‘Readers loved the ads as much as the editorial’

Back in the 1970s, Nicole Wisniak bankrolled her magazine Egoïste with pages of native advertising avant l’heure – advertorials taken to the level of art.

Interview by Thomas Lenthal

 

 
Hiding in plain sight in each issue of Nicole Wisniak’s Egoïste magazine, in among the striking black-and-white imagery on its large unbound pages, is an innovation that is even more modern today than it was 40 years ago. When Wisniak was thinking of ways to finance her magazine, she decided that, rather than filling it with fashion and luxury brands’ latest advertising campaigns, she would instead create the advertising for them, using photographers she chose to shoot ‘advertising’ imagery that would appear in the magazine. It was native advertising avant l’heure.

Her idea of specially produced, single-use advertising proved attractive to both brands and photographers. Houses like Hermès, Chanel and Cartier signed up for ‘campaigns’ shot by photographers including Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and Paolo Roversi, who could bring their visions to advertising freed of its usual commercial strictures.

For System, Wisniak selected some of her favourite advertorial images from down the years, and sat down to discuss the birth of Egoïste, panther and camel wrangling, and trying to persuade Mick Jagger to leave the house.

In System No. 12. Click to buy.

24/01/2019

 

‘It’s a fantasized reality, but a reality nonetheless.’

Designer Julien Dossena and art director Marc Ascoli discuss their ‘reanimation’ of Paco Rabanne.

Interview by Marta Represa
Photographs by Sharna Osborne
Styling by Francesca Burns

 

 
For over 30 years Paco Rabanne meant pizzazz. It meant sexy. It meant creativity. But by 2013, when French designer Julien Dossena arrived at the house, Paco Rabanne needed bringing back to life. His reanimation strategy – surprising to some – was not to attempt to out-Paco Paco or go wild with the archives, but rather to return to the heart of the house’s mission with the question: what can Paco Rabanne bring to modern femininity? Dossena has set about quietly rebuilding the brand from the ground up, repositioning it, without removing its soul, trademark touches and poised panache.

Alongside Dossena throughout the process has been legendary art director Marc Ascoli, bringing the expertise and experience amassed over a long career creating some of fashion’s most unforgettable images for the likes of Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander and Martine Sitbon. Julien and Marc sat down with System to discuss how the Paco Rabanne woman is always evolving, Françoise Hardy’s 25-kilogramme dresses, and how fashion is as much about observing as making.
 
In System No. 12. Click to buy.

21/01/2019

 

‘Italian fashion is torn between nostalgia and progress.’

Angelo Flaccavento, Italy’s most authoritative (and opinionated) voice in fashion journalism, gets vocal.

By Jonathan Wingfield
Photographs by Johnny Dufort
Styling by Lotta Volkova

 

 
‘Paris Fashion Week which closed yesterday lasted for too long and provided little pleasure.’
(The Business of Fashion, October 3, 2018)
 
Angelo Flaccavento tells it like it is. The Sicilian journalist has been writing about fashion for almost 20 years, and if you’ve never come across his show reviews and industry reporting – principally for Italian daily business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and digital platform The Business of Fashion – then you’re missing a treat. Or escaping torture, depending on whether you find yourself on the receiving end of his no-nonsense, hit-’em-where-it-hurts prose. Because in today’s era of native content, puff-pieces and general editorial fluffiness, Flaccavento serves up eye-watering missives that are as startling honest and unvarnished as they are likely to reveal fashion’s inconvenient truths.

In particular, it’s Flaccavento’s evaluation of Italian fashion – past, present and future – that distinguishes him as a vital resource for the industry. Fashion in Italy is unquestionably at a crossroads right now. Even Italy’s proud history of craftsmanship and formal tailoring, exemplified by the ‘Made in Italy’ seal of approval, all seem desperately at odds with the global rise of streetwear and sneakers. With all this swimming through our minds, System has spent the past couple of seasons in the company of Angelo Flaccavento. Meanwhile, stylist Lotta Volkova and photographer Johnny Dufort took to the streets of Milan to shoot a photographic survey of Italian fashion from A(rmani) to Z(anotti).
 
Read the conversation in System No. 12. Click to buy.

16/01/2019

 

‘We’re an underground American brand being mainstream.’

Long before there was ‘diversity’, ‘community’ or ‘non-binary’, there was Telfar Clemens.

Interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist
Photographs by Roe Ethridge
Styling by Avena Gallagher
Creative Direction by Babak Radboy

 

 
Back in 2005, long before ‘diversity’, ‘community’ or ‘non-binary’ were buzzwords and three years before the United States had elected its first black president, a young man named Telfar Clemens founded a label to make non-racial, non-gendered fashion. For over a decade, he produced his original, unique and groundbreaking clothing of repurposed classics and twisted basics, and for over a decade, much of the fashion press – System included – simply ignored him. In 2017, Telfar won the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund and they (we) had to take notice. Today, after years of running his own show at his own pace, the rest of the world has caught up with Telfar Clemens and his ‘horizontal, democratic, universal’ fashion.

Because Telfar really is its own thing, a label that effortlessly crosses the borders between art and fashion, while creating both. It is the vision of a designer who believes in collaboration, in working together with a constant group of creative friends and acquaintances, people like designer Shayne Oliver, artists Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, and, perhaps most importantly, Babak Radboy, now the label’s creative director.

Their latest initiative, the Telfar World Tour is fashion presentation as concert, a touring show featuring the clothes on muses, singers and models. Held off-season and sometimes off the fashion grid, the concerts are symbols of the brand’s attempts to reach new audiences and live up to its slogan: ‘It’s not for you – it’s for everyone.’

This summer, the Serpentine Gallery’s Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist sat down with Telfar Clemens and Babak Radboy in New York to discuss where it all began, how the brand manages to operate both inside and outside the system, and why the Telfar brand really isn’t inclusive.
Read the full piece in System No. 12, with a 48-page story shot by Roe Ethridge, styled by Avena Gallagher and art directed by Babak Radboy. Click to buy.

14/01/2019

 

‘The newness had to come from within Dior.’

Kim Jones on taking Dior Men back to the future.

Interview by Farid Chenoune
Photographs by Juergen Teller

 

 
Kim Jones’ elegant and romantic debut collection for Dior Men was a vibrant statement of intent. By smartly exploring the idiosyncrasies of the house’s founder and using the couture savoir-faire that he put in place, it took Dior menswear back to the future, while adding just the right dose of Jones’s street-casual sparkle to make it defiantly of the now. By the end of the show, Dior Homme had been transfigured into Dior Men.

To understand more clearly how Kim Jones is building his new vision of now, System asked writer and menswear authority Farid Chenoune to visit the designer in his Paris atelier. Then, to re-examine the cultural and professional background that helped mould his view of fashion, Jones reconnected with Michael Kopelman, who as the founder of pioneering clothing importer Gimme Five is not only a British streetwear legend, but also the man who gave the Dior designer his first job nearly 20 years ago. Finally, Jones and his Dior ‘family’ flew with photographer Juergen Teller to Granville on the Normandy coast to spend an end-of-summer day roaming around Christian Dior’s childhood home. It was a welcome moment of calm for Jones, before his return to what he openly describes as ‘the difficult second collection’ – the next stage of his quest to make menswear modern couture.

Discover the world of Kim Jones, Granville and Dior Men in the latest issue of System. Click to buy.

10/01/2019

 

72 hours in André Balazs’ Chateau Marmont

Featuring Kenneth Anger

Photographed and filmed by Floria Sigismondi

 
A film by Floria Sigismondi, accompanying System Magazine Issue 12's special print supplement, brought to life by Gucci.

Gucci means a lot of things to a lot of different people.

That’s the point. After all, few mainstream fashion houses would knowingly associate themselves with an array of people, places and cultural influences as mind-bogglingly diverse as Albert Einstein, Agnès Varda, Antonio Lopez, Antica Spezieria di Santa Maria della Scala, Antoinette Poisson, and A$AP Rocky reading Jane Austen. And that’s just the ‘A’s.

Throw Gucci at it, and it sticks. It’s diversity as a metaphor for our times.

In May, after Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele had presented the house’s Cruise 2019 collection in the south of France, System was left thinking just one thing. Or rather, one person. From the show venue
(a necropolis in Arles), the looming fog, the dancing flames and the vistas of tombs, to the pan-cultural cast of young, beautiful things, each seemingly plucked from the scenes of some psychedelic avant-garde short film… the entire event screamed Kenneth Anger.

Kenneth Anger: the godfather of American experimental cinema; the author of the salacious and gossip-ridden Hollywood Babylon (which the New York Times once called ‘a delicious box of poisoned bonbons’); the keen occultist and black magician obsessed with the writings of Aleister Crowley; the Hollywood child actor who spent his 20s hobnobbing across Europe with the likes of Cocteau, Truffaut, Godard, Anaïs Nin and John Paul Getty II; the sometime friend, confidant and nemesis of rock’n’roll royalty such as Marianne Faithfull, Jimmy Page and the Rolling Stones (‘Sympathy for the Devil’, it’s often been claimed, was inspired by him); the artist whose kaleidoscopic works grace the walls of galleries the world over, inspiring contemporary darlings Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney and Alex Israel; the influential filmmaker who, in his seminal 1964 short Scorpio Rising, accompanied the dialogue-free collage of fast-paced, jump- cut imagery with a pop-music soundtrack, decades before it became a hugely profitable marketing device called MTV; and the creative renegade who has influenced the aesthetics of David Lynch, Gus Van Sant, Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine.

It all seemed to reside within the spirits of that Gucci collection.

A collection that also included a range of garments featuring the words ‘Chateau Marmont, Hollywood.’ emblazoned beneath a satirical emblem of Pan, the lecherous half-man, half-goat Greek god, chaser of nymphs, symbol of lust and sexuality, and companion of Dionysus the God of wine. Chateau Marmont, the hotel where Hollywood’s scandal, glamour and misbehaviour has always come to life – Anger’s Hollywood Babylon under one roof. Which led us the heady plan that now fills the following pages: Kenneth Anger himself, wearing Gucci’s Cruise 2019 collection, in the legendary hotel. Alessandro Michele was immediately enthusiastic (‘For me, Kenneth Anger is more than a myth’). Photographer and filmmaker Floria Sigismondi described it as a killer collaboration. And André Balazs, the Chateau Marmont’s owner, offered us the proverbial keys to the castle.

Which left one small task. Tracking down and persuading Kenneth Anger – now 91 years of age; a man with the word LUCIFER tattooed across his chest, and a prickly reputation for placing evil hexes on adversaries, including members of the press – to participate.

We needn’t have worried. Mr. Anger is unfalteringly polite, charming and in rude health – with a day-to-day existence that one can only summarize as ‘avant-garde’. It was the idea of ‘mythologizing bohemia’ – something that today both Gucci and the Chateau Marmont have played more than a hand in – that we also wanted to bring to life in the following pages. Because in an increasingly corporate, homogenized world, Kenneth Anger is perhaps the last true bohemian.

Consider him a new member of Gucci’s ‘A list’.

08/12/2018

 

‘BodyMap was a movement.’

Stevie Stewart and David Holah’s 10-year BodyMap adventure is an unlikely story of 1980s London, style as performance, hedonistic times, the inevitable comedown, and a fashion legacy that’s never felt so modern.

By Tim Blanks
Photographs and video by Oliver Hadlee Pearch
Styling by Vanessa Reid

 
Stevie Stewart and David Holah’s 10-year BodyMap adventure is an unlikely story of 1980s London, style as performance, hedonistic times, the inevitable comedown, and a fashion legacy that’s never felt so modern.

Everyone knows that Katharine Hamnett was wearing her ‘58% DON’T WANT PERSHING’ T-shirt when she met Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street in 1984. No one knows that BodyMap’s David Holah met the PM at a similar event sporting a fuzzy racoon hand puppet on one hand; an unfazed Thatcher shook the designer’s other hand.

The BodyMap saga is full of similarly vivid, playful, anarchic details that posterity has consigned to a cultish twilight. That’s not right. In the 1980s, the rise and fall of David Holah and Stevie Stewart defined the way the world saw British fashion: the Brightest Young Things, brought down by Big Bad Business. But if the form of the saga was a cliché, the content was anything but. More than three decades on, BodyMap still has the capacity to dazzle – and touch. That’s because, at its heart, it was a love story, so intense was the connection that Holah and Stewart shared. They still do.

Get a copy of System No. 12 to dive into the world of BodyMap with with a 35+ pages portfolio of rarely seen archive pieces photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch and styled by Vanessa Reid, with an in-depth conversation between Tim Blanks, Stevie Stewart and David Holah. Click to buy.

26/11/2018

 

System launches issue 12 with Kim Jones

Kim Jones photographed by Juergen Teller

Click here to buy online.

System 12, the magazine’s biggest issue yet, celebrates the one invaluable thing that Dior Men cover star Kim Jones was taught by his first boss Michael Kopelman: the importance of ‘family’. With photographs by Juergen Teller of Kim’s tribe including Yoon Ahn, Matthew Williams and Stephen Jones at Christian Dior’s childhood home in Normandy.

Also in this issue: