Category Archives: BLOG

5 Things- “If You Don’t Know, Now You Know”

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Head Porter & Fragment Design Launch a Black “MIRAGE” Series Collaboration. (HYPEBEAST)

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Stussy Deluxe Teams Up with Baxter of California on a Limited Edition Black/Gold Candle. (HIGHSNOBIETY)

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UNIQLO collaborates with the Museum of Modern Art for SPRZ NY (Surprise NY). (COMPLEX)

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The 251 Most Awesome Hotel Views… (BUZZFEED)

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15 Great Running Sneakers Available Under Retail Right Now. (COMPLEX) 

 

RANDOM: New York, I Love You…But You’re Bringing Me Down

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Sigh…

I’ve been hiding my deepening sadness of New York City for some time now. It’s been eating me up, but what else could I do? I’m “Downtown’s Sweetheart”, right? I’m constantly professing my love of this old dirt bag – how could I show any weakness about my love. I am still absolutely smitten with New York, my memories of what this city was intertwined with my fantasies of it keep me inspired – but, lately…I don’t know.

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Vashtie, Coney Island NYC 2002

Sure, I may have been born in the capital and am no native New Yorker…but I am invested and obsessed with this city, forever.

For a while now, I have been voicing my opinions to friends about my depression over the state of New York City. So much has changed post 9-11 and not for the better; historic locally owned businesses are shuttering for ATM lobbies (as if we need more), the imbalance in demographic flocking to the city (mainly business types who contribute nothing to the culture of New York), artists who can no longer afford to live or create here, the very fact that SantaCon can happen here without those people being jumped is a mind boggle, etcetera!

Yes, times have changed and even before I moved here the city was changing, but not in the way that it is now. Now, it’s a HYPER-GENTRIFICATION – as stated and documented by James and Karla Murray (the photographers who brought us the wonderful book Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York). They have a new project that documents how New York has changed drastically in the past 10 years and it’s frightening
 

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I used to walk down the street and find so many interesting people living their own lives with their own unique style; now everyone feels the same and it’s not just because of the internet which is good for homogenizing the world.

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 Vashtie, Little Italy NYC 2011

I could go on and on, but I won’t.

In October 2013, David Byrne wrote an article for Creative Times Reports on the very topic that was tearing me apart…titled “Will Work For Inspiration” (I meant to blog about it then, but my heartbreak over New York was being numbed by all my fun London & Paris travel). It’s an incredible read, especially for New York City residents.

 

I’ve copied and pasted it below with pictures of New York that make me sad and some that make me happy. It’s all of my feelings, just explained much better by Mr. Byrne. He mentions that he always waves to tourist double decker buses, which I always do too – for which he gets no response and neither do I. At the end of the article, Mr. Byrne asks the same question I’ve pondered…

“Where will I go?”. The very thought makes me want to cry…but, it’s the realest talk I’ve had to think about in a long time. It’s been in my head so much that I will be living in a new city for a few weeks come September, or at least I am planning on it…eeek. Where should I go? Actually, I already know where I am going – but, I’m open to suggestion.

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As part of Creative Time Reports’ Summit Series, musician, artist and bicycle diarist David Byrne considers New York City’s present and future ahead of the 2013 Creative Time Summit: Art, Place & Dislocation in the 21st Century City.
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“I’m writing this in Venice, Italy. This city is a pleasantly confusing maze, once an island of fortresses, and now a city of tourists, culture (biennales galore) and crumbling relics. Venice used to be the most powerful city in Europe—a military, mercantile and cultural leader. Sort of like New York.

Venice is now a case study in the complete transformation of a city (there’s public transportation, but NO cars). Is it a living city? Is it a fossil? The mayor of Venice recently wrote a letter to the New York Review of Books, arguing that his city is indeed a place to live, not simply a theme park for tourists (he would like very much if the big cruise ships steered clear). I guess it’s a living place if you count tourism as an industry, which I suppose it is. New York has its share of tourists, too. I wave to the double-decker buses from my bike, but the passengers never wave back. Why? Am I not an attraction?

New York was recently voted the world’s favorite city—but when you break down the survey’s results, the city comes in at #1 for business and only #5 for living. Fifth place isn’t completely embarrassing, but what are the criteria? What is it that attracts people to this or any city? Forget the business part. I’ve been in Hong Kong, and unless one already has the means to live luxuriously, business hubs aren’t necessarily good places for living. Cities may have mercantile exchange as one of their reasons for being, but once people are lured to a place for work, they need more than offices, gyms and strip clubs to really live.

“New York is funky, in the original sense of the word—New York smells like sex.”

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Michael Jackson, NYC Subway 1980′s

Work aside, we come to New York for the possibility of interaction and inspiration. Sometimes that possibility of serendipitous encounters—and I don’t mean in the meat market—is the principal lure. If one were to vote based on criteria like comfort or economic security, then one wonders why anyone would ever vote for New York at all over Copenhagen, Stockholm or some other less antagonistic city that offers practical amenities like affordable health care, free universities, free museums, common spaces and, yes, bike lanes. But why can’t one have both—the invigorating energy and the civic, intelligent humanism?

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Basquiat & Warhol by Ricky Powell

Maybe those Scandinavian cities do in fact have both, but New York has something else to offer, thanks to successive waves of immigrants that have shaped the city. Arriving from overseas, one is immediately struck by the multi-ethnic makeup of New York. Other cities might be cleaner, more efficient or comfortable, but New York is funky, in the original sense of the word—New York smells like sex.

 

Times Square 1962_1Times Square, Photo by Joel Meyerowitz

Immigrants to New York have contributed to the city’s vibrancy decade after decade. In some cities around the world, immigrants are relegated to being a worker class, or a guest-worker class; they’re not invited to the civic table. New York has generally been more welcoming, though people of color have never been invited to the table to the same extent as European immigrants.

I moved to New York in the mid-1970s because it was a center of cultural ferment—especially in the visual arts (my dream trajectory, until I made a detour), though there was a musical draw too, even before the downtown scene exploded. New York was legendary. It was where things happened, on the East Coast anyway. One knew in advance that life in New York would not be easy, but there were cheap rents in cold-water lofts without heat, and the excitement of being here made up for those hardships. I didn’t move to New York to make a fortune. Survival, at that time, and at my age then, was enough. Hardship was the price one paid for being in the thick of it.

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“I don’t believe that crime, danger and poverty make for good art. That’s bullshit.”

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 Photo by Bruce Davidson

As one gets a little older, those hardships aren’t so romantic—they’re just hard. The tradeoff begins to look like a real pain in the ass if one has been here for years and years and is barely eking out a living. The idea of making an ongoing creative life—whether as a writer, an artist, a filmmaker or a musician—is difficult unless one gets a foothold on the ladder, as I was lucky enough to do. I say “lucky” because I have no illusions that talent is enough; there are plenty of talented folks out there who never get the break they deserve.

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 Notorious B.I.G.

Some folks believe that hardship breeds artistic creativity. I don’t buy it. One can put up with poverty for a while when one is young, but it will inevitably wear a person down. I don’t romanticize the bad old days. I find the drop in crime over the last couple of decades refreshing. Manhattan and Brooklyn, those vibrant playgrounds, are way less scary than they were when I moved here. I have no illusions that there was a connection between that city on its knees and a flourishing of creativity; I don’t believe that crime, danger and poverty make for good art. That’s bullshit. But I also don’t believe that the drop in crime means the city has to be more exclusively for those who have money. Increases in the quality of life should be for all, not just a few.

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 Photo by Bruce Davidson

The city is a body and a mind—a physical structure as well as a repository of ideas and information. Knowledge and creativity are resources. If the physical (and financial) parts are functional, then the flow of ideas, creativity and information are facilitated. The city is a fountain that never stops: it generates its energy from the human interactions that take place in it. Unfortunately, we’re getting to a point where many of New York’s citizens have been excluded from this equation for too long. The physical part of our city—the body—has been improved immeasurably. I’m a huge supporter of the bike lanes and the bike-share program, the new public plazas, the waterfront parks and the functional public transportation system. But the cultural part of the city—the mind—has been usurped by the top 1 percent.

“In New York there has been no public 
rejection of the culture that led to the financial crisis.”
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What then is the future of New York, or really of any number of big urban centers, in this New Gilded Age? Does culture have a role to play? If we look at the city as it is now, then we would have to say that it looks a lot like the divided city that presumptive mayor Bill De Blasio has been harping about: most of Manhattan and many parts of Brooklyn are virtual walled communities, pleasure domes for the rich (which, full disclosure, includes me and some of the Creative Time team), and aside from those of us who managed years ago to find our niche and some means of income, there is no room for fresh creative types. Middle-class people can barely afford to live here anymore, so forget about emerging artists, musicians, actors, dancers, writers, journalists and small business people. Bit by bit, the resources that keep the city vibrant are being eliminated.

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 Beastie Boys Photo by Lynn Goldstein 1986

This city doesn’t make things anymore. Creativity, of all kinds, is the resource we have to draw on as a city and a country in order to survive. In the recent past, before the 2008 crash, the best and the brightest were lured into the world of finance. Many a bright kid graduating from university knew that they could become fairly wealthy almost instantly if they found employment at a hedge fund or some similar institution. But before the financial sector came to dominate the world, they might have made things: in publishing, manufacturing, television, fashion, you name it. As in many other countries the lure of easy bucks Hoovered this talent and intelligence up—and made it difficult for those other kinds of businesses to attract any of the top talent.

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 Photo by Jeff Mermelstein

A culture of arrogance, hubris and winner-take-all was established. It wasn’t cool to be poor or struggling. The bully was celebrated and cheered. The talent pool became a limited resource for any industry, except Wall Street. I’m not talking about artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians—they weren’t exactly on a trajectory toward Wall Street anyway—but any businesses that might have employed creative individuals were having difficulties surviving, and naturally the arty types had a hard time finding employment too.

“If young, emerging
talent of all types can’t find a foothold in this city, then it will be a city closer to Hong Kong or Abu Dhabi than to the rich fertile place it has historically been.”

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 Keith Haring, 1980′s Subway Station

Unlike Iceland, where the government let misbehaving banks fail and talented kids became less interested in leaping into the cesspool of finance, in New York there has been no public rejection of the culture that led to the financial crisis. Instead, there has been tacit encouragement of the banking industry’s actions from figures like Mayor Bloomberg. The nation’s largest financial institutions are almost all still around, still “too big to fail” and as powerful as ever. One might hope that enlightened bankers might emulate the Medicis and fund culture-makers—both emerging artists and those still in school—as a way of ensuring a continued talent pool that would invent stuff and fill the world with ideas and inspiration, but other than buying blue-chip art for their walls and donating to some institutions what is, for them, small change, they don’t seem to be very much interested in replenishing the talent pool.

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Supreme Skate Video Premiere, Lafayette Street NYC 1990′sAaron-Bondaroff-on-his-early-inspirationsAaron Bondaroff, Supreme Store Lafayette NYC 1990′s

One would expect that the 1 percent would have a vested interest in keeping the civic body healthy at least—that they’d want green parks, museums and symphony halls for themselves and their friends, if not everyone. Those indeed are institutions to which they habitually contribute. But it’s like funding your own clubhouse. It doesn’t exactly do much for the rest of us or for the general health of the city. At least, we might sigh, they do that, as they don’t pay taxes—that we know.

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Stills from Larry Clark’s film “Kids” 1995

Many of the wealthy don’t even live here. In the neighborhood where I live (near the art galleries in Chelsea), I can see three large condos from my window that are pretty much empty all the time. What the fuck!? Apparently rich folks buy the apartments, but might only stay in them a few weeks out of a year. So why should they have an incentive to maintain or improve the general health of the city? They’re never here.

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 Photo by Martha Cooper

This real estate situation—a topic New Yorkers love to complain about over dinner—doesn’t help the future health of the city. If young, emerging talent of all types can’t find a foothold in this city, then it will be a city closer to Hong Kong or Abu Dhabi than to the rich fertile place it has historically been. Those places might have museums, but they don’t have culture. Ugh. If New York goes there—more than it already has—I’m leaving.

But where will I go? Join the expat hipsters upstate in Hudson?

Can New York change its trajectory a little bit, become more inclusive and financially egalitarian? Is that possible? I think it is. It’s still the most stimulating and exciting place in the world to live and work, but it’s in danger of walking away from its greatest strengths. The physical improvements are happening—though much of the crumbling public infrastructure still needs fixing. If the social and economic situation can be addressed, we’re halfway there. It really could be a model of how to make a large, economically sustainable and creatively energetic city. I want to live in THAT city.”

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I still love you New York…always and forever. I just need you to get it together…for me, for you, for us.

INVITE: House Party x Just Blaze x Electric Punanny x Vashtie & More (4.3.14)


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Webster Hall is presenting “House Party,” which is set to launch next Thursday, April 3rd. House Party will take over Webster Hall every week from 10PM to 4AM and showcase a different style on each of the 4 floors. Make sure to come out next Thursday and remember admission is $15 for gentlemen (before midnight) and ladies are free all night! See you there!

VIDEO: Rainy Milo – “Treasure Girl” (Dir. Dexter Navy)

I am so excited for my friend Dexter Navy for directing and editing his beautiful video for artist, Rainy Milo. I met him in Paris last year and he has quickly become one of my favorite people. He also happens to be an incredible artist!

RAINY MILO [Treasure Girl] from Dexter Navy on Vimeo.

Directed & Edited by: Dexter Navy
Director of Photography: Nicholas Wiesnet
Color Grading: Trevor Durtschi
Produced by: Rebel Management
Big Thanks To: FourTwoFourOnFairfax, Sarah Park, Samina Soltani, Jordan Freedman, ntropic and everyone that worked on the video.

LISTEN: Raury – “God’s Whisper”

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Everyone keep an eye out for this new artist, Raury, as he dropped the visuals for “God’s Whisper” last week. This Andrew Donoho-directed video is refreshing and what makes Raury even better is that he produces and writes all of his music!

Check the video out below and find his “Style Q&A” with Topman HERE.

NEWS: 5 Things- If You Don’t Know, Now You Know

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Kenzo Opens up a Pop-up Shop in Paris with a Digital Aquarium. (COMPLEX)

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Check Out Some of these Great Basics for Spring. (COMPLEX)

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15 of the Most Beautiful Scenic Trails in the World. (BUZZFEED)

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aNYthing Showcases Their Spring/Summer ’14 Collection in Their New Collection. (HYPEBEAST)

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Caps: One Size Fits All by Steven Bryden. (HYPEBEAST) 

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Topshop x Adidas Originals

 

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Thanks to my friends at Topshop for sending me some goodies from their #TOPSHOPxADIDASORIGINALS collection. Peep the picture below and make sure to check out the new collection HERE!

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SUPPORT: Time Warner Cable x Charity Partners x Flagship Store

 

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This past Tuesday, I DJ’ed for the opening of the Time Warner Cable Flagship Store and was able to be apart of their new project with various Charity Partners, here are the details:

From March 18th through March 31, 2014, Time Warner Cable will donate $25 to one of the charity partners of your choice just for stopping by the new Flagship Time Warner Cable Flagship store at 43 West 23rd Street in the Flatiron district of New York City.

To participate, take a photo using the social media kiosk at the Flagship Cable Store that will automatically post to your Twitter or Facebook account. Time Warner Cable will donate $25 to your choice of charity from Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), Police Athletic League (PAL) or New York Cares.

That’s it! You don’t even need to be a customer!

You can also check out their website HERE!

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THROWBACK: “Elevator” x Junior Sanchez x Good Charlotte

Throwing it back to the video I directed, “Elevator,” with Junior Sanchez & Good Charlotte. Enjoy!

 

NEWS: “5 Things” – If You Don’t Know, Now You Know

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 6.35.33 AMKENZO x New Era x Spring/Summer Collection of Collaborative Caps. (HYPEBEAST)

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57 Reasons to Try Veganism. (BUZZFEED)

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Artist Azikiwe Mohammed x Internet Inspired “Free Bieber,” “Free Max B,” & “Free Lil Boosie” Tapestries. (COMPLEX)

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12 Hosting Tips Every Woman Should Know (I couldn’t agree more). (BUZZFEED)

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Louis Vuitton x Propellor Sneaker Boot. (HIGHSNOBIETY)