INTERVIEW: Karen Elson on Emotional Upheaval, the Mindf*ck of Modeling and Music as Salvation

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If the term “supermodel” still has any cultural capital, Karen Elson surely would be counted amongst that extremely elite group – with her striking countenance gracing so many magazine covers and advertising campaigns these last two decades as to make her instantly recognizable. But in truth, she’s just a kid from Manchester with a big heart, a remarkably disarming outward warmth, and a great deal of music in her soul that needs to get out.

You know the big public story. She married rock god Jack White in 2005, they had two children together, and then divorced in 2013. In between, she launched a music career with the gorgeously stylized 2010 album The Ghost Who Walks – and with hubbie Jack at the production controls.

But the tumult of the split had left her at once unable to summon her creative muse, yet also determined to tell the new story of Karen Elson. That story has at last arrived in the form of the stunningly visceral new album Double Roses, out April 17.

For the job, she gathered an incredible collection of accomplices (Laura Marling, Pat Sansone of Wilco, Benmont Tench of The Heartbreakers, producer Jonathan Wilson), and the result is a record that is as musically accomplished – “Call Your Name” recalls Fleetwood Mac at their best – as it is courageously and movingly soul-baring. One need only to listen to stirring lead single “Distant Shore” to understand what a deeply cathartic experience it must have been for her.

We caught up with her for a remarkably honest and revealing conversation.

 

 

The last record was a bit more “storytelling.” This is a much more personal album?

Yeah, I think so. I mean, it’s been seven years since I made a record. The elephant in the room is that I got a divorce. That obviously shifts your perspective.

Well, you’re suddenly split in two…

It’s something very personal; and when you’re in the worlds that Jack and I are in…you’re thrust into the public spotlight. And I felt very protective of myself, I didn’t want people asking me questions. Now all that is somewhat in the distance.

And sometimes you just need time ponder things. 

There’s absolute truth in that. But not just regarding my divorce – there were so many things in a state of turmoil in my life. So I had to step back to be able to reflect upon myself and upon my choices.

That brought you to making this record?

I knew I needed to crack into the vulnerability. During the writing, on any given day, I didn’t know if I was going to be “wild and stormy oceans” or a “calm sea.” When I tried to mask my feelings of insecurity, the songs would kind of suck. When I embraced the vulnerability within the writing process, there was something that was way more connected. I got real with myself, and dug into that deep, intricate part of myself.

Some of the lyrics are very honest and vulnerable…and melancholy. You write, “Hey love, it’s the end of an era” – but also, “I am alone / I am free.” Did writing and recording these songs help bring you to a new sense of emotional freedom?

Well, the songs were written over a long period of time, there’s a sort of arc of these turbulent times in my life. A lot of people focus on this being a breakup record; yet there are a lot of other life experiences that color it. But those are not the ones mentioned in the tabloids.

The public wants...

Well, I don’t think I know anybody who’s been through a divorce and said, “That was so fun!” Me and Jack are friends and he’s a wonderful father. But it doesn’t negate that there is real pain and emotional upheaval.

Did you find that you’ve discovered who is Karen Elson is now?

Yeah, definitely! Well, first, I’m a complete and utter daydreamer…

Gee, who would have guessed that about you?

But I do feel a lot more stable than I did a decade ago.

The music seems less stylized on this album, more complex.

I worked really hard on the songs – on the lyrics and on the music. With my first record I was still figuring it out. At that time I was married to such a formidable musician, and always in the back of my head I felt people were thinking that Jack actually wrote all the songs.

But you’ve noticeably moved on from his particular influence.

With this one, I wanted to show myself, I was tired of hiding behind this veneer, being so many women but myself – even as a model. I was also going through an identity crisis, reconfiguring who I am. What I needed in my life to feel vital was to strip myself of all the things that have been put upon me.

 

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Well, modeling is about hiding behind a façade, of course.

And as a model, the fun of it is that I get to go to work, dress up, and become this character for a day – and have my photograph taken. Yet slowly but surely it sinks into your psyche. I started wondering, “Who the hell am I?” I’m not this person in the magazine, but I’m also not the illusion that I was painting on stage. I had this intense desire to simply just be myself. And maybe because of my unique circumstances, weirdly, just being myself was very difficult to accomplish.

The album artwork sort of reflects that. Like you’re trying to emerge from a dark place…

That was me and a friend swimming in the ocean. I was really going through a dark time, it felt sort of hopeless. She just snapped the picture; and I look at it now and I can see all of that in my face. That’s the accurate description of this record, cast out to the stormy sea and trying to find my way back to the calm shore. But I’m no damsel in distress!

How do you balance the worlds of music and fashion?

It’s a strange world, the music business. But then I’ve never even sussed out the fashion business really. As a model, you can have a million people telling you how to look, how to act, how to be. But I’ve not had a normal career at all. I don’t go to fashion parties, I don’t hang out on the scene. I don’t even follow fashion – I don’t look in fashion magazines to follow trends. I have always been a bit of an outsider. I don’t want to be front and center, I want to be on the periphery.

Is that partly due to coming from Manchester?

I have no idea! I think it’s just my personality, at once an extrovert and an introvert. I’ve always been a little bit of a mystery to myself. Duality is a lot my life, I’m a twin. And my twin sister is my best friend.

You’re much more vulnerable making music, of course.

I have worked with amazing photographers, who have this uncanny way of seeing into your soul with a picture. But standing up on stage is so much more vulnerable, yes. Whereas a photograph is just an image of you.

One profession is about holding back emotion, and the other is about diving down into the depths of your emotions.

There’s been so much emphasis on the way I look. But I don’t really like that. I don’t look in the mirror and go, “Oh, look at me, I’m a model!” It’s not to dis the fashion industry, I love the people that I work with. But it is a mindfuck to be put on a pedestal for how you look. Especially when how you looked was what made you miserable as a kid, because everyone fucking tortured you for it. And it also isn’t a real reflection of who you are fundamentally.

But this record certainly is.

Yes, and I’ve come out of it a lot stronger and more hopeful. This record is about being who I am, and standing up for who I am.

FIRST LOOK: CJ Hendry + Louboutin Exhibition at Art Basel Hong Kong

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Art and commerce seamlessly merge in the work of New York-based Australian artist CJ Hendry; indeed her latest work was created in collaboration with legendary French shoe designer Christian Louboutin.

The fittingly titled Complimentary Colors debuts March 21st at the Anita Chan Lai-ling Gallery at the Fringe Club in Hong Kong, Hendry’s first time showing in Asia. The artist’s fascination with material and pop culture has previously translated into her signature large scale, photorealistic black-and-white drawings of consumer goods. But this time around she’s turned her focus to an unmitigated celebration of color.

Specifically highlighting the color red as an homage to the iconic Louboutin soles, Hendry’s meticulously rendered, mesmerizing wax pencil drawings of thick oil paint dazzle in their vividness.

“I find drawing very intimate, as opposed to other mediums,” Hendry explains. “Drawing allows you to get very close to your craft; and I can reach that new level of detail in each piece. Pencils are very different from my usual medium: ink.” The artist by her own admission has OCD, so messy oil paints were actually never really a reasonable option.

 

  • Christian Louboutin by Paolo Ferrarini
  • Cj Henry by Matthew Kelly

 

This isn’t the first time she’s been inspired by Louboutin’s designs. Her series The Trophy Room in 2016 (her debut New York show) featured a So Kate heel dipped in bronze, before becoming the focus of one of her ink sketches; it was that work that caught the attention of Louboutin. Noting the obvious synergy between the two, he gushes, “There is something I love in her work that is very playful; and you can feel the artisanship.”

Since 2013 Louboutin has chosen the week of Art Basel Hong Kong to showcase emerging artistic talent. Hendry enthuses, “[Louboutin] is a force whose work I’ve admired for many years. For me, the brand represents what it is to be a strong female – they started with and maintain such a strong product: a high heel. I also love how colorful and playful they are, something I find really engaging. And I appreciate that they are willing to support a young artist like myself.”

Thoughtfully, she stops to reflect and shed light on her apparent obsession with brands: “I don’t think it was intentional to start. It was something that came from a very true place of where I was at the time. I’m interested to see where this new direction will take me.” And so are we.

 

Iconic 70s Brand Fiorucci is Back With A London Pop-Up Store

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Fiorucci, the iconic brand of the 70s favored by such names as Andy Warhol and Madonna (it was known in its time as the ‘daytime Studio 54’), makes its grand return to retail shelves with a pop-up shop at Selfridges in London.

Elio Fiorucci, the brand’s founder, has been credited with the invention of stretch denim, and the brand is known to be responsible for popularizing such modern style essentials as camouflage and leopard print. While Fiorucci is now deceased, the label was taken over by Janie and Stephen Schaffer in 2015, the two of whom have created a new website and Instagram for the brand. The Selfridges pop-up marks the first IRL event of Fiorucci’s new incarnation, and it certainly pays its respects to labels lost: imagery of the brand’s famous logo, two cherubs a-la Raphael, are everywhere, as well as homage to the famous ads of the 70s featuring, largely, women’s butts in tight jeans, as well as Polaroids of some of the brand’s early adopters, like a young, smiley Madge.

The pop-up shop certainly takes a fresh update on classics, with modern bomber jackets and flare denim part of its latest offerings, as well as custom onsite embroidery work. Check out some of the brand’s new content below:

Fiorucci Empire. Pop-Up at Selfridges. NOW available in PINK. @theofficialselfridges #fiorucci #selfridges

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Meet Edie, a highwaisted flare. Available now at @barneysny

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FIRST LOOK: Delta and Alessi Team up for Stylish In-Air Dining

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Airport security won’t be getting cheerier anytime soon. But once boarded, things are looking decidedly up for the perpetual traveler.

To wit, the fabulously groovy new Delta partnership with Italian design house Alessi – which we were privileged to have a peek at before its official launch on April 1. The airline, long America’s “cool” carrier, has been ratcheting up the comfort and luxury of late, with plush new seats, wifi access on most flights, bigger overhead bins, notable-chef-created meals and seasonal wine offerings. But this new program brings a welcome dose of style at 30,000 feet.

The Alessi for Delta collection includes signature mod flatware, stylishly patterned trays, stark bone china, curvy crystal glassware…even the tabletop accessories – napkin rings, salt & pepper shakers – get a clever reinvention. It all makes reference to popular items created and inspired by some of Alessi’s most renowned designers; but smartly, feedback was also solicited from both passengers and flight attendants during the design process.

“Alessi was a natural choice for Delta,” says the company’s President Alberto Alessi. “We have worked with some of the most exciting designers in our international network to create the most innovative and advanced in-flight collection in the contemporary design scene.”

Here’s what it looks like.

Givenchy Hires Its First Female Creative Director

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Photo: @GivenchyOfficial on Instagram

Givenchy has at last replaced its former creative director Riccardo Tisci with Chloé mastermind Clare Waight Keller. The designer will be Givenchy’s first female Creative Director and is scheduled to begin May 2, marking the end of her 6-year tenure at Chloé.

Keller will be responsible for both men’s and women’s ready-to-wear for the brand, as well as all accessories and couture shows.

Givenchy chief executive officer Philippe Fortunato told WWD, “She has this great ability to break the rules and innovate without making a revolution. Her very focused approach will help the brand in building the ongoing momentum we have—and taking it to the next level.”

Today’s news follows the announcement that Jil Sander’s Creative Director of three years, Rodolfo Paglialunga, will be leaving the German fashion brand.

Keller and Givenchy both took to Instagram to announce the big news:

2017. CLARE WAIGHT KELLER. NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR. SHOT BY STEVEN MEISEL.

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The journey begins

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INTERVIEW: Angela Missoni on Her New ‘Salotto’ Art Project

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Enter Angela Missoni’s salotto, or living room, above the Missoni boutique on Madison Avenue, and it’s like being transported to nonna’s house in Italy – except with a whole lot of creativity thrown into the mix. The space is meant to make Missoni’s friends and customers feel like they are a guest in one of her homes; and indeed such was the case as right away when an Italian assistant insisted we have an espresso and some lasagna. With a quick stroll through the intimate space, that image is fortified by personal pictures and memorabilia from Missoni’s family. In the corner sits a stunning mosaic round table, where guests can interact while making crafts and bond through the beloved Italian arts of conversation and food.

The space is also meant to be an immersive experience of contemporary art. Dispersed around the salotto are art pieces from Missoni’s personal collection, some of which are available for purchase. It’s all part of the brand’s ongoing Surface Conversion project, dubbed as such from the concept of Missoni lending the space to artists to convert as they will.

 

© 2017 Scott Rudd @scottruddevents www.scottruddevents.com scott.rudd@gmail.com

 

This particular exhibition, the second in the series, is dramatically titled Surface Conversion Presents Kreëmart “Salotto Angela Missoni,” and was dreamed up by Missoni’s longtime friend Raphael Castoriano, the founder of Kreëmart – which brings the worlds of art and sugar together. As Missoni mentions, the two share a similar aesthetic; hence was born the idea of the performance art piece on display, “La Veglia,” by artist Romina de Novellis – who unravels 20,000 meters of custom-made red Missoni yarn in a contained area. In order for the intimacy of the piece to be achievable, Castoriano suggested the space also be intimate…thus, the birth of the salotto.

“La Veglia” the performance was by private invitation only – the result, an intricate sculpture of yarn, will be on display afterward for the general public.

We caught up with Missoni to discuss the project more extensively.

 

 

 How did the idea of this project come about?

It started a few years ago, thinking that maybe this location, this shop, this area is full of interesting art centers – and I thought of an art space. I have a lot of friends and parties so I thought let’s make an interesting space, a project that I called Surface Conversion, which means I give out the space to an artist to reinterpret it. The artist this past November used the windows. For this project with Romina I made her a special yarn for her performance. Since it is a “home” performance, it needed to be done in an intimate space. So basically this became an installation like my house, like a salotto, so she could perform. In fact this area could be my house, because any artist that you see around, those are all artists that I have.

Tell us about the process of choosing the artists for the salotto?

I am not a professional collector and I don’t call myself a collector. I am an assembler. There is no regular process. I might bump into an artist at a fair, but fairs are becoming too much, too much stress…it’s not anymore what I like to do. One of my bigger passions is flea markets. I also love second-hand shops, so my house is a mix up of values – even though the pieces are all precious to me. I often reassemble as well, bringing a second life to abandoned pieces.

In fashion, you seem to be drawn to ethnic elements. Does that also attract you in art?

I am very much attracted to arts and crafts, so I do have a fascination for artists who work with texture or artifacts. But at the same time, I also have a big fascination for conceptual artists, which is exactly the opposite. I am a very curious person, attracted to many, many things, those that surprise me.

What are your favorite museums and galleries here in New York? And worldwide?

Definitely the Guggenheim. I love the Smithsonian museum [in D.C.]. I try to see them all. I love the MET. I try to go to Naples once a year, and I make a point that I try to see all of the city. So this year it was the Museum of Capodimonte, at which I saw Barroco Napolitano. Last year I went to see Pompeii. I stop at Museo Provinciale della Ceramica di Vietri, and I get so inspired by the tiles there, every time! I just am very, very curious. Yesterday a Mexican artist stopped by and showed me her work through her book. And I said, but I know your work, I saw an exhibition of yours ten years ago in Puebla. And she was amazed! So it’s how I am, sort of random and curious.

This conversion space for artists – could it one day be a host space for aspiring designers?

No, not at the moment. But actually one thing I would really like to do is a museum for Missoni…and to make the history available for young designers to study – because I have amazing archives not yet organized. It’s sixty-five years of fashion history, so it would be great if I could do it.

What is your ultimate goal for the surface conversion project?

My goal for this project is to really give another vision to the store, to give the customer a different experience. And for me to find a reason to come to New York! But really to have a space to see people, since I don’t have a house in New York. I think we will go with this project until the summer, and then I have a new one in September.
 

Designer Azede Jean-Pierre to Make Uniforms for Students in Haiti

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Photo: @Azede on Instagram

Rising fashion designer Azede Jean-Pierre is collaborating with local Haitian business owners to design free uniforms for the country’s schools, the Cut reports. Jean-Pierre returned to Haiti, her home country, and met with several groups, including Artists for Peace and Justice, to organize the project.

Jean-Pierre will work with Haitian artists to produce the garments, which will arrive in 12 different schools in time for the 2017-2018 school year beginning this fall. “I am excited about the project. All education in Haiti is private, and I know firsthand how difficult it is for families to afford the tuition, let alone the additional necessities like books, transportation, and the uniforms,” she said to New York Magazine. “This project gives parents much-needed support, and it’s my hope that it will increase the efficiency of the traditional attire, as well as boost student self-esteem.”

Jean-Pierre is known for her structural designs, which have been worn by fashion icons like Michelle Obama and Solange Knowles in the past. See below:

@saintrecords

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Paris Fashion Week: Revisiting Decades of Style

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Image: Kenzo 

Paris Fashion Week has been ongoing for a few days now, and as always chic luxury is served. Designers seem to be drawing elements from the decades of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Although many trend-setting designers have still yet to show, here’s a summary of potential trends.

60s: Pastels and Pop Art

Numerous designers opted to not shy away from color. Some opted for a feminine vibe with the use of pastels while others were bold with the use of Pop Art colors. Beautiful pastel pinks and baby blues were seen at Rochas, while Carven and Lanvin brought peachy prettiness.
The whole spectrum of Pop Art colors –– from hot pink, to jazz blue, to chartreuse yellow, was seen at Kenzo – La Collection Memento and Guy Laroche.

 

70s: Flowery/Psychedelic Prints, Easy Silhouettes, and Earthy Colors

The 70s continued continued serving as a major source of inspiration. Prints ranged from plaid, as seen at Chloé, to flower power at Vanessa Bruno. Meanwhile, Dries Van Noten and Manish Arora presented psychedelic-inspired prints.
Silhouettes of the decade were also prominent. Isabel Marant presented flowing boho dresses, while billowy tops were seen at Carven. Fur statement-making coats were also prime du jour, as seen at Balmain, Faith Connexion, and Wanda Nylon.
Earthy and muted colors were also prominent on the runway.

 

80s: Power Silhouettes

The 80s: a decade remembered for powerful women! Strong, square shoulders were a major trend the past few days, being seen at Carmen March and Saint Laurent. High-waisted cinched pants also made a strong return, as seen at Carven and Isabel Marant. On the other hand, Chloé reminded us of the easy-breezy coolness of track- suit pants.

 

 

 

Gigi Hadid Photographs Zayn in the Chateau Marmont for SS17 Versus Campaign

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Photography by Gigi Hadid for Versus Versace

The SS17 Versus Versace campaign has arrived, and with it, model Gigi Hadid’s foray into photography. Starring in the candid new images? Hadid’s own hubby and One Direction-er turned bad boy heartthrob Zayn.

“It was sick to work with Versus. Donatella is a G,” says Zayn. “It was extra special that Gigi shot the campaign. Looking forward to following up with my Versus collection that drops in June.”

Donatella Versace says of the campaign: “The Versus campaign captures everything that is special about ZAYN, Gigi and Adwoa. They are young people who define the mood of their generation with their honesty, energy and their love.”

The images were shot at LA’s famous Chateau Marmont, along with female model Adwoa Aboah, with Art Direction by Erik Torstensson.

Take a look below: