Harlem born and bred rapper A$AP Rocky doesn’t leave a lot of room for ambiguity. From his breakout moment–the 2011 release of his slow-rumbling, fast-talking hit ‘Peso’–he’s been clear about who he is and where he comes from. He’s a self-declared “pretty motherf*cker,” a one time drug dealer who signed with RCA’s Polo Music Group for a record-pushing $3 million after the release of his debut mixtape, a New York boy who’s quick to embrace Houston’s hazy flow and Memphis’ harsh crunk.
It’s hard to talk about Charlotte Gainsbourg without talking about her lineage, and with parents as provocative as Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, how could you not? Gainsbourg seems to have inherited a bit of both figures’ impressionable allure — her work, especially her roles in now three of Lars von Triers’ controversial pictures, her style (Gainsbourg was Nicolas Ghesquiere’s muse at Balenciaga for years), and her angular, near-androgynous beauty have attracted cultish devotion.
Just recently, idiosyncratic director Wes Anderson released his latest mini world, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The film tells the story of an aging writer’s youthful encounter with fabled hotelier — and more precisely, the story of the latter’s adventures with his young pupil, the orphaned lobby boy Zero. It’s a layered, ornate dream-meets-slapstick vision of the end of an era (the death of true — perhaps always fanaticized? — grace and hospitality) due to the rise of fascism. Anderson takes us down a winding, Faberge egg-styled path — seeping inspiration from the stories of Viennese author Stefan Zweig and drawing us into a mood that is at once as surreal and oddly, hyper-imaginatively stylistic as it is vulnerably, sincerely (and to it’s own delight, comically) melancholic. In other words, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is characteristically Anderson. The film is whimsical, grandiose, a quirky visual feast, and so is the intricately designed early 20th century Eastern European-influenced aesthetic of its protagonists’ apparel. Just take Adrien Brody’s character Dimitri’s dark, immaculately tailored, slim cut black suits, for example. His look is resolutely evil — the midnight black palette, the waxed mustache, the ZZ (i.e. SS) inscribed on his later costumes. You haven’t seen suits this sleek before, an aura so dour. It’s all built to fit Dimitri’s dark mastermind persona, and so chicly so.
“In my dream world, again, Jessa doesn’t really shop,” GIRLS costume designer Jenn Rogien explained early in the show’s run. “She collects things in her travels — from flea markets, street fairs, foreign vintage stores, the whole world.” The woman behind the styles of the girls of GIRLS is of course talking about the aesthetic of the dramedy’s patent bohemian-cum-jaded provocateur, Jessa Johansson. Since the show’s introduction in 2012, it was quickly clear that Jessa embodied a certain free-spirited, Janis Joplin-era Chelsea Hotel-meets-modern day transient niche — she was worldly, she was experienced, she was as self-indulgent as any other of Lena Dunham’s oh-so-contemporary creations, and she was — and even post-failed marriage, post- (failed) rehab, and frequently unlikeable state, arguably still is — the coolest one around.
It’s hard to believe it’s only been a few short years since Alexander Wang launched his eponymous label. He started out making unisex intarsia cashmere sweaters when he dropped out of Parsons in 2004 at just age twenty, selling them door-to-door to buyers until they caught enough attention for the retailers to come to him. The first full collection (styled by high school pal Vanessa Traina) came three years later — slouched-just-so black tees, biker-inspired cropped leather pants, carefree cashmere cardigans — more after-hours than after-school. Just a year later, the California-native took home the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award at age 24. There’s something so undeniably, so darkly effortless about Wang’s designs — it wasn’t long after he sent those inaugural tees down the runway that he started to dictate, not just embody, what it meant to be downtown, and for good reason.
In an age in which punk is a Vogue-sanctioned, ball-devoted endeavor, it’s easy to forget that the movement was once an intensely physical, joyously rebellious cry. Today, most would agree that punk is long dead –whether you define the scene within the realm of the early Vivienne Westwood Sex regular or her crusty, Lower East Side, scuffed-up counterpoint.
In Moscow, Russia, however, there are true punk originals. Pussy Riot, the 10+-member all-female feminist riot grrl group founded in August 2011 is carrying on both the scream and aesthetic of the subculture’s founders. They engage in colorful, public performance acts, calling attention to Russia’s current political climate. In their most well-known, three of the girls wore candy bright balaclavas and sung the outspoken, Putin-decrying anthem “Punk Prayer” at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012—an act which landed two of the three girls in Siberian labor camps for an indefinite period of time. It was an unusually harsh sentence for such an act, one that lit a fire amongst global activists (including the likes of Madonna, Patti Smith & Kathleen Hanna) calling for their release. On Monday, the two women – Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova— were set free. They’ve built a loud – and quite young – call around them; a sort of global conversation and fight for action. And their members continue to speak out:
Performance artist Marina Abramovic has not one, but two signature looks: a floor-length, often all black, high-necked gowns—and nothing at all. She’s perhaps better known for the second—stripping down to a brazenly womanly birthday suit to confront such bold issues as the feminist identity, the limitations of the human body, the reproductions of radical loss, contagious narcissism, and the corruptive influence of easily gifted power in her work. She often invites viewers (and for many years her co-performer and lover Ulay Laysiepen) to inflict harm on her body—wiping her, cutting her, further undressing her, and otherwise manipulating her bare figure in such works as “Rhythm O;” sometimes her vulnerability is expressed through nudity alone. When she does wear dress herself in her work, she often makes the clothes herself—as in the case of her most famous piece, 2010’s epic MoMa endeavor, The Artist is Present. Here, Abramovic sat still in the museum for over 700 hours (sans bathroom breaks, movement, food), staring at visitors. It was a compelling piece–and one of the most viewed (over 750,000 visitors waited for hours to see the artist) in MoMa history. With The Artist is Present, radical performance art entered the mainstream and was legitimized.
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