Posts Tagged ‘optimism’

John Renaud: The Future of Fashion

Sunday, March 14th, 2010


SZ: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

JR: I was always into artistic ventures, whether it was coloring my parents’ coffee table or learning to paint with my great grandmother. She was this crazy rebel lady. Her husband died very young, so she went off to Mexico on sabbatical to go paint with influential artists there. I remember my mother talking about her being the only one who could sew in our family, so I would pull out the old sewing machine from a closet and make a mess of thread from time to time. When I was a freshman in high school I became bored with the regular assignments so I started making costumes for plays and doing large scale plaster sculptures, a lot of which were clothing or draped fabric that stood up on its own. I had this awesome art teacher who kind of encouraged my insanity. I remember seeing this famous designer’s dress from the fall 2004 collection, this giant sculptural monstrosity that covered the wearer’s face up to just under the eyes; I knew what I wanted to do after seeing that. Fashion seemed so powerful.

SZ: Who pushed you to follow your passions? Any mentors?

JR: As I said I had an amazing teacher in high school. He didn’t quite understand fashion but he understood art. He pushed for me to go forward into a territory he may have not been comfortable giving advice on. But I guess it worked! At college I had several mentors, though I have to say my now good friend and former professor Rose Baron really taught me almost everything I know about the craft. And these two other professors Laura and Karin used to take time off their weekends to teach me how to tailor or knit. I had an amazing support system in school. I owe them a lot.


SZ: How do you describe your overall design aesthetic?

JR: I think my aesthetic will be developing for a few more years. When I first started I had a very historical influence. Now while I use a lot of old techniques, I tend to have a very tailored/chaos/futuristic aesthetic. I like things like sleek and bold materials next to soft washed materials, but never a raw edge (watch, as soon as I say that I’m going to use raw edges). I love fighting against the body and then letting it all relax within the same garment. All my work tends to be what most people refer to as moody and dark. I enjoy finding inspiration in dark places. I find it romantic.

SZ: What is your most recent project and what are you working on now?

JR: Well, if you’ve seen Peaches on tour this past year you saw some of my stuff. I costumed her band and did some of the costumes for the “I Feel Cream” video and the leotard she wears in the “Mommy Complex” video. She’s one of the best people I’ve ever met, and when she wanted stuff I was really happy to get to work with her.

As for what I’m planning next, well, I need to keep that a secret. Actually, “keeping it a secret” is a fancy designer way of saying “I have no idea”.

SZ: What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue their dream of becoming a fashion designer?

JR: Be open-minded. Work hard. Take jobs you think are below you. Most of all, make money. You can’t do anything without funding. If you look at everything as a learning experience and don’t get caught up in being a bitch, then you will succeed.

For more of John’s fabulous designs, head to

Nick Gazin: The Underground Renaissance Man

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010


I first met Nick Gazin when he interviewed me for a magazine article he was writing. That didn’t go too well. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate on several art and music projects together. Over the last few years, Gazin’s comics and byline have become ubiquitous to fans of the intertwining worlds of underground art, fashion, and rock…and, on occasion, fashionable art-rock.

We recently caught up over a couple of drinks to talk about art, comics, music, fashion, and how he keeps that slick curl in his ‘stache at the end of a long night.

AL: You have your hands in a lot of different things; promoting shows and parties, designing posters, designing t-shirts and other apparel, curating features on emerging underground artists. How do you juggle all that? Where do you come up with the inspiration for your twisted comics and illustrations?

NG: I pretty much sit at my desk all day and pull a lot of all-nighters. I leave the house occasionally, but usually so I can write about a thing, rarely for pure enjoyment. If I’m not drawing or taking photos it’s hard for me to focus on the things going on around me and I retreat into my mind, organizing my schedule and trying to figure out when and how I am going to finish the mountain of projects I have waiting for me at home.

AL: Has there been any one project that has just totally been an amazing experience? Like something you couldn’t even believe you were working on?

NG: 2009 was an amazing year for me and most of what I got to do seemed like it was beyond what I would have expected from life. It got to the point where my roommate was constantly making fun of me for fulfilling my childhood dreams. I did album art for Franz Nicolay and the Spider Bags. Being in an art show at the New York Times building and having teenage girl fans come to meet me was fun and funny. I had my art made into a tequila bottle label through Vice. Mishka was foolish enough to think I could be a web celebrity and had me doing a little interview show called The Creepy Touch which lasted for ten inconsistent episodes. Interviewing Terry Gilliam for Vice and then being animated as a talking cockroach was pretty great.

AL: Is there anything left that you want to accomplish in the future?

NG: There are a few things I still want to do. I want to have my art on a skateboard, design a sneaker, release a record, put out a book of drawings, maybe do a comic, possibly a cartoon show and have a toy based on my drawings. Beyond that I would like to eventually be able to support myself primarily by selling my original pieces.

AL: What are some new projects you have on tap that you are totally psyched on?

NG: I’m doing a cover for Yeti, a shirt for Golden Triangle, a book cover, and putting together some stuff for an art show in Miami. I don’t know if more good things will happen for me or if I’ve already experienced the height of my career and didn’t make any money off of it. I got a lot of attention for that Where the Wild Things Are drawing I did of my brother as Max and my mom keeps a framed copy by her bed. I’ve gotten approval from people I admire and I keep getting to do new and different things I enjoy. There’s other stuff I can’t talk about. Also I am very excited about the band I am in, Fuck School, and the possibilities that lie in being in a band with three dudes who I like and admire very much.

AL: If you were not drawing and making art, what the hell would you be doing right now?

NG: I’m not sure, but I would probably be trying to figure out a way to get out of it. I get bored easily. I’d end up street performing most likely.

AL: What do you use to keep that tight curl in your mustache? Do you have any tips for anyone out there aspiring to cultivate a similar look?

NG: I use Clubman’s moustache wax which is kind of like clay. When it gets wet it creates brown streaks on my face. It is hard to get out of clothes and towels. I don’t know if I like this moustache, but it helps break the ice and also helps people remember me, which is good because I don’t remember them. I almost never like people with ostentatious facial hair. Franz Nicolay is an exception.

AL: You have interviewed me on more than one occasion, and several times it hasn’t gone so well. How would you rate this interview now that the tables are turned?

NG: We’ve met before?

Check out more of Nick Gazin’s work here

Rachel Flotard: Schooling – Laos Style

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Hello Converse rockers we’re live from Laos:

I’m imagining my drummer Ben Hooker’s HUGE size 14 feet as I type that greeting. (They’re like boats.) Besides being handsome, and gangly, and a general joy-thorn in my side, Ben is the backbone of rock music for me.

We’ve been writing songs, playing shows, and pitching jokes at each other for well over ten years. I miss him very much this morning, thousands of miles across the planet, as I wake up underneath mosquito netting.

In a few moments we’ll load the school supplies, soccer balls, boxes of pens, pencils, paper, and textbooks we brought from Seattle into a wheelbarrow. The seven of us will push it up a dirt road to the Ban Na Mouang Elementary School.

Not only do we get to see the new cement floor made possible by our Seattle friends and family’s donations (we bought the concrete mix!), but we get the joy of surprising 350 kids and their 10 teachers in person.


I can feel the heat and dust floating into the open bedroom window as I sit at this keyboard under the sill. There are no glass panes, only wooden frames. I can hear the bustle downstairs as the women of the household prepare the first meal of the day. Cutting fish, washing greens, and heating tiny stone stoves out back. They are strong, tougher than I could ever comprehend, and simply, geniuses of survival. When I say breakfast is from scratch, I mean they kill the chickens, and prepare them at dawn. Squatting and chopping on blocks, heating water to bathe in. This is life here.

So the next time I’m asked how “hard” being on the road is, or how “difficult” it is to be a woman in the music industry, I’ll think of the seven women that took care of me in their home in the Ba Na Mouang village. Some are the same age as me, their grace and skill is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met, and certainly puts any real hurdle of mine into perspective. I can only hope their strength rubs off on me by being in their presence.


PS. Here’s a photo of two female monks I met in the woods yesterday.
Solid proof you can be anything, or anywhere, you want to be.


Wanna learn more about Visqueen, head to their homepage.

The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times. By Kat Fierce

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

“Best years of my life,” says my mom. “I was senior vice president and played Maria in West Side Story!” As she reminisces, she’s standing at the stove cooking me a plate of vegetables. She’s more enthusiastic than usual. I’d guess starring in her high school play far overshadows the pleasures of cooking broccoli. “My favorite part was Klompen Dancing. Enjoy these years, Kat. They go by so fast and you’ll never get them back.”

An aside for those of you growing up in most of America: Klompen Dancing is where people dress up in traditional Dutch outfits and “klomp” their wooden shoes on the pavement; sort of like stomp but with pointy hats. It’s about as cool as it sounds. I spend most of my dinner wondering if I’m adopted.

My suspicions are settled when I talk with my father, who offers an opinion more in line with my own.

“Awful. Just awful. You have no idea who you are. Adults rule your life and you’re not allowed to do anything you want.”

I tell him I’ll have an easier time finding myself if he extends my curfew. I’m nothing if not an opportunist. He says, “Nice try.”

Since I don’t get to stay out until 4AM, I spend some time thinking about what they both said. I realize these polarized opinions also run rampant through my school. As for me, I’ve pretty much skewed towards the suck side of the scale, and know loads of kids who share my sentiments. On the other hand, a quick walk through the halls and you’ll find the opposite opinion written over the turd-eating grins of the very merry cheerleaders, and the like. As my mom and dad said, when it comes to high school, people seem to love it or hate it. (Granted my parents aren’t the only living post high school folk, but I don’t know too many other adults. All of my friends are my age. Sue me.)

But since when did my parents know everything?

For those in the “best four-years of your life” camp, aren’t you setting the rest of your existence up to be downhill from graduation? Everything in your adult years (and there are a lot more than four) will live in the shadows of cheerleading for the Mighty Wolverines or whatever. Just imagine a thirty-eight year  old journalist saying, “Being an independent, successful editor-in-chief of this incredibly popular magazine is alright, but it’ll never beat doing back hand springs for acne faced football players.” It’s a little ridiculous. Yet, it seems like my mom considers high school her peak. And everything that follows is worse than dancing in a Dutch costume. Like I said, I’m not looking to be anything like my parents.

On the other hand, if you expect something to suck, it probably will. (Or the saying I prefer:  Expect suckage and ye shall get it.” That’s an official Kat Fierce proverb. Feel free to cross-stitch it on a pillow or something.) Here’s what I mean. Say, hypothetically, you get invited to a party. You’re excited, understandably. You love you some shindigs. That is, until you hear rumors that the event is widely known as the worst party of the year. (For some of you this may be the prom.) Reluctantly, you attend anyway. You’ve already RSVP-ed, so what can you do? Like walking into class Monday morning, you totally expect the night to suck. Since it’s hard to dance and complain at the same time, you go find a porch or a quiet corner and look for the first person who’ll agree to get the hell out of Dodge. Hopefully they’ll have a cool car.

Now, say your crush shows up. Looking for you. But you caught a ride. No point in spending the night staring into your cup. Unable to find you, your crush gets into a conversation with another chick. They agree to go on a date. It goes well. Well enough for him to forget it was you he was looking for in the first place. What could have been your amazing night, turns into the joys of watching them cuddle during lunch every freaking afternoon forever and ever. All because you convinced yourself the night would be a snooze long before the sun set. In short, you never gave it a chance.

Granted that’s a total worst case scenario. And the moral here isn’t, “High school is just one big party. So get on the dance floor and give it all you got!” That’s lame. (Super lame. It reminds me of those crappy posters math teacher’s love to put up. Like, “Geometry! It’s not just for squares!”) The point is, you can’t label any part of your life as the “best” or the “worst.” It just “is.” Let the cheerleaders dread graduation and the goth kids whine “four years of soul tears.” But are we gonna let their perceptions be our reality? Can I get a, “Hell no?!”

The reality is, high school is what you make it. Maybe you make some friends. Maybe you make an A in ceramics. But whatever these four years render, it should be nothing more that your minute-by-minute, original experience; prefabricated opinions be damned. By expecting nothing you open yourself to everything. So, you know, kiss the boy! Audition for the band! Get on the dance floor and give it all you got!

(Just, do me a favor. Don’t quote me directly on that dance floor bit.)

I Once Asked A Woman… By Glide B. Free.

Friday, June 12th, 2009

“What?” she asked, and not as if she hadn’t heard. More like “What? – who would ever ask a question like that.?”

“Has anyone ever proposed to you?” I asked again, this time with a little extra careless savoir-faire to cover up the fact that I knew I shouldn’t have asked. She had just seemed to me like the kind of person who might get proposed to on the first or second date.

It was already kind of a strange date – we had gotten Persian take-out for dinner and were at an arena football game – so while the question was pretty surprising, the threshold of the bizarre was higher than normal. She answered me as simply and honestly as if I had asked about the weather.

“Yes, this clown in Seattle once proposed to me.”

That seemed kind of harsh, I thought. “Why do you call him a clown?’

“He was a clown,” she said. “He was on a street corner down by the market wearing funny pants and big shoes and a red ball on his nose making balloon animals for little kids and I stopped to watch. When the kids left, I stayed there and he told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and then he asked me if I would marry him. What do you have to say about that?”

“Were you flattered?” I asked and put a pizza dipper in my mouth.

“Not really,” she said. “He was a clown.”

I Have Invented Something. By Glide B. Free

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

It will seem as necessary as the toothbrush, laser tag, and the right and left shoe (you know, both shoes used to be the same – strange thought, but that’s how strange our lives our now, without my invention). It’s a remarkable accomplishment – I wasn’t trying to invent anything. I was walking my dog.

Maybe that’s how we got to the moon? Someone just going about his day-to-day existence when he solved the riddle of space travel. Maybe that’s how we got instant mashed potatoes, boy bands, the modern nation-state. I don’t know – but I can tell you that’s how I got my invention. Just doing something I do every day. With every step, I became more and more aware of things around me that needed to be different, of ways my day could become easier, of reasons I wasn’t completely satisfied with my existence. You get into a state like that, you ask yourself a lot of questions. Should I be eating differently? Should I spend more time channeling my cowboy ancestors? Should I be dating a cellist? The questions anyone would ask himself. And the answers come flooding back. 74. Red. Quinine. You don’t really get anywhere. You’re living your own three-ring comedy circus of dogwalking confusion. But here’s the important thing: You’re not missing as much as you think you are.

You’re only missing one thing: my invention.

I’m excited about it. And one day, you will be too. It’s going to be great. Just need to finish it up.

I Was Raised By A Cryptozoologist. By Glide B. Free

Monday, June 8th, 2009

My grandfather had taken over my care after my father had flipped a small rental car in which he, my mother and I were traveling on the road that rings the Bay of Kotor, in the Republic of Montenegro. This single-car accident happened when I was two; I was its lone survivor. I have no memory of it, and I know next to nothing of its circumstances, except that my parents were traveling from Dubrovnik, where they’d been staying, to the town of Budva to visit some people to whom we were allegedly related.

My grandfather, who wrote A Cryptozoologist’s Handbook to the Forests of the Pacific Northwest and I Am Sasquatch, among many others, told me “when I was old enough to hear it” that the possible Budva folks didn’t even know that we were coming, and certainly went along their business that day bereft of the knowledge that an American boy of twenty-six months “who may have been one of their own” was wedged into the space behind where the front passenger seat of an upside-down automobile had collapsed.

“They didn’t call ahead?” I asked when I was twelve.

“They thought it would be a wild adventure, traveling halfway around the world, barging in on these people.” So I was given over by wayward people unable to find what they were looking for to an elderly man given to looking for something (or things) that probably weren’t there.

Said elderly man was affiliated with a small Midwestern liberal arts college. By this time, he was removed from classroom work and doing everything in his power to keep himself removed from most anyone at all. He was, however, the pride of the institution; his twelfth book, on a fungus that may have been living underneath an Oregon National Forest, was, at the moment, the selection of an esoteric, science-related book club.

For a time, he’d been a sociologist, then an anthropologist, and then (based on his small prominence as an author) an English professor. The university encouraged his cryptozoology, however, feeling that it brought a certain notoriety. “It was never anything more than a metaphor, and I still think it’s a good metaphor. For seeking, you know? And what do I get? All these years at this college and I’m a cryptozoologist.”

“But you have a nice office. And they let you do whatever you want,” I said. “Wander around all summer, looking for Bigfoot. That’s cool.”

He couldn’t argue with that, and didn’t mind that I’d brought it up. I had made cryptozoology cool again, if only for a moment.