Reused Remade: Raising Awareness with Beautiful Design

photo: Reused Remade

 

I grew up in a household that valued the weight of balance and self-made sustainable success. There were no plastic bags in our home when I grew up, just a couple of cotton bags my parents would use for shopping. Hardly anything came packed in plastic. Not the milk, not the bread, not the rice, not the fruit, not our toys, and we certainly did not wear anything that was made even in the slightest percent of plastic. I am 38 years old. I did not grow up with plastic. It was not that long ago. What happened? How did we let this world be swallowed by plastic?

People who lived in the countryside, like my grandparents, produced almost everything they ate. They made their own bread, grew their own cow for milk, grew their own cereals, vegetables and fruit. They valued their belongings, they reused everything, they mended what was broken, they bought with intention. My parents loved and still love beautiful clothes, yet their wardrobes have always been comprised of only classic, essential items. “Always buy the best you can afford. You’ll have it for years. Don’t buy three of everything, just buy a good one,” they would say. And they have always had a good tailor. Their clothes always fit perfectly, even if they don’t always do when they buy them off the rack. But they both know how to mend a garment, too, in case they can’t find time to go to the tailor. My father, with the help of several other men and after his own drawing, built our family country house. Now we’ve lost the desire and ability to make with our own hands. People used to go out there and make things happen, now they take everything for granted. Now we buy everything others make for us and we buy more and more, and everything, if it is not made of plastic, comes wrapped up in plastic, even the organic food. More is not better, more is just more.

My upbringing is the touchstone for my trying to live a full and meaningful life, but it was my recent conversation with Josephine Alhanko, the co-founder of Reused Remade, that has made me realise that it is not enough to make changes yourself, but that you have to voice your beliefs and your freedom from consumerism, that it is not enough to raise awareness, but that you have to do it in a peaceful yet powerful way, that you first have to find your own peace of mind and value your existence as a balanced, happy person in order to make things happen for yourself and for the world, that you can do it with beautiful design rather than with raging protests, that you can dramatically reduce your environmental footprint by gaining confidence in your own style.

Reused Remade was founded on the idea of making use of what we already have. They take hotel bed linen that have come to the end of their life cycle and turn them into textile bags. They take something old and transform it into something new and beautiful and eco-friendly. That sounds pretty smart and it certainly is vital in our present day. I have talked in detail to Josephine about the idea behind the brand, about her background as a professional ballet dancer and a performing actor, and about the important things in life and why and how the human spirit should be nourished.
 

photo: Reused Remade

 

People are becoming more and more aware of the disaster caused by plastic to our planet and although we are yet to reach a global plastic bag ban, they are reaching for more environmentally friendly solutions, individually or in other ways. But was it something in particular that made your brand idea take flight? Something that inspired you to make it more than a personal choice, that made you realise you needed to bring awareness to the problem and contribute to the cause in a bigger way?
For me personally, the UN conference that I heard on the radio in 2015 was an eye opener. I had no idea that plastic waste was such a huge problem. If we don’t take action, there will be more plastic than fish in our seas by the year 2050. That is pretty soon, and my kids will be roughly about my age today when that scenario may become reality. That got me thinking and, more importantly, do changes in my everyday life. I became aware of how many plastic bags I use just once before I throw them away. At the same time, I feel resigned when I hear the alarm reports about global climate change and the major change of living we need to make to stop it. I believe that people do respond better to hope than fear and by giving them a chance to take simple actions, they are more likely to change their behaviours.

This easy way to act positively is important to us and was no brainer to implement in our business ideas. To do something little can have a great impact, one-person can’t do everything but together we can make a big difference. It’s also important to us that the design of the bags is appealing and smart looking. People not only like to do good, they want to look good too while doing good. I think that the combination of the increased awareness and the look of the bags have made it easier for us to establish our brand on the market. You can have a great business idea, but if the timing is wrong, it won’t matter how good of an idea or product you have. Timing is so important.

I think you are making such an important point here, that people are responding better to hope than fear. I remember when I watched the documentary The Salt of the Earth about photographer Sebastião Salgado, who together with his wife has been working to regrow the drought-stricken remains of his family’s once-thriving farm and the Brazilian rain forest of his youth. Salgado photographs, which have chronicled our species’ hardest, lowest and most horrific moments, from famine to savagery genocide, as soul-shattering as they may be, did not make me cry, but his Instituto Terra did, precisely because it gives you hope and faith. Hope about our planet, faith in the human race, hope about our future and our children’s future, faith in ourselves. And I also wholeheartedly agree with the fact that people respond better to beautiful design, because not more than five years ago I think, ethical fashion and design did not exactly translate into appealing and good looking. So what I want to say is thank you for being part of the solution. By choosing old bed linen as your raw material you are challenging the current production of both fabric and plastic bags. How do you source it? What is the most challenging part of the production process?
Sourcing used bed linen in the quantity that we do is definitely something new. Our global trading over the last centuries has traditionally been to place an order at a factory where they use new materials in the production. We want to do it the other way around. We use bed sheets, an already produced fabric, that have a set shape and form and transform it into textile bags. We call it the reincarnation of textile. It is not easy to be one of the first companies that do this, and we have run into numerous different problems with law regulations, custom policies, transportation and export rules. It sure is not easy to take the first steps in this field. Hopefully, we can set an example and other companies can follow our trace when awareness grows about how and what outer things we can use and transform into new goods. We surely learn new things every day and the positive aspect of this is that people start to realise that the old regulation may no longer be applicable when we need to move towards a circular economy.
 

photo: Reused Remade

 

Tell me a little about the beautiful prints on your bags. What sustainable way have you found for printing your bags?
We use screen print with water-based colors. We are always trying to improve the production process and limit unnecessary transportation, cover materials and other needless materials. We try to keep a simple approach to what we do and really take a step back and think about how our grandparents would have tackled similar situations. Simple solutions sometimes might be the answer to complex situations.

Reused Remade is a brand committed to people who want to make a difference, who want to make the smart choice. Do you think it will take mass action (and what would that be?) to curb our addiction to mass-produced, cheap products? And what do you think is the first thing every individual should do in order to lead a more sustainable way of life, any tip that may help someone else just starting out on their journey?
We believe that one person can’t do everything, but everyone can do something and by beginning with a positive change, no matter how small it is, it will have an impact. It is up to everyone to make choices that are sustainable if we want to leave behind a healthy earth to future generations. We believe that by adding a positive change instead of changing a negative one, it is easier for people to adapt.
 
 

”Simple solutions sometimes might be
the answer to complex situations.”

 
 
Speaking of mass products and textile waste, the textile industry and its products have shaped the contemporary world more than anything else and is largely responsible for the disaster our world is in. Do you think people are finally starting to move more towards an idea of a personal style than to continue along the lines of fashion, especially fast fashion?
This is a complex and difficult question to give a short answer to. It is so complex. We have to bear in mind that fast fashion has only been around for a few decades in the human history. Yet, it has been a gigantic success never heard off in history. Its growth and expansion has only been possible through the trading, technology and economic development that evolved after the Second World War. Before that, cloth was expensive and fabric was considered a luxury item. Fast fashion has played a major part in the world’s development and, to a certain extent, it has also been a democratic factor for the western countries.

On the other hand, many people, especially in the developing countries, have paid a huge price for our mass consumption. Their health and work conditions have not been prioritised, nor has the nature. We do face a rising disaster if we don’t take immediate action. There has to be a major transformation in the whole fashion industry from sourcing to production, and consuming. This successful receipt has been around for several decades and nearly every fashion company existing today has built their success around it. No wonder they are hesitant to take actions against it. To go through such a major change is not pain free or easy. I would love to say YES to the question that people will start to move towards a more personal style rather than fast fashion, but, at the same time, great forces are working to keep us in this system, and even though the companies talk loudly about sustainability very little is actually changing. Unfortunately, I am a bit pessimistic about the situation in the fashion world. We need to see real changes in the fashion industry that I have not yet seen in order for the system to change on the scale that we need it to happen.
 

photo: Reused Remade

 

The Reused Remade bags are not only the eco-friendly version of the plastic bag, but also a very stylish alternative, and even a conversation starter. What does style in the bigger context mean to you?
People like to look smart and stylish. It’s more likely that we use something that looks good and makes us feel good. A bag for everyday use should look nice and appealing since we are supposed to use it frequently at different occasions and in different seasons. We wanted to come up with a design that was both practical, yet resembling to people’s recognition, and last but not least, stylish.

You are an inspiration for design with purpose. But who and what inspires you on a daily basis?
I find inspiration in nature, art and in cool design. I have a background as a professional ballet dancer as well as a trained actress. I have worked within the performing arts for over 20 years and I also have a master’s degree in Art History. I am more comfortable in the art and theatrical societies than in the business environments. This makes me a little like the black sheep, which I think is a good thing because I tend to have a different approach on things and dare to think outside the box. I also like to see myself and our product as a link in the chain of history. There is nothing new in our design, quite the contrary, the bag looks like a traditional plastic bag that was designed in the 1960th, but the new thing is the material in combination with the design that gives it a modern twist.

You have a background in performing arts. What made you change paths, besides becoming more environmentally conscious as you said at the beginning of our interview?
My dream as a young girl was always to be a stage performer. I started my professional ballet training at The Royal Swedish Ballet School at the age of 10. I then did my secondary school at The National Ballet School in London. During my teens, I got hooked on books and movies and when I saw “Gone with the Wind” for the first time I realised that I needed to become an actress. I felt an urge to express myself not only through movement but also through words. I anticipated that acting would give me the chance to portray more complex characters. I was accepted into the Stockholm University of the Arts at the age of 22. After my graduation, I worked for over 15 years at The Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm and did a number of movies and tv-series.

It was after my third child was born that I realised how extremely demanding a life as an actor is, especially if you want to combine it with motherhood. I felt that I needed to own my time better and my focus shifted from me, myself and I, to my kids and to the next generation. I felt that I wanted to be able to look my children in their eyes and assure them that I had done something lasting and contributed to a positive change in the world. This was in the year 2015 and it was during this identity crisis that I heard about the huge amount of plastic waste that circulates in our oceans and ends up on our shores. It was really an eye opener for me. I was at home with the flu one day and listened to the radio about the UN conference in Paris and I stated to fantasize about what other material would be possible to produce bags from, and the idea to use discarded bed linen popped up in my head.
 

photos: Reused Remade

 

”I would like to encourage people to invest more
in healthy and happy relationships. These will help you
grow and challenge yourself as an individual. We also
need to start mending and reusing things.”

 
 
We live in a hectic world and more and more people are trying to go back to basics, to find a balance, to live mindfully. How do you find balance every day? How do you live life as a conscious choice?
I love spending time in the forest and by the sea. And as I said earlier, my comfort zone is in art, both as a performer and as a spectator. I gain energy from being able to express myself and to interact with people. I also need alone time and chose to be a lot with my children and husband. Family is so important and to me it is a safe heaven. My home is where I can relax and feel completely loved no matter how the business is going or how well I did in the last show. That is of tremendous importance.

In this time and age, what do you wish people appreciated more?
I hope that the growing awareness makes people appreciate what they already have and start taking care of their belongings. It has become almost a human right, at least in the western world, to consume, and for many of us our self-esteem is boosted by the things we buy. For my grandmother, who was born in the 1920s, it was a necessity to re-use wrapping gift paper and ribbons at Christmas when I was a kid. She had lived through the war when there was shortage of everything and as a consequence of this, things were given a higher value. The way we have lived for the past 60 years or so is hopefully a bracket in human history and hopefully we will go back to being wiser and smarter on how and what we consume. I would like to encourage people to invest more in healthy and happy relationships. These will help you grow and challenge yourself as an individual. We also need to start mending and reusing things. This is not something new.

I feel there is a small, or maybe not so small anymore, community of people who are inspired by and moved by this idea of the backlash – the idea that everything doesn’t have to be so fast, that we should cherish what we already have, that the meaning of a fulfilled life has nothing to do with the material side. Do you think every socially conscious person should be more vocal in reminding people that they can do that?
No one can make money by suggesting you should spend more time outdoor in nature or spend time with your loved ones, those things that will actually give you more joy and peace of mind. It is hard for people to suggest just that and to be heard in the constant chattering in our world. We have lost the quiet places that used to be around and that is a problem. Our mind can’t keep up with all the buzz. I personally try to keep it simple and spend time and energy on the things that are important to me and that can never replace my family, my relations with my friends and my relation to myself and time in nature. The human spirit needs to be nourished and that can’t be done through material things. I do believe that we should listen more carefully to our needs and do less if we want to achieve a more content and happy life.
 
 

reusedremade.com
Instagram:
@reusedremade

 

Posted by classiq in Beauty & Beautiful Living, Interviews, Style | | 5 Comments

The Man With No Name, but with an Iconic Look

Clint Eastwood in ”The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, 1966 | Produzioni Europee Associate, MGM, United Artists

 

The hat, with a high crown and pulled down low, not the usual cowboy hat. The fringed buckskins and leather waistcoats, not anywhere in sight. The poncho, not like anything seen on an American horseman. The neckerchief, no pristine accessory, but gathering dust. The jeans, black, not the essential all-American blue jeans. The duster coat, olive green and long-waisted, rarely featured in westerns by then. The character, “The Good”, but not entirely good, nor entirely bad either, just a different type of scoundrel than the other two. Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) subverted the conservative cowboy type and reinvented him as a righteously ambiguous drifter. He didn’t want to be the hero, he wanted to wrangle the hero, and not just any hero, but the American hero, the western cowboy. And in Sergio Leone’s The Dollar Trilogy, he became the ultimate antihero, with strengths, weaknesses and a lack of virtue, laconic, cool, coming from nowhere, going nowhere, without a past, without a future. Clint was in his mid-thirties when he had his breakthrough in A Fistful of Dollars (1964), taking the roles with Leone because no one in Hollywood would hire him, except in a television western series (how resembling is this to Rick Dalton’s story in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood?). That was very anti-establishment, too. So was the rough devil-may-care look of his Man With No Name.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the last film in the trilogy, after A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More (1965), had a huge success worldwide, was both acclaimed and disdained by critics, some of which finally started to take Sergio Leone seriously. As his long-time collaborator, Ennio Morricone, says in the book Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words, Leone had the irony, lucidity and “a gun-slinger spirit emblazoned with rock ‘n’ roll arrogance” that enabled him to reinvent the western genre at a time when the American western was in decline, reimagining it as a mythical universe. It was not the story of pioneers, nor was it the story of law and order, of the bad or of the good sheriff, the two categories into which the classic western falls into, according to Howard Hawks, as Susan Liandrat-Guigues reports in her BFI monograph of Red River. Leone changed both the look and the style of the traditional western, the American genre, going for instinct over prudence and cynically transforming western clichés into operatic compositions, with everything starker, more brutal, more dramatic, more flamboyant, rewriting “the western genre by linking it both to the American model and to the Italian commedia dell’arte, deviating from either as little as possible so that they remain recognizable and also look fresh and innovative.”
 

Clint Eastwood and his olive duster in ”The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, 1966
Produzioni Europee Associate, MGM, United Artists

 

I recently rewatched The Good, the Bad and the Ugly after I had read Ennio Morricone’s book. What stood out for me was indeed the look, the sound, the overall style of the film. From the way Morricone’s music evokes “that common yet differentiated identity shared by the three characters” – the same melody played by different solo instruments is associated with each one of them: a flute for “the good” (Blondie), a voice for “the ugly” (Tuco) and the ocarina for “the bad” (Angel Eyes) – to the highly stylized costumes, Leone showed that cinema is as much image as it is sound. This film is image and sound, image and sound, long shots and close-ups and music, words come last. An exercise in style.

Carlo Simi was the costume designer, but Clint’s look is not attributed to anyone in particular. Eastwood reported that he had bought his costume from a Santa Monica wardrobe store, borrowed the leather gun belt, pistol and suede boots from Rawhide, the tv series he played in the 1960s, before starring in A Fistful of Dollars. Yet Sergio Leone had told Christopher Frayling that the transformation of Rowdy Yates (Eastwood’s character in Rawhide) into The Man With No Name had been mostly his idea. Wherever the truth may lie, Clint Eastwood’s character’s sense of visual style placed him in the collective memory in a way not many film costumes do and has stood the test of time to this very day. It was more about intuitive expression of character and the way it triggered a seismic shift in the public’s consciousness, capturing the zeitgeist of the time and of the spaghetti western.

Because it was about more than clothes, it was this blend of attitude and personality and laid-back approach to both character and costumes from the part of Clint himself that made The Man With No Name iconic, and Clint Eastwood himself summed it up well in his interview with Christopher Frayling published in the book “Clint Eastwood”, from 1992, and republished in the book “Clint Eastwood Interviews”, in 2013: “It was mostly the people who were in the clothes. Gian Maria Volonté had a good face, and all those Spanish, gypsy faces – that was just general…everything kind of tied together and made an interesting-looking film. You ask most people what the films were about and they can’t tell you. But they tell you “the look” [he mimes throwing the poncho over his shoulder] and the “da-da-da-da-dum’ [he hums the opening bars of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme], and the cigar and the gun and those little flash images that hit you.”

Eastwood further explained his contribution to the role in an interview with David Thomson appeared in Film Comment in 1984: “The character was written quite a bit different, I made it much more economical. Much less expository. He explained himself a lot in the screenplay. My theory to Sergio was, “I don’t think you have to explain everything. Let the audience imagine with us. […] I’d sort of coerce him into going for it on that level, like a B picture. But he did go for it. He wasn’t really coerced, he liked the style. I think the producers of the film were a bit shocked. They didn’t know what was going on. They said, “Jeez, this guy doesn’t do anything, doesn’t say anything, just stands there with the cigar.”

Indeed, The Man With No Name isn’t a man of many words, nor does he do much, nor does he let you in whether he is remorseless or vengeful. With his cigar permanently dangling from his mouth, his squinted gaze, his languid walk, his poncho wrapped around his shoulders, he is so ambiguous and far off a typical western character that sears into your mind and just keeps you guessing. The only sure thing about him is his gun shot. Devil-may-care about everything else. In the true spirit of Sergio Leone’s westerns.

 

Clint Eastwood in ”The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, 1966 | Produzioni Europee Associate, MGM, United Artists

 

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The Films to Watch This Autumn

”Parasite”, 2019 | Barunson E&A, CJ Entertainment

 
Nothing like an Almodóvar film and a noir thriller to get the conversation started. One of the best things about autumn just has to be the films released (strategically or not) this time of year. Here is my very select list of some of the most noteworthy movies arriving in cinemas this fall.
 

”Dolor y gloria”, 2019 | El Deseo, Canal+

 
Dolor y gloria, directed by Pedro Almodóvar

The film reunites Almodóvar and Antonio Banderas in what the filmmaker deems a deeply personal story. Banderas plays film director Salvador Mallo (writing this name, I’ve realised the resemblance to Almodóvar’s name – it includes all the letters in the director’s surname) whose life is falling apart in middle age. I am a fan of Almodóvar’s films and after all the accolades Pain and Glory has received so far (it premiered at Cannes and Banderas won the award for best actor) and after hearing the director talk (scroll down to the episode with Almodóvar) about the film, I don’t think I am setting my expectations high for no reason. From the set design and visual style to the musical score by Alberto Iglesias, his longtime collaborator, from the journey into his own psyche to Antonio Banderas’ possibly best performance to date, Almodóvar has certainly prepared for us something difficult to predict and most likely one of his key films.

 

”Joker”, 2019 | BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance

 
Joker, directed by Todd Phillips

When I first heard that they were making Joker, the villain origin story, I immediately connected it with the Batman franchise and bearing in mind Heath Ledger’s performance in Dark Knight, which I consider no less than the best film performance of all time, and although I admire Joaquin Phoenix’s acting tremendously, I just thought it was a very bad idea. But things seem to be a little different. I’ve only watched the trailer, but it gave me the goosebumps. Joker seems to be more like a distinctive, character-driven drama that has nothing to do with Batman and more to do with Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy (Robert De Niro appears in Joker, too). Every once in a while there comes a film which you have a certain feeling about. I wonder if Joker is one of them. At first sight, it appears that way. And it has just won the Golden Lion in Venice. And that song, Jimmy Durante’s “Smile” (which originally appeared as an instrumental track in Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 Modern Times) that plays in the trailer… And talking about the music department, I just have to add that the composer for the movie is Hildur Guðnadóttir, who is also known for collaborating with Jóhann Jóhannsson (see note end of article) on the scores for Arrival (2016) and Sicario (2015). Everything looks and sounds good so far.
 

”La Gomera”, 2019 | 42 km Film, Bord Cadre Films

 
La Gomera, directed by Corneliu Porumboiu

The Whistlers (the English distribution title) is actually the only film of the ones in this list that I have already watched and it is one of the best movies of the year. “El Silbo” is a whistling language, a whistled version of Spanish used by the locals on the island of La Gomera in the Canaries. Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu said that a few years ago he watched a documentary about “El Silbo”, and that this fascinating language, on the verge of disappearance, was being rediscovered and used again on La Gomera, and it inspired him to write this story. In the film, Cristi is a corrupt Romanian cop who becomes involved with the mob and he is brought to La Gomera to be schooled in the tradition of silbo whistling so that he can get a crooked business man out of prison. “Good luck trying to sort it all out, because in the grand tradition of “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Big Sleep,” Porumboiu treasures the chemistry between his characters over the meandering scenario that grows around them,” wrote Eric Kohn for IndieWire. A neo-noir thriller with a flashback narrative, ambiguous characters who all have something to hide, a femme fatale with a mysterious past, each chapter built around a main colour (just have a look at the film poster), motel sequences that remind of Hitchcock, an abandoned film studio that reminds of westerns, a winding scenario and a stylized world that pull you in and keeps you guessing until the end credits.
 

”Les plus belles années d’une vie“, 2019 | Les Films 13

 
Les plus belles années d’une vie, directed by Claude Lelouch

Claude Lelouch, who won the Palme d’Or in 1966 with Un home et une femme, returned to Cannes this year with the film Les plus belles années d’une vie which brings back the mythical couple Jean-Louis Trintignant and Anouk Aimée from 53 years ago. If only for that reason alone, I want to watch the movie.
 

”The Irishman”, 2019 | Netflix

 
The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese

Based on Charles Brandt’s true-crime book “I Heard You Paint Houses”, The Irishman tells the story of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a World War II veteran who became a mob hitman and played a role in union boss Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance. Al Pacino (in his first Scorsese film!) plays Hoffa. The cast also includes Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. Yes, it looks like the good old times. And as a matter of fact I have been re-watching some of the director’s classics after listening to Edith Bowman’s great interview with Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese’s long-time collaborator. But I have to admit that I will go see The Irishman with mixed feelings. The de-aging technology used in the film on De Niro, Pacino and Pesci, who play their characters across decades, does not sit well with me. Does a Scorsese film really need extensive visual effects?
 

”Marriage Story”, 2019 | Heyday Films, Netflix

 
Marriage Story, directed by Noah Baumbach

The film addresses parental separating and its effects on children. But it’s not the story of every divorce, as director Noah Baumbach draws on his own experience, both as a child and a parent, to tell a very personal story. Adam Driver plays Charlie, a playwright, and Scarlett Johansson plays Nicole, an actor, and they are going through unsettling divorce proceedings, fighting for the custody of their son. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and both Johansson and Driver have been praised for their tremendous performances.
 

”It Must Be Heaven”, 2019 | Abbout Productions, Possible Media

 
It Must Be Heaven, directed by Elia Suleiman

Elia Suleiman’s image-making talent and slapstick auteurship have been compared to the films of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton. In It Must Be Heaven, the filmmaker-actor Elia Suleiman hardly speaks a word. He emigrates from Palestine to Paris then New York in search of a new home, but the promise of a new life soon transforms into a human comedy. Suleiman explores notions such as nationality, identity and belonging and is a smart and ironic observer of human behaviour in a world filled with tension and paradoxes.
 

”Parasite”, 2019 | Barunson E&A, CJ Entertainment

 
Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho

The winner of this year’s Palme d’Or, Parasite has even been compared to Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, the last year winner, to some extent. It deals with class difference, movement up and down the economic ladder and a poor family which resorts to whatever necessary to make ends meet. It is a “tragy-comedy”, in the director’s own words, and it seems to have all the elements – a world defined by structural inequity, a comedy of errors, narrative unpredictability, dark layers, craftsmanship – to win my interest and to qualify as a contender as one of the best films of the year.
 
Note*: In the initial edition of this article I had not mentioned Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Note**: “Les plus belles années d’une vie” and “It Must Be Heaven” were not initially included in my list because I am not sure if they will have a general release in cinemas this autumn, but they will play at various small festivals around the world, so you may have the chance to catch them in your town by the end of the year.
 

Posted by classiq in Film | | 3 Comments

Five Decades of Street Style, According to Bill Cunningham


 
The original street style photographer, Bill Cunningham was both a modest – he was discrete, didn’t like to talk about his work, but worked around the clock, he called himself a recorder, “a columnist who writes with pictures”, not a photographer, didn’t want to attract attention, choosing inconspicuous clothes to dress – and agile observer of street style, of people, of the times – in the five decades he chronicled New York City life, he noticed everything, never stopped noticing how real people dressed as they went about their business, never stopped noticing patterns of human behavior as well as the individual in the crowd, and social, cultural and political changes, he anticipated fashion. He did it all through his photography. And he always did it with the greatest enthusiasm and dedication. He never did it with nostalgia, as Cathy Horyn observes in the introduction to the book Bill Cunningham: On the Street. That’s just it about Bill Cunningham’s remarkable work: he documented the times, but always looking forward. That’s the nature of things, of life, of street style. And what a fantastic journey through time and through the street style of the times this book, the first published collection of his photographs, is.
 
 

“Money’s the cheapest thing.
Liberty and freedom is the most expensive.”

 
 

The 1980s, New York City, “Bill Cunningham: On the Street”
Think what you may, but today we have lost all our sense of humour for the situation.

 

The 1970s

The glamour. Movies influencing dress, from the vests and haircut of Jane Fonda in Klute to the baggy, layered menswear of Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Workers dressed for success during the day and in Lurex for the night out. It was the disco era, the Halston time, the decade that ushered the minimalist, practical American style and the American designers onto the world stage.
 

The 1980s

Women commuting to work in sneakers, then switching to high heels. Long skirts worn with socks and ballet flats, the power suit, Lycra stretch pants and racing pants worn as daywear by New Yorkers, denim in all forms, torn jeans, black leather motorcycle jackets, peplum, oversized shoulders.
 

The 1990s

Black, the perennial colour of fashion, seen in new formulas for any time of day, lace, plaid, shirts as skirts, overalls, stretch bodysuits, tights with high heels, corsets as daywear influenced by Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier stage costumes, plentiful jewellery worn in layers reflecting influences of reggae and rap, women looking particularly feminine in menswear, the Versace baroque motif shirt.
 

The 1980s, New York City, “Bill Cunningham: On the Street”

 

The 2000s

Gender continues to be defined and redefined. Denim continues to evolve. People inventing their own style, the perennial love of black, an explosion of logos, surreal shoes, the white shirt that finds its place in every decade.
 

The 2010s

Fashion refuses to be recognizably distinct, gender-bending becomes even more accentuated, people are more image-conscious than ever, dressing to make themselves observed. Colour blocking, the rise of athleisure, the popularity of Thom Browne and menswear and above-the-ankle tailored trousers, the reaffirmation of comfortable, functional, tasteful, minimalist timeless style, like the camel coat, and the redefining of luxury as less is more on the background of the emergence of socially conscious fashion.
 

The 1990s, New York City, “Bill Cunningham: On the Street”

 

The book Bill Cunningham: On the Street, published by Clarkson Potter,
is out this September

 
 

Posted by classiq in Books, Style | | Leave a comment

Stories from Retezat Mountains


 
It’s a different world up there. It’s just you and the mountain. You have to be present, you have to have all your senses awake, you have to be prepared. You feel every muscle and tendon and you must be able to trust your body. You don’t hike in Retezat Mountains, you climb. Even if you do not use a rope or safety gear, the trails, not just the massifs, are so rocky that going up can not qualify in any other way but climbing. The phones don’t work up there, you rely on your map, on the weather report and on your climbing partners. It has to be someone you can trust 100%. You listen to a unique silence. You become aware of your unique place in the world. The mountain seems like one of the very last places on this Earth where you can have a face to face conversation with someone. You greet every person you meet, you stop and start talking to them, exchange advice and wish them good weather. It’s like you are part of a secret world and you know it and are proud of it. Part of you wants to tell others about it – to stop looking for settling comfortably, to step out of their comfort zone, to get moving. But the other part wants to keep it to yourself, because it’s that special and that precious. It is not a place for showing off, it is a place for showing up for the grandeur of the mountain, it is a place of meeting with yourself.

On our latest family trip to Retezat Mountains, we met a little boy on the trail. He must have been nine or something like that and he was climbing the mountain by himself, followed by his two dogs. He told us he had left his family behind and he was heading for the mountain peak. He seemed perfectly at home there, in his element, climbing the rocks, with a walkie talkie as the only way of communicating with the others in his group (remember the phones don’t work up there). And that image of that little boy reminded me how I must have felt back in my childhood when my brother and I were his age and we felt at home climbing the mountains, too. I want that for my son too, who, at four years old, experienced his first mountain climb this summer.

But there is someone else I rely on helping me instill in my son this love for the mountain. Someone who breaths mountain and the first person I want by my side when climbing.
 

 

Stories from Retezat Mountains as told by my father
Photographs by me

 


 

It was about the joy of going. The mountain offers you a unique view, a sense of place. Every crest offers you a different perspective, every step further reveals something new. That’s why you went to the mountains. It was this desire of going, of perpetual moving, of experiencing something new every time. It was something you did for yourself and nobody else. You don’t have to chase for the mountain peaks. But if you do reach a mountain peak, a bond with the mountain is forever formed. These days however there are fewer and fewer people passionate enough to go.

Retezat is one of my favourite mountains. It’s always been for you and your brother as well. There are several points of entry in Retezat. I’ve never approached it from Poiana Pelegii, as we have this year. But on each side there is this gradual, almost metronomic way in which the landscape unveils itself that allows you to appreciate its magnificence one step at the time. First come the pine and beech forests (on the way to Izvoarele Cernei there is the most beautiful beech forest I have ever seen and over half of The Retezat National Park’s surface is covered by woods, including some of the largest contiguous patches of primeval forests in Europe), then come the alpine junipers, then the Alpine meadows and then the calderas and glacial lakes (Retezat is peppered with sinkholes and glacial lakes, with Lake Bucura being the largest glacial lake in Romania, at an altitude of 2030m).

Coltii Bucurei. Knife-edge ridges. A crudely, narrow, almost impossible path to cross, a trail that follows the spine of the mountain, a void to your left, a void to your right, you are completely exposed, it is one of the Retezat massifs with the steepest vertical walls. You must rely on precision and balance for tricky foot placement. It’s nerve-wrecking. You feel that even your rucksack is shaking your balance. There is no way back, only ahead. When I climbed Judele Peak, I was with a friend and he couldn’t walk because he felt that if he stood, his rucksack was pulling him back, so the only way he felt safe to move forward was by crawling on that insanely narrow path. Retezat is a rocky mountain, with steep climbs and vertiginous downhills. You have to use your hands many times, it is very challenging. And there are the vipers. You always have to remember that in Retezat. It is a dangerous mountain, but that only makes it more beautiful.

 

 

Never leave the trail. I did once. I was in Retezat with two friends. It was getting late and we wanted to get quickly to Baleea hut, have a warm meal and get enough rest for the next day. So we decided to take a shortcut. Only the shortcut we took was through a web of alpine junipers. We arrived later than we would have if we had followed the marked road. We couldn’t touch the ground as we advanced through the ground-hugging shrubs, we crawled from branch to branch, pushing our rucksacks in front of us, and finally got out covered in dirt, with bruises all over our bodies and demoralised. Lesson learned. My friends were beginners. They never climbed the mountain again.

Never say this can not happen to me. You are in Retezat. Always be aware of the vipers. I have been five or six times in Retezat. I always wore gaiters over trousers and hiking boots. This summer I dressed in short pants. It was a day of hiking on a forest track, sheltered from sun and heat, an ascending, rocky trail, but with no intention of going for a peak, not even reaching the Alpine fields. I thought I was safe. And then, on our way down, I stopped on a stone bridge over a creek to wait for the others and half a meter ahead of me on the ground I saw something resembling a rolled rope at first sight. The idea of the possibility of it being a viper coiled up in the sun immediately struck me. I took a step back and the viper moved and crawled into the grass. It was noon, it was a small area void of trees, the sun was casting its warm rays over the stone, the perfect medium. A split second of not paying attention…

Clouds can gather quickly on the top of the mountain, especially if you go when the weather is unstable (which, in Retezat, can happen anytime before August and after September 15th). The storm broke one time when we were at Galeşu Lake, on our way back to Pietrele hut. We first took shelter under a big isolated rock, but immediately realised it was a bad idea, that we were exposed to being hit by a lightning, so we put on our raincoats and left. We had to be careful to stay away from the tall or isolated trees and had to keep going, torrents of rain unleashed above us, we were soaked to the bones, and spent the next three rainy days inside the cabin’s attic waiting for our clothes to dry. We couldn’t wait to go back the next year.

Always bring someone you can trust. And you have to be informed. You have to have common sense. A friend and I were almost attacked by dogs one time. We were passing by a flock of sheep, the shepherd was nowhere in sight, and the dogs started barking furiously, baring their teeth at us, they felt their territory threatened, and came after us, they came very close, they smelled our rucksacks and our hands. The slightest move of hand, the slightest hasted step would have been fatal. My friend kept asking me what to do, what to do. I told him to just keep going, to not stop under any circumstances, to not start running, to not show them he was scared, they can smell fear. We got away but only because he listened to me.

 


 

There was always a warm place waiting for you in the most crowded hut, you didn’t have to worry about accommodation. But you didn’t ask for much either, nobody was fussy, you were happy for having an extra bed in a room next to ten, fifteen others, to rest so that you could continue your adventure the next morning. That was all about. Adventure. Dinner time was a time of joy. Everybody, local or foreign, started to sing, everybody gathered around a single table. People coming together united by their shared love for the mountain. You don’t see that kind of beauty today.

There used to be so many foreign tourists in the Romanian mountains those days. The proportion was of 5 foreigners to 1 Romanian, but we were like a big family. Groups of 20 Czechs who would leave their bicycles in a small town in the West, like Caransebeș for example, and then start hopping from mountain to mountain and then back again. It was so much joy, the joy of climbing, there was nothing like it.

The people from the hut were very kind and very well documented. Not only were they informed about the weather, they could tell you how the weather was going to be just by looking at the sky and by how the sun set. That’s what they did, that’s why they were there for. And you’d better listened to them. If they said you could go, you didn’t have to worry, you just knew the weather would be fine.

I was 27 or 28 when I met a 70 year old man up on Retezat. He told me that if a year went by without him going to Retezat, he wasn’t feeling well. When you hear a man in his 70s talking like that about the mountains, his words become your bible.

 

 

Posted by classiq in A sporting life, Travel | | Leave a comment