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An Interview with Andrew Logan

The Alternative Miss World contest returns this year after a 5 year hiatus. We talked to its founder, Andrew Logan.

BST: Why are you holding AMW this year?

ANDREW LOGAN: Jes Benstock of Living Cinema shot the last event but didn’t have enough money to edit. So he then raised money with a new idea which was to take it right back to 1972 and to show how culturally it had influenced so many people and things. With me, I suppose, at the head of it. It is very much a family and friends thing. Very family-orientated but absolutely huge at the same time.

Can anyone enter?

Yes. I think we have 19 or 20 entrants this year.

What are the criteria for entry?

The contestants kind of find their way there. We don’t have auditions. It’s about transformation. Of course, it would be nice to have hundreds of people. But it’s quite tight and everyone takes 2 minutes on stage. And if you’ve got 20 people on stage that takes an hour. It kind of limits itself — finds its own level.

Can you confirm who the judges are this year?

We’ve got Ken Russell, Zandra Rhodes, Richard O’Brien, Tim Curry, Amy Lamé, and Betty — my housekeeper of many many years. And Tony Elliott. And then Philip Hughes who gave me a wonderful show up in Ruthin Craft Centre up in North Wales and he also published the book on my work. Altogether there are about twelve.

[The judges tend to be] the kind of people I’ve been involved with. And people that I admire. I’m not into names, names mean nothing to me. It’s just a bit of paper. That’s not the point of it.

You’ve described AMW as a family affair. Can you explain a bit more about that?

My brother Quentin has been in quite a few now. And my sister has been in every one. My mother judged it a number of times. My brother Peter used to the music and him and his wife — they both entered it. It was in 1973, when Derek [Jarman] shot it. Peter was doing the music so he had to get up — as the music was playing, walk up and down. It has always been a family thing.

Where do the similarities to Miss World start and end?

Contestants have a questionnaire which they fill in. Daywear-swimwear-eveningwear. Great isn’t it? It’s three outfits. It’s also fantastic to have an interview. It’s such a simple idea really — we just enlarged on that. In 1972 Miss World was huge in the UK, like it is in India is now. Every household watched it. Every household! No one escaped it.

Crufts Dog Show was the real inspiration. I’d been to Crufts Dog Show and we had one of the forms, for the dogs. Which kind of inspired the form for AMW.

There have been several films made already of the contest. Can you tell us a bit about the film that was made of the 1978 contest?

[The director Richard Gayor] was interested in disappearing tribes — so he chose us. He had been to 1975 so wanted to film 1978 and actually made a very beautiful movie. That’s the movie you should see. It’s about the event and the build up. It was the first time that 35mm handheld cameras had been used in this country and it was lit beautifully. Very sensitively done. I remember the credits — they said the AMW in mirror pieces. We laid it out on velvet and threw it up in the air and then reversed it. It produced a wonderful, magical movie and it’s timeless. You look at it and you wouldn’t really know it was 1978.

This year’s theme is The Elements. Can you tell us about how the themes work?

[The central theme of transformation] is timeless. There is a continuum between this generation of contestants and previous ones. Sometimes, I’m sitting there and someone comes out and I think — I’ve seen this before. Of course I don’t say that — I smile and applaud. Of course I’ve seen it before — there are only so many things you can do with the human body. Even though some of the transformations are absolutely fantastic.

There is always a theme. But I don’t know what the contestants are going to come as. I have the form, I read out the name and the description of the outfit and we do that all the way through the performance.

When you launched AMW the UK was in recession — and now we are again. It seems that AMW comes back whenever we need it most.

When I started the event and as it unfolded, I saw more and more that I wanted to continue with this event ‘til I dropped dead — brought in on a wheelchair. It’s fascinating that the format remains exactly the same and yet you get these things that happen. We had the war in ‘82- that was Miss Aldershot [who won]. There was punk in ‘75 — that was shot by Mike Ballard — the art editor for Interview, Andy Warhol’s magazine. The Alternative Miss World seems to indicate what is happening — or what is going to happen.

What’s the most surprised you’ve been by what someone came out wearing?

I think it might have been before someone came out. And it was my friend, the late, great Divine. I met him through Zandra and he came to the Alternative Tower of London. It was 1977 — it was the Queen’s Jubilee and we had a day-long party and he came to that. We became firm friends and he co-hosted the 1978 event.

I was getting ready in a caravan at the back because it was being held in a circus tent. I’d only ever seen him as a man — as Glenn. And a door opened and there… was Divine. He said, The look on your face, I’ll never forget it. I was a bit surprised.

Most of the others… Ok. When the donkey fell of the catwalk. That was a surprise to me. The donkey was the throne because it was in a circus. The donkey was fine because he fell on all these soft contestants in their outfits. I really wanted to have an elephant but it’s a good thing we didn’t because if that had fallen on the contestants it would have been most unfortunate. The whole thing is about surprises — you never know what will happen. All you can do is stand there and let the thing unfurl.

This year, a lot of health and safety seems to have crept in. however, it means that you have to use your imagination even more — so if you can’t use fire — what will I use? The postitive effect is that it stretches the imagination even more.

I remember the last contest drew some controversy because the then director of the Royal AcademySir Norman Rosenthal – took part.

Norman’s great fun. He got some artists to help him out, including Sarah Lucas. He didn’t win, by the way.

Do you see AMW as anti-establishment?

It’s what people make it. I just put it on — that’s it. I leave all the interpretation to others.


Other than the films, what other documentation do you have of previous contests?

Each contestant before they go on is photographed. So we have a documentation right back to the beginning. David Bailey came one year — he did 1973 — and took some pictures. That documentation is really important.

I want to do a book of these wonderful images. I have everything here. I’m just waiting for someone to come along and say they’d like to do an AMW book which I’d be very happy with.

You’ve mentioned Piers Atkinson whose work is currently part of the Stephen Jones hat exhibition at the V&A. Do you feel like AMW has nurtured talents like his?

Piers started here in 1995 for the Fire AMW. He’s actually here [in the studio] today. He’d just left college and came up and helped me work on the contestant numbers that they wear.

We have all these funny little customs and you need someone to help out with them. He worked with me for a number of years and then went on to work with Zandra. He did Daily Rubbish for Fashion Week and now he’s producing a souvenir programme for AMW.

Have you ever held AMW outside of London?

It’s very English but I’ve negotiated many times over the years to get it held someone else in the world. Places such as Japan, America — which was going to be a huge tour of all the big cities of America. Fantastic! Well, that didn’t happen.

And India but then a man set himself alight for Miss World. And we thought, well it might be a bit difficult — they might get a bit muddled up… I would love to take it somewhere else. We have many Russians coming this year if we can get their visas sorted out.

I think AMW is very English but it would transfer somewhere else but it’s never had the opportunity.

To conclude, can you tell me a bit about Andrew Logan?

I was trained as an architect. I think I am very different from any other artist anyhow. I think my work is unique. There’s no one else working like I do. I just happen to be based in London. But I am a great traveller. If I wasn’t an artist I think I would have been a traveller.

[Thanks to Andrew and his team for the interview and photo access. AMW 2009 - The Elements, is at the Roundhouse, 2 May 2009. Book tickets here. Jes Benstock's film, The British Guide To Showing Off, is due for release later this year]

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Dawn of the Depressionista

Forget the recessionista, this season we’re downgrading to depression fashion …

hessian-shoeAll those jokes about sackcloth seem to have been taken rather literally by some high fashion labels. What else would explain Miu Miu‘s hessian heels, and the un-ironed look championed by sister label Prada? At the Oscars many stars wore styles redolent of 1930s fashion, building on a new, rather scary style trend — depression fashion. ‘Cos when you’re down to your last £270, a pair of Miu Miu shoes are clearly what you’re going to spend it on…

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RIP Nagi Noda

The Japanese artist/designer/director has died aged 35.

Dog HatsNagi Noda was maybe best known for her “Sentimental Journey” video for Japanese pop star Yuki, which featured multiple “analog” clones of the singer and influenced Jack White’s 2006 Coca-Cola commercial. Noda’s body of work included short films, sculpture and even character art like Hanpanda, the half panda/half other beast who appeared in her art exhibits and was also part of a collaboration with L.A./N.Y. fashion brand Libertine. Last year, she collaborated with painter Mark Ryden on her own fashion label Broken Label. Her most recent creations included delightfully strange hairpieces in the shapes of various breeds of dog.

“Beyond being a brilliant artist and wonderful talent, Nagi was one of the most incredibly unique spirits that I have known,” says Sheila Stepanek, CEO/EP Partizan US, which represented Noda. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.” Stepanek says that Noda passed “in her Mark Ryden dress, Chanel boots, perfect make-up with Viktor & Rolf lace black eye lashes.”

Source: Creativity Online.

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Harvey Pics

Wallace and Gromit model for Harvey Nichols.

wallace and gromit for harvey nicholsMuch as we love Nick Park’s national treasures, surely they are much more suited to flogging tea bags than glad rags? Mother‘s Hibby and Harvey campaign from the late 90s was far more on-brand. With their delightfully catty captions — “Nice Helmut” — the knitted dolls spoke directly to the fashionistas who shop at Harvey Nicks as well as modelling the clothes. It’s hard to see Wallace and his dog having the same high fashion resonance.

Hibby and Harvey for Harvey Nichols (knitted puppets Nice Helmut ad)

And yet. Marks and Spencer has just launched an ad campaign featuring that beloved working class stereotype Del Boy in an attempt to move away from its current upmarket image. Food retailers in the UK are increasingly under pressure from the ‘Aldi effect’ with credit-crunched shoppers switching to budget outlets. M&S claims that Del Boy has “universal appeal with the British public”. Maybe Harvey Nics is attempting a similar shift by adopting the distinctly mainstream Wallace and Gromit. But what does a luxury brand have without its exclusivity? Luxe brands from M&S upwards may well be about to find out…

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Fashionomics

Fash-mags as economic indicator.

Fashion shoot on Bryant Homes building siteHot on the dangerously high heels of the ‘hemline index’, comes another economic indicator from the fashion world. A recent issue of the FT‘s How to Spend It glossie features a shoot in an alien-looking location. Fashionistas are even more notorious than ad folk when it comes to jetting off to the Maldives ‘for the light’, but this shoot is different. This fashionably sparse landscape doesn’t come courtesy of some desert or even Lanzarote. Instead, the photo credits include “Bryant Homes, new homes development, Oxfordshire” who are clearly diversifying in the absence of any houses to build. Times is hard.

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Wear Palettes

Tracking this season’s colours. And more.

wear palettesBigShinyThing reader Daniel — a Swiss graphic design student — writes in to alert us to his site Wear Palettes.

The site features images from the Sartorialist fashion site, from which the dominant colour palettes behind the look have been extracted and catalogued: a daily-growing database of fashion colours.

Nice idea. At the moment the site is bloggish, and we assume Daniel is doing the hard work manually in Photoshop or similar. We’ve no idea where this will go, but can only hope Daniel gets some investment or mainstream interest which would allow him to expand the scope and functionality. It’s easy to imagine Wear Palettes growing to include user-contributed, geo-tagged data from across the globe, and becoming an essential style/design resource. We wish Daniel every success and will be keeping an eye on the Spring palettes to come.

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Prada Goes Transmedia

Fashion house produces animated short

To advertise its Spring/Summer 08 collection, the fashion house has produced a short film. In it, a blank-eyed nymph both models and interacts with the product: a couple of scuttling crabs become shoes and a fish transmogrifies into a handbag. Further blurring the lines between advertising and product, the illustrator behind the short – James Jean – has also worked on Prada prints and bags for this season, as well producing the backdrop for catwalk shows and in-store decoration.

And whilst we have absolutely NO IDEA what the film means, it sure beats the usual grumpy-looking models staring out from the pages of Vogue.

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Paul Hartnett Interview

Photographer Paul Hartnett has been documenting the club scene since before many of our readers were even old enough to sneak out at night. In advance of his upcoming show in February, he kindly granted BigShinyThing an exclusive interview

From the early London punk scene, through Leigh Bowery and the clubs kids, to street culture in Japan and the Asian mainland, Hartnett has been there to capture the look while it’s still fresh and raw. We were keen to ask a few questions of the man who’s seen it all.

BST: You’ve been documenting youth and street culture for over 30 years now. What is it about those worlds that keeps you excited?

PAUL HARTNETT: I started documenting street and club culture at the age of eighteen as a means of social lubrication. I wanted to get close to the key punk players such as Soo Catwoman and Sid Vicious, who lived in the next road to me in West London back then. I wanted to go beyond the visual. A camera seemed a perfect excuse to talk, exchange ideas, develop a rapport. Sometimes there’d be very little beyond the hair spray and eye-liner, sometimes there were all kinds of viewpoints, the most brilliant perspectives.

At the core of my work there is a continuing look at customising, how individuals have crafted a look. My pictures are portraits, executed with a Kodak Instamatic, a Polaroid camera and a range of Nikon stuff. I’m not a technical person. For me it has always been about faces, dimly lit, content driven, not style driven. Faces, colours, textiles, soul. The messed-up, the dressed-up. The fucked-up.

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You’ve recently been exploring Chinese youth culture. What were the most interesting things they’re up to?

I recently visited Shanghai and Beijing for i-D magazine. I was involved with a street and club exhibition at Source’s Kong Gallery and this was a way in to meeting some creative souls. Visiting fashion schools such as IFA Paris and Raffles Design Institute was my focus, away from the gallery. There is such a rawness to Chinese fashion. It is often quite crude and quite different to the work Chinese students do at the likes of Central Saint Martin’s in London or FIT and Parsons in NYC. Having observed over 600 fashion students at work, having photographed a selected few, I gained insights. The Chinese are so very different to the Japanese. The work at Shinjuku’s Bunka, for example, is on another planet compared to what is happening in Shanghai and Beijing. Yep, it’s superior. That said, I was fascinated by the grounded approach of so many students at IFA Paris in particular. It’s a place to watch, they certainly have the technical skills.

hartnett-dsc_1984.jpg

You’ve covered the most important musical and style movements of the last 30 years. Which of those do you feel the most empathy with, and what’s going on at the moment that you are most excited by?

I saw The Sex Pistols perform many weeks before the Punk Festival of 1976. It was just electric, kind of like Brecht entering the stage. Before that I’d only seen Sparks, Bowie and Cockney Rebel perform live. I was in a band as a teenager, Missing Presumed Dead, so inspired by the DIY ethos of Punk and Power Pop. What I love about fashion and music is when people are totally fired up, and a bit ‘bonkers’ with it. Really exploding internally and doing something individual externally, going beyond a commercial formula, a safe established pattern.

Right now there’s a musician named NIYI who DJs at club nights such as Gauche Chic. As a producer, NIYI is unpredictable, he uses the most unexpected samples. He is very playful and could certainly be categorised under ‘bonkers’. He is my #1 muse right now — a joy to photograph, when he can be bothered to turn up.

You’ve run clubs as well as documenting those run by others: have you always been that involved in the scenes you cover photographically? Have you ever had issues with access — scenes or subcultures who you wanted to document, but who simply closed ranks and didn’t let you near them? How do you deal with that? Who or what scene have you not covered, but would most have wished to?

I ran a club named Kawaii in London back in 1983. It was very inspired by Japan’s club culture. I also ran the world’s first club for drag kings, women who dress as men, back in 1995. The majority were female to male transvestites, some were heavy-duty transexuals. Every Thursday night there’d be 150 toughies, and me. There was one simple rule: NO CAMERAS! This allowed me a somewhat strategic exclusivity.

I’ve never had issues re access. I’ve had good coverage over the last three decades, and I tend to be guest-listed without ever having met the promoters. Door whores just know who I am. Being fat and a few months short of fifty seems to be a plus nowadays. Verification for clubs abroad is easier than it was in the past due to my website, people can check out editorial content, photographic approach, fast as click-click-click. Some fetish clubs can be stand-offish, they live in fear of News International and local councils.

The only club I have ever experienced shit with is that shit club named Boom Box. Oh, what a Hoxton hole. Just so hyped, so over-rated, and so over. I took a few pics… then pressed the delete button and left. I have little patience for fashion sheep.

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You seem both fascinated by style and its associated fantasy worlds, but your photos are raw and uncompromising — you talk about showing the ‘reality of fashion’. What does that mean to you?

Take a look at street-style pics in magazines such as i-D and Dazed & Confused and you will often find credits for an entire team of mag slags; hair stylists, make-up performers… an entire circus. To me this ain’t street-style, it’s manipulation. What I have done for the last three decades is SNAP with seconds of seeing. No touching, no altering, no upgrading. SNAP. Same location, same same same reality. Sure, sometimes I’ll ask for a plastic bag to be put aside or an event bracelet to be concealed, that’s all. So many magazines provide clothes that their advertisers wish to be promoted. That sucks.

What’s the future of street and club photography as you see it? What’s the role for ‘photographers’ as such, when the ‘kids of today’ have MySpace and a bunch of club photo websites on which to show off their poses, and every phone is a camera?

The Internet has come along and fucked so many people sideways. The music industry is in a tizz, everybody
seems to be online so much of the time. Punk’s DIY ethos is everywhere. People pimp their profiles to a narcissistic extent on myspazz and facebore. There are street-style photographers such as Facecunter (I think that’s his name) who snap at fashion events, but in a really bad way. So cheesy and hap-hap-happy. All very Grazia or Closer, Heatish.

I think it’s great that so many people are taking photographs, even if it with with dinky telephone toys. I love that crap quality, that low-res fuzz. I love the diversity available. That said, I continue in my own way. I have CCTV eyes, and pay an almost forensic attention to detail. I like clarity and the portraiture I have amassed is for a future audience I have never met.

Paul’s work will be on display at the Vibe Bar in Brick Lane from 14 February 2008. Go see. Also check out the PaulHartnett.Com and PYMCA sites.

[Thanks to Adz!]

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Truly, Fiercely, Deeply

Supermodel Kristen McMenamy returns to the catwalk for Givenchy.

kirsten close up.jpgWe LOVE Kristen McMenamy here at BST. Stuff Cindy Crawford, the fabulously alien-looking supermodel is our ideal of female beauty. And her now-grey hair has made her look even more A-M-AAA-ZING (as our dear friend Gerardo would say). However, fashion followers would be wise to avoid the ‘glad to be grey’ trend unless — like Kristen — you have cheekbones that you can stab puppies with.
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Celebrity Skin

Courtney Love’s working on a fashion line.

courtney.jpgIt gets better. Courtney tells the Fashion Informer blog:

…I know a lot of people are doing lines (no sniggering at the back) but my first job, other than stripping, was on Mommie Dearest as an assistant in wardrobe. My first boyfriend, his mother was a third generation wardrobe lady so she ran the Paramount wardrobe department, which was three hangars like this [gestures to the Lexington Avenue Armory space]. And I was in charge, some of the time, of throwing stuff out. I mean, they had four tiers of Mae West’s clothes that went on for, like, six racks… they’d get rid of stuff like Frances Farmer’s clothes and lace that was made out of 24kt. gold that had a little rip in it – so I had the best wardrobe in LA in 1986 since I was in charge of throwing stuff out.

We wonder if Courtney will be reworking her infamous ‘kinderwhore’ look? Can’t wait.

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