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August 21 2014

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7 posts tagged "Behind-the-Scenesters"

Behind-the-Scenesters: Tony King

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Designers design. Photographers photograph. Models model. That much—in broad strokes, at least—is clear. But what about the artists, technicians, and industry insiders, often unpublicized and underappreciated, who help to get clothes and accessories made and shown? Call them Behind-the-Scenesters: people who shape our experience of fashion but never take a bow on the catwalk or strike a pose for the camera. Without them—from patternmakers to production designers—the show wouldn’t go on. And in our recurring series, Style.com sits down with a few of these pros to find out, basically, what they do.

Fashion, at heart, is an industry built on goods: a leather bag, a silk dress, a pair of denim jeans. These are physical objects, made to be used. But the fashion industry doesn’t communicate with consumers the way producers of other commodities do. You don’t sell apples with an ad campaign starring Marion Cotillard, and it’s hard to imagine people snapping up dish soap during an online flash sale. Fashion as media communicates through art and aspiration, and, like all media, fashion has been in flux as it attempts to seize on the opportunities—and head off the challenges—of the digital age. Very often, Tony King is the person fashion brands turn to for a vision of their digital future. The creative director of the agency King, he currently works with labels such as Hudson Jeans, Net-a-Porter, Reiss, and Thakoon, helping them to develop everything from iPad apps to e-commerce platforms to Facebook pages. Prior to that, King was a founder of flagship digital services agency CREATETHE GROUP, and as such had a hand in bringing dozens of blue-chip luxury brands online. Here, King talks to Style.com about fashion’s digital deficiency, the future of print media, and using a Sharpie for inspiration.

So, Tony: In one sentence, what do you do?
I’m a creative director focused on the digital manifestation of fashion, luxury, and lifestyle brands, whether that be on e-commerce sites, Web sites, social media platforms, or mobile. To really oversimplify that, my job is to have good ideas for brands, and to come up with a recipe for that idea across all platforms.

How did you get into doing what you do?
My background is graphic design. And then when the Internet boom happened in the nineties, I was amazed by the potential, from a design perspective, to design something that was actually functional—design that had a purpose beyond looking good. By the late nineties I was almost exclusively working on Web sites—I was doing Fortune 500 companies, stuff like that. Very corporate. And to make my life more interesting I would do photographer friends’ Web sites, model agencies. I started a small agency for that kind of work, and then Gucci Group contacted me in 2000 and I went in-house.


I’m tempted to ask you what’s changed about the digital space in the past ten years, but the question is probably more like, what hasn’t?
Yeah, exactly. Leaving aside the advances in technology, you just have to look at the emphasis brands give to digital platforms now versus their status back then. It’s gone 180. When I first started I was working lower down, with people in the PR and marketing departments. As of about five years ago, that began to change, and in the last two years, there’s been a dramatic change. I think the recession has made people see the opportunity more clearly. For a relatively minimal cost, you can create a storefront online that does better than your actual brick-and-mortar stores. Now I’m dealing with creative directors, heads of retail, CEOs.

How do you come up with a digital strategy for a brand?
Continue Reading “Behind-the-Scenesters: Tony King” »

Behind-The-Scenesters: Mel Ottenberg

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Designers design. Photographers photograph. Models model. That much—in broad strokes, at least—is clear. But what about the artists, technicians, and industry insiders, often unpublicized and underappreciated, who help to get clothes and accessories made and shown? Call them Behind-the-Scenesters: people who shape our experience of fashion but never take a bow on the catwalk or strike a pose for the camera. Without them—from patternmakers to production designers—the show wouldn’t go on. And in our recurring series, Style.com sits down with a few of these pros to find out, basically, what they do.

“Style,” as Jean Cocteau said, “is a simple way of saying complicated things.” And so it might be said that stylist Mel Ottenberg’s job is to find that simple way of saying something complicated. A button undone, a cuff rolled just so, the particular way a particular belt is slung over a particular dress: A good stylist makes these kinds of choices seem inevitable, and uses them to impart heaps of information about fashion, about the vibe on the street and the mood of the nation, and about how to look, now. “You’re kind of a medium,” explains Ottenberg, who is, among many other gigs, the fashion editor for Purple and the stylist for Adam Kimmel and Opening Ceremony (below). “You’re doing your own appropriation of this ‘thing,’ that’s how you bring the style into it. That’s hard to talk about, and it’s pretty much subliminal,” he adds. “I don’t want the style to be noticed, per se. I just want the kid who’s reading the magazine to think, wow, that looks great.” Here, Ottenberg talks to Style.com about his big break(s), his atypical days, and how a little fear can be a very good thing.

So, Mel: In one sentence, what do you do?
Well, on a good day, I’m the glue that holds everything together. Let’s say I’m on a shoot: I get the hair and the makeup going, I get the clothes together, looking right, and I’m there the whole way working with the photographer and the model. There’s a ton of collaboration involved. But fundamentally, I’m there to help make it work. Keep things going, keep things on point.

How did you get into styling?
Growing up, I was super, super-obsessed with fashion. I’d pick up copies of Vogue and Interview and pore over every word. And I started going to clubs at a young age, too, so I began dressing up and seeing fashion and glamour from that angle. Then, after I graduated from RISD, I moved to New York City and started working for some designers. The thing was, as much as I loved design and respected the process of putting a collection together, I didn’t like being hunkered down creating one thing for six months. And I tended to see images more than clothing, if that makes sense. But I wasn’t sure what to do with that until, completely by chance, I was asked to style a friend for The Face.

Continue Reading “Behind-The-Scenesters: Mel Ottenberg” »

They Make Kate Look Great

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Over the last month, we’ve checked in with a few of the unheralded members of the fashion industry—not the designers, models, and front-row editors who get snapped by the street-style photogs, but the set designers, casting directors, production experts and more who play an integral part in helping make fashion happen. In case you’ve missed any, here’s your chance to get them all in one place, from producer Gayle Dizon to art director Lee Swillingham. Enjoy, and keep an eye out for the next installment of our series later this year.

Behind-the-Scenesters: Art Director Lee Swillingham >

Behind-the-Scenesters: Casting Director Natalie Joos >

Behind-the-Scenesters: Set Designer Mary Howard >

Behind-the-Scenesters: Producer Gayle Dizon >

Photo: Courtesy of Pop

Behind-The-Scenesters: Lee Swillingham

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Designers design. Photographers photograph. Models model. That much—in broad strokes, at least—is clear. But what about the artists, technicians, and industry insiders, often unpublicized and underappreciated, who help to get clothes and accessories made and shown? Call them Behind-the-Scenesters: people who shape our experience of fashion but never take a bow on the catwalk or strike a pose for the camera. Without them—from pattern-makers to production designers—the show wouldn’t go on. And in a new series, Style.com sits down with a few of these pros to find out, basically, what they do.

If God is in the details, as the saying goes, then art directors are the gods of fashion. The job is hard to summarize—LOVE magazine creative director Lee Swillingham (pictured), for example, has a hand in everything from conceptualizing multi-page fashion spreads to setting the type in the credits. For him, as for his hero Alexey Brodovitch, the legendary former art director of Harper’s Bazaar, success comes of making a series of micro decisions add up to one iconic image. Even before LOVE came along, Swillingham and partner-in-design Stuart Spalding had already entered the art director pantheon—they were the founding creative directors of POP, and their firm Suburbia has created campaigns for the likes of Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Alexander McQueen. Here, Swillingham talks to Style.com about the gestalt of logos and layouts.

So, Lee: In one sentence, what do you do?
Really, what I do is I make things look beautiful. That’s my mission, as I see it. The way that relates to reality is, I’m a graphic designer, a typographer, and an art director of photography.

Elaborate, please—what does it mean to be an art director of photography?
It depends on what you’re doing and who you’re working with. Here’s a good example: Prior to POP, I was the art director at The Face. And we did this issue with four different covers, each one with another nineties supermodel; I literally planned out, on the computer, the different shapes of each cover, because we needed them to look coordinated, and yet totally distinct. Or, another good example from The Face is the portrait of Kurt Cobain; it’s very famous. Nirvana had gotten a lot of press in the U.K. at that point, primarily music magazines like NME, and we were trying to figure out how to make a picture of Kurt feel new. We asked David Sims to shoot it—he was a massive Nirvana fan—and it was around the time that Kurt was wearing dresses. We were tossing around ideas, and the whole dress thing gave David the idea of dress up. And that’s how we wound up with Kurt Cobain on a white background, in a Tigger costume. There’s not one element in the photo I could point to and say, that’s mine, right there, but I was involved in every decision and the development of every idea that went into the image.

How did you get into art directing?
Well, I always knew I wanted to do it, from when I was a kid. Then, when I was still in school at [Central] Saint Martins, I began assisting at Arena magazine. Back then, they only did six issues a year, so I could work on a whole issue at a time and only miss a few classes now and then. There was one issue I was working on, when the art director and the editor had a huge fight, and the art director walked out, and I wound up designing that issue of Arena all by myself, essentially. When I graduated, I took a job at The Face. In a similar way, life just sorted itself out in such a way that, within a year, I was made the art director of the magazine. Which is insane, a year out of school. Continue Reading “Behind-The-Scenesters: Lee Swillingham” »

Behind-The-Scenesters: Natalie Joos

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Designers design. Photographers photograph. Models model. That much—in broad strokes, at least—is clear. But what about the artists, technicians, and industry insiders, often unpublicized and underappreciated, who help to get clothes and accessories made and shown? Call them Behind-the-Scenesters: people who shape our experience of fashion but never take a bow on the catwalk or strike a pose for the camera. Without them—from pattern-makers to production designers—the show wouldn’t go on. And in a new series, Style.com sits down with a few of these pros to find out, basically, what they do.

To the untrained eye, the models legging it down the catwalk at a fashion week show represent just another parade of pretty girls. But as casting director Natalie Joos knows, the appearance of a particular model on a particular runway is anything but arbitrary. For Joos, who has cast fashion week shows for clients such as Lacoste, Mark Fast, ADAM, and Yigal Azrouël, not to mention myriad lookbooks, ad campaigns, and magazine editorials, deciding which pretty face fits where is a lot like assembling a jigsaw puzzle in the dark. Here, Joos talks to Style.com about putting the casting pieces together.

So, Natalie: In one sentence, what do you do?
I’m a casting director. Which means, really, that I’m the link between the model and the client. Photographers, stylists, designers, anyone who needs a model, I connect them. Sometimes that means I’m asked to find a blue-eyed blonde for a particular shoot, and then I call around to the agencies to see who’s available on that day for that rate and for that job; sometimes it’s much more involved, like putting together a fashion show. In that case, you’re really searching for the girls who fit the vision of the designer. And figuring out what exactly that vision is.

Speaking as an outsider, casting a fashion show seems kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean, there are plenty of tall, skinny, pretty girls—or boys—floating around. Where’s the art in what you do?
First of all, you need a good eye. You have to be able to spot the good models. There are bad ones, you know. The body, the walk, the attitude—you’re looking at all of that. And for a show especially, you’re trying to tell a coherent story. You want the whole group of girls to have the same feel. Casting ADAM is very different from casting Yigal, you know? It’s a different girl. Yigal’s girl, she’s tough, she struts. The ADAM girl is a bit softer. You have to translate the vibe of the clothes through the girls wearing them. It’s not just, oh, let’s find the prettiest ones. There’s a whole process of interpretation.

If some super big-time model wanted to walk in a show you felt she was totally wrong for, would you cast her?
Hmm. I mean, ultimately, you’re trying to communicate the designer’s vision, and you don’t want one girl, no matter how famous, to interfere with that. But at the same time, I’m not going to tell you that reputation doesn’t matter. You want to see new faces, of course, but the trendy girls are trendy for a reason—they’re good at what they do, and they have a look that’s of-the-moment. You don’t want to use girls no one else is using. Continue Reading “Behind-The-Scenesters: Natalie Joos” »