How Flora Miranda is Translating our Data Into Luxury Fashion

We live in a time where our data is constantly being collected, sold, and used to define our consumer interests. Products are being created to fit our needs and desires, as suggested by our personal data. We give away this intangible material (and arguably, part of ourselves) without even thinking about it, hitting the “Accept” button on the Terms and Conditions without a second thought. But what if our information was seen as real, tangible, physical material; a product in itself? Can our information be directly translated into a luxury product, unique to our own digital identity?

This is the question posed by Austrian fashion designer, Flora Miranda, who has created quite a name for herself in avant garde fashion design. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Miranda worked in the atelier for revered designer, Iris Van Herpen. Miranda takes an interdisciplinary approach to science, art and fashion, which organically informs her collections and ideas. As part of this year’s HKW Forecast Forum, Miranda has created “IT Pieces”, blending her critical approaches to data with fashion design. As part of the project, she’s produced an application that designs one-off knitwear based on each user’s online behaviour and digital footprint. The knitwear is emblazoned with lyrics by Finnish musician Jaako Eino Kalevi (who collaborated on the project); which lyrics appear on the garment is determined by the personal data-crunching application. The slogan on each piece of knitwear is distinct, resulting in a bespoke garment designed, in effect, by your digital habits.

Miranda realised “IT Pieces” with her Forecast Forum mentor Max Wolf (an innovator in media system design), but the overarching idea had been percolating for some time. Miranda explains that the collections she was working on when she graduated from Antwerp Fashion Academy “explored quantum physics and teleportation, and the idea that we are essentially made from information”. Her most notable previous collection, “_sidereal_ethereal_immatereal_”, is a material exploration of teleportation. The pieces made of blue and black strips of leather notion towards moving a “body from one place to another in a physically immaterial way”. These explorations of (im)materiality led to the conception of “IT Pieces”. Miranda became fascinated by the question: What if that data is actually seen as material? “It’s not visible, but it is material, it is information. Could I give this information to a machine and the machine transform it into something material?” “IT Pieces” reverses and complements “_sidereal_ethereal_immatereal_” — by transforming data into something tangible, Miranda makes the immaterial material.

By transforming data into something users can wear and brazenly display, “IT Pieces” also questions the overwhelmingly negative discourse around data collection and its transparency. This sense of unease around data collection is particularly prevalent in Europe. The EU famously sued data behemoth Google for €2.42 billion for abusing its dominance, while a culture of VPN blockers and high security measures has spread in an attempt to keep our virtual information confidential. But data is a double-edged sword, and there are countless initiatives currently using data to change the world for the better. Engaging with this idea was paramount to Miranda, who highlighted “open data” as a theme of her work. Indeed, open data in particular has led to innovation in an array of fields in recent years. London open data initiative Placr revolutionised transport apps with real time schedules, while Trafford Innovation and Intelligence Lab was able to remarkably improve cancer screening rates using open data. Burkina Faso held its first ever transparent democratic presidential election in 2015; thanks to open data, the results were announced within 24 hours of polling stations closing. In sub-saharan Africa, such a fast turnaround time was completely unprecedented. As Miranda explains, “It makes sense to track someone’s consumer, behaviour because we can learn a lot from it” — the problems arise when that data is misused. “If you want to create something with data, you need a certain amount of access. But there is always a line when you think, yeah, okay, now it’s being misused. Finding that line is something we still have to figure out”.

Unlike many artists and designers who are working with technology and science, it was important for Miranda to still bring a human and emotional element into this work. “I had the idea to make a fan T-shirt that carries lyrics. By having the lyrics generated from what you are posting, it gains many more dimensions”. This led Miranda into the collaboration with musician Jaako Eino Kalevi. She contacted him because she loved his music and more importantly his lyrics. With Miranda’s interdisciplinary approach to her work, Jaako seemed the perfect fit. ”I think he has a really beautiful aesthetic he has surrounded himself with. It is of course important for me that the visual language fits, it’s not only about the music and in fashion it’s not only about the fashion, it’s about the whole world that you create”

In this first prototype, Miranda is only applying linguistic analytics to user’s Facebook data. However, the possibilities for expanding the datasets — and how they’re manifested physically — are vast. Miranda’’s work invites us to think of our interaction and the connections between the virtual and material world in new ways. With “IT Pieces”, we can begin to explore how these two opposing worlds translate into each other. To see “IT Pieces”, head to Forecast Forum Festival at HKW this weekend. A live performance by Jaako Eino Kalevi will be held tonight, at which we hope to see some of the shirts in action. If you can’t make it tonight, you can plug in your data and customise your own T-shirt on her website. and


The HKW Forecast Forum is Running this weekend 20 – 21 October 

Odely Teboul Strikes Out With A Kitschy, Glamourous Solo Collection For Lou de Betoly

French-born, Berlin-based designer Odely Teboul launched her semi-eponymous brand today. “Lou de Betoly” has a deeper meaning beyond just being an anagram of the designers name;  “deux bêtes au lit” (say it out loud and you’ll get it) translates as “two beasts in a bed”. Speaking to Tagesspiegel, Teboul explained that she sees the two beasts as a metaphor for “the inner struggle of every human being”. Her inspiration for Lou de Betoly is drawn from human experience. Her website lists her primary interests: Chaos, Nostalgia, Decadence, Extravagance, Surrealism, and Onerism — in that order. A self-described “aristocratic punk”, Teboul draws upon the weird and wonderful to craft beautiful and surprising creations. 

Previously, Teboul was one half of now-defunct and sorely-missed Berlin label Augustin Teboul. For a total of 12 seasons, Annelie Augustin and Odely Teboul were a must-see event on the Berlin Fashion Week schedule. Their highly respected brand was known for its subtle minimal shapes mixed with a chaotic and nostalgic aesthetic. Teboul has taken these elements and refined them for Lou de Betoly, creating a visual palette which is entirely her own. 

The new SS18 collection stands out in the somewhat bleak and black Berlin fashion scene. It delicately toes the line between punk and kitsch, and blends sportswear with classic cuts. Teboul plays with seemingly incompatible styles, all whilst keeping traditional craftsmanship and attention to detail at the brand’s core. The clothes are well-constructed and cool, and encapsulate the grime and glamour of Berlin. Glitter, fluff and small flashes of skin are the most frequent themes throughout the collection, with mesh and knitwear at the core of most garments. The pieces are reminiscent of early Vivienne Westwood; and much like the Queen of Punk, Teboul is not afraid to comment on the corporate side of the fashion industry. In her interview with the Tagesspiegel, she remarked “in the foreground, everything is all about marketing and sales. Fashion is a balancing act between creativity and capitalism”.

To launch the label, she is holding an invite-only exhibition centring around two questions. “What if emotional intelligence would determine the value of beauty?” and “What if creativity and fantasy defined political correctness?” These two buzzword-filled questions focus on an important systemic issue of vanity. Fashion as an industry primarily focuses on outer beauty, and whilst there are plenty of designers showcasing diversity and ‘plus-sized’ models, fashion as we know it would not exist without the competitive nature so many brands reinforce by telling women they’re not quite perfect. Most brands inherently pushing an ideology of beauty on to the consumer, an ideology which they may not fit into. The Lou de Betoly brand and ethos look into these issues, and encourage a different narrative of craftsmanship and looking within to find beauty.

Teboul’s collection will be available from select fashion outlets in the coming month. To stay up-to-date with her work and new collections, follow her on Instagram. For more images of the new collection, please visit the Lou de Betoly website.

6 Design Innovations With Speed At Their Core

This year, BMW released the BMW Concept 8 Series, which combines peerless design with breathtaking speeds for an unparalleled driving experience. This unabashedly modern and athletic model is slated for a 2018 release. To celebrate, SLEEK will be presenting a series of features around innovative design and speed. In this first installment, we’ll be showcasing six designs which push the boundaries of speed in different but equally intriguing ways — including, of course, the groundbreaking BMW Concept 8 Series.

We live an accelerating present, in which profound technological advances are the norm. Each year brings new innovations that are faster and more advanced than those preceding them. It’s incredible to imagine that we’re now taking over 1000% more photos each year than we were at the turn of this millennium, and that every two minutes, we take more pictures than ever existed in the 1800s. Computer processing has come along, too: today’s 4.0 GHz Intel Core i7 is 84 times faster than the year 2000’s 1.5 GHz Intel Pentium 4. We produce 3,733 times more data every year, which we can download faster: a 5 minute MP3 would have taken an astonishing 12 minutes to download on a 56 Kbps dial-up connection, compared to a single second today. We’re moving faster than ever, and in 2017 our pace of living feels particularly breathless.
Inspired by the conceptual speed of the BMW Concept 8 Series, we’re taking a closer look at six design innovations from 2017 that capture the speed of the present moment. Although entirely different in their execution, each of these technology-driven projects foreground speed and agility to an almost dizzying degree. Whether we’ll be bounding along on superfast sneakers, paying for our groceries with a single glance, or cheerily cruising through a Hyperloop, each innovation redefines what it means to move.

Nike ZoomX VaporFly Elite

Nike Vaporfly Elite. Image: Nike

While most of us would be satisfied completing a marathon at all, world-record-holder Eliud Kipchoge managed all 26 exhausting miles in just 2 hours and 25 seconds. Helping him along the way were his bespoke Nike ZoomX VaporFly Elite, a super lightweight running shoe designed specifically for lightning-fast marathoning. Weighing in at just 6.5 ounces, the supershoe features a tapered heel to prevent drag, ZoomX cushioning, and a lightweight carbon-fibre midsole to drive the runner towards the finishing line. The only problem: it could be too good. Some critics even claim that the shoe gives marathon runners an unfair advantage.

Zaha Hadid’s Naples High-Speed Station


Zaha Hadid Architects have never shied away from ambitious projects, and the new Naples station is bang on brand for the starchitecture firm. Fifteen years in the making, phase one was finally completed in June. This impressive new “gateway to the South” aims to link the two historically distinct sides of Italy via a high speed rail network. Located next to Mount Vesuvius (of Ancient Pompeii fame), the serpentine structure was designed to mirror the volcano’s flow of lava. This is amplified by its interior structure, which is elevated by a bone-white steel rib cage. Along with its curved concrete and glass cladding, the building is uncompromisingly future-oriented.

Face++ facial recognition AI

Face++ interface. Credit: Face++

For those who prefer their futurism a little more Black Mirror, there’s Face++. This facial recognition software tracks 83 distinct points on your face for precision identity verification. Advancements in AI and deep learning mean that your face can now be identified in even the grainiest of images. The Beijing-based startup has already licensed its product to several Chinese apps, including mobile payment app Alipay, where you can verify payments with your phone camera. While Face++ is already speeding up secure transactions, its potential invasiveness has also ignited fierce debates about privacy.

MIT’s Swish Chair

SWISH as a Prototype. Credit: Carlo Ratti Associati for Cassina.

Developed by Carlo Ratti, director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab, the Swish chair is the world’s first “programmable stool” — and it certainly hasn’t compromised on style. Designed entirely by algorithm, each of the 27 individual wooden pieces interlock via a complex interplay of hinges and joints. The slats can kinetically adjust into different shapes with all the dexterity of a gymnast. Because of the complex geometry of the chair’s moving parts, it would have taken a human designer an unimaginable amount of time — and no doubt much frustration — to create the same product. With the algorithms, however, it was a walk in the park.

Hyperloop One


Although many of our initial glimpses at Living in the Future have been pretty underwhelming so far, Hyperloop One hits much closer to the mark. Dropping vehicles into an underground tunnel with an electromagnetically levitated pod, a vacuum sealed tube will then propel users to their destination at speeds of up to 670 mph — as fast as a commercial plane. Designed to alleviate the heavy congestion of LA’s highways, Hyperloop travel will also completely eliminate pedestrian collisions. Hyperloop One’s first test track was completed back in March, and vehicular tests officially began in May.

BMW Concept 8 Series

BMW Concept 8 Series. Image: BMW.

The BMW Concept 8 Series is uncompromisingly focused on speed. The new concept car from BMW is both muscular and lightning-fast, taking its cue from BMW’s extensive heritage in motorsports — and, of course, the iconic 8 Series, which ruled the road from 1989 to 1999. The BMW Concept 8 Series continues this heritage of sports performance; the car’s low silhouette is boldly athletic, from the long bonnet to the dynamic flanks. Its low-slung silhouette and contoured air vents give it an unambiguously race-car feel. The interior, meanwhile, is sculpted from carbon fibre and red-stitched Merino leather, and aggressively points to a single direction in the distance. The BMW Concept 8 Series will have you hurtling towards your destination before you’re able to catch your breath; 2018 can’t come soon enough.

How Phoebe Philo’s Céline Brought Female Empowerment Back To High Fashion

Rumours that Phoebe Philo is leaving Celine have been circulating in the fashion world for more than a year. Now, however, there seems to be more ground for these speculations. Even though no official statement has been issued from LVMH, sources from within the conglomerate have ostensibly confirmed that designers are being interviewed for Philo’s position.

Backstage Summer 18 Collection #CelineSummer18 #celine

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Even considering the revolving door of designer exits and appointments, Philo’s exit is still a shock. Having arrived at Celine in 2008, Philo is one of the longest-lasting Creative Directors in the world of luxury fashion. Not only that: It’s almost impossible to imagine Celine without Philo. Before her appointment, the Parisian brand was, in the words Sarah Mower, “one of those minor-league brands that, in absence of any fixed identity of its own, is destined to play along with the trends in order to keep up its claim to being part of things”. During her tenure at Celine, Philo managed to forge an identity for a brand which had previously only played catch-up. Plus, the numbers speak for themselves: Celine’s annual sales rocketed from approximately $235 million to over $800 million during Philo’s directorship.

During her time at Celine, Philo created a consistent and covetable wardrobe for the contemporary woman. An outspoken feminist, Philo has always criticised the sexualisation of the female body in fashion. Her carefully curated, minimalist and perfectly cut collections gave “power to women”. Here’s how Philo wove female empowerment into the very fabric of Celine.

Empowering wardrobe

Céline Winter 17? Collection ? #celinewinter17 ?#celine #?w?inter17 ?#?p?fw ?#?l?ook?16

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“I am not a big fan of women being sexualised through clothes”, Philo stated in an interview with Vogue’s Alexandra Schulman in 2014. This distaste for sexualisation is clear from her very first collection. Instead of following trends, she developed a consistent vocabulary of Celine-isms that she has been returning to through years. Celine’s camel coats, wrap skirts, leather T-shirts and asymmetric dresses have come to symbolise contemporary elegance.

Backstage Summer 18 Collection #CelineSummer18 #celine

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In Philo’s design language, minimalism has always been synonymous with empowerment. “Strong. Powerful. Reduced.” was the name of her AW 2010 collection that consisted of navy-hued funnel-neck coats and sharp, Helmut Lang-esque separates. Such garments were designed with a very literal no-frills attitude; they allow the wearer to indulge in elegance and style, but without compromising practicality. Embrace fashion, Celine’s clothes say, but don’t let it get in the way of you living your damn life. The smart daytime wardrobe that Philo introduced was intended to suit the contemporary woman: a professional, a city-dweller, and a mother. It’s no coincidence that the soundtrack chosen for SS 2017 was a recording of far-off urban noises with children’s voices in the background.

Empowering campaigns

Celine’s campaigns of the last 10 years have been as minimalist, sharp and stylish as Philo’s collections. Juergen Teller is a frequent collaborator with the brand — his series with Daria Werbowy in particular truly captured the essence of Celine. The model — who enjoys a successful career, but maintains a strictly private personal life —  could be considered the ultimate Celine icon.

Céline Spring 2015 Campaign

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Another Celine campaign which will go down in history is the Spring 2015 with Joan Didion. By choosing the then-79-year-old Didion as the face for brand, Philo not only defied the impossible standards of the fashion industry, she also reinforced Celine’s reputation as the fashion house for the highbrow, intellectual woman. Didion wasn’t chosen because she was a pretty, sexy clotheshorse; she was chosen because she’s Joan fucking Didion. Celine’s priorities — and the priorities they want their consumers to espouse — were clear.

Empowering accessories

Backstage Summer 18 Collection #CelineSummer18 #celine #pfw

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Arriving at Celine in 2008, Philo put an end to the era of painfully ostentatious “It” bags, elevating the concept with clear-cut, unfussy designs. Her now iconic slouchy luggage bag stands as a symbol for Philo’s design philosophy: understated chic, but always in the most pragmatic way.

Another view. Céline Spring 17 Campaign #celine #spring17 #campaign

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Similarly, Philo can be credited with subverting the “pretty shoe” trend. Famously a fan of Stan Smith sneakers, Philo also championed the wedge, the “furkenstock” (fur-lined sandal) and, most notably, the glove shoe. The latter, a slouchy leather design with an elasticated opening, has since become a favourite of conceptual designers. You can see echoes of this design in the more recent collections by Joseph, Helmut Lang and Acne Studios.

So, if this is indeed goodbye Phoebe: farewell. You’ll be sorely missed. We hope your successor keeps the sartorial needs and demands of real women at the heart of everything Celine does.

I Spent Four Hours Inside Ed Atkins’ “Old Food” Show Hunting the Mysterious Shit Sandwich

Ed Atkins “Old Food”, 2017

At only 35 years old, Ed Atkins is already something of a luminary in the contemporary
arts scene. He has exhibited in the Serpentine Gallery, the Hirschorn, MMK, and
currently has an exhibition, entitled “Old Food”, at Martin-Gropius- Bau here in Berlin.
Most of Atkins’ work consists of digitally rendered video environments, where human
avatars live out Samuel Beckett-esque scenes interspersed with printed or spoken poetry.
He buys the avatars pre-built and then animates them with facial recognition software,
often blending expressive signifiers in jarring and disturbing ways (imagine weeping eyes
and a gentle smile). “Old Food” consists of five rooms filled with screens showing
Atkins’ work: videos running on loops of varying lengths. Huge racks of old costumes from the Deutsche Oper create a corridor system that lends a bit of dimensional order to the space.

The poster for the exhibit shows a sandwich with tomato, lettuce and cheese, topped with
a bunch of babies, and finished off with a big brown splotch of what one can only assume
is shit. The first time I went to see the show, I couldn’t find the sandwich anywhere, and I
left with the suspicion that it was buried somewhere within a video loop. What if the
video loops weren’t as short as they seemed, and were in fact hours long, with footage
you could only see every few hours? Sleek Mag sent me back to spend four hours inside
the exhibit, to crack the secrets of “Old Food” and record my experience. The following
is a diary of those four hours.

12:22 –I get to the gallery.

There are two screens in the first room, the first of which is long and vertical and
alternates between three animated figures – an old monk, a baby, and a young boy
dressed in a garish purple & orange Victorian outfit with frills on the wrists.
The second screen is something like 4 x 6 meters, and shows a mostly bare, white room,
with a piano against the left wall and a big round hole in the right wall. The scale feels
pretty close to life-sized. There’s hay scattered on the ground in front of the hole, and a
creepy dragging, clunking noise coming from outside it.
Nothing happens for about ten minutes.

12:48 – The maudlin boy jumps in through the hole in the wall.

He staggers over to the piano, sits down, and starts to play.

The music is very slow. A plaque explains that the entire piece consists of only 24 notes,
each spaced eight seconds apart. Eight seconds is the amount of time that it takes for the
human auditory system to “forget” a note (we experience melodies as strings of
connected notes). So the process of listening to these notes, and failing to string them
together, is itself a process of forgetting.

12:53 –The song finishes, and the screen goes black.

When it lights up again, the screen shows the bare white space again. I walk to the next
room. This one has two screens, side-by- side, each the same size as the one in the room

The left screen is on a loop where every minute, the maudlin boy appears on the crest of
the hill and staggers down the path and off the left side of the screen. On the right screen,
a television sits on top of the piano, playing the movie Frankenstein.

13:04 – Two things happen.

Instead of the boy coming over the hill, this time it’s a
giant baby, suspended in the air, with its feet buffing along the ground. On the far
left side of the screen, a figure in a cloak starts dragging itself along the path,
towards the piano in the trees.

The baby floats into the cabin and starts flailing around like a terrible puppet, scattering
books and glass decanters. By the time it stops, the cloaked guy has gotten to the piano
in the trees and flung one arm onto the keys. The baby glides down in front of the
cabin’s piano, and they both start to play.

The song is the same as the one in the first room, and the sound between the rooms
bleeds enough that you can tell the videos are playing at the same time. They’re
synchronous, if not in technical harmony.

Ed Atkins “Old Food”, 2017

13:09 – The screens go black.

Still no sandwich.

There’s a sort of fade-in effect as light filters back in, the television comes back on, and
the boy starts loping down the hill once more.

13:19 – The baby / cloaked figure thing happens again, and the song starts to play.

13:25 –The screens go black.

So the videos are on a roughly 15-minute loop, and for the first ten minutes basically
nothing happens, you’re staring at static space. The mini-loops (the boy running through
the field) disguise the larger ones, allowing the viewer to believe that they’ve seen the
full loop after just a minute. Plenty of people pause for only a moment or two before
moving on, totally missing the action.

The fact that Atkins lines the videos up with one another means you need at least twenty
minutes to actually see both of them, half of which you’ll spend watching an empty
room. There seems to be symmetry between this and the slow notes of the song — a
sense of things forgotten, or never known.

13:49 – I’m pretty sure one of the guards is watching me.

I’ve been in the same room for almost an hour, so I guess that makes sense. Maybe
lingering for too long is a red flag to art guards. Maybe it indicates you’re getting ready
to attack the art, like steeling yourself before a dive.

I move on. The next two rooms both have single vertical screens, one with a baby
standing in the rain, and one with the monk figure.

14:23 – That guard is totally following me.

Every time I move from one room to the next, he does the same. A couple of times we
make vaguely chilly eye-contact. Though, then again, you probably don’t get to see
much action as a museum guard, and I’m as good a chance at generating some drama as
he’ll get today. I wonder what these guards think about the art they protect, and how that
changes after being around it for days, weeks, months.

14:29 – The screens go black.

I go to the last room, where there’s another vertical screen. This one features the maudlin
boy again, sitting on a stool, facing away. There’s hay scattered on the ground and the
same weird lurching sound from in the first big room, so maybe this is supposed to be the
space outside the hole in the wall. Once a minute, the boy turns around and gasps.

14:34 – This time when the boy turns around, he looks at the viewer and asks, “Sir,
who is all the dead?”

14:50 – “Sir, who is all the dead?”

Ed Atkins “Old Food”, 2017

So this video is on a fifteen minute loop too. At one point the boy jumps off the stool and
runs off-screen. I get the idea that maybe this is where he comes from when he jumps
through the hole in the first room, like it’s a circuit, so I wait for him to run offscreen
again and then jog back to the first room. The security guard follows me through two
rooms and then gives up.

When I get to the first room the screen is still showing an empty space, no kid. So there’s
no “larger” circuit – or whatever that circuit is, it wasn’t designed with a temporal

15:38 – Three and a half hours and still no sandwich.

I decide to Hail Mary this, and ask a guard if they’ve seen it. It turns out the guards haven’t seen the sandwich either. Also, they’re all wearing
little green ear-plugs.

16:11 – Everyone seems to have gotten the idea of lying down in front of the screens,
which is good.

My hip kind of hurts after standing for so long, so I decide to sit down, in front of the
screen with the hillside. In the actual outdoors, the sun comes out from behind a cloud,
and the light in the gallery warms and lifts. I wonder for a second whether it might filter
through the back of the screen and show as a ray in the digital field. And no, the screen is
pretty thick, light wouldn’t do that. Still, the doubling effect is felt, that blurring of where
one thing ends and the other begins.

Ed Atkins “Old Food”, 2017

Atkins doesn’t seem to be all that interested in making one coherent point with Old Food.
Rather, he establishes certain thematic nodes (embalmment, memory, disembodiment),
and lets the juxta-/ contraposition do the rest of the work. It doesn’t seem like there’s a
loop any bigger than the 15-minute ones. I guess I’m bothered by that, and not totally
sure where to place the idea that the main image advertising the show never actually
appears in it. A charitable reading might nod to the way this echoes the concepts of
identifiers and forgetting, but I think it’s more likely that he just didn’t find a place for
the sandwich clip to fit.
Fortunately, that doesn’t interrupt the show’s emotional core: a deeply felt exploration of
remembrance, memory, traces of things past. I find myself repeating that line — “Sir,
who are all the dead?” It brings to mind all of the things that have happened that we’ll
never have any idea about. This is balanced against Atkins’ avatars, which seem to be
pretty much the exact opposite of “all the dead” – though they’ve never had bodies, or
lives, they exist, and we have to deal with them. They take up emotional space in the
present in a way that the dead (or most of them) can’t. And that leaves us — the living
ones, imagining the dead while watching these avatars — to find ourselves somewhere in

Old Food is showing at the Martin-Gropius- Bau through 7 January 2018.


In Vegas, Jimi Urquiaga Celebrates Family, Unity and Inspirational Women


All clothing models own

Las Vegas is still in the process of healing. Two weeks ago, a terrorist opened fire on concert-goers in the city, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured, and nothing has felt normal since. Vegas’ casinos are reporting drastic declines in visitors. The infamous “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” slogan is scarcely uttered. A city which was notorious for its flamboyance and vibrant party scene remains strangely quiet.

Megan (left) wears coat and boots by Kenzo. Jasselyn (right) wears jacket, shorts and boots by Kenzo.

What communities require to heal after tragedy is a sense of unity, belonging, and — however banal it might sound — love. This is exactly the sentiment that is revealed in the work of Las Vegas-based stylist Jimi Urquiaga, for whom Nevada’s capital city is a constant source of inspiration. Behind the city’s glamorous and reckless image, there has always been a beating heart of families, communities, friends and kindred spirits. It’s this raw vein of connection that Urquiaga’s work exposes.

Made in collaboration with photographer Alexander Saladrigas, Urquiaga’s “La Familia Urquiaga” is a moving tribute to his family and friends. In bold colours and warm hues, the series portrays “subjects that I’ve found beautiful since the beginning of my life”, Urquiaga states. Urquiaga’s many aunts, grandmothers, cousins and friends are featured in classic Las Vegas locales ­ – at casino slot machines, next to opulent sculptures, under Vegas’ bright blue skies.

Left: Megan wears jacket, shorts and boots by Kenzo; Yaselin wears coat and boots by Kenzo. Right: Yanaisi wears coat, turtle neck and heels by Max Mara and hat by Coach; Yasnai wears coat by Dries Van Noten, heels by Max Mara and hat by Coach; Isabella wears skirt and heels by Max Mara, hat by Coach and coat by Maria Cornejo.

The humorous and warm-hearted portraits are accompanied by two “love letters” Jimi Urquiaga wrote. The first is addressed to all of the women in his family; the second is a personal tribute to his Abuela Sonia, who is currently battling Alzheimer’s. The tenderness that permeates the series and the deeply personal subject matter make “La Familia Urquiaga” an unusually emotional fashion editorial. Given the current situation in Vegas — and, indeed, our wider political climate — this sense of unity is sorely needed.

Left: Molly wears coat by Versace Trench; John wears coat by Philipp Plein. Right: Encarnacion wears coat by Miu Miu, coat by Issey Miyake and purse by Kenzo.
Olga wears coat and skirt by Miu Miu and purse by Kenzo.

”You are a force. There are few people on this earth that have the capability to move mountains, and you are one of those people” – Letter to Sonja by Jimi Urquiaga


Olga wears coat by Kenzo; Encarnacion wears coat by Miu Miu and coat by Issey Miyake.

“I know that no matter how bad the Alzheimers gets, you’re still in there. I hope that i’ve made you proud, and I want you to know that I will never stop until I reach greatness. I will apply everything you’ve taught me to my life, and i’m going to make you proud. Through photography and fashion, i’m going to continue telling your story. I hope that it becomes like a time capsule, so that the younger generations in our family and my own children will know what kind of inspiring and powerful women we came from.” – Letter to Sonja by Jimi Urquiaga

Encarnacion wears coat by Miu Miu and coat by Issey Miyake; Olga wears coat by Miu Miu and purse by Kenzo.
Molly wears coat by Versace Trench; John wears coat by Philipp Plein.

“You all are the cornerstones of this family. You are the foundation that has allowed his family to grow upward and onward. It leaves me speechless when I take a moment to think about you being the rocks of our households, and the amazing feat of carrying the weight of our family on your shoulders” – A Letter to the Women in my Family by Jimi Urquiaga

Neven wears jeans by Guess Jeans and pants by Kenzo; Gianni wears jeans by Guess Jeans, jacket by Kenzo, belt and shoes are model’s own; Derek’s clothes are model’s own; Isaac wears jeans by Guess Jeans, pants by Kenzo, belt and shoes are model’s own.
Left: Angela wears dress and shoes by Mulberry Right: Keith wears shirt, blazer and pants by Vivienne Westwood. Socks and shoes are model’s own.
Keith wears shirt, blazer and pants by Vivienne Westwood. Socks and shoes are model’s own.

“I had an amazing childhood and it’s seriously a testament to the hard work of these women: the women who made hard work look easy. The women who showered me with abundant love and filled my heart” – A Letter to the Women in my Family by Jimi Urquiaga

Yanaisi wears coat, turtle neck and heels by Max Mara and hat by Coach. Yasnai wears coat by Dries Van Noten, heels by Max Mara and hat by Coach. Isabella wears skirt and heels by Max Mara, hat by Coach and coat by Maria Cornejo.

“I grew up in a household built on hard work of men, but kept up by the blood, sweat and tears that the women in my life gave and continue to give today” – A Letter to the Women in my Family by Jimi Urquiaga

Yanaisi wears coat, turtle neck and heels by Max Mara and hat by Coach. Yasnai wears coat by Dries Van Noten, heels by Max Mara and hat by Coach. Isabella wears skirt and heels by Max Mara, hat by Coach and coat by Maria Cornejo.

KaDaWe’s “Vote for Fashion” Winner William Fan Talks China Town, Berlin and Alexander McQueen

For the fifth year running, KaDeWe offered one fledgling designer the chance to be stocked in their world-renowned store via the “Vote for Fashion” competition. Along with Vogue Deutschland and Der Berliner Mode Salon, KaDeWe exhibited the hopefuls in the Women’s Designer section of their store, timing the contest to coincide with Berlin Fashion Week. This year’s competition also had an added edge. This year’s contest had an audience award; the general public could vote by heading in store and deciding which of the selected designers deserved the coveted spot. After weeks of voting, the people chose their champion: German designer and Alexander McQueen alumnus William Fan.

“Biography is the main theme in my work,” he told SLEEK. In his old collections and winning designs for KaDaWe alike, it’s clear that Fan’s Hong Kong heritage is the anchoring of his eponymous brand. “It was all about China Town and the myth behind it”, the designer said of his latest collection. “It’s a fictional image Chinese people create to build up an extreme image of the Asian culture”. With items like a sea-green boyfriend coat and a beige jumper proudly emblazoned with an embroidered 3D rose, the collection appeals to the masses whilst staying true to his original ethos. Fan finds inspiration in many aspects of his life. “The first picture I had on my mood board was a window with Beijing ducks in the display,” he affirmed. Heritage formed the foundation for the designs, which were built upon by exploring the theme of workwear and uniforms. “It doesn’t matter if it’s hospital gear, waitress costumes, or pilot suits, I feel very attracted by simple working clothes”, Fan elaborated. The William Fan brand is simple and takes great care in detail. His KaDeWe collection is no different, maintaining the three elements most integral to his work: “A universal wardrobe, eurasian aesthetics and a lot of humour”.

“Designer meets department store” is an idea which seldom leads to innovation; luckily, this is not the case here. “Vote for Fashion” acts as a platform for emerging designers in a city which is commercially viable but lacks any proper fashion infrastructure. Berlin is known for being stylish, hedonistic, and a place where anything goes. Yet despite the international repute of its fashion week, very few Berlin designers get time of day in the international market, or the leg-up they need to break into the business. With the wealth of young people flocking to Berlin from all over the world, Berlin feels ready to take on the challenges of becoming a notable “fashion city,” and this competition is a step in the right direction. Fan agreed. “KaDeWe offers you a lot of precious space and places your brand in the right environment…KaDeWe helps me to have more visibility to a new target group”.

For Fan, there’s more to Berlin than meets the eye. “It doesn’t inspire me much on a visual level, but more on a spiritual one. It’s a hidden beauty with a lot of secrets and calmness, which I appreciate”. As well as the influences from his childhood and the spirituality of the city, he takes further inspiration from his time spent working at Alexander McQueen. “It inspired me to tell stories with fashion,” he reminisces. “It’s not only the garment which makes the magic around a brand. It’s the whole presentation and vision which makes you feel emotional and euphoric”.

To see if Fan’s collection evokes the same feelings in you, get down to Berlin’s KaDaWe store on Tauentzienstraße while stocks last.

Ping Pong and Fire Damage: What You Missed At Warsaw Gallery Weekend 2017

Image courtesy of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

“You want to play?” said one young girl to her friend. We were standing in front of Konrad Smolenski’s ping-pong table at the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw. Smolenski’s “Ping Pong Amplified” also featured aural captation by experimental Warsaw-based musicians Mazut, which was set up so that the more people played, the more music was created. The piece was an homage to Smolenski’s time as a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, where he had challenged the rector to a table tennis duel in the lecture hall. It also played on a joke between Smolenski and Institute curator Ewa Borysiewicz about how pingpong was the most amenable sport for artists. As Smolenski put it, “Tall and slim persons in black from head to toe, wearing glasses do not have to change their image, carefully designed over the years, in order to hit the ball over the table. The possibility to maintain a relatively static posture, and to smoke during the match, makes table tennis the only discipline truly acceptable by artistic communities.” To mix fun, drinks, music, and competition: an art world dream.

Image courtesy of the Exile Gallery.

The table was the first installation I saw at the 7th Warsaw Gallery Weekend (WGW) in late September, and would come to typify what Warsaw had to offer that weekend. With more than thirty shows and parallel events across town, the event proved to be an intriguing distillation of Warsaw’s spirit, despite the grim weather. Held concurrently with Warsaw Gallery Weekend was the “Not Fair” at the neo-gothic Palace of Culture and Science downtown. “The whole idea was to create something between fair and exhibition”, explained Agnieszka Tkaczyk, the co-founder of Piktogram (who were responsible for organising the event). The 23 participating galleries were asked the propose solo projects exclusively, and to engage with the monumental and eclectic space of the Palace of Culture and Science. With a reasonable exhibition fee on offer, Not Fair allowed the participants to present emerging practitioners and new ideas. Among the finest of what Not Fair had offer was a wooden floor by Kinga Kielcynska from her project Bialowieza named after the last European primeval forest, which remnants now span across Poland and Belarus. The artist acquired the processed timber from existing wood, and the installation (that is not for sale) stands as an anti-monument for the commodification of the forest.

Left; detail from the Johann Winkelmann exhibition, courtesy of Czulosc. Right: Janek Zamoyski and Zuza Koszuta, by Cristina SK.

Janek Zamoyski and Zuza Koszuta, respectively artist/owner and director of the foundation and artist-run space Czulosc, were showing visitors around their gallery despite the fire damage that it has incurred two weeks prior. They loaned the space of a neighbour 50 meters down the road to show the works of Johann M.Winkelmann for WGW, while defiantly keeping their previous exhibition (Zamoyski’s) on the blackened walls of the original space. Zamoyski’s work was a series of photos of mundane environments, such as carparks, back alleys, and utility shops — but there was much more to them than met the eye. The photos were the product of a labour-intensive process which involved cropping parts of them, and then having the images painstakingly reconstructed by an art conservator. The soot on the walls lent a certain sense of drama. “I am trying to think of a way to keep it like that”, approved Zamoyski.

Tomasz Kowalski’s work, by Cristina SK.

Dawid Radziszewski Gallery showed the painting and furniture which Tomasz Kowalski made for Agnieszka Polska’s film “Hura!”. The artist gave a second life to the paintings on-screen we saw on-screen. For the movie, Kowalski created gouache paintings which were then scanned (as apparently, the scans made them look more “cinematographic”). For the exhibition, he recreated these paintings with oil on canvas. Also include in the show were his painted wine labels and cigarette cartons. Expertly mixing reality and fiction, the recreations were shown in the same apartment on Szucha Street where the film was shot this summer.

Katy Bentall, by Cristina SK.

Another space which was occupied with restagings of the past was the Tchorek-Bentall Foundation. Bentall founded her space as a way to promote the legacy of her deceased partner Mariusz Tchorek, a famed art critic and psychoanalyst, and also the legacy of his father, sculptor Karol Tchorek. Bentall curates the work of the sculptor by continuously moving it around the space. For WGW, Tchorek the elder’s work appeared alongside paintings by a pioneer of the classical avant-garde, Henryk Sta?ewski. “As an installation, I am working with history, my family history, by accident, as a way of life,” Bentall explained. The energetic studio reflected plenty of gusto and historical potency, much like Bentall herself.

Much like the city itself, Warsaw’s art scene seemed to gather and absorb any signs of life within its reach. From something destroyed, to something gained, Warsaw’s artists build their practices between the cracks, through small gestures, often using material what would seem mundane anywhere else.

Misfit: A Menswear Editorial Celebrating Rebel Antiheroes and Young Offenders

Left: Jacket by Levi’s, Red jacket by Maison Margiela, Tank top by Levi’s, Shirt by Brioni, Trousers by Maison Margiela, Shoes by Ann Demuelemeester, Necklace by Dinh Van Right: Cap by Polo Ralph Lauren, Jacket by Y/Project, Tank top by James Pierce, Belt by Wasted Paris, Trousers by Takahiromiyashita, Socks by Acne Studio, Shoes by Ann Demuelemeester, Scarf by Wendy Jim

With the recent comeback of Burberry Nova check and the insurgence over the last ten years of street wear, the “working class” look is in fashion (albeit problematically). The myth of the “outsider” — a rebellious, rule-breaking antihero, a la James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” and Ponyboy in S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” — continues to fascinate. Perenially a person of interest in wider culture, the dark and handsome young ruffian is the star of our Misfit editorial.

For Sleek 55, Antoine Harinthe shot and filmed his fictional take on the myth of the “young offender”. Fitted out in a Louis Vuitton suit and a multitude of other high-end brands, the editorial tells the tale of young man as he goes through the negotiations and sentencing process of court. Shot on location in Paris in a court room, our rebel is portrayed as elegant yet rough.

Left: Coat by Facetasm, Jumper by Acne Studios, Long shirt by Comme Des Garçons Shirt, Belt by Wasted Paris, Jeans by Études, Ring by Ambush, Necklace by Dinh Van

Whilst the bad boy might want to give off an air of invicibility, the books and movies focusing around this figure often feature his bravado being broken down — in this case, it’s the legal system which bests our young antihero. Whilst our misfit looks unfathomably cool with his Comme Des Garcons shirt perfectly untucked, this photo series shows him in the most tender and emotional moments too. Paired with the video, you get a sense that as soon as he walks through the doors of the court, his bravery switches off. He is just another guy behind a sheet of glass.

Left and RIght: Tank top by Levi’s, Trousers by Weer, Necklaces by Dinh Van


Left and Right: Tank top by Levi’s, Trousers by Weer, Necklaces by Dinh Van


Jacket by Z Zegna, Long Sleeve by Givenchy, Shirt by Givenchy


Shirt by Lanvin, Jumper by Lanvin, Ring by Ambush


Rings by Ambush


Total look by Louis Vuitton, Belt by Wasted Paris, Chain by Louis Vuitton, Boxers by The White Brief


Total look by Louis Vuitton, Belt by Wasted Paris, Chain by Louis Vuitton, Boxers by The White Brief


Polo by Fred Perry, Long sleeve by Samizdat by Yang Li, Ring by Ambush
Jacket by Brioni, Shirt by Christian Dada, Tie by Acne Studios, Necklace by Dinh Van, Boxers by The White Brief


Coat by Y/Project, Grey jacket by AMI, Brown jacket by Sadak, Shirt by Y/Project, Tie by Acne Studios, Trousers by Ann Demeulemeester, Ring by Ambush


Coat by Giorgio Armani, Scarf by Puma X Fenty by Rihanna, Shirt by Dries Van Noten, Jumper by Dries Van Noten, Jeans by G-Star Raw, Extra long belt by Y/Project, Socks by Acne Studios, Shoes by Ann Demuelemeester


Jacket by Jil Sander, Sweater by Z Zegna

Discovering Tuscan Craftsmanship and the Art of Timeless Style

Lange & Sohne
Stunning view of Florence.
Photo by Birgitte Brondsted for A. Lange & Söhne

For the unveiling of its 2017 Handwerkskunst timepiece, prestigious watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne invited SLEEK to Florence for a weekend-long crash course in Tuscan craftsmanship and its relationship to horology. To the average person, it might seem a little odd to celebrate a German luxury watch company in Florence. However, there are more similarities than meets the eye – in addition to sharing status as twin cities since 1978, both Dresden and Florence are culture-packed destinations with an immense passion for craftsmanship. Because of this, honouring the tradition of timekeeping with A. Lange & Söhne in the heart of Tuscany felt like a perfect match.

Eager to learn more about the Dresden-based company and the art of watchmaking, I departed the perpetual greyness of Berlin excited for my upcoming days under the Tuscan sun. Upon landing, I was given a beautiful A. Lange & Söhne watch to call my own – if only for the next few days. From there, it was time to begin the programme.

Lange & Söhne 2
Marchesi Antinori wine cellar.
Photo courtesy of A. Lange & Söhne

First up was a visit to the centuries old Marchesi Antinori winery. Founded in 1385, the Antinori family has spent 26 generations perfecting the art of winemaking. With multiple estates spread across Italy, I had the opportunity to visit the Antinori headquarters in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, a vineyard constructed in 2012. Eschewing the traditional architecture of most wineries, the Antinori headquarters is a modern-day marvel nestled in the Tuscan hillside. Dreamed up by architects Laura Andreini, Marco Casamonti, Silvia Fabi and Giovanni Polazzi, this particular estate is where the Antinori family produces its Chianti Classico. A short conversation between Antinori CEO Albiera Antinori and Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne, preceded a tour of the Chianti Classico cellars, where, in true Italian fashion, many glasses of wine were shared. The drive back to Florence allowed most of us to nap off the slight buzz before continuing on with an evening dedicated to the passion of craftsmanship.

The night began with a blue hour cocktail, named after the time of day when the sky turns a swirl of blue, orange, red and yellow. I was greeted by luminous blue lighting inside the Palazzo Gondi, a palace that I later learned is famous for once housing Leonardo da Vinci while he painted the Mona Lisa.

Lange & Sohne
Left: the enamelling process. Right: the brand new Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst.
Photo courtesy of A. Lange & Söhne

Finally, the time had come for A. Lange & Söhne to unveil its latest masterpiece. After much anticipation, I was introduced to the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst, an impressive horological complication handcrafted in a limited edition of 20. The sixth model to join A. Lange & Söhne’s Handwerkskunst lineup, this year’s edition is an ode to the moon and the night sky. The white-gold split-seconds chronograph with perpetual calendar and moon-phase display is complimented by blue enamel and 319 relief engraved stars, which adorn the watch’s face. On its backside, the watch features a hinged cuvette of the goddess Luna, the Roman goddess of the Moon. Priced at a cool €290,000, this incredible feat of watchmaking is truly a work of art in its own right.

Lange & Söhne
Left: the brand new Saxonia Automatic from A. Lange & Söhne’s Blue Series. Right: Dinner at Palazzo Gondi to celebrate A. Lange & Söhne’s new wristwatches.
Photos courtesy of A. Lange & Söhne

In addition to the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst, A. Lange & Söhne also debuted its elegant Blue Series. Comprising four watches with deep-blue galvanised dials in solid silver and white gold cases, the Blue Series features classic design for everyday wear. Yet another celebration of the night sky, the four watches also pay tribute to the colour blue and its timeless significance within fashion. The evening continued with a dinner in celebration of A. Lange & Söhne’s latest creations, all with breathtaking views of the Florentine skyline.

A Lange & Söhne
Exquisite craftsmanship at Super Duper Hats.
Photo by Birgitte Brondsted for A. Lange & Söhne

On my last day of la dolce vita, it was finally time to embark on my afternoon tour of Tuscany’s best kept fashion secrets. Led by menswear fashion consultants Shaka Maidoh and Sam Lambert of Art Comes First, I was accompanied by a cohort of well-dressed gentlemen that included style icons Nick Wooster and Alessandro Squarzi. We started at Super Duper Hats, a millinery founded by Matteo Gioli. There, Matteo walked us through the process of creating a handmade hat while Sam and Shaka grilled him on the finer intricacies. Dedicated towards approaching millinery with tradition and precision, Super Duper Hats is the perfect example of both Florence and A. Lange & Söhne’s ethos of craftsmanship.

As the trip came to a close, my last stop was Liverano e Liverano, a tailoring house founded by Antonio Liverano. Florence has longtime been regarded as the capital of Dandyism, and if this is the case, Antonio Liverano is its king. As one of the most influential people towards the creation of Florentine tailoring style, Antonio has spent over 50 years building his empire. Yet another testament to craftsmanship, each of the tailor’s sartorial creations takes over 70 hours to make. Injecting passion into everything he creates, Antonio is proof that the secret to success is enthusiasm for your craft.

A. Lange & Söhne
Left: Antonio Liverano. Right: inside the legendary tailoring house Liverano e Liverano.
Photo by Birgitte Brondsted for A. Lange & Söhne

All things must come to an end and after a morning of visiting Florence’s hidden fashion gems it was time to return to Berlin. I was saddened to bid Florence goodbye, but I left with a newfound appreciation for Tuscan craftsmanship, handcrafted excellence and, most of all, immaculate timekeeping.

Scroll through the image gallery below for a deeper look into A. Lange & Söhne’s Florentine weekend dedicated to craftsmanship:

For more information on A. Lange & Söhne please visit

Berlin is Burning: The City’s Hottest Dancers on Their Influences Beyond the Club Scene

Dance is an intrinsic part of Berlin’s identity. Its world famous club scene rest on the freedom and expression of movement; without it, there would be no scene, and no Berlin as we know it. Berlin attracts people from every walk of life, who come for the laid-back atmosphere and amazing parties (and stay for them, too). Whether you’re wearing all black to impress Sven or glittering head to toe in Kreuzberg, the style of Berlin is eclectic and bold. To encompass this mentality and to honour Adidas EQT’s new collection and revival, we took the clothes to their roots. SLEEK’s editorial, shot by Patricia Ruiz Portal, presents the collection on hardened Berlin clubbers and dancers in their working environment and on the street. We talked to the models to see how Berlin influences them, and to find out why they continue to dance through the night.

Stephan B. Quinci

How did you fall in love with dance?

I have been in love with dance since I can remember. My parents would take me to the ballet and opera as a child. Although I always loved dance I did not actually take my first class until I was 16. It was at this age I realised that if I wanted to pursue dance I would have to start then, otherwise it could be too late to make something of it. Dance has always been a part of my life and my upbringing, through going to the ballet, watching my older sisters’ performances, and finally through my own training  and development into a career today.

What brought you to Berlin to dance? How is the community here?

I moved to Berlin in the fall of 2015, shortly after finishing my bachelors in the US. I came to the city without having ever been here. I was drawn by the vibrant arts scene, youth culture, queer community, and history. The dance scene in Berlin is always growing and in flux with the constant flow of artists moving into the city. Compared to other capital cities, I find aspects of the dance scene here to be relatively small and unfocused, but also experimental, and DIY.

This city is known as a hedonistic paradise, how do you feel Berlin inspires you and your style? Do you feel inspired by Berlin’s clubbing scene?

People in Berlin always inspire me – on the streets, at events, or at clubs. I love the visible freedom of style and identity. While living in Berlin and being a part of art, queer, and club circles, I have seen my style evolve. I feel more comfortable being able to present myself in less conformist and normative ways. Parties function as safe spaces which allow you to explore everything. I have always maintained a “work hard, play hard” attitude and find that after a long and exhausting week of dancing and training, sometimes what I really need to relax is to go out dancing. I find crossover between my professional and social life through my interest in exploring gender and sexuality through my art, as I am constantly inspired to push, express, and radicalise.

Isi Wayne

How did you fall in love with dance?

I fell in love with music first. Dancing for me is an expression of feelings through the music and it always keeps my inner balance.

Do you feel inspired by Berlin’s clubbing scene?

Of course, not only through dancing but also through its fashion. You have the rough, cold, black techno parties where can lose yourself but there is also the “other” techno party where you can find glitter, feathers and colour. The hip-hop side of Berlin also inspires me, the place you can find old school streetwear and printed bomber jackets.

Who was your first dance idol?

Michael Jackson of course — the one and only! The first thing I taught myself was the moonwalk. I wanted to learn it so badly that I kept practicing the moonwalk every single day until I learned it. It was my first step into my dancing career.

How do you feel Berlin influences you and your style?

You meet so many different people here with different stories from their lives. You are influenced everyday, you can’t not be. Yesterday, for example, I got inspired by an Asian girl with silver hair wearing a yellow jacket and I thought to myself, “Nice!”

La’Mel Clarke

When did you fall in love with dance?

I knew I wanted to pursue dance professionally when I watched a TV series called “America’s Best Dance Crew”.

What are the challenges within what you do?

From a logistical point of view, making a living from your art whilst maintaining your own artistic integrity. I also find that I don’t create as much as I want because I am very picky about what I do and sometimes I get stuck in my head and second guess myself. I think sometimes I would be better off just throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks.

This city is known for his hedonism and escapism. Do you feel that dance evokes that within you? How do you feel Berlin influences you and your style?

I would say the hedonism of Berlin goes hand in hand with my creativity. Often I’ll be out at a club and I’ll have a great idea for a piece, or I’ll mentally choreograph something. Berlin is a crazy dichotomy of being uber-chic but also really laid-back. Since being here, I’ve really experimented with how I can incorporate more sportswear into my wardrobe.

Who inspires you right now?

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible dancers, so I can’t possibly name them all. From the groups that I dance with in London (Avant Garde Dance and Definitives) to people that I’ve met in Berlin in random classes, I feel like they all inspire me to some degree.

Elise Hoggard

How did you fall in love with dance?

I fell in love with dance the day I heard music! I first understood I was a dancer when I was around nine years old when my mum took me to a workshop. I walked into the studio and saw a room full of girls, dancing, bossy as hell, confident as anything, it was magic! Just finding that space for me, filled with magnetic, tangible energy, I was hooked. Shout out to Pump Dance Studios and Dance Crew in Wellington, NZ.

How do you feel Berlin influences you and your style? Do you feel inspired by Berlin’s clubbing scene?

My style is constantly evolving. I love change, and this is the 4th country I’ve lived in. New places offer a fresh perspective and purpose that inspires me. The togetherness of people from all walks of life truly embracing each others differences is a beautiful thing. The city’s drive to dance all night, and this shoot, have inspired me to get back to my dance roots and teach lessons again. I want to empower women like me, who want to dance regularly without the alcohol and drugs! I am creating a space for women to connect, grow in their self-confidence and clap back to the beat…watch this space.

How do you cope with the rigorous training that goes alongside the beautiful front of dance?

It’s funny you say the front of dance. It totally is a front. The passion is real and you can’t fake energy or choreography on stage, that’s all skill, but damn does it take serious training to perform! I like to practice yoga in the morning, it sets me up well for the rest of the day and I bike to and from work everyday… I’m a bit of a speed demon!

Does the hedonistic spirit of this city evoke the dance “feeling” within you?

Dancing is one of the most invigorating yet simultaneously exhausting acts. Pleasurable doesn’t begin to explain it. There is something to be said for escapism within dance, within any act of pleasure, switching off from reality and connecting wholeheartedly to the body. That’s living.


Defying Time and Play-Acting Glamour With AA Bronson

With an experimental and political artistic practice spanning nearly five decades, the artist born Michael Tims, AKA AA Bronson, shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 71. Bronson welcomes us into his third floor flat in west Berlin, wearing vivid orange trousers and a white linen top. As he settles into a black leather armchair next to a taxidermied fox, he outlines upcoming exhibitions and projects that encompass his multifaceted career as a member of the General Idea collective, a spiritual healer, the director of Printed Matter and an independent artist. “I still work hard, but I feel like I’m semi-retired compared to how I used to work,” Bronson says with a soft laugh.

This summer and autumn, General Idea has posthumous exhibitions at MAMCO, Geneva’s museum of contemporary art, and Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York. Next spring, Esther Schipper and KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin will showcase works by Bronson and his collective, as well those created under his pseudonym ‘JX Williams’. Outside of the gallery and institutional sphere, Bronson is compiling the group’s catalogue raisonné with Fern Bayer and developing a performance project at the Siksika Nation Aboriginal reserve in Canada.

AA Bronson in front of “Anna and Mark, February 3, 2001, 2002”, his portrait of his husband with their premature daughter when she was 10 days old. AA wears a hand-embroidered shirt by MJKVL.

Bronson – who dropped out of university to found a commune and free school – founded General Idea with Felix Partz (born Ronald Gabe) and Jorge Zontal (born Slobodan Saia-Levy) in 1969. Consumed by themes of appropriation, parody and media, among others, the trio pioneered the mail-art movement, published artists’ books and staged conceptual and radical performances. Although success was not immediate, during the group’s 25-year existence, it eventually became one of the first internationally recognized art collectives.

“We planned in a reverse way to be successful,” Bronson explains. “We said we wanted to be famous, to be glamorous, to be artists, but it was said with tongue in cheek and no idea that it could ever happen. You don’t think of famous artists coming out of Canada,” he continues. “So our early work is almost a satirical response to what we saw across the border, with the Andy Warhols of the world. We were acting out being famous, glamorous artists, when in fact we were penniless artists in downtown Toronto.”

“FILE Megazine”, one of the group’s first projects, remains an early indication of Bronson’s ongoing fascination with artists’ books. The magazine’s layout, color scheme and title appropriated LIFE Magazine, the familiarity of which brought unsuspecting readers into the art world. General Idea also published pamphlets resulting from mail-art endeavors that opened dialogues on sexual and individual identity. (For “Orgasm Energy Chart”, participants sent records with the times and dates of their orgasms. For “Manipulating the Self: Phase 1 – Borderline Case”, participants submitted images of themselves holding the side of their heads.) In 1974, General Idea established Art Metropole, which continues, to this day, to function under its original intention of publishing, promoting, exhibiting, archiving and distributing artists’ books, videos and multiples.

As anti-LGBTQ policing increased in Toronto, however, the trio relocated to New York in 1986. In 1989 and 1990 respectively, Partz and Zontal were diagnosed HIV positive and General Idea’s artistic output shifted from cultural critique towards a form of activism. In what became a public art project entitled “IMAGEVIRUS”, for example, they replaced the letters of Robert Indiana’s ubiquitous “LOVE” logo with “AIDS”. Pills also became a recurring motif: Warhol’s silver cloud balloons became pill-shaped; sculptures of various dimensions represented Partz and Zontal’s pharmaceutical intake. One of these works covers Bronson’s living-room wall; blue, green and red pills provide the backdrop for our conversation, a clear sign that Bronson has not, and will never, let go of General Idea.

AA Bronson wears suit by Missoni, shirt by Giorgio Armani

When Zontal and Partz died of AIDS in 1994, General Idea ended, leaving Bronson, then 48-years-old, feeling lost. “There have been periods of my life where I’ve felt like I’ve been in the bottom of a chasm,” he says, “and the biggest chasm was after the death of Jorge and Felix. It was an identity crisis. I’d always thought of myself as General Idea and suddenly I wasn’t any more.”

When asked how and when he was able to come to terms with himself as AA Bronson the solo artist, there’s a long silence before he turns from his armchair to repeat the question to his husband, Mark van de Leur, who sits in an adjoining room.

“It was a very, very, very gradual process,” van de Leur explains. “The main thing was that General Idea always collaborated and that’s why you were completely stopped dead, you didn’t have anyone to collaborate with. Some of the projects you did early on were collaborations because that’s the only way you could work. It was very hard for you to start working on your own. It was easily 10 years, not until the mid-2000s, that you embraced yourself.”

“Maybe it had to do with being the director of Printed Matter,” Bronson muses about his position from 2004 until 2010. “By being the director, it gave me a strong personal identity that I could build around.” Before van de Leur returns to his desk, he notes: “Also the healing stuff– that was the first project you did with your own identity.”

In addition to General Idea, Bronson was deeply involved with Tibetan Buddhism for 14 years, and following the deaths of his cohorts, he spent time working as a professional healer in New York. “As I got this rush of clients as a healer, I was fascinated by the identity switch,” Bronson explains. “It was no longer ‘AA Bronson of General Idea,’ but ‘AA Bronson, Healer.’ I started to think of the healer identity as an art identity.” In recent years, Bronson’s spiritualism has become integrated with his artistic output. His performance series “Invocation of Queer Spirits” (2008-2009), for instance, included five séances and healing rituals, carried out across North America. Each one, though different, reflected Bronson’s shamanistic practice, which focuses on issues of individual and collective trauma and memory. They also contemplated the exclusion and violence in today’s world, particularly the aggression directed toward the ill, weak, abused and those who are ostracised for their sexual orientation. This series continues to live through exhibitions of photographs, paintings and ritual objects, and the book “Queer Spirits”, published in 2011.

Despite his ties to Buddhism and shamanism, Bronson grew up in an Anglican family. He refused to return to church at the age of seven, but from 2008 until 2013 – at which point he moved to Berlin for a one-year DAAD residency – he studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Here, he developed his own relationship to Christianity and is now preparing a performance entitled “A Public Apology to the Siksika Nation”.

“Siksika Nation is one of the Blackfoot tribes of North American Indians and my great grandfather was the first missionary to the Siksika,” he explains. “He built the first residential school and developed the written language, but also did some really horrible things. He took the children away from their parents. They weren’t allowed to speak their own language, keep their holidays, or wear their own clothes. He tried to destroy the culture and was fairly successful.”

Plagued by this history, passed down three generations, Bronson decided it was time “to make a gesture of reconciliation”. His next step is to create a book and develop a performance, in collaboration with a Siksika artist, to be presented on the reservation. Much like the “Invocation of Queer Spirits”, he imagines that the documentation of this performance, as well as objects related to it, will turn into a travelling exhibition.

Reflecting on his life and artistic practice, he says, “there was General Idea, this book thing in the middle as a hiatus, and then Berlin…These are all pieces of my life that all engage me these days.” Though each piece has eventually built upon the previous, it hasn’t always been easy. “You have to fail to succeed and you have to succeed to fail,” Bronson says. “You can’t have one without the other.”

It’s Time To Stop Using The Word “Iconic”

Natalie Portman in “Closer” (2004), dir. by Mike Nichols, Columbia Pictures

R.I.P. to understatement. It seems we’re no longer able to express anything that isn’t everything. “Your dress is everything!” No it’s not, hun. “Omg, that is THE worst!” Again, no. The word “iconic” is among the worst offenders, and I’m sick to death of it. It’s everywhere. Once you’re aware of it, you’re hyperaware — you hear it all the time, you read it in every other article byline.  The word “iconic” is the god-awful embodiment of our lazily hyperbolic society. How can we possibly ascertain any measure of value when everything is dialled up to 100?

As the New York Times put it in 2015, “few things really qualify as “iconic” and those that do generally don’t need the label.” A shopping location in (wait for it) Bognor Regis, an oak tree in Ottawa and an aqueduct (?!?) in Wales are just three of the things the internet has deemed worthy of the label this week. It’s laughable. (Honestly, searching “iconic” in Google’s news section is a sure fire way to brighten your day.)

“The Matrix” (1999) still, dir. by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, Warner Bros

Editor of AnOther magazine, Alexander Fury, is with me. “I fucking hate the word ‘iconic’”, one of his Instagram posts states. “It’s a blight of modern language”.  People we’ve never heard of are all of a sudden “iconic”. Every single fashion look Chanel ever produced is “iconic”. Companies that make notepads are “iconic”. (I’m not trying to undermine the importance of good stationery, but please.)

Particular scorn is reserved for those of you who use “iconic” about entirely new things. You literally have no idea whether they will stand the test of time. Stop. Now. I’m sent countless press releases claiming this jacket or that car is iconic. I’m not buying it. YOU’RE NOT SPECIAL. It’d be a pleasure, for once, to read about something that’s just good, efficient, or downright nice. I’ve got Madonna and I don’t need any other icon in my life.

For those of you struggling with what constitutes iconic, here’s a handy guide. And if you still don’t get the do’s and don’ts, play it safe and stick with “don’t”, for all our sakes.

Yayoi Kusama Exhibition In Infinity in HAM, Helsinki. Image courtesy of Katja Nevalainen under creative commons

In Art

The art world is full to the brim with icons, granted, but they really don’t need an introduction. You can safely assume anyone who is widely recognised by their last name (I’m talking Van Gogh, Monet, Basquiat, Hirst, Kusama, O’ Keeffe) is an icon. But you don’t need to say it. Say something interesting, choose another word.

Lukas Korschan for Sleek 55

In Fashion

The fashion world might just be the worst offenders for spreading this linguistic pathogen. In fashion, everything that’s just dropped is apparently “iconic”. We’ve reached saturation point, and enough is enough. Burberry nova check: iconic. Chanel double C: iconic. Basquiat walking for Commes-des-Garçons: iconic. Vetements DHL logo shirt? Not iconic, sorry Vice.

“Kids” (1995) still, dir. by Larry Clark, Miramax

In Film

The internet doesn’t need your wishy-washy “10 most iconic films” listicle, that inevitably begins with “The Godfather” and throws in “Citizen Kane” for good measure. (And who actually wants to watch Citizen Kane any more than once anyway?)  Find something different to say; at least try and latch on to the quality that makes something iconic. Why not write about “5 of the most gripping nordic noirs” or “10 dramas that will heighten your political awareness”? To be frank, I’d rather read “5 films to make you feel nice” than yet another “iconic” list.

Britney Spears in “Baby One More Time” (1998) dir. by Nigel Dick, Jive Records

In Popular Culture

Pop culture icons are one thing. Prince is an icon, Bowie’s an icon, Aretha Franklin’s an icon — they’ve all left a lasting legacy after their death. “Iconic moments” is quite another and this shit needs to stop. Yesterday I read about a “drunken Real Housewives of Dallas moment” that was “instantly iconic”. I can’t. I don’t have the words anymore.

Well done world. Well done for making “iconic” absolutely, positively redundant.