john lawrence sullivan : in the ring

February 19th, 2013

Tokyoite Arashi Yanagawa, the man behind menswear label John Lawrence Sullivan, has quickly become a fixture of the men’s fashion circuit.

The choice of name for the label is perhaps the most telling. John Lawrence Sullivan, the man, is a heavyweight boxing champion, also known as the “Boston strong boy,” and godfather of sorts  to Arashi, who quit a promising boxing career to fight in another type of ring. 

Ever since entering the seasonal arena of fashion week in Paris, he’s championed his collections in the eye of attention, with the likes of Suzy Menkes a constant follower. In this context, Arashi’s unconventional vision of the sharp tailored sportsman is most compelling.


Arashi Yanagawa backstage after his John Lawrence Sullivan presentation. Photography by René Habermacher

René Habermacher: Hello Arashi, how is it being back in Tokyo after your last show in the ring fight of Paris fashion week?
Arashi Yanagawa: I’m getting ready for the next match in June. While I’m always relaxed in the end, I also always begin thinking about the next collection right away. It’s exactly the same as in boxing.

RH: In your work, specially your most recent collection, I sense a strong fascination with British culture.
but you’re successfully showing your 3rd collection, you chose Paris to present it…
AY: I believe Paris is the most important location for fashion in terms of the both the culture and the history of the industry. Paris has a special eye for beauty and elegance. No other place draws as many journalists, buyers, and fashionistas. All of this naturally makes Paris a very attractive city for presenters, but I also appreciate how strict everyone in Paris is towards creativity.

RH: And what is it with you and London? 
AY: London has street fashion just like Tokyo, but it also brings history and tradition into the mix. I’m impressed by the way all of this culture has just naturally rubbed off on the younger generations. Another example of something that has really moved me is the culture of the London market where you see young people today buying and even demanding clothing designed a century ago.


Rehearsals for John Lawrence Sullivan FW13. Photography by René Habermacher

RH: how do you decide for what you’ll go next? what is your creative process?
AY: I input the “sense” of the things I see or hear in my daily life and stockpile them. These could be colors, silhouettes, light, or even materials. But, I make an effort to express my own sense of the now rather than just making things based on historical research.

RH: For the current summer collection the theme was influenced by the Bauhaus movement.
Why did you feel the urge for this now, and how did you translate that into the clothes?
AY: I had a chance to go to Berlin, so I paid a visit to the Bauhaus school in Dessau and took in the artwork there. I found the combinations of wood, leather, and metal used in the products there particularly interesting, and thought it might be fun to try doing the same things with apparel. So, I made the theme “Bauhaus” and began putting together the collection while referencing architectural cutting, artistic colors, and product techniques.


John Lawrence Sullivan's "Bauhaus" inspired collection, SS13. Photography by René Habermacher

RH: can you tell me more about “ELECTRIC AFRICA”: theme of the collection FW13/14, you just showed in Paris, what ideas are behind it?
AY: “Electric Africa” is a coined phrase. I had the idea to create a new, modern vision by combining tribal patterns associated directly with Africa with flashy colors instead of the standard earth tones. Tribal (triangular) elements were worked into various items and aspects like the cutting of the tailored jackets or the placement of the buttons. I also added a spacey essence reminiscent of the crop circles that suddenly appear in fields to the accessories, colors, and textures.

RH: This collection also sports extraordinary footwear. Your sneakers have been hailed throughout. How did this design come together?
AY: I wanted create something akin to sneakers or trekking shoes, so I used Vibram soles. I also combined the base colors of the seasonwith highly contrasting hues in order to bring out a sense of Africa. I worked with a brand called ORPHIC when making the shoes.

RH: Since you dropped your boxing for founding your label, fashion in Japan underwent quite some changes. How do you see the japanese approach today, what is your viewpoint and what influenced you over the course of time?
AY: When I started my brand in Tokyo my image was much more aggressive. I feel like back then many of the magazines adopted a fashionable approach, and that the buyers tried to answer the challenges the designers undertook with respect. But, as the economy got worse the magazines switched to much more easy to understand catalog-like appearance in order to make sales, which in turn influenced buyers, whose customers were influenced by this, to become much more conservative in their selections. So, there were a lot of negative things occurring in fashion here. The Tokyo runway shows were no different, as the focus shifted conspicuously to more “real” presentations rather shows with a bit a fantasy or elegance to them. Feeling all of this made me want to do my shows somewhere more stimulating, so I chose Paris.


"Electric Africa", John Lawrence Sullivan FW13. Photography by René Habermacher

RH: While developing your collection, are you having a specific type of man in the back of your head?
AY: I always imagine a man who possesses both beauty and strength in terms of appearance and mind. If I were to provide a sportsman as an example, there is a certain boxer who comes to mind…

RH: Are there any parallels you can draw between your sports career and the one in fashion? 
AY: One thing I realized when I first started working in fashion is that there is a common trait shared by boxing matches and fashion shows that only I seemed to notice. This was the way in which you worry over something that will last only few minutes on a single day for months in advance, battling with your anxieties and, as long as you don’t give up, preparing for the next match as soon as it’s all over regardless of whether you won or lost. The way everything seems so fleeting and transient once it’s all said and done is also the same.

RH: The understanding of classic tailoring is a very strong element in your work. Now you started your women’s line: how does this apply here? 
AY: Incorporating classic tailoring into women’s fashion is one of the most important elements for John Lawrence Sullivan. This isn’t something just any brand can do, so it’s something we will continue to actively working with in the future. One of the differences between men’s and women’s fashion for me was the way in which things like esthetic elements concealing points I had complexes about confused me a bit at first. Now I feel that I have learned to use men’s techniques to deal with these things.


Showboard with looks and cast for "Electric Africa". Photography by René Habermacher

RH: As you added another collection to your house – your work wheel must spin faster evidently, with 4 instead of 2 presentations.
AY: I always think of how I can break down the restrictions of the tailored look when I do my men’s designs. While there is the sense that I can be confident in breaking these restrictions down precisely because they exist, but with women’s my process is one of imposing my own restrictions on the things I design freely. So, there is a sense of mutual stimulation between my men’s and women’s lines that has been a good influence in my opinion. That said, I am definitely much busier than before…

RH: Do you feel urged by the increasing numbers of pre-collections and cruise collections that the big houses lately launch?
AY: This is most likely just a sign of the conservative sales trends we’re seeing worldwide right now.The big houses are just doing this as a way of making sure they continue to pull in revenue. I too feel that JLS must do the same if we are to continue showing in Paris, so I’ll be considering various strategies for this in the days to come.

RH: With clients all over the globe in different climate zones: do “season oriented” collections make still sense to you? (already the weather in Japan is quite different to the north american or european)
AY: Breaking things up by season allows designers to change up their mood and add depth to the presentation, so I most definitely think it has meaning. But, I also feel that in terms of actual sales it is often seasonless items that perform the best.


"Electric Africa", John Lawrence Sullivan FW13. Photography by René Habermacher

RH: How do you perceive the present of fashion?
AY: I think what we are seeing is a mixture of various styles coming together.
This is also exactly why I feel that you can’t make it in this day and age unless you believe in yourself and keep making bold presentations. I guess you could say I feel we’re in an era where only the essentials survive. I want JLS to continue to be a brand that always takes up the challenge of presenting in Paris.

RH: What is up next? 
AY: The designs for my women’s exhibition in March and preparations for the 2014 S/S season.

RH: What is the last thing you saw, read, heard or felt that stimulated you?
AY: Tadao Ando, James Turrell, Donald Judd, Taro Okamoto, Talking Heads, Pixies, David Bowie, Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, Kinji Fukasaku

Website: John Lawrence Sullivan


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the rainbow is a monster

February 13th, 2013

Arrrgh follows Rrrrip.

“Arrrgh – Monsters in Fashion”, a fashion exhibition featuring the clothes of Bernhard Willhelm, Walter Van Beirendonck, Rick Owens, Filep Motwary, Hyères graduates Jean Paul Lespagnard, Mareunrol and Mads Dinesen, and a 360 degree film installation from Bart Hess, is now opening at the Gaîté Lyrique digital center in Paris.

“Arrrgh” follows in the footsteps of “Rrrrip – Paper Fashion”, another internationally touring exhibit by Greek collective Atopos, whose founding member and curator, Vassilis Zidianakis, we met before the exhibit opening.


Left: Pictoplasma "Pictoorphanage Les Petites Bonhommes", 2006.  Right: Manon Kuendig "Collection BLOWJOB", 2011

Antoine Asseraf: What was the starting point for this exhibit ?

Vassilis Zidianakis: In Hyères in 2006, where I was in the fashion jury. One of the designers, Amandine Labidoire, had a sketchbook with characters that started something in my head.

Then I asked Pictoplasma to write a text on character design, they saw my research on the subject and instead proposed to do a whole book about that idea, which became NOT A TOY, and then led to this exhibit.


Craig Green "BA Collection", 2010 & "BA Collection", 2012

When does this phenomenon start, in the 90’s with Leigh Bowery, Margiela, Walter Van Beirendonck… ?

Internet is the real starting point – avatars, different identities. People don’t show their face and instead create a character.

In fashion, you could say it started with Comme Des Garçons for the shape, and Margiela for the face – because when you hide the face you create a monster. But Schiaparelli, who was close to the surrealists, had already tried that, and you find it a lot in ethnographic clothing: each civilisation has costumes to dress up and become someone else. Today, it’s become a bit like Halloween, and clothes that are not meant to be worn on the street, but to go to parties, take pictures, it’s very marketing associated.

Character design as a whole comes from marketing, in the US and Japan – products talk to you, like yogurt, clothes, Michelin…

You also have to see the evolution of what we consider “monstruous”. For example, hoop dresses from the 18th century which are too wide to fit through a door – don’t you find that monstruous ?


Left: Projection by Bart Hess. Right: Bas Kosters "Collection Le Salon Explosif", 2007

Left: Alexis Themistocleus "Freaks", 2010. Right: Heiniek "Foamboys x Hyperbole@ Ludwig- TEDX AMS", 2012

Besides the rise of internet, the 90’s are also a decade of video games becoming mainstream, the emergence of adult animation…

It’s the idea we wanted to explpore with NOT A TOY, which led to this exhibition. If you read vinyl sex objects, it says “THIS IS NOT A TOY”, it’s for grown-ups.

Ultimately I’m very happy to show this outside of a fashion context, in a place like Gaîté Lyrique which is more technology related. The exhibit isn’t directly linked to technology, but shows the influence of technology on our bodies.

What is different about this exhibit than what was shown in Athens ?

After 3 years of research, we made a show at the Benaki Museum in Athens. Since then, a lot of new things have been produced around the idea, so for the Gaîté Lyrique we doubled the number of exhibited pieces on display.

We also commissioned Bart Hess a video for the 360º room, a special costume from Craig Green which serves as visual identity for the exhibtion,
and the fashion show of Jean-Paul Lespagnard which will be part of the parallel program.


The Brainstorm Design "How To Make Friends And Have A Social Life", 2013

Tell me more about the ancient Greek notion of “monster”…

Today “monster” has a negative connotation. But the original Greek word, “teras” (which gave “teratogen” and “teratology”) indicates a physical phenomenon in need of an explanation. So for example, to the ancient Greeks, a rainbow was a “monster”.

A bit like a UFO ?

yes, unidentified, and needing to be explained by us.
the theme of the monster is really about difference, about what we’re capable of accepting, because we’re attracted to strange things, but don’t know how to communicate with them.

ARRRGH ! MONSTERS IN FASHION
February 13 to April 7, 2013
Gaîté Lyrique
3 bis rue Papin, Paris.


Left: Rozalb de Mura "Collection The Remains", SS2010. Right: Mask available at the museum store

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7 women, 1 star goat: the capsule

February 4th, 2013

Experimental film. Feature film. Art film. Fashion Film.
Greek, English, German, French, Turkish.
For her latest project, director Athina Rachel Tsangari lets neither labels nor languages get in the way.
Rather, she encourages pandemonium, while unleashing discipline on her 7 international actresses, and the 7 goats which co-star with them in “The Capsule.”
As a special envoy for The Stimuleye, René Habermacher spent some time with them and the biggest diva on set: Bekos, the star goat.

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The headmistress unleashes the beast: Ariane Labed, French but Athens-born actress known from "Attenberg" 
and her favourite: Bekos, the beehive-tressed star-goat. Photo by René Habermacher
The sun’s first hot rays glisten over the aquamarine waters, parted by the approaching speedboat.
The destination: a barren island in the Aegean sea, named Hydra.
Hydra once harbored pirates but now hosts the “classy” summer retreats of wealthy Athenian families, low-profile expatriates and not-so-low-profile socialites.
Between dark needles of cypress trees, remnants of other times, splendid historic mansions are scattered up the amphitheatric hills framing the town.
Built in hard labour over generations, the city-island-state of Hydra exceptionnally paid tributes to the Ottoman empire in exchange for a dose of freedom, which they turned into wealth and influence.
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A sphinx above Hydra: Ariane Labed in midday heat on the terrasse of Tombazis manor. Photo by René Habermacher.
It is here that one of the island’s generous patrons, art collector Dakis Ioannou, owns a townhouse and runs a project space in the town’s old slaughterhouse through his Deste Foundation. This translates into a yearly invasion of the art world glitteratti to celebrate projects by Maurizio Cattelan, Mathew Barney or Doug Aitken, to name but a few of the guest artists.
As the boat approaches, on the far right of the jetty sits the island’s most impressive building, the Tombazis Manor, long abandoned by its family. A short but steep walk uphill through narrow stone-laminated alleys opens to the building that once housed Marc Chagall: an array of arcades, corridors and rooms, intertwined as the set of a wicked dream, its cool obscurity glacified in time. An unusual activity disturbs this idyl.
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Between fortified walls of the mansion, shadows of the past and present terror of besetting obsessions:
young actresses Isolda Dychauk, Aurora Marion and crawling: Evangelia Randou. Photos by René Habermacher

By invitation of Dakis Ioannou, a film crew under the helm of Greek movie director Athina Rachel Tsangaris is attempting to interpret the egregious, violent universe of Polish artist Aleksandra Waliszewska in multiple frozen frames.
The starting point to this project : the Deste “Fashion Collection”. After collaborations with M/M, Juergen Teller, Helmut Lang and Patricia Cavalli, it seemed to be time to work with a Greek, and who better than film maker Athina Rachel Tsangari, who has stirred some waves internationally with documentaries and fictions alike.
The commission’s unique approach to fuse art and fashion from a art-curatorial perspective led Athina to set filming on the Island of Hydra. Not to be confused with the other Hydra, the ancient serpent-like water beast bearing several heads, with the ability for each cut off head it grew two more…
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Clémence Poésy in expectation of the headmistress. Photos by René Habermacher.

The last member of a cast of women just arriving from Bruxelles, unsettled and wide-awake after a sleepless journey, French actress Ariane Labed is speeding to join the set where work has begun some days ago. The role she is hurrying towards: the headmistress. Lecturing pupils in a drill of discipline and demise. They are her victims and possible trigger for her final surrender. But this not clear.
The preparations for a key scene at the mansion’s bel étage have her co-stars lining up on the black and white checker marble floor, confessing to the mythical yet vulnerable character of their dominatrix that sit them facing, dressed in her armour. A piece by Sandra Backlund knitted from human hair.
Routine at the boarding house: The line-up of disciples, top right Evangelia Randou, lower right: Sofia Dona.
Each one of her disciples is to kneel in a black boarding school uniform, with neat white “col claudine”, to receive punishment or absolution:
French actress Clémence Poésy, Russian-born ginger-haired actress Isolda Dychauk, dancer Evangelia Randou, actress Aurora Marion, director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, architect Sofia Dona, and finally Aleksandra Waliszewska, the artist inspiring this slipstream of scenes for what is going to be a trip called “the capsule”.
Between the walls of the ancient building, a world of secluded women, whispers, secrets and violence:
“ich will sie alle töten. Ich möchte hier alleine bleiben mit ihnen,” confesses Isolda and gets away unpunished, unlike the others.
Their faith lays at the clicking thimble-clad fingertips of Ariane. But does it really?
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Clémence Poésy confesses: "J’ai eu envie de mettre des bris de verre dans les chaussures d’Isolda." 
while her dominatrix is about to get more creative with punishments. Photo by René Habermacher.
Fragments of scenes linger like particles in the still air, lit by rays of distant light. Emotions whirl and loop in repetition.
As the sun wanders and fades multiple times, filming continues to ever later hours and let the fictions fringes blur. The crew becomes hostage to the ancient mansion, a surreal, yarn-spinning fairy tale. Roles and reality intertwine in the fabric of a captivating Greek Gothic mystery.
Somewhere in the mansions underbelly glows Ariane’s gown, a creation by Canadien artist Ying Gao. The ruffles of the sheer fabric move in slow motion, animated by fine tuned micro-robotics, the dress is adorning her floating silhouette in the pitch black of the vault.
Ariane at the onset of darkness, wearing a micro-robotic geared gown by Canadian designer Ying Gao,
for which Bekos the goat developed an immense appetite. Photo by René Habermacher.
Ariane’s last scene ends with the day, the private speedboat waiting at the quai to take her back to Piraeus.
Its a wrap. As the crew departs the set, the deserted mansion continues to stare over the empty promenade under an anemic moon.
Alone, Bekos, the star-goat, pet to the headmistress, remains; saved from being served for the Easter feast, and hopefully living happily ever-after.
One of Bekos's caprices: an endless hunger for attention, and bits and bites of the costumes. Photo by René Habermacher.
“The Capsule” continues its journey to festivals, after Sundance the next stops:
25th Angers Premier Plans Film Festival, France, 2013
48th Solothurn Film Festival, Switzerland, 2013
36th Göteborg International Film Festival, Sweden, 2013
More information: THE CAPSULE

Posters for The Capsule: Design by Ania Goszczyńska with artwork of Aleksandra Waliszewska

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