” Offering unprecedented access to the world’s most exclusive backstages, the Unknown Hipster shares his insider secrets for surviving a fashion week” i-D magazine
How to get more room at fashion shows? What to do during waiting time? When to adopt the Milanese walk? One wonders about these existential questions.
At the invitation of i-D magazine, I’m giving my own tips on how to deal efficiently with the toughest persons in the world, and successfully cruise a fashion week.
i-D magazine Summer 2013 issue is out now.
I think that, if you are a poet, you don’t want to think too much about your wardrobe, but you want to wear clothes that are fine to work in.
The other day at the GQ party hosted by Glenn for The Style Guy Special Edition, I had this conversation with two sartorial experts: Alexander Olch, all dressed in Maison Kitsune with a tie of his own design, and Todd Eberle, with his classic torn denim jacket and one of his inimitable destroyed hats.
- If you are a photographer, Todd explained, you don’t want to intimidate people by wearing something extravagant.
I have sometimes been asked how I dress and what my favorite brands are, but in fact, I usually don’t know what to say.
A bit of flea here, thrift shop there.
Maybe I went to a party and accidentally left with someone else’s jacket? Or I visited a Japanese temple and switched shoes upon exit?
Jeans, plaid shirt, jacket, desert boots, tote bag. I’d rather be asked what I read.
But Sarah at Colette found it amusing to recreate the looks.
I guess it was not too complicated for her. Every week, she selects ensembles for the women’s floor that make you feel like you’re walking through Picassos and Lichtensteins. I never stay too long because I feel I might fall in love with a speechless mannequin, just because of the intricate patterns and inspired fabric colors it’s dressed in.
And now, thanks to Colette, you can really dress like a page out of the Diaries : From Book to Fashion
An exhibition of originals drawings from The Unknown Hipster Diaries and large prints in limited edition of 10, opens Monday 10th December at Colette, and I’ll be signing books on Saturday 15th December from 16:00 to 18:00.
It was night at JFK, and the boarding of the giant A380 seemed to never end, when recognizing the silhouette of Grace Coddington seating front row reminded me that Paris Fashion Week was about to start.
For all who saw the The September Issue, and fell under her charm, Grace seems to possess the disillusionment of a true philosopher, while being more of an artist than most photographers, more of an artist in fact than most artists who’d rather have their new summer house featured in Vogue than their last show reviewed in Art Forum (although, of course, both are necessary).
I was lost in my reflections on Grace, assuming that under these conditions, a First class solitude must be complimentary, when I was suddenly brought back to shared reality by a “Can I see your invitation ? ”. I was then urged with the herd to the standing row, by a flight attendant who had the fierce insensitivity of a PR assistant.
Out of boredom on a recent Saturday afternoon, I was trying out some pants at Supreme when when my friend Victoire called to ask if I wouldn’t mind accompanying her to the party being given by Barneys for Carine Roitfeld.
A few minutes latter, as I was walking with renewed energy on Lafayette Street, she called again : « they want to know what our favorite songs are, it’s karaoke ! »
Had I gone to Tokyo at least 15 times and always successfully avoided karaoke parties to finally get trapped into one in NY ? Is there a more depressing scene than drunks trying to read the upcoming lyrics on a TV screen to blaring 80s hits ?
But of course, as masterminded by Carine, it was going to be something else, and with high anticipation we made our approach to Westway, the former strip-club, where the party was happening.
Limousines were jammed on Clarkson street, and squads of it girls and models on high heels were carefully navigating the cobble stones, exposing their million dollars legs to the outdoors spotlights.
It turned out to be the most professional karaoke event one could witness. The Fashion people all hit the stage – which looks rather like a catwalk – with stunning confidence. Not only they never sang out of tune, but they could dance across the stage back and forth, and do all the things performers do like pointing at the crowd, and probably pole dancing as well.
A cross-disciplinary talent that you could hardly imagine among true rock stars who usually show a lack of expertise when it comes down to Fashion : shiny jackets with wide shoulders, leather pants, etc…
The flashes on iphones burnt out during Anna della Russo’s number
The Italians were especially good. Even the cynical fashion assistants have to change their minds when they realized their most feared celebrities were showing genuine warmth, good humor, and sincere emotions. Everybody sensed a historical moment when Valentino’s rendition of « My Way » almost one-upped Sinatra’s Vegas version.
As we left the party and walked along the West Side Highway with imagined scenes of endless rehearsals in burgundy bathrobes late at night in the privacy of the hotel’s palace suite, a small anonymous car overloaded with men suddenly pulled along the sidewalk. All the doors opened at once and the passengers bursted out like undercover policemen about to seize somebody.
A young lad in a torn tee-shirt ran out of the car to take refuge against a wall, where he theatrically faced his pursuers. Among the gang’s sinister faces we were relieved to recognize Terry Richardson’s, thanks to his plaid shirt and signature moustache, this time he didn’t had his thumbs up but was aiming his Powershot at the young actor.
Terry immediately started to fire flashes at his subject, who obligingly gave varied poses.
It seemed the complete New York Fashion scene had decided to unfold in just one night.
This is the time of the year in New York when you see them returning.
The tall, thin, black silhouettes navigating the slush in their cheap Rock boots.
They announce the coming of Fashion Week like quails announce the end of summer.
I was inspired to write them a poem :
« Don’t look at me unless you’re Vinoodh and Inez
My boyfriend he will get you
Dump you in a trash bin somewhere
Daddy will drown you in a pond behind the factory »
I saw you walking fast
Holding tight the frozen plastic of the lookbooks
And now in the middle of the night
I hear you giggling in the hotel rooms
I often see this guy at the airport.
He chaperones the girls trans-Atlantic.
I think he figures out the passports, waits for the bags,
Makes sure some jerk doesn’t snap some photos of them in their sleep.
The girls look bored while they wait.
No friends but a cellphone.
I was worried I would have to lift weights or swim two hours a day, but they said it was okay to stay as I am.
Modeling involves very little participation, and there’s nothing demeaning about it if you work with tasteful photographers.
A lot of the job is waiting around, and while most people in the studio spend their day checking Facebook, it’s not forbidden to read a book or write poetry while you’re worked on by the hairdresser or have your nails polished.
It’s a known fact that Fashion photographers have big egos, but it’s okay not to talk to them. There is always loud music in the studios anyway, and photographers can hardly hear themselves giving directions. And this is okay too, because their directions are generally very basic, like « gorgeous », or « yes ! ». Actually, if you happen to hear them over the noise, their comments are more embarrassing than anything else. They suddenly make you doubt and think the whole enterprise is not serious, but it is.
Here are some of my favorite shots, with a few behind-the-scenes commentaries and my own tips.
This was for November Fashion. While posing with these logs, I had a great talk with the girls. Karolina, the blonde on the left, had studied philosophy in Moscow, while Prune on the right had just published a novel. It turned out both girls had been featured more than naked in purple diary, which disappointed me.
Successful modeling is all about being yourself and not trying to hard. A Fashion story on axes, for the December issue. I did my best menacing demeanor with the Best Made ax, so the crew played my old tapes.
For an air travel editorial. I’m so relaxed when I model, I can actually fall asleep for real. I walked out of the shoot with these expensive pyjamas, and had to return them to the assistant the next day, but they shrunk down 3 sizes since it was raining and I couldn’t find a cab.
Who said modeling was a tough job ? I remembered I just had some delicious bruchetta from catering, and the only thing that bothered me on the shoot was the rough feel of this rare vinyl on my fingers.
If the stylist wants to play, I’m able to completely transform myself.
- no sport at all
- sleep as much as you want, or don’t
- extract respect from assistants by insisting on your musical tastes
A few weeks ago Gabi, Adi and Ange of threeASFOUR invited me to their studio, where they were doing the final fittings, one or two days before their show.
In the all mirror-and-aluminium surfaced loft, the atmosphere was perfectly calm.
Ange, with Misha.
By the window, Ange was sewing vintage kimono pieces in shape of pancakes.
Gabi took me to their inspiration board, arranged with collages of mathematic constructions, spirals, and outer space diagrams.
« I love mathematic, » he said. « The collection is called Vortex. It’s about connecting circles and holes. »
I was afraid he would explain more and find out that I didn’t understand any of it. When it comes down to math, I need to see the circles and holes overlaid on a human body to get the idea.
Soon, a young Russian girl came in for the fitting.
Luna, Ange’s pitbull, was participating.
She had just bought a new cellphone, and was obsessed with it. Probably trying to connect circles and holes in her own way, she wouldn’t stop texting, unaware of her sexiness in the esoteric shapes Gabi and Adi were adjusting on her.
In the meantime, Christian Wassmann, the architect who had designed a structure for the show, came in.
His Porsche Targa was parked in the street, with plywood elements sticking out of the open roof, which we all helped to download.
On the day of the show, the spiral structure stood in the Sara D. Rooselvelt Park in Chinatown. We could admire the sun setting through the surrounding trees. A nice crowd of connecting circles and holes was there, peacefully waiting for the show to start.
At D’Amelio Terras, the incoming visitors had to be contained so as not to storm all at once the Polly Apfelbaum’s installation. In a piece titled « Off Colour », the artist had cut and arranged sequined stretch fabric in colors derived from a stack of erotic slides bought in a London flea market.
Althought most viewers were carefully navigating through the piece’s negative space, some pieces of fabrics, simply laid on the gallery floor, were disturbed out of place by the more distracted visitors—or those equipped with oversized shoes—leading the artist to re-adjust the pieces in an unpremeditated performance.
I then had to elbow my way down to the MoMA store in Soho, where Adi, Gaby and Angela from threeASFOUR were paying tribute to Yoko Ono’s 1964 « Cut Piece » by cutting into pieces their own design worn by a model. Here Adi wears a dress with drawings by Yoko, from the previous collection.
A wide range of scissors were available to the participating viewers, and when my turn came, I was torn between not damaging my friends’ design with the desire to reveal more of the stunning beauty.
It was a bright winter morning. I walked on 11th Avenue towards 36th Street, along the construction-site fences, the uncleared sidewalks still covered with snow.
I even saw a tiny bird enthusiastically twittering on top of a blasting signal orange panel.
I thought he was announcing spring, in advance of his kind.
I had never been in this part of the city, and the small industrial buildings, the repair garages, the newly built high-rise condo against the Hell’s Kitchen backdrop in the distance, and the wide-open spaces reminded me of some verses from Apollinaire’s poem Zone.
J’ai vu ce matin une jolie rue dont j’ai oublié le nom
Neuve et propre du soleil elle était le clairon
Les inscriptions des enseignes et des murailles
Les plaques les avis à la façon des perroquets criaillent
J’aime la grâce de cette rue industrielle
Hosfelt Gallery — on the second floor of an automotive parts and car repair shop — is a beautiful, luminous space, with a pure, natural light that seemed the perfect translation of Maria’s spirit.
One hundred or so living models were standing on a 4-story scaffolding structure installed on the golf driving range on the Hudson, wearing the latest Moncler collection.
The futuristic, neo-military opera-style installation reminded me of the aesthetic of some of the Thierry Mugler photographs campaigns from the late 80s.
The coldness was extreme, and only well-equiped Fashion people could stay on the tall balconies to study the models and confront chilly winds blowing from across the river in the New Jersey dark skies.
I was glad to wear my vintage Moncler, and a French ski team hat from Brooklyn Flea market that I had bought the previous weekend to attend the Fashion shows.
This is where I met Ricky, who was freezing, simply wearing a cordoroy jacket and his marine boat captain’s cap.
- This is almost model cruelty, he said, alluding to the Artic endurance test unfolding on the scaffolding.
However, this was to forget the high-tech yet stylish insulation of the Moncler design (you can ski in warmth and still feel like a page from Wallpaper magazine).
- Don’t worry, I told him, these pretty young things feel as hot as if they in a Purple fashion shoot.