The Derek Blasberg
Questionnaire

By Loïc Prigent



System Magazine – Derek Blasberg photographed by PierGuido Grassano

What was the best thing you learned from Karl Lagerfeld?
A sharp wit is the most stylish thing in the world.

What’s your favourite app for communicating?
I love e-mail and despise talking on the phone.

How many hours did you spend yesterday on your phone?
A little under four.

How many e-mails did you receive yesterday?
I would try and add them up from my various e-mail accounts, but the sum would be too depressing to know.

Who is the last person you text before going to sleep?
Depends where I’m sleeping.

What makes a good fashion party?
Guest list, guest list, guest list.

Which is the best part of the Met Gala?
Leaving.

Which is the best airline in the world?
I love the Eurostar.

Which is the best hotel in the world?
Ritz Paris in the winter and Hotel Cipriani in Venice in the summer.

Which star still leaves you star-struck?
Barack Obama.

What is the first question you’d ask Martin Margiela?
I guess I’d ask, ‘Are you Martin?’

What is the first question you’d ask Valentino?
Where’d you get your plates?

What’s your tip for conducting a good interview with Anna Wintour?
Be on time, and on time is 15 minutes early.

Can you define the new spontaneity we see these days on YouTube?
When YouTube content is good, it has three As: aspiration, authenticity and advice.

Who are your five favourite fashion YouTubers?
Only five? Emma Chamberlain, Colin Furze, James Charles, Rickey Thompson, and Naomi Campbell.

What part of the New York attitude would you bring to the Parisians?
Service with a smile.

 

26/06/2019

 

‘We just wanted to go off the map.’

Jil Sander’s seasonal campaign meant shooting a 16mm road trip across Japan.

Images by Mario Sorrenti
Text by Jorinde Croese

 

 
After 11 collections at Jil Sander, Luke and Lucie Meier have settled in. Since presenting their first resort collection for the label in June 2017, the husband and wife’s unique design symbiosis has helped update Sander’s essence of cosmopolitan cool. Lucie previously worked at Louis Vuitton under Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga under Nicolas Ghesquière, and Dior under Raf Simons; Luke was the design director at Supreme for nearly a decade, after which he founded his own menswear line, OAMC. Together, they have brought grace and purity combined with a street-smart understanding of branding to Jil Sander, thanks to work that feels strikingly contemporary and relevant. The Meiers have publicly commented that several of their collections have been made in response to the gloomy world in which we live, and have featured clothes that offer comfort like luxury blankets (their Fall 2018 runway show even featured a model carrying pillows).

The intimacy found in their work – perhaps an inevitable side effect of the continual overlap between their business and private lives – naturally feeds into the campaigns they have created with photographer Mario Sorrenti. ‘We got together and started working with him for our first season,’ explains Lucie. ‘We went to his house in Mallorca and did a project there, which was like a first show preview. It was such a pleasure to work with Mario, and a good feeling.’ That project – for Spring/Summer 2018 – became the document of a carefree summer: snapshots of jumping off the rocks at sunset and delicate imprints of dried grass on knees.

Flip through the Japonesque, Jil Sander dream as visualized by the Meiers in System No. 13. Click to buy.

19/06/2019

 

The sanitary solution

The underwear manufacturer tackling third-world ‘period poverty’.

By Dominic McVey
Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

 
The sanitary solution. A letter from… Kenya, by Dominic McVey. Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme.

   The period panty project started back in 2013, when I invested in Hela, a Sri Lankan clothing manufacturer. It took proper shape in 2016 when we opened factories for Hela Intimates in Kenya and Ethiopia, where we produce underwear for brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. In all our factories, we practise sustainable manufacturing that reflects our company’s ethos: we provide our employees with meals, accommodation and transport, as well as training that provides transferable skills in machine operation and management, allowing our employees to earn a living wage.

   Yet, despite our efforts, I noticed that women of many different ages were lacking help with one hugely important aspect of their lives: their periods. Still a massive taboo in Sri Lanka, Kenya and Ethiopia, periods are considered impure by many communities resulting in millions of women being excluded from social situations, including work and education. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 10 girls will either miss school or drop out entirely due to their period; according to some estimates, they miss 20% of a given school year. In Kenya, 66% of girls cannot afford to buy sanitary products. A staggering 95% of girls in rural Ghana report missing school during their periods, and worldwide, 113 million adolescent girls are at risk of dropping out due to their period. Some girls are given reusable period pads by NGOs, but underwear is needed to hold these in place, which in some cases, is too expensive. So to deal with their periods, millions of women around the world are forced to use non-absorbent pieces of cloth that are unsanitary, leak and cause them embarrassment and shame.

   I have seen empty chairs in our offices or on our factory floors because a woman did not come in due to her period. I have seen women running across the canteen with blood where they were stood or sat. I have known our toilets to be occupied for hours or the drains to be clogged by the cloth women have used to absorb the flow and then thrown away. I can only imagine the hardship and mental stress a woman must go through due to lack of community support, education or access to the right products.

   So I decided to work on a solution. From the beginning, I was convinced that the answer was not giving sanitary pads to women. Sanitary pads are a modern solution that is actually outdated, a disposable, environmentally unfriendly product developed by an industry that needs to encourage mass consumption. Products are also developed with Western habits and sanitary situations in mind, far removed from what is required in a rural village in Kenya. What was needed was an alternative that would be cheaper, genuinely reusable, and perfectly discreet.

   With assistance from my colleague Buddhi Paranamara at Hela Clothing and with input from Parsons School of Design, we developed a reusable women’s panty that can be used as a normal panty and then during menstrual cycles with a heavy flow, or for fistula or urinary incontinence. The panty uses special technology in the lining that makes it super absorbent yet ultra-thin, and stops any chance of leakage. And as it’s reusable, it’s more environmentally friendly for the planet and more cost-effective for women. We also used our collective experience in garment design and manufacturing to create a panty that, perhaps most importantly, looks just like normal underwear to the eye and touch. Which means women can wash it and hang it out like any other garment, without alerting everyone that they may be on their period. So far, we’ve produced several thousand period panties, of which we have donated a large number to women in refugee camps across Asia and Africa. With our partners, we hope that we can continue helping women across the world, making their lives easier and in the process helping bring an end to period poverty.

In System No. 13. Click to buy.

14/06/2019

 

The dark room

What Brexit means to British photography.

By Shonagh Marshall
Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

 
The dark room. A letter from… United Kingdom, by Shonagh Marshall. Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme.

   
Since June 2016, when the UK voted to leave the European Union, I have, like so many people, found myself wondering what it means to be British today. So, as a curator of photography, I began to ask other people. Like London-based fashion photographers, Hanna Moon, from South Korea, and Joyce Ng, from Hong Kong, with whom I organized an exhibition, English as a Second Language, at Somerset House in London earlier this year. Together we explored what being British means today and how it could be reflected in contemporary fashion imagery.

   When Hanna and Joyce read the exhibition brief, they found it both slightly farcical and extremely British. Hanna decided to subvert it by ‘invading’ Somerset House and posing her muses, Heejin, from South Korea, and Moffy, from London, in various states of undress to parody traditional British (mainly female) portraiture. Joyce on the other hand looked to the international community working in Somerset House itself for inspiration, casting models from among its members. While the resulting images show how differently they both see the idea of being British, they do reveal a common trait. Living in Britain and so ‘being British’ has allowed them to revel in a degree of self-invention they could never have at home. Indeed, like many of their models, London has let them exist in a whole new way. For them, being British means freedom – the chance to be someone else entirely.

   The liberty felt by Joyce and Hannah and their outsiders’ view of what the country means is similar to many of the new generation of image makers who have come to the fore as increasing numbers of non-British students have arrived in art schools. While these outsiders are creating new identities based on their feelings of living life ‘lost in translation’, homegrown fashion photographers are also looking at the country in different ways, in their search to discover how it can be re-envisaged.

   Rosie Marks, for example, takes the spirit pioneered by Martin Parr, reinterprets it and makes it feel more relevant to now. Her sentimental and tender images comment on British society in a way that can make you reconsider your daily surroundings, picking out the details of the workaday world in photographs that often read as anthropological outings. She brings an empathy and inquisitiveness that leaves you looking for hidden clues; her Instagram feed (@marksrosie) is transformed into a treasure hunt through modern British cultural identity. Where Parr brilliantly captures the occasional, Marks finds poetry in the ordinary, the mundanities of daily life – the usual Friday night down the pub, as opposed to an exclusive day at the races – in a way that seems grounded in just the right way for our moment of national uncertainty.

   Another British photographer Sam Rock recently went on a cross-country fashion shoot for i-D magazine, which aimed to capture ‘the beauty and diversity of Britain today’. Travelling from Dover to Liverpool, the two closest points in mainland Britain to continental Europe, he shot portraits of real people, wearing high fashion or their own clothes, during one of the hottest summers on record in the UK. The result is also a celebration of the quotidian, and an inadvertent political manifesto. It is a quiet chronicle of what happens when an inchoate sense of nostalgia bangs into the reality of a national identity in a state of absolute flux.

   All these photographers’ obliquely narrative approaches – from Joyce and Hannah’s outsider views to Rosie and Sam’s sneak peeks from the inside – push you beyond the clothes and leave you asking questions about the ‘plot details’ of model, clothing and location. Like clues that coalesce into a new narrative, these are stories that tell of ordinary Britain using real people, rather than untenable depictions of beauty with airbrushed models. And that is perhaps the paradox of these new British fashion photographers now: by reflecting back a sense of life being lived, they are giving us fashion not as fantasy, but a dose of reality. And in a country where make-believe seems to have infected the body politic, their down-to-earth vision is perhaps exactly what we need. By showing us the normal in the middle of the uncertainty and possible chaos of Brexit, they are offering us new visions not only of who we are today but who we can still become tomorrow.

In System No. 13. Click to buy.

14/06/2019

 

Fashion weak

Surviving the shows with a broken foot.

By Robin Givhan
Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

 
Fashion weak. A letter from... The front row, by Robin Givhan. Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme.

   
I broke my foot in January 2019. I was skipping using an extra-thick, weighted rope to increase the challenge. I was going fast and feeling invincible when I missed a step and landed on the rope. My foot twisted as I came down and it was quite the spectacular break. Surgery. Pins. A giant orthopaedic boot. Crutches. And then came fashion month.

   I spent 10 days in New York hobbling about in my boot and leaning on a crutch. I spent another week in Paris wearing sneakers and Birkenstocks and praying that no one trampled on my stubbornly swollen, sometimes throbbing foot as we were herded in and out of shows. I also learned several things about my colleagues, the fashion industry, human nature, Uber and taxi drivers.

   I would not have been able to cover the collections had it not been for the kindness of the people in this industry. How I was given a seat – sorta, kinda – backstage at Tomo Koizumi’s wonderful New York debut because the actual show space was down a daunting flight of steps. Or how at Tory Burch, I had a special pass that allowed my Uber driver to pull up directly in front of the entrance at Pier 17 instead of the main drop-off point. He was so concerned he was doing something wrong by proceeding past the barricades that I had to encourage him onwards: “Embrace your privilege!”

   Snow, sleet and hail – all on one God-awful day – tested my resolve. It began when I mustered my determination and called an Uber for the four-block trip for my morning appointment at Diane von Furstenberg’s offices. I apologized for the short ride and Mr. Uber, shrugged and said, “No problem. Obviously, you can’t walk!”

   At DVF, the designer talked me through the collection while voicing concern for my foot. She asked if I had a car and driver. Uh, no. I assured her that Uber would suffice. She was unconvinced. She announced that her driver would take me to my next appointment. No, Diane. Diane. Diane! Which is how I came to arrive at the Gabriela Hearst show in the back of Diane von Furstenberg’s Bentley. Professional ethics would have me reimburse her for that ride; I have no idea how. So I offer transparency and a thank you. And yes, it was much nicer than an Uber.

   When the shows ended, I took the train from New York back to Washington. At Union Station, I rolled my suitcase to the taxi line while balancing on my boot and my crutch. I climbed into a cab and before giving the driver my destination, apologized for the short trip. The driver yelled at me for wasting his time after he’d been waiting in the line of cabs and hoping for a trip across town. New York fashion week didn’t reduce me to tears; a DC cabbie did.

   In Paris, my injured foot was healed enough for Marni sneakers and Rick Owens Birkenstocks. It’s a good fashion moment to have a broken foot. No one needed to know that my footwear choices were based on medical necessity.

   On the runway, Thom Browne showcased chunky wingtips. Dior was a world of pointy toed, monk-strap flats. Chloé was full of low-heeled boots. Chanel offered comfy shearling snow boots. I was on trend. And instead of visiting my usual shopping haunts like L’Éclaireur, I discovered Tabio, a deluxe sock shop near Place Saint-Sulpice. I needed fancy socks to go with my Birkenstocks.

   While I found the fashion community kind and accommodating, the infrastructure of fashion shows is brutal. In New York, despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, runway presentations are not organized with the disabled in mind – not even the temporarily disabled. Paris is even worse. What if you were older? What if you didn’t spend hours cranking up your heart rate at the gym? Elevators are not readily accessible; several venues didn’t even have them. Spaces are deliberately darkened, making negotiating uneven floors treacherous. What if there was an emergency? This last round of shows and my broken foot reminded me that inclusivity is about more than just the models on the runway and the executives in the boardroom.

   I only succeeded because people went out of their way to help. I felt welcome because I was known, but I was left wondering, how would a newbie in a wheelchair or with a cane fare?

In System No. 13. Click to buy.

14/06/2019

 

‘Nothing is
left to chance.’

The story – and back story – of an encounter between tailored clothing, long-lost elegance, and young French men of North African descent.

Photographs by Karim Sadli
Styling by Joe McKenna
Words by Farid Chenoune

 

 
Certain fashion shoots come loaded with an unexpected and sometimes clandestine back story, a sort of prehistory.
Karim Sadli’s photographs, presented over the preceding pages, for example, discreetly tell the story of an encounter, between intricately tailored clothing and young French men of North African descent from the Parisian region. Crudely put, teenagers brought up on streetwear. But that back story itself is based upon another story, one that came to Sadli when he watched a documentary about the demonstration of around 30,000 Algerians in central Paris in 1961. It took place at the height of the anti-colonial war in their homeland and by the time the march was over, somewhere between 30 and 100 Algerians – to this day no one knows exactly how many – had been killed by the French authorities, and many of their bodies dumped into the Seine. ‘My grandfather was there,’ says Sadli. In photographs of the events, many of those Algerians, who often lived in shanty towns just outside Paris, are seen dressed up in their Sunday best, however worn and tattered it might have been. These smart clothes and suits become visual markers of a dignity that they had always been denied by the French state. ‘I found their story so touching,’ says Sadli. ‘That’s where the idea for the shoot came from.’

Read the complete story in System No. 13 on how Karim Sadli and Joe McKenna carefully style their way through to manifest a community’s memory. Click to buy.

11/06/2019

 

Camera roll

By Haider Ackermann




 

In System No. 13. Click to buy.

06/06/2019

 

‘It’s history,
place and identity
transformed
into clothing.’

Grace Wales Bonner is tailoring the future of fashion from her own personal heritage.

By Hans Ulrich Obrist
Photographs by Jalan and Jibril Durimel

 

 
Grace Wales Bonner is steadily earning a place in contemporary fashion design’s canon – and the reason is simple: she designs extremely wearable clothes, to which she adds a rich creative exploration of her own Caribbean and British identity, spanning age, gender and ethnicity. The natural convergence of these aspects creates a dynamic that has made her work feel so relevant to today. Since founding her label Wales Bonner in 2014, initially to produce only menswear, she has consistently expressed her personal vision of black male identity, history and culture through an academic, sensitive and poetic lens. And while her rise on the global fashion scene has been rapid – she graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2014, won ‘Emerging Menswear Designer’ at the British Fashion Awards in 2015, and received the LVMH Young Designer Prize in 2016 – she has never allowed that to compromise the technical quality of her precise tailoring.

Wales Bonner is now entering a more considered, nuanced and confident phase of her career, her language now naturally moving beyond the conventional fashion settings of a collection, a show or a campaign. For System, she set out on another visual exploration and collaboration: with twin brothers and photographers Jalan and Jibril Durimel, she travelled to Guadeloupe, shooting a story that represents an emblematic expression of her continuous questioning of identity, place, history, ethnicity and magic.

Indulge in the Wales Bonner vision through the full interview and photographs in System No. 13. Click to buy.

03/06/2019

 

‘I’ve always
been afraid
of real life.’

Christian Lacroix’s designs looked like the fashion you would imagine if you had only ever imagined it.

By Tim Blanks
Photographs by Roe Ethridge
Styling by Katie Grand

 

 
Genius is no guarantee in fashion. You can change the world, but that world eventually, inevitably demands payback. The fashion industry is, after all, a commercial enterprise. So while Christian Lacroix helped define the 1990s, fashion’s golden decade, his business never turned a profit. It’s a demoralising thought that the inspirational ebullience of his work should now be so overshadowed by financial failure. Perhaps it’s simply too soon for posterity to give him his due, to gild him with the reputation his genius demands – but it’s not too soon for me.

I was a country boy, and season after season, Lacroix’s shows were my hot-pink-drenched passport to a higher plane. The gourmet spread he laid on backstage was only the start. Lift-off took place with the visual and aural froth of the set and the soundtrack. Then we soared into the stratosphere on clouds of colour, wings of sumptuous fabric, flying carpets of rococo pattern. Christian Lacroix’s designs looked like the fashion you would imagine if you had only ever imagined it. Pure fantasy. And then he’d bring everything back to earth with libertine severity, a jolt of tailored black, a hint of inquisition. He teased. He’d be all tweedy, Ralph Lauren-y backstage, and you wondered where the fantasia came from. I had some idea, but then I spent several hours talking with Lacroix at the Hotel Amour in Montmartre earlier this year and realized that, even after all this time, I’d actually had none.

You can’t put a price on the brilliance of a mind. Get a copy of System No. 13 to learn about the man before, during, and after he became the brand. Click to buy.

29/05/2019

 

What can
print do
that digital
cannot?

The state of magazines by the industry’s editors.

Portfolio by Juergen Teller

 

 
What is the future of print? System surveyed over 40 of our friends in the industry to hear about their professional two cents on this subject involving tradition, relevance, and sustainability.

Despite the responses scattered throughout the spectrum, there was one thing that they all seemed to agree upon: ‘print’ is more than just a tangible product. It is a noun, adjective, and a verb that embodies a massive industry consisting of editors, writers, photographers, advertisers, readers, designers, influencers, and more. It’s a membership with a list that seems to grow every day, much like the number of independent print magazines that continue to pop up across the globe.

Out of all the responses, no two are the same. Check out the full story in System No. 13 to read about the question of the future of print in relation to digital kisses, (unofficial) pecking orders, alcoholic drinks, and much, much more.
Click to buy.

Future of Print

‘Digital content is like beer, Coke and sparkling wine, which you drink on everyday occasions or at cocktails with a big crowd. You can have these parties often. But when you sit down for a formal and exclusive dinner with a select group of people, you want a glass of fine wine that you savour slowly. And that glass of fine wine is the print magazine.’
Angela Cheung, editor-in-chief, Vogue China

‘I am astounded by how many print magazines there are…. To be honest, I don’t really understand it…photos look better and text is easy to read on a lit screen. Why do we chop down trees and use toxic inks to create something disposable? Sorry, colourful printing on glossy paper does not make a keepsake.’
Cecilia Dean, founder, Visionaire

‘I like to use a fashion analogy: digital is ready-to-wear; print is couture.’
Nina Garcia, editor in chief, ELLE US

‘The best magazines live on coffee tables and are statements of identity when you come into someone’s home; they are held by fans walking down the street, the magazine or its tote bag, symbols of identity and belonging.’
Jefferson Hack, founder, Dazed, AnOther and NOWNESS

‘True artists have no medium, they have a point of view, and they reflect that in their work.’
Drew Elliott, editor in chief, PAPER

‘I used to think that there were stories for magazines and stories for the Internet. Magazines ran articles that were considered and researched and painstakingly put together. The Internet was a place for funny lists and rankings, but mostly pornography.’
Nick Haramis, editor in chief, INTERVIEW

‘The magazine is one of the greatest human inventions ever. Good ones are simply irresistible. They make life more interesting and fun. My phone is trying to convince me it can do that, too, but it can’t really. It’s too busy distracting me, never letting me quite get that feeling of total absorption outside of time that very few things can. A magazine can.’
Jay Fielden, editor in chief, Esquire

‘I think both print and digital can be great in their own way, but if I had to compare them, it would be like comparing a real kiss with a virtual one. We all know which one is better.’
Chris Vidal Tenomaa, editor in chief and creative director, SSAW

‘People are so tired of being bombarded with information that they take digital detoxes as if online content is a poison and they need to be purified.’
Marie-Amelie Sauve, creative director, Mastermind

‘The beauty of print is also in the fact that once something is published, it cannot be edited or modified so everything has to be perfect. Furthermore, knowledge is positioning itself as the new form of ‘cultural currency’, allowing people to be associated to something they desire.’
Arby Li, editor in chief, HYPEBEAST

‘I think any media that plays the game of ‘you give me this, I’ll give you that’ will be dead in the mid-term.’
Nacho Alegre, founder, Apartamento

24/05/2019

 

‘Think of it as the birth of modern fashion.’

The life and times of serial avant-gardist Rudi Gernreich.

By Tim Blanks
Photographs by Robi Rodriguez
Styling by Karen Langley