Those who write about Charlene Kaye often describe her as “a powerhouse” and “a machine” and it’s easy to see why. In between enjoying a successful solo career that has seen her release two albums and an EP, Honey last year, she’s also a lead vocalist for San Fermin. The Hawaii-born, New-York based singer joined the 8 piece band in 2014, and has since been crucial in weaving dreamy vocals over undulating synths and punchy melodies. With the release of ‘Belong’, San Fermin’s third album, we caught up with Kaye to talk about performance, growing as a band and solo recording.
How did you guys come together as a band?
I joined the band when they were already a fully operational touring enterprise, in the middle of touring their debut album. Ellis and Allen had been friends since they were teenagers and found everyone else in New York, and found me through a mutual friend.
This the band’s third album, how do you feel that you’ve grown and developed in terms of your sound?
When I first joined the band, it was challenging to get away from the thought that I was replacing three absolutely phenomenal singers – I would align my singing style to theirs, as they had originated the versions that people had first fallen in love with. As the band has progressed, I’ve felt more comfortable contributing my own interpretation and personality into Ellis’s vision for the music – mainly stage diving whenever I can, you know.
This has been described as the most personal album to date, how does it feel to vocalise someone else’s experience?
Even though it’s Ellis’s songwriting, it feels personal to me as well. There have been moments onstage where it’s occurred to me that certain songs oddly align with my life and what I’m going through at the time.
You’re also a solo musician – do you prefer recording and performing in a group or alone?
If it’s my own stuff, I’ll often record my vocals at home in my closet! But I hate performing solo. That’s probably why I love our live shows so much, it’s just a giant group freakout on stage, and at this point we’ve spent so many thousands of hours together that the energy of friendship on stage is so strong, possibly just as potent as the music itself.
What’s your favourite track on the album?
I had an intensely emotional response to the song “Palisades” when Ellis first played me the demo – it describes this Lord of the Flies-like scenario where the glow of youth is preserved forever, everyone you love staying young forever – and I just found it unbearably sad and beautiful. That and Oceanica are probably my favorite two songs on the record.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017, and what are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to touring this record, and in the meantime I have a lot of new music of my own in the lab I’m excited to release.
South African artist Lady Skollie is a creative force to be reckoned with. Born in 1987 Lady Skollie (real name Laura Windvoge) is part of a new generation of artists in South Africa who are working within and against the digital sphere, and her work emanates a captivating and sensual energy across the range of mediums that she works with. Her most recent, and first solo, exhibition ‘Lust Politics’ at the Tyburn Gallery gave the city a riveting introduction to her provocative vision, and followed on from an acclaimed stint at Frieze last year. Twin caught up with Lady Skollie to talk working in South Africa, having a sense of humour and how women are going to lift each other up.
Growing up, were you always inclined to express yourself visually? How did your aesthetic develop?
When I was about 4 the Zorro franchise was really taking off in South Africa. I crawled underneath my mum’s tables, beds, inside cupboards and covered everything’s underside with wax crayon Z’s – all in different sizes. I remember being terrified that my mother would realize. So I suppose I have always expressed myself visually. When I was younger I thought that to be an artist you needed to paint realistically, and then I understood that my mark making did not need to be mimetic to be respected or convey a message. I took inspiration from Khoisan drawings because of my own Khoisan culture – as a coloured South African, and my work just became hard, fast, fluid.
Where did the name Lady Skollie come from?
Lady Skollie, for me, has been a lesson in identity. I’ve always had these disparate elements of my personality. Not long ago I wore cute 1950s dresses and had ringlets. Although I looked like a lady, inside I felt this urge to rail against authority and challenge the norm. I would talk about sex and paint little dicks on people’s things. Lady Skollie was a performative thing; it was the space where these two things -masculinity and femininity – met.
Your work is striking and honest, drawing on personal experience. When you started did you ever worry that it wouldn’t resonate with a wider audience?
No, this was never a worry really because I also draw on a range of socio-political issues, like rape, rape culture and plight of women, which are so prevalent within our wider society. They are issues which everyone, even those outside South Africa, should engage with.
It is time for people to feel uncomfortable, and for people to ask themselves very hard questions about how they relate to women, how they treat them, how they talk to them.
Your most recent exhibition was called Lust Politics. Do you think there is always a relationship between the visceral and the political?
Yes, from Monica Lewinsky to Marilyn Monroe to politicians blocking any means for women to have a more equal life or even just reproductive rights. I think there has always been a love hate relationship between politics and lust.
The names of your work are as powerful as the pieces themselves, which comes first when you start to create?
Usually the writing comes first. The works come separately and then I edit and chop to make the writing and the work correlate more.
You’re wrestling with gender, sex and societal structures, why did you want to investigate these ideas in ink and crayon?
I like the tension between a granny-like medium like watercolour and the garish, crayon drawings of sex. Depicting something as visceral as sex with a medium as soft and delicate as watercolour and childlike crayon is thrilling.
Why do you want to use humour in your work?
In South Africa humour is often used a vehicle for social change. People don’t always want to listen if you are being serious. They would rather not listen to preaching and they don’t want to hear about rape stats, HIV stats, etc. I think in some ways I’m pretty funny, so I use humour as a way of unwrapping serious issues in a palatable way – so that people will actually start thinking about change.
One of your pieces focusses on the ups and downs of competitive sisterhood. As you see it, how can women better enable each other?
Women need to engage with each other about issues; communication is key to a united front, and we need one. At the moment, I definitely feel part of a zeitgeist and movement, especially in South Africa, where women are speaking up against feminine debasement and subjugation. Whether we make a social commentary with watercolours or whether we post an online status – that is what I’m part of.
How does Johannesburg influence your work?
J’burg pushes you to achieve things you might have only ever thought about; it’s a city that’s totally alive. My surroundings make a big impact on my work, and I think it’s important to address issues around gender and sexuality because Johannesburg, and South Africa in general, is rife with sexual assaults and abuse. Art is an accessible way to bring up the narrative and I think we need to talk about it more and more and more.
Is now an exciting time to be an artist in South Africa?
Being an artist in South Africa right now is very important and very exciting. Finally the international market is catching on, and it’s actually becoming a financially viable option. In J’burg there are a lot of new independent studios opening where people are reclaiming spaces, especially in Troyeville which was a huge centre of resistance during apartheid. Most of Troyeville is studios, huge buildings which were abandoned in the ‘70s and are now being taken over and are really cost-effective. People are now offering funded residencies. As a creative person it’s a real privilege to have a space to make, without the worries of having to generate a huge income to sustain it.
What are your processes when working? Do you have a specific routine?
It’s difficult to say, because my process entirely varies; I don’t really have a specific routine when it comes to making work. However, usually I think about the image for a long time before making a single mark. Sometimes I write about the work before I create it, which allows me to have a context for it. I listen to a lot of hip hop in the studio; hip hop can take you places and it especially helps me with confidence.
Who are the artists that inspire you?
I am totally inspired by Athi Patra Ruga’s ability to immerse you into his world without even trying. Also Robert Mapplethorpe, for his beautiful way of shocking and Mary Sibande for her sheer brilliance of identity dynamics.
What’s next for you? And what are you most excited about?
I prefer not to talk about ‘what’s next’. I am in the present; I’m hard, fast, now. I don’t play to anybody’s rules. I am a rebellious person!
Paris based, Swedish artist Linus Ricard uses film and photography to capture and explore the relationship between the human body and the space it occupies. By focussing on the ordinary, unseen moments of the everyday, Ricard invites audiences to re-examine their surroundings and their position within the environment. Twin caught up with Linus to find out more.
How did you get into photography?
Studying styling at the Marangoni in Milan I collaborated with photographers and quickly realised I wanted to hold the camera.I still loved the clothes but the magic and interaction with the subject was stronger.
Your photographs & films are pre-occupied with movement – what is it about motion that interests you?
Motion creates emotion. My first, unanswered, teenage love was with a dancer. I used to go watch all her performances. She completely rejected me but my love for dance and movement stayed.
What’s your process when you’re working?
I keep the subject moving, I love to catch that in-between moment, that you can never pose or control.
Do you have a favourite photograph, that you’ve taken?
No, it tends to be more and more about the process than the result, enjoying the moment and the making.
What are your influences?
Anything. At the moment I’m into going for long walks, I find it very inspiring and zen. I think Kierkegaard was onto something – “If one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”
ELLISS is an exciting new brand that was founded earlier this year by young designer Elliss Solomon. Elliss’ first collection, entitled ‘Unconscious Clothing’, features flattering, contemporary designs, often emblazoned with bold prints, while staying true to the brand’s sustainable ethos. Elliss designs and makes the clothes in the UK to maintain a low carbon footprint, and only uses sustainable organic materials like cotton, hemp and bamboo. We spoke to Elliss about her inspiration behind the brand and the challenges of starting up her own fashion line.
What made you want to become a fashion designer?
I always knew that I wanted to do something creative and decided early that I wanted to study fashion at Central St Martins, which is where I ended up. I used to be very experimental with my outfits. I now dress quite simply and I am more conscious of the small details. That is where the design aesthetic for ELLISS has stemmed from.
Can you tell us a little bit about your vision behind the brand?
I design individual pieces that are beautiful, unusual and easy to wear: clothes that have a story. I am conscious of every step of the process – from how the garment will make you feel, to where it is made and from what materials. The fabrics I use are soft and natural and the garments are made in England to maintain a low carbon footprint. Every item is vegan friendly. The first collection is called ‘unconscious clothing’ which is a play on the idea of the ‘unconscious consumer’. I want the women who buy my clothes to not necessarily be looking for something eco friendly, but to choose a piece because of the design – to unconsciously be conscious.
How do you incorporate political issues into your work?
I am inspired by women who spoke out before others would. This collection incorporates 18th and 19th century portraiture into prints. Each painting or photograph is carefully placed to flatter the female form. The prints are slightly risqué and tongue in cheek. I want the women who wear my clothes to feel confident and empowered.
What materials do you use?
The Jerseys I have chosen for this collection are made from organic cotton, hemp and bamboo. Hemp is the most sustainable fabric. It grows quickly and is so dense it doesn’t allow for weeds. It is also naturally breathable and can be very soft. It hasn’t always had the best reputation but I want to change that. Hemp can be lightweight and delicate!
Which other brands or labels are you inspired by?
I am inspired by small brands that are authentic in their ideas and production. Veja is a footwear brand that has a really interesting supply chain. Although they do use leather, I am still waiting for someone to do something fresh and innovative with sustainable leather alternatives.
How do you choose the names for your designs?
The names come from the different activists that I have referenced in the prints and women in my life who influence me. The Anna body is named after Anna Kingsford, an anti-vivisectionist, vegetarian and women’s rights campaigner who has heavily inspired the prints.
What have been the most challenging aspects of setting up your own clothing line?
There are a lot of challenges but each stage is rewarding when you finally find a solution. I am always looking to my friends and family for feedback. Sourcing everything from fabrics to packaging takes time. When we find a supplier that is great to work with or a fabric that we can continue to use, things become easier. All of our postal packaging is recycled, from the stickers to the mailers. It’s really important to me to waste as little as possible.
What’s next for the brand?
Our online shop has just launched, which is really exciting! The first collection is available to buy now. The next step is working on designs for the second release. I am researching new and inspiring prints at the moment. I can’t wait to see it all come together!
Ukranian by birth but Italian by adoption, Svetlana Taccori developed a passion for making dresses for her dolls from a young age. Heavily influenced by her family of knitting fanatics, she decided to use the pieces in her closet as the basis for setting up her own knitwear label, and Tak.Ori was born. Her debut collection of knitwear has already been snapped up by Browns, Colette and ModaOperandi, and her AW14 collection will be available from Net-A-Porter and Matchesfashion.com
With knits on the horizon as a key winter trend, Twin chats to Svetlana to find out more about recasting fashion’s idea of the traditional woollen jumper.
What kicked off your love for wool? I grew up in a cold country so I know the challenges of being well dressed and warm. Knitted items were always in my wardrobe and from a very early age I developed a passion for the softness, the volume and the warmth that comes from it so I suppose I’ve always had a love affair with wool even if I was unaware of it.
What is your favourite kind of wool? I love merino and cashmere for their softness but in general I like experimenting and mixing the different types of wool. I’m constantly trying out new techniques, which will allow me to mix different wool fibres and colours together to create pieces which are easy to wear and that don’t react badly when washed.
Do you know how to knit? What kind of techniques do you use and which are your favourites? I grew up in a household of knitting fanatics! I was eight when I had my first knitting classes and that’s when I learned how to turn a heel and make mini socks on five needles. I prefer to knit smooth surfaces using different colours as though I am painting on a canvas. In fact, I would have loved to be an artist and that’s partially due to how much art and literature combined to influence me while I was growing up, but my career path always seemed as though it would involve a needle and yarn. My love for fashion won out in the end!
Many people regard wool as quite casual and traditional – how would you dress it up? I agree, knitwear was traditionally considered casualwear and at the beginning of the last century, it ended up in our closets because it was comfortable and cozy, making it a redundant textile in high fashion. But that’s an outdated concept for me. Wool is sustainable, renewable and eco-friendly, it’s also one of the most versatile yarns out there and it needs to be celebrated. I want to show that high fashion can be both beautiful and comfortable. I want to use its wholesome and pure image but add a rebellious and seductive element that’s both elegant and fun. In a way, I want to revolutionise the fashion knitwear scene and this is my way of rewriting the story of wool by showing that even an evening dresses can be knitted and look amazing. Wool pieces give you a freedom of movement that you don’t always get with other fabrics.
Who are your style icons? I’m inspired by a bygone era of bold, outrageous women. Women who were intelligent, bright, charming and eccentric, yet elegant and chic at the same time. No doubt this is because we don’t really know them personally, and don’t see them in everyday situations which means they can’t disappoint. Today we seem to live in a society that favours exhibitionism over substance – I call it the Herostratus effect! My AW14 collection is influenced by the Marchesa Luisa Casati. She had a strong personality, she was charming, shocking and had a certain je ne sais quoi that made her the most fascinating and fashionable woman in Europe at the turn of the 20th century. I also love Nan Kempner. Her style is timeless but also very appropriate for today.
Where did you learn your craft? Have you worked with other designers? At thirteen my grandfather gave me a sewing machine for my birthday. My parents had mentioned to him in passing that I was hand-sewing dresses for dolls. Every time I was given a doll, actually, the first thing I would do was to rip the clothes it came in off and make new outfits for them. So when I received my sewing machine there was no stopping me, and I moved on from making clothes for dolls to making clothes for my mum, sisters and school friends.
What prompted you to start your own label? I’ve spent the past 15 years working in the fashion business for some of the most well-known luxury brands in the world, but I always felt it was inevitable that one day I would set-up my own label. Since my teens, I’ve been collecting hats and scarves everywhere I go (I have over a hundred hats and seventy scarves). It was after a trip to Cortina that I finally found the courage and felt that the time was right to go and do my own thing.
What inspired your SS15 collection? As I mentioned earlier, knitwear and jersey came into our lives and into our closets in the 1920’s and this was a time of major change for women. I am intrigued by the way the suffragettes used their clothing as placards to fight for the vote. I wanted to dedicate my collection to that era and I wanted to celebrate and thank those women who made the freedoms many women enjoy today possible. These women were bold and, if you like, revolutionaries. So for my spring summer 2015 collection I wanted to create a modern interpretation of their strength and femininity as well as a contemporary view of the clothing worn by them. By using knit and jersey, which at the time were considered second-class fabrics and used solely for underwear and sports clothing, I feel it embodies the spirit of the suffragettes.
Are you influenced by your dual nationality? I think we’re all influenced by our environment but our childhoods no doubt have the strongest influence. I can honestly say I feel very comfortable wherever I am. I love exploring the traditions and history of all the countries I visit – I will read the literature, listen to the local music, visit the art galleries, watch the movies, look at the colours and talk to as many people, young and old, as I can. I feel this willingness to learn helps to influence me in creating collections that appeal to people from different countries and continents. Of course it’s inevitable that I am also influenced by my Ukrainian roots and Italian adoption and, although I don’t rely on these elements for direction, I think you can see the bold, vibrant but traditional Ukrainian fused with the well cut, urban Italian chic in my designs, but luckily I’m a fan of dualities.
What can we expect from you in the next year?
I don’t know what to expect from myself! My main objective will be to continue to create contemporary, luxurious and innovative garments, and my fascination with fabric and wool technology knows no bounds. My fascination with experimentation helps push me creatively, especially during our spring summer collections as I have to focus on delivering wearable and interesting luxury pieces that are breathable and comfortable. We have big plans though and, I definitely want to improve my English!
What do you get when two young creative women, call together their friends to contribute to a zine dissecting what it is to be creative and female? The answer is teenVAG, a zine that explores coming of age, beauty and the body from a firmly feminine viewpoint. Confounding stereotypes and creating new imagery that fits their own feelings, Twin spoke to Natasha and Allison about teenVAG…
Where did the name teenVAG come from?
The name “teenVAG” is rooted in yesteryear conversation with an especially dear group of friends- we often threw around the word “pussy.” Coincidentally, we all previously held internships at Condé Nast.
What thoughts preoccupy you as artists and how is teenVAG a conduit for them?
There are infinite forms of expressions. Collectively, the constant desire to create has fuelled our greatest artistic ventures and our initiative enables these visions to come into fruition. We are constantly developing ideas, themes, and insights while cultivating a unique rapport with an incredibly talented group of our contemporaries. teenVAG has allowed us to create an evolving, communal space we share amongst our featured artists and audience.
Why did you feel the need to form a female collective of artists?
New York is a super hub of creatives. The artists we worked with on Issue # 1 inspired the idea of an all female project- they set the groundwork for the basis of the project. The progression of Issue # 2 continues to foster a strong voice and female presence we feel most necessary amongst the creative community.
Why is a zine still an effective way of communicating ideas in the era of blogs, tumblrs etc?
It is tangible- there is physical contact with our audience. The viewer experiences the artist’s work without interruption and becomes a part of the collective dialogue taking place. The zine becomes a perpetual vehicle of communication that can always be revisited. In our digital age it offers a slight sense of nostalgia and a quiet escape from the fast paced nature of the information super-highway.
Who are the other female artists involved in the zine?
We work with twelve artists each issue- a mix of friends, acquaintances and artists we admire. Issue # 1 focused on the basis of photography and featured the work of Nina Hartmann, Sandy Kim, Maggie Lee, Nicole Lesser, Kathy Lo, Katheryn Love, Luisa Opalesky, Logan White, Coco Young, and Nadriah Zakariya.
Issue # 2 encompasses several mediums ranging from sculpture, to illustration, painting and mixed media as well as the inclusion of photography. Issue # 2 features work by Aimee Brodeur, Elizabeth Jaeger, Olivia Locher, Carly Mark, Katie Miller, Anamaria Morris, Sophie Van der Perre, Rebecca Andrea Richard, Tara Sinn, Brooke Ellen Taylor, Alexandra Velasco, and Jessica Williams.
What, if any, obstacles do female artists still face?
teenVAG: When initially reaching out to print teenVAG Issue # 1, a business denied carrying out the job due to “explicit sexual content,” “pornographic” imagery, and a questionable title. Female artists face connotations that are inherently attached to their art due to gender- we want to break that stigma.
Where is the zine available?
The zine is available on our online shop http://teenvag.bigcartel.com/. as well as a selection of stockists in NY, LA and TX. For a full list of stockists check out our website teenvag.com
We are planning our second show for May of this year- it will be a collective exhibition surveying the work of artists we have been working with for the past year. In the coming months we will begin the conceptualisation of teenVAG Issue # 3 due out in September 2012.
We’ll also be doing a collaborative selection of pop-up shows and mini-events throughout the summer- we are very excited to continue working with an amazing network of creatives and hope to expand teenVAG to its fullest potential