While Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow were celebrating another big win for their line Public School, PETA protestors (in the form of three vegan male models, carrying a replica of a bloody sheep carcass and signs, wearing synthetic sweaters,) protested the use of wool, pointing to a study that showed severe mistreatment of the animals in Australia. Woolmark contests these claims.
2. H&M & Coachella Collaborate
Festival attire inspires an Instagram frenzy and countless blog posts each year, so H&M decided to make it official with a collaboration with Coachella inspired by the classic American festival aesthetic.
3. Isabel Marant Casts Natasha Poly
Isabel Marant’s new campaign explores the female’s feline side, with hair inspired by a lioness and a decidedly playful characterization for model Natasha Poly, who, Marant told WWD, “has a lot of different characters and we knew she would play the game.” The playful campaign was shot by fashion faves Inez & Vinoodh.
4. Pringle of Scotland Exhibition
Pringle is celebrating it’s 200th anniversary in a deservedly big way. The brand will debut a major exhibition called “Fully Fashioned: The Pringle of Scotland Story” at the Serpentine Gallery during London Fashion Week. In addition, the show will feature new campaign images will be presented, shot by Albert Watson of Scottish figures including Stella Tennant, David Shrigley and Luke Treadaway as well as a collaboration with Michael Clark Dance Company. Finally, Pringle will introduce, Deconstructed, a customizable service allowing shoppers to add a personal touch to their cashmere purchases.
5. Frida Giannini’s Left Gucci Earlier Than Expected Photo: Joe Schildhorn /BFAnyc.com
We knew Frida Giannini was leaving Gucci, we just didn’t know how soon that would be. Apparently, Giannini left last week, a full month earlier than anticipated. According to WWD, sources say Giannini was asked to leave the company last Friday, rather than after her Fall women’s show on February 25th, as originally planned. It is believed this is a result of efforts to speed up the company’s process for upcoming decisions regarding creative direction for the company.
6. Viviane Sassen for 3.1 Phillip Lim
First of all, 3.1 Phillip Lim is verging on it’s 10-year-anniversary, which is insane! To celebrate, the brand returned to ideas Lim views as essential to its DNA, bucking convention by eschewing hair and makeup, and heading to Morocco with art photographer Viviane Sassen for a shoot based around the theme “Romancing Reality.”
7. Kim Kardashian Lands Vogue Australia Solo Cover
Though we can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever land the U.S. cover spot on her own, this cover adds more fuel to Kim’s fashion fire. We know we have her coming up soon clad in Prada on the cover of LOVE, and her ad campaign for Balmain just launched. When Kim sets out to become a fashion icon, you better believe she’s gonna get it done.
8. Cathy Horyn is Back
Photo: Angela Pham/BFAnyc.com
It turns out her exit from The New York Times after 15 years was not a final bow. The famed critic will join The Cut as critic-at-large, starting with the fast-approaching February shows.
9. Adidas Questions the Meaning of “Superstar”
Rita Ora, Pharrell Williams, David Beckham, and basketball player Damian Lillard come together in this video to make probing and skeptical claims about what it means to be a superstar (“If you think a superstar is people wanting to know where you are, who you’re with, and reading about what you had for breakfast, or caring about what you wear to an event…”) –while wearing the athletic brand’s classic 1969 sneaker of the same name.
In tune with Pharrell’s “HAPPY” vibes, they celebrate love and equality.
“The collaboration between adidas and Pharrell Williams is built on a vibrant sense of optimism, highlighting the importance of equality. Featuring a cast of millennials of all races, ethnicities, and genders, the campaign depicts people from all walks of life, coming together in ways that signify unity and acceptance. These colorful, fun, and optimistic scenes epitomize and embody the spirit of Pharrell Williams and his ongoing work with adidas Originals,” according to the press release. All good things.
Last night’s launch event at the rooftop penthouse of the Standard East Village brought together art lovers, Fashion Week diehards and hip-hop heads to celebrate a new collaboration between Daniel Arsham and Pharrell. Both of these gentlemen have been omnipresent as of late: Arsham with exhibitions around the world (including one opening in November at Galerie Perrotin in Hong Kong) and design commissions with Snarkitecture; Pharrell blaring out of every stereo in the company of Daft Punk and Robin Thicke.
For this project, Arsham created a cast sculpture of Pharrell’s 1987 Casio keyboard and drum machine using volcanic ash, crystal, carbon dust and rusted steel. The resulting pieces—displayed in a vitrine or, in a side room, available to be held, provided one wore white gloves—resemble pristinely carved slabs of chocolate that have been ravaged by mice. (If you’re wondering, they’re also heavy as hell.)
“In all of Arsham’s work, he’s interested in decay and decomposition; his materials are very geological, they track the passage of time," Emily Nathan, an editor at ARTnews, told me last night. "I talked to him about these particular sculptures, and he mentioned his interest in giving a concrete form and shape to something as elusive and abstract as music."
Guests—including Brian Donnelly (KAWS), Terry Richardson, Julia Chiang, Jose Parla and Nicole Nadeau—admired the crossover craftsmanship while sipping Corzo tequila on the rocks. The only thing missing from the social scene was one of Snarkitecture’s all-black ping-pong tables.
For a taste of last night’s scene, check out our voyeur video from the event. Can you spot Pharrell?
The second season of “The Mis-Adventures of an Awkward Black Girl,” the popular web series created, produced, written and staring 28-year-old Issa Rae, came to an end last Thursday. Since this viral, award-winning show debuted back in 2011, we’ve watched J, the endearing socially inept lead character, fumble her way through her relationship with White Jay, a dead-end job, and the mundane occurrencesthat make up her days. “Long hallways are the epitome of discomfort. I already said hi to this woman, what other interaction can we possibly have? ” J asks in her voice-over. “Am I supposed to look at her the whole time? Do I act like the blank walls are interesting enough to stare at?”
Such are the awkward trials and tribulations of J’s life and, for that matter, many of ours, regardless of race, which explains why a diverse segment of viewers were instantly drawn to this hilariously relatable show and why, after having run out of money in the midst of the first season, Rae managed to rack up $56,000 in donations to complete the season from fans through a Kickstarter campaign.
“Awkward Black Girl” has garnered much praise and attention not only for its brand of relevant situational comedy in the vein of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld but also for its refreshing lead character that debunks all the ubiquitous stereotypes associated with African-Americans on the small or big screen. J is far from the one-dimensional roles we are accustomed to watching most black actresses play. She’s neither a comforting girlfriend, nor is she the overcompensating strong, got-it-together shot-caller or the angry sassy sista. Instead, she is the almost never seen vulnerable, self-conscious black woman that the mainstream media would like you to believe doesn’t exist.
“We’ve been denied a normal reflection of ourselves for so long. Not an overly dramatic, cool, or violent one, but just a normal character,” explains Rae over the phone from L.A. where she lives and shoots the series. “With ‘Awkward Black Girl,’ I sought to create a girl who just happens to be black that goes through the same things that everybody else goes through. Being awkward and black is never seen as a good thing.”
Rae should know.
When her family moved from Potomac, Maryland to L.A., Rae first understood there was a narrow definition of blackness and being awkward wasn’t one of the conventional identifiable descriptors. In Potomac she attended a diverse school for gifted and talented kids and was accustomed to being herself with no reproach, but at her predominantly black high school in L.A., a nerdy Rae’s blackness, or lack thereof, was up for debate. “I just did not fit in all. I wore my hair nappy; I didn’t have a perm like everyone else. To them I talked white and my sense of humor was white,” recalls Rae, who kept a low profile and sought refuge in theater class where she uncovered a budding interest for acting, writing, and producing, which then developed into her passion when she attended Stanford University. While in college Rae wrote and produced plays, and in 2007 she created her first hit web series, “Dorm Diaries,” which took a look at being black at a prestigious school.
“In college, the black, white, Latina friends I made all had the same specific kind of humor I had,” Rae says. “I realized then that it was universal, even if I didn’t see any people of color on Seinfeld. I knew we could and should all be included.” But not everyone agrees. After ‘Awkward Black Girl’ won the 2012 Shorty Award for Best Web Show, Rae was bombarded by racist tweets questioning the show’s merits. Some of them came from fellow web series creators stunned that they had “lost to a niggerette,” as one so cleverly pointed out to Rae. The tweets included such shocking and tasteless gems as, “#ThingsBetterThanAwkwardBlackGirl the smell coming from Trayvon Martin,” “Congrats on winning do you get 3/5 of the award?” and, “Of course the black one wins. Fuck the Shorty Awards.”
“The bewilderment that our show not only exists, but that it could actually be good is indicative of how mainstream media thinks,” Rae pointed out in an essay on XOJane following the show’s backlash. “This mindset is exactly why creative shows of color don’t get to exist on television anymore. There’s an overbearing sense of entitlement that refuses to allow shows of color to thrive. How dare we even try.”
“Some people are really closed minded,” says Rae. “It shows how brave other people are who got passed the word black in the title and watched and related to the show. I wanted to put black in the title. Why not? Why ignore it? It’s obvious, right? I’m black.” But that’s not where her identity ends. “At its core, the show is about this awkward girl who goes through ridiculous situations that forces everyone to relate,” Rae explains. “When people dismiss it as a black show, they just don’t get it.” The show also co-stars a racially diverse group of actors.
Grammy award-winning hip-hop producer Pharrell Williams, who in his own right has broadened hip-hop’s musical and stylistic landscape with his eclectic beats and whose rock band N.E.R.D. helped redefine the meaning of cool for a generation of young black males, reached out to Rae during the first season. “He was like, ‘I’m awkward and nobody believes that people like us exist,’” she remembers of their first conversation. “Awkward Black Girl” was exactly the sort of content Williams was after for his new video network web site, IAMOTHER.com. “Pharrell told me he wanted to be part of ‘Awkward Black Girl,’” she says. IAMOTHER.com is now funding the show, with the recently wrapped second season being the start of Williams and Rae’s thriving partnership. “He is the best,” she says. “The first thing he told me is that he wouldn’t change anything about the show. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.”
Following Williams’s call, the offers have kept coming in from TV executives eager to develop this unique show. While bringing “Awkward Black Girl” over from the internet to the small screen is a very exciting prospect for Rae, she’s wary of losing the creative control that comes with producing your own work for the web. “The raw expression gets filtered ‘cause so many people get their hands on it,” she says. “It becomes about what is going to make money, and that’s not what is really important on the web.” Rae also admits that “Awkward Black Girl” is “just too close to me to just hand it off to anybody.”
Although she would be open to having the show air on a cable network. When she got a call from Shonda Rimes, the creator behind the wildly successful Grey’s Anatomy andScandal, Rae expressed her fears that “Awkward Black Girl” couldn’t work on network television; Rimes agreed and asked Rae for some more ideas. Rae pitched her a show she briefly worked on as a minisode on the web. “I wrote ‘I Hate L.A. Dudes,’” she says. “I had no idea where I was going with it, but I just knew that it was true to my life.” The short featured an L.A. man’s lengthy grooming session in front of the mirror before heading out on a date. “I do hate L.A. men tremendously, and Shonda does too,” she laments. “They suck! They are really sipping on their own Kool-Aid, and they swear they are the best thing since sliced bread.” Rimes loved the pitch, and she sold the half-hour comedy show about a young aspiring journalist navigating the L.A. dating scene to ABC. Rae will write and co-produce (but in which she will not star).
“I’ve been enjoying branching out and doing other things,” says Rae. This includes not only making the jump to network television but also creating content for other web series. Rae is in high demand, but despite her busy schedule, “Awkward Black Girl” continues to be her priority. The second season finale ends with a very big announcement—well possibly. “Next on Awkward Black Girl: An ABG Movie?” flashes on the screen before the credits role. “We are trying to make a feature-length film happen,” says Rae. She wants to create the kind of cult classic that she loved watching in the ‘90s, when movies starring black actors were more prevalent. “Love Jones and Love & Basketball were the kind stuff I wanted to write when I was younger,” she says. “It wasn’t about the struggle. They were basic love stories.”
Rae will no doubt add a healthy dose of clumsiness to her big-screen love story. This season ends with White Jay professing his love, following a relationship hiatus, to J, who has been missing him and waiting for his call. A self-conscious J uneasily responds with, “Oh, thank you! That’s what’s up. That’s great. High-five!” Awkward!
Chances are if Wyclef Jean is your stage wingman and Pharrell Williams oversees your performances with the gleeful eye of a mother goose, your musical future is looking damn bright. That seems to be the case for Cris Cab, a 19-year-old clean-cut Miamian, whose mellow sounds mixed with heavier dubstep and reggae influences are blowing up right now.
“It’s about the force of music, and Cris is mixing Bob Dylan and Bob Marley in a totally fresh way,” said Wycelf backstage at the release party for Cris Cab’s new mix-tape Echo Boom, produced by the ex-Fugee. Judging by the groupies out in full force and Pharrell’s rhythmic head bumping to his protégé’s catchy “Good Girls,” the force is strong with Cab.
“I’m just so humbled and honored and happy to have them both in my corner,” Cris reveled slightly horsed from his latest performance. “Wyclef is just so energetic and supportive. And Pharrell is like my big brother.”
What exactly does collaborating with the Grammy winners look like? “We just grab our guitars and jam in studio,” said the teenager matter of factly.
And while most of us can’t phantom the type of good fortune Cab has been graced with (haters hint at his parents’ deep pockets, which helped the artist gain access others can only dream about), there is no denying that this song-writing, guitar-playing kid got skills. Watching Cab cruise through his set marked by vocal stylings reminiscent of Bob Marley, Dave Matthews and Marvin Gaye is like witnessing something great about to happen. He delivers every note effortlessly and commands the stage like a pro.
Thanks to the N.E.R.D. frontman’s mentorship, not only did Cab’s flow get tighter; many doors have swung open. The relationship with Williams brought the young artist a rare degree of resources and music industry attention. He has a high-powered publicist and management company, and last year he played a showcase for top executives of major labels including Universal Motown and Warner Music Group. This month he is appearing with T-Pain and Gym Class Heroes on the Snowstorm Music Tour.
Considering the bigger picture, Cab represents something Miami hasn’t had since the glory days of Gloria Estefan. Their common Cuban heritage aside, this new Miami sound Cab is embracing is a hotchpotch of Caribbean/hip-hop/pop references sung in a surprisingly soulful voice, evocative of John Mayor if he had a thing for Rihanna (which he probably does.)
“I don’t shy away from where I’m from and it’s good to represent Miami,” says Cab, who wrote “Rihanna’s Gun,” the first track on Echo Boom in response to Riri’s “Man Down.” “There are a lot of guitars, percussions and bongos on my record. The sound is different and you can tell right away that I’m influenced by my environment.”
It’s that very fusion, sold by a talented kid wearing a plead shirt from a moneyed background that will most likely appeal to teenage girls without alienating adults who may remember going to a Marley concert.
“His music just feels good,” added Wyclef. “Being from the Caribbean, it’s cool that the music I grew up with will reach a wider audience because of Cris. He is young, he has charisma and he is just one talented dude.”
Although there are many references in Cab’s tunes to old school classics, there is nothing archaic about how he conducts the business of music. He epitomizes the new way of getting it done, outfoxing the conventional machine that changes bar acts into legit stars. Take his guitar skills, for example. Though he had private lessons at the ripe age of eleven, Cab mostly taught himself through videos and online instruction, and thanks to YouTube and Facebook, he built a momentum and an impressive following.
“That’s where it is at today,” Cab admitted. “I did a cover of Wiz Khalifa’s ‘Black and Yellow,’ put it on You Tube, and things just took off from there. Somehow it feels easier to get this thing going with the net.”
Speaking of Khalifa, one glimpse at the Echo Boom’s lineup that includes collaborations with Mavado, Melanie Fiona, Christian Rich, 88-Keys, and it’s clear to see that Cab loves to perform covers. There is not one, not two but three Cab-ifed tunes that also include Kanye West’s All of the the Lights and Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks, which is DOPE. All of these makeovers in spite prolific writing of his own are peculiar, but, as Cab puts it, “everyone is doing it.”
Regardless of his sources of inspiration, one thing is for sure. “Cris is super talented,” said Pharrell, who has been mentoring the reggae loving Miamian, since their first meet some three years ago. “His voice is rich, and as an artist he just conveys such conviction. He is going all the way.”
● Skinny 50 Cent is back, and this time he wants to help you get skinny, too. The notoriously health conscious rapper is working on a weight-loss book called Formula 50: A 6-Week Total Body Transformation Plan, wherein he’ll lay out the baics for muscle building, nutrition, exercise and, of course, mental strength. [Page Six]
● In hopes of regaining the edge lost when Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy left, the Academy has decided to let Pharrell Williams help Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer handle music duties for this year’s show. [THR]
● Sinéad O’Conner rang in her 45th birthday with an "I Do!" in Las Vegas, lawfully wedding her boyfriend Barry Herridge. [People]
● Brad Pitt’s Eraserhead is our favorite, but each and every one of these portriats of cinematic villiany, as preformed by this year’s best, will haunt you. [NYT]
● Not sure where to begin your holiday shopping? Perhaps there is something for someone you love in Elizabeth Taylor’s closet. Twenty surprisingly affordable picks from Christie’s Liz Taylor auction. [ArtInfo]
● Yesterday Lady Gaga was shaken by dreams of dying like Princess Di, and today she’s dreaming of being in a Woody Allen movie. [NME]
Art Basel or not, the attention span of an average Miamian can easily be tied to the frequency of fake breast spotting (That’s an actual sport down here). In other words, it ain’t that long. So last night, when Pharrell Williams presented the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award to Design Miami co-founder Craig Robbins, the boisterous audience was anything but focused on paying homage to the man credited with the renaissance of Design District.
“I know ya’ll wanna get your free drink on, but come on now,” the N.E.R.D frontman said, attempting to heel the well-heeled. That included Zaha Hadid, Chris Bosh, Eva Green and Dan and Dean Carten of DSquared. It took a few uncomfortable minutes before the audience succumbed to Williams’ schooling, and the quiet lasted long enough for Robbins to quickly claim his huge award.
The occasion was marked with a performance from French dance-punks Yelle, and killer DJ set courtesy of Paul Sevigny. Meanwhile, Nas had no problems commanding his audience at Ricochet Lounge in Midtown. Queens’ proudest performed several of his greatest hits for the Perrier/ Spotify Music Loves Art concert series. TV on the Radio, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Penguin Prison are set to take the very small stage for the rest of the week. And Miamians take note: from here on in, total and undivided attention is required.
● More images from the Mario Testino-shot Versace Spring 2011 campaign, featuring January Jones. [Racked] ● New T Magazine editor-in-chief Sally Singer shares her holiday wish list, which includes a Thai massage and cycling shoes. [T Magazine] ● The 18 winners of London’s NewGen 2011 sponsorships have been announced, including BlackBook favorite Dominic Jones. [Style]
Pharrell Williams is seated in a large photo studio in Manhattan’s West Village surrounded by a gaggle of young women. In between bites of chicken, the notorious ladies’ man and leader of experimental avant-funk trio N.E.R.D says to his coterie, “Our new album is called Nothing, because what would we be without women? It doesn’t matter if we’re white, black, gay, straight, hickory, pinstripe, alien—women are essential to our existence.” Ponytails bob in emphatic agreement.
But N.E.R.D’s fourth album, the culmination of Williams’ work with bandmates Chad Hugo and Sheldon “Shay” Haley over the past two years, is about more than charming the fairer sex. At times, Nothing sounds like the Beatles after their LSD awakening, and at others like the Doors, all hypnotic vocals and fuzzy guitars. The song “It’s in the Air” is a meditation on hate that opens with a tirade courtesy of U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy wherein the congressman attacks media outlets for ignoring the war in Afghanistan. “In the past, we just wanted to be an interesting band,” says Williams, 37. “Now, we want to penetrate culture on a level that changes the way people think.” His choice of words seems telling.
Williams’ deliberate shift from playboy to politico is felt all over Nothing, which he approached with a new-found sensitivity to global affairs. “We looked at the war, we looked at commerce, we looked at finance, we looked at the environment,” he says. It’s heavy stuff for a band whose inaugural single was called “Lapdance.” But, he adds, smiling, “We also looked at other interesting things, like the new Ferrari. I like a flower as much as I like a Ferrari. If it’s under the sun, why do I have to choose just one?”
For Nothing, 27 initial tracks were whittled down to the dozen or so that appear on the mastered album. The ones that got cut weren’t “magical,” Hugo says. “They were all great songs,” adds Williams, “but we needed something that will make people go, ‘What the fuck was that?’ When you hear this music, you’re gonna bug out.” Given the underwhelming critical reception of N.E.R.D’s last couple offerings, the band had better hope to blow a few minds.
Their last album, Seeing Sounds, received a 4.6 rating out of 10 from influential music website Pitchfork. It was a slight improvement from their previous effort, 2004’s Fly or Die, which earned a mere 3.1. Anyone with a fixed-gear bike and a fade knows these aren’t good scores. In fact, they’re awful. “What’s Pitchfork?” asks Williams, with seeming sincerity. After Haley enlightens him, Williams says, “At the end of the day, criticism is distraction. Somebody else will read those reviews and be like, ‘Fuck them. They don’t know.’ We’re just lucky to be on their radar.”
To imagine Williams off anyone’s radar is difficult, especially for those of us raised on MTV. For 12 years, he helped reinvent the sound of R&B and hip-hop as part of the Neptunes, combining stripped-down, sexed-up funk with contagious pop hooks. Williams became notorious for appearing in the videos for the hits he helped create—there have been more than 120 of them since 2000—singing choruses in his trademark falsetto alongside Jay-Z, Madonna, and Justin Timberlake. (The tag “feat. Pharrell” became a staple of chart-topping songs throughout the aughts.)
Although Williams now lives in Miami, all three members of N.E.R.D still identify as poor childhood friends from Virginia Beach who unexpectedly made it big, or, as Haley puts it, “three lucky-ass dudes.” Williams says, “I never thought N.E.R.D was going to become this big thing. I didn’t think 10 years later we would be doing interviews and shit. If you’ve seen the type of poverty that I’ve seen, you never get used to this stuff.”
Humility from the guy who once rapped, “Her ass is a spaceship I want to ride”? Thankfully, this grown-up version of N.E.R.D hasn’t meant completely abandoning the pomp and swagger it takes to write a club banger. To wit, a video posted on the blog for Billionaire Boys Club, the name of Williams’ clothing label, shows Williams surveying a packed, sweaty crowd inside an afterparty for the Monaco Grand Prix. At least 30 bottles of Cristal are carried over to his table—a gift from a very wealthy friend—when the DJ announces the debut of Nothing’s first single, “Hot-n-Fun,” a bass-heavy come-on featuring Nelly Furtado, and one of the album’s few remnants of old-school N.E.R.D.
Back at the shoot, Williams stands shirtless in the middle of an empty room with tall, white walls. When someone pokes fun at his slight belly—his usually toned stomach lacks noticeable definition—he says, “One day, I’m too skinny. The next, I’m too fat. I can’t win.” He puts on a fur headpiece, and, as if to refute the notion that an older, less vain, more political Pharrell might have lost his edge, he yells, “I’m a soul brother now. All the white bitches, get naked! I repeat: all the W-H-I-T-E bitches, get naked!” For a minute, we think they might.
Photography by Billy Kidd. Styling by Christopher Campbell.