There’s no shortage of deejays on the fashion scene, with your Misshapes and your Harleys and your Alexas and what have you. But Mimi Xu—who goes by the name of Misty Rabbit when she’s on the decks—has a particularly impressive knack for blending unexpected musical genres (think Berlin’s ambient electro mixed with classical jazz fading into a cool spin of disco-funk) into cohesive and oh-so-catchy sets. She’s an eager bunny, and knows just how to get the party going for the likes of Miu Miu, Prada, Fendi, Acne Studios, and too many others to name. This season, the Shanghai- and Copenhagen-raised but London-based sound designer is as busy as ever. She mixed the soundtracks for Yigal Azrouël, Catherine Malandrino, Tome, and Ostwald Helgason in New York, developed runway music for Topshop, Julien Macdonald, and Emilia Wickstead in London, and dropped a special Fall/Winter mix for Mytheresa.com just last week. Next up? A hotly anticipated party for Moncler’s Pharrell Williams collaboration in Paris this evening, and a personal design project, which will undoubtedly become the requisite accessory for music-loving cool girls come holiday season. Here, Xu talks to Style.com about her Mytheresa.com mix, the difference between playing parties and runways, and her favorite new artists.
You’ve done a lot of shows this season. How does deejaying a fashion show differ from deejaying a party?
Deejaying is about a spontaneous, fun, and playful way of sharing music. It’s about getting the party going. When you do a soundtrack, it’s very nerdy and unglamorous—you’re behind the scenes, you’re really working with the designer, and you’re creating something with the designer to really reflect his collection. It’s not about what I like. Of course, it’s about my influences and my take on music. But I’m there to showcase the collection. I love doing both, but they’re very different. Show soundtracks take a lot longer. It’s a much more technical process—it’s much more creative, and it’s more intellectual. And with soundtracks, everything’s set in stone previously. On the day of the catwalk, you don’t have to do anything besides cuing the show. But when you deejay, things never go to plan. Anything can happen on the dance floor. I can fill up the stage—who knows?
What have designers been asking you to play this season?
There are no specific trends this season. Each designer had their own inspirations. Musically, I went from Mississippi blues to Brazilian seventies experimental Tropicalia movement to psychedelic rave to classical theatrical to French electro. It’s a big range, so you need to be very erudite in your music knowledge. Designers need that.
What are you going to play for the Moncler-and-Pharrell Williams party?
I’ve been thinking today that we’re gonna do something quite hip-hop-y. But I don’t know! You can’t play Pharrell Williams tracks. I’d be embarrassed to play someone’s track when they’re in the room. So I’m not sure yet…. Obviously, I’m gonna have a lot of R&B and hip-hop, but it’s gonna go into disco and a few electronica-sounding tracks, too. I need to get people dancing, so I’ll see tonight how it will go. Continue Reading “Misty Rabbit Talks Spinning Fashion’s Soundtracks” »
When Nick Waplington began to document the making of Alexander McQueen’s fifteenth anniversary collection, the Horn of Plenty, he had no idea it would be one of the visionary’s last. A friend of the late designer, Waplington, who was living in Israel and shooting another project when McQueen approached him about the collaboration in 2007, chronicled Fall 2009′s production for six months. He watched its inception in the designer’s London studio—snapping away at model fittings and mood boards—and followed it all the way through to its now-legendary trip down a Paris runway, which was covered in heaps of spray-painted rubbish from McQueen’s previous sets. The resulting book, dubbed Alexander McQueen: Working Process, provides an intimate look at McQueen, his team (including Sarah Burton), and his methods—its pages depicting everything from moments of pain and anxiety to bursts of joy and laughter. “This project offers unprecedented insight into the mind of a notoriously private and at times willfully impenetrable man,” writes journalist Susannah Frankel, who worked closely with the designer, in the tome’s introduction. What’s more is that the book, which Waplington describes as “a historical document,” was largely edited by McQueen himself: He finished his selection before his tragic suicide in 2010. “It’s really the last thing he ever made,” Waplington said. Below, the photographer talks to Style.com about capturing the designer’s legacy, his experience inside the luminary’s studio, and what he learned of the real McQueen. For a first look at the contents of the book—which hits stores on October 31— click through our slideshow.
How did you come to work on this project in the first place?
We had known each other for some time, and he met up with me and explained that he was very worried, or interested, I should say, in his legacy. He was a very hands-on designer: He actually created the clothes himself, which I wasn’t aware of when we started. They would bring in big rolls of fabric, and he’d get up out of his chair and have a pair of scissors and pins, and minutes later, there would be this creation. He wanted people to understand this process. The book was going to be called The Process, and he thought I was the right person to bring his vision to the world, which was very nice of him. I wasn’t sure at first, and I was living in Israel at the time, so it was a lot of travel backward and forward. But luckily for me, I did it.
Did you have any inkling at the time why he was so intent on documenting his process—and preserving his legacy?
I did say to him, “Can I do this in a few years’ time?” and he said, “Absolutely not. It has to be this season.” But the season in question, the Horn of Plenty, was a season that he considered to be his retrospective of his first fifteen years. He was revisiting his old ideas, and for the show set, he created a big pile of rubbish out of all the sets from his shows over the past fifteen years, and he sprayed them all black. He got into this idea of recycling and renewal, and [this collection] was kind of like the end of one chapter of his life—that’s how he saw it. Obviously, after [his suicide], a lot of things went through my mind. But I’ll never know.
What did you find most interesting about his process?
I liked the layering—how he would create things in layers. His mind knew exactly what the cloth would do. The fact that he could turn something from just basically a roll of cloth into this wonderful creation in a matter of minutes was interesting for me.
How did you go about selecting what images to include in the book?
I insisted that [McQueen] edit the book. I shot on film, I made six hundred prints, I laid them out in a photo book for him, and I said, “The final edit is yours.” So basically, the choices are his and the sequence is his. It’s unique because it’s the only book that he produced himself. It was his vision and my pictures. I had a maquette made, which is this enormous hundred-pound book. It’s got handwritten notes inside from him to me. He’d take that book home and edit the pictures, and it would go by courier to me, and I would make notes and make changes, and then it would go back to him. Finally, we locked it down and were ready to go, but then circumstance intervened. Continue Reading “Nick Waplington Talks Alexander McQueen and Working Process” »
For the past four years, Paris’ famed Musée Galliera has been closed for renovations. This week, the historic fashion museum reopens with Alaïa—the first Parisian retrospective dedicated to Azzedine Alaïa’s work. “For me, Alaïa was the obvious choice—he stands alone,” offered the Galliera’s director, Olivier Saillard, who has curated the museum’s roving shows since 2010. (The 2011 Madame Grès show—hosted by the Musée Bourdelle—as well as Tilda Swinton’s mesmerizing Spring ’13 performance, The Impossible Wardrobe, were both Saillard’s work.) Here, in an exclusive preview, the curator speaks to Style.com about bringing a “new-old” museum back to life, what sets Alaïa apart, and how Swinton has inspired him to take up sewing.
How did your vision for the Musée Galliera take shape?
It was a funny situation because I was named the museum’s director after it closed for renovations, so I started doing outside shows. In my mind, the “new-old” Galliera—I call it that because we’ve restored it to its nineteenth-century appearance—really began to take shape with the 2011 Madame Grès exhibit at the Musée Bourdelle. We did it on a shoestring budget. You could say that Madame Grès changed my idea of what the Galliera should be. Ever since then, I’ve been convinced that an exhibition’s power comes solely from how you see the clothes. When you look at a dress by Alaïa, you don’t need anything else.
How did you approach Alaïa about the exhibition?
I first mentioned it to him years ago. Two years later, he invited me to dinner. I don’t really remember when he said yes, because he never says no, even if that’s what he means. Then, a year ago, he put his collection on hold because this exhibition was coming up. I’ve never met another designer who would do that. What’s interesting about Alaïa is that he takes the time to understand and see things. He approaches his clothes like a sculptor or an architect or a writer, and he often says, “I make clothes; women make fashion.” Continue Reading “Sculpting Fashion: Olivier Saillard Talks Alaïa at the Musée Galliera” »
If you’ve been attending fashion shows these past few decades—or even have just been spectating along as others have—you will have noticed James Goldstein. It’s hard to miss a man dripping in python, always in his signature hat. He visits maybe a dozen fashion weeks a year—a practice he began at the encouragement of his close friend Tommy Perse, owner of Los Angeles’ Maxfield—and has been on the kind of fashion-buying binge for the last twenty-five years that would do Buzz Bissinger proud. He goes for the boldest and most extravagant pieces, including that famous [hyperlink] red leather safety-pin jacket from Balmain (“the most sensational piece I’ve ever owned,” he says). At the time of my visit he was debating the camo moto jacket in python that Alexander McQueen sent him, thinking he might like it, but ultimately he decided on the iridescent silver version Belstaff made especially for him. He also likes the work of his close friend Gaultier. His custom closet, with a dry cleaner’s mechanical revolving rack, holds a collection the Met might like.
This season, Goldstein is making the leap from customer to designer with the launch of his line James Goldstein Couture, which will be revealed in Milan this week (though an exclusive sneak peek debuts below). Style.com stopped by his astonishing space-age house—designed by John Lautner, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright—to hear a little bit about why he’s throwing his famous hat in the ring.
Before we begin, I have to say that this house is extraordinary. Had you been a Lautner fan and enthusiast before you bought it?
Because I grew up in Wisconsin, my parents made me very aware of Frank Lloyd Wright. They were big fans of his. On top of that, one of my best friends in school lived about a block away from me in a Frank Lloyd Wright house—I was there all the time. As a teenager I was immersed in that kind of architecture. At a pretty young age I was living in a high-rise apartment, here in L.A., and I started looking for a house because I’d gotten an Afghan dog who needed lots of room to run. My dream was to find an attractive modern house with a view and a pool. After a long search I found this house, which was in horrible condition at the time.
Has your interest in fashion been there as long as the appreciation of modernist architecture?
It has. My father owned a department store in Racine, Wisconsin, so he was clothes-conscious, even though he didn’t take it in the direction that I personally have gone—he was a really well dressed, conservative businessman. He tried to start me at a very young age wearing things like that. He took me to New York when I was 6 and I had an overcoat and a hat, you know. When I got to high school I was always trying to be the leader of my class when it came to dress. Everyone would jump on the latest trend and end up wearing the same thing. I would try to be one step ahead. When everybody started getting pink shirts, I got a pink suit. Though I was pretty limited at that age in terms of what was available in Wisconsin. But I tried to stay aware of everything, reading magazines. Then in my early twenties I started going to Europe and that really changed my whole mentality.
You’ve certainly become a presence on the fashion week scene, such as it is.
For years now I have been attending all the fashion weeks and doing what I have always done: trying to find unique pieces to wear every season. I try to get a whole new wardrobe for each season. I like to be seen in unusual, high-quality, well-designed pieces no one else has. For years I have been wearing those to the shows…As a result of that I have gotten, not by design, pretty well known in the fashion world. For years people have been coming up to me and telling me I should start my own line. I would say, at this point in my life, I don’t want to start a new career; I don’t have any formal training in design… Continue Reading “James Goldstein: The Man, The Legend, The Designer?” »
It has been a while since Pharrell Williams was first starting out and creating songs on his 1980s Casio keyboard. Tonight, in New York, however, the artis—who’s since lent his creative vision to classics such as Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” and Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U”—will revisit the keyboard and drum machine that were so crucial to the development in his musical career. Williams collaborated with multidisciplinary artist Daniel Arsham, who created replicas of Williams’ instruments out of volcanic ash, rusted steel, crystal, and carbon dust. (It is part of a larger body of work by Arsham, which features the seeming petrifaction of contemporary relics.) Arsham, an acclaimed New York-based artist and architect, has collaborated with the likes of Hedi Slimane, Merce Cunningham, Jonah Bokaer, and art dealer Emmanuel Perrotin. (If you attended the En Noir presentation at Milk Studios a few days ago, you might have caught the mountain installation his company Snarkitecture created to accompany the performance by Lil Buck.) Before the two unveil their one-night-only exhibition, Williams and Arsham talked to Style.com, exclusively, about their project, Phoebe Philo, and a potential secret performance.
How did you two first link up?
Daniel Arsham: We met a few years ago, through my Parisian gallerist. This came about specifically when we were at my studio and discussing all the different processes. This project was about taking something that was important and special to him in the past that he no longer uses.
Pharrell Williams: I have always admired what it is that this guys does. It’s a whole different art form that gets looped in with all the other different eras, styles, and influences. I love what he did with the keyboard.
Tell me about these particular instruments that inspired the piece.
D.A.: At a dinner, I asked Pharrell, “What object was very important to you and special in life that you no longer use?” He couldn’t remember the model or the name, but he said it was a small keyboard, from somewhere around 1988, and it has drum pads on it. And, it was sold at RadioShack. We finally located it (it was a Casio), and for me, the detail of these objects is particularly important. This keyboard had a lot of special detail in it.
P.W.: I remember making very, very novice attempts at trying to construct a song using that keyboard. In order to make songs, we had to push a button at the same time we started and recording it to a cassette. It was all manually done. We had never been in a studio before. This is over twenty years ago.
It is pretty incredible how things have changed since then, in terms of technology and the music industry, isn’t it?
P.W.: It is amazing, but that’s what existed then. It is the constant morphing, evolution, and, in some cases, stagnancy of the human imagination. You realize where you are standing right now is valuable. I was saying the other day that what you build today is what you will live in tomorrow. I really like the idea that this guy works across so many disciplines but his DNA is very consistent. What I get from him is not necessarily, How can I push the boundaries of reality? but more so, How can I share what I am seeing in my head? And, Oh, by the way, it might just be a twist on reality.
You are unveiling this project during the middle of fashion week. Was that a coincidence, or was there a conversation between art and fashion that you hoped to inspire with this work?
D.A.: Just coincidence. Originally, we finished the pieces, and we weren’t going to do anything around it, but it seemed like a shame not to share them with anyone.
P.W.: I don’t think you go into a project thinking that. More than anything else, you consider the visibility, but you don’t work backwards, thinking, Oh, my god, we are going to blow everyone away. It’s more about appreciating the impetus, and the genesis of it is the most important thing. We start with one great first cause, and everything else is reactionary and an effect. There are people who do projects the other way, but those are the ones we ignore and walk past. You can smell the ambition in it.
Pharrell, you are a force in your own right within the fashion industry. Do you have any other big plans or projects happening during NYFW?
P.W.: No, not at all. Maybe a secret performance or two, but that’s it. I am here as a spectator, and I’m just going to be here to enjoy the week. I have some other work to do in New York that doesn’t involve fashion week.
Who do you find most inspiring, design-wise, right now?
P.W.: Céline’s Phoebe Philo. I would love to get to see her show in Paris. I think she is a genius, and I love the detail and attention she puts into her work.