London’s Fresh MEAT

MEAT is the new latex streetwear line from Alis Pelleschi and Bo Claridge.  MEAT was born in 2012 after the girls met at university, moved to London and decided they had nothing to wear to go out in. So Bo started making latex outfits, mega-stylist Nicola Formichetti spotted them online, commissioned a piece for Azealia Banks and the rest is history.

Bo’s background is in design while Alis has worked as a photographer for i-D, SUPER SUPER! Nylon, WAD, Glamour, MTV and Vice among others. Their first offering “I luv you”, was inspired by Tumblr, the Nineties and Mattel’s most famous plastic couple. Their second collection “4D fantasy” was drawn from memories of “provincial British chav culture”, UK garage, sports centres and markets and presented with an exclusive mix from WHY BE and Lisbent.

The pair describe themselves as “digital natives” and the influence of online culture is apparent not only in the aesthetics of the collections themselves but in the footing they use to present MEAT garments. Their latest collection “BELIEVE” was launched on the eve of London Fashion Week and everything was streamed live; from the interactive green-screen visuals to the banging soundtrack by LA DJ Total Freedom and a live twitter feed. Produced by Logo and Just Jam, the presentation featured glitchy multiple overlays, screen-wipes and pixel bleed with keyboard text symbols and affirmative slogans like KNOWLEDGE, POWER, NEVER STOP LEARNING and MY MIND IS FREE splashed across tight power-dresses, oversize sweaters, pencil skirts and a lamina-snug all-in-one.

The collection is a testament to sass but presents a shift from straight-up sexual empowerment to wider forms of self-actualization; it is “designed for women of all ages who are taking control of their destiny’s, their careers, their environment and the technology that surrounds them, through their commitment to continual learning”. In an age of rapid technical innovation and social shift it’s exciting to see fashion being used as a platform for reflection, however provocatively or tongue-in-cheek.

Pelleschi and Claridge aren’t the only ones using fantastic plastics this season. Later in the week Sleek spotted latex and vinyl details at Marios Schwab, Antipodium, KTZ and Burberry. We asked MEAT’s polymer mavens about this resurgence, creative collaboration and the ideal MEAT babe.

Why do you think latex is relevant right now?
At the beginning of last year, we saw a massive gap in the fashion world for people using latex, away from fetish connotations. At the end of the day, latex as a material is very unusual and luxurious and I think the fashion world is starting to take note. 

Is it latex<3 4eva or will you consider other textiles in the future?
We’re futurists and designers of many mediums, so we don’t want to ever feel restricted to saying latex is all we are and will ever be. We want to evolve, but we feel there is still so much to be done with latex! 

Producing a fashion line is still relatively fresh ground for both of you, what’s been the most enjoyable part of the process so far?
We’re both creatives, so we enjoy the initial design process and production. I think by the end of each season so far we have been itching to get on with the next…but I guess that’s always the way, always striving to be better and create new things. 

It’s great to see fashion being used as a creative platform, the live-stream collaboration with Total Freedom was awesome – any more cross-discipline collaborations coming up? Who else would you love to work with?
I think in this digital age it’s silly to not utilise the Internet and digital mediums to the best of their uses to showcase work. Our brand and collections are about all these different elements coming together: music, attitude, visuals, ideas. For us, doing a live-stream show made sense: creating this accessible, viewable, LIVE, exciting (anything-could-happen) show, away from what can be the boringness of standard catwalk shows. We love collaborating with other creatives. We’d love to do a collaborate with Givenchy, Harmony Korine, the Knife, Die Antwoord, so manny!

Who would you like to see in MEAT right now? Who is the Meat Babe?
Yolandi from Die Antwoord! But the MEAT BABE is any babe (male or female) who is full of confidence, power, sexiness, attitude and pride in being themselves.

BELIEVE was all about empowerment and being fierce. Would you call yourselves feminists?
I think feminist is an old word. We’re about empowerment of who you are, and that applies to anyone. 

What was the significance of the fonts and slogans you used for BELIEVE?
We were interested in using particular fonts associated with branding and information to create the dialogue of new branding and information. You become the advert for power, knowledge, learning and Meat by wearing BELIEVE. It makes you believe! 

Is being based in London so important to what you do?
There’s something unique about English design and culture, and London has always had this high concentration of creativity. You have to push yourself and your work to be seen and do something different and that in itself is exciting. 

What’s up next for Meat?
We have a couple of exciting projects lined up over the next few months, whilst also expanding the empire. Keep your eyes peeled!

Keeping eyes peeled and skin tightly sheathed, here’s to the future of MEAT.

Text by Ella Plevin

Check out MEAT’s Autumn-Winter ’13 BELIEVE collection video now on Youtube.


Ones to Watch: Eudon Choi

The portico rooms at Somerset house last Friday were filled with the flurry of balaika strings as we were ushered in to the London Fashion Week presentation of designer Eudon Choi, accompanied by a live Klezmer band, She’Koyokh, cantering through a frenetic gypsy melody.  

It was quickly apparent that the collection was inspired by Eastern-European folk traditions; Choi sent out an array of baby-babushkas in block-tones of cerulean blue, cream and charcoal, accentuated by flashes of pop-pastels and lush scarlet and adorned with florid head-shawls (a collaboration with Piers Atkinson) and fur pop-pomed heels.

The collection was titled “Varykino” after the ice palace in which Yuri and Lara succumb to their long suppressed lust for one another in David Lean’s 1965 epic Dr Zhivago – Choi’s main cinematic touchstone for the season. Varykino was a departure from the expanse of ice greys and soft fur tones depicted in the film, choosing instead to explore a blossoming eastern femininity; baroque but modernised by cool tones and plush candy shades. A marriage of romantic, Sarafan-inspired trapeze skirts and billowed blouses with structural leather jackets and wide-leg trousers was complimented by Russian filigree in Swarovski crystals, honeycomb knits and jacquards of chiffon and organza.

So much variation in one 25-look collection might flail in less-confident hands, but Eudon Choi wields a deft cut and cites intense fabric research as crucial to his practise. Born in Korea and originally trained as a menswear designer in Seoul, Choi came to London to study at the Royal College of Art (his graduate collection flew out of Dover Street Market onto the backs of hungry buyers) and to start his eponymous womenswear label in 2009 after stints at Twenty8Twelve and All Saints.

His steady rise is bound to be compelling. The signature elegance and bold shapes seen in previous seasons was touched with a new lighter, playful sensibility in Varykino, which continues a train of thought combining an interest in classic British cinema (previous collections were inspired by 2001:A Space Odyssey, Qui-êtes-Vous, Polly Maggoo? and Blow Up, though Choi told Sleek after the show that he didn’t want to focus too much on the 1960s in the future) with strengths in bold tailoring and capricious detail. A marriage we hope will last.

 Text by Ella Plevin

& Other Stories beauty line chez Colette

You have seen the mysteriously poetic teasers, read the various press articles, so you know that the launch of H&M’s much anticipated & Other Stories is just around the corner. Yet, after so many months spent thinking about that fleur de lys bodysuit or that beautifully crafted leather bag, time seems to be moving just a little too slow… now that the themes of the collections have been revealed and the concept of the brand disclosed, the wait has become quite unbearable.

You may not be able to get the clothes just yet but you can already start building your & Other Stories look starting today! The Parisian concept store Colette is launching the full & Other Stories beauty range to coincide with the city’s fashion week.

Conceived as an entire fashion universe, & Other Stories is not just another fashion store. The four main lines echo the essence of the fashion capitals they represent: Sophisticated & Architectural, Poetic & Dandy, Industrial & Effortless and Minimalism & Contradiction. Each of these obviously include clothes, shoes and accessories, but also a whole range of eco-friendly beauty products, ranging from skin care, to bath and body or make-up. Echoing the ethereal image that the brand has been communicating, the products and their packaging are simple, elegant, minimum waste and affordable. If you happen to be in Paris for fashion week, stock up!

Christian Wijnants wins Woolmark Prize

Christian Wijnants is this year’s winner of the International Woolmark Prize. Walking on stage last Saturday to accept the award in London, Wijnants beamed with excitement. It comes as no surprise that the woollen creations of the young Belgian designer managed to convince the tough jury (And we mean tough. Think Victoria Beckham, Donatella Versace, Diane von Furstenberg, Franca Sozzani and Tim Blanks). After all, his capsule collection unites superb innovative design with a marketable appeal and sustainable values.

“Christian invented a new shape and made it possible with an industrial production process,” explained Franca Sozzani, Editor in Chief of Vogue Italia and L’Uomo Vogue. “His designs are flattering, feminine and sexy, a modern interpretation of wool,” she added, offering some insight into what the jury was looking for in the winning collection.

Christian Wijnants’ collection will surely appeal to a growing new type of aware consumer, the so-called LOHAS (Lifestyle Of Health And Sustainability) shopper who appreciates the use of natural fibre. The designer’s intriguing tie-dye knits and unusual shapes take wool decidedly into the Twenty First Century. The winning capsule collection made of Merino wool was based on the simple idea of starting from a single white yarn. Wijnants worked on seamless garments, knitted in one piece, applying hand-knitting and hand-dyeing techniques. The collection will be available in partner retailers globally as of September 2013. Read an in-depth interview with Wijnants in the upcoming issue of Sleek, out in March.

Craft in Technology: Ben Shaffer’s new shoes for Nike

Ben Shaffer photographed by Murat Aslan

“Craft” isn’t quite the word one naturally associates with an international megabrand like Nike, particularly when they put on events such as the Flyknit Experience which debuted at Station Kreuzberg, Berlin, on February 20.  which, with its 1,000m illuminated  running track, could be a kind of “sports disco”, or a nightclub for amateur athletes whose stimulant of choice is the endorphins produced by hard physical exercise. Yet, there’s a link: that day we spoke to Nike’s highly amiable Head of Innovation, Ben Shaffer (pictured, with his impressive beard) about the focus of this intriguing neo-psychedelic event, which was the launch of the new Flyknit Lunar 1+ running shoe. This “paradigm-shifting” shoe’s uniqueness is the woven upper, which was originally launched last year and now comes with the brand’s other key recent innovation, the Lunar sole.

“Who would have thought that a sweater could be a shoe?” Shaffer said. True, it’s a strange thought: the point about Flyknit is that it is knitted from yarn rather sewn together from pieces cut from rolls of material. It offers a range of benefits to runners, some of whom, at the projects genesis, were calling for a shoe that was like a sock: body-formed, supple and ultralight. In the development of the Flyknit, Shaffer explained, he and his team looking into knitting, and an age-old technology, even if we think of it as more if a grandmother-ish craft.

“Talking to people with a background in knitting, we saw what we could do and it blew us away,” Shaffer said. “When craftsmen and engineers mash with product design people, it opens up huge tearrains for segment. It’s changed my perspective on design, how you can be simple in a craft, but then have so much unique coplexity within that. It’s  very pure.”

Nike is known for its leading-edge industrial design – the avant-garde of performance products – but it seems that as with plenty of other designers and creatives at the moment, an affection for the processes of crafts is merging with the possibilities of advanced product engineering in this project: “getting analogue” in the company’s famed Innovation Kitchen was how Shaffer termed it.

“We often think we’re inventing things, but it’s really about bing smart and matching things,” he concluded. “The best product design are where someone with a good eye for composition meets a craftsman.”

Read plenty more about the current crafts boom in the next issue of Sleek, out next month.

Opera Viva, the 2013 Lavazza Social Calendar

For this year’s calendar, Lavazza collaborated with video artist Marco Brambilla, who’s known for his work for Hugo Boss, Ferrari, Muse Magazine and Kanye West to create „Opera Viva – the 2013 Social Calendar by Lavazza.“

This time he followed the footsteps of former collaborators such as David LaChapelle, Helmut Newton and Ellen von Unwerth to create twelve video-collages, which, joined together, represent his feelings and impressions of both one year and one day, leaving space open for the spectator’s own interpretation and thus probing our definitions of how a calendar should be structured.

The artist associated the beginning of the day (the time between midnight and 2AM) and the beginning of the year (January) with images of billboards and vibrant neon lights, creating a kaleidoscopic, colourful extravaganza. February is titled ‘Dream’; in it we see a golden brocade curtain being drawn up, with the starry sky of a cold winter night in the background. All of a sudden a bubble is forming shape out of nothingness, while reflections of glossy glass panels and thick cardinal red smoke appear on the sides.

Brambilla´s personal experiences and own memories play an especially important role in this creation. Just by reading the titles of each month one can see how he imagines spending a day. Simultaneously, certain moments define an entire month. For instance, August stands for a hot day at the piazza; September is the arrival of a train. November is about the season to be merry. Pictures of turkeys and asparagus spears are floating around in front of a bronze, copper background.

The last two hours of the last month are dedicated to the flurry of New Year’s Eve. Neon lights, magenta, fluorescent green and electric blue colours, a disco ball, a dancing crowd blurs together. One of the artist’s aims was to show how differently one could sense the time passing by. Looking back at one’s own life, months turn into moments. He is reminding us the trickiness of memory, and that one can only remember certain details. Or as Brambilla stated, “trying to reconfigure the very idea of time and represent it as if it were based more on the flow of consciousness than on lunar or solar cycles, was an ambitious and fascinating challenge.“

Brambilla creates an array of strong impressions. After looking at this collage of a diversity of personal memories, one wonders whether it can be handled only as a magnificent piece of art, or will it replace the printed, old-fashioned calendar in our everyday life.

 Brambilla explains how to use the calendar:




Singh at the Drawing Center

Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions (The Pledge- Leah Kelly), 2011. Framed inkjet ultrachrome archival prints and dotted pencil lines, #6 from a set of 37. Courtesy Sprueth Magers, Berlin and London. Art, Concept, Paris. Metro Pictures, New York. Monitor Gallery, Rome.

Storyteller and illusionist, New York-based artist Alexandre Singh once again leads the viewers meandering in his magical and scientific universe. The Pledge at The Drawing Center, (curated by Claire Gilman) is his first solo presentation in a North American Museum.

The rooms of the main gallery are filled with an enormous amount of framed black and white collages, arranged and organized in a large diagrammatic system whose elements are connected by hand-drawn pencil dots on the wall. They are a part of the ongoing series Assembly Instructions, created from material photocopied from books and magazines.

However, the starting point of the project was not an image but rather text – the series of interviews with writers, artists, filmmakers and scientists (among them: screenwriter Danny Rubin, director Michael Gondry, artist Simon Fujiwara, neurobiologist Leah Kelly and others) conducted by Singh in 2011, fictionalized, and published in an issue of Palais de Tokyo’s magazine. 

Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions (The Pledge- Marc-Olivier Wahler), 2011.Framed inkjet ultrachrome archival prints and dotted pencil lines, 21 x 30 inches, #21 from a set of 43. Courtesy Sprueth Magers, Berlin and London. Art, Concept, Paris. Metro Pictures, New York. Monitor Gallery, Rome.

With the finesse of a magician and the precision of a scientist, Singh transform visual and written language into a drawing gesture. The installation expands the gallery like a growing organism leading from one room to another. The pencil-dots connecting the various drawings create the links of significations but also leave the space for own interpretation. Each wall refers to a different subject and contains own range of connections, which can fluently lead from images of parrots to Picasso’s brain or a mysterious interior.  Singh mixes surrealism with logical systems,  observation with representations of life. It’s like playing a game or tracking the thoughts of mad artist-scientist. 

Singh sets up a drawing not only as a gesture, but also as a transmitter of thought processes. Referring to historical and contemporary qualities of daily life, he creates visual and mental maps of flows of ideas and information, where disparate associations allow the contemporary to reside on one plane.

Text by Weronika Trojanska

Alexandre Singh
The Pledge
The Drawing Center, New York
Until March 13, 2013

Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions (The Pledge- Simon Fujiwara), 2011. Framed inkjet ultrachrome archival prints and dotted pencil lines , #4 from a set of 40. Courtesy Sprueth Magers, Berlin and London. Art, Concept, Paris. Metro Pictures, New York. Monitor Gallery, Rome.

Hausstein’s Girl-Gang Bags

Viviane Hausstein at Le Coup. Photo © Amy Binding

Berlin’s newest and freshest designer, Viviane Hausstein, unveiled her new bag collection to a crowd of fashion enthusiasts and press at Berlin’s luxurious women’s shoe store, Le Coup. Surrounded by beautiful bags, shoes that make you go “ooh”, and flowing bubbly, Sleek spoke to Hausstein about the new collection, girl gangs, and life in 3D.

Your label is very new. How and when did it all begin?
The label really started in the middle of 2012 and it started with a girl gang actually! I had an art collective here called The Garden Berlin, and we did some acoustic concerts in Berlin and I thought about what we could do with that and where to take it. In our collective there was a photographer, a poet, an event manager, and then me, a fashion designer. That’s when I said to the girls that we need a gang item that we could each identify with, perhaps a little bit elitist… but nice. And that’s when I started to think about bags, especially for when we were cycling in Berlin.

With the first collection we collaborated with the store No. 74, and then yeah, it just grew and grew. Last year I had the idea to make it more high-end for this collection. Using beautiful quality, interesting materials, just a lot more luxurious.

What was the inspiration for this collection?
I was thinking a lot about the drawstring bag and how to combine it with a totally different material – either fur or leather, because the contrast is so big. Normally with that style of bag, it’s just polyester or cotton that’s used. That was the beginning of the collection. 

I think the most important mood for this collection and exhibition was 3D. The philosophy of my label is to figure out what happens with the touch of a bag, the tactile experience and the form, to become a 3D figure.

I see the drawstring bag as more function over form. Did you still want to maintain the practical use when creating your own version?
Definitely. The bags have always been so practical, and I didn’t want to change that. You can also either wear these as a clutch, as a backpack, or in multiple different styles. It’s up to you.

And all the bags are hand made?
Correct. The bags are all produced at a very small manufacturer’s here in Berlin, with fair trade conditions. That is very important to me.

Are the seven photographs that are being displayed inside important to the collection?
Definitely! I think Lina Grün is the most important part of the collective, as she is the photographer. It’s very cool to work with her, and when working on this collection we also talked about doing an exhibition with her work and my bags, and how we could combine the two.

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Mat Collishaw comments on financial crisis

Mat Collishaw, This is Not an Exit, 2013. Installation shot at Blain Southern. Image Courtesy of the Artist and Blain|Southern, Photographer Peter Mallet, 2013

Mat Collishaw’s second solo show at Blain Southern, London, entitled “This Is Not An Exist”, is a return to the medium of oil painting. The artist known for extracting beauty from the seemingly uncomfortable continues his play of illusion in which nothing is literal. Collishaw presents his first series of oil paintings and tackles issues surrounding the current financial crisis. The result is a conflation of illusion with delusion and reality with dreams, amounting to a multi-faceted body of work, where each painting is made to look like a blown up page of a magazine, used as a cocaine wrap. Sleek caught up with the artist at the show’s opening to find out more.

Sleek: Why did you choose the financial crisis as your topic?
Mat Collishaw:
I think it’s a malaise that percolates through everyone’s life at the moment, particularly in this country. It sets the tone for the time that we’re living in. It’s hard to ignore this bleak financial environment so it seemed appropriate to take it on but I thought that if I’m going to do it then I’m not going to do it directly or moralistically or [in a manner] that’s judgmental or boring in any way. The cocaine wraps were my Trojan horse to bring the idea in.

Explain the significance of the cocaine wraps.
Initially, I intended the show to look like a modernist painting show with abstract and pop-art paintings, then you get to realize that they’re are actually empty cocaine wraps, the remnants of a debauched night, the last thing that you have before you start looking into the abyss, and that naturally lends itself to the situation we are living in at the moment. We’ve binged, we spent on credit, we’re living in debt and we’ve finally got to that point where we realize there’s no more left.

Mat Collishaw Sinners 2012 Oil on canvas 225 x 225 cm. Image Courtesy of the Artist and Blain|Southern Photographer Matthew Hollow, 2012 © the artist

What role do illusions play in your latest series of work?
I was trying to get several different levels of illusions and delusion and combine them together. For example the paintings in the first room look like modernist abstractions but they are actually classic trompe l’oeil paintings – an illusion you get involved in. Drugs – another delusion, you think you can live forever, full of self-confidence. And again, the world of fashion and advertising with the delusion people are seduced by. Finally, credit is another delusion, believing there is more money than there actually is. 

Why did you decide to use oil on canvas?
I used to use them when I first came to London but I was dissuaded by the conceptual art staff at Goldsmiths College, where it was considered laughable to use any manual techniques. To go back it was always a challenge. It’s like if you’re an experimental musician, can you make a three-minute pop song that does the job? With oil on canvas can you make a painting, put it on the wall and let it do the job so it acknowledges art history and is interesting to look at? Also, before Christmas about three years ago, Damien Hirst gave me a huge easel with a big bow on it and about ten boxes full of hundreds of oil paints, brushes, palettes and white spirit. It just took me time to start thinking of a way to use them.

What message would you want people to take away from this exhibition?
A good artwork can be many things layered into one simple thing and to appreciate the play between that.

Mat Collishaw
Blain Southern, London
Until 30 March

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Dance with the Monsters

Arrrrgh ! Monstres de mode 2013 © Maxime Dufour photographies.

What do Bernhard Willhelm and Alexander McQueen have in common? Except for being contemporary fashion houses, they’re both renowned for creating boundary-breaking designs. Their unusual take on the industry expresses itself through subversion of the normative fashion codes: their shows turn the catwalk into a platform for art performances, while the garments themselves are more likely to suggest dreamy creations, rather than utilitarian wear. Such an avant-garde take on fashion and art deserves an exhibition on its own.

Angelos Tsourapas and Vassilis Zidianakis, Greek curators and founding members of the visual art collective Atopos, stood up to the task when they gathered the most eccentric and grotesque silhouettes of contemporary fashion design at la Gaîté Lyrique in Paris, for “Arrrgh Monsters in Fashion”, an exhibition held at the Parisian contemporary art venue until April 7.

Arrrrgh ! Monstres de mode 2013 © Maxime Dufour photographies.

Besides eccentricity, what were the criteria for choosing participating designers? “Our main idea behind the exhibition was linking fashion with character design”, explained Angelos who, together with his colleague Vassilis published the book “Not A Toy”, in collaboration with the Pictoplasma festival for character design. “Most of the designers didn’t even think about this resemblance at the first place, but they agreed with the concept.”

Among the 58 exhibited designers well worth watching, one could spot Charlie Le Mindu’s “Haute Coiffure”-silhouettes, Bernhard Willhelm’s ghost installation that once embellished Antwerp’s Fashion Museum MoMu, the hybrid creatures of the designer-duo On Aura Tout Vu, Walter Van Beirendonck’s walking cloud sculptures in collaboration with Erwin Wurm and Issey Miyake’s and Dai Fujiwara’s A-POC project. These are presented next to student works, such as Manon Kündig’s “Bowerbird” MA collection at Antwerp’s Fashion department, which played with a heavy layering of eye-popping prints.

Besides the renowned conceptual Antwerp school, London’s Central Saint Martins fashion department was also represented by promising newcomers, such as Toma Stenko, who showcased as piece of this BA-collection, “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” collection. Then, a room entirely set up with video screens showcased a ghoulish short movie by Dutch artist Bart Hess, while the floor is covered with the graffiti-like drawings of Greek artist George Tourlas and London-based fashion designer Craig Green provided the style and character design sculptures for the exhibition.

Arrrrgh ! Monstres de mode 2013 © Maxime Dufour photographies.

“It was our conscious decision to mix established designers with young ones, sometimes even fashion students”, continued Angelos. “The fashion and the art world are more likely to follow a certain type of hierarchy. We wanted to break with this attitude. There is no archetype beauty neither – the exhibition rather questions this identification and meaning of beauty in fashion. Art is art, that’s all”.

Art is art indeed, but it also seemed to be a form of entertainment for the younger ones: “We’ve had a positive feedback at the opening, but the best thing was the kids who where mesmerized by the exhibited fashion silhouettes. They went crazy!” smiled Angelos when asked about his first experience with the Parisian audience. “It’s of course due to the unusual, toy-like look of these fashion creations, but I think it is also due to the proximity”, added the curator. “The outfits aren’t exposed in a septic way, behind display glass for example, like they usually are in museums. You can actually stand close to them; you can mingle with the monsters. This makes the whole exhibition experience much more lively and authentic”, added the curator.

Finally, one cannot ignore the meaning of Greek art initiatives at the moment: “Atopos is based in Athens, but we have a lot of problems working there or finding cultural support at the moment. Not only because of the critical financial situation, but people just deal with other, existential problems on a daily basis. It is hard to focus on art or even spend your money on it, when you barely know how to feed your kids or maintain your business.” Aren’t the monsters in fashion a great form of escapism?

Gaite Lyrique

Arrrrgh ! Monstres de mode 2013 © Maxime Dufour photographies.

Franco Hearts Art

James Franco at Peres Projects, Berlin. Photo © Przemek Pyszczek

James Franco explores our love of him and his love of us, artists.

James Franco’s face, usually found adorning Gucci ads, movies and celebrity gossip sites, is seen everywhere in Gay Town, his second solo show with Berlin’s Peres Projects Gallery. Its features are encountered behind sunglasses, bushy beards and masks of his own face. Yet Franco’s densely packed multi-media show is a rarity – a truly non-vanity project by a genuine celebrity. 

Rather than cash in on name recognition to draw crowds to DIY Cezannes (a la Bob Dylan, Anthony Hopkins and Sly Stallone), Franco responds to celebrity’s centrality in contemporary art’s discourse by using his insider position to offer a special perspective on fandom and stardom. With humble nods to Alex Bag, Cindy Sherman, Douglas Gordon, Paul McCarthy and other artists revered for critically dissecting Hollywood stereotypes, Franco creates a show about his interest in our interest in “James Franco.” As he explains, “To make a self-portrait of my public persona, instead of me in my bedroom, is to make my art about something larger.”  

Huge in scope and hugely accessible for viewers and potential collectors, the exhibition consisted of 500 rugs, each one priced at $500. Many rugs present screenshots of fans’ blogs, gossip sites and Huffington Post slams of Franco’s social life, sex life and intellectual endeavors, over which Franco scrawls defensive notes. Others puckishly play with fans’ assumptions about Franco. Featuring a mysterious blond girl as his paramour, they present a straight bad-boy lover image of Franco that is counterbalanced by the show’s title and a brilliant low-fi video reenactment of one fan’s Slash Fiction fantasies of Franco having sex with Spider Man and prison inmates. 

At Franco’s press conference, German and visiting journalists asked about his sexuality and drug habits, thereby proving his premise correct. We can’t separate Franco’s roles or his public persona from his true self as an actor, artist and man. And that recognition itself  is fertile material for art – which only someone with Franco’s status and intelligence can properly mine. As one rug, hidden behind a plywood silhouette of a house instructs, “Cindy Sherman is not recognised at her own show.”

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Wrangler’s Cowboy Shirt

The story behind this iconic Wrangler shirt dates back to the early 50’s, when legendary cowboy, Ben Lichtenstein decided to swap the traditional shirt buttons for poppers, as a way to stop bull horns getting caught in the shirt. 

Don’t worry if wrestling bulls is not your thing though, this shirt is also perfect for the oh-so-popular double-denim outfits that are rife at the moment. For your chance to get the rancho look, just email Don´t forget to enclose your size and your address.

Edouard Baribeaud

Edouard Baribeaud stands in front of Frühling, 2012. Gouache on paper. Each 38 x 36 cm. Photo by Maxime Ballesteros

Making pages in the book of dreams

French-born Edouard Baribeaud’s pen-to-paper worlds are testament to a process that while ancient, still holds relevance. Working mainly from his imagination, his meticulous aesthetic draws together painting, collage, engraving and graphic elements. His close attention to technique, composition, overlap and layers is owed to his study of printmaking and illustration.

Located in the complex previously occupied by Haunch of Venison near Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof, the walls of his vast studio are covered in neatly laid-out gouache on paper drawings, and one whole wall is given over to windows and desks. As well as having a clear and concise appreciation of how to accumulate his drawings into series, he also makes artist books. “With drawings you can always choose a new ways to present the images in a gallery, but in a book you have to choose one way. I like to work in both, sometimes more freely: it’s like finding a rhythm. Working in an artist’s book is like cutting a film.”

Some of the works tacked up for display are part of his recent series, “Hic Sunt Leones”, a title that draws on the Latin “Here Be Dragons” which is used to refer to unexplored territories. It references the cartographic practice of placing mythological creatures in uncharted areas. This interest in “terra incognita” led him to consider where the uncharted territories lie in a time of Google maps and satellite imagery. “Maybe the unknown places are only in your head?” he wonders.

Baribeaud addresses reality in colour. In his new large-scale work “Frühling” he responds to the revolution in the Middle East and the proliferation of mobile phone footage, most recently exemplified by the death of Colonel Gaddafi. Baribeaud considered, “rebellion is very old, it is just the technique that changes. I wanted to confront the old imagery with imagery from today and confront the occidental world with the oriental world… it’s very influenced by music also, a bit like a cacophony.”

“Frühling” does have that effect, a flattened collage of varying styles influenced by news and pop culture including a reference to the Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus”. “I think it’s interesting that when you’re reading the news on Syria next to advertising on Louis Vuitton or Nike, in the end all this information is flattening. At the beginning people thought that the earth was flat, then the earth was round, then came Google Maps and it’s flat again.”

Historically, the religious triptych held a central colour panel opened for big occasions; Baribeaud applies the same logic. His pop-up window-style, multi-image central panel is contrasted with the sober black and white reserved for the outer triptych panels. Here he employs images of a monochrome, mountainous utopia where one image in particular is taken from the Paramount movie logo. “Hollywood was selling dreams, utopias,” he notes. 

Perhaps surprisingly for an artist that draws so strongly on his imagination, Baribeaud rarely dreams, So when he does, it is important for him. As is the flight into the real world. “I work a lot in the studio, but it’s sometimes very important to go out and confront the work with reality, and video is a good way to do that. You have to choose the order of images, and there is a time and sound element.”

Unseen visions come to him from pop culture, news, dreams and, most importantly, find a way to solidify and become concrete through the linear renderings direct from his mind’s eye. 

Text by Susanna Davies-Crook 

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