Tom Ford and Jeff Koons from Iconoclas…

Tom Ford and Jeff Koons from Iconoclasts

Conversations about art – primarily good vs. bad art – pain me. There is something about those people who most vocally appreciate art that make them (myself included) constantly seek out something special, unique, new, or even worse… underground. Even Banksy, the lord of all street artists, is not immune from the perils of popularity. His book is available at Urban Outfitters. Christina Aguilera and Brad Pitt own his art. That makes it hard for the downtown kid to still maintain devotion. When I see a 100′ x 100′ painting on the side of our building at work, I stand in awe. When I see goofy tourists taking pictures in front of it, I can get annoyed.

But I am totally torn on some levels. All that being said, I love big shit. Pop music. Pop culture. And I love when people do shit really big and high profile. It is so easy to dismiss high-profile art. But I love it. I think it is actually more impressive than the underground. These artists are laying it out there for huge audiences, the media, radio, moviegoers, etc. – way more people than the tiny Brooklyn gallery. Love them or hate them, Jeff Koons, Banksy and Tom Ford are still very much artists. Take Tom Ford… He was labeled a total control freak at Gucci, and I am sure it is the same at his new company. He refused to let anything have his name on it unless he had total control of every aspect. Not only did he design every product, he also led all of the advertising, pr, and other crucial functions. He even re-shot an ad campaign himself, after he wasn’t pleased with the professional photographer hired for the job. As an artist, Tom Ford has sold well over a $1 Billion worth of his art, comes off as totally arrogant and is easy not to like. He wears ultra-expensive suits, frequently fails to button the top 3 or 4 buttons, and admits to using Botox and Propecia. Not quite a hoodie and Red Wings, but he is by all means an artist.

So when my DVR picked up an old episode of Iconoclasts, the best show on television (and it is completely funded by Grey Goose as marketing), featuring Tom Ford and Jeff Koons, I was glued to the television and actually watched it twice. Would the same be true if the show was two emerging artists from Brooklyn? No way. I can hardly watch a 5 minute video interview with Neckface. I simply cannot watch another interview with such visionaries of as A-Ron or a young artists like Charles Hamilton or Kid Cudi. All people who I totally respect. For the same reason I don’t think anyone would want to interview me, because at some point, you have to start doing some shit – not just talk about shit you are gonna do.

Extreme success only makes an artist more interesting in my opinion. Emerging artists are a dime a dozen, as are their messages. If he continues producing art, the insanely rich Banksy will be more interesting than the street kid version. How does he deal with it? How does it impact his message? How does his palette expand, now that he can afford to take his art to a new level? “Fuck a canvas, I want a building. A pop-up store with motorized McNuggets and fishsticks.” Jeff Koons gets to make a 40′ sculpture out of 70,000 flowers. Or a 30′ balloon animal made out of steel. Tom Ford gets to make unique fragrances, apparel, advertising and a brand.

I have loads of respect for emerging artists, and I will continue to highlight them on my blog. But at the same time, I guess for me, size matters.

Reason Number 138 to Love Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Approx. 9th grade African American boy walking to school… hightop sneakers, relatively skinny jeans, small beanie, navy peacoat and the kicker… an army surplus backpack with the names of classic rock bands written all over it with black and red Sharpies. Led Zeppelin. Rolling Stones. Jimi Hendrix. Too cool.

2008 Predictions… A Look Back

Last year, actually towards the end of 2007, I made some streetwear predictions. As an industry outsider, I deserve a little freedom to get things wrong, but they were not really all that bad. I put together this super slick excel spreadsheet that factors in posts from Hypebeast, Selectism, and other blogs and media outlets coupled with photo sites like Cobrasnake and Last Nights Party to give me a ‘Percentage Accurate” with 100% meaning I nailed it. It is easy to make predictions every year, because NOBODY ever goes back to see how they did. I have nothing to lose, so I did:

Prediction 1
Bulky, dirty sneakers will complement tight jeans. Think Jordan 6-10s with skinny jeans on hipsters. Note: This is not a sneaker-head thing… more of a waify, pasty hipster thing. Hipsters will rebel against the current trend of wearing women’s Keds.

Calculation: 72.5% Accuracy. According to a sweep of major blogs and photo sites, everyone from Lil Wayne to 12 year old skate kids were wearing skinny jeans with bulky high-tops, but they were not necessarily dirty. Keds and the like were still spotted with relatively high frequency on pasty hipsters.

Prediction 2
The lines between streetwear and luxury will continue to blur. The more mature streetwear kids will step their game up, which will no doubt require new jobs. Nigo has been spotted in a vest/tie/jacket combo more in the last 3 months of 2007 than in the last 10 years. You’ll hear streetwear kids rattle off high-end designers/labels with ease.

Calculation: 90.5% Accuracy. Shit! Have you looked at Hypebeast lately. You could slap a Brooks Brothers (shit, even lower, a J Crew) logo on some of the items featured and nobody would question it. This would have been 100%, but the number of new consumers entering the space offset the older streetwear kids’ effort to move towards more luxury to a small degree. Yes, there were a ton new luxury brands that became must-haves, but unfortunately, far too many brands still spit out nothing but t-shirts and New Eras.

J Crew? The Gap? Merona? Nope, it’s a brand called Useless (from Hypebeast).

Prediction 3
Legacy will be the dominant theme of 2008. Brands with a real history will reign supreme. Think Levis, Vans, Stussy, Reebok, Carhartt, etc. The hot new-ish brands will stick around, but nobody will be excited about new brands, and nobody will want to endorse them. That is not to say that new brands won’t give it a shot, but it will not be pretty. Hypebeast has already reached total laughable status.

Calculation: 80.25% Accuracy. According to the spreadsheet, all of the brands above had great years and some superb collaborations. With the influx of newer, higher-end, more sophisticated brands and looks making waves, if your name wasn’t Levis, Vans, Stussy, etc… you simply did not get noticed.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

Louis Vuitton x Kanye West : The DON

Posting screen captures of a pair of sneakers from a shitty video may actually constitute the low point of my brief blogging career. But I am sure the kids will go crazy for it, so here they are… probably the first still pics of is new design for LV… This one is called the DON.

Now all the real sneakerheads can dissect the numerous influences. Have fun.

Skateboarding & Streetwear

I should be packing for Sweden right now, not to mention about 100 other things that need to happen before I jet out, but the Hundreds post got me thinking…

I have long been an observer of skateboarding’s influence on what seems like almost everything. Even fucking architecture! So it freaks me out a bit to think that kids are getting into skateboarding as some weird extension of their fashion. It feels backwards. Dude… go skate! Obsess over the way the board pops, flips, rotates and ultimately comes together so perfectly below your feet. Trust me when I say that is what you will really remember 15 years later. That is why you will go bust your 32-year-old ass just to re-live the feeling.

I am guessing that Bobby Hundreds is a bit younger than I am, but he consistently drops blog posts that sound like recaps of conversations I have with friends about skateboarding history and its influence on everything else. I don’t yet own a single article of Hundreds clothing, but I read his blog everyday. I love it. He is clearly dialed into culture on a level that will ensure he is here to stay. Obviously he understands streetwear probably as well as anyone out there, but most importantly, he totally understands the more culturally significant movements that influence streetwear (i.e. real skateboarding and music).

What bothers me most about the convergence of streetwear and skateboarding is that at its essence, it is not a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. In my opinion, skateboarding fashion (beyond crazy 80s hairstyles) was driven by utility. Yeah, people wanted to look good, but people ultimately chose what worked from a skating perspective. Look at the skaters that are considered the best: Lee, Hensley, Gonz, Templeton, Daewon, Carroll, Mullen, Koston, Marc Johnson, etc… they were all defined by superior skateboarding, not their skinny jeans or wallet chains. They were essentially fashion-neutral. At best, you could argue that these guys inspired apparel trends within skateboarding, that then spread to the mainstream, and in some cases as far as Abercrombie and Fitch and frat houses.

Matt Hensley. Wearing Heineken dunks. Yeah, right.

To me, far too much streetwear is simply a parasite feeding on the essence of real skateboarding. I don’t get out to the west coast too often, but here in NYC it is abundantly clear that the streetwear movement and NYC’s skateboarding scene are far too intertwined to be positive for real skateboarding. I can only chalk it up to the fact that when the weather sucks and you have a million other things that you can do, the fashion part of skateboarding is the easy part. “I cannot ollie up a fuckin’ curb, but I have a $200 flannel shirt on.” Even if you go to Brooklyn Bridge park, you see a dozen kids standing around wearing Supreme and Dunks watching a logo-less real skater doing a 50-50 down the handrail. Oh yeah, and dozens of video cameras.

With some new collabs, a Williamsburg skateshop getting some attention, Neckface and Vans, I can see this movement towards NYC becoming perhaps more and more relevant. But this time, it seems it is for all of the wrong reasons. It is not because of progressive skateboarding, some historic spot, a skate company making some noise, or even art for that matter. It is far too driven by apparel, and that cannot be good for the progression of any sport. Maybe the volume of participants increase, but they are not pushing the sport forward.  Maybe this is the future and I am just an old dude clinging to the good ol’ days. The salad days.

Visit to Tom Ford

After being immersed in the streetwear world for a while, and visiting dozens of tired old formulac streetwear retailers selling the same tired old formulaic products, I have to admit that I was blown away with what I saw at Tom Ford.   I guess I am finally at a age and place in life where I can  appreciate it (I said appreciate, not own – sunglasses and fragrances don’t count).  I was most impressed with the store itself and the way the clothing and accessories were displayed – total amazing luxury.  I have loads of admiration for people that manage themselves well, and Tom Ford is – in my opinion – the best by a mile.


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