THREADS: AUCKLAND DIVERSE with SIAN KOLOSE

Culture, Threads

In this T H R E A D S shoot I linked up with Sian Kolose who, at the time, had her online shopping mecca Hunting Ground Store still in incubation with her sister Tina Kolose. For this shoot, we put together a list of the dopest models we could source, then set about shooting them. I realised while putting this portfolio together just how busy we got – 16 models, two days, one make up artist, two cameras, one stylist (Sian), one photographer (me) and K’RD. 

Models included Luke Collins, Maia Te Hira, Anny Ma, Suha Wahab and Sarah Hindley, Max Robinson and Tina Kolose. Blaze the Emperor, Bryson Naik, Tony Douglas, Blu, Shajal Singh, Tashi Levitt, Arlena Teiho, Leah Pao, Bheilee Okesene, Felicity Aroa.

EXPERIMENT

Working with Sian was a really fun experience, I particularly enjoyed the collaborative freedom I had when working with her.  Two examples are getting Tina to hop into the trolley as well as contrasting Tashi’s white satin skirt with the dirt from the car park; also the darker tone of the material soaking up the fresh water (it had just rained) from the puddle. (BELOW). Being my first shoot of this scale, working with Sian gave me the confidence to try new ideas out. 

STREET

REFLECTION

PRE-LOVED

Recyclable fashion is a good way to combat the humongous waste issue that human kind face remedying today. Having the skills to re-work an old garment and make it new, or the eye for how to pick a garment and make it seem new is an ever-growing/required skill and, as we continue to throw material into the earth – like we don’t understand some materials like Nylon take around 20 years to breakdown- we must incorporate reusable fashion into our basic shopping vocabulary. ** Disclaimer** to the Salvation Army in Glenn Eden – this does NOT excuse you charging 70$ for a shirt someone dropped off while throwing away rubbish and other household goods, then telling customers on a low budget ‘well that’s what it costs in Ponsonby’. Just saying… Not really I mean it… Please stop dousing the thrill of op-shopping with your inflation excuses!

ELEMENT

This year, Rihanna did a shoot for Garage Mag, shot by photographer Deana Lawson who specialises in taking photos of subjects in their home, in what she describes as ‘their domestic space’. Shajal (BELOW) used to flat above the shoot location – Hero Sandwich House – in Auckland so was certainly in her natural space. I would like to explore these themes more in future work – especially in domestic settings. 

MOTION

Movement is another aspect I noticed when reflecting on this shoot, these models had their stance on-point and I also liked to encourage the energy and sense of action with my angles. (Shout outs Blaze The Emperor). 

BRYSON X TONY

COLLABORATION

Tony Douglas is someone whose style I noticed after moving home from Perth in 2011, he was DJing at an underground bar in Wellington as one half of Calm The Fuck  Down aka CTFD. During this shoot, a film and photography guru himself, he taught me to set the meters properly on my external flash. (Blush face emoji).

DIASPORA

Joan Smalls took part in this interview with the Business of Fashion addressing diversity and inclusivity last year. She said “It’s interesting because of my background I come from an interracial family and my household has every different shade and in my world I’ve always seen it as inclusive so coming to New York and making a career modelling they reminded me ‘what we see you as’ not who I identified with”. I think as women of colour, Sian and I brought that sense of diversity within the world we see to the shoot; it’s something that I feel proud of upon completing the project.

HERO SANDWICH HOUSE

CULTURE

Cultural diversity in mainstream media and the importance of seeing one’s self reflected on TV and billboards is an agenda in my work that I hold dear. Growing up as an ‘other’ in New Zealand, it was very earlier on in my exploration of myself, then my work as an extension of myself, that I have consistently focused on culture and identity. Juxtaposing the confronting and contradicting elements that happen when east meets west in my compositions is something I will continue to do. There have been movements and collectives in Auckland like Milkshake Models, Dynasty, FAF SWAG and photographers like Imogen Wilson who have also pushed identity boundaries – I’m only excited to see what the future brings for Kiwi creatives and brown children who can see themselves positively and accurately reflected in the media. 

MERCURY PLAZA

Mercury Plaza is definitely a popular Auckland location for food and photos. The food court there is due to close, but I hope it reopens/moves somewhere else cause for me – South East Asian food is what helps me hold on to small pieces of Malaysia and remedies the sense of feeling homesick all in one $10 meal! 

There are more shots from this shoot on Instagram

CINEMA: Crazy (Not So Rich) Asians

Culture, Feature

Man, diversity is trending like a motherfucker, and although it’s something many of us MTV kids have been waiting for, since time; making sure it isn’t a passing trend is the new mission for all involved in this movement. It’s hard not to question why the inclusion of those who tick the ‘other’ box is suddenly being embraced by mainstream outlets. By now people of colour are already tired of standing up when they say, sitting down when ‘they’ say and dropping everything, when THEY say.

In a time when I thought my well of ideas would burst open and I’d have a million articles to write and express my inner most deepest feelings, instead I froze up. I observed the platforms that were being ‘given’ and ‘provided’ and couldn’t find my voice even when I tried. Over the past few years I watched the #poc #woc #blacklivesmatter #staywoke #metoo narratives unfold online and felt even more confused than before, but I put it down to writers block and kept living.

ariansdasfafafasfam_copy.jpg

Director Jon M. Chu’s film Crazy Rich Asians just became the highest grossing romantic comedy in a decade. Reaching $165.7 million as of this weekend. Starring Michelle Yeoh, Akwafina, Ken Jeong and Nico Santos the movie overflows with decadence, luxury, fine things and fun amidst the strict, non-tolerant to anything other than just do what you know you’re supposed to be doing (become a lawyer, doctor…Prime Minister would be good) world that goes hand-in-hand with cultures who’ve kept their traditions despite westernized influences and dilution. Chu’s screenplay takes you to ‘exotic’ Malaysia and Singapore, and if you’re from those lands (as I am) the mere sight of the pasarmalam (night market) or the use of the word ‘Alamak’ (Oh My God) on a cell phone projects you into a ridiculous deep nostalgia you can’t help but zone in on. Even though your mate from Zimbabwe is next to you balling her eyes out at the unjust heartbreak portrayed on the screen, you forget to ask her if she’s OK (not cool Aleyna) because you’re momentarily homesick and lamenting over the fact that had you not come to New Zealand, become really westernised and chose to disobey your parents at every turn, this could have been your life, once, too.

The beauty of this movie is that it is a romcom – the type of movie which I do and can safely appreciate with my mum – it won’t cause us to talk about our world views or politics or sociology. It is the type of movie where we both simply agree – he’s cute, she’s pretty, that bad guy is actually an asshole and the grandma should keep her 2 cents before she exposes the truth and debunks the entire climax which alludes to fairy tales being a real-life realistic goal to strive for. In romcoms, I don’t remind my mother that I’m radical and potentially a dud child, and she doesn’t remind me that she’s old school. It works.

51c8

“You’re what’s considered Eurasian” she explained to me around the age of 10. “How?” I wondered… You’re Indian and dad’s Chinese and Filipino. I’d watched movies with Spanish content and appreciated the expression and how the language made you feel like you’re allowed to yell at your lover even when you just want them to pass the salt. I’d watched ‘Real Women Have Curves’ featuring America Ferrera and felt less ugly, embarrassed or bad, my 5ft curvy body couldn’t fit anything even at Glassons. I realised tall Caucasian figures were the basis for the pattern making – another Kiwi experience I’d made a conscious-thought-out-decision not to take personally. The term Euroasian sounded too close to European to me and growing up in New Zealand looking Māori or Polynesian made me feel like I wasn’t Euro anything, I simply wasn’t interested in the Euro part – especially after experiencing racism for my skin colour.  I have lived this way since I came into consciousness – dating a white boy once and dumping him immediately for calling Kanye West a racist because he rapped ‘A white man gets paid off of all of that’.

ME: You can’t say he isn’t right Tom!

Tom wasn’t having it and neither was I. My mum’s one chance to welcome home a white boy was obliterated in that moment and my ‘activist’ ‘radical’ sensibilities were birthed and cemented into time.

I identified myself in the female protagonist played by Constance Wu. She was raised in America and free to follow her passions – naive to the benefits of strict traditions. When her mother tells her ‘But you were raised here’ I recognised a strong, very defining statement, of the reality that once you leave your homeland a part of it lets you go too. It sounds sad but one thing having a Kiwi identity affords you is the liberty to not have to conform, to follow your dreams and become an artist if you want to. You’re free from traditional expectation. The catch is, when you’re away for too long, expectation is all you want. ‘One tight slap’ on the face and a good scolding from your Aunty for leaving a wet towel on the bed (culturally insensitive) doesn’t seem so bad when you’re homesick.  

anigif_sub-buzz-698-1534452137-12

In my experience coming from a Euroasian family who immigrated elsewhere, I have access to the traditions but am not obligated to follow them. In my case my parents only spoke English to me, something I was deeply sad about for years. For them we didn’t need Tamil, Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese or Mandarin in New Zealand. ‘Better you go learn French’ my Grandma would casually say to me at the age of 14.  “So I could speak to who?!” I’d balk back. At that time I was not concerned with the array of cute boys who could (and would) speak French in my life. Survival as a little brown female in a Western world was my primary concern, it would be a long time after that in which I’d care about boys.

I was one of those girls who didn’t have to go to temple with the rest of the family because the ceremonies would be long and I’d get bored – my mum assumed. This meant I missed out on weddings and funerals. Chinese New Year was the best though, because in Malaysia there’s this tradition called angpow, where if you’re a child, upon arrival you receive a red envelope filled with money. This part of our culture was one my parents happily let us participate in (maybe it was their version of a DIY economics class). As the visiting foreigners my brother and I would tour the city driving from cousins’ house to aunt’s to great-great-grand-mothers “of your uncle’s second wife’s sister” collecting red envelopes, allowing aunties to feed us and pinch our cheeks – so long as they gave us envelopes.

day14CRA074.dng

My parents immigrated to New Zealand because dad couldn’t handle the fact that the jungle laid land he grew up in and loved so much had given way to a concrete jungle and capitalist priorities. Mum felt the country was becoming corrupt and so we moved to NZ where my younger brother and I enjoyed the fact that we could say ‘fuck’ freely – simply telling our mates our parents were taking us to Whakatāne to holiday. At the time, this felt awesome, now, I understand it’d quite likely be considered culturally insensitive.

What’s interesting in Jon Chu’s narrative is the empowerment it leaves women, particularly Asian women. Whether the character be a single mother who ran to America to raise an illegitimate daughter or an heiress with a shopping problem and unfaithful husband, the movie celebrates the strength of women. It reflects the fact that in many societies across the world it is a woman’s love, strength and patience, resilience and care that should be celebrated and not ignored or taken for granted. In Jon Chu’s film it’s these traits of being a traditional woman that become vital fibers in the fabric that hold a family and sometimes an empire together. Bring on the sequel and the “tsunami” Michelle Yeoh proposed in a NY Screen Times panel discussion where she explains if roles for Asians aren’t created then “We can’t work because of you”.  

 Yeoh is a Malaysian actress who has a net worth of $40 million and a lead role in the American TV series Star Trek. She also says she hopes “It doesn’t matter what race you are I hope that very soon we don’t see us as actors, or filmmakers, as colour, or whatever it is – but storytellers with stories that needs to be told in the right way and represent what we are and who we are”.

l-CRA-Q&A-Britt

 

Some criticism of the movie is that although it hosts an all-Asian cast and makes progress for Asian cinema, Alice Truong writes for Quartzy:  ‘It only depicts ethnic Chinese people, who make up a portion of the city-state’s population. The lack of South Asians or anyone with dark skin has the internet suggesting new names for the movie: Crazy Rich East Asians and Crazy Rich East Light-Skinned Asians.”

THREADS: VILLETTE – Talks the Powersuit & Dasha Lingerie

Music, Threads

“Our bodies are temples right? It’s crazy – our bodies are sacks of flesh holding everything together – but our spirit lives inside of us. I’ve always believed that we’re just vessels, and the way we dress ourselves is literally armour, so I think when you put something on to clothe your vessel it’s kind of like a spiritual statement whatever you wear” – Villette Dasha

Villette1

The 23-year-old singer/songwriter/producer and audio engineer has just released ‘Not In Love’ which is available on all platforms and the first single off her upcoming EP. It was produced by VILLETTE as well as mix and mastered by her and SmokeyGotBeatz . The shit is flame emojis. A lot of them. And representative of her fine attention to detail and craftsmanship in her music work. In this interview for Threads by Serum we talk about the power of the women’s suit and how clothing can be like armour; as well as her lingerie line “Dasha Lingerie”. She says “You know when you wear sexy lingerie like matching bra and knickers it’s like – dope you know. You could be wearing it just under track pants and a hoodie but you feel put together – I don’t know what it is”.
She recalls “My mum had a suit like this but it was lavender and it was so sick, she used to have these long braids as well.” Remembering a happier time from her childhood when she and her older sister Renee dressed up for their parents she says “I wore the coat and she wore the pants. We walked into the lounge in our house in Manurewa and did a little show for my parents. Whenever I see this it just reminds me to work hard”.
“Janelle Monae always wears a black and white suit – I read an interview where she was talking about the suit and how it represents how hard her parents worked – One’s a bus driver and the other a janitor. They both worked hard out 9-5 jobs and she always sticks to the black and white theme, suits and business attire to commemorate the hard work they’ve done.”

SERUM: Do you mean in terms of feeling confident and how clothing can fit on your body, like dressing for the job that you’re going to do?
VILLETTE: Yeah that’s a part of it. I think also feeling like you need to lead as well, cause I work in my home, my studio is right next to my bedroom, and that actually takes a lot of work to come from the bedroom to the studio when you could just stay in bed and watch Netflix all day. So if I know I’m working at the studio I’ll force myself to get up, have a shower and try and at least spend like 6 hours of the day in the studio.

IMG_7770

A dress she picked up in 2016 for her performance at Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles. Found in Santee Alley, an outdoor shopping district there.

SERUM: What would you wear to your studio?
VILLETTE: I will still dress up and wear something like a singlet with flowery pants – or I’m usually just in tracks pants and a hoodie cause that’s what’s comfortable. It really depends on how I feel cause sometimes I wanna feel empowered or I’m not having a good day or something so I’ll wear something sexy or do my hair & make up just to go to the next room.

SERUM: How does that help you create your juice – like I call it good juice – but for you, how does what you’re wearing enhance how you feel?
VILLETTE: Our bodies are temples right, I was talking about this literally last night – it’s so crazy how our bodies are sacks of flesh and we’re holding everything together but our spirit lives inside of us and that’s our vessel like I’ve always believed that. The way we dress ourselves it literally is armour so I think when you put something on to clothe your vessel it’s kind of like a spiritual statement whatever you wear and it’s just a representation of how you’re feeling and it should be armour – it can be armour and it can be also be a sword – it depends on what you wear.
This is made of cotton and it was made for me – it’s a traditional Samoan garment. I wore this to my nan’s funeral. It was from a shop in West Auckland and this just represents culture to me – it’s my armour whenever I go and do a cultural thing and if it’s really really important – for example I’m going to get my malu next year which is a traditional Samoan tattoo from here [waist] to here [lower thigh] and I would wear this to the ceremony and I’ll go get that done in Samoa. I love this but it’s not something that I would wear lightly and just wear around – it’s something I would wear at special occasions.

IMG_20180918_214323.jpg

Left: A Calvin Klein jacket her boyfriend Neihana thrifted in the US. Right: Traditional Samoan Garment.

SERUM: If we refer to it as like a tool box, why would you say it’s important for women to have clothes and image in that tool box like a professional repertoire or like an arsenal?
VILLETTE: I think people find their armour in different ways but for me personally, mine’s a suit – your professional wear can be like a hoodie and track pants or t-shirt or scuffs but it’s important to have something that makes you feel protected. It’s just good for your spirit I feel like as working professionals, we need even just one piece of clothing that feels like our armour, that no matter what it’s all good!

SERUM: Tell me about how you created Dasha Lingerie.
VILLETTE: I wanted to make Dasha Lingerie because I’ve loved lingerie since I was little and because I’m always wearing lingerie in sets with suits. I also wanted to make Dasha because I just wanted other people to feel how good it made me feel knowing that I don’t feel good all the time – it’s just a nice feel good item – the lingerie isn’t meant to hold your boobs up or anything, it’s literally just meant to fit over your natural curves – it’s really just a feel good piece.

SERUM: It’s really Coco Chanel that contrast.
VILLETTE: I love Chanel as well, that’s probably my favourite major brand or whatever. I don’t own anything Chanel, I just like to watch the catwalks and I love the shows and the jackets like the Chanel jacket is iconic – I’d love to own one one day but then again I don’t want to spend that much money on it. The lingerie just came along really naturally and when I go to a lingerie store I don’t wanna be paying for a bra that’s like $40 for something that’s got hardly any material but it costs so much. I don’t agree with that so I just thought $20 is good for everyone because it’s a nice sexy piece and it’s just something that’s so sweet. It can frame your body. When women feel sexy they’re unstoppable, like the whole vibe changes and you just feel it – they look bigger I’m not sure how to explain it but their presence is more intense you can feel them in the room – it’s so good.

Purchase Dasha Lingerie HERE.

LIST: #Unapologetic R I H A N N A is a Living Legend

Culture, Threads

Having been the brand ambassador for Puma since 2014, Rihanna now brings us her 2018 Fenty x Puma collection contrasting motocross and stilettos on a palette of eye popping, wallet hurting pastels. In 2017, an extension of that brand FENTY BEAUTY was named one of the 25 best inventions of the year by Time Magazine. Why? Because it’s inclusive to all women, in more shades than usual. She also had a street named after her in Barbados, featured in a science fiction film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and starred in Oceans 13 . Harvard gave her the 2017 Humanitarian of The Year award for her charity work. And (significant to my side of the world) choreographer and dancer, Parris Goebel helped choreograph her New York Fashion Week show alongside art director Phillipa Price.

This woman and her work ethic has been cemented as a pillar in my ‘tools for inspiration’ because she is so un-apologetically herself, no matter what she’s doing she’s paving the way for young woman of colour to unpack prior notions of not being able to participate in mainstream pop-culture. Time magazine wrote: “Leave it to Rihanna to stage one of the most memorable moments of New York Fashion Week with the fashion show for her Savage x Fenty” She told InStyle “My mission is just to have women all over the world feel comfortable and sexy and have fun with lingerie and tonight was just one of those experiences where I wanted them to feel that energy. I wanted them to feel all the different body types and different women at different stages of their womanhood”. My fav Slick Woods went into labor just as the show wrapped up. Talk about the universe and divine timing.