Balenciaga F/W’17: More ‘Fake News’ than ‘Feel the Bern’

The Gvasalia brothers are a fascinating, frustrating pair. If you’re a fan of fashion, it was impossible to make it through 2016 without coming into contact with the minds behind Vetements. A label seemingly fuelled in part by its avant-garde reconfiguration of style and culture (arguably a continuation of the methods Demna would have learned whilst working at Maison Margiela) and in part by the label’s powerful grasp of Internet culture and the power of hype, Vetements is in some ways something entirely new, and in other ways something we’ve seen dozens of times before. The arguments that erupt around the label’s memetic releases seem unique in their current configuration, but it’s the same as the likes of Duchamp, Hirst, Koons et al; even if people are arguing about whether your work is or isn’t art, they’re talking about you.


So it is that the brothers have set the fashion scene on fire with £300 DHL t-shirts, wholesale polyester rain-smocks screen printed with a logo and sold for a several-thousand percent markup, weed-grinder necklaces and so on. At one level, Vetements could be interpreted as a celebration of the inherent fashion of everything; that everybody has their own style and swagger.


Such an interpretation is supported by an item like their brass cigarette-packet holder. In spite of various government taxes, restrictions and regulations, cigarettes are broadly available to all at an affordable price, and are surely one of the most heavily-stylized household goods that we buy at that price. The Marlboro smokers are the bad boys; the B&H smokers are geezers; the Vogue smokers are sophisticated (or, if you’re a Marlboro smoker, too pussy to smoke a real cigarette); and in the world of smokers, the rollie smokers are like that friend that creates their own style, more down-to-earth, less caught up in the bullshit.


Another interpretation is that perhaps Vetements is a mockery of the hyper-marketed consumer society we now live in. From high fashion to pound shops, it’s common knowledge that we are paying high margins for the products we consume, with wave after wave of new labels stepping onto the scene to provide the next level of premium. Buscemi sneakers, which sell for upwards of £800 a pair, exist because people were already buying expensive sneakers. Jon Buscemi basically came along and made something even more expensive, and it’s one of the bestselling brands in every store that stocks it.

Vetements’ aforementioned weed-grinder necklace falls into this category for me; from luxury glasswares to goldleaf rolling papers to high-end strains, weed culture has warped into a global industry far removed from the “Cheech & Chong” stoner stereotype that dominated conversations before. Thirty years ago, guys in suits would have scoffed at the idea of a £400 bong and said, “A stoner with that much money is only buying one thing; more weed.” Now, those guys in suits are cornering the market.


Guram Gvasalia’s business acumen has been a prominent aspect of Vetements’ outward-facing identity. Whilst interviews with Demna, the designer, have been rare, Guram has been open about the Vetements business model of limited supply, high price clothing that is intended to sell out and catalyse hype. At times it feels like an art performance in itself; a fashion brand with such a polarising central concept talking about itself only in terms of budget, revenue, income, outcome, profit margins. It reminds me of Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park taking acid and going to the Oscars in dresses, agreeing beforehand that they would not under any circumstances, answer any questions about the dresses, instead deflecting with empty platitudes about other people looking wonderful.

When Demna Gvasalia was announced as the new Artistic Director and Head Designer of historic French fashion house Balenciaga, then, there was obviously a lot of talk about what the maverick Georgian designer would do. Gvasalia’s process at Vetements has largely been an exploration of street style and “ground-floor” fashion; how would this translate into a Balenciaga collection? For the most part, relatively seamlessly; his debut Fall 2016 collection brought Vetements’ signature boxy, amorphous cuts to suiting and tweed jackets, countered with asymmetric styling and jackets that seemed to defy gravity, sitting on the models’ bodies without ever touching the shoulders.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2016

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2016

The biggest conversation point, however, seemed to be the casting for Gvasalia’s two runway shows, both of which featured exclusively white models. After a bit of hand-wringing and comments about curating a particular aesthetic (yawn), casting a diverse range of gay Russian people (close, but yawn) and people from different cultural backgrounds (can you hear me yawning?), the case was closed with the conclusion that this was basically a dumb move on the part of Gvasalia and stylist Lotta Volkova. For my two cents, you’re totally welcome to “curate” an “aesthetic” of exclusively white people, but there are plenty other people interested in pushing that “aesthetic” and they’re not all that great. Be smart.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

A year on, last week saw Balenciaga reveal its men’s Fall/Winter 2017 collection at Paris Fashion Week, and as always in a Gvasalia brothers production, there were plenty of talking points. Firstly, the collection’s heavy use of corporate branding, not only of Balenciaga but of its parent company, Kering, laid bare the multi-billion dollar industry that is concealed behind that magic and mystique of all these historic fashion houses.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Likewise, leather shopping bags and suiting pointed to fashion as a commercial venture. Styling that then paired these suits with garish running trainers and unbuttoned shirts was suggestive of Gvasalia’s own laissez-faire stylistic perspective, and seemed to stick two fingers up to the corporate stiffs.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Much more attention was paid, however, to a particular graphic that appeared throughout the collection, a re-appropriation of the logo from Bernie Sander’s campaign to be the Democratic nominee in the 2016 election. Appearing on navy blue bomber jackets, t-shirts, quilted scarfs and polo shirts, there seemed to be clear nods to typical campaign merchandise and staffer uniforms which, combined with styling that saw t-shirts yanked over hooded sweats and flannel shirts, conjured images of kids on the campaign trail.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

In the current political climate, there’s a multitude of ways to interpret Gvasalia’s use of imagery from Sanders’ campaign in his collection. Perhaps its appearance alongside corporate garb and suits is a reminder that even political campaigns are, in many ways, more about selling a product than creating a revolution… but this doesn’t quite fit. The most convincing argument I’ve heard is that this is a “two fingers” of sorts to America’s newly-inaugurated president, a declaration of progressive values on a global platform, but that falls flat for me also.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Earlier in the week someone tweeted about something they’d observed on Wavey Garms, a Facebook group where people buy and sell streetwear and vintage clothing. There’s been a small phenomenon of people buying and selling uniforms for Deliveroo, the “Uber of takeaway foods” that has been the subject of a lot of negative press recently around how little it pays its delivery riders and their controversial “self-employed” contracts that prevent the company from having to provide basic employment rights like a minimum wage, sick pay or holiday leave. The person described this as “the ultimate refusal to engage in the politics of fashion”.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Put more simply; to buy a piece of Deliveroo uniform ironically, as someone unlikely to ever work for Deliveroo or be in the position where such a job is one of your few options, is pretty shitty, and if you can’t understand why then you need to think a bit harder. The people who have to wear Deliveroo’s clothing every day have been fighting tooth and nail for basic employment rights, and then you’re wearing that same brand as if being an employee of that company is some kind of a joke. It’s comparable to the fuckwits who bought “Make America Great Again” caps as a hilarious ironic joke, somehow failing to understand that their witty joke was putting money into the coffers of the very same campaign they supposedly stood in opposition to. Newsflash: There’s no such thing as a left-wing or right-wing dollar, only dollars, and you gave yours to a hatemonger.


This phenomenon was arguably central to the DHL t-shirt that made Vetements the hottest brand of 2016. Sure, the t-shirt was produced in co-operation with DHL and was supposedly inspired by the delivery drivers that Gvasalia interacted with on a nearly-daily basis, but what does that actually mean? It’s unlikely the money that Vetements paid to DHL will trickle down to the employees, so instead we’re left with an anecdote about a fashion designer looking at the delivery driver collecting their packages and seeing a fashion statement, creating a product that none of the people who have to wear that logo every day would likely be able to afford. Maybe I’m being thick, and for that I apologise, but I don’t get what’s so clever about it.


Do you not then get a bit of a lump in your stomach at Gvasalia’s latest flip? Let’s interpret it as a tribute to a man who is a champion of civil rights, gender equality, progressive taxation, living wages and the causes of working and middle-class communities; someone who wanted to finally tackle the gender pay gap, poverty, social segregation and the plight of marginalised groups across the United States. How does creating product that will be sold to a customer base composed almost-exclusively of people whom aren’t affected by those issues (or are in such a position that they are able to disown themselves of it) create a tribute?

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Okay, so maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s a two fingers to Donald Trump? Right. In case you hadn’t noticed, Sanders’ run for the Democratic nomination ended almost six months ago after he was flattened, not by Trump, but by his own party. And last time I checked Trump won. I’m not sure Captain Combover is going to give that much of a fuck. If this is a two fingers to Donald Trump, it’s like getting back at the kid who beat you up by showing him a photo of all the kids you pushed out of the way to earn the privilege of connecting his fist with your face.

So is it a celebration of Sanders’ fundamental values? Perhaps, but look around you; the people who are affected by the issues Sanders championed don’t have time to sit there making toasts to Mr. Six Months Ago. Sanders was an important, prominent voice, but people are much more concerned about NOW.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

With the Republicans gearing up to tear apart the Affordable Care Act, transgender people are working overdrive to build up a stockpile of hormone treatments and necessarily medical supplies to survive in a nation that is becoming increasingly hostile to their existence, once again. Women are doing the same regarding birth control, with many now looking to secure long-term reversible contraception, not only because birth control is fucking expensive, but because if they get pregnant their access to abortions is likely to be severely affected. Many prominent black activists, academics and figures on Twitter are now being painfully clear to their black American audiences: get a gun, learn to shoot, learn first aid, learn to grow your own foods and so on. Things are serious right now. Nobody has time to celebrate six months ago when things could be torn apart by February.

Which is kind of why I’m sat where I am about this Balenciaga collection. Between all-white castings and a fascination with cheap, “working-class” iconography like Champion sportswear, cigarette lighter stilettos and so on, the Gvasalias actually seem pretty tone-deaf about the shit they play with. I don’t quite see the self-awareness and irreverence that would make me think this is worth celebrating. If there really is some deeper message in there then it’s too convoluted and complex to be relevant to the people that really need support right now. While everybody else is going out into the streets and making sure their values, philosophies and belief systems are heard loud and clear, I’m loathe to defend the possibility of a fashion brand doing the same thing with a smirk and a whisper. You don’t topple a tyrant by winking at the camera; you do it by calling them out in no uncertain terms and joining the fight.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2017

What’s most ironic is that for all the channelling of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and the implicit values that accompany it, the Gvasalia brothers seem much more aligned with a practice favoured by America’s right-wing; fake news. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it doesn’t even matter if we get caught out for it afterwards, just shove it out there and create a stir, because people will click through, they’ll talk about it, and we’ll dominate the conversation. Furthermore, like America’s Idiot-in-Chief, they seem to hope that by creating a new conversation piece, good or bad, that they might be able to distract onlookers from all the other times they’ve been completely tone-deaf.

To their credit, they have. But it’s empty of substance or anything of value. For all the talk of left-wing echo chambers, this Balenciaga collection really feels like it’s dancing on its own. Thanks for the irony, Demna, but I’ll be giving my money to the ACLU, Safety Pin Box and Planned Parenthood instead. I suggest others do the same.

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Supreme x Louis Vuitton — Whatever.

There’s a famous quote from Dennis Green, the late coach of the Arizona Cardinals, following a game the team played in 2006 against the Chicago Bears. In the first half of this game the Cardinals amassed a comfortable 20-point lead against their opponents, only for the Bears to completely turn the game around in the second half, eventually winning the game 24-23.

In the post-game press conference, Green approached the microphones, and responded to the first question with a shrug, and the following statement: ‘The Bears are who we thought they were.’

After repeating that sentence a few times, each time increasing in volume and rage, he adds, ‘and we let them off the hook!’ before punching the microphone and stepping down from the podium. The Cardinals had had a twenty-point lead and they knew exactly who their opponent was, but they got complacent and the result was not a surprise. It’s not the pain of being taken unawares. It’s the pain of seeing something coming a mile off and still letting it get you.

Just over two weeks ago I responded to a leaked image of a Supreme x Louis Vuitton sweater with a meandering rant comparing the New York skate brand to Adam Sandler. Though the sentiment of the piece was sincere, the spirit was partially tongue-in-cheek. After all, is it really possible to draw comparisons between Adam Sandler and Supreme? One is an aging relic of American contemporary culture with a diminishing stock of relevance and worthwhile things to say, and the other is Adam Sandl— thank you, you’ve been a beautiful audience, good night!


This week, at Paris Fashion Week, the collaboration between Supreme and Louis Vuitton was unveiled in full, comprising pretty much everything from keyrings and cardholders to skateboards, trunks and leather handbags. According to an unverified leaked price list, the collection will be priced between $200 for one of the co-branded bandanas to nearly $6200 for the trunk. Maybe you’re one of those people who thinks they’ll just get a key ring instead. Breathe in. $340. Breathe out.

How does the collection look? Ugly. This is the epitome of a collaboration in which the brands have reduced themselves to their signs and slammed the two together with reckless abandon. Think of it as the fashion collaboration cut-&-shut. Take Supreme’s iconic red and box logo, and the Louis Vuitton monogram, and slam them together violently like a child simulating the final showdown between his Action Man and Dr. X figurines. Nuance, subtlety, class, dignity, out the window. This is Supreme. And Louis Vuitton. And that’s pretty much all it is.


I really don’t care for any of the explanations Kim Jones has given for inspirations and themes, such as the denim pieces being inspired by the jacquard denim first introduced by Marc Jacobs during his time at the French fashion house. I don’t care for stories about his time working for the distribution company that first brought Supreme into the UK. I don’t care for his romantic rambling about Supreme being woven into the fabric of New York culture itself. Kim Jones has a history in and connection to streetwear that can’t be disputed, and if any high fashion designer was going to collaborate with Supreme, it should be him, without a doubt. But the collection is ugly. You guys, fucking hell, the collection is ugly.

The oversized box logos and visual assault of red is ugly. The slamming of Futura Heavy Oblique onto any leather surface that can ostensibly hold it is ugly. The orthopaedic nursing home shoes are ugly. The ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Err, nah, bye’ accessories are ugly. I do not like this ugly sham, I do not like it, Sam I Am.


Supreme has done high fashion collaborations before that have worked. Its collaborations with Comme des Garçons SHIRT were particularly impressive, as was the collection it released with Visvim almost a decade ago. The collaborative suits and jumpsuits that they released with Adam Kimmel around 2011-12 were severely underrated. But this is ugly.

The collaboration marks a lot of firsts. It marks the first time that Louis Vuitton has collaborated with a streetwear label. It also marks the first time that Supreme has exhibited its product in a runway presentation. But the collection is, first and foremost, ugly.


And yes, it’s pretty historic; a 163-year old Parisian fashion giant collaborating with a New York skateboarding company that’s scarcely over two decades old is not something that happens every day, and certainly it’s worth noting for that reason. That reason alone, however, because the collection is ugly.

I can see the gains in this collaboration for Louis Vuitton, I suppose. In an age where kids are styling Palace tracksuits with Gucci sneakers, and Vetements is making some sort of statement about streetwear as high-fashion, Louis Vuitton has drawn the ace card by collaborating with the brand that first bridged those gaps between high fashion and street fashion and is, in its own world, equally as iconic as Louis Vuitton itself. I don’t really get what this does for Supreme though, still. The prices are far beyond anything the brand has released before, the product is completely removed from the “gear for skaters to look good in” aesthetic that supposedly underpins the brand’s aesthetic, and the spectacle itself smacks of this air of high-fashion finally validating Supreme as a credible fashion label, or at the very least has this feel of a gatekeeper of fashion “opening the gates” for a label whose essential identity was always about not really caring what other people think and relishing in its own outsidership. That, and of course, the collection is ugly.


So the press and media gets all excited, and we hear about David Beckham coming to view the collection and blessing us with the following hot take courtesy of WWD: “I’m here to support Kim [Jones], and the collaboration with Supreme is just incredible […] I love everything about New York, there’s nothing I don’t like.” How utterly grotesque. Almost as grotesque as the collection itself, which is ugly.

Nothing good will come from this collection. There is no good design in it whatsoever. It embraces the gaudy, garish, “expensive and overly-branded for the sake of being expensive and overly-branded” aesthetic that attracts only people with more money than sense, people who need to be relevant at any cost, and desperate people hoping to fill the void in their lives by spending more than anybody else. If H&M’s high fashion collaborations attract hoardes of shoppers who will be able to own a piece of fashion design for a more reasonable price, expect this collaboration to attract a handful of people who masturbate to the idea of their own expenditure, climaxing at the thought that they are the proud owner of something that other people can’t have. Expect people who care not for Supreme, nor Louis Vuitton, but for the idea that this Supreme x Louis Vuitton bag, engorged in red and oozing with the bubbling pus of a printed ‘Sup’ graphic, is loud, in your face, and lets you know that on one day, in one store, they spent far more money than you on something that is very, very ugly.


I said that Supreme was like Adam Sandler; tired, complacent and over-indulgent in the notion that at this point in its career it can churn out any old dirge and know that revenue will exceed budget and a lucrative return will be generated for stakeholders, regardless of quality or content. I said that Supreme was like Adam Sandler; a household name wilfully placing all of its chips on the very notion of the value of its semiology alone, unwilling to make the slightest effort to create something of aesthetic value. I said that Supreme was like Adam Sandler; an over-indulged relic of American celebrity culture whose every public appearance is a twisted demonstration of how crass the concept of celebrity can be when left unchecked. I said that Supreme was like Adam Sandler; an ostensibly celebrated figure in their field who, despite still having the attentions of an audience that knows what they are capable of creating, is all too happy to just kick back and create something very, very ugly.

Supreme x Louis Vuitton is what we thought it would be.


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With ‘Godfather’, Wiley is Celebrating the Legacy of Grime

A few months back I wrote a piece lamenting the lack of in-depth knowledge of Grime in the wake of its achieving mainstream popularity. There was an eagerness amongst mainstream music journos to spread the word to their audiences, but nobody seemed to be doing anything more than basic research before doing so. Skepta. Shut Down. Boy Better Know. Done.

This was exemplified only a few weeks back by an Evening Standard review of Skepta’s performance at Alexandra Palace that complained about songs being “restarted” and audiences “going home unsatisfied.” The general consensus about this review is that the Standard sent along a music reviewer completely unequipped to review the artist on the stage, but a cynical part of me wonders if this wasn’t deliberate; if there’s anything the past six months have taught us, it’s that there’s plenty people out there willing to use outrage on social media to drum up some publicity. I’m sure the Standard were grateful for the click-throughs.

With mainstream coverage of Grime in 2016 largely confined to articles about Skepta — the release of Konnichiwa, its subsequently winning the Mercury Prize, his interactions with Drake and so on — I suppose it’s you could perhaps understand why a journo might walk into the scene and not fully comprehend the scope of the genre. And separating it from everything he achieved last year — which was nothing short of incredible — Konnichiwa might have been Apple Music’s album of the year, but it was far from the best grime album ever. It was a milestone of how far the grime scene has come since 2001, and symbolic of a sentiment that it was about time one of the only truly original genres to come out of the UK in the past two decades received some recognition, but it was far from representative of what grime is at its heart. This is not a criticism, just an acknowledgement.

When Wiley announced he would soon be releasing a new album, then, ears pricked up. When he said it would be titled ‘Godfather’ and might be his last ever release, things got much more exciting. Thing is, even when Wiley went through one of his many reinventions, he carried the scene with him. This is the guy from Pay As U Go Cartel, Roll Deep and BBK; the guy who brought countless young MCs into the 1Xtra studio for their first freestyle on Westwood; the guy who took UK garage and made his own genre, ‘Eski’. You don’t have to like him; but you have to respect him.


If there’s anyone in grime who’s equipped to tell the whole story, it’s Wiley. And with Godfather, it feels like that’s exactly what he’s trying to do. This is a grime album in 2017 that says, ‘If you’re paying attention to us now, that’s fine, but you’re going to do so on our terms.’ No watering down. No grime-trap crossover. No over-production. No US rapper co-signs. Godfather is an auditory history lesson.


First, the beats. With production from the likes of JME, Dot Rotten, Rude Kid, Teddy and Wiley himself, Godfather is rooted in classic grime production. Those trademark Eski sounds — Super Mario click-clocks, arf-arf synths and dustbin snares — are littered throughout the tracks along with the signature of every producer. Teddy’s booming kicks and guttural basslines; Preditah’s syncopated rhythms and dancing violins; Darq E Freaker’s quicktime intros and mad, bouncy drops that made Next Hype the track that breathed a new lease of life into a genre that most people had forgotten about. If you’ve grown up listening to Grime, then the way this album sounds just makes sense.

808s, moody horns, screeching violins, syncopated hi-hats, hand claps and choral melodies. Everything in this album stays true to the grime we grew up with; even U Were Always, Pt. 2 tips its hat to those sugar-sweet, emotional tracks that artists like Tinie Tempah were dropping on Channel U back in the day. And everything has been put together perfectly, using each element to its strengths. Ghetts sounds his best when he’s spitting over a racy beat with stabbing cello melodies, and that’s exactly what you get here.


Which leads to the features. With the appearance of Jamakabi, Flowdan and Breeze, Wiley takes us back to the days of Pay As U Go and the birth of grime. Then you’ve got Roll Deep, with Scratchy, Manga and J2K and Little Dee (via his OGz teammate P Money), leading to Boy Better Know — Frisco, Skepta AND JME — and finishing with Chip and Ice Kid, two younger artists that Wiley brought up in the scene. You’ve even got Devlin appearing on track 2, whose feud with Wiley created one of the grime scene’s most memorable diss tracks. I don’t know a single grime fan who can’t quote at least the first 4 bars of ‘Extra Extra’. Maybe the two artists have patched things up since then, but by putting Devlin on his album, it feels like Wiley demonstrating that even during the beefs, he was leaving his mark.

Thanks to a roster like this, the flows are unapologetically grime as well. Flowdan and Jamakabi’s deep, dark patois-laced vocals take us back to grime’s roots in Jamaican dancehall and jungle music. Ghetts and Devlin bring the rapid-fire, angry delivery that made The Movement one of the most respected teams in the scene. Newham Generals and President-T demonstrate the ways artists flipped and experimented with the rhythm and made it their own. P Money comes through with the metaphor-heavy lyrics and overhanging bars that made his 2008 SB.TV freestyle a pivotal moment in grime. And then, of course, BBK come through with that inimitable flow that has made them masters of their craft; original, authentic and straight-up entertaining.

Then there’s Wiley himself. As I’ve already said, Wiley has been a master of reinvention in the scene. Garage, eski, grime, funky house, pop, he’s done it all over the years and always managed to make it his own, and every flow gets showcased on Godfather; half-time, start-and-stop bars that leave the listener hanging for more; off-beat flows that leave you rolling your shoulders and bouncing up and down in your chair; skippy rhythms that seem to move faster than the beat itself. We all know Wiley’s voice when we hear him, but you never know how he’s going to flow, because he can literally do anything with a beat. He’s like the Radiohead of grime; even the people who say they hate him, when pushed, will admit there’s at least one track they like.

I saw a tweet by someone yesterday that summed up my feelings about this album perfectly; “If this is really Wiley’s last album, he’s going out on one hell of a high”. This is it. Looking at the album as a whole, Godfather is basically Wiley showcasing everything that has made him one of the most important British artists of the 21st century — the kind of artist people petition Tower Hamlets build a statue of. No doubt, this album is a celebration of everything Wiley has achieved, as a producer, as a performer, as a rapper, as a leader and as a champion of the scene. But it’s also more than that. It’s a celebration of the entire grime scene; the cliques, the crews, the beefs, the battles, the beats, the bars, the flows, the freestyles, the olders, the youngers, the outsiders, the icons. In what might be his last major release, he’s doing the same thing he’s done throughout his career; bringing the scene with him, and making sure you listen.

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Unboxing Videos are Pointless. Stop Doing Them.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it in the future and I’ll say it right now; the Internet is great. So great, that it basically moves faster than anybody knows what to do with it. Though the people creating the content are at the heart of the Internet, the platform’s potential is miles ahead of contemporary human thinking, and as we catch up, it simply moves faster.

On top of that is the problem that human thinking hasn’t really approached the problem of the Internet in a way that’s conducive toward progress or improving existence. With its potential to inform, engage and educate the people, the Internet could be achieving incredible things in broader society — even more incredible than what it has already — but because it’s been leveraged primarily as a platform of sales and commerce, all of our best and brightest minds are being put to work finding out how to sell shit to you better rather than unlocking its potential in different spheres. It’s a far more complex discussion than can be covered here, but the Freakonomics podcast has a great episode on the subject if you’re curious.

YouTube pretty much exemplifies that fundamental issue of tech moving faster than the human imagination. When the service launched ten years ago, very few people predicted the scope of its potential. From memory, for the first year or so it was dominated by home videos and old flash videos you used to find on eBaum’s World and Newgrounds. Music videos eventually found their way on there, not always legally, and then Vevo came in and tied the whole game up. Now it’s got everything from entertainment and memes to educational and instructional videos, the latter of which are undoubtedly brilliant.

Some of the best examples of YouTube being put to good use is instructional and educational videos. I genuinely can’t fathom how people coped as adults before YouTube came along and basically showed you how to do all that grown up shit that you figured would never be a problem for you. Likewise, product reviews for things like tech, music and film work really well on YouTube’s platform. I especially like being able to see how interfaces for tech products or gameplay before buying. These kinds of videos work, as demonstrated by how gaming is one of YouTube’s biggest categories.

For every great idea, however, there’s a dozen fucking terrible ones. As long as the concept of unboxing videos have existed, I have absolutely loathed them. It’s only in the past few days that I’ve been able to articulate exactly why this is. This is no exaggeration; I really fucking hate unboxing videos, and I hate the people that do them. If you have ever done an unboxing video and are reading this, understand me clearly; I hate you.



The reason that demonstrational videos work so well with things like technology — both hardware and software — is that the product is dynamic. That is to say, there’s some action of movement or action to the product that can be demonstrated visually, whether the interface of a new phone or the action of a power drill. It allows a potential customer to see the product in action and find out if it performs the way it should. If Apple boasts that its latest iPhone has the best user interface yet with 50% faster loading speeds, you can test that in a video, quantify it, hold it up to scrutiny and inform people.

Clothes and shoes are static. They are lumps of fabric, leather, cotton and other materials. Beyond basic features such as zippers, buttons, laces and other components with which we are all completely familiar, they do not move. There is nothing for you to demonstrate about the product. Getting a static item like a pair of shoes out of a box and waving them around in front of a camera achieves nothing more than still product shots on a webstore; as a matter of fact, it often achieves less because those photos were taken in a professional setting for the express purpose of selling the product in the best possible light, whereas you are just some twat in his bedroom with a GoPro.

So how do you add something to give the viewer a better insight into the product? I guess you could describe the features, like the materials and what it looks like and so on. Because there’s genuinely nothing better than watching someone pull a pair of Vans Eras out of a box and then confirm that, yes, the canvas feels like canvas, the sole feels like rubber, the lining feels like lining and the print looks like a print. Extra, extra, read all about it: Denim jacket feels like denim. I cannot begin to describe how much these vacuous commentaries make me want to bash my own brains in with a claw hammer.

Let me know when you achieve a first worth talking about.

Let me know when you achieve a first worth talking about.

And guess what: ecommerce already had this bit fully fucking covered as well. If there’s one thing you can be sure about when it comes to buying stuff online, it’s that you’re going to be given a pretty detailed description of what the product actually is; it’s kind of how buying stuff online works. So when you unbox that waterproof jacket and confirm that, yes, it feels waterproof and is red and has a label on the inside and comes in a plastic dustbag, you literally sound like some Alex Jones InfoWars moron searching for a conspiracy. There is no magic or trickery going on; you bought something online, you were told what it would be, it is what it is, and yes, you are a fuckwit.

Evidence that the format is fundamentally flawed: I picked a random computer game in my head and searched “Witcher 3 gameplay” on Youtube. Top video: 7.5 million views. I searched “Supreme unboxing” as well. Top video: 100k. Even accounting for the difference in audiences for gaming and streetwear, the evidence tells us one thing: Nobody fucking cares.

Which leads us to the real reasons these videos exist, and it’s got sweet fuck all to do with providing something of value to people, and everything to do with dick-measuring contests and a desperate attempt to validate stupid purchases and “me first” hype races. With video titles like “I SPENT $3000 ON SUPREME?!” and “Unboxing $2000 worth of supreme Heat!”, the whole process exposes itself as people spending obscene amounts of money and then trying to reverse engineer some sort of justification. ‘I’ll unbox it online,’ they tell themselves, ‘and that way I’m not throwing money into a pit, I’m providing a service!’ Return to my first point: You are providing no service whatsoever.

I’m a child of forum culture, “What Did You Wear Today?” and “Latest Pick-up” threads, so I get the basic premise of sharing information with likeminded people about stuff, but the idea of dressing this up as some sort of informative service is absolute horseshit. Sitting in front of a webcam screaming about how everything is sick and confirming that an item of clothing has stitching, labels and graphics is the epitome of vacuous tripe. I am reminded of a product description for an item I was looking at on Grailed the other day, where the seller had helpfully confirmed the quality of a shirt as, “when you feel it, you know”. A nice soundbite, but absolutely nothing of substance whatsoever.

One of the banes of the streetwear & fashion industry is its fawning over fuckwits who do absolutely nothing, and I’m sure that some of these unboxers have great aspirations towards eventually becoming one of those fuckwits, getting contacted by the brands to be seeded free stuff and be welcomed into the upper echelon that is “Influencer” status. Newsflash: If you openly boast about spending hundreds of dollars on a brand on a weekly basis, why the hell would they change that dynamic in any way? It’s like the morons who go to Supreme’s London store every week spending stupid amounts of money and even cleaning up litter around the store afterwards. Surprise, surprise, you’re still not in the Supreme Team and Jason Dill hasn’t asked to be your best mate; you’re a tool.

Brainless fuckwit in "Brick is brick" shocker.

Brainless fuckwit in “Brick is brick” shocker.

During the US election campaign a prominent Twitter user had a “one size fits all” response for people who attempted to derail her discussions into big election arguments: Post Your Vote & Go. Don’t drag other people into your bullshit, don’t turn your personal view into a vendetta, don’t force people to engage with discussions against their wishes. To channel that same spirit, if you’re spending money on something because you like it, then do it. Go ahead. If you’re doing it in order to have new “content” for your shitty YouTube channel in the hopes that it will somehow make you relevant, interesting or some sort of respected pundit in the fashion world, stop. You are achieving nothing. Buy your shit and go.

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Mastermind Japan or: How I Learned to Stop Caring and Soil the Legacy


There have always been certain brands which carry a certain air of superiority. Often it’s the ones that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience in person. A bit like that story about John Peel never meeting the bands he loved out of fear it would spoil the magic image he’d created of them, sometimes your favourite label is one you’ve only ever encountered on the pages of a magazine or through a screen.

The other thing that creates this effect, obviously, is price. It’s basically what luxury brands trade on; we’re the most expensive and hardest to acquire, ergo we are the best. It’s this which informs Chanel’s policy of never holding sales or discounting its products in duty-free, for example; our product is this price for a reason, and if you want it, you will pay that much. Likewise with Hiroki Nakamura’s visvim. Certainly the brand’s mythology of pursuing the apex of quality and traditional production is part of the reason Nakamura’s label is so coveted in both the streetwear and menswear worlds, but if you don’t think its hype also comes down to the fact that it’s straight-up fucking expensive, then I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to sit down, Nigel, because you’re smoking rocks.

The list goes on; Hermes Birkin bags and the notorious waiting list just to buy one; Goyard, whose product can only bought in person at one of their handful of global stores; Goro’s silver jewellery, each piece of which was hand-crafted by Goro Takahashi and would only be sold if a particular piece matched the customer’s personality. Though it probably can’t be correlated on a graph, there’s something to be said for the effect that price, mystique and availability (or lack thereof) have on consumer behaviour, and when you start your consumer life in the hyped up world of limited editions and instant sell-outs that is streetwear, getting hold of one of these coveted pieces can be better than any drug.


And it’s probably this which made Masaaki Honma’s luxury label Mastermind Japan one of the most respected labels in both the streetwear and high fashion spheres. Using little more than the colour black and a skull logo, between 1999 and 2013 Honma created a label synonymous with opulence, class and unparalleled streetwear cool. At the heart of the brand’s edge was a water-tight operation that never leaked any information, absolute silence that let the clothes speak for themselves and intricate approaches to even the simplest garments resulting in truly breathtaking pieces. Oh yeah, and it was all expensive as shit, as well. Like, really fucking expensive.

That expense can probably be broken down into three segments. Firstly, Honma had a penchant for cashmere, silk, luxury leathers and things like Swarovski crystal details. Supposedly this started out in the early years when the brand was struggling so he just went all-in thinking it would be his last collection, and then stores started buying. Then there were technical aspects of the manufacture that required skilled construction. For example, t-shirts with Swarovski details would often utilise several layers of fabric to prevent them from scratching against the wearer’s skin and or becoming detached, if I’m reliably informed. This sort of attention to detail was consistent across all Mastermind product, and complex work requires skilled labour, pushing prices up. Then there’s the third reason, which is basically, “We’re expensive, fuck you.” Literally. Mastermind was the expensive streetwear brand and did it fantastically. If you saw somebody wearing Mastermind they were the streetwear equivalent of Harry Enfield’s ‘considerably richer than you’ character. Glorious, glorious bastards.


This approach acquired the brand a considerable number of celebrity and industry endorsements as well. An obscenely expensive brand producing exclusively black clothing with some healthy servings of ostentation and completely stone-faced demeanour? Of course Karl Lagerfeld fucking loved it. With friends like that, you don’t really need to go seeking approval of people that are lucky if they can afford to buy one of your t-shirts.

Part of what I liked about Mastermind was the minimalism of it all; that Honma created such a signature aesthetic with little more than a skull logo and the colour black. I wouldn’t necessarily have worn every single piece, but a bit like when you see somebody really pulling off a Rick Owens outfit, there’s something about a 100% Mastermind ensemble that looks incredible.

Then again, I can admit that what also made Mastermind so intriguing to me probably was the extravagance. I’ve got a tendency to fall for Japanese brands above my price bracket — Visvim, White Mountaineering and Junya Watanabe to name just three — but the thing with those brands is that I could head into central London and find them in Dover Street Market, and pick them up, and feel them, and get some sort of understanding of what the product was. It breaks that first rule of mystery. I’m sure if I’d travelled to Tokyo during the brand’s operations this would have been torn down in seconds, but I didn’t, and I never got to see Mastermind product up close.

Damien Hirst, there, looking expensive as shit

Damien Hirst, there, looking expensive as shit

When Honma announced the brand’s closure in 2013, it was the icing on the cake to the whole story. Think of a fashion label that did nothing except make the most prohibitively-expensive, mysterious clothing with seemingly no regard for external forces whatsoever just shutting shop and moving on. Retiring undefeated is a rarity in fashion. Even the historic fashion houses fall in and out of favour with the trends. Mastermind had a 12-year run of success, declared they had achieved everything they wanted to do and literally disappeared. No encore, no curtain call, gone.

So why, why, why, why, why, why, over the past eighteen months or so, has the brand returned as an absolute bastardization of everything they originally seemed to represent?

It started out benign enough, the odd shoe collaboration here and there. The question didn’t go unasked even back then — ‘I thought Mastermind closed down?’ — but the releases had the air of a one-off, so nobody kicked up too much of a fuss. Then suddenly apparel collections started showing up on webstores, but not the classic Mastermind stuff. Just black tees and hoodies with big fucking skulls on it. And yeh, you might even be sitting there now going, ‘But that’s all Mastermind was anyway.’ But it really wasn’t.



Onwards it went, collab after collab, hoodies and t-shirts and jackets and sneakers, luggage and watches and fluorescent beakers (allow me, I’m feeling Seussy). And yet nobody seems to be asking the question.

So can somebody please just confirm the fact that Mastermind post-2013 is just a massive, cynical licensing deal already? Normally I’d be inclined to give props to Honma for transitioning from legitimate fashion label to a Walt Disney “can we put Mickey Mouse ears on this?” operation without any word getting out, but it’s so transparent and grotesque that it’s insulting.



Mastermind did its share of collabs back in the day, but there was some semblance of rhyme and reason; which footwear brand is Mastermind going to collaborate with? The most expensive one, duh, boom, visvim x Mastermind, that’ll be $1200 please, fuck you. Fantastic. Even collaborations with less “upper-echelon” brands like Timberland produced something in keeping with a broader aesthetic created by Mastermind’s collections.

Reassuringly expensive.

Reassuringly expensive.

But none of that exists anymore. There is no elaborate, larger-than-life hypergothic streetwear-meets-high-fashion monolith; just crap hoodies and t-shirts and brain haemorrhage-inducing collaborations, one after the other. It’s tasteless in all senses of the word.


This is a brand that created custom Goyard products, embroidering their skull & bones logo onto iconic pieces using even more Goyard fabric. This is the obnoxious, humiliating extravagance that Mastermind represented, whether I was invited to partake in that or not. The current form that Mastermind has taken is basically another Fragment Design or Uniform Experiment, placing their emblem onto the product of other brands. The thing is, there’s something about the way Fragment Design does it which works, and in a way that you’d never want it to for Mastermind. Fragment Design is a celebration of classic design. Mastermind Japan should only ever be a celebration of one thing; Mastermind Japan.

Mastermind JAPAN was a brand of mystique, intrigue and impenetrable cool. Mastermind 2.0 is a hot dumpster fire. The product will sell out, the kids will line up, the hype for a simple skull & crossbones will endure, but it will be nothing more than a hollow imitation of the original thing. Frankly, it’s tragic.

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In 2017, Supreme is the Adam Sandler of Streetwear

I think about Adam Sandler a lot. Not necessarily out of choice. A few years back I stumbled across a podcast by two Kiwi comedians, Tim Batt & Guy Montgomery, called ‘The Worst Idea of All Time’, in which they watched and reviewed Adam Sandler’s ‘Grown Ups 2’ once a week for a year. The podcast brought some good into my world — mainly the opportunity to listen to two bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Kiwis slowly descending into Happy Madison-induced psychosis — but also some bad. As a result of indulging so whole-heartedly into this podcast, listening through the series multiple times, my mind is awash with quotes from Grown Ups 2, conspiracy theories about Happy Madison’s accounting practices, and general thoughts about Adam Sandler.


So it went when, earlier this week, my attention was drawn to what was allegedly a leaked image of a piece of clothing from an upcoming collaboration between New York skate brand Supreme and historic French fashion house Louis Vuitton. What appeared to be a t-shirt embossed with Louis Vuitton’s monogram in velour, interspersed with massive Supreme box logos at various angles. A few years ago you probably would have struggled to pinpoint how a collaboration like this would turn out; certainly, there’s elements of this suggested joint venture that take you by surprise. But really, this is just enough to stimulate your eyes for a few seconds, and then you realise that it’s everything you thought it would be, and nothing more.

And so it was, sitting at my desk today, that I thought of Adam Sandler.


Like Supreme, Adam Sandler is an interesting character. A darling of Saturday Night Live in the 1990s, he came up alongside some of the comedy greats of that era, like David Spade, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, Mike Myers and Chris Rock. And then even if you haven’t actually watched any of his 90s films like Billy Madison or The Waterboy, you’ve surely heard from somebody about how great they were, right? How many incredible quotes are littered in every scene?

And if you have watched those films — if you, like so many people, grew up with Sandler — it’s impossible not to feel some sort of endearing sentiment when you think of him. Certainly, I haven’t watched a Sandler film (Grown Ups 2 excluded) since Mr. Deeds, and that was when I was maybe 11 years old, so regardless of the actual calibre of his filmmaking, my memory of Adam Sandler is unbreakably connected to 11-year old Gregk’s childish enjoyment of his films. Eric is pregnant! Mr. Penguin!


And so it is, sitting here at my desk, that I think of Supreme.

Because, as I’ve said countless times before, I came into style and fashion through Supreme, with their unique way of presenting style; the idea that you can still just be a comfortable, normal guy but do it with a little bit more swagger than other people. And when I think back to some of those initial releases that caught my eye, they still seem great, even if I wouldn’t wear them today. And I know the history of the brand, and how it has permeated every corner of culture from punk and hip-hop, to film, to art, to literature, to technology and beyond. Supreme is littered with pop culture ephemera that represents the world I love, and I can’t help but feel some sort of fondness toward it. But then, as I’ve just said, I probably wouldn’t wear some of those favourites today.


And so it is, sitting here at my desk, that I think of Adam Sandler.

I know, like everybody else, that Adam Sandler’s reputation, if not his box office take, has gone a bit awry in recent years. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel in 2015, Sandler openly admitted he uses his films as an excuse to have a paid holiday, citing 50 First Dates as an example — originally set in Alaska, Sandler asked, “Why not Hawaii?” and got his wish. And sure, I’d be inclined to accept that maybe this was just Sandler telling a joke, but he hasn’t done that properly in fifteen years, so instead I’ll commend him for his honesty.

And Jesus Christ, if only it stopped at sheer conjecture and speculation, but during the epic Sony email hack/leak of 2014 there were countless emails between executives and producers discussing how Sandler is basically an asshole who provides minimal returns to the studio for the amount of money thrown at him, as well as the phenomenal admission by Sony Pictures Entertainment president Doug Belgrad that ‘you couldn’t fix what was really bothering him that he isn’t the guy he once was and nobody can make that better for him.’

I walk this lonely road, the only road that I have ever known. Don't know where it goes, but it's only me and I walk alone.

I walk this lonely road, the only road that I have ever known. Don’t know where it goes, but it’s only me and I walk alone.

In the podcast, something that Tim Batt regularly uses to describe Adam Sandler and the rest of the cast, extras, set dressers, editors and indeed director of Grown Ups 2 is the phrase, ‘mailing it in’; the idea that these guys are literally not even bothering to show up on set anymore, and basically doing the minimal amount of work required to get the job done, regardless of whether they are talented or capable enough to actually do better.

You only have to look at the cast of Grown Ups 2 (Sandler, Spade, Rock and Kevin James alongside the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Peter Dante, Jon Lovitz, Nick Swardson, Steve Buscemi and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, supported by an neverending list of even more pointless cameos) to know that this is basically an elaborate scheme, constructed by Sandler, to get as many of his mates paid for doing as little work as possible. Look through the extended cast on IMDB and you will find countless members of Sandler’s own family in the extras, including his wife and nephew. I literally would not be surprised to find out that the catering was provided by a shell company owned by Sandler or one of his clan. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son Patrick is in there, for God’s sake, and the kid cannot fucking act to save his life.


Grown Ups 2 was filmed on a budget of 80 million dollars, and almost the entire film takes place in a Kmart. The closest thing you get to high-budget filmmaking is a CGI deer that kicks off the movie by pissing on a sleeping Adam Sandler’s face. I have no idea where that $80 million went, but you literally cannot see it on the screen.

And yet, aren’t all of Adam Sandler’s films simultaneously something new, and exactly what you’d expect? You don’t know what you’re going to see on the screen in detail, but you know it’s going to cost a lot, grab everybody’s attention for even a fleeting moment, and eventually turn into a massive disappointment — even more so if you actually went out and spent money going to see it.

And so it is, sitting here at my desk, that I think of Supreme.

Because increasingly I find myself faced with this strange cognitive dissonance, looking at each subsequent collaboration, each release, each announcement, and thinking how tired and predictable it seems to have become. Could I have predicted a collaboration with Supreme in 2017? No, but I couldn’t have predicted Grown Ups 2 either. But if you’d asked me what it would be like, I’d have told you that it would be shit. That velour Louis Vuitton sweater, emblazoned with what must be half a dozen unnecessary box logos, is exactly what Supreme is in 2017; a bloated, tired, overpaid, under-creative industry giant who’s practically begging their audience to just tell them to pack the fuck up and call it a day.

And so it is, sitting here at my desk, that I think of Adam Sandler.

Adam Sandler doesn’t make comedy films in 2017 because he’s a comedian. Adam Sandler makes comedy films in 2017 because he’s Adam Sandler, a guy that makes comedy blockbusters, because he’s Adam Sandler… a guy that makes comedy blockbusters. In his defence, a long time has passed from the days of him having to prove himself on SNL. Why should he even care if people think he’s funny or not? He’s already done more than enough to prove that. That’s why he’s not Adam Sandler the comedian anymore. He’s Adam Sandler, the guy that makes comedy blockbusters. But then one has to wonder why this complacency has taken such a firm grip of Adam Sandler.

This single, photoshopped image contains more plot and is more fun than the entirety of Grown Ups 2

This single, photoshopped image contains more plot and is more fun than the entirety of Grown Ups 2. Also, at no point in Grown Ups 2 do the characters drive go karts.

I guess it just reaches a point where, by virtue of being a guy that makes comedy blockbusters, you are confronted with the idea that it really doesn’t matter what you put up on the screen, you’re virtually guaranteed to smash the budget and make a profit. This is why Adam Sandler gets away with taking $80 million to make a film in a Kmart where virtually nothing happens; because that film then rakes in $240 million. Even if $79 million dollars of the studio’s money is going into some cavernous pit that eventually ends up in Sandler’s back pocket, that’s still $160 million profit in the end. So why should they care? If you want to know why so many talented comedians with great ideas get shafted by the industry while Adam Sandler signs a four-film deal with Netflix and tells the press that he decided to do it when he realised that Netflix rhymes with “wet chicks”, it’s because Adam Sandler makes way more money.

And so it is, sitting here at my desk, that I think of Supreme.

Because the Internet has been the greatest thing that ever happened to Supreme. It’s propelled their brand to every corner of the globe and turned their clandestine exclusivity into a global commodity. Now every kid in every town can be a part of that exclusive club. And they will throw money at it, no matter what. And Supreme has realised that, twenty years in, subtlety is a boring game.

Why take the time weaving nuance and class into your pieces when you can knock together a CAD by 11:30, call it lunch and go take some photos of Jason Dill smoking cigarettes in a squat flat and still make the same amount of money? Supreme is a brand that now simply is Supreme. It’s not a streetwear brand. It’s not the bridge between high and low fashion. It’s not the originator of downtown cool. It’s Supreme. And Supreme makes clothing that people will pay silly money for regardless of what it is or how it’s made. Because it’s Supreme, and Supreme make clothing that people will pay silly money for. And the online mags and blogs and Instagram influencers will post about it, and everyone will love or hate it, and the people who hate it will be confused, and the people who love it will throw all their money with reckless abandon and bathe in the lake of warm piss that is owning a piece of Supreme clothing that people were talking about for about one week.

And Supreme will take that money, and call all of its mates up and go hang out at a lake in Stanford, Connecticut whilst Shaquille O’Neal, dressed as a police officer, points a loaded gun at four legends of 90s comedy and tells them to ‘Put your hands in the air, and wave ‘em like you just don’t care’. And then Colin Quinn will climb up and slap his hands against an ice cream machine in such a way that it looks like he’s shitting everywhere. And David Spade will roll down a hill in a giant tire and Shaq will stop it with his groin. And all the women will be wearing push-up bras. But then I realise that, once upon a time, I too enjoyed throwing my money at things like that, and maybe this is just growing up. Maybe Supreme hasn’t changed at all; maybe I have.

And so it is, sitting here at my desk, that I think of Adam Sandler.


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2016 sucked and I’m going to tell you why

Another year gone by, and if there was ever a time to feel cynical about the state of things, December 2016 is certainly it. To parrot the same tired phrase as everybody else, this has been a really shit one.

And of course there’s no doubt in my mind that you were screaming out for me to come through with some reflections, considerations and predictions so you can add “tedium” to that long list of things that 2016 rubbed in your face this year.


First up, this has been a year of literally celebrating mediocrity. If there was ever an indicator of the tragedy that is journalism in 2016 — particularly online — it’s the end of year “Best of” lists that trumpet absolute garbage because they either don’t know any better or they’re just terrified of looking irrelevant. Prime example: Drake – Views. Nobody thought this was a great album. Everybody thought it was his weakest work yet. Tired, repetitive, clichéd, meandering and ultimately going nowhere. And yet there it is on countless publications’ end of year listicles for no reason other than sheer terror that it might affect their credibility to try looking like they actually have an opinion instead of firing off the same dozen names plus whoever the flavour of the month is.


The same is true of The Life of Pablo, though in softer terms. Of course there are bangers on there, and it’s decent enough by Kanye West’s standards, but ultimately it was a mess; badly-produced, poorly-assembled, overly-long and a case study in amateurish practice masquerading as artistry. When Kanye released Yeezus it was a deliberate attempt to disrupt, offend and smash the music industry; an album full of abrasive sounds, schizophrenic structures and provocative lyrics. There was method to the madness. The same is not true of TLOP. Shitty lyrics and fabricated celebrity feuds, crap soundcloud throwaway tracks about Yeezy sneakers, artist features that either squander potential or end up being utterly superfluous, confusing co-opting of another artist’s song with just enough alterations to make it something new? Like a lot of our generation I have a lot of respect for Kanye West and the things he’s done throughout his career, but this album, objectively, was sheer mediocrity; the by-product of too long spent in the Kardashian media-manipulation machine and the yes-men echo chamber. He’s not the messiah. He’s a very naughty boy. Round that off with hanging out with Donald Trump and standing by his side, looking like a cross between the MAD magazine mascot and a prize pig, and he can take a fucking seat. Get help, get well, love and respect, but you’re in the bin for now.

And so the same phenomenon of terrified pundits praising average efforts and being too scared to risk passing up the opportunity to get click-throughs and ad-revenue has soaked thoroughly into fashion and streetwear also. To be clear; fashion mags have always chased these things, but it certainly seems like we’ve reached a point where the objective is solely that, with no actual focus on providing a particular, crafted opinion or tone-of-voice anymore. “Controversial” think-pieces revolve around simplistic, barely-edgy discussions that skate around the subject without alienating potential advertising and sponsored content clients, and objectively shit product is heralded and hammered into your skull on a daily basis because god forbid you might think one of these websites hasn’t heard of Anti-Social Social Club or VLONE.


I’m hoping that 2017 might be the year when streetwear finally swallows its own tail; when these high-fashion labels trying to convince you they’re gritty and street-level are forced to confront the fact that the people whose essences they co-opt can’t afford their product; and these shitty t-shirt brands charging $50 for a screen-printed Gildan tee are finally told to get in the fucking sea and stop trying to convince themselves and others that they’re doing something revolutionary. Low-end shysters chase the high-end dollar, and alienated high-end brands with no ideas chase the cultural kudos of the low-end. It’s utterly exhausting. There’s nothing clever about charging young kids through the nose for a screen-printed hoodie. You’re not a genius. You’re not a marketing mogul. You’re not a social media influencer extraordinaire. You’re a snake-oil salesman, and 80 years ago people would’ve covered you in tar and feathers and run you out of town. Public service announcement to anybody reading this: Stop following charlatans on Instagram because you’re scared you won’t know what to say at the next contrived industry event. People who talk about those guys only do so because they themselves are eye-wateringly boring.

That same over-saturation and housing bubble effect can’t come sooner for collaborations, either. Over the past four years, big brands and indies alike have completed the final cycle of bastardising the notion of collaborative endeavour. Fewer and fewer collaborations carry that allure of the idea of likeminded spirits coming together to build on each other’s talents; more and more now leave a lingering, putrid stench of desperate attempts to make a particular silhouette or trademark relevant again, or to bolster a new release with the validation of aforementioned t-shirt brand charlatans whacking their logo on the heel to reassure you that the hype isn’t dead just yet (OBJECTION: it is).

It’s been a great year for me musically. I was lucky enough to see some of my favourite artists multiple times. Stars of the Lid, ambient/drone duo signed to the Texas-based Kranky Records, went on an extensive European tour and I was fortunate enough to catch them at the Barbican Centre and a red brick neo-gothic church in Brighton. It was the closest I’ve had to a religious experience in a church and sounded absolutely phenomenal. I’ve sung their praises multiple times on this site but seriously, if you’re partial to downtempo and minimalist music then you really should be listening to Stars of the Lid already.


At the Barbican show, the band was supported by Claire M. Singer, a contemporary classical musician who performed ‘The Molendinar’, a 25-minute piece performed on a mechanical drawstop organ — not an electric one basically. It’s a powerful study into how precise control of wind through pipes can affect dynamics, tone, pitch and so on, and it’s one of the best pieces of music I’ve heard all year. Try playing it really loud in your apartment so your neighbours think a church has moved into the flat above.


Fans of more animated music should divert their attention to Mssingno, who recently released a 24-minute mixtape entitled ‘M1 – Personal Trainer’. Loaded with samples from the likes of Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Imogen Heap and the like, it’s safe to assume the featured tracks have been released in this manner as getting legal clearance for a proper release would be an absolute fucking nightmare and would probably never happen. I especially want to draw your attention to the Ariana Grande song around 11 minutes in which makes me want to dance around in a pink faux-fur mini skirt spraying prosecco and glitter all around the room. No homo? So homo. Don’t @ me.

It’s been 1200 words and I can feel this piece heading down a totally different road for a different day, so I’ll leave it there. Should any of the things I’ve hinted at in this piece come true, then I want you to think of them as predictions and carry me through the street, praising me as a modern-day Nostradamus. If they don’t, then it’s just stuff I wish would happen and doesn’t really matter anyway. Duplicity. It’s man’s greatest gift to himself.

That’s it. 2016’s over. Shop’s closed. Fuck off.

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Frieze 2016 Highlights for High Snobiety

I wrote a piece for High Snobiety talking about some of my personal highlights from Frieze Art Fair 2016, and sizing up the general mood of the fair this year.

Read the whole piece now over at High Snobiety.


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George Carlin’s First Posthumous Release & the Dark Side of Being Funny


In an episode of his Comedy Vehicle TV series, Stewart Lee pokes fun at preconceived notions of the stand-up comedy as a job that involves courage, describing stand-up comedians as braver in many ways than a fireman or somebody fighting in a war. At the heart of the joke, in my interpretation, Lee was lampooning the way many comedians are deified by their audience for, essentially, doing their job — one that they all went in to by choice. We often celebrate stand-up comedians as individuals who hold a mirror to the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and even society itself, but we forget that most of these people, however staunch they are in their views, went into comedy primarily because they just wanted to make us laugh.

It isn’t that Lee sees what he and others do as insignificant. On the contrary, throughout his career he has argued, both through his jokes and his commentary, that comedy is as much an art form as theatre, opera, music and cinema. In his book, How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Life and Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedian, he transcribes and meticulously annotates the scripts to each of his stand-up shows, deconstructing every line and drawn-out laugh, demonstrating that even the simplest gag goes through weeks, even months of testing and proofing before it’s uttered for global broadcast at a recorded theatre show.

I mention Lee at the opening of this article because he was the comedian that opened my mind to the idea that comedians are often doing a lot more than just making you laugh. From simple comedic tricks like the rule of 3 — all funny lists should come in threes, with each item funnier than the last — to the phenomenon that the funniest words start with a ‘k’ sound, there’s a lot going on in comedy behind the jokes.


One of the biggest talking points on comedy podcasts such as Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast and Stuart Goldsmith’s The Comedian’s Comedian podcast is where you draw the line between comedy and real life. I’ve never been a fan of Jimmy Carr’s style, but when he explained quite simply that he ‘just write[s] jokes’, thinking up between 180 and 300 jokes per show, I was able to reconcile myself with him. Love him or hate him, Jimmy Carr writes gags, and he writes gags very well.

Likewise, when Goldsmith confronts David Cross about his regular breaching of topics such as rape, race and learning difficulties, his blunt response is surprisingly thought-provoking: ‘I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t care. I don’t care to engage in debates about what has more leeway in quantitative offensive qualities.’ Cross doesn’t go on stage to act as a moral arbiter for society — if we’re ever going to find the answer to these big questions, it’s unlikely to be at a David Cross set in New Cross. When asked to recount a particular joke about date rape, he refuses to do so on the basis that ‘there’s a lot of performance involved’. Like Lee, Cross believes that there’s a line between the writer and the performer, even when they’re the same person.

Thanks to platforms like these that grant us access to the inner-circles of stand-up, we now have a better understanding of its nuances, and this feels like quite a new development. After all, some of the greatest comedians of the 90s and early 2000s are revered because it feels like there’s no line between the person and the persona. Such was the case with George Carlin.

Though his earlier career was often more focused on topics like language and how it informs societal norms, as he got older Carlin was surely best known for the “crotchety old man” persona that he took ownership of, walking out on stage for 60 minutes and tearing anything and everything to shreds. Returning to that preconceived notion of the comedian as the voice of rebellion, his blend of deeply considered social issues and caustic destruction of those he viewed as on the “wrong side” of the argument created some of the most memorable one-liners ever. This was the man who could fire off beautiful one-liners like, ‘Why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn’t want to fuck it the first place?’ then slice through the noise minutes later saying, ‘When some of these cardinals and bishops have experienced their first pregnancies and labour pains and raised a couple of children on minimum wage, then I’ll be glad to hear what they have to say about abortion.’ He exposed the realities and hypocrisies of modern society with seemingly zero regard for whether the audience was ready to hear it or not. And he did it by making you laugh.


All of which makes I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die, Carlin’s first posthumous release, so interesting. The material itself isn’t anything out of the ordinary in the context of Carlin. He opens with a rant about ‘rats and squealers’, segues into some light scatological material about farts and enemas, and complains about how there are ‘too many songs’ now before reaching the heart of the show’s title; a celebration of mass tragedies — ‘To me, you can never have too many dead people’. Morbid? Yes. Carlin? Naturally.

But the recordings for this release come from two performances at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on September 9th and 10th 2001. Less than 12 hours after he performed this material live, Carlin’s character got his wish, for want of a better phrase. The show was immediately shelved, and the acceptable segments salvaged and restructured for what would later become Complaints & Grievances.

Prior to the events of 9/11 this was typical Carlin, but looking back fifteen years later, this is some of his darkest material. Not only does he mention plane crashes, he celebrates his favourite words to hear on television — ‘We interrupt this programme…’ — and at one point even mentions Osama Bin Laden by name. This isn’t just unfortunate timing. It’s uncanny.

Was it right for Carlin to stop performing this material? The answer feels without question. Comedians are used to hearing the words “too soon” all the time, but this is material that actually predates the event that negates its humour. On September 10th, Carlin had all the time in the world to tell these jokes. After September 11th, the rest of the world needed time. But to think of a man whose entire career was predicated upon forcing the world to confront uncomfortable truths about humanity coming face-to-face with the real-life manifestation of one of his jokes is unquestionably fascinating.

Even those comedians who build their on-stage persona upon the notion of not giving a fuck, on some level, do. Bill Hicks, a man who spent his career denigrating religion and nanny-state crybabies who complained about smokers and drugs, developed some semblance of spirituality and reflection when he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 31, according to anecdotes at least.


A decade and a half later, clearly the publishers feel that enough time has passed for us to hear this material and assess it on our own terms. As with all comedians, behind the George Carlin we saw on stage was a man who thought deeply about what “funny” is. He understood that comedy was something that those in society without power could use to hold the privileged and powerful to account. Of course, whenever a comedian plays with shock, offence and controversy in their act, they catalyse a discussion about where we draw “the line”, but Carlin was no Frankie Boyle, slamming grotesque imagery and pop-culture references together in search for the next tabloid scandal. Carlin tore everything down and then forced you to look at the rubble and ask yourself what’s really important.

In my opinion, the most interesting track on I Kinda Like It… is the first track on the album; a homemade recording by Carlin from 1957 in which he pours vitriol on the police and firemen as crooks, conmen, thieves and liars. ‘Don’t watch the firemen carrying the hose and the axe — those guys obviously have something to do. Keep your eye on the fireman who doesn’t seem to have anything to do, because odds are after that guy has been in your parlour for twenty minutes, he’s got half of the small articles of your parlour in his pocket.’ Again, in the context of 9/11 and the sacrifices the police and firemen of New York made on that day, this material from nearly 60 years ago is equally as sinister as Carlin’s 2001 material. But what it does, positioned at the album’s opening, is remind us that even the most timeless comedy is a moment in time that can be informed by experiences that precede it, but cannot dictate what will happen in the years that follow. Comedians can hold a mirror up to society. They can negotiate how best to perform their material to show us what society should be. But changing the world isn’t the job of one person on stage. That’s the audience’s part.

George Carlin — I Kinda Like It When A Lotta People Die is available to purchase now.

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CYPRESS Fall/Winter 2016

Just a quick one today to point your attention toward Canada’s Haven, who have just released the latest lookbook for their in-house brand Cypress, now in its third season.


If you’re already familiar with Haven then you know these guys are purveyors of a very particular aesthetic situated somewhere between functionalist Canadian cold-weather apparel and contemporary Japanese streetwear. This is the store where Arc’teryx Veilance, Burton, Reigning Champ and wings+horns sit right alongside Ganryu, Takahiromiyashita The Soloist and Visvim.


There are few stores out there right now that really feel like they’re curating a particular style for a particular customer as opposed to just padding themselves out with whoever the latest trend is. But every time you see a new brand join Haven’s roster, or a slight change in their styling, it feels like an evolution of their customer, rather than pandering to an entirely different demographic.


Hence why it’s so interesting to see them now branching out into making their own clothing, and doing a really solid job of it also. Thanks to Haven’s wealth of connections both in Canada and overseas, Cypress is a pure expression of the philosophy instilled in their brands; high quality, functional, stylish and timeless. Clear influences from different brands can be seen, such as WTaps, Undercover and The Soloist, but coming from guys with such an authoritative position, you’re reassured that this isn’t imitation as much as it’s simply them offering their take on something they’ve lived and breathed for years already.


Highlights for me include the satin cotton military jackets and zip-up sweats, whilst the various pant offerings also look really solid, finding a comfortable middle ground between the hyper-tapered skinny-fit silhouettes that are dominating a lot of North-American fashion right now, and the straight-leg carbon copy cargo pants you get from Japanese brands that are often “too authentic”. Not every day paint-balling outfit.


There’s no need to go on about this one too long. If you’re looking for some good quality wardrobe staples at an admittedly slightly higher price, then look no further. Think of how satisfying it will be next time you bump into all your mates in line at Dover Street Market for whatever dogshit brand is hot that week, and you say “Hey, nice shirt, who’s it by?” and they say “Sergio Georgini”, and you say, “Oh, cool.” And then they say, “What about your military jacket, that’s really clean!” And you say, “Yeah, right? It’s Cypress.” And they say, “Who?” And you say, “Cypress.” Just say it once now. Doesn’t that feel nice on your tongue? Safe.

CYPRESS Fall/Winter 2016 is available now.


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