Carol & Humberto

American designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim surged into the global spotlight in 2002 as the co-founders of New York City’s preeminent lifestyle boutique, Opening Ceremony.

With its keenly curated selection of luxury brands, the shop quickly attracted the attention of the fashion world at large and in July 2011, Leon and Lim were appointed as the creative directors of Parisian label KENZO. The strong friendship shared by this creative duo dates back to their years at UC Berkeley in California, where they met as students in early 2000. After a decade of successful project launches and hotly anticipated collaborations with other labels and designers, they continue to challenge fashion habits and to conceive new methods of design.

Kenzo SS13; ph. © Yannis Viamos / style.com

Kenzo SS13; ph. © Yannis Viamos / style.com

Today, both are enthralled by the KENZO spirit, which they perceive as a lifestyle all its own, and the label is shaped by the singular creativity born of their partnership. The originality and diversity of patterns and prints, the bright colours, music and rhythms of disparate cultures from around the world are all inspirations behind KENZO’s revival: under the guidance of Leon and Lim, it strives to achieve a universality that will seduce men and women of all ages. The following questions were asked by the 2014 Hyères blog partners: The KinskySkattie What Are You WearingBranko PopovicThe Stimuleye and myself!

Mainstream usually means something collectively appreciated and that is something we like to celebrate.
— Carol & Humberto

Fashion has been a catalyst and playground for socio-cultural movements. Today's trends are tracked from street to runway and back again at such speed that subcultures can barely exist beyond the brands. In what way do you feel today’s fashion is relevant?

Fashion has and always will be one of the easiest ways people can express themselves. We love drawing inspiration from everything around us: culture, art, music, food, travel, and from seeing what people are wearing on the streets. Today’s fashion, the product of a more connected world, is extremely relevant for what KENZO stands for today. That connectivity is what brings people together: streetwear melding with tailoring, night and day, comfort and style. All of these elements and more make fashion right now an extremely exciting place to be.

Kenzo SS14; ph. © Yannis Viamos / style.com 

Kenzo SS14; ph. © Yannis Viamos / style.com 

Do you think that something originally pegged as a luxury fashion brand could evolve into something that ends up being mainstream? Is it a good thing being mainstream or not?

What some people seem to forget is that KENZO as a brand was never intended to be “luxury.” Kenzo Takada, when he founded the brand, dreamt of creating collections accessible to the street. We feel that mainstream isn't a negative word and that mainstream fashion can still be heavily design oriented. KENZO has always been democratic, and since joining the company in 2011, we wanted people to remember this. Mainstream usually means something collectively appreciated and that is something we like to celebrate. We would love for KENZO to be a household name around the world.

Do you think it's always advisable for designers to be very visible, seemingly available to and engaged with their audience? Should relatability, especially in this age of social media and hyper connectivity, always be a goal? How should a designer understand himself or herself in relation to the consumer?

It really depends on the brand. For us at KENZO we love engaging with the customer because that is where you see if your collections are something people will want to buy and wear. We want people to understand who we are as a company, and in order to do that, we have to understand who they are as clients. Social media gives us a direct link to our customers and we love being able to have a dialogue with them. They can ask questions, discover more about our world and become a part of the KENZO community.

Kenzo FW13 campaign in collaboration with Toilet Paper magazine.

Kenzo FW13 campaign in collaboration with Toilet Paper magazine.

You're surrounded by collaborators coming from very different directions. For KENZO, how important is the idea of "family," and the creative exchange with its members?

It’s super important for us. Both at KENZO and Opening Ceremony we work with our friends. It creates an open dialogue and brings out the best ideas. Working with collaborators such as Spike Jonze or Chloe Sevigny, people we have known for such a long time, is a joy. It’s important to love what you do, and what could be better than brainstorming or working on projects with people you admire and respect on both a personal and professional level?

Talent is an obvious thing to look for in a contestant, but what other qualities do you think will be important to look for in a designer, right now, in 2014?

We will look for a strong point of view as well as for someone who understands the importance of the whole process of design. It is important to be able to understand the business aspects as well as all the creative ones. Also, we will look for someone who has both drive and a sense of humility.

What is the last thing you saw, read, heard or felt that stimulated you?

Carol: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, an animated film by Miyazaki.
Humberto: Seeing The XX perform an 40 person intimate show in New York.

Photography at Hyères 2014

Some of my favorite photographers are exhibiting at Hyères this year, including Osma Harvilahti and Charlie Engman (top and bottom, below.) Myself and the other blog partners (The Kinsky, Skattie What Are You Wearing, Branko Popovic and The Stimuleye) were invited to ask judge Steve Hiett, himself a notable fashion photographer, a few questions about his career and what it feels like to have a retrospective at the festival. You can read the full interview here.

I worked for 30 years and never retouched anything.
— Steve Hiett

Would You Give This Man A Suit?

Because Reiss London made that life choice, and I'm so flattered they did! The brand is launching #ReissPT (that's Reiss Personal Tailoring for you n00bs) stateside this month and I'm something of an ambassador for it in much the same way that Kristen Stewart is an ambassador for Chanel. Pretty much just like that.

Reiss kindly invited me over to their NYC flagship on Bleecker Street for a fitting. I took a seat and felt something like déjà vu. I was reminded of my time working in interiors; they handed me a book of fabric swatches and I immediately set to rubbing every single one and holding it up to the light, against my skin, playfully using it to blindfold the cute brand rep they'd sent over from London, etc. (Fine, no, that didn't really happen.) I ended up picking a lightweight basketweave wool in an almost-navy blue. I needed something versatile—just like me!—that could be easily dressed up or dressed down. Reiss gets all of their finer suiting fabrics from Italy, and you can feel it; this particular one comes from Angelico.

As you can see in the handy-dandy lil' moodboard above (click on an image to view it larger in a slideshow), I was heavily inspired by the details of my suit—and details are what suiting is all about, right? I chose a contrasting brown felt under the collar that feels a bit preppy against the blue, but in a more English academia-y way. I left the jacket unlined, but had it finished with a complementary deep raspberry trim. (Yes, 'deep raspberry'.) Once I made my fabric and trim selects, they put me in an off-the-rack suit and pinned the crap out of it to serve as a mock-up for the one that would be made for me. It was then shipped off and cut down to #PocketOtter size using advanced laser technology, obviously.

For this look I was channeling Margaret Howell and ladies in suits and also some Marni vibes. (He tells himself.) The shirt I'm wearing is Uniqlo, so this is also a bit of a high-low story. I went sans tie because the pants actually have tabs on the sides to adjust so I can wear them without a belt. To see this baby in action, check out this Instagram video I made with my friend Ben! What do we think of my steez now? Do I stack up against the K-Stews of the world?

#SpaceNinety8

So Urban Outfitters opened a concept shop in Williamsburg last night. (I don't have a good punch line for that one. Maybe that is the punch line?) It's called Space Ninety 8 and it's sort of a sister store to L.A.'s Space 15 Twenty, which isn't a store at all but a "collaborative retail environment." I wish the design direction was a bit further evolved from the basic UO concept—the restaurant upstairs is quite nice, but the rest of the space, impressive enough for its size alone, feels just like any other iteration of the jeggings and crop-tops emporium. There are cute enough moments here and there, but they all feel fabricated—because they are, which I guess is sort of fitting for Williamsburg 2k14?

They do have some really fun vintage pieces from their Urban Renewal line, but it's the sort of stuff you would previously have found at some other, smaller, non-corporate shop or the Brooklyn Flea. Not that you can't shop those places anymore, just that you now also have the convenient option of buying your faded band tees, sea salt Mermaid hairspray and bong cozies under one roof. (I didn't actually see any bong cozies in the store, I'm embellishing. Is a bong cozy a real thing?)

Speaking of sea salt hairspray, I counted at least seven different versions of the stuff. There was like a whole section dedicated to it. And what kind of sucks? I also saw this one brand, Mermaid, which I'd just discovered half an hour before in Catbird. It makes me wonder—how many people will now be discovering products at this UO store instead of local shops? Or buying them at UO because of the aforementioned convenience?

Also: is it just me or is it the golden age of being a ceramicist in Brooklyn? Like, I get that I'm part of the problem because I basically have never met an adorably proportioned planter I didn't like, but I picked up this one ceramic hand—the size of a monkey's paw maybe, not even big enough to use as a dish for your stackable rings or whatever—and it was $75. Like, I get that you have a small business, but if it takes so much of your time and effort to make a small, decorative ceramic hand that you need to charge $75 for it, did you ever think maybe you're in the wrong line of work?

I digress...anyway, it was cute and it's nice to see an old warehouse get a second life and I'm sure it's a boon to a lot of these small designers to have their work sold here. I don't want to rain on that parade, it just feels like...not a death knell, but whatever comes after that. Like, an opportunist who heard said death knell and was like, 'On it.' It brings to mind Vivienne Westwood's interview in the latest issue of The Gentlewoman.

I think if you really like something, then you should try to buy it. And if you can’t afford it, don’t get something that is half the price but that you don’t really like. Don’t do that.
— Vivienne Westwood

In the interview she talks about buying less and really loving what you do buy. That sentiment has been on my mind a lot recently. I have so much crap in my closet that I feel desperate to get rid of—not throw out, but find a new home for. I feel like I buy so much that I want to experiment with and then I give it a shot and I move on. It's maybe not the same as shopping for That Skort at Zara or stockpiling Isabel Marant for H&M, but it's still annoying to be left with this surplus of coulda-worked-at-an-angles and mighta-looked-ok-that-one-times.

I think seeing this store full of stuff you can already buy within a five block radius, a store where the only "new" thing on offer is a bunch of crappy clothes that are so anti-Brooklyn in this way, not just in their "origin story" but in the fact that this brand is trying to align itself with the shared values of a place, but inherently missing the mark. Inherently? Instinctually? I guess I'm just ranting against mass consumption and places that peddle crap and don't own up to it. There's a lot of good stuff here, but please remember that there are makers behind your favorite items. This store is using the stories of those makers to bundle in a bunch of shit that's made by people whose stories you'll never know, and whose voices you'll never hear.

Aesop Resurrection Hand Balm

Never before have I bought a beauty product that has such a startling effect on the people (women) around me. I picked up Aesop's Resurrection hand balm the other week and whipped it out in front of a friend—she was immediately enamored of the scent, a mix of mandarin rind, rosemary leaf and "cedarwood atlas," whatever the hell that means. "Can I have some?" she inquired with hungry eyes. (I'm penning my first erotic novel, natch.) Then we sniffed each other's hands and rode that high into the starry night...

I brought it into work and sparked a similar frenzy amongst my co-workers, one of whom went out and bought not one, but two tubes of the stuff. Ok, it's a $30 hand cream and who really needs a $30 hand cream? It turns out we all do. Also, the guys (blondes, meh) at the Aesop store offered me tea and made such a ceremony out of packaging my purchase I would go again just for that.

P.S. I haven't actually read this mag yet, but how gorgeous is that cover?

The Agi & Sam School of Layering

This is a sort-of #DIY, sort of an impromptu "Get the Look for Less!" tutorial. Agi & Sam's F/W'14 show was so phenomenal I couldn't wait until fall to appropriate the styling. (Click through to see the exact look that inspired my own spin on global layering.) I put my Uniqlo skirt over my Uniqlo pants, topped off with a vintage monk collar Ferrutti button-down, all nestled underneath my Comme des Garçons coat (which needs to be taken back to the tailor; the proportions still aren't perrrrrfect.) Moral of the story: Skirts. Layer them over pants. Capiche?

P.S. This is the first outfit I've ever shot using a tripod! #Milestones

Hyères 2014

I am very happy to announce that I'm once again a blog partner for the Hyères festival! This year the judges include Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, to whom I was able to send some interview questions, so that's kind of a dream come true. That and way more photos of the designers and photographers at this year's festival will be posted in the coming weeks! Until then, enjoy these behind-the-scenes photos Filep shared with me and the teaser trailer, below!

P.S. You can read all of my coverage from last year here.

Bone Inducing #Homestagrams

Beautiful light and lots (and lots) of leaves. *Le sigh* You can see my own room over on Instagram; I have a little D.I.Y. headboard action going on and I moved some tables and chairs around. I would show more of my space, but I'm just so...it's not perfect! And I can't handle it. One day, sometime soon hopefully, I'll feel like it's "done" enough to share more of it. Or maybe I'll just do little snaps here and there? Until then, hug a giant potted plant for me and pray. Click an image to view it full-size in a slideshow! Sources, from top-bottom, left-right: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Stop What You're Doing (Let's Talk About Clogs)

Justin Chung shot this otherworldly gorgeous lookbook for Dreu, which I've never heard of but now I've heard of them so I guess thank you Tumblr. Um, BUT: Clogs. I once hit on this waiter at Peels (now defunct) by telling him I was really into his clogs. I left my number on the receipt and he started texting me that night—but then, after a day, he just stopped texting me back. Now all I have are my memories...of his clogs. (I also creepily remember his name because he told me to friend him on Facebook, which I never did because I never do that kind of thing. So there's that.) Anyway, clogs rock. God, do I want a pair of clogs. I'll wear them with an apron and smear paint all over myself while smoking and listening to jazz. Clogs!