NO NEWS NEWS #5
EX LIBRIS
SEPTEMBER 20, 2020
 

This issue of No News News is filled to the last kilobyte with stories on what’s hot: insider-y ’90s fashion, merch-hacking, sunglasses in art, Tumblr’s influence on contemporary visual culture and then some. It’s a greatest hits of every September issue you’ve ever read. And why not? It used to be god-like designers and other gatekeepers, but social media has produced a whole new type of fashion authority. Now, the cycles in which trends come and go are a zillion times faster, although perhaps more isolated. But as always, we’ve stuck to our editorial promise not to get too tangled up in the day to day.

No News News #5 featuring Angelica Blechschmidt, Ayesha Siddiqi, Cameron Cook, Gabrielle Cox, Kevin Braddock, Lucas Christiansen & Kamilla Richter, Nightboutique and Tobias Spichtig

 
 

EDITORIALHANS BUSSERT

NOTES FROM THIS LAYER OF THE MILLE CREPE CAKE

“I hate trends,” the style editor of a German weekly newspaper once said to me. It struck me as odd at the time, since I thought that we were both in the business of trends – identifying them, interpreting them, reporting on them. Still, the word evokes a certain blind consumerism that doesn’t sit well with how we like to think of our carefully-put-together selves. But then, aren’t trends just indicators for what’s modern? Cultural street signs that helps us navigate “the ephemeral, the fugitive and the contingent,” as Baudelaire defined modernity in 1863?

For Baudelaire, fashion was the epitome of what’s modern because it was all about novelty. But anyone who’s been around since the early ’90s might think otherwise: that fashion is simply more of the same – each season in a “completely new” hue of black. That’s also the essence of Kurt Andersen’s under-referenced Vanity Fair essay from 2011. This “stylistic freeze,” Andersen argues, is tied to a greater fatigue, not a “temporary cultural glitch” but a “secular rather than cyclical trend, a permanent loss of appetite for innovation and the shockingly new.” Is it any wonder that Andersen’s essay has recently become a favorite with conservative op-ed writers bemoaning the loss of revolutionary powers?

Things aren’t always as certain as black being the new black.

Political repurposing aside, in a way he’s right. For years we seem to have been stuck in what is called “the 20-year trend cycle.” Fashion in the past decade was defined by the 1990s and now we’re moving on into early aughts territory (think super-low jeans and Havaianas). This is a generational thing of course – teenage kids discovering the styles that ruled their first years on earth, a sort of pre-emptive nostalgia. And today that’s easier than ever before – thanks to the Internet and Instagram accounts like @2000SNOWBUNNY and @DOYOULOVETHE2000S. (Check them out, really.)

But even here, things aren’t always as certain as black being the new black. The privileged now have access to everything, immediately, but all those vast resources and archives to draw from haven’t necessarily resulted in a total convergence of time. As trend forecaster Ayesha Siddiqi says in her interview with Josie Thaddeus-Johns below: “I don’t believe the current moment is too big and flat… The flatness that exists is more like a mille crepe cake: homogenous cultural experiences, but distinct and separate – existing in parallel.” The way I see it, this is the key to understanding trends: They only make sense within their semantic bubble.

As I write, I’m also realizing that my newspaper colleague really meant that fashion trends themselves aren’t that important. It’s the stories behind them, the cultural context that defines them and the people working with them that are interesting. In this issue, we found ourselves preoccupied with one person in particular: Angelica Blechschmidt, late editor of Vogue Germany, whose photography archive is an astonishing, on-the-fly documentation of ’90s high fashion. So preoccupied, indeed, that we decided to create two T-shirts featuring her images. You can get yours – and help support No News Newshere. And with that, I invite you to scroll (lots of scrolling), pick something to read now and flag this email to come back to later.

Sincerely,
Hans Bussert

 

OPENING SHOT’90s FASHION

A LEGACY UNBOXED – THE ARCHIVE OF ANGELICA BLECHSCHMIDT

In one, Linda Evangelista is at her 30th birthday party, a wide-eyed Domenico Dolce in the background. In another an acne-spotted Leonardo DiCaprio is being chatted up by Monica Bellucci. Or, from the same Ritz dinner, there’s a picture of DiCaprio, now posing lasciviously with a huge ring on his finger. And here, André Leon Talley casually interviewing Eva Herzigová in sunglasses – indoors, of course. There’s even a picture of Kate Moss during her first show season in 1989 – before she was ever made into an icon by Corinne Day.

These photographs (a selection of which you see here) were taken by Angelica Blechschmidt, who served as Vogue Germany’s editor in chief from 1989 to 2003, and just ooze with ’90s fashion glamour. They are a trove of pure nostalgia, taken at a time when fashion – with a capital F – was still an exclusive affair. Only insiders had access to these one-off moments: show venues’ backstage areas, late-night hangouts, but also the catwalks themselves, where it was the elite, like Blechschmidt, who were allowed in. Dressed to the nines, her white-streaked hair blow-dried and wearing enough heavy jewelry to make any insurance representative gasp (“always cocktail-party-ready” as Karl Lagerfeld once noted), she attended industry events armed with an Olympus camera and a see-through Kelly bag full of film rolls.

“She was very shy. The camera was her tool to get in contact with people but also to hide behind,” says Kirsten Landwehr, a former gallerist who now manages Angelica Blechschmidt’s estate. The pair were friends before Blechschmidt’s death in 2018, and for a time they discussed exhibiting the images at Landwehr’s Galerie für Moderne Fotografie in Berlin. But that never happened, in part because of “creative differences.” Landwehr, who moved around a scene that was more Helmut Lang, techno and i-D than Blechschmidt’s polished ’80s maximalism, remembers that the Vogue editor had wanted to blow up the pictures and heavily retouch them. The two aesthetics never found a place to meet in the middle.

Despite how Blechschmidt saw them, it is their very rawness and spontaneity that makes them stand out today. “Her snapshots sort of anticipated much of what is now state-of-the-art on social media,” Landwehr explains. “Some of her pictures even resembled the aesthetic of ’90s and 2000s fashion editorial photography by the likes of Juergen Teller.” For Blechschmidt they mainly served to fill her monthly picture column “Flash” – a fine example of editors’ fulfilling their gatekeeping function – and also as working material for her team. Vogue Germany, though pushed to record-high circulations by Blechschmidt, had to wait in line behind the more important Condé Nast titles in the US and UK to receive official catwalk images, which back then were still sent in physical, rather than digital, format.

Kirsten Landwehr has only just begun digging through the boxes – which total around 12 cubic meters. There are thousands of negatives, contact sheets and prints to catalog. As a sort of documentation of the process, she has started putting images on Instagram, where they receive lots of feedback. “Even Steven Meisel has reposted one of the pictures,” says Landwehr, who also relies on crowdsourced information – who? where? when? – for the images in the boxes that are missing context. In some of these cases, a time stamp (Blechschmidt must have forgotten to turn it off) helps to identify the event.

Simply unimaginable today, these were the facts of analog life and, to be exact, analog photography. But these were also the times when one could still take pictures of Lauren Bacall turning around to for a last goodbye, or of Yves Saint Laurent with his eternal muse, Catherine Deneuve. High fashion was for the very, very few, and every moment was not yet being documented, digitized and uploaded into the Cloud. A few years later, fashion’s great democratization started, inviting the bloggers, influencers and the ordinary public into fashion’s golden circle, precipitating some of greatest changes to happen to the industry. Angelica Blechschmidt’s archive is a testament to years that came just before, a liveblog of who and what was fashionable, before any such thing had ever existed.

From top to bottom: Linda Evangelista, 1995; Kristen McMenamy, 1995; Gucci Show, 1995; Eva Herzigová and André Leon Talley, 1995; Miuccia Prada and Angelica Blechschmidt, 1995; Kristen McMenamy, 1995; Kate Moss, 1997; Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent, 1995; Giorgio Armani and Matt Dillon, 1996; Leonardo DiCaprio, 1995

 
 

FULL DISCLOTHESURE LUCAS CHRISTIANSEN & KAMILLA RICHTER

AT THE COPYSHOP: MERCH-HACKING WITH EX LIBRIS

The total overkill of “designer merch” in recent seasons has made for a curious case of bottom-up dissemination: these ultra-pricey sweatshirts, long-sleeves and caps with their slapped-on brand logos often look exactly like the stuff that gyms, hardware stores and summer camps would print for themselves. Copyshops have long been the go-to place for anyone – from bachelorette parties to your plumber next door – who want their own designs printed onto clothing. The choices are theoretically endless, yet even amateur designs follow the basics rules of branding. What you see here is a selection of pieces from copyshops in Berlin and elsewhere: orders that weren’t picked up as well as misprints that the print shop has used for further experimentation. And yes, we did smuggle one of our new EX LIBRIS shirts in – though we promise those are no average copyshop clobber but lovingly made in Berlin with 100% organic cotton. See them here.

Photographer: Lucas Christiansen; Styling: Kamilla Richter; Grooming: Victoria Reuter; Casting: Affa Osman; Photography assistant: Max Zimmermann; Styling assistant: Meriska Suparman; Model: Bruno via Tomorrow Is Another Day; Concept: Isabelle Thiry; Designer pieces in look 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 via Nightboutique

 

ARCHIVES OF THE INTERNETCAMERON COOK

HOW TUMBLR GERMINATED CONTEMPORARY VISUAL CULTURE

When we look back at the turn of the millennium, the cultural tropes that have survived in our collective consciousness already seem woefully outdated; chintzy futurism, like wrap-around tinted sunglasses and shiny silver bubble jackets. With the Internet already taking over the world, virtual aesthetics began to have as much sway as physical ones. If you were to try and pinpoint one platform that both encapsulated and ultimately perpetuated this look, you’d have to begin – and perhaps even end – with Tumblr.

A kind of post-post-irony

Tumblr made a ’10s online aesthetic concrete mostly due to two of its features: Firstly, you could simply post your own photos in a blog format without having to host them on your own server, and secondly, you could scroll infinitely and never hit the bottom of your feed. These things seem normal now, but back in the late ’00s, it completely changed the game. Suddenly, teenagers defining what they found visually relevant had an almost unlimited library of references to choose from. Some pre-existing trends, like goth, Harajuku, and psychobilly, found a brand-new virtual community of young adults eager to dive into a subculture that was unknown to them. But more importantly, new trends like seapunk and vaporwave grew out of Tumblr and had a huge impact. Would the postmodern, fantasy-meets-functionality ethos of fashion brands like Hood by Air and Vetements exist now if kids on Tumblr hadn’t been pushing the boundaries of style through memes and self-reference? By creating a network of shared images, and thus a kind of visual group consciousness, Tumblr pushed its millennial members into a kind of post-post-irony, where suddenly the awkward years of the ’00s were transformed from generational embarrassment into a fertile playground for experimentation, using it as a jumping-off point to completely revolutionize the look of the ’10s.

Unlike Instagram’s hyper-visible selves, Tumblr was about anonymity. If you were Tumblr-famous, it was off the back of your curatorial skills, not your well-lit selfies. This makes it difficult to trace back to the exact moment its aesthetic took off. The anonymity was also a boon to marginalized people. With no gatekeepers, whether you were queer, Black, a feminist, a leftist, or just someone looking for something a little left-of-center, there was a carefully-curated Tumblr blog just for you. When Rihanna performed in front of a seapunk greenscreen background on SNL, she had hit on something that was happening online before it hit the mainstream, which in the era of influencers and sponcon, seems impossible to fathom now.

Now home to Russian trolls

While Tumblr still technically exists, its heyday is well over. Last anyone cared, it had been taken over by Yahoo (a cultural relic in its own right) and shuttered all its adult content (good luck convincing anyone to stay on your platform once you’ve kicked the pervs out). Instagram has made it its mission to cannibalize every photo-based platform on the Internet, and poor management decisions meant that Tumblr would start hemorrhaging users towards the end of the ’10s. Now a shadow of its former self, and home to a few million diehard members and more than a few Russian trolls, Tumblr has all but disappeared from the social media landscape. It still lives on, however, in our shared culture. Every time you see a rainbow gradient, or a pastel skyscape with pink clouds, or a dewy Polaroid of a gorgeous nonbinary model, or really something, anything, that feels like it could only have existed in this current century, there’s a good chance that its seed germinated on Tumblr – its creator uncredited but their anonymous influence still as relevant as ever.

Cameron Cook is an American culture journalist based in Berlin, where he writes for places like Pitchfork, Crack, Noisey and The Vinyl Factory. His favorite Tumblr was the insane gay erotic surrealist art blog CTRL + W33d, and in some vague way he wishes it was still 2009.

 

FEATUREGABRIELLE COX

FROM MILAN TO MOABIT: WHY STYLISTS RENT AT NIGHTBOUTIQUE

Roman Vardijan’s designer clothing archive, Nightboutique, is the go-to name for every stylist who knows what they’re doing in Berlin. With his affable nature and remarkably unique catalog, he’s a rather modest dresser himself, having long ago opted for a uniform of Lacoste polos and dark chinos. For Nightboutique, however, he is looking for clothing that will resonate in the future, often the rarest pieces the big fashion houses have to offer, and he only buys what he loves.

Vardijan occupies what he modestly calls “a small space in the back” of a room shared with a costume designer in Moabit. It might be diminutive, but these two aisles contained heaps of treasures, amassed over the last two decades. First: an LED-lit row of purses, jewelry and shoes, with printed labels reading familiar names: Chanel, Prada, Bottega Veneta. Opposite: a triple-stacked rack of menswear in mostly muted tones. An unassuming pile of pants turned out, upon further inspection, to be Balenciaga. Around the corner, the women’s section is a rainbow blur of lamé, silks, tulle, chiffon and neon twill. There were gauzy mesh pastel polos from Miu Miu, quite a few pieces from Prada’s 2017 feathered collection, printed video game characters by Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please; almost-impossible finds like early aughts Raf Simons, Gucci and YSL by Tom Ford, Thierry Mugler suits in pristine condition and Junya Watanabe parachute harnesses.

Other clients work for big fashion houses and will borrow items to make copies for new collections.

Outside, masks off, Vardijan tells me what almost goes without saying – that he is a hunter. How he acquires his spoils has changed with the times due to the influx of other hunters – though none with a passion like his. The Sunday mornings that once consisted of going to six flea markets in four hours, producing two Ikea bags full of designer wares, are now better spent in bed, relaxing with a coffee and looking for items online. He knows the daily drop schedules of the best second-hand websites and has reminders set on his phone, even past midnight. “See? That’s my alarm,” he tells me when his phone goes off.

Gone, also, are his days of selling. Most of his clients are stylists with commercial projects who know they can rely on him to have rare valuables found in nowhere else Berlin – or often further afield – available for rent. Others work for big fashion houses and will borrow items from him to make copies for new collections, updating them for the current moment. “They do this for a lot of reasons, it could be the next trend, a ’90s vibe they want to reproduce again. Or perhaps they don't have the time or capacity to design something new,” Vardijan explains.

Last season’s pieces might seem stale to the average consumer but Vardijan has to consider the future.

After many years working with stores in Italy and in France, he now gets the VIP treatment – texts from salespeople informing him of upcoming private sales, or an offer to reserve an item in their latest shipment that he’s sure to like. “They know I'm looking for freaky stuff, for runway pieces, maybe samples,” he says. He used to spend a painstaking amount of time searching for styles or colorways that he had seen on a brand’s Instagram, calling stores around the world to ask if they had been ordered. Convinced that they were probably never produced, he has now relented in the interests of his mental health. “I decided to just stop, to just buy what is available… What comes around goes around.”

The brands that do well for Nightboutique are those that produce styles that evolve but stay true to their original design. It means that people still see it as a current collection – and less work for him. “I don't have to change my archive every season,” Vardijan says. He is unconcerned with trends, confident that everything will be recycled eventually. Last season’s pieces might seem stale to the average consumer but he has to consider the future. By focusing on buying pieces that encapsulate a moment, Vardijan’s ambition is “vintage” status. “I think in ten, fifteen years there will be a big revival and then everybody can say, ‘hey, Roman bought it then!’ I’m preparing.”

Online treasure hunting is also something of a passion for Gabrielle Cox, a writer from the States who has lived in Berlin since 2012. When she’s not tracking down steals on eBay, she’s often tasting and pouring natural wines (her favorite this month? The Do.t.e. “Nouveau,” a carbonic Syrah and Viognier blend).

 
 

QUOTE UNQUOTEJOSIE-THADDEUS JOHNS

THE TREND SUPERTASTER WHO FORECAST A BLACK YEAR

Let’s start with the colors. “Neon green is going to be huge,” Ayesha A. Siddiqi tweeted, in the middle of 2017. By January 2019, Vogue was declaring the color “Clearly Winter’s Hottest Trend.” In December 2019, when Pantone make their annual color prediction for the coming year (they were promoting “anti-anxiety blue”) she issued a flat denial: “Pantone is a marketing scheme, the color of 2020 is black.” Anyone who’s experienced this year so far would find it hard to disagree.

But era-defining hues are only the surface-level result of a trend forecaster’s job, says Ayesha A. Siddiqi, a writer and consultant who specializes in telling her clients, from hotels to investment groups, what’s next. In her previous work as an editor and instigator of myriad creative projects (most notably, perhaps, as editor in chief of literary web magazine The New Inquiry), her reputation for startlingly accurate predictions grew. “Word would spread about how useful I was to certain people or projects,” she explained by email, as fires hit her local surroundings in California.

While much of the established forces in the forecasting industry rely on the analysis of current and past behavior to divine future decisions, Siddiqi specializes in laser-sharp insights that avoid the pitfalls of the universalizing assumptions of Big Data: “My process is unique, but so is my track record,” she wrote.

Market trends and economic forecasts, of course, are closely tied to international politics, which is where her predictions are the most staggering. In March of this year, she told Americans to prepare not to have a functioning postal service for a while, and she was prescient in calling the current moment “Bush-era redux,” where violence, war and militarization are key to the global mood. And these are just the forecasts she gives away for free on social media. We asked her how she sees the trend forecasting industry, and what it feels like to tell the future.
 
1. What does trend forecasting involve as a discipline?
It essentially makes use of what I pay attention to. There’s a difference between observing what’s already happening and forecasting what is about to happen. I offer forecasts. It sounds supernatural but it’s simply pattern recognition. I pay attention to a lot that perhaps most people don’t. I’m good at what I do because I understand the difference between weather and climate. As in, what variables are conditional and what are coincidental. I have the track record I have because I specialize in unexpected causal relationships. By being receptive to the variables often ignored by others, I’m able to predict with greater accuracy and precision.
 
2. Big Data is now extremely common as a prediction tool. How much do you think that past data can or does determine the future?
Past data determines the future only in that, by following it, a society is created in the image of the data collector’s biases. It’s a self-affirming tool not a predictive one. Data-driven trend analysis is shaped by bias. There are biased choices made about what data is included and what data is ignored. Often, the same information is repeatedly ignored, becoming a pattern itself. “Big Data” is shaping our futures because it’s being used in the decision making of the powerful, who were already shaping our futures. There is very little new about “Big Data” other than how it codifies the social, racial, economic and political designations that were already imposed on us. Much of that sector is reproducing archaic tropes with fresh terminology. The state and corporate technology increasingly mask agenda by presenting it through what they call objective and neutral data – which is rarely either objective or neutral. It ensures our futures look a lot like the past. We should be working to free ourselves from old lenses transposed onto new platforms. We’d be better served by breaking certain patterns. 
 
3. Is human creativity the opposite of machine learning?
There isn’t as much difference between the two as people like to believe. Machines are products of human innovation. You cannot neutralize the human element in machines when humans supply the source code. 
 
4. In fashion, trends are often claimed to be predictably cyclical. Is that true or is “the current moment” too big and flat to allow for “the twenty/forty/fifteen year rule”? 
Cycles occur faster now, and are less linear, but still very much predictable. I don’t believe the current moment is too big and flat. That theory depends on ignoring the hierarchies that determine the world, the supply chains undergirding what is being described as “flat”. I would say the opposite is true, there is no contemporaneity. The present, like the future, is unevenly distributed. You can find people within miles of each other living in very different worlds. The flatness that exists is more like a mille crepe cake: homogenous cultural experiences, but distinct and separate – existing in parallel. 
 
5. You often post aesthetic predictions, rather than political ones on your Twitter feed. Is there a connection between cultural and political forecasting?
Yes, there is a connection. I more often predict government behavior. It was quite frustrating to not be believed when I said in February 2015 that Trump would become President – it’s isolating. Now I only work with people who I know will listen. Often I analyze the prevailing mood and predict how it will be telegraphed through consumer choices. People underestimate how much the public’s emotional state is determined by the actions of nation states. I only publicly share information I’m not selling, so on Twitter I post miscellaneous predictions like Super Bowl winners, Grammy winners and which colors will be in fashion. Or, on occasion, news events. I feel it’s in poor taste to speculate on tragedy, in those cases I always hope to be proven wrong. 

6. What do people get wrong about trend forecasting?
The agencies that purport to do trend forecasting are only good if you’re looking for old information. I guarantee advance accuracy. 
 
7. How does it feel to get a trend forecast correct?
I think I find more satisfaction in other areas of my life. 

Josie Thaddeus-Johns, Senior Editor of No News News and an art and culture writer currently based in Boston, is always interested in the relationship between trends and algorithms. But she can hardly blame Big Tech for her latest Instagram-induced shopping spree. She plans to wear her new Instabrand TM jeans with an oversized EX LIBRIS T-shirt, because she knows a trend when she sees one.

 

FURTHER READINGKEVIN BRADDOCK

WHEN RICH PEOPLE GOT REBRANDED AS COWBOYS

Written by the journalist and management consultant Peter York and Ann Barr, then editor of Harpers & Queen, The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook was a bestseller and rightly so. It’s an acutely observed and uproariously witty anatomizing of those young members of the upper classes who form strong social bonds on the basis of family and educational ties, dynastic intermingling, land ownership and fidelity to unchanging style codes: men wear red or yellow cord pants, brown brogues at the weekends but always black shoes for their City jobs. Everyone owns at least one Barbour jacket, a padded Husky, several pairs of Hunter Wellingtons, a battered old Land Rover and a big house in Yorkshire.

The true epoch of the Sloane Ranger had passed by the time I became obsessed by the manual. Growing up as a lower-middle class kid, I’d had a few brushes with the upper classes in my teens, but by the time I was hacking around London in the early 2000s as a writer for magazines like GQ and The Face, the demimondes of music and fashion were rubbing up against some older, Sloanier worlds. I thought it would be wise and clever to buy a Barbour jacket and took to wearing shirts from Jermyn Street with ankle-boot brogues from Tricker’s. In other words, I was aspiring upwards, with the help of the codification in York and Barr’s book. I even went so far as to commission a tailor-made pinstripe suit which I wore precisely once before consigning it to the charity shop.

The subtext of The Sloane Ranger's Handbook is that the only thing that Sloanes loved more than rules is sticking to them.

Barr and York termed them Sloane Rangers because the epicenter of their “scene” was the well-heeled square of the same name at the top of the Kings Road in central London. You probably wouldn’t spot them there these days, because, in one sense, the Sloanes have receded back into aristocratic invisibility; old money never shouts about itself, and those vulgar supercars clogging up the SW1 streets are expressions of new money from international finance and wealth. Many of their established signifiers – the Burberry and Aquascutum checks, the Hermès scarves, the John Lobb shoes – have all, from the nineties on, been co-opted and remixed. Wearing Burberry is no longer a referent of posh, Sloaney or BCBG (the French equivalent), but the opposite: a favorite on the football terraces for many decades now, it’s a fetish of the hoi polloi.

Could such a thumpingly authoritative book could be written about a tribe today? Probably not, because it would have changed into something else by the time it was published. Perhaps, in the age of hyper-individualism which began around the same time, the notion of the tribe itself has collapsed, or certainly become subject to far more blur, intermixing, cross-pollination and freedom to experiment. The subtext of The Sloane Ranger's Handbook is that the only thing that Sloanes loved more than rules is sticking to them. And yet, their current mingling spot these days is on the Tory Party benches in the Houses of Parliament, where Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg share the upbringing and entitlement of the original Sloanes. Their bias towards anarchy tells a different story. Today’s Sloane Rangers are done with rules: more’s the pity.

"Everything Begins with Asking for Help" is Kevin Braddock’s mantra, and also the title of his 2019 book, a no-bullshit mental health guide to rebuilding from rock bottom and a followup to "Torchlight", made with our very own Enver Hadzijaj. A journalist and editor for over 25 years, he’s worked at publications like GQ, The Face and the Guardian and is currently contributing editor at Esquire UK.

 

ETERNALLY TRENDINGA SHADED VIEW

POWER PLAY: TOBIAS SPICHTIG’S PAINTINGS OF SUNGLASSES

Two reflective surfaces, shading us from the glare: of the sun, but also from the invasion of other people’s opinions. It’s daring to wear them inside, a nonchalant dismissal of the socially-accepted fact that seeing someone’s eyes makes you feel more comfortable with them. It’s no surprise the terrifying AI Agent Smith in The Matrix only takes his off when he’s telling the truth. Only slightly less intimidating is US Vogue’s helmet-haired editor Anna Wintour, who claims to hide her thoughts behind her Chanels. Batting lashes? Nakedly in public? In this economy?

If there’s anything the eternal trend power of sunglasses has to offer, it’s instant cool. Something that Swiss-born, Berlin-based artist Tobias Spichtig is no stranger to. His XL paintings of sunglasses and other well-worn bits of clothing hint at his links with the world of fashion. For FW20 he even ended up on the catwalk for Balenciaga, the fashion house that cleverly dissects the unholy zeitgeist like no other. In its semi-official function as the style patron of the particular Berlin-centred art scene, Balenciaga has also commissioned a series of Spichtig’s textile sculptures – employing archival items from the Paris label.

The sunglasses in Spichtig’s latest show, applied to the canvas as printouts, are an attempt to use them to gaze more deeply into the nature of being in the world. The exhibition catalog suggests Kierkegaard, but you don’t need to go that far to understand their excluding effect: There’s nothing to see here, not even your own reflection. This power play seems to be aimed not only at unsuspecting vernissage folk at Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin, but also the oft-too-greedy fashion business: it’s an invitation not to incorporate but to self-reflect.

Tobias Spichtig's “Pretty Fine” is on view at Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin until Sept. 26. The two paintings shown above are: “That flash took forever” (2020) and “Pretty Fine” (2020). Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin. Photos: Matthias Kolb

 

PROCUREMENTMUSTN'T HAVE

FIVE ITEMS
THAT GET YOU KICKED OFF OUR FRONT ROW

Funny Masks

It’s terrible that we have to wear these things (and even more terrible that we have to deal with the trolls who refuse to) so why make it even worse? Your “funny” mask doesn’t make up for what’s not there: a smile, a frown, an armada of air kisses. So don’t even bother. A trompe l’oeil runny nose might make a five year old laugh, but if your target audience is those over that tender age, avoid at all costs. Speaking of which: outrageously priced fashion label masks aren’t doing it for us either.

Cross-body Bags

Don’t get us wrong: We don’t have a problem with these per se. Hip-, belt- or cross-body bags – wherever they are worn these days – make total sense if you’re trying to be practical (like a whole lot of other things). It’s just that they are everywhere now, even casually slung around the chest of 40-year-old management consultants out on the town. Too much! We watched this normcore accessory as it transcended into edgy coolness, and now it’s being absorbed back by the normies. Frankly, we hate it.

Fusion Sneaker

There’s probably only one thing more passé than chunky designer sneakers, and that is trash-talking chunky designer sneakers. But then, Maison Margiela’s so-called Fusion sneakers are basically begging to be dissed. Laboriously constructed to give the impression of being only held together by generous amounts of hot glue, our quality control group comes up with a different verdict: They look like someone left them in the darkroom. Maybe the perfect choice for your next bukkake party?

Patagonia

Would the world be a better place if we were all just wearing Patagonia? Probably. And it would be even better than that if we didn’t buy anything new until everything else we own has completely fallen apart and couldn’t be fixed through the brand’s Worn Wear initiative. It’s just that we really don’t want to see the Patagonia logo at gallery openings and other city affairs anymore. The brand are saying so themselves: “don’t buy our stuff.” The pangs of guilt for not wearing a hand-me-down and possibly upcycled “Better Sweater” are just too much to bear.

Designer Drop Crotch Pants

If you know anyone who’s still wearing these, please tell them, from us, to stop. That’s it – nothing more to add here.

 
 

Every issue of No News News features a dedicated book plate. These ex libris, as they are also called, are commissioned works of art traditionally used to indicate ownership of one’s books. This nonchalant specimen was created by Gianfranco Schialvino for Giorgio Armani, the designer who famously doesn’t care about trends. It’s part of a bigger collection of ex libris at the Gutenberg-Museum in Mainz.

 

EXLIBRIS.BERLIN

Editor: Hans Bussert (V.i.S.d.P.)
Art Director: Enver Hadzijaj
Senior Editor: Josie Thaddeus-Johns
Proofreader: Redfern Jon Barrett
Web Development: Bruno Meilick

Image credits: Angelica Blechschmidt,
Lucas Christiansen, Matthias Kolb

Special thanks: Isabelle Thiry

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© 2020 EX LIBRIS Hans Bussert
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