BlackBook Interview: Clayton Patterson on the Exhibition of His 80s-era Drag Photos at GROUPE

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For anyone who lived through the exhilarating, anything-is-possible Downtown NYC of the 1980s, surely it remains a burning question: is it better that those ideas have gained wider acceptance? Or has that taken the thrill and danger out of it all?

The East Village’s Pyramid Club was one of those places (it remarkably remains open to this day) where society’s sacred cows were regularly sacrificed on the altar of radical progress – falling victim to a burning desire by some to challenge the stifling forces of regressiveness. To be sure, it was something of a sanctuary for those that may have found it difficult to fit in anywhere else – cultivating ideas that would have a sweeping effect on the way we perceive culture, gender…even humanity itself. 

Honoring that, this Wednesday, October 18, the GROUPE boutique’s in-house gallery A Number of Names at 198 Bowery will open an exhibition of Clayton Patterson’s striking portraits of the Pyramid’s most memorable and glamorous drag characters.

Patterson was (and still is) one of the keenest documentarians of the East Village / Lower East Side neighborhood and its scene, camera always at the ready as its so many courageous and fabulous personalities carried on doing what they do, looking how they looked, and caring not a whit for those who didn’t approve. He’s had several books published, including Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower East Side and Resistance: A Radical Political and Social History of the Lower East Side. A documentary about him, Captured, came out in 2008.

“We were introduced to Clayton almost 20 years ago,” recalls GROUPE’s James Jurney. “We offered our first store on Elizabeth Street to Tod Lippy, as the set of his short film Cookies – and Clayton was one of the actors. Naturally, he played a kind of Hell’s Angels biker. We’ve followed his incredible career and we’re honored to be able to exhibit these important portraits. These drag queens of the 80s were certainly brave pioneers in the long-fought battle for freedoms of gender and sexual identity.”

GROUPE, which was opened in NoLIta in November 2016 by Seize sur Vingt founders James and Gwendolyn Jurney, has become one one of downtown’s most exciting incubators of young fashion talent. In keeping with their creative/aesthetic ideology, they have also featured regular exhibitions of visual arts talents that have inspired them.

James explains, “As the mission of GROUPE is to support and incubate local NYC designers, it is very exciting that we’re able to likewise support and showcase the incredible talent of a legendary NYC artist; particularly at a time when the concept of ‘local’ is coming under fire from so many angles.”

BlackBook chatted with Patterson about the show, and the neighborhood he loves.



Everyone talks about the old East Village / LES versus the current – but how would you describe the difference in a couple of sentences?

A magical crucible that opened up so much opportunity for whoever wanted to work for their dream. The LES was like a free and open university with limitless options – and I learned so much. The community was dense with different kinds of cultural activities, for example: a wide variety of forms of filmmaking, narrative, non-narrative, abstract, avant-garde, documentary, New Wave, transgression, punk, and so on. It seemed like you had an endless choice of fashion, poetry, music, art, venues to play or be an audience member in. And then the cross-section of religions, the different ethnic groups…then throw in the politics, drag, and so on.

Was there an exciting sense of possibility then in breaking down sacred gender barriers?

I was not focused on gender issues, and I do not remember gender as the hot topic it is today. It was a different era. I had friends involved getting a sex change, but it was more a private personal issue, not a public campaign.

There’s so much of an effort to categorize every little gender difference now. Did you feel that your subjects were more concerned with personal expression than with gaining social acceptance?

I have shown the artwork of [Warhol superstar] Candy Darling, and will be having a Candy Darling wig and art show coming up; but the surface subject is not gender specific. Rather, it’s the creative importance of an individual that was one of the leading forces of illustrating that ‘to do’ is a powerful way to make change. Candy Darling was a game changer by example, not by a political platform.



What was the Pyramid’s role in all of it? Was it more of a sanctuary for “outsiders,” or a place to just let go and ignore all the prejudices and stereotypes for a few hours?

Calling it a sanctuary for “outsiders” is a good description.

Who were some of your favorite subjects?

The Pyramid was instrumental to my growth as an artist. Because of this, part of my ambition is to bring attention to the people who helped me and I saw as geniuses and critical to the scene…but who are so much overlooked. For example, Peter Kwaloff / Sun PK, he was an explosion of creativity and needs to be discovered in a much larger way; Nelson Sullivan introduced me to the video camera which changed my life – he was instrumental helping a number of well-known creative people’s careers. Ray Beez from the hardcore band War Zone introduced me to that scene – which was, for me, a very exciting time, and also another American cultural game changer. I held Tattoo Society of NY meetings at the Pyramid, and the TSNY was responsible for legalizing tattooing in NYC.

Any specific great stories you remember?

The creation of Wigstock.

Do these images still have the ability to provoke?

No idea how others respond to these images…no question they are important to me.

What makes GROUPE the right place to exhibit them?

In 1999, Tod Lippy, now publisher of the extraordinary Esopus magazine – which included a selection of these portraits in their current issue – had written and produced a short independent movie called Cookies. I was an actor in his movie, and a portion of it was shot in James Jurney’s Elizabeth Street [Seize sur Vingt] store. And now years later he has survived as an independent downtown business. I admire and support James and his team for their ability and skill at hanging in there, as I have now witnessed masses of small independent businesses start and fail, and watched as businesses that had been on the LES for decades be priced out. My new campaign is MAKE DOWNTOWN OURS AGAIN – look up Clayton Patterson NO!art.



Rare First Images: New Bowie Book ‘When Ziggy Played the Marquee’

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When David Bowie was lost to us on January 10, 2016, he entered a cultural pantheon, also counting the likes of Michelangelo, Shakespeare and Picasso as members, regarding whom there will never be enough ways we can look back and consider how they reshaped the way we see, well…everything.

Ziggy Stardust was a watershed, of course. Earth and space, male and female, God and god, as well as the very idea of the human spectacle were all turned inside out and sideways back again, by this magnificent character through which Bowie channeled his voracious appetites for art, science, fashion, drugs and, most importantly, rock & roll. And this landmark new book, When Ziggy Played the Marquee (out October 16 through ACC Publishing), brilliantly, thrillingly captures the entire bizarre extravaganza (from stage to backstage and back again) during one night in London, autumn 1973 – via striking images by photographer Terry O’Neill.

Interspersed is fascinating commentary from French model-singer – and Bowie collaborator – Amanda Lear; Suzi Ronson, wife of guitarist Mick and creator of the iconic Ziggy hairstyle; kindred spirit drag-punk Jayne County; and, of course, O’Neill himself. But it is the photos themselves which tell the story of a moment of cultural revolution that will surely never, ever be equalled.

“He took it all too far…”




Is Lena Dunham the Next Editor-In-Chief of ‘Glamour’?

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Hannah Horvath fans are still grieving the end of Lena Dunham’s HBO brainchild, Girls. The show ended this year after six seasons. Meanwhile, Dunham is appearing this season on American Horror Story.

But could a new career be in her future? According to WWD, the writer is rumored to be in talks for the Editor-in-Chief role at Glamour. Having written for The New Yorker and currently maintaining her own feminist newsletter, Lenny Letter with Hearst, she’s made appearances at some of Glamour‘s events in recent years.

But according to WWD, Condé Nast “declined to comment on speculation” and Dunham’s rep, Michael Cohen commented, “There is no truth to this story.”

With the exit of Cindi Leive, the Condé Nast publication has suffered in both an editorial and business perspective while sister publication Teen Vogue has become a strong feminist voice for young readers. Dunham could be just the voice and name to bring Glamour up to speed. Meanwhile, Amy Astley (Architectural Digest), Elaine Welteroth (Teen Vogue), and Eva Chen (Instagram) are also rumored to be in talks.

Paris’ Prince de Galles Hotel Opens Exhibit of Ali Mahdavi Celeb Photographs

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In a city of fabulous photographers, Ali Mahdavi stands apart for his ability to capture something just a bit more exquisite, even supernatural in his famous subjects. The outré Iranian shutterbug has shot everyone from Tilda Swinton to Marilyn Manson to Charlotte Gainsbourg; actress and burlesque star Dita Von Teese is his most favored muse.

And Mlle Von Teese is one of those featured featured in his new exhibition “Glamorama: Celebrities by Ali Mahdavi,” at the equally glamorous Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Paris. Other famous faces among the 40+ images include those of Monica Bellucci, Arielle Dombasle, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Donatella Versace and Karl Lagerfeld. It will be on display through October 23.

“Glamour is all the strategies that are used to achieve an ideal of beauty,” he explains, “that is not necessarily, and far from it, an ideal of conventional beauty – but an idea of personal beauty that corresponds to our own vision of this. Which is the beautiful.”

We asked him to give his most ethereal explication of three of his most exalted subjects.




Dita von Teese

“Dita is my ultimate muse, but she is also a close and very loyal friend. Fifteen years ago, Mr. Pearl and Suzanne von Aichinger introduced us to each other, and I immediately fell in love with her. She embodies the ideal woman that I drew since I was five years old. What I love about her is that she is the embodiment of glamour. At the beginning, she was the beautiful American blond next door, but she decided to become a brunette goddess of glamour! She transformed herself into the most glamorous woman on the planet by using all the tools of glamour inspired by the golden age of Hollywood. She always quotes a fabulous sentence from Helena Rubinstein: “There is no ugly woman, but there are lazy women!” She deserves her beauty that she creates, she is a magical bird of paradise. We did more than 20 sets of shooting, five film, film hologram for Louboutin, a video mapping, some numbers at Crazy Horse. She inspires me because she always drives me to somewhere unexpected! We evolved together and I hope we will continue until we are 80 years old. At this age, she will still be a beautiful woman with long white hair.”

Monica Bellucci

“Monica is my ultimate friend and fantasy. People all around the world ask me questions about her, because she is a fantasy, an ideal woman for any person, an all man’s desire. She is all women, but in an ultimate vision: the Virgin Mary, Maria Magdalena…and also she reminds me of the goddess Hera / Junon. Monica has the same attitude for a big luxury campaign as she does for a more small personal shooting: always chic and elegant with everybody. That is what makes her a big star. After being a supermodel with many campaigns with great photographers [D&G by Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel…] she also became a great actress. There is always a change with her, she is hypnotized by the lens and drives you into new adventures.”

Arielle Dombasle

“While Dita is my brunette muse, Arielle is my blond muse – they are my favorites! She is the most delightful woman on the planet, not only because of her beauty, but all about what she is. Arielle is divine, she is a goddess, she is also someone that you fall in love with immediately, because she is super clever, spiritual and so surrealistic with a huge sense of humor. And more than all, she is a loyal person with whom I have a long relationship with for more than ten years. We had more than ten shootings, four music videos. It is impossible to separate our friendship and our artistic relation. She inspires me because of her surrealism and her strong character.”





alexa Blackbook: Role Models: The Changing Faces of Fashion

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RUNWAYS and magazine covers are no longer a one-size (or gender or color) fits-all world. Models are now harnessing the power of their platforms to speak up and disrupt the status quo, working to transform the fashion industry into one of real inclusivity, beyond lip service or tokenism. Meet five models-cum-activists who’ve altered the industry with their looks — and so much more.





DISCOVERED on Instagram by legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath, 25-year-old Elsesser grew up in LA, the daughter of a Chilean-Swiss father and African-American mother. Through her bikini-clad selfies and refreshingly honest Instagram captions, she’s now changing the way fashion represents women of different sizes and cultures. “It took a lot for me to be able to say that I’m a plus-size model or a model at all without feeling terror,” she told Allure magazine. “We’re told that if you’re not this one archetypal kind of beauty then you’re not worth it … But it’s not true. Emotionally, it’s so taxing. It takes so much energy not to love yourself.”





ONE of the fashion industry’s most in-demand faces, Nef was the first transgender model to be signed by a major agency (IMG). The 24-year-old Columbia graduate recently starred in Gucci’s latest fragrance ad and appears as a recurring character on Amazon’s “Transparent.” She has also become an outspoken advocate for transgender rights. “There isn’t a trans moment,” she told the New Yorker in 2016. “There were zero, and now there are 10 to 15. That’s not a moment. If anyone’s having a moment, it’s white cis men … It’s just a presence where there was an absence. We deserve so much more.” And indeed, Nef’s family has encouraged her to go for so much more. Nef, writing for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter, shared her mother’s unflinching advice: “There are going to be a lot of people looking at you. They will say hurtful things … you need to have a thick skin. They’ll say you’re ugly, disgusting — but it’s an opportunity for you. Own it. If this is what people want from you, give it to them.”





CANADIAN model Harlow first caught the world’s eye as one of 14 finalists on “America’s Next Top Model” in 2014. Born with vitiligo, the 23-year-old has gone on to model in the pages of splashy fashion magazines, star in a recent Swarovski campaign and cameo in Beyonce’s visual album, “Lemonade.” In a 2014 Ted talk, she recounted a painful childhood: “I was singled out because of this skin condition, I was bullied, I was alienated.” Now, she says, she simply wants to be seen as a person. “I’m very sick of talking about my skin,” she told Elle Canada earlier this year. “I am literally just a human. I have the same brain as you; there’s a skeleton under my skin just like yours. It’s not that serious.”





GRABBING headlines in 2016 as the first model to wear a hijab while walking in major shows (including her debut on Kanye West’s catwalk), Aden has also landed on the covers of CR Fashion Book and Allure. Before making a splash in the fashion world, the stunning 19-year-old — who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and raised in Minnesota — was the first Somali-American to compete for the title of Miss Minnesota USA. “It took me a while to just be comfortable in my own skin and really just wear my difference proudly — not be ashamed of the way I dress,” she told Vice. “I feel like that’s something a lot of women experience … I say I’m different, but really, aren’t we all different?”





BELGIAN supermodel and Alexander Wang muse Odiele has walked countless runways and fronted a jaw-dropping list of A-list fashion campaigns throughout her impressive 12-year career. But in January, the 29-year-old gained even more attention after revealing that she is intersex (born with sex characteristics that aren’t typically male or female), in an effort to reduce stigmas and advocate for others. “It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo,” she told USA Today. “I am proud to be intersex.”


Photos by Amanda Mertens (Paloma), Mary Rozzi/Contour by Getty Images (Hari), Alessandro Russo (Winnie), Getty Images (Halima), Courtesy of Women Management NY (Hanne).

alexa BlackBook: On Pointe: Star Designers Deck Out Prima Ballerinas for the Ultimate Curtain Call

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 New York City Ballet’s Fall Fashion Gala, on Sept. 28, presented several world-debut dances, along with original costumes by prominent fashion designers like Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, who created a dozen frothy confections for the event.


WHAT’S a night at the ballet without the glorious costumes? On Sept. 28, the New York City Ballet celebrated both at its annual Fall Fashion Gala, hosting the global premieres of four dance pieces, each outfitted with original creations by a buzzy NYC designer.

Prima fashionista Sarah Jessica Parker, who serves as vice chair of the NYC Ballet’s board, dreamed up the night of dancer-designer collaborations six years ago. This year’s all-star fashion team included Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim (of Monse and Oscar de la Renta), Virgil Abloh (of Off-White), Jonathan Saunders (of Diane von Furstenberg) and Tsumori Chisato.

They were paired with four rising choreographers, including Gianna Reisen, who — at just 18 years old — is the youngest ever appointed by the company. Principal dancer Lauren Lovette returned with a new piece this year, after presenting her debut work last season — a rarity for women in the ballet world.

She blames the shortage of female choreographers on the pressures of performing. “Women just have a lot of dancing to do in a day,” Lovette tells Alexa, noting that the competitive stakes are high. “That’s why a lot of women don’t really think about the creative side; they think about the technical side and the artistic side and trying to be better every day.

“It wasn’t until I got promoted to principal,” she continues, “and I achieved that goal to be a prima ballerina that my boss came to me and said, ‘Now will you choreograph?’” Fortunately, the answer was yes.

And when she heard she’d be pas de deux-ing with Monse’s Kim and Garcia on costumes for her gala piece this year? “I almost had a heart attack,” Lovette laughs, noting that she’d saved one of their runway looks on her phone for inspiration. “I couldn’t believe it.”

“Lauren’s approach is very forward-thinking, which is refreshing,” says designer Kim, with Garcia adding: “It’s been very fluid and experimental working with her.”

Parker was similarly thrilled. “We are really excited about what Monse is doing,” she tells Alexa. “The fact that they’re also at the house of [Oscar] de la Renta is not inconsequential to us.”

Meanwhile, Off-White’s Abloh created costumes (including ethereal, pastel tulle skirts) for wunderkind choreographer Reisen — all thanks to a fortuitous note.

“I got a random email from [Parker] that was superawesome and heartfelt,” he tells Alexa. “I was blown away — little does she know she’s this muse for me. Then a couple weeks later she emailed back and suggested I design costumes for a ballet that was being created. So I have been working on this for the last three months.”

Parker describes Marc Happel, head of the NYCB’s costume shop, as “the linchpin making it all work,” serving as a translator between the choreographers and the designers. “In my mind, I have a very clear idea of what is needed in a costume to make a dancer comfortable,” he explains. “Certainly we have tricks — I’m always looking for what kind of treatment there is around the waist.”

Garcia brought existing pieces from the Monse line — including a fitted black jacket with a cinched peplum flare and lace-up sleeves — to Lincoln Center for a test run with Lovette.

“I got lucky because I felt like Monse had already met me halfway,” reflects Lovette. “Their clothes are so movement-based. All of their advertising is in motion. Their models are jumping — the clothes have life. What better way than dance to put life within the clothes?”


Photo by Taylor Jewell

Maison Kitsuné Designer Mathieu Lehanneur Exhibits at Carpenters Workshop Gallery

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Founded in London, but expanded to New York and Paris, Carpenters Workshop Gallery has been one of the most stalwart presenters of challenging contemporary design since 2005. Its latest NYC show decisively bears that out, with visual provocateur Mathieu Lehanneur’s stunning Ocean Memories show currently on view.

Lehanneur is actually a Wallpaper* magazine Top 100 designer; and the exhibition coincides with the opening of the new Maison Kitsuné New York flagship store, which bears his aesthetic signature. His works have been featured in MOMA, the Pompidou in Paris and the V&A in London, and his client list includes the likes of Kenzo, Cartier, Veuve Clicquot and Poltrona Frau.



But Ocean Memories is something of a pinnacle for him, a physical but surreal representation of a sea frozen in a moment. Tables and benches are adorned with sculpted waves that appear to have been halted by some unforeseen force, making for alluring but thought-provoking imagery.

“We live on a planet where water covers 75% of the surface,” he explains. “The ocean is our origin, and water is our main physiological component. Yet, it is the element that remains the most enigmatic to our civilization; when facing the ocean, we feel both our strength and fragility. The marble and bronze works of the Ocean Memories series eternally freeze the incessant movement of the sea and the world.”

The exhibition will be up until October 21 at Carpenters Workshop Gallery, 666 5th Ave.


Alexander Wang Steps Down as CEO of His Label

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Alexander Wang is stepping down from his position as CEO of his label, according to Business of Fashion. He’ll retain his titles as Creative Director and chairman of the brand.

Stepping into Wang’s shoes as CEO is Lisa Gersh, whose background includes heading Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and Martha Stewart Omnimedia. 

“I am honoured and excited by the opportunity to help Alex shape this remarkable company,” said Gersh in a statement. “The Alexander Wang brand has always represented style, innovation and an extraordinary standard of quality and excellence. I’m looking forward to working with Alex and the rest of the team to build on his foundation, and to continue to delight customers with our products and creative vision.”

Gersh is joined by Stephanie Horton, the former chief marketing officer of Farfetch, who’s coming on  as chief strategy officer.

While the two may seem like unusual choices for Wang’s consistently fashion-forward brand, the designer has assured consumers he’s very much pleased.

“The appointment of CEO, and the addition of a CSO position, highlight our ongoing strategy of productivity and diversification,” Wang stated. “In a rapidly changing retail environment, it’s necessary for us to continually challenge the status quo. In my year as CEO I’ve been able to reflect and assess the strengths and opportunities of the company and set the stage for future growth. Lisa and Stephanie’s diverse backgrounds in the media, lifestyle and digital landscape will help us continue to position the business to expand into new categories and territories.”


Madonna Teaches the Fat Jewish to Vogue in MDNA Skincare Video

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What’s better than a day at the spa? Try a day at the spa with Madonna. And indeed, The Fat Jewish recently joined the Material Girl for a day of pampering and a master class in vogueing.

In the hilarious video, the unlikely duo engages in some witty banter, while promoting Madonna’s new MDNA skincare line. As Madge introduces the refreshing Rose Mist Spray, Fat Jewish gives his own take, a bottle of rosé with a mister attachment (unfortunately not part of the skincare line). There’s also talk of a Xanax smoothie, but that doesn’t appear to be included either.

The MDNA skincare line is now available online. Watch Madonna and the Fat Jewish below.