Fort Makers

Fort Makers

From left: Nana Spears, Naomi Clark, Noah James Spencer and Elizabeth Whitcomb. Images by Kate Owen. Sure, sure: John, Paul, George and Ringo made some pretty great music in their time. But did they also craft candlesticks? Quilt blankets? Design clothing? Mount roving art installations? Host readings? Engineer retail events? I think not. Meet Nana, Naomi, Noah and Elizabeth. Better known as Fort Makers (or, as I like to call them, the New Fab Four). This artistically inclined quartet resides in Brooklyn (naturally) and specialize in primitive, nature-inspired interdisciplinary pieces that you may have seen without even realizing it. Since May of this year, Fort Makers has (deep breath): 1) designed bedding for Anthroplogie 2) created Line Lights wooden light sculptures for the Modern Craft Show at New York City's 19th century Merchant House 3) mounted their outdoor Action Painting series throughout Richmond, Virginia (including an 80-foot canvas hung on a cliff face) 4) hosted a poetry reading by Dominique Townsend at their Clinton Hill studio 5) unveiled Free Space, a floor-to-ceiling abstract psychedelic mural in a former Victoria's Secret store at South Street Seaport, where they also 6) collaborated with Baggu on limited-edition, site-specific scarves, totes and pouches at a two-week pop-up shop) 7) designed a stage set for the MoMA PS1 Warm Up series 8) are set to debut a new Lawn Quilt series for the Dumbo Arts Festival later this week and 9) are launching their first e-com shop in October, featuring their fashion, accessories and home creations. And…exhale. Nine projects in four months? It's enough to make James Franco feel like a slacker. "We think that four brains are better than one brain," said Fort Makers creative director Nana Spears this past summer when I stopped by their sprawling workspace, located on an industrial block in the shadow of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway. Nana, a Hopewell, New Jersey native, met painter Naomi Clark and her artist husband Noah James Spencer (both Boulder, Colorado transplants) at a wine bar near her apartment, where Noah's best friend was the bartender. "He introduced me to all these great people from Boulder, including Naomi, and we very quickly started talking about collaborating." The year was 2008. Naomi was graduating from Pratt Institute and wanted an extra set of eyes for her thesis show. Nana, who had just left her job as an assistant buyer at Barneys New York, stepped in as curator and—voila!—an art collective (or "artists collaborative," as they prefer to call it) was born. "Naomi used to collect a lot of stuff off the street for her art and paint everything," interjected Noah with a laugh. "We were just talking about how she doesn’t do that anymore." "That's part of why I asked Nana to help me out," replied Naomi, who sat between her co-conspirators on a small metal stool in front of one of her abstract, wildly colorful creations. "In school I made a lot of stuff and not all of it was successful. It’s not like I want to show all of it but to go through the artistic process, I have to do it physically. To bring something in and make something [out of it] is like the sketch; it’s not necessarily the final piece. I had this closet in the Pratt studio that [was used for] storage. You’d open the door and it was like these crazy bars and a tree limb that had nails on it that was super dangerous. Just too much stuff." She shook her head ruefully. "It was like clowns coming out of the car," recalled Nana. "It was like more, more, more!" Click "Read More" for additional text and images. Naomi, who cites Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Mitchell and Willem De Kooning as influences, said that Nana helped her re-channel her desire to collect found objects from a "hard edge [Robert] Rauschenberg approach" to a "more soft edge textile base. I don't think it has stopped, it has just changed and evolved." The result can be seen not only in Naomi's fabric paintings but also in the group's hand-painted blankets and appliquéd quilts, which feel not like something grandma might have made but more like something sprung from the collective mind of some left-of-center savants with strong Bauhaus leanings. (A New York Times profile compared Fort Makers' approach—and their art—to something you might find in a Wes Anderson movie.) Their first "Blanket Project" led to a series of dresses (which were picked up by Anthropologie) made in collaboration with Naomi's designer friend Lauren Nevada, which led to "The Leave it to Beaver Set," which led to "The Scarf Program," which led to "Candlestick City," which led to "Made in Kind" jewelry, which led to… You get the idea. Throughout, this merry band of pranksters mounted their signature "Forts" (mobile fabric installations that function as inhabitable paintings) in Massachusetts, Utah, New Jersey and New York. And somewhere along the line, Nana's cousin Elizabeth Whitcomb (a fledgling jewelry designer from Providence, Rhode Island who also assists with production) joined the collective, turning this band of three into the Gang of Four and adding a welcome new voice to the mix. As for the boy in the band? Though he studied painting at University of Colorado—Boulder, Noah's focus is on woodworking, specifically candlesticks, cutting boards, light fixtures and other household objects that look deceptively simple but are actually quite intricate in their construction. He began woodworking as a kid, a pastime his artist parents encouraged, and spent several years apprenticing to cabinetmakers and furniture craftsmen such as Patrick Townsend, Paul Loebach and Uhuru Design, after moving to New York City. "I grew up in the woods around wood," said Noah, whose greatest inspirations are nature, music, Shaker design and George Nakashima. "I always just loved building blocks. I loved having a set of tools, ideas and materials in front of me." "Everyone says their parents are hippies, but Noah’s parents actually are. They lived on a school bus in the mountains in this tiny little community called Sunshine," added Naomi. "And they are self-built. His dad works at Celestial Seasonings tea company and his mom is always trying to get you stoned. She's like, 'Welcome home; here's a joint!'" We talked about their creative process, which involves a fair amount of casual brainstorming and individual conceptualizing that is then vetted by the entire group and which seems to occur in a completely organic, unforced way—whether they're working in the studio, walking in the park or having lunch at the communal table that has pride of place beneath the studio's vast wall of windows. "Forts have always been such a big part of our brand," said Naomi when asked about the origin of the group's name. "The company is really inspired by collaborative groups, like the Shakers," added Nana. "What people can do really do when they have to rely on themselves. When you think of makers, you think of a community." "I like to quote Picasso," said Noah, when describing the group's rigorous work ethic and nonstop collaborations, both with each other and with outside artists. "Somebody asked why he worked 10 hours a day and he said, 'In case I have a good idea.' Which I think is great. You have to work through all the other ideas before something new will pop out..." "…They're not all going to be good," said his wife. "…You have to sift them out," replied Noah, finishing her thought. The group nodded in agreement, surrounded by their labors of love and pondering their next move, which will be coming soon to a gallery…or store…or street corner near you.

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Guillaume Simoneau

Guillaume Simoneau

Guillaume Simoneau is a Montreal based photographer. These images are taken from a body of work titled Love and War, capturing the progression of a relationship between the photographer and a woman named Caroline Annandale, who enlisted in the U.S. army after the events on 9/11.

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Front Seat Freestyle

Front Seat Freestyle

Down at Portland’s Central Precinct, down three floors, three cops sit slack-jawed staring at the biggest flat screen TV I have ever seen. A deep TV narrator voice says, "Lil' Rick's crippin' had gone too far. The balancing act was torture."


It's 10 til four, and the cops lounge around a long table, the kind we use at work for important meetings. Lil' Rick is a man now, but on the History Channel, he's still a Los Angeles teenager wielding big guns and blue handkerchiefs. Being a Crip, he says, meant hating everything red -- even strawberry soda.


I’m here for a ride-along with Officer Chad Stensgaard -- a cop who spent a day in court last month after parking in a no-parking zone to eat dinner and watch the Blazers game. I’m a newspaper reporter, new to the night cops beat after spending a few years writing about education. Tonight, Chad’s going to take me through the dilapidated part of downtown known as Old Town, show me how the crack addicts have migrated north again. Two years ago, the police chief had declared victory: The big raid had sent 158 dealers or users to jail. Crack was gone.


"It just went downtown for a few years," Chad says, handing over a bullet-proof vest. "Now we've been policing downtown, so it's moved back here."


I put on the vest. It's extra-large, the only size they have. I just topped 110, and the vest hangs off with arm holes so big I could step through them.


Chad is young, studly with a spikey handsome-man haircut. He spends the first hour rolling slowly through the streets, coolly telling me about this or that time he arrested someone. He drives by a hair salon twice, tells me his wife works there. The shop is part of the new, remodeled plaza that city officials had said would turn Old Town around. It’s upscale, but close enough to the downscale area that Chad likes to check in on his wife. The car windows are down, and Chad says a police-like "Hello" to nearly everyone we pass. People are quick to greet him back, as if an officer's hello mandates a respectful reply. "Good evening, officer."


It's 5:30, a Thursday night in the middle of June. Nothing is going on yet. I only have a few hours, and I feel impatient for some kind of action, something I can go back to work and write down so my bosses will think I’m a go-getter. I’m the youngest person on staff, and I want to stop feeling like I’ll never catch up to the other reporters.


“The commander thought I could use some good publicity,” Chad tells me. “That’s why I agreed to take a reporter with me tonight.”


I’m not sure what to say back to him, so I don’t say anything. Chad turns the radio on -- the pop station, not the police scanner -- and sings softly as he drives. I look out the window, wondering what people think when they see me in the passenger seat. After half an hour, Chad jerks the car into an old Burger King parking lot. Someone burned the insides out long ago. The sign is gone, but its essential Burger Kingness -- the drive-through, the mission-tile roof -- is intact. I try not to smile. Maybe this will be something.


Chad pulls up next to a No Trespassing sign alongside a curb in front of the restaurant. He says some code into his police radio then motions to a group of five people -- all black, maybe homeless, maybe in their 40s -- a few feet away. They’re standing in a line, leaning against the building. Chad swaggers out of the car. Outside, he looks bigger. His blue, short-sleeved uniform clings to his bicep as he walks toward the group. He doesn't tell me to get out, so I don't, but I hold my notebook out the window and write descriptions of the trespassers: over-sized t-shirts, sweat pants, windbreaker. The woman on the end of the line is all teeth chattery and bouncing in white tennis shoes. While Chad checks IDs, she sneaks away, tip-toes through a crosswalk and is gone.


"Officer, there may be a discrepancy with my address," another woman says.


She says her name is Angela. She's wearing the kind of pants suit I’d expect to find at Sunday School. She has a brand new bicycle, a nice voice and a felony warrant out for her arrest. Next in line is Yvonne. Later, Chad shows me Yvonne’s license: She's 5'4, 260 pounds, it says. In person, her hair is short and wild, natural. Her license shows a woman with smoother, longer hair. Chad tells Yvonne to turn her pockets inside out then he runs a gloved hand over her pocket, holds his hand up to eye-level.


"Is this all the crack you have?" he asks Yvonne. "Or am I going to find more?"


"No, sir, I just had a little something this morning," she answers. Two officers show up on bicycles. One, a female, is wearing shorts. Chad asks her to frisk Yvonne.


Something -- Was that a tooth? I think -- falls out of Yvonne's mouth. The officer ignores it.


"I'm going to frisk the front of you, make sure you don't have anything, OK?" she tells Yvonne.


Yvonne pulls up her shirt and her bra, revealing no drugs, only large, dark breasts. A studious-looking man walks by the scene and hollers to the cops, "Don't be startled; I'm just a black man walking behind you."


I scribble his quote down in my notebook. Oh that’s good, I think.


Half a decade ago, when I was 20 and working in Mississippi, I spent my nights hanging out with black men who hated cops. I was on their side, I told them. I wanted to tell their stories. I was white and never had any run-ins with cops, but I felt more comfortable with black people in the South. My family was poor, just like theirs. I was against privilege and the establishment. I idolized the Freedom Riders.


When I first moved to Portland, every black person reminded me of home. I’d tell black grocery store check-out workers that I’m from the South, hoping they’d understand how similar we are.


“Never been there,” they’d say.


Outside the old Burger King, the female cop handcuffs Yvonne then guides her to the curb, right outside my window. Yvonne tells the cops that her tongue ring fell out. Can an officer screw it back on for her?


Not a tooth, I write in my notebook.


The female cop picks a little knob off the asphalt and bends down to tighten it onto Yvonne's tongue. She jumps back when she realizes she's stepped in human shit. The other bike cop cackles. "Those are your new shoes, right?" He’s eating a granola bar.


"Yvonne," Chad says sweetly. "What's moving around in your purse?"


"A dildo vibrator," she says, glowering.


Chad helps Yvonne into the backseat of the police car. He leaves her alone with me. I hide the notebook. I don’t want her to know I’ve been writing. I don’t want her to think I’ve been judging her.


"It's just crumbs," she says -- to me? I’m not sure. "Ain't a whole lotta dope. Just three crumbs. Shit."


The granola-eating cop tells one of Yvonne's friends, the only guy in the group, to break a crack pipe found in Yvonne's purse.


"Man, shit," Yvonne says. "There isn't nothing wrong with that pipe. Wasn't even used."


"They told me I hafta," the guy says, then places the pipe on the curb a foot away from me. He steps on the pipe. Parts of it fly through the window and land on my button-down shirt. I’m not sure if I should wipe it off.


Chad guides Angela to the back of the car, too. She's handcuffed, but after Chad leaves, she wiggles around until she's holding a cell phone up. She doesn’t seem to notice that I’m sitting in the front seat.


"Hey, I'm going to jail," she says into the phone.


A few minutes later, Chad slides in the driver's seat. Yvonne asks, "Why are you wasting your time on me? There a lotta dope out there."


"There is a lot of dope out there," Chad says. He emphasizes the is, but doesn’t turn to look at Yvonne. "You're part of the problem. If you didn't buy it, dealers wouldn't be able to sell it."


"I didn't buy it," Yvonne says. "Somebody bought it for me."


"Anyway," she adds, "if there wasn't dealers, there wouldn't be anyone to buy from. "


“New dealers would just come around,” Chad says, looking down at arrest forms. "Alright, I'm going to read you your rights."


I’m mad at Chad. He’s putting on a show for me, I think. This arrest won’t solve anything. I look back at my notebook. This isn’t a story. I had wanted a story, and there isn’t one, and I am mad at Chad for arresting people so that I can have a story. So that he can have some good publicity. So that I can look good for my bosses.


A few minutes later, Angela clears her throat. Her phone is hidden again. She has been crying. “I’ve lost everything I’ve ever worked for," she says.


“What’s that?” Chad asks. He's filling out paperwork and hasn't really been listening.


“Nothing,” she mutters.


“She said she’s lost everything she’s worked for,” I tell Chad. My voice is stern but quiet. “She’s sad about the bike.”


“I don’t care about my bike,” she snaps. “I’m going to lose my job, my house, my fiancee, over something I did 10 years ago. I tried to get it taken care of in court, but I couldn’t get a document from Florida.”


Chad turns to me. “The warrant is over a dangerous drug possession.”


She doesn't look like the threat he is implying. I feel uncomfortable, witnessing the ruining of Angela's life. The day Angela lost everything won’t warrant even a brief in my newspaper. I feel, suddenly, like a different person than I used to be. When did I switch teams?


“Am I going to get a bail?” Angela asks Chad.


“Uhh, no,” he says, eyeing a processing paper. “Hey, Yvonne, what’s your address?”


She’s silent. “You not talking to me anymore?” he asks.


I look back at Yvonne, but she's staring out the window, biting her lower lip. I’m due back at work. There’s crack pipe on my shirt.


Chad's headed to the jail, but he drops me off first. I’m not ready to go into the newsroom yet, so I walk to the grocery store, buy a sandwich, read The New Yorker. Two weeks later, I see Yvonne again. I’m biking home from work, late at night, and she's sitting on a bench with a new group of friends. I stop at a red light and she looks up. We stare at each other. I’m not scared, but the light turns green, and I pedal -- quickly -- north. The next night, and every night after, I take a different route.

Casey Parks is a reporter at The Oregonian Newspaper. She grew up in Louisiana with library fines in four cities. She is directing a documentary, The Diary of a Misfit, that traces the mysterious beginnings and endings of a woman who lived as a man in Delhi, Louisana. 

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Like many people, I first discovered Ariel Pink when he was self-producing albums from his bedroom in Los Angeles reminiscent of the great lo-fi king R. Stevie Moore. I never would have imagined that a few years later, his infectious sound- a mix of pop music and drum sounds made with his mouth- would be a household thing. These days, Ariel is busy touring with a band and modeling for the new Saint Laurent Paris campaign as well as making movies with Elijiah Wood. Currently, his hair is a shocking shade of pink and his look seems to be inspiring fashion houses on the runway as he mixes thrift-store finds with goth aesthetic and punk seamlessly. Here, I sat down to chat with him about his musical influences and his plans for the summer. We also did a fashion shoot, shot on location in the famous freewheeling Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco with looks inspired by Ariel Pink himself. Lauren Goodman: Will you tell us a little bit about the evolution of your music from making it alone and very DYI, to now? How has that process changed and what does it mean for your work? Ariel Pink: Well, it’s a very natural progression as far as I am concerned. You start off alone with an idea in your bedroom and eventually you need others. You try to turn them on to what you are doing and work with them. It’s been a slow gradual process for me. I mean, I am 35 and I started making music when I was a teenager, so I’ve had to quite a few years to work out the kinks and all that kind of stuff. I mean, the music itself is the secondary. It’s all about relationships and communication and about negotiating. Negotiating terms and relationships. So, I would say, hopefully I have gotten better at that. At the same time, you wouldn’t know necessarily because I have limited my involvement to the people that I am committed to. In the past, I was more promiscuous, so to speak, in terms of whom I played with and under what circumstances. I am pretty devoted to my band and the chemistry that we have developed. It would be counter intuitive if I started with a band and went solo. It should be the other way around. Ariel Pink and artist Courtney Garvin wear their own clothes. Lauren: Yeah, but people do that all the time. Ariel: I think they think they can’t be solo from the get go. And for me it’s always been sort of obvious: I am my own island. So, I went solo first and then I became a band. It’s easier starting from smaller to larger, in concerted steps. And that also parallels the sound of the music—it’s gotten slicker. But, that’s because with age I am better at doing things… I am learning. Lauren: When was the first time you dyed your hair pink? Ariel: It was for the Spin shoot about a year and a half ago. They had a special guy there, Daniel Moon, who was mixing up a sort of magenta fuchsia fusion [laughter]. My hair is pink right now because Azalea Banks dyed it. Lauren: What are your summer plans? Ariel: I am going to Russia. We are playing in Moscow and St. Petersburg. And then I should be working on a few films, actually. Working on this movie, Bad Vibes, with Elijah Woods' company, he’s backing it. It’s a werewolf movie. There are other films: I am also going to be a part of a movie called The Transloco, with Willie Desantos. And then a Josh Safdie movie, as well. Ariel Pink wears his own Roxy Music t-shirt at Aub Zam Zam on Haight St., San Francisco.  Lauren: Did you say the name of the first movie is Bad Vibes? Ariel: Yes. It takes place in 1960’s Haight and Asbury. It’s a horror movie. It tells the story of a band in the late 60’s—kind of a mixture of Sly and the Family Stone and Jefferson Airplane. Their singer gets an STD from a groupie that turns him into a werewolf. And it chronicles their descent into madness and wolf-dom. The whole band becomes werewolves eventually, and their music changes for the darker. So it’s very exciting to follow that trajectory, writing wise. Lauren: Are you writing it? Ariel: I am making the music for the film. And I am also going to star in it. Well, sort of. I am going to play a shy and a nervous keyboard player in the band. I only have a few lines but I keep on fucking up the rehearsals in the movie. So, that’s my part. I am also going to do Station to Station, this art thing that’s happening in September. I don’t know if that counts as summer, but I’ll probably be preparing for that. Lauren: Are you on the train the whole time for Station to Station? Ariel: I think so—I intend to be… I think I might be the on board entertainment for the people that will be riding. Maybe I’ll have some sort program/classes, that sort of thing. Lauren: So, how did you end up on the Saint Laurent Paris shoot with Hedi Slimane? Ariel: I was dropping off Geneva [musician, Geneva Jacuzzi, on-again off-again girlfriend of Pink’s] at the studio. And that’s how it happened. Lauren: Besides being in the SLP campaign this season, have you noticed how the runways look like your style? Prada is so Ariel Pink. Ariel: If I’m fashionable, it’s an accident. It’s because I have fashionable friends. Like Courtney [Courtney Garvin, a musician and artist, is also Ariel’s stylist.] Lauren: Who are your fashion icons? Ariel: Richard Simmons. Alice Cooper. And Hedi Slimane. Lauren: If you weren’t a musician what would you be? Ariel: I always wanted to be an astronaut. I think about being a truck driver every once in a while. I am also a visual artist, so I don’t know if that counts as a job. I like to work on movies as well, just anything creative. I am just a creative guy. Lauren: What were your favorite tv shows growing up? Ariel: I was really into Tales From the Dark Side. I was into Head Bangers’ Ball (laugh). And Colombo. Lauren: If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead who would it be? Ariel: Robert Smith from the Cure. I would like to have dinner with the Einstein and maybe Richard Feynman. Lauren: Summer reading? Ariel: Allan Schore. And Julian Jaynes. I read blogs too: The Rational Male, by Rollo Tomassi. Lauren: What was the last thing you thought about before you fell asleep last night? Ariel: Should I kiss her or should I not? Bow shirt and leather coat, Chanel. Studded shorts, Evil Twin. Long striped socks, Louis Vuitton. Gold spike bracelet, Eddie Borgo. Boots, stylist's own, worn throughout. Sweatshirt, See You Monday. Striped jeans, Hudson. Creepers, T.U.K. Large spike bracelet and ring, Eddie Borgo.  Red patent dress, Valentino. Stockings, Wolford.  Right: Vintage leather jacket, Wasteland, San Francisco. Pink cashmere sweater and neoprene skirt, Organic by John Patrick. Earrings, Marni. Clutch, hammered metal cuff and ring, Anndra Neen. Large pyramid bracelet, Eddie Borgo.  Jethro Tull t-shirt, Wasteland, San Francisco. Black leather collar, Rivethead. Pyramid necklace, Eddie Borgo. Sweater and shorts, Louis Vuitton. Large gold spike bracelet, Eddie Borgo. Thunderbolt ring, Lynn Ban. Black leather spike bracelets, Rivethead. Striped stockings, stylist's own.  Leather coat with fur cuffs and gingham skirt, Prada. Vintage Missoni clutch and pink belt, Wasteland, San Francisco. Gold spike collar, Fenton. Large spike bracelet, Eddie Borgo.  Yellow coat with pink fur collar and shoes, Miu Miu. Striped jeans by Genetic Denim. Vintage Sex Pistols t-shirt, stylist's own.  Brocade pants, Wes Gordon. Vintage Malcom McLaren t-shirt, stylist's own. Vintage faux fur jacket, Wasteland, San Francisco. Large silver bracelet, Eddie Borgo. Suit, shirt, and boots, Louis Vuitton. Gold leggings, American Apparel. Bracelets, Eddie Borgo. Earrings, Marni. Top image: Ariel Pink wears a shark sweatshirt given to him by a fan with his own vintage sweatpants, on Mission St. in San Francisco. Photography by Silja Magg, Styling by Lauren Goodman, Hair by Brynn Doering, Makeup by Victor Cembellin for MAC, Model: Haley Sutton, Photographer's Assistant: Daniel Morris.

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Julia Leach In Conversation

Julia Leach In Conversation

One of my primary interests when profiling people for Dossier has always been those who do multiple things and somehow manage to do them well. A few months ago I met Julia Leach at Wieden and Kennedy, where she works as a creative director. I knew that she had come there from Kate Spade, where she worked for 11 years as EVP/Creative Director developing the brand's eminently recognizable aesthetic. During our meeting, I also learned that she has her own clothing and accessories line, Chance, which she works on nights and weekends. Chance is a line bulit around well-made, beachy essentials - the perfect striped shirt, elegant beach towels, a leather bag you really want to carry everything in. Along with asking her some questions about how her multi-faceted career has come to pass, I asked Julia to share some of her inspiration boards for the current Chance collection, built around Greece, as well as a video shot there for the brand. Skye Parrott: Can you tell me about your background? How and where did you grow up, what was your family like? Julia Leach: My parents (Mom, mostly Danish; Dad, mostly English) raised me and my brother in a wonderfully bohemian setting on an old farm in the Minnesota countryside. They're both creative  - Mom, a writer and art teacher, who was always drawing vegetables from our garden, Dad a potter, who originally set out to be an architect - and I'm grateful for their influence on me. There was a sense of understatement in our home, yet also a passion for clean design, thoughtful craftsmanship, organic food, and great music - all things I value to this day. They both had an effortless sense of style, but we never discussed fashion - though my mother often bought Paris Vogue and Elle, along with Gourmet, when we made trips to Minneapolis for my father's pottery sales. My grandparents, especially on my father's side, were very polished in a Brooks Brothers sort of way, so I was aware of quality and formal elegance from a young age. My own sense of style continues to reflect this collision of easy artfulness and classicism, thanks to my parents and grandparents. When my parents split up, my mother moved to Finland, where she met a wonderful French man. They got married and moved to a tiny village in the Dordogne region of France, where she's been living for nearly twenty-five years. I appreciate that through my mother and Michel, I was exposed to a European way of life as well. My primary residence, though, continued to be with my father, where my horse was the main focus of my teenage years, along with school and my jobs. Skye: Tell me about your early work life. What was your first job? Did you learn anything there that you still use today? Julia: My very first job, at age nine, was organizing the desk drawers of a friend of my mother's. My second (more official) job was as a horse groom on an Arabian farm. I absolutely loved it. I'd been crazy about horses since the age of five, so to be 11 years old and brushing, lunging, and working around these beautiful creatures all day long in the summertime was heaven for me. I was a groom until I was 15. Initially, my parents were a little nervous when I'd go to horse shows around the Midwest for a long weekend, but I'd shown a sense of responsibility, and they trusted me. I look back on this chapter and see the development of my independent instincts. Then in high school I worked in the only clothing shop in my small Minnesota town. I loved that job, too, as I'd started to enjoy expressing my creativity through personal style. The things I learned in each of these roles still come through in my professional life - a strong work ethic and high standards, a sense of order, creative expression, and independent thinking. Skye: So how did you end up doing what you do now? Julia: I discovered graphic design when I was in my early teens and took classes one summer at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. In learning more about it, I discovered advertising, and was able to secure an internship at a small ad agency in Minneapolis between my senior year of high school and heading off to college at UW Madison. I majored in journalism with a focus on advertising and minored in art history, and set out for New York after graduation, focused on getting my foot in the door at a creatively-driven shop. By some sort of cosmic luck, I wound up getting a job as assistant to Jay Chiat, founder of Chiat/Day, after a short stint at a design studio. Jay was an incredible mentor and was extremely supportive, giving me many opportunities to learn and grow. While I was working at Chiat/Day, I met Andy Spade, and he and Kate had just started their handbag company. After Jay and his partners sold Chiat/Day, I left the agency and worked at Paper Magazine for a year, launching their website. While I was there, Andy called and asked me to lunch. Over salads on a hot summer day, he told me, "Our company is growing, we need help - would you be interested in joining us?" The brand was young, so it was a bit of a leap of faith, but I saw the potential in their sensibility and decided to jump on board. It was a great run - I stayed 11 years - and as EVP/Creative Director, Kate and Andy gave me a lot of freedom, which was a gift. Once again, the company was sold, and I was ready to take on a new challenge, so I departed, and shortly thereafter, I launched Chance. I love the process of defining a brand and building emotion and storytelling into a vision, so it's been a very rewarding process over the past three years. Having a start-up can be isolating, however, and I missed a sense of scale and collaboration, and leading a team, so when an opportunity came up to join Wieden + Kennedy as a creative director, I jumped at it. The people are fantastic, and the agency's creative philosophy resonates with me, especially given my formative years working with Jay, so I've found it to be a perfect counterpoint to Chance. That's the path thus far. I love that my career hasn't followed a predictably straight line, yet certain threads - design, style, innovation, risk taking - tie it all together. Skye: Did you set out to have the career you've had, or was the path more of a surprise? Julia: I set out to have a career in the design and advertising space with style and retail as a subset of my interests, and never considered an alternate path, so there haven't been any big surprises. Each chapter has unfolded organically and each has come with great lessons and rewards, so I plan to continue to trust my instincts. We'll see what lies ahead. Skye: Can you tell me about your line, Chance? How did it come into being? What are the inspirations behind it? Julia: Coming off the Kate Spade years and having been quietly instrumental to building the brand, it seemed like an intuitive next step to launch my own concept. The striped t-shirt is such an iconic item of clothing, and it telegraphs all of the values I wanted to place at the center of the venture - design, simplicity, personal style, and adventure - so that was where I started (the striped tee also happened to be a constant in my wardrobe). I didn't want Chance to be seen as just a t-shirt line though, so I also created beach towels, totes, hats, shorts, pajamas and loungewear, and so on, all elements that further communicated the sensibility. It's become a repository for all my interests, many of them posted on the Discoveries page of the website, and I plan to continue to build it slowly. I've enjoyed learning about the apparel design process, and my biggest satisfaction continues to be expressing the brand vision through imagery, films, and collaborations. Chance is about slowing down in a world that seems to be going faster and faster, so I feel no sense of urgency to accelerate its growth. I've realized that the sense of freedom that's so important to me is imbued in Chance. Skye: You mentioned that Chance is very inspired by travel. What are some of the specific places that have inspired the line? Julia: The Chance launch collection was inspired by the core idea, "Artful classics that travel the world," so I mined both French and American style, a reflection of my own background. I didn't want people to see it as only French nautical, however, so the second collection was inspired by California, where I spend a significant amount of time. I've had a long-time crush on the whole state, but in particular, I love Palm Springs and areas of Los Angeles, and have recently been spending more time in Santa Barbara. And then there's San Francisco and Marin, and so many areas in between. It was a special collection to develop creatively given my connections on the west coast. The most recent collection is inspired by Greece, a place that's long captured my imagination. I traveled to the island of Paros in April to shoot photos and two short films with a small team from Athens. It was a fantastic trip and the assortment captures another side of Chance... floaty fabrics, simple tunics and caftans, and a color palette that telegraphs the natural beauty of Greece. Skye: Where are some your favorite places you've traveled to? Julia: In terms of personal travel, I return to Mexico again and again, and absolutely love Japan. I visited Tokyo frequently during my Kate Spade years, and look forward to going back again. I've enjoyed traveling to many other places, from Argentina to Cuba to Sweden to Switzerland, but Mexico and Japan keep calling me back. Skye: You currently have two seemingly full-time "jobs," between Wieden +Kennedy and Chance. How does that play out? Julia: Wieden + Kennedy and Chance are great complements to one another, and enable me to play at both ends of the spectrum in terms of scale. There's a tribal quality to working at Wieden + Kennedy, a place where there's a relentless quest to do impactful, compelling, and culturally relevant work. In all candor, it can be challenging to spend most nights and weekends on Chance, but in the end, I do feel like my dual professional life offers the best of both worlds. Skye: What is your role at Wieden? What are the projects that most interest you there? Julia: As a creative director at Wieden, I've been focused on design, style, and retail oriented clients. Initially, I oversaw a batch of Target campaigns. Then last summer, we won the One Kings Lane account, and they've been a wonderful client. We have interesting new business opportunities on the horizon, so it's an exciting time at the agency. Skye: When I recently visited the office I got to see some of the design you'd done during the renovation. Is that sort of project part of your job description? Julia: The office is also currently being renovated and knowing my experience with showroom and store design projects, the management team invited me to do the sourcing for the lounge spaces, not something that was technically in my job description, but a nice bit of happenstance. Skye: It seems that you have your hands in many creative pots. How do all those pieces fit together for you? Do you have any more projects on the horizon? Is there anything you'd like to do but haven't yet done? Julia: "Strong visual storytelling driven by design and optimistic emotion." That sums up my voice as a creative director. All the pieces fit together when I step back and see (and hear) this voice coming through and all my passions syncing up through various initiatives and roles. I definitely feel like there are more great challenges ahead, and I trust they'll be a continuation of these themes. The next chapter will probably open with a dose of healthy ambition and a little bit of chance. Portrait by Chris Shipman

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Summer Mixtape No.1

Summer Mixtape No.1

This summer NEW/AGE is curating a kaleidoscopic summertime mix series to be exclusively released with Dossier. It features diverse genre-benders such as Hannah Hunt (Christopher Owens), Kilo Kish, MAS YSA, Smash Simmons, Elvis Perkins/Cornelia Livingston and others. First in the series is Brooklyn-based DJ Kitty-Ca$h (née Cachee Livingston). It was a serendipitous beginning for Kitty-Ca$h, who lists Trap, Hip-Hop, R’n’B, Pop, House and Reggae as some of her favorite genres to spin, the FIT alum was working as a publicist when her best friend, rapper Kilo Kish, offered Kitty the opportunity to be her tour DJ; with the one caveat--she had to learn how to DJ first. "We would hop around from different bars trying to find a DJ for her tour and one night, Kish was like 'Why don't you just be my official DJ' and I was just like 'Yeah, but I don't know how to DJ'. First, I learned the basics from her manager, J-Scott, and then I took a class at Scratch Academy, and then I just fell in love and now I practice everyday." Now, a year later the Brooklyn native has been honing her skills and has released her first ever mix exclusive to Dossier, using trap as a foundation while seamlessly layering down-tempo electro, pop and R and B. “I created Could It Be You while reflecting on a few conversations I had with close friends about finding love in the summer time. When selecting, I wanted songs that evoked an array of emotions like lust, passion, happiness, romance, anger, love and infatuation; resulting in a care-free yet sultry summer vibe for the mix. Every scenario gave me inspiration for a different song, which in the end tells the ultimate summer love story... leaving you questioning every encounter with four words... Could It Be You?!" --Shannekia McIntosh A few facts about Kitty Ca$h: Favorite color: Purple Favorite smell: Vanilla & Jasmine Favorite food: Steak First kiss: Magical Astrological sign: Capricorn What you look for in a crush: Humor, Spontaneity, Shyness Dream vacation: Ibiza & Africa Favorite vacaton: Italy & Trinidad Favorite artwork: "Fireflies on the water" by Yayoi Kusama Favorite architect/building: Doors of Ghiberti Favorite piece of clothing ever: Anything sheer or lace in my closet Favorite gemstone/crystal: I carry around a rose quartz everyday In the future there will be (finish sentence)... a woman as president Favorite state of mind (can be more than one): Inspired, Grateful, Motivated, Humble, Willing, Open Favorite mood (can be more than one): Peaceful, Jovial, Indescribable, Silly, Loving, Nurturing, Free-Spirited Favorite animal: Peacock What is beauty?: This is a very layered question that I could talk about endlessly, but to keep it simple I would say beauty comes from within. Most of the people that I can actually call beautiful, I see them as colorless individuals. I call them beautiful because of their spirit (their energy, their heart) not because of their exteriors (physical attraction). Favorite flower: Tiger Lily Favorite cartoon movie: Ferngully Favorite gift from a Friend: Odd Future donut case; I ended up using it everyday haha... Favorite thing to buy: An amazing pair of shoes Favorite lip balm: Fresh Favorite body part: Lips Favorite headphones: Monster Crystal headphones (very amazing gift from my friend Samia) Favorite secret place: There is a cul de sac not far from my house. You can see the train if you look through the metal is my favorite getaway...I sit there and write poems and think...I have been going there since I was 14 Favorite moments: Sitting on my bed with my younger siblings talking about everything under the sun

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Maryam Nassir Zadeh In Conversation

Maryam Nassir Zadeh In Conversation

Skye Parrott: Can you tell me a little about your background? How did you grow up, what were your parents like? Maryam Nassir Zadeh: My parents grew up in London and met in the '60s; they fell in love in their early twenties while on a blind date. They wanted to raise a family of their own in Tehran, Iran, where they were both born. They moved there but it was only a few years later that suddenly the Revolution began, so they quickly moved to the U.S. for an independent and liberal life. I was only three months old when they immigrated to San Diego, California. They spent their entire savings on opening a restaurant with my dad's sister and her husband, who had also immigrated. By the time I was three, we moved to L.A. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, in a rural area near the beach, surrounded by rolling hills and rocky canyons. It was beautiful, natural and suburban. My parents both worked in real estate. My mom sold houses and my dad had his own firm as a mortgage broker giving loans for houses. At that time, in the late '80s through early '90s, the real estate market was hot. Skye: What are your earliest fashion memories? As a child, did you care about clothes and the space around you, or did it come to be important to you later? Maryam: My earliest fashion memory dates back to the Esprit de Corp days in the '80s. I remember opening my closet at age seven and being mesmerized by the beauty of plaid and staring at the pattern. Years later I remember begging my parents to take me shopping at the Esprit outlet in San Francisco. It was the most exciting experience - I can easily compare it to the joy of visiting the Prada outlet in Tuscany in my early twenties! My eyes were always attracted to color and pattern and I felt an immediate connection and appreciation for textiles. I felt creative at a young age and I had a strong group of female friends in middle school and through high school who had a deep love for fashion and aesthetics. We were always hunting for things we loved. In middle school, we would save up money and go to Venice on the weekends and go buy tons of crafty treats, like Guatemalan handwork, Rasta gear and vintage clothing. We would always borrow each others' clothes and get dressed up and do photo shoots - not even anything really out there, it was more everyday dressing - but we would style outfits and take tons of photos of each other. It was very teenybopper style. I remained close to this group of friends and we got into a major Grateful Dead phase, where we got deep into hippie gear and we were always searching for old 1970s cotton floral caftans from India. It was then that I felt inspired to sew my own clothes and make jewelry. I've always cared about the space around me, I was always making art in high school and reading lots of magazines. I would fill my walls with paintings and drawings I did in art class, and I was obsessed with magazines. I would pull pages and collage my doors and walls with them. The artwork I made was more landscape and portrait based but all the magazine tears were about fashion. My girlfriends and I were obsessed with furniture and re-arranging our bedrooms and re-decorating. Looking back, it was very cute that we were so young and cared that much about interior decorating. My grandma had a boutique in Tehran in the '70s called MIMI. She made hats as well as shopped in Europe to import merchandise. It was a very forward space for the time and still her style is an inspiration to me. It was amazing to have her as a role model---my whole life she was making custom clothing and accessories for her clients. During my hippie phase, I spent a summer with her in London and she taught me how to make clothing. I will never forget the thrill of scouring fabric stores for material and spending the day into the middle of the night obsessed with sewing on a mission to finish the clothing. I couldn't wait to wear everything. By early college I was over that hippie phase but I was just as inspired by clothing and art and I was searching for my place and how I fit within my interests. I went to RISD for undergrad and I studied metalsmithing/jewelry and textiles. The style of my work was not clearly art or fashion; I was making textiles that were on the edge of either realm. I was weaving wall hangings and knitting fabric for clothes and printing on fabric, which could have been considered a wall hanging or painting or fabric for a dress... I knew I loved it all, so it was hard for me to choose. In college I was influenced by Susan Cianciolo, Miuccia Prada, David Hockney, Eva Hesse and Jean Arp; all of whom are still huge inspirations for me. Skye: Tell me a little about how you came to open your store. What was your background going into it? Maryam: After graduating RISD at 22, I started my namesake clothing line back in LA. I started an experimental project where I would collage and dye vintage lace and embroidered cottons, and make these embellished one-of-a-kind t-shirts. I showed Barneys and they became my first account. Before I knew it, I was selling to some of the best stores around the world: Maxfield, Ikram, Liberties... I was so young and clueless, but I had a vision. By 2005, I knew that I needed to step back from my work in order to learn more technically and even more about business, in order to come back to designing again. I was consulting for fashion brands afterwards and began assisting stylists. I moved to NYC in 2006 to take an intensive course at Parsons in fashion studies. Months after moving here, I met my husband, Uday Kak, in the Lower East Side, where I had moved. I walked up to him and asked him directions, and we became boyfriend and girlfriend instantly. Two years later, when I finished my program, the idea of our store was born. I was working at one of my dear friend's boutiques, Narnia, and I was struggling to find my next move. I was debating if I was going to work as a designer or assist more stylists and begin my own work... The last thing I was thinking about was opening my own business again. It seemed like the most unrealistic thing. Uday would visit me at Narnia and, seeing me in that environment, he told me I needed my own store and really kept encouraging the idea. There were so many “For Rent” signs in the neighborhood in Spring of 2008 and we started randomly checking out spaces. We thought how beautiful it could be to create a space to act as a backdrop for each of us, to express ourselves through this open-ended space. Our intention was to have a family business and lifestyle/community location that was not only about fashion but a more personal space, serving as a window into one's aesthetic sensibility in a variety of realms. We wrote a business plan and applied for financing from the SBA. It was really surreal how fast everything came together. The idea was born in April and we signed a lease on a space by June. We spent the summer building the space and by the end of September we opened. The economic crisis was in October 2008, so our timing to open a business was less than ideal but what was amazing was if we had waited a few months with our idea we would have never been able to get a loan to pull it off. Skye: After opening the store, you expanded to opening a showroom and then to making your own line. Was each of those pieces part of your plan going into it, or has it evolved organically? Maryam: Everything has happened organically. Some things in my path have been unexpected ideas, like opening a store or opening a showroom, but I’ve wanted to pursue fashion design since was I was kid. Especially after I stopped designing my namesake in 2005, I was dreaming of the opportunity to be able to design again. We opened the showroom very organically because the economy was so terrible just months after we opened the store; we were trying to be resourceful as to how to generate side income. We built the showroom in our store’s basement. I had great relationships with designers who were undiscovered and whose businesses I wanted to help grow, since I was once in their position with my clothing line. I think my plan was always to have the opportunity to design again because that has always been my ideal way to spend my time, yet I knew I had to be patient and be detached from the idea of designing while starting the store and the showroom. Actually, I felt so much fulfillment with being on the other side, appreciating design from a buyer's and wholesaler’s perspectives. I was actually experiencing and seeing work that was so inspirational that I got fulfillment from editing buys, merchandising or consulting designers about their work. It was very expressive for me and at times I related so much to what people were making. Eventually though I felt a void and I missed using my hands in that way, but I really had to be patient for when the time was right to design again. Skye: How do you manage the different needs of each part of your business? Maryam: I manage the different needs of my business by taking turns focusing on all of them. I focus on certain areas more during certain months of the year and also depending on deadlines. I’m pretty good at managing many balls in the air as well as diving into one area fully, or ignoring the rest. The good thing is everything I do (buying, merchandising, styling, designing, consulting) perfectly compliments one another under the fashion umbrella. I always say all I can do is work a full week from 9-6 daily, and I can't work more that that because of my children, so what doesn't get done in one day has to happen the next. I can only do so much work in order to feel balanced. I feel lucky to have great support from our team at MNZ, so it takes some pressure off. Skye: Where do you see it going next? Maryam: Where I would love to see things going next is an LA store. We have just spent 10 months there during which my daughter Lune was born. We were trying to transition there in hopes to live there and start another store. We were close to pulling it off but we felt our energy was needed in New York so we had to postpone the project. We really feel strong about our vision on the West Coast and eventually we would love to open a store in Paris as well. My goal is for the collection to keep consistent and keep evolving, and for it to have a following. It would be pure joy to have my designs appreciated and out in the word for people to use and enjoy. Skye: Tell me a little about the process of starting your own line. Where have you drawn inspiration from? How has the collection come to take shape? Maryam: Last November, after having the store for four years, I finally felt that it was the time to start my collection. I had been feeling like the timing was right and then this beautiful girl came into my life, Melisa Denizeri, who wanted to be my design assistant. It was amazing timing to meet her because my gut was feeling the time was right but it was through her assistance and support I was able to get the collection off the ground. Melisa really understood my vision and we shared the same aesthetic and the love for clothing, shoes and styling. Designing the line came very naturally through all the years of working with clothes. I became clear about my style, the shapes and finishing I was most attracted to. I began to gather images, shoes and clothing that had inspired me along the years while envisioning my perfect wardrobe. I knew I had an eye for shapes that were missing in the market and I wanted to make designs that would have longevity and serve as timeless pieces one would want to collect and keep for years. We thought of building a wardrobe that mimics the store in the sense that it feels eclectic and like parts coming together, some are intricate, some are simple, but it is the mix of color and texture that makes for the story the clothes tell. I wanted the collection to feel curated and edited, like the store, so I bought hand-woven fabric from India and Japan, from family owned mills, that felt unique and special. We produced shoes in Italy, Turkey and Mexico, hoping that the collection would feel like an eclectic mix of timeless pieces from different places merging into wearable, edited collectables. The idea of the collection is for it to feel like an extension of the store and embody the atmosphere and style of the brand. We don't want to feel pressured to crank anything out and the only way the collection became possible is because we take out time and really go at our own pace, otherwise it would be stressful and that is the opposite of the intention of expression for me. Although I have the showroom, I don't have any plans to wholesale and really grow the brand; I would rather keep the collection exclusive to the store and keep it small and special. Skye: You have two little girls. Has having daughters affected how you see fashion? How do they respond to clothing? Maryam: Yes, having daughters has affected the way I see fashion, absolutely. In many ways I feel like I can be more experimental with them because there is less limitation with little girls. They haven't begun deciding what they wear so I can style them and experiment. It feels spontaneous and free in a different way than my own wardrobe habits. Another simple example is [that] many women dress in a way that flatters their figure, and my girls they have such little tiny bodies I am styling them in ways I wish I could dress and living vicariously throughout them. My oldest daughter, Anais, is beginning to slip her feet into all my shoes and march around our apartment. She is already grabbing my lipstick and trying on my jewelry, throwing on my cardigans. I think she is interested in experiencing what is Mommy's and I can really tell she enjoys it. It's so cute; I can feel her getting really happy and getting into it. Lune, my seven-month-old, has a way to go before she realizes, but it is the best feeling recycling Anais's clothes on her and getting an opportunity to enjoy them again. I never cared about children's clothes, but now I find it really inspiring. The other day I bought some kids' clothing my dear friend Susan Cianciolo designed, and we spoke about how beautiful it could be if we opened a kids' store together. Skye: What is your favorite aspect of what you do? Maryam: My favorite aspect is working many amazing and inspiring people. I love our community and our network so much. I feel very fulfilled and thankful for the opportunity to work and express and even if I could even do one thing instead of a three I would still be so happy---I really love what I do.

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TWITTER | Last Feeds
    Editors: Katherine Krause, Skye Parrott (Creative Direction), Erin Dixon (Style)
    Fashion Director: Heidi Bivens
    Editor-at-Large: Polina Aronova
    Contributing Editors: Jenni Avins, Silvia Bergomi, Justin Charles, Lauren David Peden, Caris Reid, Katerina Slootsky, Amanda Valdez