Art, Music + Travel
Top promotion tips for independent film directors by Sophie Childs
SHAD’s students think beyond the classroom
My Hong Kong Experience by Mark St. James
Where can you find the world’s most delectable dim sum (Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan, naturally), the most grandiose shopping, the most fervent clientele and the most alluring skyline that, come eight o’clock every evening, lights up in a scene that gives Vegas a run for its money? Why, it’s Hong Kong, of course! Whether I was taking the Star Ferry across the stately Victorian Harbour or hiking through a vivid, green lush hillside on winding paved paths high up on The Peak (the view was nothing short of breathtaking), I found myself in the moment. I was placed firmly where I knew centuries of historic events have taken place leading up to the modern Hong Kong that I love so much today. From ancient grounds and holy shrines like Tian Tan Buddha and the Wong Tai Sin temple to some of the tallest buildings in the world (including the International Finance Centre and International Commerce Centre), there started a fierce battle within me: to continue on with my explorations of the mountainous cityscape, grab another delicious morsel to enjoy…or GO SHOPPING! You can guess where I went. From the largest mall in Hong Kong on the Kowloon side, Harbour City, to any number of world-class shops in Causeway Bay—including the very best from Europe and around the world—the shopping was…dangerous. I found myself staring at pieces that were only seen by the elite because Hong Kong and its booming economy can support that level of elegance. I could certainly get into trouble here. But what I found most intriguing was the home grown Hong Kong fashion scene. Pristine style choices made by passing pedestrians would steal my gaze simply because of the level of thought that went into a single outfit. They were always immaculate and incredibly polished. I could tell that everyone researched which fashion pieces to invest in and which designers to follow. It was this local interest that led me to look inward and meet some very cool Hong Kong designers. Six Lee and Michelle Lai of MISCHA handbags are designers from Hong Kong that flourish because of the demand for fashion that starts from Hong Kong and mainland China. But these big designers aren’t the only ones making waves. Other local fashion designers get a head start at the Fashion Farm Foundation, which is an organization that takes young designers, builds them up and then showcases them for the world to see on global stages including Paris, Milan, and soon, New York. In short, Hong Kong was constantly amazing, with people bustling in every which direction, a million things to eat, see and do, and me in the middle of it all. Describing my week-long stay in this world-class city as a whirlwind would be an understatement. Next time, I plan to stay few more weeks and bring you front row coverage of Hong Kong fashion week! Hong Kong: Asia’s World City is a cosmopolitan of vibrancy, varieties and trendiness. Visitors will be amazed by the unique fusion of east meets west, the diversity of new and old, exquisite culinary experiences and fantastic shopping. Hong Kong offers Every Moment. A Different World. Discover Hong Kong! This article was written as part of a press trip sponsored by Hong Kong Tourism and Mode Media.
Photography by Carlos Esteves
Bhaktapur: what a better place to start to feel Nepali life than this historical city! With its narrow streets, several central squares and courtyards, one can come across a temple or touch a statue several hundred years old. Known as the City of Devotees, the typical Newari architecture found here is based on a combination of red bricks and wood carving. The unique use of materials, colors, shapes and forms are exhibited also in the wearable art and clothing. Be immersed in this ancient, "devoted" atmosphere! About the photographer: Carlos Esteves has a degree in Computer Science and a Master of Business Administration. Photography is his major passion and since 2010, his portfolio has been certified by the Associação Portuguesa dos Profissionais da Imagem. He's also passionate about travelling and discovering the authenticity of the places he visits. He was a finalist of the Travel Photographer of the Year competition for two consecutive years and he's always looking to capture his next powerful image.
By Avery Kremer
COSMETICS Brave a New Wave World Take the softness of airy, feminine vocals and bathe them in the sultry ominousness of moody repetition. Add an analog synth. Repeat with simplistic rhythms worthy of a pulsating dance floor. You’ve now entered the effortlessly cool reality of Vancouver’s minimal synth crew, COSMETICS. Even the band’s name alludes to an authentic new wave structure, stripped down and artificially dynamic. It is a minimalism conducive to the sparse, repetitive melodies and noir motivations of this synthesized dance duo. COSMETICS formed in 2008 when Aja Emma started producing music with Nic M. Emma lends her voice and synthesizer talents, while M brings his unique flair on the synthesizer as well as the duo’s rhythm and production. They write and record their self-described pop collage sound at their OUI! home studio in Vancouver, Canada. This stripped-down genre, an interesting take on pop music, is certainly dance floor worthy! In 2010, Brooklyn label Captured Tracks released their 7" debut entitled "Soft Skin." The following year, their pop-synth production, "The Cries," galvanized the Milan runways, creating a haunting, dramatic atmosphere at the Versace Spring/Summer collection. Currently, COSMETICS’s release list from label Captured Tracks includes "Olympia…Plus," a compilation LP of their finest, circa 2010-2013 productions, one EP, and a few singles including "Black Leather Gloves" and "Sleepwalking." With a long-awaited debut album and a European tour underway, this west coast duo is scaling the new wave world, taking with them their analog synths.
by Shawna Pandya
From couture to cars, skyscrapers to screens, design matters more than you might think Design, design, design. Omnipresent, yet all too often overlooked in importance. It catches the eye, drawing in the casual observer. Beyond art and fashion, design impacts many industries including medicine, automotive and consumer electronics. “Design,” said Steve Jobs, “is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” More than that, design is what attracts us to interact with something and to want it. Design demonstrates the most nuanced understanding of human motivation. Discerning what will capture a person's attention and stir them to action is a big part of creating innovative design. If we define design as "creating with the intent to evoke specific reactions or behaviours," it becomes a powerful problem-solving tool. When it comes to products, processes and visuals, design can be a superpower. Design & Dollars Given the broad definition of design, it is impossible to pin down its exact global GDP. Apple, known for its obsession with minimalist design, skyrocketed to a net worth of over $700 billion USD in 2014. If Apple were a country, its GDP would be 20th in the world. The web design industry in North America alone neared $35 billion USD last year. The global value of the fashion industry is expected to hit $3.7 trillion USD by the end of 2016. Suffice to say, design is valuable. Design affects behaviour—especially buying behaviour—so it only makes sense to invest in it heavily. Creators of all kinds have picked up on this; they strive to outdo themselves in search of more finesse—and market share. Gone are the boxy sedans of the 90s, replaced with curvier, sleeker versions. Hold the first-generation iPhone next to an iPhone 6: the original is almost clumsy in comparison. Compare Apple to its competitors: you can't argue with his Steve Jobs's eye for design. Designing Behaviour In retail, physical spaces are constructed to guide buyers into entering, exploring and purchasing. Searching online for "retail layout strategy" yields a wealth of articles on storefront optimization. North American shoppers, for example, tend to turn right upon entering a store. Retailers capitalize on this trend by placing attention-grabbing displays there. Now consider layouts in print and digital media. Visual layouts and headlines are designed to catch the eye, converting passersby to readers. The balance of text, colours, figures and patterns can mean success or failure for a newly-launched magazine or website. This push for outstanding design has cultivated completely new industries in the past decade. User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) designers were unheard of before the proliferation of smartphones and apps. Now, these designers call the shots in technology. My friend, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, once asked me to aid in his search for a full-time UX designer for his startup. I was laughed at by my designer friends: He wanted a full-time designer? All to himself? Good luck! Designers were in such high demand, they could pick and choose their contracts. No one settled for working full-time for any sole project. The Architecture of Good Design If design is so important, we need to understand what makes for good design. More than aesthetics and symmetry, good design has to feel intuitive. It stirs the desire to engage. It can look deceptively simple, despite being complex and multi-dimensional. A well-designed product can take hours, months, years to develop. It can evolve from its original self. Ultimately, good design elicits that "Ah yes. This is for me," sentiment. What evokes this feeling today will not necessarily be the same tomorrow. The pinnacle of 1970s design is cringe-worthy today (orange shag carpet on brown tile, anyone?). Design evolves—this is as true in home decor and fashion as it is in technology and medicine. Design also drives adoption, sauntering hand-in-hand with ergonomics and usability. I recently met with a group of enterprising biomedical engineers who were designing new tools to permit better access to the brain for certain neurosurgical procedures. I pored over their concept, asked detailed questions and played with the prototype. Their answers were exact, their methods sound. However, when I picked up the tool, I frowned. “The handle is too light,” I said. “The concept is great, but compared to what surgeons are used to, this is far lighter. They won’t like it. A heavier handle will also give you more leverage in surgery.” Medical devices are challenging. Doctors are notoriously picky and creatures of habit. If they can find a reason to resist change, they will. Graphic design icon Ivan Chermayeff, the mind behind the National Geographic and Armani Exchange logos, captured the heart of it, noting, “Design is directed toward human beings. To design,” he said, “is to solve human problems by identifying them and executing the best solution.” Profit and adoption aside, design matters because it is a physical manifestation of vision, leadership and creativity—the new currencies of our age. This becomes especially relevant at a time when automation is increasingly widespread. In other words, be unique or be replaced. Your value is in your individuality, and design is a realization of that individuality. Designers—fashion, graphic, technical or otherwise—take note. You are valuable. You matter. You can make things happen. Design is the future. Design is here to stay.
By Avery Kremer
Navigating the Electronic Music World with Better Living DJ’s Music has always been a key indicator of the characteristics that define a decade. The 60’s saw The Beatles pave the way for popular culture and the 90’s saw Nirvana lead the underground grunge community to mainstream praise. It’s now 2015 and like clockwork, music is showing its cultural flags. It’s the electronic music decade. And house music, the genre’s originator, is back in full force. Here, 4/4 beats and bass propelled grooves fill the musical landscape. Pair these constructed tones with house music’s broad drops, melding rhythmical patterns and layered vocals and the result is contemporary electronic music. So where does Edmonton-based DJ and production duo, Better Living DJ’s, fit into this electronic music declaration? Well to start, the resumes of members Kurtis Schultz and Keith Walton read like a how-to book for an aspiring DJ-producer. Their strength as a pair is easily heard in their most recent release, the EP "Love Alive" from Vancouver-based record label Filter Records. The track, featuring vocals by Canadian singer Julie Adams, is bound for international attention if the strong buzz surrounding its release is any indication. As part of their 2015 plan, Filter Records will also release the original production "Game Tight," which features a remix by John Glassey. Add the March 2015 launch of the duo’s EP "Take Me Higher" that features another performance by vocalist Adams, and Better Living DJ’s are prepped for expansion. "2015 will really define a new direction for us," said Walton. Loving The Underground They’ve had their sights set on this moment since their 2012 inaugural year, one that found both men out of typical employment after they chose to pursue music full time in lieu of "working for the man." Both Schultz and Walton quit their nine-to-fives and immersed themselves in the world of music production. At the duo’s initial encounter at a friend’s rooftop party, a partnership blossomed instantaneously. Schultz explained, "Monday morning we were in the studio working on our first track. Since then, we’ve been working together continuously." Schultz’s history as a drummer naturally brought out the four-beat rhythms necessary for a pursuit in house music production. His previous producing partner had moved to L.A., leaving an opening that Walton quickly embraced. Walton’s entrance solidified the pair’s direction as house music producers. "As soon as we got together, it was obvious that house music was what we were going to be making," Schultz said. "It just felt natural." Easily falling into the rhythm of the genre, Schultz elaborated on the skills he acquired from his drumming background. Walton’s admiration for the music was formed on the dance floors of early underground house shows. He remembered, "I felt like every DJ I saw had a different message. After, I realized I had a message of my own and wanted to take people on a musical journey." Their backgrounds brought the contrasting dynamics into their production procedure and were a necessary component in the music that began to flow from their studio sessions. "Keith and I have strengths in different areas musically," Schultz said, "so it’s been great to help each other along the way. We each bring something unique to the table." Not to be overshadowed by her male collaborators, Julie Adams provided the powerful vocal touches that drive many of Better Living DJ’s productions. She was an essential part of the track’s overall direction. Recalled Walton, "Julie is one of the most talented vocalists we’ve ever encountered. After listening to her perform with her band Unwed Mothers, of which Kurtis is also the drummer, it seemed inevitable that we would collaborate in the house music realm." Outside of the studio, weekly residencies and continuous show bookings keep their schedules full and serve as a platform to test their personally-produced material. "There’s nothing better than playing out your own songs to a responsive crowd," Schultz expressed. "It changes what DJing is, because you’re not just playing someone else’s tunes anymore; it becomes a performance." It is these performances that both men consider to be their artist outlets. Walton explains, "It’s raw and poetic. It’s a form of communicating without ink." Like the musical heroes that shaped the decades before them, house music artists, including Better Living DJ’s, are driving this generation’s musical direction. As awareness for the genre grows and electronic music tracks are accepted into rotation on mainstream radio stations, these two guys are standing in the perfect position to take this house music trend to new heights. There are new rules and formulas for success as fresh players emerge to elevate the entire game. But it’s a game that these two fellas sure know how to play! Now that sounds like a better-lived life to me. Good luck guys—house music anxiously awaits your next production.
By Danielle Fuechtmann
An artist's exploration of youth + beauty Beauty and fashion can feel like a fleeting thing, escaping from the grasp of your fingers as you try to catch on. Artist Fiona Maclean has been exploring this feeling, offering her interpretation of youth and sexuality in her vibrant paintings. A life long artist, Maclean was originally from New Zealand and is now based in Australia. Maclean describes her art as an attempt to capture something intangible, using the canvas and paint to immortalize the image and keep it young forever. Influenced by music, the persona of the subject, or even her own sentiments, her art is dynamic and focuses the viewer on an emotional experience. Looking back, moving forward Growing up, she loved creating art and had a great fondness for books and images, using drawing as a doorway to a dimension of imagination and otherworldliness. This element of fantasy is still alive in her art today, but now accompanies her technical accomplishments gained from her studies at art school. Maclean pursued an artistic career early, painting large-scale paintings of famous people in her parents' living room as a teenager. She transitioned from living room portraiture to honing her skills as a fashion illustrator, contacting magazines and working for free, getting featured in local fashion magazines. Maclean received recognition from several international fashion illustration publications including Great Big Book of Fashion Illustration and Cutting Edge Fashion Illustration. She decided to concentrate more on painting and fine art and started attending the Parsons School of Art (The New School) in New York City in 2005. Though her studies were interrupted by a family tragedy and her art career put on hold for a couple years, she completed two Artist Residencies in Painting and Illustration at the New York's School of Visual Arts in 2010, thus allowing her to take a new direction in her career. In the last few years, Maclean has been catching the attention of the art community with her paintings, helping her gain more recognition as an artist. Currently, she is combining her artistic explorations with her travels, producing such work as her Barcelona-inspired La Chica de El Born series. Next, Maclean plans to pursue some new ideas for projects, reintroduce fashion illustration and experimenting more with large-scale paintings and illustrations. She hopes to combine her artwork with collaborations with the fashion houses and music industry that provide so much inspiration to her.