuinely done. That day, I watched Madonna’s halftime performance at the Superbowl, and I remember feeling like I was ready to stop dancing. So, I stopped dancing and I didn’t work for 3 years after that.

Left: Chain Top by Natalie Fedner, Skirt by Versus Versace, Leather Jacket (worn inside out) by GUCCI, Lipstick by Chanel
Right: Top by Phillip Plein, Shorts by Sonia Rykiel, Shoes by Marc Jacobs, Choker by Eddie Borgo.

 

 What did that feel like during those 3 years?
It was tough, you know. I never thought that I would give up. I never thought for one second about that because I never had a backup option…I felt like [acting] is all I want to do.  It was hard, but I never doubted myself because I knew my choice truly came from my heart. It seemed like an innate decision and luckily in my life I’ve never had to think, “Oh what am I going to do when I can’t dance anymore?” I never wanted to become a choreographer. I just drifted into acting, not for fame or for money, but because I truly loved it so much.

And do you think the discipline that you learned during your time as a dancer is that that you carried over with you into acting?
Yes, absolutely. That discipline is required as a dancer and it’s something that I will carry with me in life. There is a similarity in my approach with dancing and acting. When developing a character, you have to find a rhythm of how they walk and their body language. My experience as a dancer has made me more in tune with my body, and understanding the expression of movement.

During her Confessions tour, you worked with Madonna who is known for being a perfectionist. Were there any lessons or habits that you picked up on while you were working with her or did she ever offer you any advice that you took to heart?
She gave me advice all the time. (laughter) It was all very, very useful. She’s a strong woman who works really hard. You understand why she is where she is now. Her dedication and compassion is really inspiring and she has a heart of gold. When I met her, I was really a tomboy. She came to me and asked me if I wore heels and I said no. So she handed me a pair of heels and said, “There’s a beginning for everything.” She really encouraged me to own my femininity. I loved that she was able to see beyond how I was presenting myself. She challenged me and those were some of my best years working with her.

On your Instagram account I saw that you had a photo of yourself at the Women’s March in London and so I was curious why you found it important to be a part of this historic event and support it?
I think we live in crazy times. I think our children and grandchildren will look at us and say, “What the fuck did you do?” But, to be honest, I’ve decided to look at it as the glass being half full. What is happening now is very important and significant, and we can choose to be empowered by these trials when people get together and unite. Originally I was planning on going to the march in Washington, but I ended up having to go to London that day. As soon as I landed that morning in London, I went straight to the march—I didn’t even call my friends. When I arrived, all my friends were already there so we all got together. Cellular reception was going mad because it was so packed, but we did manage to find each other and ended up having a great time being together and supporting that cause.

I went to the march here in New York which drew crowds around 400,000 so it was grid locked in some places. The crowd was so thick trying to get through. What were the emotions that you were feeling that day? What was your experience like?
I thought it was quite empowering. As a woman, I feel like there’s a level of consideration that is being given to women now that is far more profound than before.  But, there’s still an imbalance between how men and women are treated. It’s still a man’s world. I think that the Women’s March was necessary even if the socio-political circumstances differ from country to country. Things like this are essential and will need to keep happening until things change.

 

Top by Dead Lotus Couture, Skirt by Zana Bayne, Underwear by Morgan Lane, Shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti, Silver Cuff by Eddie Borgo, and Gold Cuff by Jennifer Fisher

Hair by Renato @ The Wall Group Using Moroccan Oil, Makeup by Kate Lee @ Starworks Group, Manicure by Bettina Goldstein @ The Wall Group Using Karma Organics, Video by Heather Sommerfield, Photographer’s 1st Assistant Timothy R. Mahoney, 2nd Assistant Matthew Tyler Ray, Digital Tech Dale Gold, Stylist Assistant Kirsten Alvarez, Production by XTheStudio, Shot on location at Chateau Marmont Hotel. Special Thanks to Matt Haberman, Bryna Rifkin, Annie Butterfield, and Celena Madlansacay at ID PR.

MAURICIO AND ROGER PADILHA

Growing up in Long Island with dreams of Manhattan, the brothers behind MAO Public Relations now look back on their journey of how they became one of the top boutique PR agencies in New York City.

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The lyrics of  “New York, New York” still rings true for many in fashion: “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York.” The pair who have made it are brothers Mauricio and Roger Padilha, who for the past 20 years have successfully launched the careers of some of today’s most influential designers such as Jason Wu, Peter Som, The Blonds, Sally Lapointe and Fausto Puglisi through their company.  The secret to their ability for finding diamonds in the rough and transforming them into fashion industry sensations could be attributed to the unconventional path the duo has taken (and continues to) throughout their lives and careers.

After years of working in the fashion industry, separately and together, the two launched MAO PR in 1997. Mauricio worked as a Public Relations Director for various young designers, while Roger had his own fashion label which was sold in major department stores and boutiques, appeared in most major fashion publications, and was supported by countless celebrities.

Now approaching its twentieth year, MAO Public Relations enjoys a reputation of being one of the hardest-working agencies in the fashion PR industry. Always seeking to further the professional careers of their clients through promotion, publicity, and image management, the two approach each collection as if it were their own. The Padilha brothers wrote and curated The Stephen Sprouse Book, Antonio: Fashion, Art, Sex, and Disco, and GLOSS: The Work of Chris Von Wangenheim.

Their friend, fashion designer Anna Sui, talked to the PR/Event production gurus and authors about fashion, nightclubs, old New York, and the importance of scrapbooking.

 

Interview by Anna Sui | Intro by Roger Padilha

From top left to right: MAO MAG 9 party M+R with Mermaids, R+M with Liza during NYFW, M+R with Debbie Harry and Teri Toye, Courtesy of MAOPR. M+R with Marc Jacobs Photo by Sam Deitch for BFA. From middle left to right: Anna Nicole Smith, M calling models at the Barbie 50th anniversary show, Courtsey of MAOPR, Barbie 50th anniversary show Photo by Dan Lecca. From bottom left to right: model at Antonio Lopez book party, Photo by Shaun Mader for PMC, Amanda Lepore at Antonio Lopez book party, Photo by Harel Rintzler for PMC. Models at the GLOSS book party, Photo by Kevin Tachman. Pat Cleveland photo by Andreas Hofweber

MAURICIO: This is so weird. Normally I would like be more comfortable interviewing you…

ANNA: (Laughter) Let’s start from the very beginning. Tell me where you were born and what your influences were as kids. What were you dreaming of?

MP: Roger and I were born in New York, but our parents are Brazilian so we moved back to Brazil for a few years after we were born. During that time we became obsessed with comic books that we would cut apart and rearrange.

ROGER: It’s funny because it was like a form of scrapbooking, and when we got older we would scrapbook images of our favorite pop stars like Boy George or Grace Jones. We would cut out things from magazines and rearrange the photos in a way that we thought was more inspiring. I guess that a lot of that training really got put to use thirty years later when we started doing books.

AS: You were born art directors! Do you still have any of these “scrapbooks”?

MP: Yeah, I do! They’re in my kitchen cabinets!

AS: That should be your next book!

RP: But the biggest part of our childhood that shaped our lives was living in Long Island. It was so boring. There is something to be said about growing up in a small suburb; it really gives one a lot of drive to get out and do something.

MP: We lived through magazines and images. And one of the magazines that we absolutely worshipped was Annie Flander’s Details Magazine that covered the New York nightlife scene. We would see people like Debbie Harry or Dianne Brill in Stephen Saben’s column and just decided that we wanted to meet these people and go to the places they were being photographed at.

RP: It just seemed like these people were LIVING. They were not the typical celebrities we would see on TV. They were dressing up and making up their own lives and rules and we just really wanted to be part of that world. Believe it or not, our parents let us come into the city when I was just 13 and Mauricio was 16 to go to these nightclubs! The rule was that we had to stay together and do well in school, but otherwise we had total freedom to go to the city. The first club we went to was Palladium and that first night we met Dianne Brill and became friends with her.  We were really ballsy I guess.

AS: That’s amazing! And the social life at the time was that you could go out and meet those people. It wasn’t such a big scene and everyone was going to the same places, that was the specialness of NY at that time.

RP: And it wasn’t as elitist as it is now. There was no bottle service. People didn’t have entourages or handlers. As long as you were interesting and had some sort of look, these people were readily available to you.

AS: Tell me your routine, like where would you go every night and what would you wear? What was that period like?

MP: There were different parties every night of the week and you would sort of dress differently for each one. On Tuesdays there was Larry Tee’s parties at The Underground, on Wednesdays there was “Celebrity Night” at The Tunnel, or last Thursday of every month was Susanne Bartsch’s parties at the Copacabana for those you’d dress a bit more outlandishly. Then on the weekends there was M.K. and Nell’s, and for those nights we’d go for a more conservative look.

RP: And a conservative look for us back then would be sequined jeans and a blazer! For the other nights we’d wear the craziest things—Mauricio had a canary yellow fur vest trimmed in fringe with pleather bell bottoms, and I’d wear a motorcycle jacket with hundreds of fake jewels glued onto them…it was just about being creative and not being scared of being individual.

MP: And of course we wore a lot of Stephen Sprouse because we started collecting it back then.

AS: Everyone must have stopped dead in their tracks when you guys would show up wearing head to toe Stephen Sprouse…

RP: Well, it wasn’t just us. EVERYONE dressed up back then. Nowadays there’s always a few people in a club that really dress up and they are usually on a stage, but back then it was literally everyone in the room. And that was how you’d meet people. You didn’t put on a big red fur coat to be photographed or instagrammed, but because it was a good icebreaker for people to talk to you and start a conversation.

AS: Right, it was like a secret vocabulary. You knew if someone would “get it” by how they dressed. It was really such a fun, unique time and I think things are so different in the city now that there isn’t that kind of subculture anymore.

RP: Yeah. I always say: ”I’m not happy that I’m old now, but I AM happy I was young back then.”

AS: How did you decide that you wanted to go into fashion?

RP: In the mid to late 80’s, the club scene that we were a part of started really getting into fashion. Dianne Brill started modeling for Jean Paul Gaultier and Susanne Bartsch was bringing international designers such as Thierry Mugler and Geoffrey Beene to the voguing scene. So there was a convergence of the club scene with the fashion industry, and by being there we got to meet all these designers, stylists, editors, and models.

MP: We certainly dressed wild, but we weren’t born performers or drag queens. We didn’t want to work in nightclubs or do whatever anyone else was doing, but the exposure to all these designers in the club scene helped push us into fashion. Roger decided to leave high school two years early because he hated it and knew he wanted to be in fashion. So, he automatically applied to Parsons and got in. I had another year left in high school and also ended up graduating at the same time from Parsons.

RP: We both majored in Fashion Design. I even opened up a design company after graduating, but we learned very quickly that both of us preferred the behind the scenes aspect of creating which led us to open MAO. There was a real need for PR for young designers, and having been part of trying to start a design company, we knew firsthand the challenges that designers go through.


Portrait by Johnny Vicari

AS: How has the fashion industry changed during your career?

MP: So much! As we said, when we started MAO there wasn’t much support for young designers apart from us. It was very much the era of labels and logos. It was really not until after September 11th that young designers started getting attention paid to them. A lot of people were seeking newness and a lot of our designers such as Jason Wu started breaking through. Now I feel like we swung back and it’s almost impossible for a young designer to get attention or make any noise nowadays.

RP: Fashion is super cyclical in that way, and I feel like we are back where we started 20 years ago. It seems impossible to compete against the big companies who are willing to shell out big bucks to dress celebrities and pay “influencers” to wear the clothing. And beyond that, designers have to design more collections a year than ever before…

MP:…and designers are expected to dress everyone. It used to be that designers would have a focused customer base and really tailor their collections to them, but now it seems that designers are pressured to have something for everyone.   Everyone has started to look the same. The individual style that showed through in your collections, or Marc’s, or Isaac ‘s when you first started got lost in the race to please everyone.

AS: Right. I think a lot of that has to do with it being impossible to be independent these days and designers having investors that they have to answer to. But since fashion is such a pendulum, do you think that it will swing back to be more creative and individual?

MP: I hope so. There’s some new designers who are super individual AND successful and maybe that’s going to help other designers exert a more distinct voice in the market place.

RP: I think Alessandro Michele at Gucci is setting the new standard by showing that you can take chances and be individual while still being financially successful. Hopefully other companies will follow suit.

AS: What was the best advice you ever got?

MP: We produced an event that was honoring Polly Mellen, and before she took the stage we were chatting and she told me, “Just keep moving forward. Never look back no matter what happens.”  As simple as that sounds, it’s very true. Clients come and go, Fashion Week starts and ends, and it’s really important to focus on what you are going to do next.

AS: You’ve started the careers of so many designers who have become major in the industry. How can you tell when you meet someone that they have the potential to become successful?

RP: Well, one of the most interesting moments we had was meeting Jason Wu. He had called us looking for representation and at the meeting instead of showing us samples, he pulled out these dolls and told us that he designed the clothing they were wearing and a lot of the doll collectors wanted life size versions of the clothing. That was around the point I walked out on the meeting! (laughter) Thankfully, Mauricio stuck through with it and asked Jason to come back with life sized samples of the clothing, and that’s when we started working together.

MP: That’s the most fun part for us, to nurture someone and direct their brands. We’re different than a lot of other PR companies because we actually help designers develop products and their image to help them find their niche in the market place.

AS: I think that that’s your genius because you love fashion so much. You have such great instinct for it and where it’s going that you can help guide a lot of these people who have talent but don’t know how to channel it. What’s been your greatest challenge in your career?

RP: Like everyone in New York, the major challenge is always financial. Everyone is on a tight budget and year after year the budgets get smaller and smaller

MP: While our rents go up and up and up….

AS: Isn’t that crazy? How are people even supposed to work?

RP: We’ve seen such talented people go out of business because they can’t afford to run a small business in this city. It’s a shame. We’ve been lucky in that we have been able pick and choose our clients and work with people we want to work with. We don’t really do things that we don’t want to do. But my biggest fear is that we’re going to have to take on a big corporate company just to survive. That doesn’t align with what we believe in, and that’s always kind of scary to think about.

AS: Yes. It’s the economics of the times. I think we all have to face that because of the way things are. But beyond that, what do you consider your greatest success and what does that mean to you?

MP: Every morning I wake up and I love going to work. We’re not making millions but we’re keeping things going and creatively we’re doing what we love to do, and we’re doing it together; that to me is success.

RP: I don’t think either of us think that making a lot of money is a definition of success. I would love to have more money, of course, but when we get recognition from people like you that we respect for example, that’s the biggest thrill. To be able to work with the kind of people we work with, and to be in this special circle of creative people…that is the life that I really wanted when I was thirteen.

AS: And beyond the PR company, you guys have done three books together. How do you pick your subject matter?

MP: All of our books have sort of began with people we thought weren’t getting the attention they deserved. When Stephen Sprouse died, the obituaries were focused on his collaboration with Louis Vuitton and Target but no one wrote about the brilliant 25-year career he had before that. Same with Antonio Lopez and Chris Von Wangenheim… For us it’s really important to get artists recognized when they do something first. And maybe because we know that in the future someone’s going to have to do that for our legacy! (laughter)

AS: So you mentioned leaving a legacy…where do you see yourself in 20 years?

MP: I have a feeling we’re still going to be doing this. I don’t intend on letting go until it’s over. Only death will get us off the merry-go-round.

AS: Well, I think your passion is forever and drives everything you guys do. It’s wonderful and a quality more people should have.

From top left to right: M with Susanne Bartsch in Paris Courtesy of MAOPR, M+R with Anna Sui Courtesy of BOOKMARC, M with Naomi Campbell at her book launch, Bill Cunningham at MAO MAG 3 party, Joan Rivers and R, M+R with Dianne Brill photos Courtesy of MAOPR

For more information, visit: http://www.maopr.com/news.html

SUPER PLAYERS

SALLIE SARGENT
President and CEO of Houston Super Bowl Host Committee

Sallie Sargent’s long and prestigious career is an amazing example of what hard work, intelligence, and determination can do for you, especially as a woman in an executive position usually filled by men. Her special event management background with sporting events includes five Super Bowls, the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the 100th anniversary of Ford Motor Company and the 2012 Centennial Celebration of the State of Arizona. Prior to the tradeshow and convention industry, Ms. Sargent served as Director of Marketing and Promotions for America West Airlines (now US Airways) after her successful negotiation on behalf of America West with the NFL for the official airline sponsorship of Super Bowl XXX.

Sargent’s knowledge and experience with the NFL’s premiere event resulted in her appointment in 2013 as the Executive Director for Houston’s efforts to secure Super Bowl in 2017. Since that time, she has been retained in the same position to develop the strategic plan for the Houston Host Committee to stage Super Bowl LI. It is our honor to feature this fiercely intelligent business woman who is not only in charge of managing the Houston Super Bowl, but also responsible for some of the most important political, governmental, and sporting events in the last decade. Like fellow visionary, Ella Williams, Sallie lives by the writer’s words, “Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.”

 

RIC CAMPO
Chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and CEO of Camden Property Trust

Since 1993, Ric Campo is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Camden Property Trust. Mr. Campo began his real estate career after graduating from Oregon State University in 1976. After working for a private Houston real estate company, Mr. Campo co-founded Camden’s predecessor companies in 1982 and has spent almost thirty years building a company of top tier staff that are renowned for their management proficiency, their development and construction capabilities and their savvy in the areas of technology, training and marketing. Success to Ric is improving people’s lives one experience at a time and creating jobs for the people of Houston.

Ric serves as Chairman of the Board of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, and is one of the pioneers who brought the famed games to Houston. Mr. Campo serves on the Board of Directors of several organizations that focus on the economic development, business outlook and future growth of Houston, including Central Houston, Inc., the Greater Houston Community Foundation and the Greater Houston Partnership and is an Executive Advisory Board Member for the University of Houston, C.T. Bauer College of Business. Mr. Campo also served as the Chairman of the Houston First Corporation for 12 years, which is a local government corporation that facilitates the city’s economic growth through the business of conventions and the arts. He is a member of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) where he serves on the Executive Board, the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) where he serves on the Executive Committee and was past chairman and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

 

MARK A. WALLACE
President and CEO of Texas Children’s Hospital

Mark A. Wallace was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Texas Children’s Hospital in 1989 at the age of 36. Under his leadership, Texas Children’s has grown into one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive pediatric and women’s health care organizations, garnering more than 3.3 million patient encounters annually and achieving international recognition as a referral center. In 2014, Texas Children’s Hospital was ranked 4th among all children’s hospitals nationwide by U.S. News & World Report. When asked what he looks for when bringing on new team members, Wallace says “A positive attitude, strong work ethic and the heart of a servant.” During Mr. Wallace’s 25-year tenure, he has led Texas Children’s successful completion of numerous capital and expansion projects, representing a significant investment in the future of pediatric health care.

Mr. Wallace currently serves on the Board of Directors of the CHI St. Luke’s Baylor Medical Center. In May 2015, Mr. Wallace received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities in Medicine from Baylor College of Medicine. His plans to expand Texas Children’s Hospital to other cities in the next few years is his passion and the children and parents that live or travel hundreds of miles to Houston for treatment, continually thank him for his service, as well as for his leadership and contributions to health care excellence.

 

DEANDRE HOPKINS
Wide Receiver of the Houston Texans


Suit by Tom Ford | Shirt by Giorgio Armani | Coat by Burberry | Available at Neiman Marcus

A man of few words, DeAndre Hopkins is stoic and quiet during his portrait session. Between training for games, press conferences, interviews, and researching and collecting vintage cars, DeAndre found time to sit in front of our camera and give us insight into his world. South Carolina native, Hopkins enrolled in Clemson University, where he played for the Clemson Tigers football team from 2010 to 2012. Hopkins, along with junior quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, combined to make one of the most prolific passing offenses in college football and broke many individual and career school records.

Hopkins left Clemson, and his home state of South Carolina, with the career record for receiving yards and career touchdown grabs with at least one score in each of the last 12 games. On January 10, 2013 Hopkins decided to forgo his senior season at Clemson and enter the NFL draft. He was drafted 27th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, just the second time in franchise history that the Texans drafted a wide receiver in the first round. DeAndre Hopkins is a star of the Houston Texans and represents the athleticism and effortless style that we all strive for, and that Houston takes pride in.

 

RICHARD FLOWERS
COO of The Events Company


Suit and shirt by Giorgio Armani, tie by Zegna | Available at Neiman Marcus | Watch by Cartier 

Richard founded his own events firm, Richard Flowers & Associates, and began his enterprise with the task of handling many of the production aspects of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations. Richard’s reputation for creating and producing exceptional events quickly came to the attention of the movers, shakers and decision-makers in the city, state and nation. His attention to detail, creativity and complete knowledge of the industry have afforded him the opportunity to work not only with leaders in government, but also in public and private sector businesses, non-profit organizations and private clientele.

He has produced exquisite galas for all of the charitable organizations in Houston and in other cities in Texas. He and his team have worked for leaders in the fashion industry, and Richard has traveled nationally and internationally to produce events for his private clientele. From birthday celebrations to high profile weddings and social events in various locations from coast to coast, and internationally, in locations like Paris, Mexico and Puerto Rico, Richard is frequently engaged to ensure that every detail is in place.

Richard joined forces with the Landry’s organization in 2003, as the CEO of The Events Company. He has assembled a strong creative and production team, armed with extensive creative resources, who share Richard’s passion for producing an exceptional event, every time. Richard’s six- and seven-figure mega events — the ones in Cabo, Telluride and Nantucket — have earned The Events Company honcho premiere honors as one of an elite group of wedding advisors to Town & Country magazine. He joins the coterie of famed party/wedding planners that includes Colin Cowie and Mark Ingram of New York and LA’s Mindy Weiss.

SYLVESTER TURNER
Mayor of Houston, TX

Sylvester Turner was born on September 27, 1954 in Acres Homes, Texas. His mother was a maid at the Rice Hotel and his father, a commercial painter. Turner was raised with eight brothers and sisters. In 1973, he graduated as the valedictorian of Klein High School. Four years later, Turner received his B.A. degree in political science from the University of Houston, after which he attended Harvard Law School, where he received his J.D. degree in 1980.

Turner was hired at the Houston-based law firm Fulbright & Jaworski. After three years, Turner left and formed his own law firm with partner Barry M. Barnes. Barnes & Turner specialized in corporate and commercial law. In 1984, Turner ran for a Harris County Commissioner seat, but he lost to El Franco Lee. In 1988, he won the seat in the Texas House of Representatives for District 139, a mostly minority district. Turner also taught at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, the South Texas College of Law, and at the University of Houston Law School’s continuing legal education program. He ran for the mayor of Houston twice, once in 1991 where he lost in a hotly contested race, and again in 2003, where he lost to Bill White.

Turner touts his 26 years in the Legislature – a tenure that includes a decade as a key author of the state budget and as one the state’s most powerful Democrats, retaining influence amid Republican supermajorities – as evidence of his readiness to tackle big problems. Turner has picked up endorsements from the city’s police, fire and municipal unions and many political bigwigs. This long history and his many alliances, however, have led opponents to paint him as a career politician whom voters have spurned twice before when he sought the mayor’s office, in 1991 and 2003.

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Produced by Marc Sifuentes | Copy Edit by Benjamin Price