How designer Niko Nice’s Serbian roots helped build his collaborative workspace

Art director Nikola “Niko Nice” Crnobrnjahas worked on some amazing projects over the years, from directing a music video for Jazz Cartier to designing album packaging for Juicy J to art directing the crash test dummy-inspired branding for A$AP Rocky’sTesting. His latest project, a co-working / agency hybrid, has him swapping out his pens and sketchbooks for hammers and hard hats.

After emigrating from Dalmatia (a region in Croatia) to Canada when he was just five years old, Niko Nice has kept his families roots close to him. Inspired by how people live and work together in Serbian culture, Niko began building Moonbase, an agency / co-working hybrid with the goal of finding talent and fostering a culture of collaboration. After managing all of the construction work himself, he began another brand: Farba, a construction company that is already booking its own projects.

I talked to Niko Nice over email about his work, how being an immigrant motivates him, and what it’s like to literally build an agency from the ground up.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

How did you realize that design was what you wanted to do?

I naturally walked into it — picking up cameras, downloading software, and everything in between. Even as kids, we were making RuneScape clan sites and all that shit, putting random videos up on the early days of YouTube, asking if we can make a video for class projects instead of writing an essay.

What was it like in those early days in the industry?

Although a majority of the work I’ve done has been in the music industry, I don’t really feel like a part of any industry. Same with Moonbase. It was built in an open-ended manner that will be able to reflect all of our interests in due time. When I first started, though, I was just focused on being good and efficient, making sure I was challenging myself and getting my 10,000 hours.

How has your culture / family influenced your work?

In huge ways. My family, friends, and loved ones are the most important thing in the world to me. For those who don’t know, my background is Serbian. I’m from Dalmatia, to be specific. I came to Canada when I was five from a war-torn region that is barely discussed in history. Although I don’t recall the suffering myself, that was what my parents lived through, and, at the end of the day, I’m a warchild. Every new day is a blessing.

As I get older, I’m so much more appreciative of our unique culture that we’re privileged to further develop as Canadians. (Side note: so much of our new, still-internal projects at Moonbase are influenced by Balkan, Yugoslav, and Dalmatian elements. I’m very excited to share each one as time goes on.)

How has being an immigrant impacted your work and the way you navigate the industry?

It’s one of my biggest blessings. It’s very unfortunate what my family and many others in Niagara and around the world had to experience to become immigrants, but seeing my family and those around me make it out the mud — and being grateful for their lives — gives me more motivation than I can sometimes handle. I walked in the rubble of my childhood home. No one can really tell me shit, to be honest.

What is Moonbase?

Moonbase is a collaborative workspace and multimedia agency in its current form. We have two locations, both in Niagara (Niagara Falls and St. Catharines) in Ontario. Currently, we’re working on expanding the St. Catharines locations, finding talent, and launching a handful of sub-brands that will work alongside Moonbase. The ultimate goal is a Moonbase Colony, which is basically a micro-city.

How does it differ from regular co-working spaces?

That’s just the thing: it’s not a co-working space; it’s a collaborative workspace. All of our members bring unique skills to the table. They all operate as freelancers within Moonbase, but they are also able to contribute to various projects. We do have plans of opening a co-working space as well in the relatively near future.

What is Farba?

Farba is a design and build company that focuses on getting the most out of a physical space. Quick back story: when we were building Moonbase, we designed and built everything ourselves. The first location was super small, so we had to challenge ourselves to get the most out of the space. Although the second one is much bigger, we still did the same thing.

Ultimately, this gave us portfolio pieces for interior design and smart space construction. We’re just helping all of our friends build companies pretty much. Farba has already gotten a handful of jobs, and there’s more on the waiting list. Farba Job Site gear is in the works as well.

What have you learned from creating a physical project as large as this?

I’ve learned so much, bro, from teamwork to problem-solving and budgeting. We would work on digital projects from the morning to mid-afternoon, then get back to work on building Moonbase until like 2AM sometimes. When I stop and think about it, what we actually did in the last two to three years, it’s crazy. All future building will be automated through Farba, so I’m excited to just keep going. Nothing really happened that we didn’t expect, maybe some costs, but after we got started, we just went on “fuck it mode” and reinvested everything.

How did you first get involved with A$AP Rocky? What was that process like?

Robert Gallardo reached out to me on Twitter a few years back. He’s a dope creative, and he did a lot of work with Rocky and AWGE(Rocky’s creative agency). I worked on some stuff for the Tyler & Rocky tour in 2015 and then Rocky’s Coachella merch in 2016. That was super lit.

Gallardo hit me again last year for Testing. It was very rewarding working on an album at the scale, hella ups and downs. I’m still in touch with mostly everyone at AWGE, so you might see more stuff in the future. I definitely want to get Rocky in the studio with Teddy Walton again as well.

What’s your dream project, something you’d love to work on in the future?

Man, so much. I’ve been setting short- and long-term goals like crazy. Moonbase Colony is something that excites me a lot. I grew up with a lot of villager qualities. The way people lived back home was more pure, and we want to emulate that in a modern way with Colony. We’re going to get started in the next year or two and then keep adding for the rest of our lives.

There are a bunch of internal brands and companies we got down the pipeline as well, and a bunch will be launching relatively soon. I’m very excited for all of those. Moonbase and Farba gear are coming soon as well.

What does your creative process look like today? From start to finish.

I’m at the point where I’m confident enough in my abilities and taste to just think of something dope in my head and then make it. I like to make concept and brand boards as well. There are a bunch of people that work out of Moonbase now, too, so I love collaborating and just putting ideas on the table and refining them through experimenting and conversation.

Do you have a favorite tool that you use to create or to come up with ideas?

Sketches and quick notes recently have been the truth. The best ideas come so quick that if I don’t write it down right away, it’s gone. So I’ve been practicing sketching shit out ASAP, which changed the game.

What software do you use on a daily basis?

Photoshop. The whole Adobe Creative Suite is a must-have, though. Being able to use a lot of software has opened so many doors. Even if I’m not the best at all of them, I can express ideas and concepts, which is often a more powerful tool than being able to create it yourself.

Any artists you admire and want to shout out?

Shout out my brothers at Moonbase and Farba. Shout out Teddy Walton, Slim, and Aaron Bow. Teddy and Slim’s albums are on some other shit. I hope the world gets to hear them soon.

[“source=theverge”]

How Fashion Can Make You Feel Confident

Image result for How Fashion Can Make You Feel ConfidentHThere’s nothing better than that feeling of knowing you look good. You might not be turning everyone’s heads, but you know some people are giving you an admiring glance.

You’ve experienced it before when you walked into the office in a new outfit that’s different to your usual dress sense. It might be the first time some people in the building even realized you were there!

What is the secret?

Believe it or not, this feeling has a name. It’s called enclothed cognition. The concept is defined as the influence what you wear has on your psychological processes. It affects several aspects of a person’s overall psychology. These aspects include confidence, performance, and empowerment.

That means that ‘swag’ is an actual thing! The spring in your step when you’re feeling good about what you’re wearing is not imagined at all. What people have been saying for years is correct: when you look good, you feel good.

How do you get the full advantage of your enclothed cognition?

Our forebears said that clothes make the man, but they were only partially correct. Fashion is not as narrow as clothing. It includes accessories like handbags as well as fragrances. Face it, when you smell good, you feel good.

Jewelry is another essential component of fashion and often treated as a status symbol. You can achieve enclothed cognition in your regular clothing while wearing a trendy Rolex Explorer or a blingy diamond bracelet.

So, go ahead and buy yourself some stylish clothes that make you feel good. But don’t forget to accessorize, accessorize, accessorize!

Shopping for optimal enclothed cognition

Here are some tips to help you achieve the highest levels of enclothed cognition the next time you go shopping:

1. Shop alone

You might enjoy going shopping with your friends, but did you know that it cramps your style? Our friends and family tend to be very influential in the decisions we make, and shopping is no exception.

Are you going to treat yourself to those designer shoes when your sister is with you nagging you about spending too much money?

2. Have a sense of who you are

Each person has their style. Your style is a set of fashion choices that make you feel good about yourself.

It might not always conform with all the latest fashion trends. Have a sense of what suits you, what makes you look good, and what makes you feel confident. Put your stamp on every outfit you wear.

3. Play around with fashion

Fashion is all about experimentation and personalizing your style. Combining different elements creates new outfits that are eye-catching. Part of expressing yourself through fashion is showing who you are and what a unique individual you are.

Don’t be afraid to experiment; it’s the best part of it all. Sometimes going against the grain is the best approach, if that’s your style, of course.

4. Don’t save it all for a special occasion

Shop for work, play, and formal clothes equally. There’s no point in only feeling good when you go to work but not when you go for a run. Spread your shopping across all aspects of your life. The more enclothed cognition you experience, the better your self-image will be.

5. Shop smart

You don’t need to be dressed from top to toe in fashionwear that makes you feel good about yourself. A pair of shoes alone can give you that confidence boost you need.

Instead of spending a fortune on one ensemble, shop for clothes and accessories that you can add to your regular wardrobe. Then you get to feel enclothed cognition more frequently.

[“source=thriveglobal”]

Sustainable students: How easy is it to be more environmentally-friendly?

Helen and Will

Plastics challenge

The students were challenged to reduce their plastic use by 75%, which they found difficult.

“It’s hard when you’re on a student budget, getting anything not wrapped in plastic is so much more expensive,” Amy explained.

Plastics guru Lucy Siegle gave them a helping hand, swapping their countless shower bottles for sustainable versions of shampoo, toothpaste and soap bars.

She also gave them reusable items like coffee cups and cutlery and told them to change their shopping habits.

Image caption Amy Fitzgerald and Jay Maheswaran were tasked with reducing their use of plastics

But Amy said they found supermarkets a particular problem as “everything was wrapped in plastic”.

“And going to the butcher’s was more expensive than getting pre-packaged stuff,” she added.

At the start of the week, Ms Siegle weighed the plastic in the students’ home, which totalled 2.8lb (1.3kg) – a figure she described as “rather a lot”.

With her advice, the students reduced it to 1.5lb.

Image caption Ms Siegle was not pleased with the house’s reliance on clingfilm, and confiscated their roll

“I’m still really pleased with them,” she said. “Especially as when I saw all the bottles they [initially] had in their bathroom, I nearly gave up.”

Ms Siegle said she thought the group had adopted the mindset shift really quickly, experiencing outrage over everything being plastic.

She urged them to be more militant by unwrapping products at the supermarket checkout and leaving the plastic behind to make the point.

“We need to take a stand,” she said.

Fashion challenge

Marcus Rudd, one of the housemates, had hoped that his shopping habits – buying 10 to 15 T-shirts a year, combined with some designer pieces – were environmentally friendly.

Then he learned that it took 3,000 litres of water on average to make only one T-shirt.

The fashion industry – which makes 100 billion garments each year – is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, water pollution, air pollution and the overuse of water.

Image caption Marcus was won over by charity and vintage shops, picking out this striking jacket

It is exacerbated, MPs say, by so-called “fast fashion” – inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers.

Sustainable stylist Alice Wilby taught the students to reuse, repair and recycle, encouraging them to swap fast fashion for second-hand.

She challenged Marcus and his housemate Goby Chan, who regularly buys clothes she does not wear, to make a new outfit from old clothes to model at London Fashion Week.

“We buy so much stuff and half of it sits unworn in the back of the wardrobe,” Ms Wilby said.

“Before we buy anything else it’s great to see what you’ve already got, and fall back in love with your things.”

Image caption Marcus and Goby modelled recycled clothes for a Mother of Pearl show at London Fashion Week

Goby enjoyed the challenge. “I was shocked by what you can do by reusing a garment and making it into something new which is actually really fashionable. I actually love it.”

  • The students modelling recycled clothes
  • Quiz: Are your clothes damaging the environment?
  • The students with a food waste problem

And Ms Wilby said they did well.

“Considering Marcus had never set foot in a second-hand shop before – and thought they were smelly places with clothes you would never want to buy – by the end of the week he was finding pieces he really loved. That was a really great victory.

“These two shop a lot, and over the past month [since the challenge] he has only bought one item.”

Energy challenge

The students took dramatic action to reduce their energy usage – and it worked.

They used much less heating – switching it off at night; wearing jumpers, coats and blankets; and generally keeping the house a little bit cooler.

It made a huge difference to their gas usage – cutting it by a whopping 48%.

They also lowered their electricity usage by 15%. This added up to a 44% carbon saving – around a tonne of carbon in all.

“It was a massive effort – it was freezing in our house,” said Marcus Golby.

Image caption The students were able to drastically cut their home’s energy bills

“[Before] we weren’t communicating when things were going on and going off, so you ended up with the heating on the majority of the time,” explained Amy.

“This month we’re having more of a balance of keeping warm and keeping the heating off when we’re out.”

Dr Rosie Robison, an energy expert from Anglia Ruskin University, said it raised wider questions on whether the focus should be on individuals using less energy or the “wider responsibilities for landlords or homeowners, housebuilders and government for thinking about how our homes can require less fossil fuel in the first place”.

Food challenge

A third of all food made for human consumption is wasted every year – costing the average UK family £700 each year, estimates suggest.

The students were challenged to cut their food waste by 50% and move to the planetary health diet – a plant-based diet with small amounts of meat and fish.

Image caption Helen and Will cooked vegetable bolognese for the house, as part of adopting the planetary health diet for a week

Dr Elliot Woolley, a senior lecturer in sustainable manufacturing at Loughborough University, encouraged them to store their food more carefully to stop it becoming spoiled, plan their meals and prepare the right amount of food for the people eating.

He said that they found the challenge hard, but had reduced their food waste from 8.1lb to 6.8lb, which he described as “a fairly small reduction”.

Image caption The contents of the students’ food waste bin, before the challenge

Dr Woolley added: “One of the things it shows is even when you’re aware of the problem and you’re trying to reduce waste, it’s so ingrained into how we waste and use food that actually we continue with these large amounts.”

Housemate Will Smith said their waste totals were boosted by food bought before the challenge which had started to go off, but admitted: “I don’t think we did too well.”

But he said it had changed his mindset and he would continue trying not to waste food in future.

The Sustainable Students series was produced and directed by Owen Kean and Tom Yeates, with research by Curtis Gallant and Simon O’Leary.

[“source-“bbc”]

How to Clean Velvet Shoes So They Look New

Detail of shoes, Street Style, Day 4, Autum Winter 2017, Paris Fashion Week, France - 03 Mar 2017

With their soft sheen, rich color and elegant flair, velvet shoes add a luxurious touch to any woman’s wardrobe. But with such a fine fabric, special handling is required. The material is particularly vulnerable to inclement weather and spills, which can leave behind unsightly marks and cause the fabric to become crushed and matted — leading to bald spots over time.

Thankfully, it’s actually quite easy to get them looking like new despite water, mud and any other random stains you may encounter. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to avoid wearing velvet shoes in rain or snow, as they’ll be harder to salvage in this case. However, there are ways you can make them more resilient against the elements, such as using a protective spray. Read on to learn our simple tips for cleaning velvet shoes and preventing future wear and tear.

For Dirt and Mud Stains

1. Let your shoes dry out.

If your shoes are caked with mud, it’s important to let the velvet dry completely before trying to clean the stain. Mud is much easier to remove from the surface when it’s dry.

2. Use a brush to remove dirt.

When your shoes are completely dry, use a toothbrush or other soft brush to remove excess dirt or dust. Make sure to brush in the direction of the nap to restore its sheen. Brushing the shoes after every wear is also a great way to keep dirt to a minimum and prevent the nap from getting crushed.

For All Other Marks and Spills

1. Blot excess moisture.

Lightly dab at the wet stain to soak up excess moisture. Do this as soon as possible to prevent the stain from setting.

2. Make a gentle cleaning solution.

For an easy DIY-solution, mix water and dish soap in a small bowl. Alternatively, you can try a combination of lemon juice and two tablespoons of baking soda. Fill the bowl with lemon juice until you get a considerable amount of foam on the top (this is important for the next step).

3. Use a soft cloth to the apply the solution.

Once you get a foamy consistency, skim a soft cloth over the suds or foam — so as not to get the velvet too damp — and gently wipe the affected area. Avoid rubbing the solution into the velvet and stick to long straight movements to keep the nap in place. Let the shoes air dry.

5. Protect against future stains with a protective spray.

While it won’t make your shoes completely waterproof, it’s a great idea to apply a protective spray to your velvet shoes to prevent future stains. Scotchgard’s top-rated Fabric & Upholstery Protector is safe to use on velvet (you can find this out by checking the manufacturer’s instructions on products designed for leather or suede). 

[“source=footwearnews”]

Date dressing: how fashion in the age of MeToo redefined sex appeal

Designs by Victoria Beckham, Christopher Kane and Stella McCartney.

‘Skirts that swish the ankle and sleeves that graze the fingertips’: designs by Victoria Beckham, Christopher Kane and Stella McCartney.

Let’s talk about sex, shall we? Fashion and sex, that is. First things first: any conversation about sex needs to be an honest one, so let’s cut straight to the chase. Sex appeal will always be an integral part of fashion, even if sexy has become a less straightforward compliment after MeToo. So please, there’s no point pretending that we are too woke to care about looking hot these days. We still care. Nobody is taking vows of sartorial chastity here. But perhaps we are making some progress in how we think about sex and fashion if we are more conscious of whose rules are being played by, and whose needs are being met. As long as the survival of the human race depends on sex, looking attractive isn’t going out of fashion. But there is room for evolution.

It is Valentine’s weekend, and dressing for date night is the hot spot where the rules of attraction meet the rules of social convention. Which means that some Valentine looks might just be a little different this year, in the MeToo afterglow. The neckline might be altered, or the skirt might be a new length. Or maybe the clothes are the same but you might wear different underwear or decide against the high court shoes with toe cleavage, and look – and feel – different as a result. The way we dress for date night through the years reveals so much about our changing attitudes to sex. Braless under a silk blouse in the midst of the sexual emancipation of the early 70s. Spike-heeled and armoured in sequins in the competitively charged, battle-of-the-boardroom 80s. Unravelled and lipstick-smudged in the fog of 90s grunge when a Saturday night was more about getting high than getting laid.

A Gucci model at Paris fashion week … dressed in a way that might work for a portrait sitting with Leonardo da Vinci rather than Helmut Newton.
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A Gucci model at Paris fashion week … dressed in a way that might work for a portrait sitting with Leonardo da Vinci rather than Helmut Newton. Photograph: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

It is 18 months – three seasons, in fashion terms – since the MeToo movement was born. In that time, fashion’s centre of gravity has shifted away from sex. Hemlines are longer, silhouettes are looser. From London to Milan to Paris to New York, on glitzy spotlit runways polished to a mirror shine and on catwalks marked out with tape on concrete floors, a new course is being set. From Stella McCartney to Erdem, Coach to Loewe, Dior to Max Mara, there are skirts that swish the ankle and sleeves that graze the fingertips. Fashion has shifted the emphasis from skin to fabric. As a sweeping generalisation, there are more sweeping hemlines. Gucci, the runaway fashion success story of this decade, peoples its catwalks and advertising campaigns with women who would appear to be dressed in a way that might work for a portrait sitting with Leonardo da Vinci rather than for one with Helmut Newton.

Roland Mouret, a fashion icon for two decades, has recently gravitated away from the siren curves of his Galaxy dress, revisiting the pleats and cascades he learned while working with Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake in his 20s. At his spring/summer 19 show, models wore badges in support of the MeToo movement and catwalked on the roof of the National Theatre to the sound of Aretha Franklin singing Natural Woman. Mouret said at the time that the new silhouette felt like a redefinition of his relationship with the female body. In the second half of her decade in fashion, Victoria Beckham, too, has pivoted firmly away from fitted dresses and toward loose, fluid separates. Such silhouettes – once the hallmark of alternative, arthouse fashion – have become mainstream. Vanessa Spence, design director at Asos, confirms the shift is happening on the high street. “The midi length has become a staple in our fashion vocabulary. Necklines still vary, but we have recently seen more of a focus on the back as an exposed area.” Sexy, she says, is no longer a concept that takes up more bandwidth in womenswear than men’s. “It’s the same across the sexes – which is surely a good thing.”

‘The emphasis has switched from skin to fabric’ … model Kaia Gerber at the Max Mara show during Milan fashion week spring/summer 2019.
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‘The emphasis has switched from skin to fabric’ … model Kaia Gerber at the Max Mara show during Milan fashion week spring/summer 2019. Photograph: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

There will always be cross-pollination between sex and fashion, but MeToo has prompted a conversation about healthy boundaries around nudity and exposure. Changing facilities backstage at fashion shows are one issue being brought into the spotlight. It was long considered perfectly normal for an assortment of well-wishers, journalists, celebrities, friends of the designer – most, of course, with a camera phone in their pocket – to crowd immediately after a show into the open-plan backstage area where models were scrambling out of their show looks and into their own clothes. A year ago, New York fashion week was the first to address this, pledging “a safe and respectful working environment” with private changing areas. During London fashion week last September, the British model Edie Campbell spoke to Radio 4 about the ongoing lack of privacy at some London shows, describing it as “bizarre, uncomfortable and humiliating”. Awareness is growing that an expectation of endless female nudity is not a healthy baseline for any industry.

The meteoric impact of MeToo on what it means to dress up and look your best became clear a year ago, when the Golden Globes was the first red carpet to turn black. It was a gesture of female solidarity from Hollywood’s women, in an industry reeling in the Weinstein fallout. A black dress for black tie is hardly revolutionary, yet the dresses became the story of the night. The winners’ list is now a distant memory, but the red carpet blackout remains a landmark moment. The world was reminded of the power of an outfit – even one that stays within the guardrails of convention – to send a powerful message. Natalie Portman, Elisabeth Moss, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek wore long black gowns with long sleeves. In each case, the dress had a decorative element that lightened the mood – a sheer layer, a split in the skirt or a portrait neckline. Many actresses left husbands and boyfriends at home to pair up with female activists for the night, which threw into sharp relief the traditional award show optics that see an actress nominated for an Oscar totter in a tiny, pastel-toned frock on the arm of a man in a suit, as if she were a magician’s assistant about to be put in a box and sawn in half.

At the Golden Globes women wore black as a gesture of solidarity and in support of anti-harrassment campaigns.
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At the 2017 Golden Globes women wore black as a gesture of solidarity and in support of anti-harrassment campaigns. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

But if the first half of 2018 belonged to a swelling tide of demure black-tie dressing, the second half was dominated by an angry backlash against catwalk near-nudity. The exit of Phoebe Philo from Céline after 10 years had been felt as a body blow by women who had held dear her philosophy that catwalk fashion could be an elevated woman-friendly wardrobe rather than date-bait. It was with unfortunate timing that her successor, Hedi Slimane, unveiled a debut dominated by doll-sized party dresses – one that seemed the polar opposite of what the house had stood for under Philo – on the very day of the Brett Kavanaugh sexual misconduct hearings in Washington last September. Emotions were running high, and Slimane’s dolly-drop aesthetic became a lightning rod for female fury.

Male designers mansplaining female sexuality to the women who buy their clothes is not new. But the context has changed, and in fashion, context is all. Engagement with the world is what makes fashion more than simply clothes. It is, quite literally, what makes it fashion. Two months after Slimane’s show, the Victoria’s Secret models came bounding down their runway, with the tried-and-tested formula of bouncy breasts and jutting hipbones, angel wings and skimpy boudoir lace knickers which made this the most popular fashion show in the world just a few years ago. This time the spectacle was met with critical scorn (website Vox ran a feature with the headline The Stubborn Irrelevance Of The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show), falling ratings and – most tellingly – declining sales.

A model at the Christopher Kane show, London fashion week, 2018 – the collection was adorned with drawings and quotes from the seminal 70s manual The Joy Of Sex.
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A model at the Christopher Kane show, London fashion week, 2018 – the collection was adorned with drawings and quotes from the 70s manual The Joy Of Sex. Photograph: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

London fashion week has never been afraid of controversy. While other cities have reacted to the new climate by shying away from the idea of sex altogether, designers Christopher Kane and Michael Halpern are among those tackling the new rules of sexy dressing head-on, and reaching for a new body-positive, female-first way to talk about sex on the catwalk.

A frank curiosity about sex has always been part of Kane’s aesthetic – his spring 2014 season featured sweaters embroidered with illustrations of the reproductive organs of flowers – and in February last year, he waded into the MeToo debate with a collection adorned with drawings and quotes from the seminal 70s manual The Joy Of Sex. Six months later, he was back with a spring 2019 collection soundtracked by a David Attenborough narration about sexual behaviour in animals and Marilyn Monroe talking about how society defined her as a sex object and then despised her because of it. “There are no taboos in my studio,” Kane said after that show. “To be bluntly honest,” he told Vogue at the time, “we wear clothes to attract members of the opposite sex and of our own sex. That’s what fashion is.” Meanwhile Halpern, who burst on to the fashion scene in 2017 with sequin dresses so minuscule they might have turned heads at Studio 54, says he relies “super heavily” on the opinions of his mum and sister, “who are both feminists – of course. My focus is on being aware and awake to what women want.”

Penny Martin was almost a decade ahead of this shift when she launched The Gentlewoman magazine back in 2010. “It was the zenith of the weeklies, when the newsstand was crammed with reality TV celebrities with barely any clothes and shouty coverlines,” she recalls. “Our mission was to be the opposite of that – to give both the cover stars and the readers back their dignity.” The Gentlewoman came to be aligned with a particular kind of woman-friendly fashion, epitomised by what Phoebe Philo was doing at Céline. “Women want clothes that give them pleasure, without undermining them,” Martin says. “And I wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t think providing women with the tools they deserve to get respect in both their working and private lives wasn’t a worthwhile ambition.”

Although certain sections of the media would love to frame this debate as a catfight, there is little appetite in the fashion industry for slut-shaming of women who choose to wear tiny, revealing dresses. (To paraphrase Voltaire: I may not like what you wear, but I will defend to the death your right to wear it.) What we wear for date night is part and parcel of sexual politics, but surely there is room for making the point that a woman’s erotic impact is not all that she is, without policing anyone’s wardrobe. “My take on it, as editor of Elle,” says Anne-Marie Curtis, “is that a modern woman wants the freedom to look sexy when she wants to. But that fashion can’t be about having to wear a pencil skirt to get a promotion, or having to wear a low-cut dress to make your boyfriend happy.

A model on the catwalk in the Halpern show, London Fashion Week 2018.
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Michael Halpern tackled the new rules of sexy head on in his London fashion week show. Photograph: WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Every single image that goes into Elle goes through our modern, feminist lens. If I am looking at a shoot and there’s a pose that I feel makes the model look vulnerable, I won’t run that picture. We just did an edit of a shoot and there were images that I took out, because I always want the woman to look like she is owning the image.”

But unlike a longer hemline, fashion’s stronger attitude cannot be measured in inches or plotted on a graph. “It comes down to intention,” Halpern says. “What makes my friends and the women in my family feel empowered is self-worth, self-definition. It’s about not letting someone else put you in a box.”

For generations, teenage girls’ teachers have used the does-it-touch-the-floor-when-you-kneel test to establish the minxiness of a skirt. But calibrations of sex appeal are more complex. A pose in which a model is lying on a sofa can project laid-back confidence or exposed vulnerability, and the overall effect depends not only on the clothes but on the lighting, the facial expression. The same minidress can be framed as a celebratory portrait of raw female power, or an exploitative image of a woman underdressed and undefended. The highly visually literate modern fashion consumer is attuned to such subtleties, which is precisely why the dog-whistle crassness of Victoria’s Secret feels so out of step with our times. “The readers of women’s magazines, and of fashion photographs, are so literate,” Martin says. “An infinitesimal degree of ‘wrong’ can be vast in this context, instantly breaking the spell.”

Sex as something unspoken, as a scent caught on the air, is part of fashion’s magic spell. When the zeitgeist is embracing a new era of informed consent, the sheer-black-stocking vibe of fashion’s traditional date-night mode can feel like an uncomfortable hangover from another era. A new dress may not change the world. But it could make date night a triumph. The rules are up to you.

[“source=theguardian”]

 

How Australian theatre is failing its sound designers and composers

A white middle-aged man in a theatre, with a guitar and headphones, frowning

“In the last couple of years, I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues drop out of the industry; a lot of them burn out and suffer serious mental health crises,” Edmondson told the ABC.

“David White’s letter resonated with me. We’re not far off that situation happening in Australia and I’ve seen people come uncomfortably close to that kind of point in their life because of the pressure in the job, and lack of understanding and support.”

Two jobs for the price of one

“Sound and composition … has the ability to truly creep its way into the back of the minds of the audience and help shape their engagement with the play, without being particularly overt. I think that’s a lot of the reason why it’s often overlooked,” Edmondson says.

Sound designers are responsible for all the sound elements in a production, from sound effects and mic-ing up performers to setting up speaker systems.

Edmondson, whose recent credits include Sydney Theatre Company’s award-winning six-hour epic The Harp In The South (sound designer, working with composer The Sweats) and Blackie Blackie Brown(assistant sound designer, to designer/composer Steve Toulmin), says sound designers often resort to unexpected sounds to achieve the desired effect.

In Blackie Blackie Brown, for example, Edmondson had to ask himself: “What is the sound of a giant pair of testicles exploding? … You’ve got to get creative.”

One solution? The “mating cry of foxes” — which when slowed-down sounds “low and haunting”.

A grey-haired middle-aged man with headphones around his neck gazes moodily into the cameraPHOTO: Stefan Gregory is a composer and sound designer who has been working in Australian theatre for 15 years. (ABC Arts: Teresa Tan)

Composers, meanwhile, write and arrange music for a production — but in today’s theatre, the roles of composer and sound designer are often combined.

Stefan Gregory, who won Best Sound Design at this year’s Sydney Theatre Awards for his work on The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (STC), is a composer and sound designer who has been working in Australian theatre for 15 years.

Gregory says the trend towards combining the two roles emerged within the last 10 years, as composers increasingly began to work electronically.

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“The composition/sound design is expected to be fed actively into the room right through the rehearsal process,” Edmondson says.

After the day’s rehearsal, the sound designer/composer writes and mixes the music before programming it into the software. Then (hopefully) the director approves — or they’re forced to go back to the drawing board.

“Once you hit the theatre [for tech week] … you tend to come in for a 9am start and you’ll tend to work through till the theatre closes, which is generally 11pm. But larger productions you might not be out the door until midnight,” says Edmondson.

“If you’re a composer, you go home and sometimes rewrite a whole piece of music and you might be up to 3 or 4am and then back into the theatre early again.”

Gregory concurs, saying that in the final weeks of rehearsals he often works between 90 to 100-hour weeks.

And it’s not just the hours that are taxing.

“You’ve got to put your soul into this music — with the knowledge that someone’s going to listen to it for about three seconds and go ‘Nup, that’s not right’,” he says.

He estimates the ratio of music abandoned as opposed to used in the production as 10:1.

“The sound designers and composers I know all work extraordinarily hard and kill themselves, pretty much.”

Living ‘hand-to-mouth’

J David Franzke is a Melbourne-based Green Room Award-winning sound designer and composer who has worked in the industry for 25 years. Last year, he worked on Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of The Architect; currently he is working on Malthouse’s forthcoming production of Cloudstreet.

“If you’re working as a sound designer in live theatre you’re doing it as a passion. It’s not a sensible career choice,” Franzke says.

A middle-aged white man sits at a desk working on his computer, a dog in his lapPHOTO: Franzke describes his financial circumstances as “hand-to-mouth”. (ABC RN: Hannah Reich)

“I feel like I’ve spent the best part of 25 years with my nose down, tail up, just boring along working. I’ve popped out the other side and gone: ‘Oh! Where are all the things you’re meant to have when you’re almost 50?’ Like a house or a car, I don’t have any of that.”

Franzke works for 6-week blocks at a time on shows.

He describes his financial circumstances as “hand-to-mouth”.

Edmondson says he’s able to make a living wage but that he puts his “hourly rate for theatre work at between $15 and $18 per hour”. In his Facebook post, he said: “The janitors make more money out of my shows than I do (no shade to janitors, of course).”

Gregory says the hourly rate for being both composer and sound designer is “not good”, and says he chooses to work for companies that pay on the higher end of the industry’s spectrum.

“I will be going back to finding work as computer programmer this year — despite being one of the most in-demand in my field and having plenty of shows offered to me in Australia and overseas — because I want more free time to work on projects that are meaningful to me.”

The changing scope of sound design

A hand with wedding ring and watch adjusting knobs on a sound deskPHOTO: Sound design has changed significantly in the last 10 years. (ABC Arts: Teresa Tan)

“Sound designers/composers are paid a flat fee and that hasn’t really changed much at all in the last 10 years,” Edmonson says.

“It’s been fairly static — as have most of the fees of other creative departments — but unlike other departments, sound design has changed a lot in its scope in that time.”

With the rise of prestige TV, theatre audiences have come to expect more complex and immersive sound design, and technology has emerged that can realise that.

These developments have meant that delivery time for work has been cut down while tech costs have gone up. Edmondson says sound professionals need between $10-20,000 worth of equipment to start out in the industry.

Inequity in the industry

In order to remedy “the significant gender inequity” in the industry, Theatre Networks Australia has compiled a list of female, non-binary, and trans designers.

But one woman who has been working regularly in Australian theatre as a sound designer and composer is Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers, with recent credits including cabaret show Hot Brown Honey and The Longest Minute (a co-production by Queensland Theatre and JUTE Theatre Company).

A black woman with a mic singing in front of a laptop on stage.PHOTO: Sound designer and composer Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers says the theatre industry is not conducive to being a mother. (Supplied: Sean Young)

“I’m a mother and the theatre is not very conducive to that — especially [the role] of a sound artist. It’s a lot of late nights, and I wouldn’t say that I’m treated that great,” Bowers says.

“The last project I did seven drafts … a lot of that is hours that aren’t paid for,” she adds.

And it’s not just late nights that Bowers has to contend with.

“[I deal with] attitudes, ideas that because you’re a black woman, a woman of colour, that you’re only going to have a certain skill base, that you only work in a certain way … insidious stuff that is full-on.”

Better pay, recognition and education

While other designers in theatre are represented by the Australian Production Design Guild, Edmondson says sound designers are lacking specific union representation to advocate for change.

Yet, the time might be ripe for change.

“With all the cultural shift that we’re seeing in theatre at the moment surrounding safe spaces, mental health, appropriate behaviour and inclusion … I think that’s really opened the door for more honest, frank conversations,” says Edmonson.

“I’m seeing people really suffering from being overwhelmed and burnt out by this workload and … there’s such a small pool already in the industry to begin with, we just can’t afford to lose these people.”

The answer for Edmondson is better pay, improved mental health support, and bringing composers and sound designers on board earlier in the production process.

All of the practitioners interviewed for this piece feel that raising awareness is a crucial part of effecting change.

“It is about actually recognising the workload and recognising the number of hours [involved],” says Bowers.

Gregory says: “I think what’s really happening for the role is that it’s just become a lot more work than it used to be 10 years ago, and I think theatre companies haven’t really caught up … I find that I have to explain my role to pretty much every theatre company I work for.”

 

 

[“source=abc.net.au”]