October 31, 2012

INTRODUCING: TIM MOORE


For the Melbourne Art Fair in 2010, Tim Moore created two works that were exhibited via his gallerist, Helen Gory Galerie, and one particularly stands out. Hi everyone I’m Sponge Nob, a 30x30cm embroidery on vintage Sicilian linen – the standard format of most of Mr Moore’s work – features an overzealously happy Sponge Bob Square Pants, eyes glitteringly alive and arm waving. It sounds nice enough, a little quirky, given the silliness, except that, on the character’s black trousers sticks out a thick yellow penis, reaching nearly to his knee.

But Mr Moore is no child. In fact, when we speak he’s sitting in the back of his car having just got his son, Silas, to sleep, the 10-month old child he had with his long-term partner, stylist Caterina Scardino. Things have, very rapidly, changed for the 37-year old artist, who finds it a struggle to dedicate time to embroidery, the element of his work he describes as so boring. “It’s hard,” he concedes. “But it’s just going to get easier as [Silas] grows older. I try and do it when he’s asleep, like in the evenings, and dedicate at least one or two days just to sewing each week, but in the free time I have I’m helping Cat out, and besides, I enjoy hanging out with him.”

The male phallus is central to Mr Moore’s art, and the utter absurdity of seeing it embroidered – that combination of bygone, feminine craftsmanship and childish toilet humour – is what makes his work so amusing and, at the same time, rather profound. But when pressed, the artist is by no means keen to share his fascination with cock. “I know where it comes from, but I don’t think I can talk about that,” he says rather coyly. “Look, I just think that cocks are funny. Pictures of them are funny. People draw them on their schoolbooks. It’s just ridiculous and, I think, part of not wanting to grow up.”

British-born, Sydney-based Mr Moore has worked as a visual artist for near a decade. Having graduated from Brighton University with a Bachelor of Three Dimensional Design with Honours in 1998, he drifted unhappily between jewellery and graphic design jobs before finding himself in love in Australia, making the move in 2001. In 2008 he explained to Dazed & Confused his transition from pen to needle, and the story has become tied up in the mythology that surrounds any artist’s practice. “It’s an old story,” Mr Moore rehashes, clearly having explained it more than once. “I always carried a sketchbook but when I was flying back [to Australia] I left my pencil case somewhere and that’s how it all started with the embroidery.” Using the in-flight sewing kit (pre-September 2001), Mr Moore discovered a new way to express his pen-on-paper doodlings. “It’s been in print so many times that story,” he adds.


While time is limited for the artist, he’s currently working on a solo show to be unveiled at his Melbourne gallery in the first quarter of 2013, though he’s worried about the works’ completion. “These works are the biggest I’ve done,” he explains, with one of the pieces nearing 1.5 metres. “But once it’s finished it’s going to be amazing,” he adds reassuringly, more to himself, I suspect. Mr Moore begins by sketching the outline on the linen and then embroidering over the top and within the lines. “It’s like a really, really slow colouring book. It feels like I’ve been working on this one piece for fucking ages, but I’m really excited about by the thought of getting it done.” 

Can’t he hand some of the handiwork over to a minion? “I would love to do stuff with the Country Women’s Association,” he says. “A friend of mine knitted a penis scarf for them, and the lady at the Geelong Wool Gallery just blushed and giggled. See,” he says, “the craft of penis appeals to everyone.”

Mr Moore photographed with his son, Silas, on 02 August 2012 at 
Sun Studios, Alexandria, Australia. Post Production Mitch Fong. 

October 30, 2012

INTRODUCING: MATT STEGH

STORY MITCHELL OAKLEY SMITH | PORTRAIT LIZ HAM

When a person naturally falls into doing something, it’s often a sign that they are, for one, naturally very good at it. That’s certainly the case with Sydney-based stylist and costumier Matt Stegh, whose trajectory from graduate designer to model to his current day job, which he’s been doing for nearly two decades, is testament to his talent. In many ways, Mr Stegh’s career has been with thanks not so much to fate as the evolving cultural landscape of his home since the early 90s, Sydney, and his continued engagement with it on different platforms.

Indeed, when a young Mr Stegh was modeling for Kelvin Harries, then one of Sydney’s only stylists in the true sense of the word, and began assisting the luminary, fashion wasn’t exactly a buzzword in Sydney. “In the nineties no one dressed cool,” recalls Mr Stegh today. He and his circle of friends, on the other hand, had it going on. “We thought we were so onto it back then and thought Sydney was the daggiest city in the world. It still is daggy in many ways.” Even before understanding what the title meant, Mr Stegh was unassumingly customising his clothes for raves. Around 2000, he tells, was when things started to shift. Mr Stegh was working as a designer at Surry Hills retailer YPV, a fashion-forward store by any standard, and saw the first arrival of Ksubi, then Tsubi. “That’s when it all started to happen,” he tells. “It was a homogenised look, for sure, but for what seemed like the first time Sydney gained a fashion identity, and it was really exciting.”

But Mr Stegh, much to his credit and benefit, has never focused all of his energies into commercial fashion, parlaying his skills and interest in costume design and performance into his advertising work, and working on projects outside of fashion. This, too, happened much by accident. “We were watching a lot of our girlfriends doing burlesque performances at these big girl queer nights in the late nineties, many of which were women- or trans-only admission, so decided to start a boys equivalent,” he explains of Man Jam, a male strip night, which lasted three events. “They were the first gigs we did and were really community based because it was illegal to perform naked in a club at that time,” he says. “We were being anarchic and trying to dismantle and challenge the notion of masculinity at that time.”

Today, Mr Stegh’s performance-based initiatives include gender-questioning burlesque events such as U Little Stripper!, which is staged at a not-for-profit creative space in Sydney’s inner west. “I really get a kick out of it,” he explains. “There’s a lot of costume design, a lot of making, a lot of logistics that go into it.” What’s more, says the stylist, is that many of his commercial clients hear of the fun had at such events and often come along. “They know it’s not on a professional scale but they’re intrigued to come to an event where there’s jelly wrestling or the crowd strips. We’re constantly opening it up to new people.” It’s this word-of-mouth promotion that saw Mr Stegh collaborate on costumes design for Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Comedy of Errors where, he says, “there really was a crossover between that world and the traditional theatre.” 

The point of it all? “There’s such a huge lineage of queer performance in Sydney from the seventies and we slotted into it,” he says simply. But beyond this, Mr Stegh is aware that while there’s far smaller a division between hetero and homosexual communities in Sydney, it nonetheless remains. “We’re apart of mainstream society but often don’t communicate through it, like on television, and because queer politics change so much, those modes of communication aren’t fast enough,” he says. “The live forum is a really nice way to keep up to date, and that’s what I love about it: that immediate exchange of ideas that are really radical and challenging of hetero-normative society.”

Mr Stegh photographed with his son, Zephyr, on 02 June 2012
at The Rat's Nest Studio, East Sydney, Australia. 

October 29, 2012

INTRODUCING: LUCA IONESCU

STORY ALEX BELLEMORE | PORTRAIT LIZ HAM

In gold, black and silver, the words ‘Do What You Like’ twist and crackle through an elaborate creation by Luca Ionescu. The lavish finished product – embossed, embellished and foiled – appears as though designed for a baroque-themed party for Snoop Dogg, beautiful and bling all at once. The text from the piece speaks truly of this dedicated creative, who brings what he likes into all aspects of his life. A perfectionist at heart, typographer, logo designer, artist and curator, Luca Ionescu has built a reputation founded on the pursuit of technical excellence, attracting some of the biggest and best brands in the business.

Although artistry and creativity play a large part in his practice, Mr Ionescu is the contemporary version of a master blacksmith or stonemason; a dedicated craftsman whose working tools are the screen and tablet, his workshop a studio in an Art Deco office block in Darlinghurst, Sydney. “The thing I most enjoy is crafting type as best as I can,” explains Mr Ionescu. “Making it as technically and aesthetically refined as possible. Clients come to me from past experience and they know I will put a lot of effort into crafting a piece.” Under the guise of Like Minded Studio, his independent practice, which fluctuates in size depending on the number of jobs on the books, Mr Ionescu has worked on blue chip campaigns for brands such as Absolut Vodka, Nike and Sass & Bide. But his portfolio extends beyond the commercial.

Come June, he’ll unleash his distinctive aesthetic onto the international forum with his typographic treatment for Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s latest epic The Great Gatsby – in 3D, no less. Working within the highly articulated, super sensorial reality aesthetic of a Luhrmann production could pose challenging obstacles for a man who is successful in his own right, but Mr Ionescu knows how to achieve artistic balance, which he did alongside Bazmark creative Silvana Arri Heras. “Baz and Catherine [Martin, the film’s production designer and Mr Luhrmann’s other half] already had a vision and ideas of what they wanted the visuals to look like and I tried to bring that to life,” explains Mr Ionescu. “I like adding a lot of detail to my work and finessing it, and I think there is a connection there and a crossover with what Baz does in his films, which made the process purely creative. To get that opportunity was a really nice career endorsement.”

But it’s not just big-name projects that fill Mr Ionescu’s schedule, with a range of offshoot projects to satiate his interest in his work. In the past, these included Refill, a design- and art-based magazine, Refill Seven, an exhibition of unique skateboard decks created by lasering the plywood with typographic treatments, and more recently, curatorial projects and productions that promote and present the work of other creatives and designers working in similar fields. With the insatiable curiosity of an artist, Mr Ionescu is drawn to these projects as an opportunity to share and learn from others. “Bringing artists out and doing something for the community allows me to engage with other typographers and curators,” he says. “Meeting guys from the other side of the globe who you admire and respect and connecting with them and that exchange of ideas keeps it exciting.”

Mr Ionescu photographed with his son, Jaga, 
on 14 July 2012 at the Rat's Nest Studio, East Sydney, Australia.



October 28, 2012

INTRODUCING: JIM THOMPSON


I first met and interviewed Jim Thompson exactly three years ago – in mid-2009 – following the release of his debut collection for Three Over One, the menswear label he’d set up. What struck me then about Mr Thompson, who had previously worked as a buyer and product developer, was the conviction of his intention. “That we produce and throw away doesn’t sit well with me,” he explained in that interview, for the Australian edition of GQ. “Workmanship is something that you don’t see much of today. I always wanted to do something that I truly believed in.”

Fast forward those three years and, when we catch up, Mr Thompson is at the factory that produces the vast majority of his collections in Bankstown, in Sydney’s south, having brought it onshore after initially producing in China, and he echoes himself from that first interview. “When I started I was trying to do something that was less about mass market, cheap merchandise, and more about encouraging customers to buy better and buy less,” he says. “I wanted to avoid waste and promote longevity by creating things that stood up to wear season after season. The market has shifted and gone that way in recent years, with more brands adopting that approach now, which is fantastic. It’s better for business, better for the environment and, at the end of the day, better for the customers, too.” Yes, I think to myself. This is why Mr Thompson is one of the best menswear designers to have come out of the country. Not that we can truly lay claim to him, though, given he’s British. 

Mr Thompson, 39, moved to Australia from North London near a decade ago with his then girlfriend – now wife and mother of his two children: Ivy, featured alongside him in the portrait on this page, and Billy, who arrived at the time this publication was going to press – and worked largely behind-the-scenes in the fashion industry. Three Over One was borne out of frustration at a lack of clothes he himself wanted to wear, rather than any long-held desire for creative invention. It’s perhaps for this reason that, when the label began, Mr Thompson wasn’t really reinventing the menswear wheel. Indeed, the styles – denim three-piece suits with high-waisted, pleat-front pants, prewashed, button-down Oxford shirts, and sweatshirts – were, for the most part, modern updates of vintage workwear classics. And yet at the time, when the market was suffering from an overabundance of Hedi Slimane-style slimness and Rick Owens-style androgyny, Mr Thompson’s designs felt new and innovative. Hail a return to classic, masculine dressing.

In those years since, the label has naturally evolved. “Every season is a continuation of the signature look,” explains Mr Thompson, at the same time directing a maker to re-position the buttons on a button-down shirt that he’s not happy with. “I’m not going to move away from that style too much. I like taking classic styles and executing them in good fabrics and good fits, but there are a million white button-down Oxford shirts, so you do need an element that surprises the customer,” he says. 

For his spring/summer collection this season, that surprise is in the form of colour and print, both of which were previously scarce in a Three Over One collection. “That fashion element interests me more and more now. Perhaps it’s the Aussie side of me starting to come out,” he adds jokingly. He’s pretty proud of that Australian-ification, if we can so call it that, but being based in Sydney has certainly presented its fair share of challenges for the budding designer. “It certainly hasn’t gotten any bloody easier since I began,” he says, citing Australia’s small market and the strong exchange rate, which pushes up the wholesale cost on exported garments, as being the greatest problems Australian designers face, himself included. “It just makes the product so expensive overseas, so retailers don’t want it even though they like the product, and yet with Australia being so small you really do need the overseas distribution, especially if you’re not a mass label.”

Overseas growth hasn’t been as strong as Mr Thompson would have hoped, which is unsurprising given he launched his label on the cusp of the global financial crisis, but he has fostered a strong portfolio of local wholesale accounts, as well as found stockists in Japan. He’s also set to launch an online store, which is a long time coming, he says. “I think online will be a big focus, and I can control my own destiny rather than dealing with agents overseas that make the cost prices even more expensive with their cut added on top. With the online store we can service anyone, and we’ve had so many enquiries from all corners of the world.” It’s also an opportunity to control the look and feel of the retail transaction which, given his focus on quality, is really attractive to Mr Thompson, just as it was those three years ago.

Mr Thompson photographed with his daughter, Ivy, on 
14 June 2012 at the Rat's Nest Studio, East Sydney, Australia. 

October 25, 2012

GOTHLETE

They're fashion's most recurring styles. It was only a matter of 
time before they collided, and ever so brilliantly at that. 

Photography Liz Ham | Styling Jolyon Mason
Grooming Sasha Nilsson | Hair Sophie Roberts

Mr Jensen wears Bally sweater & coat, Just Cavalli jeans, Nom D skirt.
Top: Hermes pullover, Vivienne Westwood ring, from Harrolds, stylist's own eyewear.

Rusty vash vest, KJ by Kirrily Johnston singlet, Zambesi vest & pants, 
Nike hooded jacket, sweatbands from Rebel Sport. 

Z Zegna trench coat, Magdalena Velevka mask.

Comme des Garcons shirt and Thom Browne vest, both from Harrolds, 
Zambesi jumpsuit, Ksubi long sleeve t-shirt, tied around waist.

Adidas hooded sweatshirt, leggings & slides, Song for the Mute vest, Jeremy Scott for 
Adidas plastic jacket, Zambesi shorts, American Apparel socks. 

Comme des Garcons short, from Harrolds, Jimmy D t-shirt, 
Chronicles of Never jeans, Nom D snood.

Nike t-shirt, leggings & shorts, Yuliy Gershinsky net t-shirt & bomber jacket, 
American Apparel socks, Nike sneakers & gloves, both from Rebel Sport. 

Lagerfeld shirt, Jimmy D tights & shorts, Giorgio Armani hat & bag, 
Gala Curios neckpiece, Burberry jacket, Givenchy sandals, from Harrolds.

Emma Mulholland t-shirt & pants, Deadly Ponies necklace.

Tristan Jensen/Chadwick Models | Photographic Assistance Soraya Zaman
Digital Operation Jeremiah Wolf

October 18, 2012

COLLABORATION: HENSON X SONG FOR THE MUTE


Jewellery tends to go unnoticed in the men's market, and for good reason: the vast majority of it is rather unsightly. That's not the case with Melbourne-based label Henson, the creation of Andy Henson and Brent Gold. The designers create fine - but not delicate - unisex pieces that neither overwhelm an outfit not go unnoticed. As Mr Henson says of the latest collection in collaboration with Australian menswear label Song for the Mute: "All the shapes we have used are simple and classic, but with the overlock detail they feel a little aggressive, which is something we really like. And while the rings are quite masculine, the necklaces and the cuff are quite fine, allowing a unisex nod to the ladies and also creating a slightly sporty feel as in the clothing collection. 



October 16, 2012

JUST LANDED: SVBSCRIPTION


Following on from its debut release in August, 200 Svbscription members received the second package from the innovative online subscription-based retailer. With a selection of high end products from Oden Danger, Harper Collins, Le Labo and Kaweco, the package includes a leather folio, Nicola Barker's highly anticipated comic fiction, The Yips, a custom metal travel tube fragrance, and a heritage-style fountain pen. The third package, which can be subscribed to now, is being produced in collaboration with a new series of brands from around the world. 

October 15, 2012

BACK TO THE FUTURE


A fifteen-year old photograph is a catalyst for discussion about the notion of evolution in culture. Story by Todd Robinson

The other day I happened to look through a box I had. It was brown cardboard, with partially collapsed sides, small tears and creases all over. It contained the sort of stuff you decide to keep at one phase of your life, or what appears like a phase now when I look through the box – stuff that was at that time important for different reasons, for the most part unclear to me now. Something more indistinct than reason – more affect or atmosphere. When I look over the contents of the box as a whole, it’s an odd mix from a pre-digital world: torn-out pages from magazines, small square photographs cut out of contact sheets, pieces of fabric, creased, photocopied images.

There is one image from a magazine that really stands out to me. It is cut neatly, although one corner is ripped and patches remain brown where adhesive tape has lifted parts of the image. It was from around 1996, maybe, and like all fashion images it is really about a moment, but looking back it seems to sit outside of time. Not quite 1996, more a slippery, ambiguous masculinity ushered in by Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme some five or so years later. There is a faintly aristocratic feel while at the same time it is reminiscent of seventies Bowie, androgynous and sensual. The clothes, as far as I recall, are by now defunct menswear label SO, designed by Dutchman Alexander van Slobbe. I remember cutting this image from i-D magazine and sticking it on my wall. It floated around for years, on walls, in journals – an isolated emblem.

When I return to this image after all this time it appears to challenge the notion we have of generations. That is, the way one generation cedes to another that follows. It is not the disparity between now and what was then, but more the continuities or what remains. The image remains to me timely, prescient. In practice there are no clear dividing lines. I think it’s more productive to think of cultural practices, with fashion being one of them, as discontinuous, irregular, patchy. Some things are passed on, but the change is not global, it’s more localised, in an abstract sense.

At this local or individual level we pick up bits and pieces of culture, play with them, re-arrange them for ourselves. These might be images, reference points, actual things or ideas. However, these things have histories, we don’t simply pull them out of the air. Culture is given to us but not in any straightforward way. This is the sense in which the so called legacy of one generation is not something simply taken on by one that follows, but rather deciphered to work out what bits are worth keeping, what bits less so. In this respect (I hope), the individual impulse to bricolage works against the tendency for global shifts that erase some things that might be worth keeping.