The Podcasts I’m Currently Listening To

Three podcasts for a healthy dose of culture, art, sport and style. For the curious minds. For a well lived life.

photo: Todd Ritondaro


Frame & Sequence, by Todd Ritondaro

I usually listen to podcasts while in the car or when cooking. But with Frame and Sequence, hosted by photographer and filmmaker Todd Ritondaro – a returning favourite on Classiq Journal (here and here) – things are different. Listening to it is an activity in itself. Todd’s interviewees are artists, filmmakers, photographers, creatives from a variety of visual arts fields – it’s fantastic to have this array of artists gathered in one place – and I constantly find myself reaching for a notebook to write down recommendations, ideas or snippets of conversation: like this book, or insider tips for traveling to Italy from David Coggins, or simply taking notes as if I were in school from a master in drawing, Karl Gnass (in fact, all episodes are very educational). Photographer Jonathan Daniel Pryce aka Garçon Jon, artist Alex Beard and photographer John Cullen have also been among Todd’s guests and I can not wait to see whom he introduces us to next.
The Forward, by Lance Armstrong

Where should one start with Lance Armstrong? How about this podcast? My relationship with Lance has been about great admiration, indefinite shock and sheer indifference over the years. But you know what? It’s very easy to judge and I don’t want to do that. And I am finally planning to read his autobiography, something I probably should have done a long time ago. For now, I have discovered his podcast, revealing conversations with an eclectic range of personalities (from athletes and musicians to people less known to the wider audience but with a story to tell nonetheless), and I am enjoying it. One of his latest guests was free solo rock climber Alex Honnold (the documentary Free Solo, about Honnold’s conquering hand-over-foot, without ropes or any safety gear, El Capitan, in Yosemite Park, California, was one of the best of last year). I would also recommend – in anticipation of the book Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports (out tomorrow), the story of two great champions, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert – an earlier episode with legendary, the extraordinary Chris Evert. Armstrong’s interviewees also include director and playwright Bryan Fogel (Icarus), The Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett and six-time Olympic ski racer medalist Bode Miller.
Blamo!, by Jeremy Kirkland

A weekly view into the world of fashion with the people who shape it. That does not however include just designers, but also editors, journalists, actors, athletes, which means talking about fashion in a bigger context, just as I like it. Jeremy Kirkland has interviewed fashion designer Michael Bastian, writer Bruce Boyer, Wei Koh (the founder of The Rake and Revolution magazines – one of my favourite episodes), writer David Coggins (aforementioned as well – another favourite episode), Toby Bateman of Mr. Porter, and Scott Schuman, among others, and the conversations are all very casual and engaging. Whenever I have moments when I think of fashion as being too superficial (which it often is, especially women’s fashion), listening to Jeremy’s podcast always proves me wrong (because fashion done right never is superficial; but, then again, he and his guests usually talk about men’s style, so there you go).

Posted by classiq in Crafts & Culture | | Leave a comment

The Quest for the Most Beautiful Slow-Fashion Sweatshirt

Inspired by some of the films I have watched and rewatched lately, like Alien (in anticipation of its 40th anniversary – who’s with me?) and Nine 1/2 Weeks (unfortunately there is still no 2019 good film yet to report on – in fact, in the course of a week, I walked out of two newly released and much acclaimed movies, Claire Denis’ High Life and Under the Silver Lake, but that’s another story) and forced by a back injury, I have been all about the most comfortable look possible I can get away with, regardless of occasion. Enter: the sweatshirt (the weather still doesn’t allow for a t-shirt). The good thing is that, along the years, the sweatshirt, which used to be accompanied by an excuse whenever worn in public, has outgrowned its athletic origins and matured into a piece that, when done right, can strike the perfect balance between style and comfort. We are talking about a style staple.

So I set out for the search of the most beautiful slow-fashion (because I like style that matters) sweatshirts. Here are my top five picks, from five favourite brands, accompanied by the words of their respective founders and designers.

The SRF PCF Sweatshirt by Heidi Merrick

Heidi Merrick: The SRF LA crewneck sweatshirt

Made in California, produced responsibly and directly under the designer’s eye in the brand’s studio, with a small team of cutters and sewers.

Heidi Merrick’s beautiful dresses are about the only dresses I would wear every day. And I think it’s because they reflect an elevated Californian style: laid back, easy to wear and minimalist, but carrying a note of refined elegance to them. They are made for my favourite kind of California girl, and, as a matter of fact, for my favourite kind of woman, who is both playful and elegant, and, above all, cool. A woman who knows exactly who she is, but who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Naturally, casual wear is an innate part of Heidi Merrick, not only because of the designer’s and her brand’s birth place, but also because Heidi is the daughter of renowned surfboarder and surfboard designer Al Merrick. Cool runs in the family appearantly. Just like a great sweatshirt should run in every wardrobe. And I didn’t think I would ever consider using glamorous to describe the garment with the most unappealing name, but the Heidi Merrick sweatshirts look exactly that: glamorous.

The Bullshit Sweatshirt by Monogram

Monogram: The Bullshit Sweatshirt

Made in Los Angeles, sold directly to consumers. The knitting, cutting, sewing, dyeing, washing and screen-printing all happen in and around downtown LA, all suppliers being family owned and operated.

CFDA award-winning designers Lisa Mayock and Jeff Halmos created their brand MONOGRAM envisioning the perfect t-shirt, “that vintage t-shirt you’ve had in your closet for years – it’s delicate to the touch after years of wear”. A classic, clean cut that meets an art-based design sensibility. I believe therein lies the beauty of MONOGRAM. You know it is your personality that makes a statement, first and foremost, but it feels nothing short of liberating to have this great and simple wardrobe item that can back it up. The MONOGRAM sweatshirts, with their “witty, colourful, subversive, upbeat and fun” graphic designs, are meant to make the same personal statement.

“We design for every woman and hope our graphics inspire
wearers to let their individuality and personality shine through.”

Jeff Halmos in our interview


The Love Cut-off Sweatshirt by Amo

Amo: The Love Cut-off Sweatshirt

Made in Los Angeles, from the finest materials and with an expertise in craftsmanship.

AMO set forth to create the perfect pair of jeans, one that feels you’ve worn it forever, that is comfortable and timeless, and that gets better with every wear. The brand’s debut Spring 2015 collection was composed of 5 styles, each vintage-inspired, but an up-dated vintage that fit well and was flattering in all the right places, that looked cool and undeniably modern, made from the finest quality denim, with an uncompromising approach to craftsmanship. The brand has now extended its range of products to include everything from jeans to t-shirts, jackets and sweatshirts, everything you want to wear with your perfect pair of jeans.

“We continually ask ourselves – What do we need?
What are we missing? What can we not live without?”

Kelly Urban and Misty Zollars in our interview


Marguerite Bartherotte, founder of G.Kero, wearing a G.Kero Sweatshirt, swimsuit by Erès,
and surfboard inspired by her own drawings | photo: Vestiaire Collective

G.Kero: The Red Yellow and Blue Sweatshirt

Made of natural materials, crafted in the best family-owned workshops in Portugal.

Whilst searching for a fresh alternative to traditional gallery canvases, artist Marguerite Bartherotte turned her hands to fashion. She makes fashion that lasts (the fact that her brand, G.Kero, carries a permanent collection says a lot in this regard), fashion that makes a statement not only through creativity but also through the message it seems to carry: follow your convictions and instinct, not the trends, be yourself – that woman who likes to wear an original drawing or painting on her shirt instead of a pattern. In this world of mass consumption and impulse buying, G.Kero stands apart through its commitment to true style, mankind and the planet. It reminds us that we need to educate ourselves and redefine our concepts of need and desire. That we’d rather spend our time tending to happiness than chasing and replacing fast fashion.

“G.Kero is an artistical reaction to the environment.”

Marguerite Bartherotte in our interview


The Jämtland Sweatshirt by A New Sweden

A New Sweden: The Jämtland Sweater

Made in Sweden from natural Swedish materials, produced in collaboration with small, trustworthy sheep farms; a business model sustained by their own farm-to-factory supply chain. Plastic- and chemical-free.

A New Sweden does not believe in, nor seek for infinite growth. They are uncompromisingly challenging the standards of sustainable fashion itself. They will release a single item each year. The first edition is the sweatshirt (the Jämtland sweatshirt) – a very classic and elegant version of it. They have based this first edition around making use of wool that would otherwise be wasted, thus preventing waste of precious natural resources. Their creative and innovative efforts are aimed to working with nature, not against it. They are aimed to celebrating slow living and timeless style and to making clothes for longevity, both from an aesthetic and quality perspective. They are aimed to draw upon the unique beauty of the world around us without destroying it in the process.

“I asked myself how to make a garment
that I believed was actually made in a good way.”

Lisa Bergstrand, founder of A New Sweden, in our interview


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

A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro on the set of “Raging Bull”, 1980 | Chartoff-Winkler Productions

Robert De Niro warming up in slow motion on the sound of Cavalleria Rusticana in Raging Bull remains one of the best opening sequences in cinema. A scene that foreshadows the entire film. And it almost did not happen. Martin Scorsese was initially reluctant about using the opera music that one of the assistants had cut into the opening credits by mistake, considering it too romantic. But he finally kept it and the rest is movie making history. Raging Bull is one of the greatest cinematic works of all time.

Every film has a story, even those that don’t get made, says film producer Irwin Winkler in his book, A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood, released today worldwide. And he has many stories to tell. He takes us backstage to some memorable films (he is a long-time collaborator of both Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro) and walks us through five decades of making good movies in Hollywood: Point Blank, Goodfellas, Rocky, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, True Confessions, The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence.

“One of the best parts of making movies is the development:
taking an idea, studying it, researching it, and finding
the characters and incidents that make a movie.”


”A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood” by Irwin Winkler | photo: Classiq Journal

Irwin Winkler started producing films in the late 1960s, a time of significant change in Hollywood filmmaking, when a new, counter-culture breed of directors, through both subject matter and stylistic approach, breathed new life into the American cinema. The great directors of the golden era of Hollywood were just about gone and the New Hollywood was born. It was the time of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, William Friedkin’s The French Connection, Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, Terrence Malick’s Badlands, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, Alan Pakula’s All the President’s Men, Sydney Lumet’s Network.

”Bob (Chartoff) and I were known in the ‘new’ Hollywood
as producers who worked hard, knew good material,
and could get pictures made.”

A Life in Movies paints an intimate, straightforward, complex portrait of what it is like to be a producer in Hollywood and of how movies get made. But Winkler is not just another producer. He is the kind of producer who has always fought for an idea, for a screenplay, for artistic freedom. The kind of producer who thinks on his feet, but encourages and believes in visionary talent. He has a natural instinct in finding fresh, current, good subjects and turning them into good films, but he would forgo commercial success for a character-driven film, not shying away from making films against the Hollywood blockbuster, big-budget mentality. The films he has directed himself are often politically- and socially-charged, taking on controversial and challenging stories – his directorial debut, Guilty by Suspicion (1989), with Robert De Niro in the leading role, is a stirring evocation of Hollywood’s condemnable blacklisting era, De-Lovely (2004), starring Kevin Kline, is one of his most distinctive works, a musical biography of legendary composer Cole Porter, and Home of the Brave (2006), with Samuel L. Jackson, is about the return of US soldiers from the war in Iraq.

Kevin Kline in “De-Lovely”, 2004, directed by Irwin Winkler | Winkler Films, MGM

Irwin Winkler is a producer, writer and director, but he is a storyteller above all. And it his passion for storytelling that comes through in this book. As a storyteller, he has been equally fascinated by producing and making films that are a product of their time, of the social context, and artistically courageous films. I think it’s a combination of the two that keeps any cinephile’s interest in cinema alive.

“I believe that Silence will stand alongside some of the best
Ingmar Bergman, Fellini, and Pasolini films. I’m so glad we hung in,
faced down all the naysayers, and made it, no matter what.
That’s what filmmaking should be about.”


A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood, published by Abrams,
is out today, 7 May


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

The Individualistic Minimalism of the 1980s: Kim Basinger in Nine 1/2 Weeks

More grunge than power dressing. The best of 1980s style in the streets of 1980s New York City.

Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in “Nine 1/2 Weeks”, 1986 | MGM

Before the minimalism of the 2010s, there was the minimalism of the 1980s. The difference lies in the individualistic power of the 1980s, and in the individual identity. Today, everybody seems to “dress alike, look alike, talk alike and behave alike”, fashion photographer Michael Doster said in his book, Doster: 80s/90s. Back then, everybody sought out to be different, to freely express themselves even when following the same trend. I choose the 1980s. In this regard, let’s have a look at Kim Basinger in Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986).

Images above: Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in “Nine 1/2 Weeks”, 1986 | MGM

Neutral colours, minimal silhouettes. Comfortable, natural, fuss-free, modern. Unstructured trench coat, chunky sweaters, slouchy white shirts. Grey sweatshirts, white t-shirts, oversized coats. It was the 1980s, a time when American fashion was finally starting to be acknowledged and appreciated for its practicality, accessibility, inclusion, minimalism and consistency – fashion had to appear available to all, regardless of anyone’s social and economical background. Kim Basinger’s clothes could be a combination of Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren. Bobbie Read was the costume designer. She was also responsible for Kelly McGillis’ wardrobe in Top Gun, another fashion statement film of 1986. These two films are such a great rendition of the best of 1980s style, and, most importantly, of classic style, that I am surprised that Bobbie Read is so underrated when it comes to fashion in film.

Images above: Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in “Nine 1/2 Weeks”, 1986 | MGM

Kim Basinger in Nine 1/2 Weeks is the epitome of the best of 1980s fashion in New York City. And New York City is a character in itself in the film – the art scene references (Basinger’s character, Elizabeth, works at an art gallery on Spring Street), the Chelsea Market, the Chelsea Hotel – in a time when it was bustling with creativity and energy. And I love that it shows the real NYC, different from the New York of Woody Allen and Nora Ephron. Both derelict and dazzling. Both dangerous and dreamy.

It doesn’t hurt either that Kim Basinger has a male counterpart to match, Mickey Rourke in elegant suits and timeless casual attire. But fashion in the 1980s was just as much about the clothes as it was about the attitude. That appeal, that spark, that sensuality, that liberating feeling, that real and fearless self expression. That’s what’s so desperately missing today. From fashion, from the individual. And there is something else I appreciate about Elizabeth’s style – for example, the missing shoulder pads from her trench, the single most distinctive element of the 1980s power dressing – which is rather a nod to rebellion foreshadowing the beginning of the 1990s grunge than chanelling the working girl fashion or the logo-heavy status dressing of the decade. Elizabeth’s style is more flea market than high fashion, a mix of hand-me-downs and cast-offs: the boyfriend blazers, the bulky sweaters with rolled-up sleeves, the plain t-shirts, the ankle-length skirts. It seems built around the idea of a man’s wardrobe, tops and bottoms rather than outfits. There is nothing spectacular about her clothes (as it never is with ageless style, as it never is with man’s style). But she wears the clothes and she wears them well. It’s her attitude that makes them stand out. As it should be.

Images above: Kim Basinger in “Nine 1/2 Weeks”, 1986 | MGM

Related content: The best of 1980s style in movies: Kelly McGillis in Top Gun / Richard Gere in American Gigolo / Lauren Hutton in American Gigolo


Posted by classiq in Style in film | | 1 Comment

A Sporting Life: Eddy Merckx

As with films, the sportsmen of past decades hold a special interest for me, more so than contemporary ones. Eddy Merckx is one of them. I wasn’t around during his career. I am from the generation that witnessed with unprecedented fervour the rivalry between Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich, until the doping scandals in cycling changed that sport and sport in general for ever and wiped out any trace of trust I had in professional sport for years to come. It rapidly turned into another impulse to look into earlier times, when sport was different, when cycling was different. Simpler, more fascinating, more liberating, cleaner. When talent, passion and hard work seemed to be most accountable for a cyclist’s accomplishments. Before the newest bikes, technology and medical research started to significantly influence the overall hierarchy.

I read the book Eddy Merckx: The Cannibal, by Daniel Friebe, inspired by my interview with Eliza Southwood. I was happy to discover not only the story of the career of arguably the best cyclist of all time, but also a valuable recount of an extraordinary era in cycling, the 1960s and 1970s. It gave me the feel of those times, of the bike races, of the sport.

Eddy Merckx is one of the heroes of one of the most beautiful sports. He was the rouleur, good on any surface, in any competition. He conquered everything in cycling. Because that’s what he knew how to do. Because he could. He won the Tour de France five times. He also won Giro d’Italia five times – by many, fans and riders alike, it is this one that is considered the most beautiful and difficult grand tour. He muscled all sense of competition out of each race he entered. He was described by his competitors as a force of nature. Everything was instinct. He gave everything when he was on the bike. He didn’t just win against his opponents, he won against himself. “I am truly happy only when I’m on the bike”, he said in 1970. A simple sport for a complicated mind, that’s how Merckx viewed cycling. It was more than talent, it was a vocation. Eddy Merckx had a relentless drive, a pure, liberating passion for cycling, just like an amateur – in love with the sport, not because of the money or fame. A childlike enthusiasm. For him, cycling meant meritocracy and a raison d’être. A valuable life lesson for everyone, regardless of one’s profession.

Eddy Merckx en route to winning his fourth Tour de France in 1972


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