Is the American Dream Dead or Alive?

James Marshall photographed by Jaesung Lee for BlackBook Magazine

If you listened strictly to the news pouring out of televisions and newspapers across the country, you’d think America was in the pits. Political tensions run high, incomes are low, and that’s to say nothing of the inequalities rampant in minority communities. It’s bad news all around. James Marshall, whose other projects include West Village restaurant Whitehall, wanted to know if the bad news rang true: Was the American dream dead? Marshall called up Cole Haan and recruited friend and photographer Todd Williams to accompany him on a monthlong motorcycle ride to visit eight American towns and cities and staying along the way with people met entirely through social media. The resulting series, The American Dream Project, shows a more hopeful, persevering side of the United States not often seen in the news. Marshall, by the way, learned to ride a motorcycle only three weeks before embarking on his journey. 

What gave you the idea for The American Dream Project?

I had one too many of those days spent barraged by bad news in the media. This is such a great country. I’m from Windsor, about 25 miles west of London, but moved here seven years ago. I thought, No, I’m not going to just listen to this. Let’s find out if this news is true. Is the American dream dead? That seed grew into The American Dream Project.

What were your views of America before you moved here, what did the American dream mean to you then?

Actually, when I came to New York with a little bit of cash, I was so convinced I would be robbed that I split my money–it wasn’t so much, a few hundred dollars–into socks and distributed it around my apartment. I was living in the West Village. I just had an address and a key, and I moved here with that worry. JaesungLee_JamesMarshall_ColeHaan_BB
James Marshall photographed by Jaesung Lee for BlackBook Magazine

I’m surprised you had those worries about moving to a safe neighborhood like the West Village.

But within a few months you realize it’s the safest city in the world. You realize that Americans like people who work hard; they want you to succeed. And if you work hard, you can go somewhere, you can be successful.

Were you ever afraid this project wasn’t going to happen?

This was the biggest project I’ve done so far. I didn’t fully understand how expensive it was to pull a crew together and go across the country for a month. I approached Cole Haan because their philosophy and mine were almost identical. Like me, they believe that substance and quality mean something in today’s world. Cole Haan is also an iconic American brand, founded by immigrants just like me. This project would not have happened without them.

In filming The American Dream Project you met your hosts through social media.

I wanted this to be as genuine as possible. I wanted to meet real people, and the best way to do that was via social media. We sent out blasts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, hashtagging like crazy in the hope that people would reach out.

Were you surprised at how warm and inviting these total strangers were to the request of hospitality for two guys on motorcycles riding across America?

I was blown away. Complete strangers invited Todd and I into their homes, and in some cases, they put up the entire crew.

We’re all human; we want to connect. Yet it’s always a surprise when you connect with people outside of your normal day to day.

The media fills your mind with whatever they are putting out. We are bombarded with sensational or salacious news that doesn’t really feed us anything positive. If you’re not careful about what to listen to, we do tend to, or I tend to, think we are very different. But actually, we’re not. Most people want the same things: security, safety, validation, and to dream. My experience was that we really do have much more in common than we are told we have. It is kind of liberating. ColeHaan_JamesMarshall_JaesungLee_BlackBook_3
James Marshall photographed by Jaesung Lee for BlackBook Magazine

Was allowing social media and chance to dictate your project a different kind of creative process than what you are used to?

I’m used to having an idea and being able to direct something well produced. Here, I didn’t know what the end was going to be. It was refreshing because it was, “Who am I going to meet today?” It was very exciting and nerve-racking because this thing could have been a bust. It could have been one sad story after another.

How do you view creativity?

The new creativity is freedom–people are making movies on iPhones. Social media allows you to collaborate globally. You could have musicians in one country provide music for a Web series that is being made in another country. Everyone can be a creative talent. That could be good and bad because there is a lot of content out there. We need a creative revolution, which we’re in the midst of. With so many online outlets and cameras on every phone, people can make what they want, when they want, and get it out there.

How has this new wave of creativity altered the American dream?

The new wave of creativity has actually enabled people to dream and be inspired by other people’s work because they can see it within minutes of being made. It’s doesn’t have to be an executive in Hollywood but a kid in bumblefuck nowhere making things happen. There are no walls anymore; the walls have come down. 

Did your idea of the American dream change throughout filming?

It definitely evolved as I went along. But I think before I left, I had a view of the American dream that I think most people have, which is this postwar idea of a big house, white picket fence, 2.4 kids, and a dog. That is a prescribed American dream that is put in the minds of many of us, and that’s gone. But what I’ve seen replace that is staggering because it’s evolved into something better. Rather than people aiming for a preprescribed dream, it’s become an individual pursuit. People have now taken up the mantle to think of their own dream. Now the American dream is absolutely individual to each person, which I think is great. For people to be enabled to really dream is exciting. Discover more about the series here.

This story appears in the spring 2015 issue of BlackBook Magazine on stands now.

The Creators: Roman and Williams

Roman and Williams (Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch) photographed by Nigel Parry for BlackBook.

When you walk into a room that Roman and Williams has designed, you will feel something. You will discern texture, notice scale, and you may even feel warm or cool. “There’s an amateurism we love to maintain so we don’t end up too professional or too polished.… It’s a lot of emotion, a lot of passion,” says Stephen Alesch, half of the design duo (and husband to his counterpart, Robin Standefer). To them that’s more important than staying true to one particular aesthetic. It’s why visitors will develop an attachment to the glittering, Champagne-filled Boom Boom Room, and the casually bohemian Ace Hotel lobby, worlds apart and brimming with particulars. One is where you dance till dawn looking out at the city lights, and the other is where you take advantage of the free Wi-Fi and get your work done. Same goes for the spaces they’ve created at the Viceroy, Royalton, and Highline hotels, and restaurants like John Dory Oyster Bar and The Dutch.

“Our starting point is love: loving an object, loving a space, thinking of an experience we want to have,” Standefer says. It’s not just about what’s new or in fashion; the two have a humility that allows them to comb over memories and the familiar, searching for aesthetic details and ideas that will make you experience emotions. It’s just going to be a different emotion depending on where you are. Guests at the Freehand in Miami, Chicago, and soon Los Angeles will pick up more on the handcrafted, homey sparseness of the hostel/hotels, while the rarified Chicago Athletic Association, a historic landmark and soon-to-be-hotel, will attract a ritzier crowd. Each project inhabits its proper space. Filled with all the right particulars, they become fully developed worlds of their own.


This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of BlackBook on stands now.

Athos: The Future of Fitness Is Now

Gabriela (Re:Quest Models) and Mark Sopcik photographed by Fred P. Goris. Styling by Alyssa Shapiro

These compression shorts are made by a start-up called Athos and contain embedded EMG sensors that feed information on muscle effort and activation to an app on the user’s phone, allowing lab-quality monitoring of one’s own workout. The matching compression top launches this spring, alongside special partnerships with some of the country’s most elite trainers, like Stephen Cheuk, whose New York gym S10 is photographed here. Using Athos, Cheuk is able to instruct trainees on how to better activate the right muscles for the right exercise — plus tell if they’re cheating the movement.

Rapid arm movements with the rope create tension throughout the body, providing a concentrated arm workout and also strengthening the core and lower body.

Properly monitoring muscle activation during lunges ensures both legs receive a good workout.

At S10, Stephen Cheuk’s trainees focus on anabolic conditioning work. That means less jogging and more pushing the Prowler.

Few exercises build more muscle quickly than a squat — Athos allows trainers to ensure that the correct sequence of muscles is activated through the movement, essential to both increasing strength and maintaining safety.

Mark wears Athos shorts and his own shoes. Gabriela wear (from left) Athos capris, S10 sports bra, Nike Bonded Woven Bomber Jacket, Nike Flyknit Zoom Fit Agility sneakers; Athos capris, NikeLab x JFS cropped long-sleeved top, Nike Pro Fierce sports bra, Nike Flyknit Roshe Run sneakers

Grooming by Ashley Rebecca

This story appears in the spring 2015 issue of BlackBook Magazine on stands now


The Creators: Patrik Sandberg

Patrik Sandberg photographed by Mark Seliger for BlackBook magazine

The unconsidered, the ill-considered, the castaway, the stepped upon: Journalist Patrik Sandberg wants to communicate the worth of whatever’s on the bottom of your shoe, especially if you find it revolting. In the usually self-congratulatory fashion world, new ideas are often the cause of unease and upturned noses. That thrills Sandberg. Even better is when Internet rage wafts in from outside the industry, for instance, homophobic comments referencing the latest Hood By Air collection, designed by Sandberg’s good friend Shayne Oliver. “That is just the greatest trophy you can have,” Sandberg says.

Hood By Air is just one of many once unrecognized talents he has championed over the years. In 2007, Sandberg–who is now an editor at V magazine–helped to found DIS, a digital platform for highlighting and sometimes inventing cultural trends born of the Internet. Then later he worked on early iterations of VFILES, an online social site that allows for the sharing and collecting–and selling–of new ideas in fashion. Owned by the visionary Julie Anne Quay, it is now central to connecting celebrities like Rihanna and Ke$ha with underground (and online) designers and trends.

It’s all part of the post-Internet fashion moment (“post” in the sense of concurrent with, not after). But the untoward revs up Sandberg, too. He mentions profiling Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three (who Sandberg believes to be innocent), in the same breath as altering the cultural iconography of a cover star like Ke$ha. “I’ll see something in a certain way,” he says, “and if no one else understands, then I feel like I have to make them understand.”

This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of BlackBook on stands now.

5 Moments Not to Miss When Watching Dior and I, Out Friday

Cinemas throughout the world have started to show one of the most anticipated fashion films in a while, and certainly this year. Dior and I, which already showing in Europe, opens in New York on Friday.

Debuting last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, Dior and I, directed by Frédéric Tcheng (Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,  2011), follows the story of the house’s current creative director Raf Simons embarking on his inaugural collection for Christian Dior.

A little history: After multiple seasons headed by Bill Gayten, post the swift and highly coveted departure of infamous creative director John Galliano, Raf Simons entered the picture. This documentary shows how Simons, former creative director of Jil Sander (and frequently known for his minimalism, modernity, and edited beauty), undertook the creation and execution of his first haute couture collection for Dior, presented in Paris during the fall/winter 2012 Couture season.

I remember vividly extreme hype and expectation that surrounded this particular show, and the constant speculation as to which direction Raf Simons would take the house of Christian Dior. Although now, Raf is fully established at the house, with his new, edgy and modern take on the Dior woman, and her experimentations with plastic, perspex, leather, lace and many materials in between, his first collection for the house was more subdued, but equally as crafted and beautiful as his predecessors.

At the time the film was shot, the house of Dior was in a very turbulent scenario. Having announced Raf the creative director in early 2012, there was still an air of mystery around the designer. Keeping his public profile and persona low during his tenure at Jil Sander, the publicly less  known designer was regularly queried as a big enough character to take on such a public power house — and its standing across fashion and popular culture — where former creative director John Galliano had firmly placed it. The worry and issues Simons faced when starting at Dior are all documented in this tentative film.

Tcheng’s ability to create frantic, romantic and prominent scenes in a matter of minutes makes Dior and I a must watch for anyone interested in fashion, and even those who are not, as it brings to light the craftsmanship, beauty and level of detail and research that is poured into a Haute Couture collection. From the initial talks about blowing an enormous Sterling Ruby painting onto a dress, which has many complications, to Raf’s mind-blowing idea to cover every surface in the set with flowers, each room covered with a different species, inspired by the Jeff Koons’s “Flower Puppy” (how Raf says “puppy” is adorable), and the wait for the approval from Bernard Arnault and Sidney Toledano.


The Friendship
The beautiful connection between Raf Simons’ right hand man, Pieter Mulier, Premiere d’atelier flou, and Florence Chehet. A friendship formed quickly and organically, which is lovely to watch blossom with the collection.

The Heated Moment
You’ll know it when it happens. A growing tension between two key players at Dior during a fitting leads to a surprising and unexpected power play in the Atelier.

The Shoes
As much as Galliano was into the grandeur and performance of fashion, Raf Simons’ aesthetic is radically different. This is made very apparent when designing the shoes for the collection. Raf explains how he hated the idea of a woman being helped down the stairs by a man, but proceeds to put a 12 inch heel on a pair of pumps.

The Archive
Being able to glimpse at pieces from the incredible Dior archive in movement is worth every second of screen time.

The Love
Multiple moments throughout the film shows the true love and affection everyone had for the house of Dior and the passion and investment the Atelier have in Raf’s vision. The best moment comes when a seamstresses, a long serving member of the Dior Atelier, says how they are always working for Mr. Dior, no matter who the creative director is.

Above are five illustrations from Raf Simons’ debut collection for Dior. The modern take on the iconic Bar Jacket silhouette and full skirt were remixed and dresses came in bright solid colours including baby pinks, seville red, and canary yellow. A large pannier style skirt embroidered with crystals and royal blue feathers teamed with a simple sheer black knit top, and remakes of classic Dior ballgowns, cropped and shown with tailored black cigarette pants gave old ideas a new lease of life and reimagined use. This is also said for a fuchsia pink silk chiffon, corseted column dress, subsequently split to the waist and paired again with black cigarette pants. The finale dressed featured a split of embroidery, with a classic Dior archive embroidery on the back, and a reworked new version on the front, a literal but effective take on showing the history of the house as well as moving forward.

This collection was an enormous first step for Simons and a great starting block to mark his territory on a house in turmoil. Dior and I is an astonishing and rare insight into a designers first steps, proving again he is most certainly one to follow.

12 Coachella Beauty Essentials to Toss in Your Crossbody Bag

Coachella 2014 sunset with balloon chain and Lightweaver. Photo by Alan Paone via Wikimedia Commons 

The passes are in your possession, transportation is nearly settled, you have your outfits and your sunnies packed… Coachella is coming, bbs. But what about the Coachella beauty? Nobody but nobody goes into the desert without a little lip balm…and more importantly, SPF (seriously, slather that sh*t on).

First things first, quickly self-administer a Myers-Briggs personality test, then determine which of the below best fits your needs. Every gal will find her beauty essentials here… so whether you came for AC/DC, Florence + The Machine, or Drake, we’ve got you.

You just want to jam, man. For the girl who smells like patchouli (and maybe a hint of rose), Eminence’s new 3 in 1 cleansing water and Rahua’s body oil are desert lifesavers. And you’d never forget your Aura Spray…

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Clockwise from top left: Petal Perfume OilEminence Rice Milk 3-in-1 Cleansing WaterHeritage Store Aura Smudge SprayRahua Body Amazon Oil

…and you’re even apt to post a product insta to show your beauty goodies. Brands like Korean cult-fave TonyMoly and the brand new Christopher Kane x NARS collab are surefire ways to bring the double taps.

coachella instagram makeup
Clockwise from top left: Tony Moly blueberry lip balmNARS x Christopher Kane blushNARS duo eyeshadow in St. Paul De Vence; Mac Ruby Woo lipstick


You might be in the California desert but they better believe you know your French pharmacy essentials. Hair messed-to-perfection, cheekbones perfectly highlighted, and lashes quickly lengthened…? Sounds about right.
coachella off duty model
Clockwise from top left: Embryolisse Lait-Crème ConcentrèBumble and Bumble Surf InfusionBenefit Roller Lash MascaraRMS Living Luminizer


Coachella Shopping: Festival Wardrobe Preparedness 101

If you’re heading to Coachella this weekend, chances are your current activities include intensive wardrobe preparedness practices. Good news: We’ve rounded up the best festival shopping for you. With temperatures in the desert hitting the high 80s, (and an unforgiving sun blaring down just as intensely as music from the speakers) you’re going to want your whole body to breathe. Enter comfortable, effortlessly chic sandals, airy camis and tanks, shorts you can sit in, and the hands-free bags you need to carry all the essentials, from your favorite designers like Alexander Wang, Stella McCartney, Frame Denim, and more.

Happy shopping, Coachella-goers. Don’t forget the SPF and sunnies.

Above, clockwise from top left: Etro silk crepe camisole; The Row fringed Hunting bag; Etoile Isabel Marant mini dress; T by Alexander Wang silk-twill camisole; Alexander Wang backpack; Michael Michael Kors macrame tank; MSGM floral-applique shorts; Rag & Bone cotton and leather sandals; Stella McCartney denim shoulder bag; NewbarK belt bag; R13 layered distressed denim shorts; Proenza Schouler slingback espadrilles; Pierre Hardy tasseled suede sandals; Antik Batik beaded shoulder bag; Maslin & Co espadrille slides; Frame Denim distressed shorts 

Adele Bloch-Bauer: Dress Like Gustav Klimt’s Woman in Gold

Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Gustav Klimt, 1907. Oil, silver, and gold on canvas. Neue Galerie New York

Nothing can replace standing face to face with art — especially Gustav Klimt‘s 4’6″ tall portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, painted, along with oil, in real silver and gold — but taking inspiration from Klimt’s portraits of the Austrian beauty, and applying it to one’s wardrobe is still (sartorially) inspired.

The gilded portrait of Bloch-Bauer will be on view from April 2 at New York’s Neue Galerie (1048 Fifth Avenue, NYC). Mark the date, then get decked out with Adele in mind by shopping some of spring’s most sparkling offerings.

Clockwise from left: Carolina Bucci woven 18-karat gold diamond bracelet; MUNNI 22-karat gold spinel bracelet; Deborah Lippmann nail polish in Gold Digger; Lanvin draped silk-blend lamé gown; Penny Packham draped silk-blend lamé gown; Rupert Sanderson Pythia leather sandals; NARS duo eyeshadow; Sophie Bille Brahe Deesse 14-karat gold pearl choker

For bonus points, check out a trailer of Woman in Gold, a film starring Ryan Reynolds, and Helen Mirren as Jewish refugee and Adele Bloch-Bauer’s neice Maria Altmann, and the efforts Altmann went through to get the painting back into her possession from the Austrian government after it had been stolen by the Nazis during , below.

Matthew Williams (Onetime Creative Partner to Kanye West and Lady Gaga) Launches RTW

Courtesy of Alyx and Matthew Williams

Alyx is a name you will be hearing a lot of soon, and for good cause: The designer of this new luxury fashion label is Matthew Williams, the creative genius who worked with Lady Gaga during her rise to fame, as well as with Kanye West work throughout the My Beautiful Dark Twisted FantasyWatch The Throne, and Yeezus eras. The clothes, however, aren’t just for big name stars. Williams tells us:

“Our ideal customer is a confident, sophisticated girl who feels empowered in the clothing, but also won’t care if her clothes get a bit dirty from a night out when she may be up until the sun rises.”

The collection debuts for fall/winter 2015 (in the meantime, see photos of the label above).

Matthew Williams isn’t the first stylist who works with big name stars like Gaga and West to create clothing lines. Check out six others, from stylists working with Rihanna to Beyonce, below.


Fashion director to Lady Gaga from The Fame through Born This Way eras, Formichetti collaborated with Williams on many of Gaga’s iconic projects including the music video for Bad Romance.

Video via Moving Image and Content on YouTube

Appointed Creative Director of Mugler in September 2010, Nicola cast Gaga in the brand’s Fall 2011 Women’s Fashion Show.

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Image via @nicolaformichetti on Instagram

Leaving Mugler to become Artistic Director of Diesel in 2013, Formichetti dubbed his new campaigns #dieselreboot , casting atypical models and using Tumblr to release the campaign.

Image via @nicolaformichetti on Instagram


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Image via @brandonvmaxwell on Instagram

Assisting Nicola Formichetti with styling Gaga since 2010, Brandon took over as Gaga’s Fashion Director in 2013 for The Born This Way Ball. Still styling Gaga, she has also started designing dresses for her, including one she wore to the 2015 Grammys.

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Photo via @brandonvmaxwell on Instagram

Most recent, Karl Lagerfeld shot the two appeared for the cover of The Hollywood Reporter, honoring Hollywood’s 25 most powerful stylists.


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Photo via @virgilabloh on Instagram

Working with Kanye West since 2002 and recently appointed his Creative Director, Virgil Abloh has a major support system to grow in the fashion industry. His new fashion line OFF-WHITE has already seen on Beyonce more than once and can be found at many boutique luxury retailers, as well as larger ones like Barneys.

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Twitter screenshot via @virgilabloh on Instagram

And Kanye can’t help giving his longtime friend and collaborator some Twitter recognition for his recent LVMH Young Designer Awards nomination.


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Photo via @bcompleted on Instagram

Styling for both Beyonce and Madonna (and wife to music video director Jonas Akerlund), B. has set out with her own fashion line, Le Snob, just getting interviewed about it by V Magazine, as well as getting brand placement in CR Fashion Book.

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Image via @lesnob_com on Instagram


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Image via @kevintekinel on Instagram

Working on art direction for Madonna under GB65, Tekinel launched tee-shirt line DEERDANA along with Dana Veraldi. The brand is sold at various retailers including Opening Ceremony and has been worn by everyone from Jay-Z to Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyongo.

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Image via @deerdana on Instagram


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Image via @cfda on Instagram

While more so designer rather than stylist, Selman’s rise to fame can be aligned with that of his boyfriend and stylist to Rihanna, Mel Ottenberg. Dressing Rihanna in Adam Selman for the 2014 CFDA Awards, Ottenberg put his boyfriend on the fashion map.

We won’t be surprised if we see more collaborations between Adam Selman and Rihanna in the future, and we’re not complaining!