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’.



‘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.



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:

Telfar Clemens’ family of artists, filmmakers and creative spirits come together in an iconic all-new American story photographed by Roe Ethridge, with creative direction by Babak Radboy.

The rarely seen archive of legendary 1980s brand BodyMap is photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch and styled by Vanessa Reid, while Tim Blanks talks with founders Stevie Stewart and David Holah about why the brand is now more relevant than ever.

An in-depth conversation with fashion critic Angelo Flaccavento about Italian fashion – past, present and future – accompanied by a 35-page portfolio photographed by Johnny Dufort and styled by Lotta Volkova.

Behind the scenes with artist-slash-designer Anna Blessmann, whose brand A_Plan_Application focuses on the clothes, ‘and nothing else’.

Julien Dossena and Marc Ascoli dissect the contemporary spirit of the Paco Rabanne woman, with photographs by Sharna Osborne, styled by Francesca Burns.

Nicole Wisniak in conversation about bankrolling her magazine Egoïste back in the 1970s with pages of native advertising avant l’heure – advertorials taken to the level of art.

An intimate look into the backstage life of designer Christopher Kane.

Alexa Chung answers the ‘Fashion Hysteria Questionnaire’ by filmmaker Loïc Prigent.

Adish’s Amit Luzon on designing towards peace by bringing together Israeli and Palestinian craftspeople; Johann König on creating an accidental iconic fashion piece in his efforts to keep the European dream alive; and Hung Huang on the true story behind famous actress Fan Bingbing’s mysterious disappearance.


… plus ‘72 hours at André Balazs’ Chateau Marmont’

96-page supplement celebrating America’s original experimental filmmaker and perhaps the world’s last true bohemian, Kenneth Anger. Photographed wearing the Gucci Cruise 2019 collection, in the legendary LA hotel, by Floria Sigismondi.

System is available to purchase exclusively at Dover Street Market in London and The Broken Arm in Paris on 19 November. Then from quality press vendors and newsstands internationally from 20 November.

Click here to buy online.



Camera roll

By Christian Louboutin

In System No. 11. Click to buy.



Home. Work.

A letter to my freelance self from the comfort of my own home.

By Raven Smith
Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Home. Work. A letter from... Home, by Raven Smith. Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme.

At the beginning of last year, I took the plunge and went freelance. Like Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff, I left behind the security of paid vacation, regular working hours, sick days, and office cake. I started playing a different ballgame.
   I spent nearly eight years as commissioning director at Nowness, a role that entailed a range of skills besides actually commissioning films. No need for a mini CV here, let’s just say that I entered freelance life offering brands and channels a smorgasbord of roles and rates. I promised myself I’d say yes to all the work that came my way and then do a stocktake and decide what was working and what wasn’t. So, a year in, how does it feel? I’ve replied ‘fine’ to so many emails asking how freelancing is that I’ve had to right-click synonyms for fine. For the record, the freelance life is currently tolerable-adequate-moderate.
   Here are eight things I’ve learned over the past year.
   1. Freelance life comes with a host of ups and downs. You go from altitudes so high there’s not enough oxygen to the depths of the ocean where there’s no light. The sun does shine, of course, but there’s never quite the time to catch a tan. I’ve taken 
on jobs out of fear of there being no work and then ended up smashed to smithereens juggling way more than I expected. 
Every time I talk about this, I know it’s a massive humble brag. You can get addicted to being busy. I went through a bout of hyperactivity last summer and complained the whole time.
   2. There’s no such thing as a money job. Everything you say yes to takes up your time, energy and focus. Money jobs tend to end up being absolute eye-bleeds, because your ultimate takeaway is profit not product. Better to stick to stuff that’s worthy of your attention.
   3. The freedom of freelancing that you think will be liberating is actually like a sheer drop from a cliff face. The fall is exciting, but your mortgage is following you down at exactly the same rate.
   4. Your time is flexible. This is the biggest lolsob of all. You can spend all morning dicking about on Twitter and then have to stay up all night working. I thought I’d be watching Loose Women all day, but eventually the work needs doing. Delaying it is foolish and Loose Women is absolutely awful. Also, you will never finish way ahead of a deadline and feel satisfied. People who work like that are weird. Part of the thrill of creation is the impending deadline.
   5. Food can be a distraction. The dull hum of the fridge can be like a siren luring me onto the rocks of cheese. I can spend a full hour making a sandwich; I think perhaps there’s a work avenue in that. I even thought I could become Delia Smith, erotically spreading homemade hummus, until I discovered you have to boil the chickpeas for 90 minutes.
   6. You can get too comfy at home. Your outfits swerve from meeting-ready to just-woke-up-tramp-slob. I now have the most amazing freelance pants: they’re comfy and the seat has worn away to nearly nothing. I live in a pair of house clogs. When I do have to leave the house my normal clothes from normal brands are starting to feel incredibly special and glamorous. Oh, look at me in a shirt and I’ve moisturized! Fancy!
   7. Your pets become your family. My relationship with my cat has morphed from parent-child to sibling rivals. We’re standoffish all day and then vie for my husband’s attention when he gets home. When the cat’s with me, I ignore him, but I search for him when he’s out of eyesight. The pussy co-dependency has come as quite a shock to us both. Despite the cat’s company, there remain moments of crippling loneliness, of talking to yourself, of laughing at your own jokes.
   8. Some days, you’re writing and mid-sentence, you think you’re the next Sylvia Plath or Shakespeare or the voice of your generation. Most of the time, however, the freelance life seems to mean typing into a void and incrementally morphing into your mother.

In System No. 11. Click to buy.



Spotify for magazines

The world’s largest magazine collection goes digital.

By James Hyman
Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Spotify for magazines. A letter from... London, by James Hyman. Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme.

‘If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?’ wrote Rodgers and Hammerstein, and to realize any dream, ‘you gotta have faith’, as George Michael sang. Excuse my song-based habit, but lyrics often best sum up how I feel and why I do what I do. Because I have a dream and I have absolute faith in its coming true. For me, magazines are ‘always on my mind’.
   Thanks to 30 years in the media business (presenting and producing for MTV and the BBC; working in music, film and print) I have amassed what has been referred to as ‘a walk-in Google’ of magazines. In fact, I now hold the Guinness world record for owning the ‘largest collection of magazines in the world’. It currently contains over 100,000 issues, is growing at 30 percent a year (mainly thanks to extremely generous donations from collectors to whom I am eternally grateful), and is unique: over 55 percent of its titles are not held by the British Library. I am currently working to turn this collection, now called the Hyman Archive, into a new resource for all, and so taking the first steps towards my ultimate dream.
   Since my early teens, my idée fixe has been to collect and share popular culture. My professional life began in 1988 when I joined the just-launched MTV Europe as a scriptwriter. I had to provide content for the VJs that would amaze, amuse and always entertain the channel’s huge and diverse audience. Where best to source such information? Magazines, of course! Pre-Internet, the millions of publications on news stands around the world truly were our Google. Yet even then I knew that much of that contemporary print would be forgotten – tomorrow’s fish and chip paper – and I knew I had to save it.
   Since then, it’s been an incredible journey and along the way I’ve met amazing characters who share my unrelenting passion for preserving print. People like Edda ‘Scissor Sister’ Tasiemka who has dedicated much of her life to snipping and cataloguing newspaper and magazine articles. Or Danny Posner who gave me the bug for collecting when I clocked the May 1984 ‘Electro’ cover of The Face in his now sadly closed Vintage Magazine Shop in London’s Soho. It was there in a basement filled with back issues that my magazine mania was born.
   My archive’s collection of pop-culture press now spans from 1850 to present day. Organized into sections, such as fashion, film and TV, music, sport, technology, politics, art, counterculture, design, photography and lifestyle, it contains issues of 1920s Vogue; 1930s National Geographic; 1940s Melody Maker; 1950s Playboy; 1960s Private Eye; 1970s Nova; 1980s Smash Hits; and 1990s Entertainment Weekly. Not to mention plenty of obscure titles such as Girls Like Corpses, Factsheet 5, Modern Drunkard and 2600 – all arguably of cultural significance, all passionate publishing.
   Our next step is to transform all that paper into digital content on a definitive platform with sophisticated search and analytical tools. Call it a ‘Spotify for magazines’ that will function as a subscription business, respecting copyright and ensuring that rights holders are paid royalties, while giving the world an amazing new research resource. Imagine easily being able to search in a specific magazine for the first written mention or image of Kate Moss or to create timelines for a cover star and see how popular she was compared to others. You could discover how Bob Dylan connects to James Bond and President Obama, what joins Stanley Kubrick to Nike trainers, or uncover the roots of hip-hop culture in an unheard-of publication. How about tracking the evolution of brands through their advertising, what’s likely to trend and how. The archive will be a treasure trove of unique, searchable content all in one place.
   It is an archive that is going to keep expanding, too, because whatever you might be hearing, digital is not dominating everything and print is definitely not dead. Indeed, magazines are experiencing a sustained renaissance as readers once again appreciate the pleasure of paper and the physical object. When film director Christopher Nolan guest-edited Wired, he wrote that: ‘A magazine offers a far more comfortable relationship with time – we can flick through it, stop, flip back, keep it forever. It can do a good job of representing spatial dimensions through photography and design.’
   Physical manifestations of writing have been around since humans lived in caves and all media – including TV, film and the Internet – rely on print. So today, as the physical Hyman Archive becomes a digital reality, I am proud and thrilled to be using the best of today’s technology to help bring the joy of printed media to a new and far wider audience.

In System No. 11. Click to buy.



Have you heard?

How the digital world has transformed fashion’s love of gossip.

By Guy Trebay
Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Have you heard? A letter from... New York, by Guy Trebay. Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme.

The gossip of the day travels along the front rows, around tables at Da Giacomo in Milan, Kinugawa in Paris, and The Grill in New York, or else through the digital ether, wafting like a tainted zephyr. Have you heard that X, a world-famous designer is riddled with cancer and is now on his last legs? Did you know that Y, barely back from rehab, has suffered a relapse? Of course, you know, don’t you, that M is rumoured to be out as creative head of that big multinational, soon to be replaced by H? They say H has already relocated to Paris and is building a stealth team. What do you think about that diva designer tapped to head a global label? Did you hear he insisted on bringing his own team and held out for a contract paying $18 million a year? And how about that infamously dissolute model? Was she really so wasted at a garden party that she face-planted into a shrub?
   It is empty and yet somehow important, this idle chatter that is a low-register soundtrack scoring the migrations of the fashion caravan, helping editors and photographers and critics and reporters and models and agents and all the assorted personnel while away the hours. And there is a surprising number of these. For all that the fashion cycles appear – and in many ways are – antic and exciting, they are also filled with longueurs, tedious periods of waiting that are filled with a hard to control anxiety induced by so much enforced passivity.
   Are those in the fashion business more prone to indulge in gossip than office workers or supermarket cashiers, I wonder? Probably not. Yet spend enough time in front rows, backstage or at lavish (if seldom very jolly) dinners underwritten by corporate budgets and you cannot escape the impression that gossip is both catnip to the occupationally fabulous and also a critical professional tool.
   The reasons are simple. No matter how dense our digital connections, news still travels first and fastest by word of mouth. Scurrilous or malicious or often downright misguided, the gossip that threads through the months-long fashion-show cycles serves as an odd form of community building. Drawn together twice yearly from scattered professional pursuits, the fashion pack reconstitutes itself ad hoc. Teams and individuals land in the fashion capitals of New York, London, Milan and Paris and power nexuses are quickly recalibrated. New players are incorporated into the group. New alphas are identified. Beloved characters made suddenly redundant are quietly cast onto the ice.
   For a business as reliant as fashion on a roving population of freelance workers, this means of spreading information is strangely important. For all the minor players in what remains – despite its increasingly corporate centralization and vast global reach – a largely tribal business, tracking and diagramming personnel shifts and subtle changes of power are a necessary practice. Gossip is, of course, in all settings a form of currency; no matter how remote you are from the sources and principals of a given tale, having some to retail is a sign of belonging. And since the pursuit of the fashionable is an inherently conformist undertaking, gossip also tends to function as a mechanism of social and even moral regulation. Well before the establishment of the #MeToo movement, an awful lot of what you heard on the fashion circuit involved tales of sexual misdeeds or borderline criminal transgressions – light-fingered stylists, models pressured into compromising situations, social-media influencers greedy about ‘samples’, designers caught in South American love nests with underage boys.
   It strikes me that this form of improvised governance is not necessarily a bad thing in a business that only lately instituted even rudimentary rules for the workplace. Long before public revelations emerged about photographers with unsavoury and predatory sexual habits, warnings were transmitted by jungle telegraph, tipping people off about who to watch out for and which dude was the one who would try to get into your pants.
   There is something else. The entertainment value of gossip is, of course, largely predicated on the levelling sense it provides us of superiority over others, particularly those famous others so remote from our ordinary lives. Social media complicated all this somewhat when everyone in fashion (and also outside it) began to burnish their public personas with curated Instagram images of lives characterized by their dully perfected surfaces. Deep down we all know that, beyond the frame of those digital postcards, there must lie the usual mess of daily existence. Luckily, we can rely for reassuring confirmation of these suspicions on the good old rumour mill.

In System No. 11. Click to buy.



The showtime
Jean Paul Gaultier

By Loïc Prigent

System Magazine – Jean Paul Gaultier by Gorka Postigo

What’s your favourite show of this year?
My Fashion Freak Show – ‘Le freak, c’est chic’.

I hope there’s a teddy bear in your show. Has the teddy-bear casting already happened?
Yes, the teddy bears have been chosen. There were a lot of applicants; it was very hard to decide, but the only real star is Nana Mouskouri.

What are the main qualities needed for this fundamental role?
The ability to wear conical breasts and glasses.

What’s the best city to party in?
Arcueil. Just kidding. Les Folies Bergère in Paris.

How do you remain anonymous at a party?
I don’t go.

Fabric has a direction, but does life?
Just like fabric, life can be straight or cut on the bias.

Who has the right to say no to you?
My conscience.

Who do you always say yes to?

Your life has already been portrayed in a photo story. Has anyone offered to make it into a film?
Are you ready to do it?

Who would play you, aged 20, working at Pierre Cardin?
Eddy de Pretto, and I was 18, not 20.

What are you most addicted to?

What’s your drag name?
Dolly Prane.

Who is the surprise finale model you still dream of having?
Queen Elizabeth II.

What’s your favourite show of your whole career?
The first one.

What’s your favourite dessert?
My boyfriend’s banana cake.

Which is your favourite sin?
I love them all.

Why is Paris still the capital of fashion?
Paris is fashion because fashion is Paris.





Photographs by Jamie Hawkesworth
Styling by Max Pearmain

In System No. 11. Click to buy.



‘Hers is a countercultural pursuit.’

Long before the fashion industry co-opted art, there was Agnès B.

By Loïc Prigent
Photographs by Dominique Issermann

Why Agnès B.? Why now? Simple: she’s a pioneer.Because if fashion and art, the cultural and the commercial, today seem like such a natural fit, then that is partly thanks to Agnès B.’s vision of how a fashion label should be a central part of a larger cultural matrix; that it is a brand’s duty to use its position to have a wider cultural impact. It is a belief she made real by doing what she does best: following her instincts. So, not for her a multi-million-dollar art foundation or the odd high-profile sponsorship of a blockbuster exhibition. Instead, for over 40 years, she has given continuing (often under-the-radar) support for (often avant-garde) artists whether up-and-coming early masters or once-nearly-forgotten living ones.Between the art galleries, film-production company, environmental research ship, foundation to coordinate her cultural initiatives, and an ever-increasing art collection, the world of (lower-case) agnès b – the brand – is as far reaching as it is lovingly curated. And she has created it without ever being in hock to the banks or having spent a single centime on advertising. For Agnès B., it’s about doing, not showing (off).

So with the symbiosis between fashion and culture now reaching global ubiquity, it seemed the right moment to reassess Agnès B.’s career and lasting influence. With this in mind, System asked French writer and filmmaker Loïc Prigent to spend an afternoon with the designer at her Parisian apartment near the Louvre. Their free-flowing conversation reveals a designer at odds with fashion’s current imperatives, uncomfortable in the industry, and one, who by being true to her ideas, has created her own community: a professional and social family of artists, filmmakers and kindred spirits.

We then invited three of those people – Jonas MekasRyan McGinley and Harmony Korine – to share their own thoughts on Agnès B., the woman who has in turns been their collaborator, muse, producer, financial backer, facilitator, co-conspirator, and trusted friend.

Discover their world in System No. 11. Click to buy.



‘We were always very attracted to each other.’

Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler on 30 years of the work/life/love balance.

By Alexander Fury
Photographs by Juergen Teller