The Annual Caramel Animals MBFWA Highlight Review 2017

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Hair/Makeup Commentary: Claudia Byatt | Editorial Assistant: Kelsey Decker | Front of House and Backstage at MBFWA 2017 |

Caramel Animals presents a retrospective and alternative look at nine MBFWA 2017 shows, captured as our contributors worked furiously behind-the-scenes on adjacent projects.

Now that the glitter has settled (or was it stardust?) we bring you this irreverent and non-comprehensive look back at a few key Resort 18 collections. We also bring you news and interviews from backstage where we rapped with a few of our favourite hair and makeup directors as they worked to embody the designers’ visions in coiffure and cosmetic form.

This year’s review covers (in order of appearance) Alice McCall, Karla Spetic, Steven Khalil, Gary Bigeni, Michael Lo Sordo, C/MEO Collective, Vale Denim, Akira and Romance Was Born.

1.  | Alice McCall |

Alice McCall’s unmistakable style signature is easy to talk about; her profile on the MBFWA site provides all the keywords required. ‘Intricate detailing, season after season […] pretty and feminine, chic and bohemian […] year after year.’ This year, Vogue Australia praised McCall for never ‘hewing too far from [her] core.’ This Australian designer knows how to play to her strengths, with sexy results. Perhaps the show’s press notes sum up her 2018 collection best: ‘Alice McCall’s archetypal rock chick has been let loose in her socialite mother’s closets, she’s pilfered the heirloom Italian couture and is wearing it out to the club.’

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Bogan Via: The Search for Bougainvillea Chin

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Camera Assistance: Suzi Chou | Maps to the Ornamental Vines’ Homes with Maddie and Bret of Bogan Via in LA

No, this is not the tale of a botanically inclined, Powell Peralta inspired remake of a Bones Brigade skate movie from the late 1980’s.

This is the story of two musicians from Phoenix who got together, found they got along pretty well and decided to make their way to LA in pursuit of their creative goals.

It’s also the story of how Bret and Maddie, two Arizonian Americans, having never set foot on the Great Southern Land (of Bogan) came to form an electro-pop band named Bogan Via. It’s a question that’s confounded ardent Australian concertgoers who happen upon our pair while visiting shows in LA (and other BV tour locations) for the last half decade. When Bret and Maddie play a show, they’re often approached by little Aussie battlers mistaking Bogan Via for a vernacular signifier of Terra Australis in the wilds of Southwestern USA (either side of the Sierra Nevada).

In actuality, the Bogan Via name is simply a contraction of Bougainvillea, a thorny angiosperm originating in West Africa and South America, popularised by British and French colonialists during the 18th and 19th century.

Today this floral vine is decoratively cultivated around the world in areas with warm climates (and aqueducts) so unsurprisingly it’s common to both LA and Phoenix.

It’s widely thought that the first European to observe these plants was a lass called Jeanne Baré, an expert in botany who disguised herself as a man because in 1789, she couldn’t join explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s maritime exexpedition as a woman. In masquerading thus, she became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.

But I digress.

Why is this article called The Search for Bougainvillea Chin?’ I hear you ask.
‘Are Bogan Via skateboarders?’

The Search for Animal Chin caused a sensation among the Thrasher readership in 1987 because at the time, it was one of the first skate films to have a plot, distinguishing itself from the gonzo skateboard stunt montages set to music that had previously informed the genre.

Skateboarders (Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill) known as the Bones Brigade show off their various talents during the search for their sport’s legendary founder.’

Why does this matter?

We’d planned to shoot photos with a deranged plot: Hollywood has Maps to the Star’s Homes. The Search for Animal Chin had ‘Maps to the Skater’s Homes’, but we weren’t looking for those. Instead we cased the streets and structures of Downtown LA …

… looking for sprigs of Bougainvillea. 

The photo set which accompanies this interview is affectionately titled
The Search for Bougainvillea Chin.

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 Squint your eyes just right, and the truck says ‘Bougainvillea’.

On a warm October evening in 2016, I meet with Bogan Via at Zinc (an always hospitable vegan/vegetarian bar and café restaurant on the corner of Mateo and Willow in DTLA). We’d talk about music and the emerging national sentiment in the States (roughly ten days before Trump’s impending election to the presidency) 

The sun sets auriferous over the streets west of Alameda as we shoot. We take time to discuss the band’s musical sensibilities, the contrast between LA and Phoenix as creative centres, and how the West was really won. We reconvene a few months later to recap. 

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How and when did you two get together, musically? Is there a Bogan Via ‘origin story?’

M: Bret and I met over 5 years ago. He saw a few of my YouTube videos and reached out to me on Facebook asking if I wanted to collaborate on some music. We didn’t know each other at all but it was crazy timing because I’d just put out an ad, hoping to start an all-girl folk band. This was definitely not that, though when we met up, we clicked instantly.

B: Yeah, we were friends on Facebook but had never met in real life.  She frequently posted videos of herself with an acoustic guitar singing covers and originals and I was entranced by her voice.  I messaged her about meeting up and she seemed excited about it.  I later found out that she’d recently posted on Craigslist trying to start an all-girl band; good timing at its best.  We met up in the practice rooms at Arizona State University and pretty much immediately hit it off.

How long did you wait before calling her back?

B: I think we ended up meeting the next day too, or very soon thereafter.

You came from Phoenix. What prompted you to make the move out to LA?

M: I dragged Bret out to LA so I could pursue acting. I’ve always been an actor, long before I was a musician. I just figured we could be Bogan Via anywhere, but Los Angeles is where I need to be to really push myself as an actor. It’s a tough city though and I miss Phoenix constantly. So, who knows, maybe we’ll move back!

B: Yeah, Maddie said she needed to be in LA to pursue her acting so we made the jump.  I’m always on board with a little adventure.

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Artistically, what was it like leaving the familiarity of the Phoenix community and scene for LA?

B: I’m not sure if it’s because we were in the thick of the scene in Phoenix or had grown up there, but I feel like there was a very tangible music scene there.  You knew the hot spots; you knew the up and coming bands. There was definitely a lot of camaraderie between bands.  In LA, I haven’t really discovered a scene.  There’s the music business here and I feel like that almost trumps the scene a bit.  There are so many venues and secret house shows and private showcases that it feels more like a jungle than an incubator for talent. People wanna ‘collaborate’ in LA. In Phoenix we just got together to jam.  There’s just more pressure and expectation on everything.
‘Is this one gonna be a hit?’ If not “don’t waste my time” says LA.

M: There’s amazing stuff in LA too but because there’s so much to dig through, it’s harder to find. We’ve been here over 3 years and met some beautiful people who’ve become great friends; it feels like we’re finally breaking into something, getting comfortable. But honestly, every day is different.

It’s just so saturated out here in LA. There’s a million people everywhere and most of them are artists. It’s chaotic and alienating – It’s easy to feel like you’re not good enough. Phoenix has an amazing community that’s just starting to really sprout. There’s a lot of cool stuff happening in Phoenix and a lot of great music.

Around the time we met, the election was impending and we spoke about Trump. He’s since taken power. How is the sentiment on the ground in LA and around places you’ve travelled?

M: People are scared, people are angry. They feel betrayed and I think a lot of them feel helpless. It’s basically a f*cking nightmare. People are pissed off. They’re protesting, they’re sharing information, they’re talking to each other. I have a lot of problems with the entire political system. I think the whole thing needs to be turned on its head. Trump is obviously a f*cking joke. He is hateful, he is uninformed, he’s an abuser, egotistical and misogynistic. It’s too easy to hate on Trump because he’s such a f*cking idiot. I’ve got little to no faith in the system, but I have some hope in people. It reassures me that people are asking questions, scrutinizing every little thing. I think that’s great. We need to keep doing that, we need to stay angry and suspicious, we need to keep exposing the corruption because it has existed long before Donald f*cking Trump.

B: Life continues it seems.  As involved or heartbroken as people seem to be I don’t know if the disenfranchised will make anything of it.  Obviously, we’ve seen the continual scathing he receives on Facebook as many become aware of how crazy his actions are, but I’m not sure anything’s going to change.  If the media starts talking about something else, people will start feeling something else… Life goes on.  Gotta get that money.

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Who are your musical heroes? Are there any artists you’d love to channel?

M: Some of my musical heroes are Ben Folds, Radiohead and First Aid Kit. That music inspired me at an early age. It got me through some rough patches so it’ll always hold a dear place in my heart. Artists that influence my work in Bogan Via would be Austra and Banks, definitely. I would kill to collaborate with Lana Del Rey one day; I just f*cking love everything she does. There’s also a band from Phoenix I adore called ROAR. They put out an album last year that seriously changed my life. I really just love music that makes you feel a little sad.

B: Yeah, I get really inspired by albums.  My favorite artists don’t necessarily make music that I love all the time but at some point, they’ve made an album that changed my life.  I remember listening to Radiohead when I was younger too, and thinking that it was all this jumbled up noise and mess. When I revisited Kid A later, I had something of an epiphany. I could see the story and understand its artistry.  Funeral by Arcade Fire hit me instantly; such powerful emotion and great song writing, and it only gets better the more you listen to it.  These two definitely set the bar in my world and hopefully continue to inspire me to get closer.

Day to day, how different is LA life to Phoenix life?

M: Phoenix is just so easy. Our families are there, most of our oldest friends are there. There’s no traffic in comparison. It’s definitely more comfortable there, but we go back to play shows and visit with family all the time. It’s a quick trip from LA so it’s okay! LA has a lot to offer, that’s why everyone wants to be here. It’s just different. It’s an incredibly expensive city so we live in a small one bedroom in Hollywood. I love our apartment but it’s always loud outside and the streets are dirty. There’s a huge wealth gap in LA. There are homeless people everywhere and there doesn’t seem to be much outreach for them. Seeing the disparity wears on you.

B: I don’t think we’ve swallowed the red pill quite yet. I’d say we still prefer Arizona to Los Angeles.  People are nicer in Phoenix by a huge gap.  LA is a crazy city where everybody’s gunning for something and it turns people a little vicious.  Neither Maddie or I have the cutthroat mentality so it can be pretty depressing here sometimes.

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What balances out those negatives about LA – what do you love about it?

B: The trees and the green and the humidity.  Now that we’ve lived here three years we’ve made some friends that we cherish a lot.  Vegan options are on overload which is encouraging.  There are a lot of movers and shakers here who are trying to make the world a better place.   Young people working ridiculously hard to follow their passions and not planning their retirements any time soon.

M: I feel like I’m hating hard on Los Angeles but it’s not that bad. There are lots of creative people here, there’s always something to do. I can be quite shy, so it’s just a lot for me to take in. I get overstimulated easily; if I wasn’t an actor I don’t think I would live here, but most people love it!

Has anything weird taken place since Trump was sworn in?

M: Anything weird? Everything has pretty much been weird. I mean, I haven’t seen anyone light themselves on fire but people are really paying attention now! They’re getting more involved than I’ve seen before. That’s not weird though, it’s great!

B: Hmm.  Lots of rain here in LA.  I joked with Maddie that they f*cked with the weather to keep people from protesting the inauguration and now they just don’t know how to make the rain stop.

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Bogan Via become lured by the promise of pink neon. No Bougainvillea here folks.

If anyone’s headed to Phoenix, what are a few musical acts and venues they should check out?

B: The scene in Phoenix is very much growing. More festivals and venues are popping up and it seems like people are starting to really take an interest.  Some of our favourite spots to go are Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar.  Both venues bring more hip, weird music that maybe Phoenix wouldn’t normally have been exposed to in the past.  This has given rise to more local artists pursuing less traditional music and it’s been very exciting to see what’s churning out.  Some of our favourites are MRCH, Emby Alexander, Harrison Fjord, and Snake Snake Snakes.

Emby Alexander at Tribal Cafe, W Temple St, Echo Park

M: There is so much good music coming out of Phoenix. I mentioned before, I’m obsessed with a band called ROAR, their music moves me, I can’t even describe it. There’re a lot of amazing women I admire so much. Luna Aura (now LA based), Sareena Dominguez, Steff Koeppen (& the Articles), Taylor Upsahl. I love their music. The Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix is top notch as far as venues go. The hospitality, the quality, you can’t beat it. They take chances on artists; they let newcomers take the stage. They supported us so much, especially when we first started. Valley Bar and Rebel Lounge, they’re fantastic too! They just take care of you, it’s f*cking wonderful! I feel like there is just so much great art coming up, and downtown PHX is an exploration of that. The bars, the venues and independent shops, they all contribute. They all share this push for local love!

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The search intensifies…

Maps to the Star’s Homes… Having grown up outside LA, I feel like sometimes there’s a gulf between the expectation and reality of the place; there’s Tinseltown and the perceived glamour, then there’s something altogether more circumspect and down-to-earth about the city.

How do you feel about the Hollywood cliché versus the reality of LA as an American metropolis?

B: I feel like I didn’t have many preconceived notions of tinsel town, aside from it being a very competitive place to try and make it. I think there’s probably something here for everyone. I remember meeting people who weren’t aspiring to make it early on when I was just getting my grip on the town and I would ask ‘why do you live here then?’
LA is a tough, tough town and I certainly had a hard time understanding why people would choose to live in a dirty, expensive, overpopulated town if it wasn’t where they necessarily needed to be for their career, but obviously there’s a million ways to slice it.

The LA that’s portrayed in movies exists for sure, it’s here.  And that’s the big allure I guess, because when your ship comes in, there’s a lot of fun ways to spend the cash and you truly can live in that fictitious/not fictitious world if you so choose.

M: Well, that’s a hard question. I never really had expectations of LA. I just knew as an actor, I needed to try it out because the opportunity was here. I didn’t think it would be glamorous; I actually expected to be poor and feel rejected, but I didn’t think it would be as hard to connect with people. Some of those clichés are true; the egos, this kinda’ persona people take on. 3 years in, I‘ve made some really extraordinary friends but at first felt like I met some bullshit people and sat through a lot of bullshit conversations. As far as the reality of the city, I’m not sure what that would be. I mean, there’s a lot of money here and there is sparkle but there’s so much poverty too and you see it everywhere. You see it more. It seems so wrong.

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As dawn breaks over DTLA, Bogan Via unearth their botanical namesake, Bougainvillea. Hallelujah.

Lastly, what’s next for Bogan Via? What can we expect in 2017?

B: We just recorded a new single set to release in a couple of months. We are heading to Treefort Music fest later this month and then Neon Desert a couple months later. We’re hoping to get a full-length vinyl out this year and tour as much as possible.

M: We’re recording new music all the time.
We’re psyched about our next single that’s being mixed right now. We plan to make another album and press it to Vinyl and then tour! I love touring, it’s my absolute favorite, so I’m hoping we’ll hit the road again soon – I’d love to go on tour for months.
Beyond Bogan Via, I just wanna’ cause change in the world. Bret and I are both huge advocates for animal rights. I volunteer with Mercy for Animals so we foster cats and dogs through an organisation in LA. Some days I want to quit everything and spread veganism across the planet in hope of saving it, you know? Human connection is everything. I really want to help the people and animals that need it. So, hopefully in 2017 we can expect a lot of both!

You definitely won’t find Bogan Via sharing a charred snag at Bunnings on a Sunday morning. You can however watch and listen to their compelling musical works
by visiting the following:

https://boganvia.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TheBoganVia

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheBOGANvia

Bret and Maddie expect to release a new full-length album later this year. 

Meanwhile, let’s delve deeply into their back catalogue for a classic BV video:

Bogan Via
Kanye
Directed by Freddie Paul, 2013

Bonnie Stewart: Another Latitude

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Hair and Makeup: Kelsey Decker | Props and Wardrobe: Ester Karuso-Thurn | Dublin to Sydney via Byron Bay with Bonniesongs

Someday you’ll be minding your own business, out at a show in the drudge of your hometown. You’ll become ensnared in a sonic moment that whisks you away, to somewhere far from the four walls of the venue you’d walked into. Voices and instruments carrying the echo of another latitude roll into town. An artist might envelope you in the spectre of their world with a song and take you to a place hitherto completely outside your personal mise èn scene.

For a peck of audiences in Australia over the past couple of years, Bonnie Stewart has been one of those subtly transcendent artists. Her lilting vocals float over gentle peaks of acoustic and electronic instruments, layered ethereally into what may be a moderately enchanted loop pedal. Under the spell of thrumming guitar, Stewart renders her arrangements with a fidelity of performance that seems to amplify an almost spectral presence. This is Bonniesongs. She’ll play loudly whilst making you ridiculously aware of silence and then go some way to reminding you how music is at its most basic, mere vibration moving through air, occupying the same molecular space as the incorporeal.

After the show, the wormhole closes over. Bonnie is softly spoken, approachable and personable. The woman who bare moments earlier, exuded something supernal onstage, is supremely down-to-earth.

We talk about what brought her to Sydney, how different this place is from her hometown of Dublin, and attempt to approximate an understanding of what gave rise to her uncommon craft.


How and when did you start Bonniesongs?

Well, for years I sang and wrote songs alone in my room, mostly recording vocal layers into GarageBand, and couldn’t figure out or imagine it live. I guess “Bonniesongs” started once I began performing, which actually started in a treehouse in Byron Bay. That was soon after I moved to Australia.

I was volunteering at an organic farm and self-sufficient community called Jasper Hall. It was a really inspiring place. Luckily, I had a mandolin with me, and just started writing songs in the mango tree I was living in!

A mango tree?

It’d always been a dream of mine to live in a tree. Anyway, I gave the residents a few performances and had a lot of fun. It just continued from there really. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to start playing in Sydney if it wasn’t for some very encouraging friends though. You gotta have your pushy friends!  


You’d just moved from Dublin to Sydney. What lead you to leave Dublin for Australia? 

I’m not totally sure where it began. Maybe it was too much watching Neighbours and Home and Away (she laughs). I just started feeling a pull towards Australia. I became a bit obsessed that the universe was telling me to come here! There were logical reasons, like I love the sun and the lifestyle it brings. There were also more economic opportunities compared to Ireland, and there are some Australian jazz musicians I really enjoy. Ultimately I was looking for a change of scene and an adventure.

I felt in my gut that I needed to come here. I’m a big believer in following instincts.


What are some of the differences between Dublin and Sydney, in terms of music and performance?

I think the main differences really come down to performance opportunities and financial support. There are some really creative musicians and interesting sounds coming out of Dublin, but the lack of venues and backing are the biggest problem. There are less and less spaces to play and usually for little or no money. Conversely, I know musicians in Sydney who can make a living playing music, who somehow always find a space to put on original music even if it’s just a warehouse, tiny bar or house. That’s not to say Sydney is full of venues or support for original music. It can be hard for sure. Sydney musicians have to fight to make it work sometimes, which is maybe why there’s such a strong music community here. I hope that Dublin’s creative musicians will make it work too.

I’ve also noticed a variety of instrumentation here in Australia. All these saxophone and trumpet players, and a sousaphone! I’d never seen a sousaphone until I moved here! I think it comes from having more support for music in schools. Primary school kids are playing in jazz bands and that is awesome. I didn’t have music as an option at all in school! That’s just crazy!

Wait… No music in schools?

Well not in my schools. I know of friends who could. I eventually had to take music outside of school. I guess it’s just another example of how music isn’t always recognised as important. Music should be a required component in every school because it’s just SO beneficial for learning and development, and it’s an integral part of life.


At a grassroots level, Sydney entertainment and nightlife have taken a beating at the hands of the state’s inept lockout laws. You’re from Dublin. What would you say to a state that would see its creative communities hamstrung by over-regulation?

Suck a brick, state. Uh too many emotions, I’m not sure where to begin…

A lot of your songs are like little stories. What do you write about? What inspires you to write? 

All sorts of things inspire me lyrically.

Animals?

Yeah! I’ve written about spiders, mice, dinosaurs. Falling off cliffs. Swimming, dreaming, video games, ice cream, sand dunes, Nauru… feminism.

Musically, I get a lot of inspiration from watching live music. I take mental note of sounds that I like and what seems to work, though most of my songs have come from noodling around on guitar and drums or even just singing around the house.


Some of your songs seem to be written about your daily life too.

I definitely end up writing about little things that’ve happened to me or what I’ve been thinking about at the time. I recently watched Night of the Living Dead and pretty quickly wrote a spooky song inspired by that [Barbara]. I need to have a clear idea of what I want to say, otherwise I usually never end up finishing the song. I have a lot of unfinished songs! When I’m feeling inspired and focused, I can write the song quickly, which has probably lead to some of my favourite songs.  Oh, another example is the time my gardening enthusiast housemate pulled up my lavender plant and some herbs which he thought were weeds. It led me to write a song, Flowers in the Garden.

A lot of your songs evoke an almost cinematic sound. Do you have a strong visual in mind when you write your music? 

I’m a pretty visual person in general I think, so having an image just helps make things clearer in my mind. My friend Ida Lawrence and I made a stop motion animation video for my song Dinogon, and it’s pretty much exactly what I was visualising as I wrote the song.


I wish I could make animated music videos for all my songs, but it takes me toooo long!

Would you like to see your music on a film or soundtrack? 

Yeah. I’ve had a couple of bits of interest in my music being used in films, but it hasn’t followed through yet, unfortunately. I recently played at Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival. A man told me I sounded spooky and would be a perfect on the soundtrack of a scary movie, so I hope that happens.


Your dad is a luthier.
What kind of stringed instruments does he mostly make?

Are any of your guitars or other instruments made by him?

My dad has made guitars, mandolins, mandolas, and fiddles. He made me a very special classical guitar, which I love so much. I also have a Les Paul style electric made by him, and a mandola. These beautiful instruments are all safely back in Ireland at the moment, though. I’ve only had the opportunity to perform live with them once, last April in Dublin. Other than that they’ve been relatively unplayed for the last few years. My dad has been too worried about flying with instruments, and how they would react to the change of climate. I think I’m gonna sneak that classical guitar over next visit, though.

I get a sense of depth or ‘tradition’ in your music.

Do you feel like there is something ‘in the blood’ about making music for you?

I always love it when people tell me they can hear the ‘Irishness’ of my music. I’m definitely never trying to make it sound that way. I’d like to think that all the music I’ve ever put a lot of listening time into, comes through or inspires me at some point in my own music making. I always had Irish music around the house, then grew up with punk, grunge, indie and rock. I studied jazz, some Indian Carnatic music and a lot of experimental improvised music along the way and, well I think it comes through at different times. So in a sense, I feel like all the music I’ve ever really connected with has stayed ‘in the blood’ for me.

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What’s next on the cards for you in terms of tours or releases? Where can we see or hear you play? 

Well I have so many songs that I need to get out there, so one of my next goals is to just record everything I’ve written in the last couple years and put it all out. But I wanna keep my favourite songs for a special album release. The album will be called Cat and Mouse. I hope to get it out this year. That’s all I can tell you! For now, you can listen to some tracks, buy my demo or keep up to date with gigs from my website https://bonniesongs.com or  https://www.facebook.com/bonniesongsmusic/

As we went ‘to press’, Bonnie let us know she has a new video to share (just in time for this story)! Thanks to the wonder of YouTube, here it is: 

Live at Cleveland’s
Bonniesongs featuring Freya Schack-Arnott
Sand Dunes

Diana DeMuth: American Music

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | On Location with Diana DeMuth in Hollywood |

It’s a Tuesday night on Cahuenga, half a block south of Hollywood Boulevard.

At Hotel Café, an intimate, dimly lit bar fills with industry types, musicians and punters.

A few interlopers hover around in corners but moreover, this feels like a roomful of insiders; people switched on to what’s about to happen, let in on a well-kept secret. Expectant murmurs. Girls with guitars, drums and keyboards begin to take their places on stage in front of a red velvet drape. A quick sound check ensues. The visages of these women are serious, no-nonsense and ready. Diana DeMuth is front and centre. An air of anticipation falls over the room.

Diana is originally from Concord, Massachusetts. Having recently  made the move to LA, she now shares a house with friends on the Valley side of the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Toluca Lake, Studio City and Burbank.

Here at her home, we talk easily. She strolls around in bare feet. Chunks of fresh cut lime bob around in the gin and tonic she’s casually sipping. She manages to nurse the same glass for most of the afternoon. When Demuth takes the stage, she’s a woman of determined mien. There’s a smouldering urgency to her presence. As she performs, intensity flickers over her face. There’s a gravity to her delivery that places her along a continuum of bluesy storytelling in American music; a veritable road-trip soundtrack to leaving familiar places, people and heartache behind, healing and inevitably moving on.

As I set up lighting gear on the porch, rich contralto notes float from the kitchen, a voice effortlessly changing key and flitting between octaves. As we shoot photos, it begins to rain lightly and the fixings of sunset are masked by an overcast sky. It’s a good time to ask Diana more about her life, love, musical motivation and settling into the City of Angels.

A lot of your songs refer to specific American towns and cities. Sometimes your songs are even named after these places. Would you say there’s a strong sense of ‘American place’ inscribed in your music? 

I love writing about places I’ve lived and spent time in over the years. Being that I grew up in America, a lot of my songs resonate with this country and its cities. However, I’d like to believe people from anywhere can listen and relate to their essence. Many of my songs discuss the discomfort of being in a new place and the comfort of being home. I think those feelings, everyone has experienced at one point. Usually the places I write about, I’ve spent time in but occasionally I’ll write about a place I haven’t been yet to capture a feeling.

When I wrote the song ‘Albuquerque’, I hadn’t actually been there yet. My college roommate was from there and I liked the sound of the word. It embodied a kind of foreign feeling. I wrote the song about leaving and returning to something familiar.

You’ve somewhat recently left somewhere familiar and made the move to LA. What do you love most about this city so far?

I had almost no expectations moving to LA, and I think that’s worked in my favour. Something about this city has been very freeing for me. I love how big LA is and how many cool places I’ve discovered here. It feels like a fresh start.

Cool places, you say? Tell us a few.

Yeah. I really like spending time in Silverlake. Some of my friends live over that way and there are a couple good places to eat there. Also a place called Sunset Beer, which I was introduced to recently. It’s basically packed with refrigerators full of craft beer – I’m no expert but I’m learning (she smiles). I think a lot of people expect LA to be stuck up in a way which hasn’t been my experience at all. You can be whatever you want to be and I think that’s awesome.

What are some things that have gone right for you since moving to LA?

One that comes to mind happened in my first few months of living here. When I moved to LA I only knew three people, one of them being an amazing producer named Jeff Bova. One of my goals coming here was to reconnect with him, try to learn more about the industry and how I could continue growing myself in it. I met Jeff in his studio last fall and after spending a few hours with him, I had a feeling we’d work together. He’s currently producing my newest album. I’d say that day was the starting point for everything that’s happened musically in the past year.

Are there days where you put the music to one side and just, explore something else? 

Totally. I’ll go for a run or go explore a new area. I spend a LOT of time in my car in LA traffic so if I can move around outside on foot, I’ll do it!

What’s the thing or issue in life that inspires dedication to your craft more than anything else? 

I can’t live without writing. It might sound cliché but ever since I began playing music, there’s been a voice in my head telling me this is what I’m meant to do! I don’t question that anymore. I don’t think I can fully process anything without writing a song about it. That’s what keeps me dedicated.

I see that. I feel like there’s an urgency to what you sing. I see it when you perform live. What are the experiences you grapple with most in your songs? 

My writing is mainly fuelled by relationships. Whether it’s a person or a place, I love talking about connection. I’d say recently my songs have taken a more personal turn. There’s one titled ‘Dear Eliza’, which refers to someone I used to love, going home and driving past her house after many years. It’s a nostalgic song. In my latest song ‘I Don’t Believe the Rain’, I wrote about my experience in LA regarding relationships and my inability to give up on situations (and people) even when I should. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster out here emotionally, so I’ve written a lot!

An emotional roller coaster. Romantically?

I think whenever you move to a new place there’s a bit of a roller coaster that goes on. I mean that in many ways, not just romantically. Meeting new people, knowing who to let go of and who to keep around, and all the other things that come with growing up. It’s all just part of the journey.

A lot of song writing is (consciously or unconsciously) about putting a voice to the deepest things we feel as a people. Some people are going to feel like you put a voice to their feelings, too. What would you say to someone who’s struggling in love, or in life? 

In love, I would say know your worth. I think we’re often drawn to people or things that aren’t necessarily the best for us. It’s a lesson I’ve had to relearn a couple of times. Know yourself; value yourself and people will be attracted to that. I’d say the same goes for life in general.

Like, knowing when to walk away?

Know when to walk away, and then do it. No use in hanging around things or people that aren’t helping you. It just slows you down.

That reminds me, there’s a verse in one of your songs that says ‘Lover if you miss me you can find me in the city, lost on an August day. Since your revelation, you’ve been hiding in New England, you cut your hair and changed your name.’ What’s that about? 

I wrote this song when I was eighteen and it’s about knowing when to leave. It discusses my relationship with Boston and my relationship with someone at the time. I wrote this when I felt like I needed to leave where I was and who I was with. It’s about reinvention.

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One for the LA neophytes. If you knew someone who had a rental car and one day to spend in LA, which places would you tell them to go and see?

That’s a tough one. When I first moved here I lived in a place called Highland Park and I think it’s a pretty cool area – great taco trucks! Also, it’s a bit of a drive, but Point Dume in Malibu is beautiful.

 

What can we expect from you release-wise in the next year or so? Where can we find more of your music? 

I have a brand new album that only my family and close friends have heard. It will be released in 2017, and I’m REALLY excited about it!

You can find me on Facebook.com/dianademuthmusicdianademuthmusic.com

The video for my brand new single is here on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za9YZpS6xKk

 

 

Barrie Rose: Rocky Doesn’t Know

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | On Location with Barrie Rose in DTLA |

Barrie Rose has been described somewhere as an ingénue.  It’s a pretty, musical word but its definition belies several levels of the skill and sophistication which this LA based musician possesses. Barrie retains the innocence of an ingénue, but adds depth and complexity to that paradigm. In the purest sense of the word, Rose is a chanteuse.

I first became aware of her music during a short residence in LA around 2010. We talked about collaborating on a series of photographs. Time flying over us as it does, I was unable to meet with Barrie until several years later in 2014, when we shot stills of her stretching and frolicking in the undercroft of the (now half demolished) 6th St Bridge in downtown LA.

Perhaps for these reasons, my awareness of Barrie and her music is inextricably linked to Los Angeles as a place. This association is borne out by her long residence in Echo Park, and now Chinatown. When we sit down to talk for this article during September 2016, this sense of the city is one of the first things I mention.

How much a part of your music is your sense of place within LA? Would you say the city is a strong influence?

‘The environment and headspace I’m in when I write a song directly influence it. I write differently when I’m in other places. It’s to do with the energy of the place. The city is a big influence. Usually not over the content of the songs so much, but on how I’m feeling and what phase I’m in.’ Rose mentions one exception to this, her new song Chinatown, an artefact of having recently moved to the downtown neighbourhood.
‘I like fresh spaces and also write a lot when I travel, but I think my best songs still come from Los Angeles. I suppose I‘m trying to be honest about my feelings and situation, so I find the realism of myself according to where I am, literally. I mentioned ‘phases’ earlier. Inspiration comes in phases. That includes the styles I’m drawn to, and who’s close to me at a particular time. That can change every few months. Now I’m really into downtown and the grime and worn out stuff of the city. I feel there is beauty in that.’

 

Downtown LA is slowly but surely changing. Gentrification and urban renewal is slowly replacing the bricks and grime. What do you think about that?

‘I think as long as it’s done respectfully, being aware and considerate of the environment prior to you coming in (and with regard for the place and its uniqueness and character), and having a deep regard for the people who resided there before you, it’s okay.

That being said, there are so many different aspects of gentrification that deserve consideration within themselves. I can’t really generally say whether it’s good or bad. I mean there are many nuanced facets that I have varying opinions on.

I am also part of it, of course. In Echo Park, I lived in a studio apartment and all the other people in that small building were Mexican families. My rent was super cheap in relation to the norm around the city, and in the last few years it seems like that is harder and harder to find. The fact that Echo Park Lake was recently redone completely and is now a beautiful park as opposed to a smelly, swampy place, is a part of the good side of gentrification. I mean, bringing nice things to a growing community; that part of it I’m in favour of but simultaneously, I am glad to be out of that city just because it doesn’t really inspire me anymore.’

Now that you’ve moved, what are you working on?

‘Different things at the same time. I’m recording new songs. I’m excited about that because I really love the process of recording and just getting to the produced version of a song.

I am also coordinating this really big, fun benefit event at The Smell.’

The Smell is an all-ages, alcohol and drug-free, punk rock/noise/experimental venue in Downtown Los Angeles, recently faced with the threat of closure after being notified that their landlord has plans to demolish the building. Barrie rightly considers this to be an iconic venue.

I ask Barrie more about the benefit.

‘It’s going to have bands of course, but at the same time there’ll be a lot of surprises that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.’ Rose is humble about her involvement. ‘I like the idea that this will be a special, once-in-a-lifetime event that requires a lot of thought and development, but ultimately we’re just creating the experience that can only be had if you’re actually at The Smell. It’s happening on November 5th. ‘

Like the city she inhabits, many of Barrie’s songs are populated by stories. Some are autobiographical while yet more tell the tale of others, seemingly observed through random encounters. I ask Barrie to explain the back story behind a few lines.

Are there any true life stories behind your songs which are particularly strange?

‘I write what I know, so it’s mostly all reflections on experience or people that have really affected me. Sometimes lyrics come up in my songs and I don’t know what I was referring to until much later, when I make the subconscious connections. There’s this new song with a line that goes ‘I saw the robber and the robber had a gun’ which I had no idea about [at the time of writing].  Later I remembered a time when I was 15 (in my really bad-girl years) where I was drunk and sitting in the back of someone’s car, a friend-of-a-friend I think. I found a gun [in the car] and this person had actually just robbed someone. That scared me. A lot of questionable things have happened in my past and some things are really tucked deeply in there, and it’s only sometimes that memories get triggered.’

Can you tell me about the story of Rocky?

‘Rocky is a transgender homeless kid. He/she is trying to find her place in the world. I think it was one of those songs that just came out. I mean I wrote it, but it was one of those songs that just needed to be written that I didn’t think too much about.’

So, she’s a real person that you see around LA?

‘No not exactly. I have met people like that. I mean, I have met Rocky in different forms.’

Like, an embodiment of a few characters?

‘Yeah sure, more of an archetype; an idea and a feeling, or a made up character that might be real.

It might be me. The line ‘Rocky doesn’t know, he wasn’t even born’ sticks with me because it’s also the feeling, ‘what if none of this is real? Why was I born at this time and place?’’

I like the line ‘don’t make a man apologise for everything he lacks’.

‘Yeah, because sometimes you can’t help the person you’ve become. I mean you are a product of your past and what you’ve grown to know. It’s not Rocky’s fault she is the way she is. She was born into a certain body with a certain brain.

One day she just runs away without anything and just leaves home. No purse or any form of ID, because she wants to start fresh.’

Some of your songs are about dream-like states, others are about relationships.  Some are about personal affirmations. There’s even one about money. What do you like to write about? What are you mostly inspired to write about when you sit down to pen a song?

‘Whatever is on my mind.  I suppose I‘m trying to be the best person I can be, and learn to grow from every experience.  A lot of writing in the past, I came from a place of hurt, but these days, I come from a place of love and understanding. Like, I am observing life happening, and flowing with it as it unfolds. I write a lot with ‘source’ in mind, which is this guidance I am receiving.’

Kind of a spiritual sense?

‘It is beyond me and doesn’t really require a label, except to try to name it. Sometimes the songs just write themselves, which is why I need to quiet my mind a lot, for the sake of my own sanity and in order to be in a place where I can receive.’

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What are some of the things you do outside music that influence your process?

‘Meditation, I do a lot. I write in my notebook every day. I stretch. Laughing a lot and being with funny people and joking or playing around. Movement; I have a lot of energy that I have to move out in order to be calm. Reading inspiring books or watching movies. Sleeping. Spontaneous adventures, skating or bike riding or walking. Being with people I love really influences me. I think everything influences me, but mostly meditation because I need that to function at this point.’

Your music occupies a few different spaces, from electronic pop with an experimental edge through to folk and/or folktronica. Tell us about your production process. Are you producing alone or with collaborators?

‘I’ve been through a lot of phases with my music. I’ve been in various bands and collaborated a lot. My last EP called ‘The Breakthru pt. 1 Sweetsweet’, I produced. I recorded everything with my own basic setup and had some friends play on it. I played some of the instruments as well. That was a little more raw than the album before it. Drums and bass, guitar and synths.

The full album that I self-released in February, called ‘Dreamz Come True and Love is Real’ was done with an awesome producer named Adam Samuel Goldman. That has a polished electro-pop, dance sound. It took a while to make, but I love that album so much and really want more people to hear it. I feel like it deserves that. I was super into this electro-pop, performance 80’s, 90s futuristic style.

For a while, I had a full live band with amazing dancers who had choreographed dances to every song. That was called ‘Barrie and the Starz’, then the live band kind of came apart. I was a bit burnt out after that. I had to start afresh and figure out what I wanted to do, so I just wrote more and worked with what I had (which was myself). I realised that this is a life-long solo project, and I will always collab with other people, but the thread that connects it all is my voice and my song-writing style. Underneath it all, they are just songs that need to come out [of me]. ‘

Do you feel like you’re part of a particular community or scene within LA?

‘No, not really. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of scenes in L.A., but I never really belonged to any particular one. I like to be friends with a lot of different types of people, and find I can connect with a lot of people from various scenes.’

What’s next on the cards for you in terms of tours or releases? Where can we see or hear you play?

‘Well, I want to tour all over the world. I’m sure there will be more releases, because I’m always working on new music. I’ll always post that stuff on Facebook or Instagram or wherever, because I want people to hear it of course!

The next big show is November 5th at The Smell. I’ll play last because I want everyone I booked to get the best spots. Hopefully people will stay around ‘til late to watch me play too. I love playing shows.’

Stay out late to see Barrie play at The Smell on November 5th, 247 S Main St. Los Angeles. http://www.thesmell.org/ #savethesmell

Barrie Rose on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4LJQd3H2wiOxlndItDhIjS

Barrie Rose on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/barrieisqueen

Barrie Rose on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/barrierose

 

MBFWA 2016 In Parting: A Tiny Runway Review

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Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Image Selections: Chloe Crawford | Front of House at MBFWA 2016 |

Caramel Animals presents: a retrospective and alternative look at five MBFWA 2016 shows, captured as our contributors worked furiously behind-the-scenes on parallel projects.
Now that the dust has settled (or was it glitter?), we bring you this irreverent and non-comprehensive look back at a few key Resort ‘16/’17 collection showcases.


Misha Collection

This show grabbed all the headlines thanks to the inclusion of celebrity model Bella Hadid in the catwalk line-up.  Bella is high profile – perhaps thanks in part to big sister Gigi also being a prominent model, and perhaps partly due to romantic ties with contempo Hip Hop artist The Weeknd (sic).  Her mama Yolanda was also a prominent model in the 1980s, while Bella has made a couple of appearances on one of this generation’s more notorious reality TV shows (about a certain family), and several high calibre magazine covers including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and GQ.

So how about the threads? Misha Collection’s Michelle Aznavorian brought a black and nude palate, with sheer fabrics offset by corsets, lace and tailored dresses, some topped with flowing pieces reminiscent of pared down (let’s avoid the word ‘deconstructed’)  elegant trench coats following a feminine silhouette.
Hair wise, Dale Delaporte and the Prema team brought a slicked back ponytail look, with velvet fabric wrapped around the length of the ponytail.  Bella seemed to enjoy the ‘do so much, she kept the pony in while socialising in Sydney later that evening.
Get this hair look

 

Yeojin Bae

Yeojin’s ‘Contemplation Collection’ marked the 10th anniversary of this label.  A palate of red, emerald (Lacoste green, perhaps?), black and rouge nudes set the tone for structured, geometric shoulders.  This was complemented by ribbon-cut tassels on flowing skirts and silk fabrics, alongside form fitting shapes and the angular colour blocking with which Yeojin is synonymous.

 

Steven Khalil

Each successive look in this runway stepped up the opulence and splendour in subtle degrees until the glamour reached its crescendo with the appearance of a $100,000 wedding dress – reportedly 6 months in the making.  The colour palate was shades of Grace Kelly and Audrey H.  Khalil presented a collection that included both chic, modern tailored pieces and classic flowing gowns.  Metallic details, A-lines and pants, and structured necklines graduated into flowing gowns, delicate lace and applied floral touches.

Dale and the Prema team complemented Khalil’s high, detailed necklines by keeping hair ‘stripped away from the face’, tucking strands behind the head, or sweeping tresses back into braids, whilst height and a lush texture at the hairline added gloss and shine.
Get this hair look.

 

We Are Handsome

Electric prints, striking neon colour and bold fabrics; We Are Handsome’s ‘Hustle Theory’ and ‘Heat Seven’ collections were the highlight of an MBFWA Thursday set aside for active and swimwear.  Each model walked tall in patent gold high-tops, athletic hoods, crop tops and leggings eventually peeled away to reveal acid-tropical swim suits, risqué mesh bodysuits and Blade Runner-esque transparent vinyl pieces.

Garreth Lenagh for Prema styled the hair in keeping with the active theme.  The wet, anti-glamour look was evocative of hitting the streets straight from the beach or gym locker room. ‘Sectioning in the front of the hair embodies the simple act of ‘a girl running fingers through her hair’ while ‘the gold pins were imperfectly placed’ to give the look of a girl who ‘doesn’t use a mirror when getting ready.’
Get this hair look.

 

Oscar De La Renta

One of the first international fashion houses to have shown at MBFWA, De La Renta’s collection closed the week in spectacular form enlisting celeb Australian model Shanina Shaik, and setting the show to a philharmonic sounding cover of Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach.  A diversity of ball gowns, cocktail dresses, skirts and day-to-evening wear were sashayed forth in a range of colours from bold oranges and reds through to deep navy and light powdery blues.  Feminine contrast was the key as vibrant floral prints and embroidered pieces also appeared along with blazers and pants suits in a myriad of rich fabrics.
John Pulitano of Headcase directed hair styling for Redken.  ‘The look was inspired by the collection which was very French, rich and dreamy.  We wanted a modern take on a classic chignon…  We did that by creating more of a raw texture into the hair and having quite a few fly-always, giving the overall look a classic modern yet ethereal feel.’

In all, over 55 designers showed at MBFWA 2016 and we’ve only shown you 9.09090909091% here.
Despite some initial misgivings, the new May timeslot and the shift to a Resort Collection focus appears to have been a complete success.  For a look behind-the-scenes at some of the hard work which took place backstage, check out MBFWA 2016: Fashion Week from the Other Side.

Reef Gaha is a Sydney based photographer.

 

MBFWA 2016: Fashion Week from the Other Side

WORDS AND PHOTOS: Reef Gaha | Behind the Scenes at MBFWA 2016 |

As a working photographer, Australian Fashion Week has long been one of the annual events I look forward to shooting most each year. From my early years of furiously attempting to shoot every single runway and backstage, to assignments filing coverage for waiting publications (or in recent years, brands) Fashion Week is more than the sum of its parts…

More than just the hallowed designers and their collections which form the primary focus; more than the models whose youth, charisma and superhuman ability are writ large at every turn; more than the state-of-the-art hair and makeup, the flair of which transforms disparate bands of girls and boys into a unified brethren of follicle and face.

Behind the scenes, fashion week is also a convention and annual ‘reunion’ of professionals from the above industries. Each year, I look forward to seeing and working with extremely talented people it would otherwise be impossible to find under one roof. Running away to join the MBFWA circus once a year means catching up with one or two photographers whose imagery baffles my mind, and being able to observe or even help them work (maybe coming away just slightly less baffled).

As someone whose primary interest in photography has always been the portrait (or more specifically, images of people in relation to the signifiers of our time: art, fashion and music), Fashion Weeks are a joy. Sure, there are those who find matters seemingly so driven by appearance as fairly ho-hum, but that’s missing the point. The hard work, camaraderie and spirit of so many creative and dedicated people are chronicled by this annual event.

To that end, here’s a little photo essay capturing some of that spirit, from a behind-the-scenes perspective. My brief for the past several installments of MBFWA has been hair and makeup driven and no doubt, they’ll receive a fair portion of focus in this album.

Smiling faces and goofy hand gestures may receive much of the rest

 

The many faces of Fashion Week debutante Olivia-James, a girl so cool, they gave her two first names.

 

Backstage you soon learn, it’s a brave man who comes between a girl and her snacks…

 

… and that at any time, Bondi Rescue men may appear to spirit girls away on surboards. Such is the order of things.

 

Creative disciplines work in synthesis to drive a helix of skill and talent.

 

At times, the hair and makeup artistry can only be described as flawless.

 

One distinct privilege of working behind the scenes at Fashion Week is seeing the amazing Redken hair team in action lead by directors Richard Kavanagh, John Pulitano and Philip Barwick.
This year, conspicuous in its absence, Richard’s trademark ‘muscle man mustache’ and quiff. In their place, a look more akin to Richards pugilistic roots.

 

Regular readers of Caramel Animals will be no stranger to the stylings of Dale Delaporte and the Prema hair team (see https://caramelanimals.com/2015/12/22/life-death-and-dale-delaporte/ for more).

 

Fashion Week isn’t always about glamour and clamour.

There are also several photographers in attendance at Fashion Week who never cease to astound me with their incredible natural gift. Before closing I’d like to make special mention of Mark Nolan from Getty Images. (http://www.gettyimages.com.au/galleries/photographers/mark_nolan for a small selection)

Mark, a family man and former rugby player, began shooting local football games after hanging up his boots in the 35mm days, before coming to the notice of a sports editor. He’d probably hate me saying this, but there’s something masterful in each of his shots, despite fashion never having been his main focus.

That’s where I’ll leave it for now. I’ll follow up with some show specific image galleries later this week.

Reef Gaha is a Sydney based photographer.

 

Life, Death and Dale Delaporte

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Backstage & Runway: Manning Cartell MBFWA 2015 |

Some creatives work best in their own space. It’s familiar. The environment can be readily controlled. You can orchestrate lighting with the touch of a button and adjust the volume remotely. You can set the pace. If you’re working with a client, you can tailor the entire experience toward them. If you like chaos, you can let a little in. If you’re more interested in order, you can dial the chaos out.

Some creatives leave this order in favour of an altogether more edgy environment.

That’s not to say busy salons or studios aren’t edgy. Put everything on the line to produce and direct the hair styling for a fashion week show however, and you’re buying into something altogether more keyed up.

What if the cadence of a bustling high street salon was a Xerox of the backstage environment at a Fashion Week show? Dale Delaporte laughs off the comparison. ‘I’d never go back to that salon.’

Backstage, the atmosphere contains little of the glamour and opulence runway shows often convey. Industry and intensity fill cramped, hotly lit spaces.  Creative disciplines work in synthesis to drive a helix of skill and talent; a cocktail of caffeine and epinephrine that occasionally boils over.

Dale describes the scene: ‘Forty girls take up a small space shared with wardrobe styling. Ten hair styling sections work on a look that takes at least one hour per girl to create. This cuts things very fine.’ The average backstage is around 3 hours.

‘Factor in models that’ll need glue in hair wefts, a campaign photo shoot, press and beauty photographers, interviews and  ten models arriving within the last hour of our preparation time… The chaos sets in. Conversely, a salon is all about making one client as happy as you can and giving them the absolute best aesthetic experience possible. As it should be.’

What exactly drew Dale into working with hair at this level?

Picture the 1990s. It’s Dale’s Year 10 formal.  His coif is gelled into sharp N’Sync style spikes with blue tips. A year or so later at 16, he steps in as a training model for a friend’s sister. She gives him a silver-white scalp bleach. Year 12 and the HSC rolls around. Dale’s formal outfit is replete with full diamante cuffs (again in silver and light blue) to match his date’s gown. All these looks would have bordered on outrageous for a kid living in Campbelltown (south western Sydney) during that time.  ‘It wasn’t until I moved into Newtown in Sydney after beginning my apprenticeship that the real fun started.’

‘When I finished school, all I was looking for was a full time job in the creative industry. I didn’t realise I wanted to be a hair dresser until I was already doing it. I saw an ad for a creative job in the city with possible overseas opportunities and literally thought “yeah, I could do that.”‘

I ask Dale if he thinks hairdressing was his calling, as such.

‘I can’t say it was the one thing I was destined to do, but I also can’t imagine doing anything else. Put me behind a desk with nothing creative to do for 40 hrs a week and… ’

Dale trails off, muttering something about euthanasia.

However creative, hairdressing is physically demanding work performed daily over the course of long hours. I ask Dale if he feels passionate about it all the time, or whether the urge wavers. The answer reveals a lot about his creative drive.

‘I’ve discovered that there are subtle levels of creative passion. It’s impossible to maintain the same level at all times. Being Creative Director [at Prema] has taught me more about this than anything else. Before Prema, there was a stage when working in a salon for a full week had me close to giving up hairdressing all together. I actually applied for a fashion design course, but something happened.’ Dale describes a more layered approach. ‘My work… my brain evolved. Now different things support and inspire my passion at different levels.’

‘I don’t really go on holiday, so any money I save goes toward enhancing my work – like travelling the fashion week circuit from home in New York through to Paris … it’s the kind of job where, if you find yourself devoid of passion, you get out ASAP.’

As the conversation progresses, it becomes apparent that Dale’s most potent inspiration comes from seeing top creative hands at work. Having started his career assisting Renya Xydis, he moved on to working with Daren Borthwick, Michele McQuillan, Max Pinnell and Duffy. On one of his more recent non-holidays, Dale session styled on Guido Palau’s team for Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Valentino, Miu Miu and Versace.

As a resume, it’s a pretty neat roll-call.

‘I love looking at magazines and editorials, but you can only take so much away from a still image. Watching hands manipulate hair and finishing things that would just boggle your mind in a picture. That really picks up my adrenaline.’

My strongest images of Dale at work were taken backstage at Manning Cartell’s 2015 MBFWA show. I ask him what it was like planning hair styling for the runway production with Gabrielle, Cheryl and Vanessa, the sisters behind one of Australia’s most iconic labels. His face lights up.

‘They are SUCH a delight to work with. Three of the loveliest ladies in Australian fashion.’

Between salon clients in Manhattan, Dale met the trio over a Skype call with the Manning Cartell offices in Sydney where Tony Assness [Production Manager], Peter Simon Phillips [Stylist] and Nicole Thompson [Makeup Director] were also in attendance. ‘We spoke in depth about the Manning Cartell girl, establishing the kind of look we were aiming for.’

Ideas developed online as the team sent ideas back and forth.

‘When I finally arrived in Sydney, the trial process began. I met with the team just a few hours after hopping off the plane. The next week, Nicole and I were creating looks on models.’

‘The looks all had one basic theme that we played with and manipulated until we got right. One of the most important parts of the beauty look was that the girls look like a tribe. They all needed to look VERY similar, which meant half the girls needed extensions, and one of them, an entire lace front wig.’

Viewing the finished looks along the runway, the effect is seamless.  The intricate prep work now appears as a whole, unified front. The girls march toward the media riser like a follicular sisterhood; a third millennium girl gang.

‘They were an army. They had to be individuals, but cloned from the same origin.’

I ask Dale to describe how these concepts become spoken into hairstyles?

‘The fringe on the right paired with a scraped left and back conveys attitude. The profile shows the laissez faire side of the Manning Cartell woman, letting the attitude come to them.’

The profile also calls to mind images of Brigitte Bardot’s loosely slung pony tail.

‘The mini pony at the bottom really contained the silhouette from every angle and held the look together. The idea of covering one eye was brought in very early. Initially the fringe was heavier and sleeker, but it evolved into a kind of glamorous, day-old version of the original.’

Back in the salon, the strains of an eclectic electro-pop ballad play over the pipes. The AC blows cool. The room might not be whisper silent, but I can hear every snip. Words are exchanged knowingly and concepts become cuts. Customers sip hot coffee and read glossy magazines, occasionally boggling at the extreme opulence of pictures. Dale adjusts the volume via remote and picks up the scissors.  He’s not dreaming of deserted beaches or crystalline ski slopes.

See the entire Manning Cartell MBFWA ’15 runway gallery below.  

Something stirring within that you’d prefer to have tirelessly and expressively sculpted into the tresses of your own hair?

Based in New York, Dale Delaporte is Creative Director for Prema.
See premalove.com for Sydney and New York locations.

Reef Gaha is a Sydney based photographer. 

 

Emmelie Björnsdotter: Malmö Calling

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Hair and Makeup: Jeanette Rodriguez-Wallner | Models:  Sweden Models, Malmö |

This story is about a reunion. It’s also a story about travel and fashion. Mostly though, it’s a story about taking creative chances and the unbelievable things that can happen when you do.

We begin some 8 or 9 years ago.

I met Emmelie Björnsdotter in Sydney during the early spring of 2006. Like thousands of others that year, she and her sister were international visitors in Bondi. On a sabbatical from their native Sweden, they were here to escape the northern winter and enjoy the temperate Australian lifestyle. This was during a time when every day I’d hungrily, almost impatiently take to the streets with a camera. With any shred of spare time I could muster, I’d seek out subjects. I had the gall to approach and lens anyone I found interesting, at any hour of the day (or night).

Fashion has always been a central premise for my wanting to photograph a person. At times, I’ve felt what can only be described as an urgency around the documentation of emerging style; exploring the apex of where people and fashion (and the subcultures from which it constantly re-emerges) meet. Whilst rudimentary and carefree, Emmelie’s approach to clothing at that time was definitely one of ‘vintage modification’, changing found jeans into skirts and loose shorts, dresses into gypsy-like tops or halters. As the season and holiday climes dictated, her look was born of ease and simplicity rather than a high street aesthetic. Even so, it spoke of a certain joy in textile based creativity. At the time, she supplemented her income in Sydney by working in fashion retail, while making alterations to off-the-rack garments for store customers.

Fast forwarding through several years and the next I hear of Emmelie, she’s in New York assisting Helena Fredrikkson in her Brooklyn design studio. Having spent the ensuing years studying fashion and product design (as well as the technical side of garment making) she’s followed her dreams to the United States. ‘Since I was a child, I´ve always equated happiness with three things; fabric, needle and thread. If you’ve got these, you’re able to make magical things’ she says.

‘The philosophy of finding happiness through creativity is something I always try to live by.’

In the academic mix along with all the creative swotting, there’s also a smattering of business, and it’s not long before she returns to Sweden to open her own concept retail store. Here, she combines eclectic vintage garments found on buying trips to London, Manchester and Paris with a finely honed curation of new European ‘ready to wear’ lines.

Skip a few chapters. It’s 2014. I’m running to catch an overnight train from Berlin to Malmö on what seems a balmy German summer evening. The journey is to begin at Hauptbahnhoff, but there’s a false start; the train will instead depart from a small station around 40 minutes outside Berlin. Passengers hurriedly change platforms and ride to the connecting ‘hoff in what becomes pouring midnight rain. Before long we’re in the middle of nowhere and little of our surroundings are visible but for dim lamp posts lightly illuminating the drizzle. Impressions of how the German landscape might have seemed to an allied soldier behind enemy lines in WWII. At a whistle stop station, we disembark from the suburban train and bodies cram into all available couchettes on the sleeping car to Sweden. We begin the chug toward the Baltic Sea, then stop dead. After a 4 hour layover the entire train rolls onto a commuter ferry in Rostock and begins the crossing toward Malmö. Morning breaks over the water. A shower and buffet breakfast amidst ship and we’re nearing the Skane capital. My cellphone battery is all but dead, but I’m meeting with Emmelie. I make my last attempts to telecommunicate and arrangements are made.

Emmelie is at the end of a 3 year stint running her own store ‘eMMIT Mode’ when we’re reunited in Malmö, an adopted home in her native Sweden. We meet with her sister at a small pub close to the centre of town. Reminiscence and deep hugs. It’s not until the following day that I get to see her store. I arrive and take a look around. Emmelie’s minimal style is in evidence throughout the space, but it’s not long before I’m lead to a room at rear of the shop, where she begins assembling hangers bearing her own design and needlework onto racks.

More curation, but this time every stitch is of her own creation. It’s this collection of garments that we’ll lay out and arrange in running order for a photo shoot planned to take place in Malmö over the following days, the results of which you see here.

My Swedish Airbnb sourced digs are so perfectly Scandinavian that I never want to leave; warm, minimally well decorated and hewn with solidity in a way that Anglo-built residential structures are generally not. My host is Swedish by way of Argentina, so among all the scandic charm are South American flourishes like small cacti and bed coverings reminiscent of Bolivian weaving. It’s temporarily raining in Malmö, and Gustavo offers me the loan of wet weather gear. The Wi-Fi password is left welcomingly on my bedside table. Thoughtful, considered. Appreciated.

Location scouting and casting for talent in a new city can be difficult. You might not speak the language, the geography is unfamiliar and convenient personal transport is usually traded for the utility of buses, trains and cabs. Days are planned with Google maps and slightly nervous phone calls. All the same, it’s hugely inspiring. There’s something magical about working on the other side of the world, and somehow finding yourself at home. I email Therese from Sweden Models, then call. I’m due back in Berlin within days, so everything is very last minute. She looks over my portfolio and mood boards before showing me comp cards of models for Emmelie’s shoot. We choose Linnea and are happily informed she’ll be available for the shoot date.

This leaves me with a day or so to find a hair stylist and makeup artist. I head straight for Makeupstudion on Amiralesgatan and hand over my book and email address. Within hours, the school puts me in touch with Jeanette Wallner, and a crucial piece falls into place.

The weather in Malmö leading up to the shoot date is wet and windy. I curb my ambitions regarding location slightly. Sweeping grasslands along the Øresund shoreline are traded for the post-industrial brick-out of the environs immediately surrounding the office of Sweden Models. Here I’m greeted by a disused shipping lock flanked by old factory buildings on one side, and newer glass and steel buildings on the other. It’s not the open Swedish moorland I’d imagined, but it’s sheltered, sparse and affords gorgeous late afternoon sunlight, so it’s in. On the day of the shoot, a new girl arrives for a go-see at Sweden Models’ offices, with a limited number of photos. Therese suggests I work her into the shoot with Linnea, and I agree.

What transpired is what you see here.