Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Pop Stars & Street Style: An Interview with Jeremy Scott

Jeremy Scott x Adidas Spring/Summer 2014

Spring/summer 2015 casual footwear

A recent Barbie-inspired collection for Moschino

In addition to designing for his own label and his collaborating with adidas, Jeremy Scott is currently Moschino’s Creative Director. Here’s one of my interviews with him, where we discuss Tokyo street style, 90's looks, and inspiration. (This was before Peak Beard in London…you’ll see what I mean if you read on.)

Exit Magazine, 2009

Jeremy Scott x adidas Autumn/Winter 2009


During London Fashion Week, I hung out with the effervescent Jeremy Scott in the Adidas ObyO Pop Up Shop at 6 Newburg Street. We talked about Tokyo versus London, the exposure of the underground, Lady Gaga, and Jeremy’s colourful collection for Adidas. The Autumn/Winter 09 collection is a playful homage to 90s African influences in pop culture, mixed with safari imagery. Photographs of the new collection have galvanized the online community to discuss, buy, or freak out over Jeremy’s unique designs. EXIT investigates why.

You take a lot of fashion risks. Is that intentional or is it the shock of the new? Is it your way of being mind expanding?

Well I definitely think it’s important to always expand one’s mind and to try to do that as a designer, to try to open people’s imagination and make them think differently about something. (When it comes to ObyO trainers) there are wings sprouting from the shoe or three tongues per shoe but at the same time I just made it because I think it’s beautiful. So it’s not just done in a purely provocative sense.

What city right now is taking the most fashion risks?

Well you know Tokyo is on its own planet. The kids there are doing the most elaborate and unexpected combinations. London in general is a much more youthful fashionable city, compared to New York. London has a lot more fun young fashion. But for very extreme looks, Tokyo is still winning that race.

Is it like just in the book Fruits?

Yeah, it’s the new generation of Fruits. Tokyo is amazing compared to New York or anywhere else. I don’t know about London because I don’t spend as much time here, but I know people are definitely a lot more into eccentric looks. You know in New York, if you grew a beard some dude on the street might shout, “Yo what is THAT? What you wearing?” and they have this liberty, they can just tell you about it. But in Tokyo no one looks at you or talks to you about it at all. And so the first trip I went there I just kept pushing it more and more everyday. I thought, I’m going to make you talk to me. I had a racoon tail and I hooked it into the back of my pants so I had this tail swinging around and I couldn’t catch people’s eye for the life of me, cause they just won’t stare. Obviously no one was laughing or sniggering or pointing. It is such a wildly liberating feeling of I can wear whatever I want and do anything I want. And especially if there’s two people there, two boys, two girls, girl and boy, they both decide “oh we’re gonna wear clown shoes and big clown glasses” or something like that and they have their own trend and they just walk around together. They’re in their own world and think “yeah of course everyone should have a bowtie this big…” It’s inspiring it really is. And it’s how everything goes at the same time, how they look at the way American or European culture is and the way they’ve appropriated it makes you look at it in a different way. Not even the exciting aspects of visual culture, it’s things we might think are mundane and boring. They’ve rendered it totally different because of how they’ve curated it. It’s amusing, ‘cause you see it through their eyes. It’s very fascinating.

Your new Adidas O by O collection has a lot of 90’s hip hop shapes and African patterns. What was your inspiration behind the collection?

I did think about Africa as my kind of inspiration and ideas.  You see these documentaries on TV and people will be wearing these clothes from Europe, kind of thrift store vintage sports wear but then they mix it with their sarongs and loincloths and beaded things and jewellery that they’d made.  I wanted to take this idea of African sports wear and create my own version, taking elements of the visuals in these documentaries then do it with sportswear fabrics. I developed these hybrid styles, and at the same time I was inspired by early 90s culture like Dwayne Wayne and A Different World.

How much sleep do you get? I’ve read that Noam Chomsky and Tom Ford get about four hours sleep a night and I was wondering if there was a prerequisite minimum amount of sleep for success.

There are times that four hours has been regular, probably six on average.

Do you have a favourite Lady Gaga costume?

I love the yellow one in the Paparazzi video. It comes directly from the show. I made it especially for her as a jumpsuit. When it was revealed she went with it so far with the glasses and everything that it became iconic in the video.

Who is someone you’d like to dress?

Dolly Parton. But in a way I kind of want to leave her alone because she’s so great. It’s a Catch 22; like I love you so much but maybe I shouldn’t bother you.

What do you think of underground versus popular culture?

I think they both lend things to each other and nowadays there’s more exposure to the underground than ever before, because of the way information is transferred everyone kind of knows everything. In this way there’s no real room for incubation, for things to be underground as in the past. I’m a pop artist so I’m all about pop culture and being as inclusive as I can be. At the same time, my work is provocative, challenging and out of the ordinary so it’s a new combination.  In a way, it is underground and aboveground. I definitely love niche culture and the history of it from different periods and different times. The underground is important but at the same time I love and have always loved pop culture.

Words and interview by Margo Fortuny

Exit Magazine, 2009

One of Jeremy Scott's inspirations (2Pac stars in this episode):

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tea with Alan Aldridge

Penguin books, the 60s, psychedelia… Here's what we talked about the first time we had tea. You can read my interview with the cult artist below.

The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes

Alan Aldridge grew up in East London and moved to Los Angeles 28 years ago. In his early 20s, the young artist went from unemployed and unknown to a designer at the Sunday Times in four months. At first, he received hate mail for his unconventional depictions. Aldridge became the art director of Penguin a year later. Soon after, he was illustrating for the Beatles, drawing posters for Warhol, and hanging out with rock stars. Aldridge created album covers for the Who, Elton John, Cream, and the Rolling Stones. He also made successful children’s books filled with colourful beasts. Film deals, beauties, and traveling around the world factored in along with creative output. Aldridge is currently writing a book called Pandemonium, which is out next spring. I met up with the charming man in Soho to talk about his past and thoughts about the future.

When did you start drawing and designing?

We’ll get one story straight. I wasn’t good at art in school. In fact, one term I came bottom in the class. When the teacher read out the results, I kept thinking he would call my name out next, but no, it was so-and-so, and then so-and-so, “And last of all, Alan Aldridge, 3/100.”   He glared at me; he thought I could do better than that. I mean, I wasn’t really trying, so he said, “Aldridge, you would’ve gotten 4/100 if you’d spelled your name right.”

 I didn’t start drawing until my 20s, and that was drawing in bars, trying to sell portraits and they were all terrible. Never sold one. Then I went to a graphic workshop, because it said Free Coffee on its flyer, which I thought was really weird, ‘cause the flyer was in a coffee shop, so I went and it turned out to be a class for graphic design. I convinced the guys that ran it that I was broke and they let me sit at the back. It was a ten-week course, twice a week. Slowly I got into it and finally I won the big prize, to do a Penguin book for twenty-five pounds. Very quickly after that, Germano Facetti who was head of Penguin’s design group started giving me work and one of the jobs he gave me was a book called Private View by Lord Snowdon so I had to go to the palace. I became very good at putting layouts together. At the end of the gig, Lord Snowdon recommended me to the Sunday Times, which at that point had one of the best design groups in Europe. So I go along to the interview and I get the job. I had gone from literally nothing to the Sunday Times in about four months. I had only been there a year when I became art director at Penguin.

How did you shake up the place when you were designing the Penguin book covers in 1965-67?

Well I was made art director, so I was the boss. It’s a funny story-I was getting to have a reputation and I had done some Penguin books because I had won a prize with the graphic workshop. I won first prize to do a Penguin cover and the art director at Penguin liked me so much he gave me two or three covers to do a week. Then the boss at Penguin, a guy called Tony Godwin  said, “Alan, you’re kind of trendy and know everyone. Do you know somebody, an American, to take over as art director of Penguin?”   I said “Yeah, I do know someone, ME.” And he laughed and I laughed cause it was kind of a joke to think you could be only a year at Sunday Times and then become head of Penguin Books art department. I forgot about it and then two weeks later, he called me up and said, “Do you still want the job?”  I said, “What job?”  And he said, “The art director of Penguin.”  I said, “Are you kidding me?”  He said, “No, it’s yours.”  I was twenty-three or twenty-four at the time. I had only been in the art business for two years, three at the most. Suddenly I was art director of Penguin and I brought my friends in to do the work in the studio. I started to get photographers and designers involved. We threw out the old grid; it was good fun.

 Your Chelsea Girls poster is famous.  How did you get to know Andy Warhol?

 He didn’t ask me personally. There was a place called Arts Lab in Covent Garden, which is a real bohemian, existential, beat generation kind of a joint. They were putting on the Chelsea Girls premiere. Somebody at Arts Lab called and told me Andy Warhol had asked if I’d do the poster, something like that. The poster became more famous than the movie.

Do you see any parallels with the creativity and upheaval of the 60s and the current cultural climate?

No, the difference between the 60s and now, is that the 60s already broke all the barriers: graphically, musically…if you listen to 50s music and the transition into 60s music, it was partly a drug culture as well which took over. There was colour in magazines. Colour became prevalent, as opposed to black and white magazines. It was like the whole younger generation wanted to try out everything...and did. Today it would be very hard to say your vision is unique when so much has already paved the way before you. My drawings had no precedent in the 50s or early 60s. I drew whatever came into my head and I guess that, in its own way, is revolutionary.

I know a lot of people who are obsessed with the 60s and particularly influenced by the style and music of that time. It’s as if there is an imagined nostalgia for a superior era.

Well, 1967 was voted the year of the century, primarily because of Sgt. Pepper. The 60s are all about free love. I mean, I didn’t see too much of that…there were a lot of concerts, a lot of drugs, people were taking their clothes off. That didn’t happen in the 50s…Some of the Pop Art was spectacular.

 Is there anything left to discover?

Oh yeah: computer art. You see what kids are doing in Photoshop. I find it very creative but it’s also cold. It’s almost like no hand has ever touched it. It’s very technical. I think my stuff has a bit of spirit to it.

Do you listen to music when you work?

I have an itunes electronica channel on all the time: XTC. It’s techno mostly.

What is your favorite book?

 Breaking Open the Head by Daniel Pinchbeck. It’s about Shamanism and the effects of psychedelic drugs.

What do you think is the most mind-expanding art out there?

It really depends on the viewer I think. I once when to Ghent in Belgium to see the Jan van Eyck altarpiece, the triptych, and nothing has every blown me away quite like that. At the same time I could look at psychedelic art and feel far less tripped out by it because it’s something I can understand. Jan van Eyck’s paintings don’t seem human to me. It was something that said to me technically you can get a lot better if you try. He was a genius.

Then I suggest playing Exquisite Corpse. We whip up some pictures of hybrid creatures while he regales me with stories about when he was a teenage butcher and old East London. Back when Shoreditch was the roughest part of London, the pub Dirty Dicks used to have dead cats nailed to the wall. But Shoreditch has changed; they took the cats down and Alan Aldridge hasn’t been back since. 

-Words and interview by Margo Fortuny. Published in Exit Magazine, 2008.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Aerosol Optimist: An Interview with Futura 2000

Here’s an interview I did with the charming graffiti pioneer Futura 2000 for Exit magazine.

                                            Click to enlarge or read text below.

The Aerosol Optimist
Futura 2000 is a graffiti legend famous for an abstracted style of spraycan art. He has exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London, the Museo d'Arte Moderna in Bologna, the Picasso Museum in Antibes, and the New Museum in Manhattan, among others. Exit spoke to Futura 2000 recently about The Clash, his friendship with Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the New York art scene.
MARGO FORTUNY: I love all those 80s movies about New York's early hip hop scene: Wild Style, Krush Groove, Style Wars… Were you in any of those?
FUTURA: When some of those movies were filmed I happened to be away in London with The Clash. When I came back I managed to sneak into Wild Style ; I’m in a scene in a club with the late Dondi White, and I’m at the end of Style Wars on the boat.
FORTUNY: What was it like touring with The Clash?
FUTURA: That was an introduction to Europe and ultimately, that helped create a name for me. I didn’t know those guys when they came to New York. It was their scene coming here as opposed to,“Oh yeah, I know London Calling. I know Sandinista.“ I didn’t know any of that. I met Joe (Strummer), he was an amazing individual, almost like an older brother, a very deep man, an emotional guy. That was amazing to meet someone who was so well-known and very talented in his field. I got to sing on a record with the Clash called Overpowered by Funk, on the album Combat Rock. You know how things are when you’re in it and it’s all going on and you don’t really even know what’s happening? It was quite a little tornado. That was the most amazing experience of my life- at that time- short of meeting my wife and having children.
FORTUNY: Did you hang out with Basquiat back in the day?
FUTURA: 1979, ’80, ’81, ’82, those were the wonder years in New York   when it all started to incubate. People like Jean and Keith (Haring) were more conscious of being artists, that was their thing. Graffiti writers weren’t educated like that. We didn’t think, Oh we’re getting into the art world. These kids, Jean, Keith, Kenny, and all the more famous guys of that era, Clemente, Schnabel, were artists. They were educated, and so for them to do what they did ultimately was not a surprise. 
There’s so much revisionist history, people can say what they want... but Jean was a very good friend and he was part of all of it. I remember thinking, “Wow, he’s doing a very permanent thing.” And people said, “Oh, my kids could do that.” But no one understood he was interpreting Cy Twombly, and he was showing relationships in art, which is what the art world wants you to do. What he created gave it respect. It’s cyclical. He was a master. I regret that he killed himself through his addiction. Keith is another story. Warhol as well, I knew all of those people, though with Andy I was a little standoffish because I thought he was a pretty strange guy.
I remember Jean giving me a hundred dollar bill once. He sold some postcards, sort of like that scene out of the movie (Basquiat) He sold them to Bischofberger or Warhol, I don’t know, but he had a pocket full of hundred dollar bills, and he was like, “Lenny, here you go, get some art supplies.” I thought “Wow. But I really shouldn’t take this.” He said, “No, you have to, come on. When you’re doing well, hook up artists, man. Tell them to do work.”  I was like, “Wow, thank you.” And you know, I went and bought some canvas, some paint, whatever. I’ll never forget that day. Just before he passed away a lot of people used his generosity and his openness. People would hang around his studio and drink, do drugs, people were taking advantage of him because sometimes he would get so fucked up I guess he needed people around. That Basquiat isn’t here is a real tragedy. Everything that he’s done and everything that’s said of him is all worthy. He was way ahead of his time. He was a brilliant artist.
FORTUNY: How has your style evolved over the years? Is it more graphic or theoretical?
FUTURA: Yes, it is more graphic in a sense. You can’t really alter the aerosol medium as it is. It’s always going to be a quick dry response medium. It’s very workable. I like to think I’ve gotten better through practice but I’m still trying to discover what I really want to paint. I am returning as a painter now. All of my recent graphic art and design, I’m putting that on the back burner. In the last decade the movement has spun back around and now I’m getting caught up in this gravitational pull. It would be nice to get a little bit known in my own country, finally. My aim is to redirect traffic to other things I’m doing now. I made a lot of decisions for 2012. It’s gonna be a new me. I bought a suit. You know what I’m saying? It’s that kind of change in lifestyle.
FORTUNY: So your fashion collaborations are over now.
FUTURA: I have bigger fish to capture. I’m holding back on all those other things that are not quite as fascinating. Right now I have some potential clients that are very, very big. 
FORTUNY: What kind of direction are you moving in? Galleries, public art projects?
FUTURA: I like public art more than galleries.  The gallery I’m working with in Paris,  Jerome, they’re amazing. However, I am looking at other ways of exposing my work and some of those could be public art . I’m trying to work with some hotels, and painting a private jet. I’m looking at art that doesn't have to be in a gallery. I want to do murals around the world as well. There’s Os GĂȘmeos and Shepard Fairey, Twist, I want to do something like that in the public view. Where can I take my work to reach a new audience? I think that’s the most important thing. Everything’s already starting to line up. I’ve got a book deal with Rizzoli. They’ve done Murakami, KAWS, but that’s not until 2014.
When I was a kid I would write my name on the wall. Now I can figure out a better way to save my signature. 
FORTUNY: What artists inspire you or your style?
FUTURA: I would say that no artist has inspired me. I always try to find a negative space. When I first started writing graffiti I had a signature. Everyone did. But when I started painting I wasn’t looking at who was doing what. I was looking for what didn’t exist.
I’m influenced by life itself, whatever I’m exposed to.  Because painting is an emotional experience it’s not like “Oh let me do a logo for Supreme,” where it’s going to be crafted and clinical. We know what they want, whereas with painting it’s more like “Let me show how I feel,” and based on my feelings that’s how I’m going to work.  
Thirty years ago I was mad scared. I needed to know who’s Kandinsky, who is this, what is the Bauhaus movement... I never had access to that.
FORTUNY: What do think of Banksy?
FUTURA: After this many years he’s put graff or street art on the map again in some commercial fashion. There’s a limit to how long you can be witty. I come from a different school. We don’t stencil. Yeah, I’ve always dug him as a clever kid very much trending, but I’m not drinking all the Banksy Kool-Aid. Everything else: the movie, all that, it’s a lot of hype. To the uninformed, or to the people 30 and under, they think he’s the greatest thing ever. They don’t have true historical perspective. They don’t know any better. I saw his show at the MOCA at last year. Your Banksy, your Jeff Koons, any other artist that has a team of people-  it’s not my cup of tea. 
FORTUNY: It becomes a factory.
FUTURA: Totally. Warhol taught everyone how to do that. I don’t like that as much. Whereas if I go up to someone’s studio, like Space Invader in Paris, and I see this kid surrounded by work and it’s all him, all these creations worldwide, I appreciate that more. Don’t try to sell me a theatre. I don’t want a theatre. Give me a performance. 
The thing about Banksy is that I don’t think I would be back in the art world if it wasn’t for him. I don’t want to come off bitter; I just want to be honest. I think the guy’s amazing but he’s lost it. 
FORTUNY: If I came to your birthday party and my present was a work by any artist, what would you want?
FUTURA: I would highly recommend you didn’t do that but if you were set on it I need a Michelangelo, a little sketch. The thing is I don’t live with art, so that would be one of the pieces I would have. Michelangelo, he’s my favourite.
FORTUNY: What do you think of social media and art?
FUTURA: I’m in contact with KAWS. He’s commenting, I’m commenting back. But I don’t know if I’m talking to Brian (KAWS) or someone who works for Brian. It disturbs me that we’re creating all these buffers and filters between each other. It’s bullshit. I can be real in a place that’s very fake. That’s one of my missions right now.  Because we’re living in a very fake world. It worries me. I’m very old school. There should be more interaction between us.
FORTUNY: Do you think social media and apps help or hinder interaction?
FUTURA: Well, as a rule, I think they’re garbage. But if you want to go in and do something really interesting they can help. Obviously you can touch a lot of people.
FORTUNY: What’s something you wish people knew about you?
FUTURA: At the end of the day, whether it’s a really nice hotel or restaurant, I’m more likely to be chilling with the kids in the kitchen than all the important people in the crowd... No matter what happens I hope people know I haven’t changed.
I've become what I wanted to do. Creating a family has been very important for me. I’m so grateful. In the 80s when things fell apart, ’85 when the house of cards that was the New York City art world crumbled, I thought, I predict that I’m going to live to the year 2000, so things were bound to get better. I was very optimistic even though I was in relatively hard times.  In 1985 you could put a tombstone on the New York scene- but there was another inspiration at that moment: my son was one years old. My children, my family, that’s been the support I’ve always needed. Finally, in some crazy twist, the stars are aligning again.
Exit Magazine, Spring/Summer 2012

Futura 2000 is currently exhibiting at Gallery Magda Danysz in Paris from February 21 – April 42015.

Here’s a video of young Futura talking about working with the Clash: