With her love of travel and gypsy roots, London-based Scottish-Welsh designer Bethan Gray has always been inspired by different cultures. Her designs combine luxurious natural materials such as wood, marble and leather with refined craftsmanship from around the world and attention to detail. Take for example her Siena series influenced by the black-and-white motifs of Medieval Italian cathedrals or the Shamsian collection based on Omani architecture and crafts in collaboration with celebrated Iranian artist, Mohamed Reza Shamsian, which is made by the same artisans who have been creating for the Sultan of Oman for 40 years. The handmade furniture reveals patterns on stained wood produced using marquetry and inlay techniques that have existed in Islamic craft for centuries. For the detailing on the Dhow table, Gray was drawn to the shapes produced by the large triangular sails of Oman’s traditional dhow boats as they catch the wind, a pattern adapted for the hand-stained, birds-eye maple veneer case of The Glenlivet Winchester Collection Vintage 1967 with its curved solid copper overlays that echo the whisky distillery’s copper stills, the River Spey and the layers of mist that gather in the surrounding valleys. She worked with Scottish master glassblower, Brodie Nairn, to create the bottle showcasing hand-cut lines that result in an ombré color effect with the whisky that goes from light to dark to mimic the 50-year ageing process.
With a mother who was an art teacher and a great-great-grandmother who was a cabinetmaker, Gray was encouraged to follow her creative instincts. Born in Cardiff in 1977, she graduated in three-dimensional design and was discovered by Tom Dixon in 1998 when he bestowed on her the New Designers Innovation Award for a piece of furniture she showcased. This prize led to her appointment at Habitat, where she rapidly became design director before opening her own design studio in 2008. This allowed her to enlarge her client base and work with the more costly materials that she couldn’t at Habitat, designing best-selling collections for high-profile global retailers and brands such as Liberty, John Lewis, Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel, 1882 Ltd and Rado. She is recognized today by four Elle Decoration British Design Awards including Best British Designer and Best British Tableware Designer. We sit down with Gray to discuss how she’s inspired by the art and culture of the places she visits, working with hundreds of craftsmen and her business strategy.
You’ve been working in the design industry for 20 years. What motivates you?
I love getting to know people from all over the world and understanding what inspires them – whether it be cultural narratives or elements from nature, as well as their own personal experiences and journeys. This motivates me to use local craft techniques and materials to tell stories that would be relevant to them, but also work for a global audience.
How does your multicultural family background influence your work?
I’m inspired by my ancestors’ journeys – they were a Rajasthani clan that traveled from Northern India through Arabia and Persia and then to Europe, before eventually settling in the Celtic heartland of Wales. I’ve recreated those journeys and been inspired by cultural narratives and nature that I have experienced on the way. I’ve been brought up to be proud of my Romany-Gypsy heritage, so I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures. I don’t know if it’s also about being Welsh. I speak Welsh and only 20 % of the population does, so I’m more aware of different cultures because I speak a minority language. I’ve traveled a lot and like to use cultural references as inspiration; I like to have a link when I’m designing a product. We’ve also formed very close partnerships based on trust and mutual respect with local master craftspeople in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In fact, we support over 400 master craftspeople who make our luxury craft collections.
Describe your creative process.
I start with research and then I like to look at lots of options in the concept phase. So I start and I choose one thing and I know it’s not going to be the end of it, but that leads to another thing and to another. If it doesn’t work, I know quite quickly and move on. Then detailing is very important to me. Getting really simple is the hardest thing. These three elements are equally important, so it’s a balance.
How involved are you in production?
It’s really important understanding what’s possible, how things are made. I love working with craftsmen all over the world. I’m not a craftsperson and don’t have the patience to be one, but I have the utmost respect for them. All my projects are based on craft. I love understanding a new material that I haven’t worked with before. It’s all about pushing the boundaries to show off the craftsmanship so much better. You work around problems and make them work, and the craftsmen are so proud of what they can achieve.
What is your work philosophy?
Every project I do is all about relationships. You have to have an open dialogue with what you’ve created, especially the relationships with craftspeople. Even if you don’t speak the same language, there’s so much that you can communicate. Some of my work comes because I’ve connected with people. Everyone that I have worked with, we have a connection. For instance, I met Emily Johnson of 1882 ceramics, which is based in Stoke-on-Trent, and we got on really well before we decided to do a project together, and we’re continuing to do more. The Shamsian collection is made in Oman; we started there a few years ago and now we’re launching new collections every year with them.
Tell me about your collaboration with The Glenlivet on the Winchester Collection Vintage 1967.
The collaboration started with some simple sketches of the decanter and canister that would eventually house Vintage 1967. We intended to tell a story about the craftsmanship behind such a rare and coveted collector’s item, and we wanted to incorporate features from nature that were important to both Master Distiller Alan Winchester and I. Ideas for the designs stemmed from the Cairngorms landscape, and going back to nature helped to create a truly distinctive theme. For the canister, I have customized my Dhow pattern and included mother-of-pearl inlays to reflect local freshwater pearl mussel shells, while the beautiful and captivating decanter itself was created in conjunction with master glassblower, Brodie Nairn, who used innovative glassmaking techniques and bespoke cutting tools to create a capsule as pioneering and special as the whisky it houses.
What has been your best business decision?
It’s probably having more confidence in my own choices and just going and showing what I want to show, the level of craftsmanship and my style, which is always evolving. Also getting my husband Massimo to join me. He’s a consultant to culture and other creative businesses. He’s got this great way of bridging the creative and business worlds. That’s what he did for me before he joined and that’s ongoing. Sometimes it’s difficult but he pushes me, in the same way that I push the craftsmen. Although I don’t always appreciate it at the time, I do appreciate it afterwards. I’m a perfectionist and I push myself, but he pushes me out of my comfort zone.
What has been the greatest difficulty you have encountered in your career?
Probably letting go of certain details. Sometimes you have to compromise. It’s sometimes difficult to know which things to be strict about and which things to be flexible about. Like in detailing, if something is going to add £2,000 for a very small detail, is it really worth it for the end consumer? Sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not, so it’s hard to get that balance.
What is your vision of the future of design?
It’s interesting because we launched a new project at Rossana Orlandiin Milan during Salone that’s all about natural materials that are wasted. For instance, pearl shells from pearl factories only interested in pearls and not the shells. We’re also using goose feathers, scallop shells, abalone shells and pen shells. It’s a new collaboration with Nature Squared, a Philippine company making sustainable products, normally surfaces for yachts. This is the first furniture line that it has created; it’s a new way for it to work. There are about 10 pieces plus some accessories. Obviously sustainability has been there for a long time although people don’t talk about what they do do because I think they’re scared of being criticized for what they’re not doing, but everyone has to start somewhere. We need to celebrate what people are doing, even if they only have one piece in their range that’s sustainable. It’s a step forward.
If you aren’t lucky enough to inherit jewelry that you can wear forever, J. Hannah is the next best thing. Founded by Jess Hannah Révész, J. Hannah is all about pieces that are meant to be future heirlooms. In fact, the line with a cult-following was inspired by jewelry Révész received from her grandmother. The jewelry line was officially launched in 2014, and nail polish followed a few years later when she needed just the right palette to compliment her pieces. Now J. Hannah is stocked everywhere from FortyFiveTen to 10 Corso Como to Violet Grey, Barneys Japan and Need Supply, to name just a few. Révész gives us the scoop on her line.
A model wearing J. Hannah jewelry and nail polish
COURTESY OF J. HANNAH
Why did you decide to focus on sustainability? At the early stages of J. Hannah I was making each piece myself by hand, and sustainability was default to my practice. Learning about where my materials came from was part of the craft that drew me in in the first place. As our orders increased and it was no longer possible to personally make the jewelry, I wanted to keep production local for control reasons. Using foreign manufacturers and materials never crossed my mind. As a jeweler myself I was aware of the environmental and ethical ailments of the industry and was conscious of circumventing these as we grew. It’s been an intentional and uphill journey to prioritize sustainability since then, but always worthwhile. What’s disheartening is that there are very limited independent certifications or standards, so you really need to do your own legwork to figure out what terms like “recycled” or “ethically sourced” mean to different suppliers. It’s taught me a lot about greenwashing and false marketing, and motivated me to be better at telling this story. It’s important to share how to authentically support and sustain better business practices with other jewelry companies as well as consumers.
J. Hannah jewelry
COURTESY OF J. HANNAH
How is J. Hannah sustainable? For us, sustainability requires a thoughtful and holistic approach because there are so many points of consideration. Specifically, the ethics of environmentalism, humanitarian concerns and business operations are three areas we work to address in our efforts to be sustainable. We treat it as an ongoing effort, and something we are always actively striving for—not a definitive marker of achievement. We are just barely scratching the surface with these examples.
Environmental concerns most obviously include how much waste is produced by our business and if we are partnering with suppliers who are concerned with their effects on the environment. We’ve cut most plastic out of our packaging, aside from our nail polish caps and labels, and our shipping boxes come from an amazing company called EcoEnclose, which makes recyclable and compostable packaging using recycled materials. We make an effort to reuse any plastic that does end up in our offices from our jewelry manufacturers. Jewelry baggies were a hard thing to banish but we finally found a compostable alternative; these still of course have a disposal issue but strides are being made. All our cast gold and diamonds are 100% recycled, which was a hard-won goal since we weren’t willing to sacrifice in quality. It also required adapting certain designs, like our Diamond Demi Signet (which we will be changing to a brilliant cut versus the current rose cut because we can’t find a reliable ethical source), to ensure we would always be able to reliably source recycled stones. Currently we are working on incorporating detailed sourcing for each piece on our website for improved transparency with our customers.
Sometimes the most ecologically sustainable option is not the most human friendly approach. For example, using recycled gold makes the least impact on the environment, but what if you want to make a positive impact? Communities near sites rich with gemstones and metals will always mine there. Supporting safe and fairly compensated mining and stone cutting can make a huge difference in these communities. If more companies refuse to support unregulated and dangerous mining practices, we can show the world that exploitation is not lucrative. Our gemstones sometimes come from other countries, or they might be cut in other countries, but we make sure that each person in our supply chain was paid fairly and working under safe conditions.
This extends to our company culture, which I think is the last prong in our efforts to be genuinely sustainable. It matters to me that I have a monetarily viable business that can provide for its employees. At J. Hannah, despite being a very small team, that means healthcare, vacation time, etc. I consider this an essential investment in the foundation of the company. We all take care of each other.
Jess Hannah Révész
COURTESY OF J. HANNAH
How would you describe your aesthetic? It’s been described as “minimal” so many times but I’d have to respectfully disagree. More often than not my designs are informed by the decorative, historical, and traditional. If you boiled down these opulent themes into a reduction I think you get the J. Hannah aesthetic—simplified opulence, edited maximalism. Classics like signets and hoops are a huge part of our collection because they are wearable staples. Recently I’ve been delving more into kinetic and inventive designs. Our Objet Pendant, Duo Form Ring and Duet earrings are just a few pieces that employ moving parts, and there will be more.
Tell me about your philosophy of designing jewelry that never is taken off. “Never taken off” is how we want our customers to wear their jewelry, but it’s also a context for their purchase. We do not expect people to be able to afford our jewelry on a whim—it’s a luxury product. We see a lot of language used in our industry that tells women “this product will empower you” or “you need and deserve this,” as though jewelers are providing something necessary or benevolent, which is such a fiction. Jewelry is extra, it’s fun. It’s special and rare and expensive and hopefully something the customer will deeply consider as a special purchase that will last them a lifetime. We envision our customer as someone who saves up for that perfect piece of jewelry they’ve wanted for so long, or to commemorate a major life event. Hopefully they will pass it down one day as an heirloom. This feels closer to reality, which is important when we are continually exposed to entire Instagram feeds that promote excess as the norm. The prevalence of fast fashion works against us in so many ways and everything comes back to sustainability. Trend-based shopping is a wasteful pursuit. If the consumer started thinking about their purchases from a cost per wear perspective, it could change the whole design industry.
J. Hannah jewelry
COURTESY OF J. HANNAH
What are a few of your favorite pieces in your jewelry collection? I’m always found in at least one pinky ring—but usually two!—which currently is our Duet signet. Another favorite is our Clara necklace. A big part of why I became a jeweler was my early interest in tinkering with my grandmother’s jewelry. She had accumulated a lifetime of pieces that all had different significance for her. My favorite piece of hers inspired my Clara collection; it’s a delicate oval bead that is suspended from a cable chain. I elaborated on the original design with a few variations, including a bracelet and a few other necklaces. My Clara Necklace is a foundational piece that I never take off.
Why did you decide to launch a nail polish collection? It mostly started out of personal desire. I am often showing off the jewels on my hands, so I make an effort to keep them well-manicured. I was having so much trouble finding good colors at my usual nail salons aside from your typical fire engine red and a sea of pale pinks. I decided to fill the void I saw at the time, selfishly in a way I suppose. It has grown to become an integral part of the brand: A key storytelling opportunity (#jhcolortheory) as well as a product with a lower barrier to entry price point. It’s now more accessible to buy into the brand.
The J. Hannah nail polish collection
COURTESY OF J. HANNAH
You said the palette is “color-resistant”—what does that mean? J. Hannah polish is not about having every color in the rainbow or following trends—rather a tight selection of effortlessly wearable colors. I figured I probably wasn’t the only one craving some respite from the louder pop colors you usually see on the shelf. I wanted to make it easier to find that laid back shade that you won’t ever get sick of, and that will actually look good once you put it on, not just in the bottle.
Why do you focus on neutral nail polish tones? We started with a palette dominated by neutrals, and we will definitely continue to expand our array of muted shades because you can never have too many. One of the reasons was my own frustration with how it was so difficult to select a color that would blend with my wardrobe. If it’s going to be on your nails for one to two weeks it should look good with anything you might want to wear, so that posed a fun design challenge for me. That said, some of our best sellers are actually our least neutral shades, like Eames (a midcentury green) and Ghost Ranch (our red rock shade). They’re colorful, but not in a polarizing way.
J. Hannah jewelry
JESS HANNAH RÉVÉSZ
How can people choose a nail polish color to complement their jewelry? Styling advice is hard to give; I think it’s always a matter of personal choice and the main thing is that there are no rules. I think a good arena for juxtaposition is with cool and warm tones. Our aquamarine is an icy green color and it looks beautiful set in warm yellow gold. Ghost Ranch, our red rock shade of polish, looks incredible paired with bigger silver rings for a more modernist look. Maybe that’s because both evoke the New Mexican desert.
Beth Morgan received her first Emmy nom for the first television show on which she ever worked, “Deadwood.” Now, she is nominated in the period costumes category again for the costume design of Netflix’s “GLOW.” Morgan is up for the second season finale “Every Potato Has a Receipt,” in which she got the chance to create a full set of bridesmaids leotards for a special stunt in the 1980s wrestling comedy. But not to be outdone, she worked hard to top herself in Season 3, when the characters went on the road to Vegas.
In the second season, the female wrestling troupe becomes much more comfortable in the ring and the actresses perform more complicated stunts. How did that kind of wear and tear affect the amount of doubles of costumes you needed?
It didn’t affect it as much as some shows because we don’t have stunt doubles. Really we have a double for an emergency, but the girls really wear their one. The wear and tear on them has not been extreme. We were fortunate in all of the fabrics we chose in the beginning; they can stand the test of time. What does change is the girls’ bodies. In the reality of our show, and in life, as you’re getting better at something and training more and more, your body is more physically fit, so some of the costumes were tweaked a little bit for that.
What is something about the way the costumes are made that you think no one thinks about when they watch the show?
The Zoya costume gets the most beat up because I was insistent that she had the belt. A lot of things about “GLOW” and the ’80s is about the silhouette and it being simple, so a lot of them are very simple leotards — especially in the ring because you have to make sure they can be safe. Everyone except Zoya wears Capezios. But we had to make sure they could grab each other — the wrestling is about interacting closely with each other and making sure you’re a good partner, so what fabrics were too slick, that when they go to grab to turn them around, they can’t get the right grip. All of that had to come into play. Also, we have to think about everybody’s ring looks and their entrance looks. We don’t always see everybody enter, but what is that — because wrestling is about showmanship, but these girls are gritty and they don’t have any money, so they’re putting these things together themselves. So it’s about what found objects can they use? We wanted it to be realistic that they could put this together, so when we were picking fabrics, it was about what would they be able to get and augmented? Season 2 was kind of a leftover from Season 1, but we wanted them to be iconic looks.
Speaking more to that realism, then if something does start to fray, do you leave it, rather than rush to make a new double?
We leave it. Because we’re shooting in chronological order, if somebody would have busted a seam, we would have it look liked it’s hand-stitched up. Carly [Mensch], one of our showrunners, would be so happy if we had a busted seam; she loves stuff like that! And people always notice that we do a lot of repeating — because I wear three pairs of jeans, and I feel like that’s the one thing that TV makes not as realistic. These people, especially in Season 2, have a small amount of money to spend. Rhonda is living in her car; she wouldn’t have this copious amount of wardrobe. And they’re wearing the same wrestling things. So I wanted it to feel realistic and organic. And some people who would have a lot of clothes, like Melrose has a trust fund and Debbie has divorcee money, we do a little more with.
Something really big and new in the second season was in the finale episode, for which you are nominated, when you made bridesmaids leotards and a wedding dress.
That is actually why I entered this episode. In my career, it was my favorite creative collaborative experience to date.
So how did the design come about?
Originally it was going to be that the girls were in their “GLOW” costumes for the wedding, and I was like, “Can I pitch something?” It was my own doing, but we didn’t have a lot of time. My sketch artist and I started working on Rhonda’s wedding dress, but we didn’t know what was going to happen — was she going to have to wrestle? So I decided to make the tearaway leotard. And then we sketched all the girls in the leotards — the pink side and the gold side. I went and pitched that because I knew they wanted “GLOW” costumes, but I thought there was something about the girls being on this journey, and being a bridesmaid for a person is really a symbol of showing up for them, no matter what. And that’s what I wanted to show for the girls, but I just thought it translated better in something new. And bridesmaids dresses in the ’80s were insane, and there’s something about being in an iconic part of each decade that weddings does, and we were going to get that opportunity only once, so I was like, “We need to do the big ruffle and the headpieces and all that.” It was really a time when it showcased how supportive the whole creative process is there.
How functional did the wedding looks have to be, knowing they would start wrestling around the ceremony?
I was adamant I wanted the ruffles to be off the shoulder for the ceremony, but then they would pull them up when they go to the Battle Royale. But the functionality of building a garment that’s off the shoulders is very different than on the shoulders because of the fit. And we have many different body types in the same look, which is the beauty of bridesmaids dresses: How do you make 15 women look good in the same thing? Who gets what color? Originally it was going to be the good girls in pink and the bad girls in gold, but it didn’t quite work out that way because of how they were walking down the aisles. But then we also had to double the fabric and get cups because we have a nipple issue in general because it’s cold. We love nipples, but we don’t want to distract!
Do you have to use special fabrics or line the costumes so they stay perfectly in place while the women are moving so vigorously to avoid other wardrobe malfunctions?
We’ve had no wardrobe malfunctions. There’s not a lot of coverage, and every once in awhile I will watch something like, “When is there going to be a slip?” We are so lucky; we’ve never had anything pop out. Season 1 we used this Bikini Bite and these different things to keep the wedgies in place, but as we were watching it — and as you watch ’80s wrestling and aerobics — wedgies were such a part of it. So we stopped. We really only used it for the fantasy match in Season 1, Episode 1. We used it and then we stopped, and it’s a wing and a prayer, and that speaks to how perfectly fit how all of those leotards are that we’ve had no slips.
Going back to the philosophy of reusing certain looks, how did those bridesmaids’ leotards end up in Season 3?
I didn’t make them specifically to reuse them. I had specifically said to my assistant, “Don’t worry, they’re only going to wear these once.” Because they were such an engineering feat — they’re delicate costumes to wear — we assumed they would only be in that one episode, but then they loved them so much. They weren’t meant to be worn again, but usually I am thinking of how they can be. Like, in Season 3 now that they have more of a bond and they’re living in the same place, you see them wear each other’s things. It’s that thing that girlfriends do, so I always try to think of, “Oh, this piece would be great on multiple actors.” And when they’re at the pool, well I know for each season I usually have one piece and a backup, so we have to really love the looks because we’re going to see them again and again, and that does inform the idea of signature pieces. Ruth’s jeans with the seam down the front, the minute she tried them on, we knew everyone would know we were repeating because they’re so obvious.
When you end a second season in such a big way, do you feel you need to go bigger the next year to continue to challenge or further inspire yourself?
It’s hard because you have to hope the story lends itself to that. This one, luckily, we go to Vegas, so it’s easy to top [Season 2] because we’re in Vegas and everything is bigger there. I love the storytelling part of what I do, so that’s what always draws me in. One of my favorite jobs was “Key and Peele,” and when it started we had no money and I had a department of me plus two and every day they’d be, like, vikings in the morning and DJs in the afternoon. It was the best training ground, and because I had assisted on “Deadwood” and “John Adams,” these amazing period shows, I was able to take that knowledge and underappreciated genre of variety sketch and make it historically accurate.
Was there one of those big moments in Season 3 that stands out as a favorite?
The Geena Davis Bob Mackie Jubliee outfit. In general Season 3 is like Season 2 on steroids. Everything is bigger: People are in formal wear, we had so many more background fittings, we had so many more changes, the girls had money. Basically it was like the finale every episode. But the Geena Davis moment at the end when they’re at the ball — the writers had gone to Vegas and they got a tour of the Jubilee costumes, and then I got in contact with them and we were able to actually rent them, which has never happened. Bob Mackie is one of the reasons I got into costumes. I’m a “more is more” type of person and when I started, he was the master, and the fact that I got to pay homage was amazing. I added pasties, but we took a Jubilee costume and put it on Geena Davis, and she was game for it, and she looked amazing. I did get to design originals for our Fan-Tan girls with our show in mind, but the Jubilee is a special aesthetic. So we definitely got to have the best of both worlds in Vegas.
Your first Emmy nom was for a period piece, as well. What keeps you coming back to that realm?
I think just because you have perspective. You have research that you’re doing. It’s hard to say today what exactly the forecasting of the future will be — especially working on Netflix when it’s a year to go. But I think you can really develop a character in a different way when you’re doing a period show — because you have all of the information already. You know what the outcome was. So you’re getting to delve deep into the character aspect, and usually you get to make more. You have a little more of a budget, where typically on modern shows you’re doing more shopping, more putting pieces together, and you don’t have the budget or freedom to create your own things. It depends on the show, obviously, but for me, I love that we can create so many original pieces and delve deep into what was happening in the time period, what was going to happen, what happened already, and how that informed the characters at the time.
What are the quintessential colors, design aesthetics and style pieces that you try to infuse in all your jobs, no matter the time period?
I have an insane love for vintage belts, and I feel like it’s something that’s an insane hole in the market. I always use vintage belts on any show I’m doing, and I feel like it really becomes my favorite thing that ties everything together. But it’s hard to say that there’s something quintessentially me because I want to be here to serve the characters, so of course my stamp is on it — it can’t not be — but it’s about thinking with the character’s brain: What about these characters, when they went in their closet, would they pick this particular outfit in this particular moment?
Want to dial up the glamour on your phone? Give it a change of case—or two. After all, a phone is the one accessory that’s with you everywhere and seen by everyone, so this is no time to skimp on style.
These designer iPhone cases have got your phone’s back—and sides:
Marc Jacobs Orange Peanuts iPhone XS Case
Meet the case that puts the good in “Good grief!” A collaboration between Marc Jacobs and Peanuts, its iconic Charles M. Schulz drawing of Charlie Brown looks like it was lifted right out of the funny papers, complete with Schulz’ unmistakable signature at the bottom. Made from smooth rubber, the interior is printed with some of Peanuts’ classic wisdom: “I need all the friends I can get!” Remember that next time you’re despairing about your paucity of Instagram likes.
Moschino x Sims Pixel Capsule Logo iPhone XS Case
Let the gamer in you revel—this Moschino x Sims case is an AFK win. The logo has been pixelated to the point of obfuscation, as has the “quilted” pattern against which it’s set. The result is a hard-shell case that is no hard sell, with just the right degree of underground cool.
Heron Preston Silver Logo iPhone X/XS Case
Heron Preston, a DJ and artist who got his start with Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and Alyx’s Matthew Williams, is known for his subversion of logo mania—he’s gone from making bootleg NASCAR shirts to collaborating with New York’s Department of Sanitation—and this phone case is no different. Paying homage to the brainiacs at NASA, it has a rocket scientist’s austere touch with its tiny ruler marks, while its metallic-silver coloring makes it something to keep you grounded even when your head is in the clouds.
Off-White Green Camo Quote iPhone XS Max Case
This phone case is so iconically off-white a logo isn’t even necessary (though there is one). With the brand’s signature ironic quotation marks and industrial type, it’s got a muted green camo print that’s better at helping it stand out than blend in. Plus, at this price tag, it’s the piece that’ll help your style work double time without making you do so. It’s also available in yellow for the iPhone X.
Dolce & Gabbana White Laundry iPhone XS Max Case
This is one case in which you definitely don’t want to follow directions. In a heavy dose of fashion-forward irony, this iron- and tumble-dry-ready protector takes the tag right off your clothes and sticks it on the back of your phone. Though the rubberized graphic wouldn’t fare well in the heat of your dryer, it would look great near other hot things—like fresh white Dolce & Gabbana sneakers.
Givenchy Logo iPhone X/XS Case
The shiny black back of this case evokes images of patent-leather glam rock and the velvet-roped clubs of decades past, a nostalgia that’s enhanced by the sprawling rainbow logo. It’s a play between the brand’s minimalist lettering and David Bowie glam. The result is a case that provides ready protection and can go from day to night.
Off-White White Arrow iPhone X Case
The off-white logo on this polycarbonate case is turned into a child’s crayon drawing of a blue table, surrounded by potted plants. Consider this the modern art of cases, with doodling on the back that, yes, maybe you could’ve done yourself (except that now you don’t have to).
Balenciaga Printed Textured-Leather iPhone X Case
In a bright baby blue, the leather of this case was made in Italy, making it especially worthy of the Balenciaga label inked on it. It offers a minimalist and modern silhouette that’s become standard on the fashion house’s runways; the days of jumbo thimbles have been forsaken for crisp lettering and sleek shapes, resulting in this especially trend-worthy accessory.
Christian Louboutin Loubiphone Embossed iPhone X/XS Case
With ridged rubber sides and a durable PVC back, this “Loubiphone” case has a utilitarian functionality in the brand’s signature high-fashion sensibility. It has everything you love from the brand, including the red of its trademarked soles—a hue so vibrant you might miss the “Louboutin” scrawled down the length of it.
Dolce & Gabbana Black Bag Shape iPhone X Case
If your jean pockets are starting to shade around a familiar rectangle, this is the case for you. Or the bag for you. Shaped to resemble a Dolce & Gabbana purse, it features a top handle and detachable chain long enough to make it an actual purse, while the range of colors—beige, black and red—lets you pick the one that matches your look.
Chloé Printed Textured-Leather iPhone X/XS Case
In retro-prep stripes, this leather case lets you bring Chloé’s ’70s energy with you everywhere. The cream and deep red give it a warmth that’s perfect for fall weather, but, at the end of the day, this is a phone case, and you can’t put an expiration date on its practicality—or it’s durability, thanks to the scratch-resistant felt lining and embossed cow leather. Extra points if your name is Chloé.
Gucci Print iPhone X Case
In a washed design taken from 1980s Gucci archives, this case is a classic, with timeless appeal. The canvas material has a leather effect that’s emphasized by the fading of the logo itself, while the creamy color is an equally refreshing alternative to pure white, with less mess-related stress. It’s also available in black, but you’ll have to jump onto the wait list to get one. And if you do,.
Prada Saffiano Leather iPhone X Case
Don’t damage your case with any old ring prop; this leather case from Prada has the stand preinstalled, so you can hang it, dangle it, balance it however you want straight out of the box. Fashioned in a streamlined Saffiano leather, with navy and white accents, it provides a deserving home for Prada’s iconic triangle logo—a good replacement when you can’t tote your phone around in one of their similarly iconic nylon bags.
Saint Laurent iPhone XS Quilted Leather Phone Case
With chevron stitching giving it an edge—and some cushioning—this case defines luxe phone style, with a metal YSL logo pressed into the material. The perfect partner to any of the brand’s similarly quilted purses, this case is crafted out of a satiny black calfskin, making it your phone’s plush new home.
Before he built the world’s greatest playground and transformed the world of children’s design, Eric McMillan hadspent little time thinking about how kids played. In 1971, the 29-year-old English immigrant was a design consultant living in Toronto, Canada – a sleepy city whose nickname “Toronto the Good” both referenced the place’s lingering Victorian moral rectitude and seemed to set a hard ceiling on its expectations for greatness. It would never be Toronto the exceptional, and the locals seemed content with that.
McMillan’s job was to design an exhibition for a massive new waterfront park called Ontario Place, whose somewhat unpromising theme was the glorious past and thrilling future of the province of Ontario. The architect Eberhard Zeidler had created a series of artificial islands and “pods” that stuck out of the water of Lake Ontario, skewered by columns like olives in a martini. The question of what to do with these architectural wonders, however, seemed to come second. “Now we had to think up a great idea for what to do with our island,” wrote Zeidler in his autobiography, Building Cities Life. “We thought we might have a nature reserve on them, but this was a short-lived dream because the wild animals could easily escape.”
When the park opened in summer 1971, while visitors were awed by the park’s self-flushing toilets and Imax movies, one oversight quickly became clear: there wasn’t enough for kids to do. When the park decided to remedy that by building an area devoted to children for the following year, its director, James Ramsay, turned to McMillan.
The designer was lanky and outspoken, a wild-eyed Englishman with the accent and mannerisms of one of Monty Python’s more unhinged characters. He’d been responsible for the park’s most successful exhibition that year – a multimedia tour through the province’s history called Explosions – but he’d never built anything for children. During a meeting with Ramsay, McMillan remembers his boss asking for his opinion on the park. McMillan didn’t hesitate. “I think it’s boring,” he said. “Well, what would you do?” asked Ramsay. “I don’t know,” said McMillan. “Give me two weeks.”
McMillan huddled with his assistant, David Lloyd, and when they returned it was with a series of sketches for a playscape unlike any seen before. Children’s Village would be a massive success. It would launch McMillan’s career. It would sit at the centre of kid-life for a generation of Torontonians and, briefly, promise to revolutionise the way the world plays.
“I thought it was just another job,” says McMillan today. Ramsay thought differently. “He told me: ‘This is going to make you famous.’”
The playground is a curious creation. The first one in North America was a simple pile of sand in Boston’s north end, installed in 1885 by female philanthropists who wanted to give poor immigrant children a place to play and, crucially, a means to assimilate to American society. That push and pull, between providing children with autonomy and controlling them, has been at the heart of playground design ever since. They are places to expand children’s imaginations while constraining their physical bodies. “Playgrounds are places made by adults, for children, always with the hope of harnessing their play to a specific location,” writes Alexandra Lange in her book The Design of Childhood.
In theme parks, where the prerequisites of play meet the demands of capitalism, the balance between stimulating a child’s creativity and keeping them in control becomes more wobbly. Parks in the Disneyland mould are, above all, about managing the play of children, moving them along efficiently, safely and profitably. The equipment is to be used in a specific way, with no latitude for experimentation. The modern theme park seems to apportion its share of imagination in a perverse way, offering boundless creativity to its designers while leaving little scope for the children themselves.
McMillan wasn’t interested in controlling kids. In designing Children’s Village, his driving philosophy was simple: “What would I, as a child, like to do?” But his conception of what a child might like to do was shaped by a childhood so full of Dickensian deprivation and casual violence that the idea of transplanting that experience to quiet 1970s Toronto is impossible to imagine.
In McMillan’s account of his life – a mixture of fact and family mythology that is difficult to untangle – he was stillborn during the bombing of Sheffield during the second world war and revived by a nurse, and from there life only got harder. “Lots of violence, lots of drinking, lots of poverty,” is his summary.
As a child, McMillan was often hungry and nearly always dirty. For a time, his family lived in the shadow of the Manchester prison called Strangeways. They were desperate enough that, one cold winter, his uncle and father broke into the prison to steal coal. He was constantly moving from rooming house to rooming house, school to school. His father was a day labourer, when he had work. On weekends, he would put on his one good suit and play piano in local pubs, earning as much in a single night as he would in a week, before drinking it all away.
The other side of a childhood of neglect is absolute freedom. “My early memories were just being like a dog, let out in the mornings and let in at night,” says McMillan. In those early years, he would play in the rubble of bombed-out buildings, clambering over the ruins, playing violent games with bricks, building paper airplanes out of the pages of discarded books. There were no restraints, no control.
When he left school at 15, he could barely read or write and his hygiene habits were highly questionable. “Have you seen when the live crabs at the market are trying to crawl out of their crates? You’ll observe that the ones in the back are pulling back the ones that are trying to escape,” says McMillan. “That’s basically where I grew up.”
He got a job as a painter’s apprentice and prepared for a life as a labourer. The trade school was attached to an art school, however, and as he slowly began to talk with the neighbouring students, members of a social class he had never really encountered, the idea of applying there himself became fixed in his mind. He took the exams, got in and immediately entered a new world. When he graduated a few years later, it was with growing confidence and an enormous chip on his shoulder. After designing exhibitions in England, he saw ads looking for a designer for Expo 67 in Montreal and made his way across the Atlantic.
On his personal website, McMillan tells the story of how he escaped his upbringing with a characteristic mix of arrogance and deadpan understatement: “I became an apprentice house painter, and then moved up to art school and then I became a genius and moved to North America.”
I’ve known Eric McMillan since I was a child. My father, another English immigrant who found himself in Canada in the 1970s, was also on the original Ontario Place team, and the two quickly became friends. I remember him striding into our house – a wild presence, all jutting elbows and knees, who would appear out of nowhere with a trunk full of plastic balls or a truckload of couch-sized interlocking plastic blocks, prototypes for a new experiment in fort-building.
At Children’s Village, McMillan was left to himself with a $700,000 budget. Prickly and protective over his vision, he demanded full control. “I think I have the reputation of telling more ministers and deputy ministers to fuck off than anyone else,” he says.
The time in which he was working was a remarkably fertile one for children’s design. In the postwar era, with the baby boom, there were suddenly new economies around childhood. “It led to tremendous innovation,” says Alexandra Lange. With government and institutional support, designers felt free to experiment. “People at the highest echelon of design were interested in childhood,” says Lange. “It wasn’t a subset, it was at the centre of design.”
This was the era in which “junk playgrounds” or “adventure playgrounds” – places where tiny children were given tool belts and fistfuls of nails and left to build their own forts – proliferated across the continent. It was an era in which designers emerging from the 60s, full of dreams about building political and social utopias, took their visions to the local parks, building abstract sculptures and modernist experiments that children could clamber over.
At Children’s Village, McMillan built two and a half acres of mayhem under an orange canopy – reproducing in the safety of Toronto his feral childhood spent scrabbling through rubble, with mountains of colourful vinyl and foam. He erected an enormous spider web structure that hung from soaring watchtowers. He built a series of wooden ladders that spun on their axes, hurling would-be climbers to the mats below. He strung swinging monkey bars over a pool of water and suspended a forest of punching bags at the centre of the village that was, for decades, the most reliable producer of bloody noses in Toronto.
When the park opened in July 1972, it immediately became the city’s capital of kids’ play. “I had never seen anything like it,” remembers Irina Ceric, now a professor in British Columbia. “It was entirely designed just for kids in a way that other parks weren’t. It was the best thing that I had ever seen.”
In my memory, the overriding feeling of entering Children’s Village was an exhilarating, perhaps even slightly scary freedom. The world under the iconic orange canopy was capacious enough that you always felt as if there were undiscovered corners – a child-sized hamster wheel beneath a small hill, a new rope bridge from one of the watchtowers you’d never taken. Here, at last, was a place that had been built specifically for you and then left to your dominion. There were no parents to help you in the chaos of the punching bags. Exactly how you chose to scramble your brain while flinging yourself between the giant vertical rubber bands was your business. The place was yours. It was your village.
Children’s Village was a hit. Families flocked to it and international media praised it, with Time calling it “one of the most imaginative playgrounds in the world”. The next year, the Ontario Place brass gave McMillan control over another section of the park and he set to work creating a water play area, with lagoons and climbing equipment amid rushing water.
Building before the first water parks or splash pads, McMillan created his attractions from scratch, gathering a team of prop builders, metal workers and craftspeople to manufacture the enormous squirting faces controlled by pumps and bicycle-powered water guns he dreamed up. One of the early visitors to McMillan’s park was an American named George Millay. Today Millay is credited as the father of the water park, the progenitor of a massive industry. When Millay opened the first Wet ’n Wild in Orlando in 1977, however, the name he gave the children’s area was a tip of the cap to his inspiration: Canadian Water Caper.
With his success at Ontario Place, McMillan became a major figure in the blossoming world of children’s design. “Suddenly I became the world’s expert on child’s play,” says McMillan. People were calling him the next Walt Disney and the “father of soft play” for his use of vinyl-clad foam. Over the next decade he designed playgrounds in various SeaWorlds in America and amusement parks in France. He built a park in a mall in Chicago and was shuttled out to Alabama and asked to transform 3,000 acres into a science park. In 1980, McMillan teamed up with Jim Henson’s Children’s Television Workshop to create Sesame Place, the first of a planned series of tactile amusement parks to be built across America with the aim of helping children “learn through play”.
It was a decade of remarkable creativity. McMillan remembers sitting around with Lloyd one day and looking at a glass jar of pickled onions. “Wouldn’t it be something to be able to roll around in there?” he thought. They set about ordering masses of light plastic balls for a “ball crawl” in San Diego – the world’s first ball pit, an invention that soon became ubiquitous in McDonald’s and Ikeas across the world.
It seemed to McMillan as if he was working in virgin territory, designing places for kids with a seriousness of purpose he hadn’t seen before. Watching children use his equipment, often in ways he could never have anticipated, made him more and more certain: play wasn’t a frivolous distraction from learning, but something essential to childhood and indeed humanity. The line-up-and-go-on-an-iron-ride model of the theme park was defunct. The key was to build things that sparked interaction, between kids and the equipment, but especially between the kids themselves. According to his design philosophy, each park wasn’t just a place to jump on a shockingly large air mattress. It was “a place where a child can ask questions of what it means to be human”.
McMillan formed his own design company, determined to build his own series of parks his way. “After Sesame Place, I was getting really arrogant, really confident,” he says. “I had sites. I had Montreal, I had Sacramento. I was going to build and operate my own parks and show them how it would be done.
“I got crazy, mate. I was going to change the world. I was going to change American culture and therefore the world. I was sure I was going to do it.”
Instead, the world changed without him. The skills required to fund and run a theme park, of course, are very different from the creativity needed to design one. Spoiled by the free rein he had been given at Ontario Place, he often chafed at the demands and restrictions of his corporate partners. One project fell through, then another. McMillan grew tired with throwing himself into designs only to watch them collapse for reasons beyond his control. “Eric could project a very pure kind of childlike play,” says Henry Piersig, a German-born prop builder who was one of McMillan’s collaborators. “But maybe eventually he ran out of steam.”
More than that, the times had changed. If the design for children in the 60s and 70s had been full of possibility and experimentation, the prevailing mood in the 1980s was of caution. “In the 80s, there was this real turn towards a safety culture,” says Lange. “We tamped down on a lot of innovation and a lot of the risk and reward of the children’s environment.” After a series of lawsuits against playgrounds, “liability”, not “creativity”, became the most important word in children’s design. The adventure playgrounds that once dotted North America were shuttered. The massive wooden jungle gyms in schoolyards were replaced with modest climbing structures.
With its bright colours and unruly design, Children’s Village became a relic on the lakeshore – a vision of the future from the near past. “It feels like it was meant to be the beginning of something,” says Ceric. “But it ended up ending there.”
Children’s Village was closed in 2002. The rest of Ontario Place shut down in 2011. Recently, though, I’ve seen more and more of my peers reflecting nostalgically about the “gloriously unsafe majesty” of Children’s Village. The park is a lost part of childhood for a whole cohort of Torontonians. It feels like a strange dream. Were the towers really so high? Did the ziplines really run so fast?
Nowhere is more infused with nostalgia than the places you played in as a child. Looking back on the playgrounds of the past, however, is more than mere sentimentality, and it isn’t just specific to people who remember Children’s Village. “There’s something in the air,” says Alexandra Lange. “We understand that children’s play environment has been impoverished. And so looking back at those times when it wasn’t so impoverished feels really important.” Today, as the kids who grew up running through the punching bag forest are having children of their own, it’s impossible not to think that Children’s Village represented a brief moment when a different style of mass play was possible. Instead of an amusement park in which kids line up for hours to sit passively on a moving piece of intellectual property, what if a park just provided the raw materials for child-instigated, slightly dangerous adventure?
This summer, the provincial government is accepting proposals for new developments on the Ontario Place grounds. In the years since it closed, there have been plans for a year-round water park, for a casino, for an enormous ferris wheel. There have been calls to relocate the Science Centre to the waterfront or turn the entire thing into a public park.
No one’s asked Eric McMillan what should be on the site of the former kids’ utopia he built on the waterfront. Now 77, he lives with his wife, Rose, in the Quebec countryside. He has an orange tree he likes to visit. He and Rose hand-grind their own coffee, build stone walls, snowshoe up the hills in the winter. The place is their own personal playground. “I can’t imagine a more privileged existence,” he says. He hasn’t visited the grounds himself in years. “Ontario Place long ago became a very sad ruin of what could have been an interesting place,” he says.
Still, McMillan can’t seem to stop himself from thinking about it. Recently, he came up with his own proposal for the site. In his reimagining, the empty pods have been transformed into massive lake filters – sucking up the water from Lake Ontario, cleaning it, and then sending it cascading into the lake below. The design takes Zeidler’s buildings and turns them into massive pieces of interactive art, where kids can help control the flow of water. The plan is whimsical and audacious, as outside-the-box and indifferent to the demands of commerce as ever. When I ask him what else should be done with the Ontario Place pods, he answers immediately. “They just can rip them down and turn them into scrap metal and build condos along the edge,” says McMillan. “Or … they can go really crazy.”
The new HBO teen drama series Euphoria, which aired its season finale on August 4, deals with a bingo-card variety of particularly 2019-flavored adolescent issues: leaked nudes, fentanyl abuse, camming for Bitcoin. But the issues are also, unfortunately, timeless: divorce, abuse, mental illness, self-loathing. It is a testament to the overall approach of the show — created, written, and largely directed by Sam Levinson — that a project so concerned with story and character, interiority and drama, is also equally concerned with aesthetics, in production design and also in wardrobe. Everything is a choice, an opportunity to sharpen points.
Why merely show a character acting stoned when you can turn the camera around and around and give the audience the spins, too? Euphoria is fantastic, not only in the diegetic elements — in episode seven, talking pill bottles externalize a quiet moment in which Rue resists the urge to relapse — but also in its boundary-pushing with just how much high schoolers can get away with when it comes to school dress codes. The characters are not simply dressing on trend, they’re dressing to further tell a story about who they are and who they want to be. The clothing and makeup are used to create and enhance character. And if we must suspend our belief of what might otherwise garner a demerit, so be it.
“We had hour-long conversation with Sam just about makeup,” Alexa Demie, who plays cheerleader Maddy Perez, tells Teen Vogue. “Barbie, Hunter, and I all made mood boards.” Alexa grew up with issues of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar flooding her house and has been saving inspiration images to private Tumblr accounts since middle school — old Showgirls stills, iconic photos of Elizabeth Taylor, and Nina Simone with jewel-encrusted eyelids and brows. So this project ,and its collaborative process, were a dream come true. “I’ve never gotten to bring these references to any set except this one,” she says.
Costuming was a group effort, too. Alexa mentioned a fondness for Sharon Stone’s character in Casino during an early conversation with the show’s creator, and Levinson wrote that in as a set piece for her character, who receives an identical fur coat (custom made out of rabbit by New York furrier Marc Kaufman) from her boyfriend. In the finale, Alexa wears a custom outfit handmade with head-to-toe Swarovski crystals by her friend, the designer Aidan Euan (his line is called Akna). “I would DM brands to Heidi [Bivens, the show’s costume designer]. I’d send her references from ‘90s-throwback accounts, and she would make it more modern, more teen. She took a 1992 Chanel runway look and flipped it and made it modern and young.”
Teen Vogue spoke with Euphoria’s costume designer, Heidi Bivens, about how she approached outfitting TV’s realest teens.
Teen Vogue:What was your approach to using wardrobe to enhance the characters on this show?
HB: We wanted the costumes to give you a quick read, if you just glanced at the character. Whatever we did, I wanted it to feel timeless, but at the same time, like a time capsule.
TV: The character Jules (Hunter Schafer) probably has the most elaborate outfits, if we’re thinking about teens getting dressed for school. How does her wardrobe accentuate the balance she plays with, between innocence and sexuality?
HB: From the very beginning, when I only had the pilot, her character was described as having a look inspired by anime. She was even referred to as looking like Sailor Moon. Sam Levinson has an affinity for that anime vibe; it inspired him visually. The silhouette of the tennis skirt slash cheerleader skirt became a look we stuck with. As we received more scripts and started to understand where the story was going, Jules had an arc and we were able to see where we could take the character. One of the exciting things about TV, unlike features, is that you get to tell an ongoing story and discover things and collaborate. There are evolving ideas, and it’s really fun to learn more about the characters with each script.
TV: Jules has a few shifts over the season — her relationship with Rue evolves; her conflict with Nate becomes a threat that causes her to become secretive and afraid. How do her clothes tell this story of her emotional shifts?
HB: In the beginning it’s pretty obvious that Jules is trying to be sexy to men. She has an idea of what she thinks men want to see, boys and men. And so she’s created this person for herself based on what she thinks is going to get her male attention. As she starts to empower herself, come into her own, and mature, she starts to dress less cutesy and girly, for reasons that have everything to do with her personal growth, her inner story, her shifting away from caring about these dates that she would go on to get approval from men and looking inside herself for that approval. She starts to wear less cutesy skirts and dresses; she starts wearing pants. She’s willing to take chances with her style; she likes to stand out. In a way, her pushing it with her style is kind of like an “F you” to the world.
TV: I remember watching the roller-skating scene in episode five and being like, “She’s in pants?!”
HB: When I read the scene with her roller skating I thought, There should be pants here. For her to be roller skating in a skirt, that would be extra cutesy. She needs to be a little tougher at this point, and just visually look a little less vulnerable. And that orange knit hoodie that she’s in when she leaves and she’s on the bike. It’s not pink — it’s not such a femme color, but it’s very bright and still strong. She starts being less cutesy girly, less twee.
TV: You’ve said that you did a lot of scouting out in the world, observing teens in the wild, at school, to see what they’re wearing. How much of what you saw was translated into the costumes of this show?
HB: The most interesting thing that I discovered in what teens were wearing on the street — specifically in Los Angeles, where we were shooting — is that most teens didn’t have very outrageous or interesting style. There is a lot of homogenized style amongst teens these days. I could be reaching, but I equate it to what happens in a lot of public high schools, with bullying. My friends’ teenage daughters and sons who go to private school are really nurtured in a way where they are encouraged to be eccentric and creative. Whereas in my research, a lot of the public school kids, they often aren’t [dressing creatively] in the same way. That’s just based on sitting outside of public schools, versus interacting with my friends’ kids who go to private schools, who were sent to fashion classes and learned to design their own clothes.
TV: Which is more true to your own experience?
HB: I went to public school, and I can remember definitely being bullied for wearing knee-high socks and Bjork buns on my head, and being bullied by so-called cool girls who weren’t actually cool.
TV: There is a scene at school, after Kat (Barbie Ferreira) goes to the mall and buys her new dominatrix outfits, when her classmate Ethan says she looks different, and she replies: “I’ve changed.” This seems to make a moment of transition for her.
HB: I think that her character always was, or wanted to be, that person. She just didn’t have the confidence. It’s less like she changed, more that she was given permission to be herself. Or she gave herself permission through the confidence she gained from being adored online.