“The genie is out of the bottle. I’m never going to be niche again. I’m commercial establishment. I would love to be weird and unattainable again. That’s what I wanted to be—to live in poverty but be like Giacometti.”
Paris-based fashion designer, Rick Owens, when asked about his success.
Be sure to check out the interview plus a profile on Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in the latest newsletter.
In an interview with Fader Magazine, Nike FC’s Design Director Pete Hoppins says the Nigeria kit was actually the easiest one to design:
Nigeria was actually the easiest! That’s everyone having fun. We worked closer with the players and the Nigerian federation to make that happen. The hardest were Brazil and England, just like always. It’s got to be a yellow kit and a white kit, respectively. You have to deliver that. Otherwise, you’ll be shot. [laughs] How do you move those forward every two, four years? Especially when you’re trying to innovate the performance. We’re not just going to add things to the kits for the sake of it.
What Nigeria is hopefully going to allow us to do in the future is show that some of the more traditional teams that if you are willing to be creative in the partnership, you can ultimately have something more culturally relevant that connects with the youth.
Luxury fashion house Balenciaga knows how to nail the type of ugly design that gets people talking.
In Fall 2017, it debuted the Bernie Sanders-inspired logo he used for his 2016 campaign. But this time around, the company once referred to as “the master of all” by Christian Dior, will release a double-shirt as part of its Fall 2018 lineup.
Said its creative director Demna Gvasali on the rule-breaking t-shirt shirt:
“I think it’s very interesting, the definition of ugly. I think it’s also very interesting to find this line where ugly becomes beautiful or where beautiful becomes ugly. That’s a challenge I like. I think that’s a part of what fashion stands for and I like that people think my clothes are ugly; I think it’s a compliment.”
Ugly can be beautiful. Prada’s head fashion designer Miuccia Prada agrees: “The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. And why? Because ugly is human. It touches the bad and the dirty side of people.”
Hearing impaired photographer Kate Fichard teamed up with a former design school classmate at the Paris-based F&D studio to create a fashionable hearing aid.
Called the H(earring) project, it just won first prize for accessories at the most prestigious festivals for young designers, The International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Hyères, France. Kudos to the F&D team for injecting some style and design into hearing aids, what some would consider high-fashion.
“Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of societies: those where you can get a shoe shine and those where you can’t,” wrote Roger Cohen in a 2008 Op-ed.
Americans love their shoe shines. The opposite is true of egalitarian societies like France where such a cleaning service “rubs the Gallic egalitarian spirit the wrong way.” But in New York and Chicago, shoe shiners are aplenty.
“There’s something about having someone applying polish to a blithe client’s boots that comforts American notions of free enterprise, make-a-buck opportunism and the survival of the fittest.”
Yet, as Thomas Chatterton Williams so wisely notes, there’s a price to pay for brutal capitalism. As an American expat living in France, he writes: “it’s also nice to live in a society where not everything is for sale. When I landed back in Paris, I placed my heavy bags on a luggage cart, which I unlocked free of charge. It would have set me back $6 in New York.”
The rules are, There are no rules,
We are putty,
Asking to be reshaped,
Mushy in the middle,
Wobbly at the sides,
Recorrecting at the ends,
The mystery universe.
In a selfie-obsessed world, it pays to be ugly. Fashion houses across the world make eye-cringing designs on purpose. The crazier, the better.
Says Prada’s head fashion designer Miuccia Prada: “The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. And why? Because ugly is human. It touches the bad and the dirty side of people.”
Why do people love using Snapchat over other social media services? Because it celebrates authenticity. When people try to be real, they can be flawed, which is relatable.
Beautiful gets boring. Ugly is pervasive and unforgettable. It stands out with a clear message.
Balenciaga nailed ugly when it designed clothes inspired by the Bernie Sanders logo.
Gucci’s Dapper Dan jacket is an attempt to throw back to an era of displeasing design.
People preferred Madona when she displayed her natural gap tooth. Ugly is about breaking the rules and doing things a little different. Models never smile on the runway because they want to be unshakeable.
But people view the world as it relates to them. Letting go of perfection and designing for ugly creates a sense of communion with the viewer.
“How would he feel if that Louis Vuitton pouch became a whole outfit?” remarked the Harlem fashion designer Dapper Dan, aka Daniel Day. And so he made custom clothing for famed sprinter Diane Dixon and rappers Eric B and Rakim, going on to remix all types of designs from the world’s most renowned brands before they shut down his operations.
Dapper Dan’s efforts mimicked the sampling culture which helped give rise to hip-hop at the time. Said Elle Magazine director Samira Nasr, “Sampling was taking existing music and slicing it to recreate new sounds for original lyrics. Dap was sampling in a way. He was taking existing fabrications and breathing new life and beauty into them.”
The urge to remix also came out of Dap’s own experiences growing up poor in Harlem. “My sense of style came from having holes in my shoes. I was in third grade, and I would put cardboard and paper in the bottom of my shoes.”
Remix culture is the foundation of the Internet, the biggest copy-paste machine. But Dapper Dan predates the likes of Nasty Gal and other fashion outlaws looking to recast something new. Thanks to Gucci’s branded version of the jacket and nod to Dapper Dan, the couturier is finally getting the attention he deserves.
Culture is a broad term used to describe the habits and practices of society. Cultures differ because people differ–in looks, tastes, and religion–and when there’s a hodgepodge of cultures, they mix to create something novel, i.e. America, which then becomes its own cultural pillar.
As broad as culture is, in say music with its infinite number of genres and subgenres, it can also be limiting. For instance, the three most popular operating systems smartphones run on are iOS, Android, and Microsoft. Given the scarcity of choice, people choose sides, resulting in Apple fans, Google geeks, and Microsoft traditionalists.
But even when there’s a variety of choice, a favorite always wins out. Whether it’s a preferred operating system, musician, film, or shoe style, some cultures become mainstream. If you copy such trends, you are the benefactor of the wisdom of crowds. If you’re an early adopter or renegade, you look for things on the edges which are a plausible reaction to the herd mentality.
Given culture’s categorizations, people always conform to a certain type regardless of how big or small a niche. Culture’s resistance to sameness guarantees the durability of uniqueness, and there may be no better modern-day American dissenter than Mark Grief who appears to be against everything.
The new Nike Sportswear x VSCO filter dropped while I was on vacation last week in the Dominican Republic. It paints a Mars-like effect on your photos. This is how VSCO describes it on its blog:
“the preset creates a bold, duotone look using strong black and red hues. The tonal range of each image is remapped to these two colors, resembling the innovative look and expressive style of Nike Tech Pack.”
As I typically do with every new preset release, I go back and try it on recent photos to see what works. Portraits and scripture seemed to work out best. Here are some of the ones that came out.
Nike has sponsored a VSCOCam filter before with the NikeLab ACG x VSCO. It also featured a dark aesthetic.
I love creative accidents. I originally applied the Nike Sportswear preset on this image and the changed it to preset X5 but the sky retained some of the red and black from the Nike preset.
You can see a bunch more pictures from the trip on the VSCO Grid and on Instagram (@bombtune).
Quartz published an interesting piece on the neuroscience and origins of “cool.”
Today, we define cool through the lens of fashion and consumption. Instagram is the fashion runway for generation thumbs. Social media influencers signal the new trends. Studies show that our medial prefrontal cortex lights up when we see something desirable in our feed.
But I found the history of the word cool most interesting.
“It was black Americans at the turn of the 20th century who first used “cool” as an expression of approval.
From blues to rock, from hip hop to Eminem, black culture is American culture.
Given the heightened racism in American politics today, it is worth examining why American culture became the cultural hegemony of the world in the first place. We are the hodgepodge of experiments.
And it is our duty to ensure American culture — one of openness and plurality — appears cool.