Month: April 2015


Whether you’re talking about high-end splurges like Chanel bags, or mass-retail staples (think the Nike swoosh), the designer logo has long been considered a status symbol. But, as anyone who’s clicked through pics of the Fashion Week collections — or even breezed through the mall recently — knows, the role of the ubiquitous fashion logo has been moving in the opposite direction.

Some brands have embraced minimalism. Louis Vuitton made news back in 2013 when it pulled back on the use of its iconic LVs in accessories. And, logo-less purses, such as the understated Mansur Gavriel bucket bags, have usurped the popularity of branded carryalls. Now, there’s a noticeable change happening on the other end of the fashion spectrum: Major fashion labels are flaunting the logos of brands other than their own.

Call it the Jeremy Scott effect. For his debut fall 2014 Moschino show, the designer sent models down the runway decked out in McDonald’s and SpongeBob SquarePants motifs. Scott’s throwback vibes continued for spring 2015, with a Barbie-inspired Moschino collection that was almost exclusively pink and plastered with the Mattel doll’s logos. Scott has been repurposing logos — both commercial and indie — for his eponymous line for years, and he’s not the first to do so, but following the financial success of his Moschino collections, others in the industry are rushing to get in on the business.


The trend picked up more steam this season with additional designers hopping onboard: Opening Ceremony showed tops printed with old-school Kodak branding, NYFW newcomer Bobby Abley debuted a collection featuring characters from The Jungle Book, and Joyrich referenced retro Coca-Cola logos in its pieces. David Melgar, creative director of Joyrich, explained the inspiration behind the logo-centric design: “Being that we are heavily influenced by ‘80s and ‘90s pop [and] street culture, I wanted to do something that reflected this time. I liked how the logo had a nostalgic, vintage feel to it and I felt that with the combination of the fabrications that we used, it would bring life to a whole new story.”

Inspiration aside, tapping into these instantly recognizable images is also a strategic move. Jeremy Scott is consistently one of the top-ranked brands on social media for both Scott’s eponymous line (its spring 2015 collection earned 650,000 likes, posts, and tweets), as well as Moschino, which essentially won the Internet last season with 1.5 million total interactions.

It’s smart for designers to capitalize on our nostalgia for other brands, but we have to wonder: How is this even legal? Turns out, there’s a line between nodding to another company’s logo and infringing on its intellectual property rights, and it all boils down to the message the design sends to consumers.

According to Christopher Sprigman, a professor at NYU School of Law, brands that evoke other brands’ logos must first negotiate licensing deals. “I had seen a report that there was a deal made between Kodak and Opening Ceremony,” he said. “If there hadn’t been one, it would raise questions in the consumers’ minds about whether the product was sponsored.” Not having a deal could have spelled major trouble for OC.

Kodak, on Opening Ceremony.

In this case, the partnership with Kodak was part of a collaboration between OC cofounders/designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim and the photo company. As the duo said in an interview with Kodak, “We’ve always loved Kodak’s logos and trademarks, and admired Kodak’s dedication to continuity. We think the capsule celebrates all [the] Kodak values we appreciate.”

Unsurprisingly, this type of licensing deal usually entails a financial transaction. “It’s a situation in which a brand like Opening Ceremony would say, ‘We want to use T-shirts with your logo,’ and Kodak would say, ‘Okay. Pay us money.’ The fashion industry is notoriously for-profit, so this would be typically a deal that exchanges a license for money,” said Sprigman. The goal is to define the relationship between the parties, and if a designer incorporates a logo in a way that might cause confusion about whether it was sponsored, he or she runs the risk of being sued.

The exception? When logos are used in a way in which there’s no risk of misleading consumers into thinking they’re endorsements. One example is using multiple logos. Sprigman cites the streetwear designer Heron Preston. Hissignature tees feature 17 logos splashed all over them, including Google, Nascar, Home Depot, and M&Ms. But, despite all the branding, Sprigman says the message remains clear: “If I had looked at this shirt, I wouldn’t necessarily think that any of these companies were sponsoring the shirt,” he said. “I don’t think the trademark law would require this to be licensed, because I think consumers would conclude that this is a commentary about brands as opposed to a T-shirt sponsorship.”

With London, Milan, and Paris still left in Fashion Month, these clearly aren’t the last of the logos we’ll be seeing on the runway. So, designers, take note: Imitation might be the highest form of flattery, but don’t forget to ask permission first.


Fractal animation made with Mandelbulb3D. Jeremie Brunet originally designed it for Bryan Alvarez from UC Berkeley, for a TEDx talk about his Human Atlas project, to illustrate his initial dream about the beauty of living systems. This one is an enhanced version.

This is a hybrid Julia fractal where many parameters are being animated: the fractal paramaters themselves, the Julia seed, the colors, and of course the camera position.

Click PLAY then go to full screen (bottom right of Video)

by Jeremie Brunet | Soundtrack by Ricardo Montalban.












Tennessee-based artist Charles Clary knows a thing or two about patience as evidenced by his structural paper creations reminiscent of biological formations or topographical maps. In creating a new piece Clary can work for up to 12 hours a day cutting each thin layer in his delicately stacked sculptures that arise from gallery walls or descend into geometric volumes. The artist most recently had an exhibition at Brett Wesley Gallery last month, and you can see much more of his work on his website. (via Hi-Fructose)

Hand-Cut Paper Microorganisms by Charles Clary


APR 28TH, 2015 3:06 AM

Warping and shifting, the future of human identity is one of the great uncertainties of our modern world. Pablo Picasso considered its fragmentation through his twisting, evocative Cubism; Gerhard Richterconveyed its intangibility through his blurred photorealism; Frida Kahloexplored her own identity through introspective self-portraiture. Despite such brilliantly diverse outputs, all of them, it can be argued, chime in agreement with the idea that identity is not innate or even organic, but rather constructed in the society we live in.

It is the emergent social contexts of a digitized and globalizing world that a new exhibition at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, “Looks,” centers on. Identity never has been fixed or distinct, the show suggests, before considering the implications of today’s increasingly fluid and disparate existence. The issue, however, is that through exploring and channeling further into these concepts, radical output on the subject is often fragmented and testing in itself.

The exhibition’s title stems from Los Angeles-based filmmaker Wu Tsang’s A day in the life of bliss (2014), a 360-degree film installation in the ICA’s Upper Gallery. “The LOOKS,” the film’s subject, is the name of an intelligence system, a thinly veiled reference to the Snowden revelations, which acts as a panopticon-like machine, monitoring every inch of public place through its social media platform “PRSM.” Via dual-screen projections, flanked by a set of mirrors, a young, genderless pop star called BLIS—played by the artist boychild—proceeds through an intense existence, constantly flanked by overwhelming fans, retiring to the underground during darkness. It is a mesmerizing yet unsettling experience, and one that speaks of oppressive surveillance.

Continuing with video work, a medium that is well-represented at the ICA, Andrea Crespo appraises the role of the cyborg—how this blend of human and machine can liberate us from patriarchal gender systems as well as risk reinforce them. The Miami-born, New York-based artist, who began making drawings in MS Paint around the age of four, has an ethereal film in Parabiosis: Neurolibidinal Induction Complex (2015). It’s about Sis, a digital system that makes an attempt to redefine what a human is; to question the idea that we are subjective individuals. “You are floating, you are sinking, softly drifting,” it states silently in type, before hashtagged words roll by on the screen alongside ephemeral bands of light, in what Jack Kahn in DIS Magazine calls a “chimeric composition of data and flesh that flows between the sensual and the machinic.”

More immediate is Berlin-based artist Juliette Bonneviot’s subtly political series of monochrome paintings, which are made with xenoestrogens, hormones that imitate estrogen and which are known to cause birth defects and cancerous growth. The seven works are an unhappy spectrum of various sheens and softness, glimmering and garish. Their minimalistic appearance is juxtaposed with the complex and varied nature of their material matter—Bonneviot has used Oestradiol from contraceptive pills, the artificial estrogen Bisphenol A, first produced in the 1930s, and even mushrooms and soybeans, which produce a chemical compound similar to estrogen.

In the Lower Gallery, Scottish artist Morag Keil is paired with New Yorker Stewart Uoo. Though well-known for her satirical critiques of consumer culture, Keil here takes a low-key approach to identity in the post-internet age. Leg1 (2015) depicts a busty Amy Winehouse tattoo on an anonymous limb; another piece, Untitled (2015), peers into a banal and cliched Instagram feed—Skyscraper shots, restaurants, domestic scenes. It’s the perfect complement to the archetypal metropolitan women that Uoo’s sculptures subvert (part of a larger series called “No Sex, No City”). This a post-apocalyptic interpretation of the cyborg, riffing on Crespo’s nearby work: these mannequin figures are a mix of organic and mechanical, and overtly a critique of modern ethical decay. One is adorned with a hippy peace necklace, another with a heart tattoo on the hip. But most pleasing of all is Uoo’s carpet, mimicking a Cosmo Girl magazine cover from 2008, which parodies its clichéd vacuity, including inane headlines such as “Mary G, 12, from Rohnert Park California made a fake Facebook to stalk an Ex’s new girl.”

“Looks” is a playful and powerful consideration of mass digital culture and how it impacts the ways in which new strands of identity are negotiated. It’s a provocative compendium of work, looking forward to the ever-closer post-human world, but at the same time, only conjecture, a broad brushstroke of what lies ahead.
—Peter Yeung
Looks” is on view at the ICA, London, Apr. 22–Jun. 21, 2015.

Moschino show, Autumn Winter 2014, Milan Fashion Week, Italy - 20 Feb 2014

 Warhol’s 1962 work Campbell’s Soup Cans

Warhol’s 1962 work Campbell’s Soup Cans (Credit: Andy Warhol Foundation/ARS, NY/Licensed by Campbell’s Soup Co. All rights reserved)

Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans was mocked when first exhibited – but the work went on to have a lasting impact not only on the history of art, but on the way we dress, writes Sara McCorquodale.

However, this unpopularity didn’t last. Irving Blum, owner of the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles where the work was first shown, realised the 32 paintings of the piece had to be kept together rather than sold off individually as intended. This made it different; it made it a statement. The work seemed to speak of the spirit of a new America, one that thoroughly embraced the consumer culture of the new decade. Before the end of the year Campbell’s Soup Cans was so on-trend that Manhattan socialites were wearing soup can-printed dresses to high-society events.

These days the piece influences collections by fashion houses in Paris, London, Milan and New York every season: from the Pop art palette of Chanel’s spring/summer 2014 show to Prada’s graphic prints the same year, to everything Jeremy Scott has sent down the catwalk since becoming creative director of Moschino in 2013. As far as the fashion industry is concerned, referencing this particular Warhol is a sartorial statement worth making.

Now, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York is exhibiting the Campbell’s Soup Cans in a manner that confirms its ongoing relevance. It is being displayed exactly as it was for its debut show: in a continuous line across five walls, as opposed to the grid-like structure in which it has often been shown. This has only happened four times previously – and never before at MoMA. In addition, the frames and Perspex surrounding each piece have been removed to allow visitors even closer scrutiny.

“It’s kind of amazing to see it like this – you realise how major it is,” says the curator of the exhibition, Starr Figura. “The paintings are all exactly the same except for the name of the soup. You realise how methodical Warhol must have been to work in such a mechanical, repetitive way.”

Campbell’s Soup Cans was the breakout piece that gained Warhol widespread fame after spending most of the 1950s working as a graphic artist in advertising.

“It was about produce being plentiful and industrial fabrication; great prosperity and convenience,” says Figura. “He figured out what American culture in the 1960s was before anyone else.”

Supermarket sweep

In 1962 Warhol became one of the first Pop artists to turn his work into fashion items when he began printing this design onto dresses. “These weren’t sold commercially,” says Alistair O’Neill, a Senior Research Fellow at London art school Central St Martin’s, “but were made as one-offs for New York society women who wore them to gallery openings.” Wearing one of Warhol’s very first Campbell’s can dresses, which were printed on paper, was a sign you were part of a very exclusive club – an ironic inversion of the mass-produced consumer item.

Campbell’s Soup Company took advantage the popularity of Warhol’s work


Campbell’s Soup Company took advantage of the popularity of Warhol’s work and created the Souper Dress, a paper garment featuring the iconic print (Credit: Andy Warhol Foundation)


This exclusivity was short-lived: in 1965 Campbell’s took advantage of its new cult fashion status and produced the Souper Dress. It was made from paper and could be bought by anyone who sent $1 and two Campbell’s soup can labels to the company. These days, a ‘Souper dress’ fetches approximately £5,000 ($7,500).

The impact of doing fashion the Warhol – and later the Campbell’s – way had a ripple effect on the rest of the industry. Dr Hazel Clark, head of fashion and design at Parsons Design School in New York, says: “The Souper Dress certainly led the way in mainstream fashion for cheap Pop art printed dresses.” After wartime austerity, when clothes were sturdy luxuries created to endure, the dress also changed how women thought about shopping.

“It tapped into progressive design ideas about the disposability of consumer products,” says O’Neill. “That you could literally wear the dress and then throw it away.”

Warhol’s influence seeped into the mass-market fashion and not just in the US. British boutiques Biba and Mr Freedom began commissioning Pop art-printed dresses and t-shirts in the 1970s to sell to the style-conscious public and outfit icons such as Twiggy, Mick Jagger and Jean Shrimpton.

Then, the artist’s prints were made catwalk-worthy in the 1980s by his friend, designer Stephen Sprouse, while Jean Charles de Castelbajac included his own Campbell’s Soup Can dress for his 1984 Spring/Summer collection.

Warhol’s 1967 series Marilyn Monroe has also inspired fashion designers


Warhol’s series Marilyn Monroe has also inspired fashion designers such as Gianni Versace, who riffed on it in his 1991 Pop art collection (Credit: Andy Warhol Foundation/ARS)


However, it was Gianni Versace’s 1991 Pop art collection featuring a jewel-encrusted version of Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe prints that truly made the artist synonymous with high fashion. Modeled by Linda Evangelista, it encapsulated the sexy, daring aesthetic that defined ’90s fashion and is seen as so important that it is now owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

More recently, Prada’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection was dominated by graphic faces in primary colours, and Céline abandoned its signature colour-blocking for a line of loud prints in the same season.

Pop goes the catwalk

So what is it about Campbell’s Soup Cans that continually inspires fashion? Designer Philip Colbert has a few ideas. Founder of label The Rodnik Band, he was anointed the “godson of Andy Warhol” by André Leon Talley – a high-profile editor for US Vogue – for his bold collections which heavily reference the artist’s work. “Fashion loves to dip into art and big fashion houses look for a new artistic theme every season,” he says. “However, referencing Warhol is about more than just the art itself – the art is symbolic of an incredibly glamorous era. Studio 54, New York, excess, style. It is a very powerful message.”

O’Neill believes we still want Warhol-influenced designs because Pop art communicates something we recognise and understand. It takes something traditionally consumerist and reassuringly familiar, but presents it compellingly in a high fashion context. Take Moschino’s Autumn/Winter 2014 show. Inspired by fast food restaurants, it was knowingly witty – no one wants to wear an actual McDonald’s uniform or logo but you’d consider Jeremy Scott’s better cut, distinctly similar versions.

Like Warhol, Jeremy Scott has celebrated symbols of consumer culture


Like Warhol, Jeremy Scott has celebrated symbols of consumer culture. His Autumn/Winter 2014 womenswear collection for Moschino took cues from fast food (Credit: Rex)


“One of the reasons the work of Jeremy Scott for Moschino is so popular in our age of digital fashion is because of the motifs it draws upon,” says O’Neill. “Barbie dolls, McDonalds and M&Ms are visual icons of popular culture with a high visual impact.” He adds that the use of these logos and motifs is readily informed by Warhol’s experiments made over 40 years ago.”

Figura thinks that Warhol’s soup cans are still representative of something essential about Western culture and therefore resonate with us decades after they were created. “Consumer goods are our culture and the idea of reproduction and repetition is even more prescient in this digital age – it’s like something a designer would do on Photoshop now,” she says.

So, if you have graphic prints in primary colours or fast fashion in your wardrobe, their inspiration is rooted in an artwork created 54 years ago. Does this make Warhol the most far-seeing, most referenced artist of consumerist culture ever? Not necessarily.

Figura believes Warhol’s background in advertising informed ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’. The piece was a canny move, not just a eureka moment. “He knew how to find the next thing that would grab people,” she says. “He had instinct and incredible talent, but he was also trained.”

Regardless of where his inspiration came from or what propelled him to paint the piece, one thing is certain – it’s influence remains strong and there is still an appetite for Pop art-style clothing. The latest evidence? Rita Ora’s selfie of her modeling Warhol-esque printed pieces by Au Jour Le Jour earlier this month. It was liked by 101,000 people.

“Campbell’s Soup Cans still speaks to us because it still says something about the world now,” says Figura. “Warhol had an eye for this – you can’t help but be compelled by it.”

The goal was, of course, to do an ollie. Then you knew you would have made it. As a wannabe skater in the 1990s, I could never manage this basic boarder move. Growing up in the not-at-all mean streets of Guildford, skating seemed like it could magic carpet me away from the weight of suburban apathy. Or at least make me feel cool. But I was impatient. Instead of honing my craft, I hung around the skateboarding shops, such as Route One, staring longingly at the skatewear. Those shops were so captivating for a teen looking for some trouble. I remember looking through the racks of sweatshirts and trainers looking for something, an identity I suppose. I must have picked up the same pair of purple Vans a hundred times, so many times, in fact, that I think the staff were convinced I was a shoplifter. In the corner there was a miniscule monitor on permanent loop, showing prolific skaters doing all manner of impossibly difficult manoeuvres. And the sound system blasted out Self Esteem by The Offspring.

The Palace store in Central London

The Palace store in central London. Photograph: Palace

I was in awe of a world dressed by Dickies and Stussy. A world I could see but couldn’t really touch. Niall Kenny, a director and lifelong skater, unpicks the allure for me: “Skatewear is cool because it comes from a skill someone has,” he explains.

These days this cool has seen skater brands like Palace and Supreme pierce the mainstream as the fashion world co-opts its aesthetic. Marc Jacobs and Topmanhave attempted to put their own mark on skating culture while high-profile models like Cara Delevingne, Natalie Westling and Daria Werbowy also skate.

“Fashion has adopted the cultural values of the skating subculture,” says Maude Churchill, senior editor of streetwear and fashion website Highsnobiety. “Now it’s suddenly transferred into a mainstream way of dressing.” It’s a bone of contention amongst the self-sufficient skating community, as Kenny explains.

Palace's logoed hoodie
Palace’s logoed hoodie. Photograph: Palace

“Kenzo did a show in Paris with a model walking down the catwalk holding a skateboard the wrong way. They have no connection to skateboarding and are not doing anything for the industry. They just think it’s cool; that annoys me.” This “trickle down” economy is an important philosophy in the skating community. As Eirik Traavik, editor-in-chief of Dank magazine, explains: “Not only do skaters make the clothes but the skating brands also make the videos and the adverts, so it ultimately feeds back into the skating world itself.”

Although it is questionable whether the fashionistas taking note has been a good or bad thing, skatewear brands have also experienced a peak in mainstream interest. Palace, the DIY-spirited label started by skater Lev Tanju has just opened its flagship store in London. It follows in the wake of Supreme, the hip New York skating label, which opened its first London store a few roads down in Soho in 2011. The previously hard-to-get brand whose cool credentials were impeccable (collaborations with Larry Clark and Jeff Koons, worn by Kendrick Lamar) was suddenly easily available. “When they opened the store, everyone was wearing their clothes, not just skaters,” says Jamie Hopper, store manager of Slam City Skates in East London. “It’s really opened up and people who weren’t skateboarders started wearing the stuff.” Skatewear has now become streetware, worn by everyone including the HD (Hipster Dad) brigade, who can afford it. Adam Horovitz’s character, Fletcher, in While We’re Young is a case in point.

Model and skateboard fan Natalie Westling in September

Model and skateboarder Natalie Westling in September. Photograph: Melodie Jeng/Getty Images

Palace, for example, have seen a bump in interest after the likes of Drake andASAP Rocky sported their pieces. With their dreamy aesthetic (they work with VHS video and their designs have a hazy, nostalgic feel about them), Palace began as a grass- roots company, which is echoed in the vaguely affordable pieces – logoed T-shirts start at around £35. The story goes that founder Tanju was disillusioned with the way skate brands were going so he decided to start his own company. Named ironically after the dilapidated state of their living accommodation, Tanju and his crew began printing their own T-shirts.

“Lev just makes clothes he wants to wear,” explains Kenny, who directed a film about the brand in 2011. In it, Lev explains his own criteria: “I like people who wear whatever they want to wear and don’t give a fuck about anything.” He also echoes the food-chain ethos of the skating community. “All the money goes to the skateboarders to do what they do.”

Part of the reason their clothes became so popular was the fact that they were hard to find in the skating shops. “What’s so desirable is that they are elusive,” says Churchill. “You don’t know what’s going on, they don’t push themselves.”

Traavik doesn’t think the opening of their first shop will lose Palace any cool points. “They’ve got a good team and they’re not too serious about things,” he says. “I don’t think the store will have a negative impact on their credibility.”

The crowd outside the new Palace shop in Soho

Crowds outside the new Palace store in Soho. Photograph: Priya Elan

On the day of the opening I pop down to see for myself. It’s located on Brewer Street, on the parallel road from the Supreme store and sort of opposite a sex shop. The location feels like its part of the old Soho and not the creep of gentrification that has plagued the area, which feels significant. The queue skirts round the block and the shop’s policy of letting no more than five customers in at any one time means that we’re left lined up for three hours after the 11am opening time. Everyone looks young: solvent teens from the home counties, as I was, dressed in a mixture of sportswear, bucket hats and Supreme gear who have travelled down especially for this.

“I was HYPED!,” says Jamie, 18, from Cambridge, who has somehow been in and out of the store three times already. He’s spent £300 on socks, keyrings, a couple of T-shirts and hats. I feel like he might do well on Supermarket Sweep. Like some of the others I talk to, Jamie’s not a skater. “There are two sides to Palace – the stuff that’s for the skaters and the stuff that’s for the other people,” says Alex,18, from Chelmsford. “That’s where their revenue is going to come from, the fashion side, so they’re going to have to keep going.” They both mention that the appeal of Palace is the simplicity and the “basic design” of the clothes.

Inside the Palace store in central London

Inside the Palace store in central London. Photograph: Palace

When I finally get to enter the hallowed shop it is something that’s echoed on the shop floor: a minimal number of clothing racks, a monochrome marble floor and a feeling of scarcity. No wonder it felt as if everyone who entered the shop left with something. So do I. I’m surprised, though, after three hours of queueing, that I couldn’t feel less like buying into the Palace cult and yet my eye catches a couple of items: Palace socks and a long-sleeved T-shirt emblazoned with psych-country crooner Will Oldham’s snaggle-toothed image on it (one of his band monikers was, you guessed it, Palace). Incidentally, Supreme used an image of Neil Young. As I go into the changing room, I spy HRH on the wall. I kind of love these funny, self-knowing reference points. So I buy the T-shirt, feeling slightly as though I’ve fallen under a mass delusion. But maybe that’s OK. “Everything loses its exclusivity after a while,” Alex tells me “but for right now, Palace represents this culture.”

It strikes me that Tanju, his crew and what they’ve done is an actualisation of what I desperately wanted all those years ago. The appeal of Palace is that outlaw gang thing: doing what the hell they want to outside the mainstream, but being paid for it. For the teenage wannabe skater in all of us: who doesn’t want that?

Sales of art online rose to $2.64 billion in 2014, from $1.57 billion the previous year, according to a report to be issued on Tuesday by the British insurance company Hiscox. Online art buying, the report found, accounted for 4.8 percent of the value of the global art market, which it estimated at $55.2 billion.

These figures are somewhat more conservative that those published in March in the European Fine Art Foundation Art Market Report,which estimated that online sales totaled about $3.6 billion, or 6 percent of the global art market, whose value it put at $55 billion.

The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, now in its third year, analyzed data gathered by ArtTactic, an art-market analysis firm, to explore what people are buying, how much they are spending on art online and the barriers to purchase. The findings were based on responses from 519 international art buyers surveyed through ArtTactic’s client mailing list, Twitter, Facebook and the mailing list of Own Art, a British online art seller.

The majority of online transactions — 84 percent — were below $15,000, the report stated. It also found that social media were influential in the online market, with 24 percent of respondents saying that posts by museums, galleries and artist studios had a direct influence on their art-buying decisions.

Almost half of this year’s respondents, or 49 percent, said that they had bought art online in the last 12 months, up from 38 percent last year.


He has never been photographed, is very tall and nobody know what he looks like. But that’s pretty much all we know about the fashion designer Margiela. So how on earth did they make a film about him?

Still image from The Artist is Absent, documentary about Martin Margiela Photograph: PR

When we heard that filmmaker Alison Chernick had made a biopic about Martin Margiela, launching at the Tribeca film festival and now online, we were excited. The cult designer has never been photographed in public, and never once taken a catwalk bow. No one outside his inner circle knows what he looks like, beyond one grainy and unverified picture on Google Images. Finally, we’d get to see the real Margiela!

Well, actually, we don’t. (The clue is in the title.) Although this documentary was made with the full support of Margiela, he never appears in it. (We do get one nugget: Jean Paul Gaultier, whom Margiela assisted earlier in his career, tells us that “Martin is very tall”.) So, how do you make a biopic about a man who has never appeared on camera?


You do it the Margiela way, that’s how. Margiela is about fashion and design in its purest form: no glamour, no image, no ego. In an industry where superstar designers are the norm, he insisted on working collaboratively with his teams. He made collections, which became the hot tickets of Paris fashion week, out of plastic carrier bags and wire coat hangers. He never booked celebrity models, and often covered his models’ faces in hoods.

The result is a 12-minute film which may not show us Margiela, but gives a real sense of the man. You get to see his awesome “collaborators”, the coolest talking-heads ever, who wear black and chain-smoke in the rain while talking about how Margiela subverted the media-circus of fashion and “forced you to look at the clothes”. You get to hear Suzy Menkes talking about the “Greta Garbo of fashion”, footage of his packed-out early fashion shows, and of make-up artists obscuring models’ faces backstage with black paint on decorator’s brushes. Apparently Chernick, who had found some early footage of Margiela with Jean Paul Gaultier, was disappointed when this was vetoed. But as fashion historian Olivier Saillard says in the film, Margiela “proved that you could make things out of nothing, and that’s a very comforting idea for the world”. An anonymous biopic: what could be more Margiela than that?

The Artist is Absent Photograph: screengrab

The Artist is Absent is the first documentary produced by Yoox Group, the internet shopping portal that in March announced its merger with Net a Porter.
Bridge to the stars


Human Evolution: Who are we becoming?

A map for the Archaic Revival

This article was published in Entheogenesis Australis (EGA) Journal 3 – 2011/2012 (December 2011).


In 1974, American professor of psychology Dr Clare W Graves wrote an article for The Futurist magazine titledHuman Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap. In his article Graves described an impending change in human consciousness that would be, in his words:

‘…the most difficult, but at the same time the most exciting transition the human race has faced to date. It is not merely a transition to a new level of existence but the start of a new “movement” in the symphony of human history.’

His claim wasn’t just speculation though, it was based on seven years of field research plus almost 20 years of data analysis. Unfortunately he died before publishing his research findings and therefore his work remains largely unknown. Graves’ theory was used as the basis for the book Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change (Beck & Cowan, 1996) and most of his original research papers were eventually published as The Never Ending Quest (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005).

Dr Graves’ findings provide a credible map for what philosopher and psychedelic pioneer Terence McKennacalled The Archaic Revival. According to Graves, humanity is indeed making a momentous leap in consciousness, which is characterised in part by the re-emergence of archaic themes. One of these themes is tribalism; not a regression to ancient tribalism, but the emergence of one global tribe.

Graves described human development as ‘an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiralling process’ marked by progressive movement upwards through increasingly complex stages. This upward movement is an adaptive response to our changing life conditions. So as our lives become more complex (ie more connected), we are prompted to develop higher, more complex thinking and behaviours in order to cope.

One of the special gifts Dr Graves brought to the field of developmental psychology was his ability at pattern recognition. He discovered that the same change process and the same stages of development can be seen in the evolution of our species, from hunter-gatherer to the present day; in the development of an individual from infant to adult, and also in the development of social groups. Like a fractal, the same pattern shows up at all scales.

Stages of development

The initial data Graves gathered during the 1950s suggested the existence of seven stages of human development. However during the course of his study some of his subjects who displayed Stage 7 behaviour changed to a more complex way of being, an eighth stage, which was entirely unexpected. At the time, no other theory had more than seven stages and it was widely held that Stage 7 was the pinnacle of psychological maturity. Graves eventually concluded that human development is an open-ended process of adaptation, with more stages likely to emerge in the future. A map of the eight stages and their associated themes is shown at Figure 1 (below).

Figure 1. Stages of development

Looking at the map of stages from an individual’s perspective, we begin life at the Survival stage, where as a baby all our energy and attention is consumed simply doing what’s needed to survive. As we grow, we move into the Tribal stage, which explores family and extended family relationships and the associated customs and authority figures. The third, Egocentric stage takes us into an exploration of our personal power and identity, during which (as rebellious teenagers) we attempt to break away from the Tribal dynamics.

Note how each new stage is nested over the top of the previous stages (shown in Figure 1 as nested coloured shapes). Each stage adds a new coping capacity to our repertoire, but as life conditions demand, we can (and do) move down to operate from previous stages when appropriate. One example is our capacity to naturally switch from relatively complex behaviour in the workplace to less complex and more appropriate behaviour in a family situation.

With each new stage a new worldview emerges with its associated interests, motivations and preferences. Transition from one stage to the next represents a major or transformational change, which (for example) can sometimes result in a change of occupation or even life direction.

Progression up through the stages is not a given. It’s dependent upon our life conditions, which include our personal history (our conditioning) and the current challenges we face in life. Only if we’re challenged by new, more complex problems, and if the capacities of our current stage don’t measure up to the task, does the possibility of progress arise through our internal adaptation process.

As a simple example, moving from a quiet rural existence to a busy corporate job in the city brings an increase in complexity. This kind of change can activate our adaptation process, which takes place at a deep internal level beyond the conscious mind. Some people may not adapt though, despite the different life conditions. Graves concluded that we can become temporarily stuck, or even permanently closed off to the change process as a result of certain conditioning.

Many studies have shown that it’s not possible to skip over a stage of development, they must be navigated in sequence. Each new stage builds upon the previous one and as we move from one stage to the next there’s a natural tendency to reject the values of the previous stage, in favour of our new values.

Within the sequence of stages, as indicated in Figure 1 there is an alternating focus between themes of individuality (self-expression) and community (self-sacrifice). The odd numbered stages bring a focus on I/Me/Mine and the even numbered stages a focus on We/Us/Our. This dynamic is like a pendulum that swings back and forth as we move upwards. Ultimately it’s an example of the dynamic balancing of opposites, Yin and Yang, which we find in all natural systems.

Change between stages

The experience of growing from one stage to the next (see Figure 2, below) takes us from stability at the old stage, through a journey into stress and chaos where the old stage structure falls apart, then on to reorganisation at a new and more complex stage. You’ll notice there are two possible pathways shown, marked as evolutionary and revolutionary change. Revolutionary change involves a breakthrough, whereas evolutionary change involves a much earlier response and consequently a smaller correction. Change between stages typically follows the revolutionary change path.

Figure 2. The change process

The wavy green line in Figure 2 represents our background life conditions, fluctuating and trending upwards towards greater complexity. When we reach a point of stability and remain there, we eventually fall out of synch with our life conditions by default, due to their constant changing. The stress and chaos result from the gap between what our life conditions are demanding of us and our actual capacity to cope. The larger the gap, the greater the impetus for change. During the chaos phase our old structures fall apart in preparation for reassembly into something new.

Just like the pattern of stage progression, this change pattern is also evident at all scales, from individual to group to the evolution of our species. You’ll notice how it resembles the rising and setting Sun. Many ancient cultures realised this analogy and used the Sun as a spiritual icon to represent the human journey. It has also been used to represent the cycle of death and reincarnation.

This change pattern is the archetypal human experience. It’s what philosopher Joseph Campbell called theHero’s Journey. The hero leaves his or her home (stability) as the result of some call that disrupts a comfortable lifestyle, commits to the journey and faces tests and trials (stress). At some point there is a major ordeal (chaos) and the hero undergoes a symbolic death and rebirth (breakthrough). Our hero emerges from the ordeal with a gift of some sort (renewal) and begins the journey home, where he or she is raised up on high (new stability) in recognition of their achievement.

Altered states and change

‘As a historical cultural phenomenon…anytime a transition in man has taken place there has always been a big upsurge in the use of drugs.’ Dr Clare W Graves, 1971.

The deliberate seeking of altered states of consciousness can be traced back to our earliest recorded history. Most, if not all cultures have some record of using sacred plants, meditation, sensory deprivation, sound or physical stress as a means to this end. The reasons are many and varied but include for initiation, healing, divination and the expansion of consciousness. Most often the practice was part of a spiritual tradition.

In Integral Psychology (Wilber, 2000) Ken Wilber explains that everyone, regardless of which stage of development they’re operating from, has daily access to the normal states of consciousness; namely the gross (waking), subtle (dreaming) and causal (deep sleep). In an altered state we may briefly access, while still awake, the subtle and causal realms.

Altered states are often described as psychic or mystical and they can bring feelings or insights that are typical of the higher stages of development, as mapped by Graves. Wilber explains that personal growth to these higher stages involves, in part, the conversion of temporary altered state experiences into permanent realisations.

With regular mindful practice in an appropriate setting, the insights gained through altered states can accelerate our personal development. It’s no wonder that we’re naturally drawn to altered states, particularly during times of change.

Are we living at a special time?

Some sources suggest that 2012 marks a time of significant change. According to some translations of the ancient Mayan Calendar it heralds the end of a Long Count of 5,126 years and perhaps also the end of the Nine Underworlds cycle, which began with the creation of our universe (Calleman, 2004). In his Timewave Zero theory (T & D McKenna, 1975) Terence McKenna suggests 2012 will be a time of ‘maximized novelty’ (novelty meaning ‘a new or unfamiliar thing or experience’). While these ideas are open to interpretation, interestingly they have some correlations with Dr Graves’ research findings.

According to Graves, the most significant change ever seen in human consciousness occurs during the transition from Stage 6 to Stage 7, and by extension when a critical mass of people reach this transition our world will experience extraordinary change. Graves wasn’t trying to predict the future though, he was simply observing human nature. He once wrote:

‘I didn’t stand on the mountaintop of Sinai and get the word of Jehovah to develop this theory. This point of view came about in a very long series of studies.’

There is a correlation however between the themes of Graves’ human stages and the themes of some of the Mayan underworlds. There is also a similar pattern of time cycles in both the historical appearance of the underworlds and in the appearance of Graves’ stages, with each new underworld and stage being shorter in duration than the previous one.

While none of this provides conclusive evidence of impending change in 2012, by examining the characteristics of Graves’ higher stages we can get some idea of what our momentous leap in consciousness involves and how far off it might be. It’s important to remember that Graves found a few people who’d already transitioned to Stages 7 and 8 way back in the 1950s and he understood the reasons why.

Stage 6 – Preparing for the leap

Graves noted that Stages 1 to 6 were all focused on supporting oneself in the world and that they all inevitably caused excessive behaviours. The challenges that trigger the emergence of Stage 6 come from the excesses of Stage 5. Namely, materialism and overconsumption, burnout from too much time and effort spent pursuing individual performance goals, a growing social gap between the haves and have-nots, domination of the powerless, short sightedness and too much individualism resulting in a sense of loneliness and a lack of community.

Out of these perceived problems emerges Stage 6 behaviour, which attempts to bring things back into balance. Stage 6 behaviour is community focused and it values personal feelings and social connections. It believes everything is relative and that there are many truths, not just one. Decision-making is by consensus, resources are shared and/or recycled and peace and harmony are highly valued.

During Stage 6, as well as focusing on the environment, community and social justice, there is also a strong desire to explore the inner workings of the human being. This leads to a great deal of introspection. We are drawn to revisit all of our previous stages on an internal level and to heal past traumas that are stored within our body and psyche. One of the unfortunate side effects of this process is a greater tendency towards depression and self-harm.

A quick scan of the world in 2011 reveals an upsurge in Stage 6 behaviours, particularly in western countries. This is seen in the popularity of social media, growing community concern for the Earth’s biosphere and resources, growing rejection of our Stage 5 dominated economic systems, and the rise of social movements actively protesting against and in some cases peacefully unseating governments that are operating from earlier stage thinking. This evidence suggests we’re moving rapidly towards a critical mass of people being at Stage 6. How many people constitute a critical mass is difficult to say, but with the aid of social media technology it’s probably less than it used to be.

Stage 7 – The leap

Graves wrote that the coping capacity or ‘psychological space’ of Stage 7 is greater than the sum of all the previous stages. This is a profound change, a quantum leap that opens up a multidimensional awareness unlike anything that’s come before. Stage 7 is the first of what Graves called the ‘Being’ levels, where our focus moves from a survival mindset to pondering the question: Who am I being in the world?

The challenges that trigger the emergence of Stage 7 come from the excesses of Stage 6 plus the compounding excesses of Stages 3, 4 and 5. Many social problems begin to overlap on each other, multiplying the degree of challenge. These include the depletion of natural resources, overpopulation, climate change and conflict. While Stage 6 has good intentions, most of its attempted solutions are naïve and display an inability to comprehend complex adaptive systems. In some cases they actually make things worse.

Out of these perceived problems emerges Stage 7 behaviour, which is characterised by an absence of fear as a motivating factor, and an absence of compulsiveness. Faced with problems that would overwhelm others, Stage 7 moves beyond an objective, rational approach to a detached cognitive knowing; a trans-rational intuition. With detachment comes the capacity to deal with problems without being swamped by them.

In an echo of the Stage 1 survival themes but at a global level, Stage 7 sees an urgent need for the restoration of our world so that life in all its forms, but especially humanity, can ensure long-term survival. The Stage 7 approach is to consider the systemic whole, working simultaneously across multiple dimensions. It is highly adaptable and for the first time in human history has the conscious ability to swap and change between different behaviour sets. If a problem emerges that requires a typical Stage 5 solution for example, then Stage 7 can adapt to operate like Stage 5.

A quick scan of the world today reveals growing evidence of Stage 7 behaviours, but because of its chameleon-like adaptability, it can be hard to see. Look for people who take a fearless approach, who are very accepting of others yet clear in their own mind as to what must be done; who avoid battling against archaic systems and governments, preferring instead to use minimal effort for maximum effect. To paraphrase Buckminster Fuller, these are the people who will build new systems that make the old systems obsolete. When Stage 7 reaches critical mass our world will change radically and quickly.

Stage 8 – The neo-tribal revival

Stage 8 was the most advanced stage that Graves documented, although only six people out of the 1,065 people he studied (0.6%) showed evidence of it.

The primary challenge that triggers the emergence of Stage 8 is the need to establish a new way of living that’s in harmony with all human beings, other life forms and our planet’s natural systems. While Stage 7 sought to resolve the various crises that had arisen from the excesses of Stages 1-6, thinking now turns to long-term stability. We begin to see the Earth as one complex living system with its own intelligence, and ourselves as an integral part of it all.

Stage 8 behaviour is characterised by, in Graves’ own words, ‘an almost mystical’ nature which relies upon feelings and intuition much more than any previous stage. It embraces the mystery of existence and accepts that there are things we can never know, all we can really do is to simply be.

Just as Stage 7 has similarities with Stage 1 survivalism, Graves saw that Stage 8 is a much more sophisticated version of Stage 2 tribalism. Now the tribe is humanity itself and our sacred land is planet Earth. There’s a trend towards a non-interfering, minimalistic lifestyle that’s in harmony with nature, while maintaining all the advantages of our high technology. There’s also an acceptance that the human tribe includes a wide variety of people spread across the many stages of development. So sustainable living means acknowledging, nurturing and guiding all these different peoples, their cultures, worldviews and their interaction with each other, the planet and its resources.

Like Stage 7, Stage 8 can be difficult to see in the world due to its minimalistic approach and its chameleon-like adaptability. There is growing evidence though of a neo-tribal revival across the planet, including a growing interest in neo-shamanism and the use of entheogenic plants as allies in our own evolutionary process. Look for people who exhibit the capacities and characteristics of Stage 7, but who are focused on intuitive feeling rather than knowing, who insist on cooperation and trust and who are mindful of long-term sustainability at a planetary level.

Our multilayered unfolding

Based on Dr Graves’ research, the evidence suggests that we are indeed approaching a time of significant and rapid global change. Unlike some New Age predictions however, we’re unlikely to see a sudden leap in consciousness that affects everyone at the same time. Instead, history shows that human evolution is an emergent, oscillating, spiralling, unfolding process that ebbs and flows over time. As an example, the Stage 6 behaviour currently flaring up around the world was first noticed in the mid 1800s with the rise of civil rights movements in the USA. It likely inspired Einstein’s theory of relativity and it played a prominent role in the counter-culture movement of the 1960s. It also powered the thinking behind the World Wide Web and the rise of environmentalism.

Stage 7 has also been around for a while, probably inspiring the birth of quantum science in the early 1900s. However, when a critical mass of people reach Stage 7 its global impact will be greater than any other change in human history. We can expect to see significant changes to our ways of governing, our social systems and our technologies. Again this is a gradual unfolding that’s already underway, but current evidence suggests that we’ll see the cultural equivalent of a record-breaking quantum leap in the not too distant future. Altered state practices, rekindled by the neo-tribal pathfinders of Stage 8, may well play a significant role in accelerating this process. Watch this psychological space!