Makers of Melbourne

Welcome to Makers Of Melbourne – the ‘go to’ guide for our technically integrated age.

Makers Of Melbourne has been created to consume and assimilate Melbourne culture. We're male focussed, but not male specific, sorting through the dross to weed out the creative stars, standout events and stylish folk that make this city unique. 

MOM aims to embrace all facets of what makes this city a creative hub. Our aim is to inform without condescending – to keep you abreast of what’s going on without regurgitating Press Releases & to seek out this city’s sub cultures to give our readers the inside scoop on what’s REALLY happening with the people who make Melbourne Melbourne.

Street Style: Bosco

Bosco is an understated guy. Softly spoken and not overly flashy, he's a stylish individual with an eye for classic pieces that marry well and are built to last. We stopped Bosco in South Melbourne where he shyly agreed to let Makers of Melbourne take his picture. His ensemble comprised a pair of New Balance sneakers, classic Levis jeans, Beams Boy scarf & Breton style tee by APC.

Interview: Julia deVille

“I don’t really look outward for inspiration – I have enough that comes from within."

 Julia deVille

It’s been a long 10-months for Julia deVille. Makers meets her after a few false starts, earlier arrangements derailed by a week-long illness arriving as the result of exhaustion: the artist has spent the better part of a year working 12- to 13-hour days in order to keep up with a demanding schedule as her star continues to rise.

Certainly it appears that the woman whose inspiration rises from Victorian-era ideals of life, death and nature – art works realised through her dual passions of taxidermy and jewellery – has created a rich niche for herself in an art world enamoured of her confronting visions. 

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And they are confronting. Having opened the door to her Collingwood warehouse studio, Julia leads us through the diaspora of beauty and death that is her working space: look to the right and take in her striking rings and necklaces replete with Gothic motifs; look to the left and your gaze may fall upon three taxidermied puppies curled up on porcelain salad plates.

That Julia sees no philosophical clash between her animal loving, vegan nature and her taxidermied works speaks clearly to the artist’s unique view of the world.

Julia: “My grandmother gave me her fox fur stole when I was five or six, one of those styles with the head and you would wrap it and hold the tail in its mouth. I loved it. I used to dress up in it and I felt like it was still alive because it had all its features. So as soon as I worked out taxidermy was something you could do, I wanted to learn how to do it.  And then I’ve always just been a massive animal lover – I became a vegetarian when I was nine and I’m now vegan – so, for me, taxidermy was a way of celebrating animals and being around them when you are growing up in a city. As a child I was always interested in death, so for me it seems entirely normal and not at all macabre.”

These words are spoken as she sits, surrounded by vases of dead roses dried to preserve their skeletal beauty, the glint of her Victorian-era inspired silver rings catching the light.

She acknowledges that, initially at least, her work was often viewed through a lens of shock. Like the mouse brooch created from a taxidermied rodent whose eyes were replaced with diamonds and its tail a cord of silver – for Julia the ideal marriage as she undertook both a jewellery design course and a mentorship working alongside a retired Melbourne taxidermist.

Julia: “When I first started blending taxidermy and jewellery it was considered plain crazy, but then I’ve always been a bit different. Since then a lot more people have started to work in taxidermy and a lot of big art collectors are collecting it so it means I get to now do what I love and live off it.”

Certainly it is recognised among the Melbourne arts community that Julia is one of the more successful contemporary artists operating within a city teeming with talented creatives: a recent installation found its showing as part of the NGV’s Melbourne Now exhibition extended, while her current showing as part of the Adelaide Biennial, PHANTASMAGORIA, has generated critical acclaim. Not that the idea of acclaim appears to influence her degree of commitment.

Julia: “Recognition is not the driving force for me. The driving force is the creative process and the problem solving and making something that you really love. Anything else that comes is just a bonus.”

And the “bonuses” keep on coming: though confessing to “lone wolf” status (“I prefer my own company”) the artist now works alongside three assistants required to help her meet demand on a jewellery business that now spans the globe: along with growing demand in Australia and New Zealand, Julia’s pieces have found resonance as far away as Texas, Russia and Romania.

There is a rare, upcoming collaboration with painter and tattooist Leslie Rice (twice winner of the Doug Moran Portrait prize) for a joint show at Sophie Gannon Gallery scheduled for September, not to mention a still-born foal stored in one of her many freezers that will take centre stage for an installation planned for exhibit in 2015.

Of course, for Julia, it all comes back to following her passions, however dark they may seem to a world looking through the eccentric prism of her gaze.

Julia: “I would still be doing it as a hobby even if I couldn’t sell it. It’s always just been for the love of it.”



Street Style: Kieren

Kieren was stopped by the Makers of Melbourne team as he left Fitzroy cafe 'De Clieu' & it soon became apparent that every piece of clothing he wore had special significance for him. From his vintage American Varsity jacket to his embroidered Mexican chambray shirt, there was a history to how each item had come to be a part of his wardrobe. New Zealand artist & friend Joe Sheehan had given three of only a dozen handmade Jade keys to Kieren as a gift, which he wears as a necklace on an antique fob chain. His outfit was completed with a classic 1960's Rolex, Japanese designed S2W8 navy suede moccasins & a pair of Flat Head jeans. 

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Interview: Client Liaison


(L-R) Monte Morgan & Harvey Miller photographed in the Phillips Shirts office, Little Lonsdale street

(L-R) Monte Morgan & Harvey Miller photographed in the Phillips Shirts office, Little Lonsdale street

Phillips Shirts is a hive of activity. The unassuming clothing factory (one of the last remaining in Melbourne) is buzzing with the sound of sewing machines and general chitchat as machinists and designers carry out their work in the large open planned warehouse. It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon and Makers has been invited to meet and shoot one of its favourite new bands in the factory space, the electro duo Harvey Miller and Monte Morgan of Client Liaison.

Purveyors of turn-of-the-Nineties business class Australiana, Client Liaison has quickly built up a name for itself on the local music scene. The band has released three singles and one B-side (the sublime, That’s Desire), toured nationally in 2013 and snagged a coveted spot as part of this years St Jerome’s Laneway Festival lineup. We meet the stylish duo in the factory’s general office where the unassuming lads are busy admiring the original décor and retro furnishings (a match for their shared aesthetic) when we start our interview. 

Friends since childhood, Monte and Harvey began recording music together in 2008.

 Harvey: “I was making beats and Monte was doing vocals. He was the most immediate and obvious person to turn to when I needed help. We started doing stuff together and we’re really happy with the outcome.”

Client Liaison started playing house parties in 2009 and the boys happily admit that the early days were a struggle as they learnt their way around the recording studio.

Monte: “At first it was a long slow process. Harvey would bring a beat to me and I’d sing over it. A few months later he’d come back to me with the same song but it would be completely transformed so I’d have to lay my vocals again.”

Harvey: “At the start it would take years to complete one song because we were learning as we went. During that whole period we weren’t really worried about the fact that we weren’t putting anything out, Monte was improving his voice, I was improving my techniques as a producer. We were learning. Those years were unproductive in the sense that there was no output but they were hyper productive in other ways. Some of the songs we’re releasing now were created during that period. They were always good, but it was a very slow process. You can only do one thing at a time when you’re creating everything from scratch.”

Musically the pair bonded over a mutual love of vintage Australia and a deep sense of patriotism.

Monte: “I write medleys about beer, Christopher Skase, Les Patterson and Alan Bond. Themes like the cosmopolitan male, Australian masculinity and those jet setting vibes are all important to us. Harvey’s also been at art school for the past couple of years and has been developing those philosophies in his personal work. We’ve found a way of fusing everything together.”

Retro Australiana is more than a passing fad for these two; it’s a way of life.

Monte: “We look to that era (the late 1980s) firstly because it was when we were born. Socially in Australia we were on morale high. The country was drunk with it’s own power and everyone was so proud to be Australian. That’s the attitude we champion and people tend to forget, or they can’t see the difference between nationalism and patriotism. We’re very patriotic.”

Harvey: “The music is first and foremost but we’d never neglect developing a narrative. We call it the Client Liaison sentiment: those traditional ideologies.

It’s the sound of the 80s that really stands out to us. We listen to music from that era and love the sophisticated, synthesized sound that was born out of disco. When we’re making music we can’t not put attention into the theatre and narrative of our performance, that’s the fun part for us.”

These themes are evident in the way both Monte and Harvey present themselves, from their haircuts through to wardrobe and accessories. It’s impossible not to see the glee on their faces as they rummage through Phillips’ extensive collection of vintage menswear. By the time we’re ready to pack up and leave both singer and producer have a large collection of clothing to purchase.

Makers leave the duo to haggle prices with the accommodating staff, exchanging goodbyes and a promise to come and see the pair when they play the Northcote Social Club later this month. We know they’ll sound great – and can’t wait to see what they’ll be wearing.

Client Liaison plays Portsea Beach Club Sunday, April 20 and the Northcote Social Club on Friday, April 25 and Sunday, April 27.

 

Event: The Menske Project

Like all great ideas, Menske began with identification of a commercial niche that appears largely to have been ignored: that of male-focussed retail. The bloke-friendly pop up above Allpress’ Collingwood roasting house and cafe has been pulled together by men’s apparel designer Courtney Holm. The inspiration? A recent New York trip that saw Courtney stumble upon a space devoted entirely to collation of designs for men.

“I try really hard to avoid using words like ‘craft’ and ‘market’,” Courtney admits, explaining that even in creative Melbourne the majority of artisan-style pop ups focus on a more feminine aesthetic. “We just wanted to create a space where guys could come and find a whole group of brands that appeal to them.”

Certainly there is nothing of the cutesy about it. Instead the majority Melbourne-based brands run the gamut from cult wallet maker, Bellroy, to shoe designer &Attorney, men’s skincare product from boutique brand, lief, and striking haute sport-style apparel from Courtney’s own label, Article.

Coffee is plentiful and Gertrude Street menswear retailer Pickings & Parry has its barber on loan for the weekend.

But the pop up’s creation is not all about retail. For Sydneysider Courtney, the event is equally designed to cultivate relationships between makers, ‘Menske’ being a Nordic word with a textured meaning: a noun, if you like, to describe honourable and courteous intent among Mankind.

“There can be a kind of protectiveness around the fashion industry that I don’t really understand,” she says, explaining her approach while offering an insight behind the name. “I just think it’s better for everyone if we can get together and share our energy and our ideas.”

Menske is on at 84 Rupert Street in Collingwood this Saturday and Sunday, April 12 and 13. Open from 11am-8pm Saturday and 11am-6pm Sunday. The next series of Menske pop ups are scheduled in Melbourne this coming August and December.


Interview: Mike O'Meally Photographer

“If you’re good you put your neck on the line – that’s when it shows.”

 - Mike O’Meally

It’s a Sunday afternoon when Makers sits down for an impromptu interview with Sydney-born photographer, Mike O’Meally.

We’re sitting in the front row of RMIT’s Storey Hall where the lensman has just wrapped up a powerful closing speech at the 2014 Carbon Festival. It’s been a challenge separating the artist from a large group of assorted skaters and hangers-on, but with the help of a lone publicist we’ve managed to wrangle the New York-based snapper on to an empty chair.

Working in the industry for 20 years (including a long running stint as the senior photographer for ‘Transworld Magazine’), this 40-year-old’s pictures of professional skateboarders and boxers have received critical acclaim in the art world: he was the subject of a one-man retrospective exhibition late last year at Sydney’s China Heights Gallery, no mean feat for a photographer who began his career operating firmly within the trenches of sporting subculture.

Bobby Puleo Brooklyn, NYC June 2001.

Bobby Puleo Brooklyn, NYC June 2001.


O’Meally holds a firm gaze as we begin talk about his career, a look that makes immediately evident he is a man who doesn’t suffer fools.

“I’m a tough cookie,” he states by way of introduction. “Come on, I can take it.”

Raised in a strong Irish Catholic household, Mike began playing sports at an early age, encouraged by his father.

 Mike: “My dad would play Irish war songs on a Saturday morning as I was getting ready for football practise.”

He picked up a skateboard during his teenage years and, later, enrolled in Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales. It was the beginning of a marriage of passions.

 Family, love and war are all strong themes in the photographer’s daily life, serving as both the foundation of his person and the inspiration behind much of his photography.

 Mike: “There are some others that I tap into with my work, but they’re pretty strong ones.”

Broadway & Astor Place, NYC September 2001

Broadway & Astor Place, NYC September 2001

As we settle further into our chat, it becomes obvious that the skateboarding community has become an extended family for the often-itinerant photographer.

 Mike: “With skateboarding, the skaters are constantly putting their physical wellbeing on the line and you have to earn their trust. You spend a lot of time with them, apart from actually taking their pictures and skating. You have to become a rogue family in some ways.”

 

Being able to earn the trust of his subjects and put them at ease means that all of O’Meally’s work displays a real sense of what the father of photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson, describes as “the decisive moment”. Documenting not only the world of skateboarding, but his travels to countries as diverse as Egypt, South Africa & throughout the USA, O’Meally’s images stand out not only for their composition, but because he seems to be looking for real meaning in the way people react to their environment & to each other.

He breaks eye contact to check the phone softly buzzing in his pocket. “Sorry, that’s my mate,” he tells us by way of explanation. “How much more do you need, two minutes, five minutes? He’s got a beer waiting for me.”

 It’s the perfect excuse to wrap things up with the artist, an interview challenged by his intensity and cock-sure confidence. As we gather our belongings we ask for one final quote.

 Mike: “Hold your pistol, shoot straight. There’s a good quote for you. As a photographer you’ve got to shoot straight and love your subject.” 

And with that he’s off, ready to join the rogue family that is both the support and focus of his photographic artistry.

Jason Jessee gets dragged by a '50 Ford, San Diego

Jason Jessee gets dragged by a '50 Ford, San Diego

 

Interview: Michael Albert - Smart Alec Hatters


“Hats for me are the completion of an outfit. When everything is considered then it becomes the full-stop at the end of a great sentence.”

                                                                            -       Michael Albert

Two things become fast apparent during a face-to-face meeting with Michael Albert, owner of premier hat store, Smart Alec, on Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street.

Firstly, the man has style, from the tips of today’s red Converse clad toes to the brim of his self-made pork pie hat. And secondly? The self-described “serial dandy” (“I have 30 vintage suits and can go for a whole month without wearing the same shirt twice”) is relentless in his quest to see men leave behind teenage fashion trends and reclaim a complete approach to dressing well.

Michael: “For me introducing men to hats is about championing the cause of a forgotten accessory. I see gentlemen in the street and, no matter how well they are dressed, if there is no hat then I just see something missing.

 

He has no hesitation in calling out lazy fashion choices, having a stern word to men for dressing as boys, and recalling the horror of his partner at over-hearing recent comments he directed toward a baseball cap-wearing browser.

Michael: “I said, ‘You don’t live in a caravan, you’ve got all your teeth – what do you wear a baseball cap for?’ And his wife agreed!”

The one-time artist and builder (“I have made things nearly all my adult life”) stocks head candy from around 10 different manufacturers, though prefers to make the glamorous specials himself: think pirate hats or the traditional fez, smaller run, presumable harder to sell pieces that speak to his more adventurous clientele.

Because for Michael, style is about much more than looking good: it’s about power, reclamation and maintaining an edge against those that would hold you down.

Michael: “As a brown fells in Australia I have used my style to disarm people – they can’t pigeon-hole you and that is to your advantage. And I’d like to think that young and old men are rediscovering that a nice suit is your friend, not an instrument of oppression in the way it was used when I went to a private boys school.”

And, if nothing else, a great hat just might increase your chances with the ladies.

Michael: “I had a lovely Indian man in his 60s come in. He bought a hat, went for a coffee and came back to tell me that the pretty young French waitress said he was perfectly coordinated.”

Not a bad return on investment.

 

 Smart Alec Hatters

235 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.

ph: (03) 9416 4664

e: info@smartalechatters.com.au

Street Style: Dean bespoke three-piece

You could tell the quality of Dean's ensemble from the other side of the street - the fit of his bespoke suit by Sydney tailor Zink & Sons draped better than an off-the-rack ever could. Dean is not only an avid menswear aficionado, but the Managing Director of Australian Fashion Labels - an Adelaide based company with a raft of fashion brands under their collectively stylish belt. Dean's suit was topped off with a pair of black leather double monks by English shoemaker John Lobb. 

Q & A: Cameron Bird - Architecture in Helsinki

Arguably one of Australia’s most beloved dance pop acts, Architecture in Helsinki have long held a reputation for breaking new ground with every one of their record releases.

 To coincide with the release of their new album Now + 4EVA, the quintet have launched a unique pop-up retail space in the Melbourne Central shopping complex, where visitors to the space are invited to interact with the band, listen to the new album and, of course, buy.

Built by local architecture firm, Sibling, the NOW + 4EVA Concept Store features a capsule collection by Kloke, accessories designed by Witu and Dale Hardiman, 3D Architecture in Helsinki lollies by Lucy Mcrae and Red Balloon, nail polish by Kester Black and socks by Tightology. The pop-up space promises (and delivers) great quality, locally designed band merch.

Makers of Melbourne had the pleasure of spending an autumn evening with lead singer Cameron Bird, who took us through the concept and inception of the space.

The idea for your pop-up store is great. It’s one of those concepts that sounds so simple, it makes you wonder that no one has ever done it before.

Thank you that’s very flattering. It’s strange to me that no-one has done it before. It’s definitely treading new ground. I feel like people in design and fashion are getting it more than people in music are: people in music are a little bit more confused by the concept.

Because we’ve all come from art backgrounds it doesn’t seem that crazy to us and there’s definitely people in music who think it’s a cool idea. But I also think that there're a few people who think that we’re taking away from the music; people who see it as more of an entrepreneurial exercise rather than seeing it as a great time capsule piece for us as a band.

It’s interesting that you say that because I know a lot of musicians with art school backgrounds. A majority of musicians seem to come from creative fields.

Of course and I think that a lot of what we’re trying to rebel against is that archaic idea of “you can sell your albums at JB Hifi and your digital music will come from iTunes". It’s a pretty limiting and suffocating place to live as a creative person. We wanted to try something that would bring our music to life. It [the space] brings people together and gives them something to talk about. We wanted to create something that was positive and fresh.

You’ve always had a hand in the creative process, though, designing album covers and the like.

We’ve always been across all of our visual output, whether that meant collaborating on videos or doing cover art. We have a lot of friends who work in the fashion and art fields. As a band that was a world that we really wanted to be aligned with, rather than being one-dimensional. It made sense for us to make the most of our connections.

How did you come up with the original concept?

It was about four months ago and we had free time between the recording process and release date. I had this idea where I wanted to do something that set our album apart from the hundreds of records that are released every week. I was wondering how you made an album feel like it was tactile, that people could fully experience. We wanted to make the launch personal for our audience. In a way it was also designed for people who had never heard of our music before, hence picking Melbourne Central as the location – we’ve already had a lot of people who are just curious as to what is going on in the space and come in with a really open mind. As a band we like the idea of someone who doesn’t know who we are stumbling across the space and discovering the music through the immersive retail environment that we’ve created.

How did the ideas for what you were going to sell in the store come together?

It was pretty free form. I initially approached designers that I liked or knew socially. There was no real rationale behind it, apart from the fact that we wanted to work with designers that we felt made good quality products and were made locally. It sort of just came together over a one month period and everyone that I approached said yes. Obviously it was an insane amount of work.

We pulled it all together really quickly and products were still being made on the day of the launch so it was down to the wire. We were flying by the seat of our pants. There were points when I thought things weren’t going to get done. I thought we’d just end up with an empty glass cube with our record playing.

Even if that had been the case, it still would have been a pretty cool experience.

Inherently everything we’ve ever done has been from a DIY ideology, we’ve always had that hands on aspect to what we do.

Do you feel like that also gives you more creative control?

Totally. I think any artist who makes great things is going to tell you that you need to have creative control. We’re megalomaniacs and that’s important! It’s important if you want to make work that endures, it’s not about micro managing but you’ve got to have a vision

But working with designers from other creative fields must have involved letting go of some aspect of creative control?

I think that part of the decision to approach the people who we worked with was that I knew the pieces and the work that they made, that there was an affinity with our aesthetic. There weren’t really any moments where I felt like I had to compromise anything or argue a case. Everyone was very accommodating.

Were they all given a copy of the album and your colour palette?

It was very different for each designer - With some it was very collaborative, I picked all of the colours and shapes from the existing Witu range. The Tightology socks were my design, the Kloke pieces were designed together from existing patterns that they had, we spoke about colour palettes and the placement of prints. The Pantones for the Kester Black nail polishes were matched to a photo shoot that we’d done. We made sure that we were involved in the development of every product. It was as much about the relationship and the collabortaive process as it was the finished result. 

Architecture in Helsinki’s NOW + 4EVA concept store will be open daily until Sunday April 6.

Interview: Patrick Martinez

 

“My family were blue collar working people. I didn’t know anyone in galleries or whatever. I use that difference as ammo: to keep working and pushing and keep it honest.”

-       Patrick Martinez

Patrick Martinez

Patrick Martinez

When local shoppers of the Los Angeles-area supermarket, El Tapatio Markets, took to the their ritual visit in October last year, they could have been excused for failing to notice, well, a little subtle redecoration.

Forget a new chocolate display, this was a full-scale, contemporary fine art installation: from the neon works casting subversive comments on life as we have become accustomed to living it, to the mixed media works camouflaged by our own indifference (think a plaster and paint Tupac ‘cake’ slipped in the dessert cool freeze). 

The artist was Patrick Martinez, the exhibition was “Break Bread” and the sentiment is something Makers sits with him to discuss off the back of his compelling Carbon forum as he prepares to return home following a brief visit to Melbourne.

"break bread market installation" - A one day site specific installation in a market context 2013  - Photos by Brandon Shigeta.

"break bread market installation" - A one day site specific installation in a market context 2013

 - Photos by Brandon Shigeta.

In a new art landscape where widespread interest in graffiti is being used by street artists as a launch pad in to an artistic career, Martinez presented as something different: a young artist of incredible focus for whom graffiti simply served as a small step on the climb up the fine art ladder.

Patrick: “The graffiti stuff, it’s place in my art was kind of like putting together a piece with colour and composition and subject: I was doing my drawing, then it was marker drawing and then it was a spray can that I picked up and then I was 22-years-old and always doing canvas work. It’s part of the journey.”

The “journey” is something Patrick has been on since sketching his way through a childhood filled with likeminded artistic family members who, despite their gifts, never succeeded in converting their creative passions (photography for his father, painting and sculpting for his grandfather and uncle) in to viable careers. 

'A dream deferred' - Neon 2013

'A dream deferred' - Neon 2013

But perhaps it was his mother that most influenced him, a woman with a passion for objects that got him thinking about the way we use decoration to construct the set that works as the backdrop to the performance of our lives.

Patrick: “She would buy things that she thought would enhance our house, but it was not quite right – china that was not great or mirrors with frosted bouquets of flowers that were meant to imitate a Rococco frame. She was just trying to work with what she had and that was interesting to me: people really try to dress up their situation and that stuff is inspiring to me if anything.”

Perhaps it’s this genuine curiosity and lack of judgement that (for the most part) saves Patrick’s works from falling victim to cynicism. In its place there is a spirit of the quizzical observer who is keen to present us all with a different perspective on life’s more mundane freeze frames. 

'Bread, butter, milk and eggs' - mixed media on acrylic plex and neon 2012

'Bread, butter, milk and eggs' - mixed media on acrylic plex and neon 2012

Patrick refers to it as keeping his gaze on “the phenomenology of his surroundings”. And it is this idea behind the art – as opposed to the catchy neon light box works that have garnered him such attention – that he prefers to think of as defining his artistic vocabulary.

Patrick: “I understand that right now, with technology, the neons are easy to digest. The internet is visual. It’s a perfect square to fit instagram which, as a medium, just kills for that stuff. It’s seductive. Having said that what I find interesting is the way that social media and the internet just gets it and multiplies it. But it’s not really my signature.”

So while we’re all busy regraming his incisive commentary – Pawn Your Dream For A 9-5 – Patrick is birthing his next powerful expression.

'Tough love' - Melted down hand guns, hard plastic, metal (bow) automotive paint with flake and clear 2012

'Tough love' - Melted down hand guns, hard plastic, metal (bow) automotive paint with flake and clear 2012

Patrick: “I love to be in my studio and just have my ideas and some of them are set and some of them come at me and I am taken aback – I will have to work on that piece.  Right now I’m working on an eight-foot by sixteen-foot piece and it’s huge but I had to stop because I was slammed by inspiration for another piece, and then I’m also working an a sculpture right now. It’s just about continuing to create and find that relationship in what it is I’m creating.

'Savage Journey To The American Dream' - mixed media on plex and neon 2012

'Savage Journey To The American Dream' - mixed media on plex and neon 2012

Interview: Mark McNairy

“I’m trying to make things for people who think for themselves.”

- Mark McNairy

Mark McNairy is a contradiction in terms. He is a designer who expresses discomfort with the term, a man of incredible brand pulling power who is distrustful of conventional brand models, an artist (though he would no doubt dispute the term) operating in a commercial world.

It’s mid-morning when Makers catches up with him at the Blackman Hotel in advance of his appearance at Carbon Festival, Mark having flown in from New York via Hong Kong the night before.

He is quick to profess his unease around interviews, and says Saturday’s public speaking engagement will be among his first (a challenge to his “fear” of the format): but while clearly uncomfortable at being in the spotlight, his reticence shields a clear and authentic creative purpose.

Mark: “I’m basically making things for myself. To me, it’s not a business and I’m lucky that I can make a living by my hobby.”

It’s more than good PR speak. He tells the tale of his first collaboration, a shoe design for Keds, the Dunlop Volley of American footwear culture. There’s a genuine smile as he recalls the project.

Mark: “For me to have my name on a sneaker that I had when I was a kid, that was the ultimate. And that’s how it started.”

The “it” Mark refers to is his prolific schedule of collaborations that operate alongside footwear and clothing releases under his Mark McNairy New Amsterdam label. Along with the current marriage with Woolrich, Adidas and Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club have been joint projects with retailer Club Monaco, shoe brand Bass and American optical company Garrett Leight among others.

Mark: “I have too many ideas for my own collections. When I had my company McNairy Brothers before working with J.Press I was known as Mr Sample by my business partners because I made way too many things. I hate working with plans; my brain doesn’t work that way. Tell me to design 12 things and it’s the 13th thing that could be great. I make what I want and they can edit.”

Invariably, what Mark wants is what the world will be clamouring to wear. His design style is typified by a reworking of the classics. Take the latest collection, where wool suits were made street-ready through a relaxation of the fit and a roll of the trouser cuff, while grey pinstriped pants were given a casual edge courtesy of subtle cargo pockets.

It’s for this reason that he professes to a lingering discomfort with the term “design” being applied to what he does. He insists he is a “maker”. Certainly the word implies a more organic process, an impression Mark strengthens by admitting he can rarely switch off from the ideas that bombard his brain. (He carries a pen and paper always.)

The notion carries through when time comes to talk branding, the topic of the Carbon forum Mark is joining in on. Interesting, then, that he appears to barely believe in the term.

A lot of what should be written next was taken off the record by Mark, who is clearly torn by his desire to remain true to his creative urges while navigating the necessities of commerce. The question is thus: how to steer clear of the pitfalls of becoming a corporate fashion juggernaut (a fate that has befallen many a once-cool fashion house) as the demand for his designs increase?

Mark doesn’t answer the question except to highlight his disdain for the brands that have walked that path before him. One gets the strong feeling it’s a journey he won’t be taking.

Mark: “I know you’re supposed to have an end goal but I still don’t. I just make things. I make things for people who can think for themselves. I learned through trial and error never to put all my eggs in one basket, which is why I’ve got a good thing going now with the different collaborations. I guess I just care too much (to sell-out) and, in the end, that’s a good thing.”

Q & A: Stanislava Pinchuk

It’s not an exaggeration to suggest Stanislava Pinchuk is one of those artists who represents Melbourne as we love to imagine the city to be: daring, cultured, intelligent, interesting and wholly unique. The woman who began as a graffiti artist gracing the city with her ethereal, large-scale illustrations pasted to brick walls and doorways has moved on, while retaining (at least in spirit) the tag that informed her earlier work – M-I-S-O.

 Makers of Melbourne catches her on a sunny weekday morning just as news of the worsening crisis in her familial homeland of Ukraine hits the wires. It seems a world away from the quiet green of her plant-filled, seventh-floor studio within the iconic Nicholas building.

 But Stanislava knows the falsity of geographic distance: the world is an increasingly small space and it is artists like her who transcend language and culture through their art that help make us aware of our connectedness.

 She is broad in her reach, travelling frequently, spending months at a time in Tokyo and soon to fly to Paris to work on a book project with likeminded ‘creatives’. At 25 she is an artist on the make, a figure to watch who is breaking ground right in the heart of our city. In the midst of this busy schedule, she took time out to have a brief chat.

Can you talk us through a little bit of your progression as an artist: the development of you from a graffiti artist to the place where you now find yourself?

I'm not sure if it was really like that – I always drew and did a lot of things in between. Graffiti was just one thing I did between many others, so it wasn't such a linear progression. Unfortunately, it was just something that had to drop off after a few really gross legal experiences. One day I'll come back to working in public and, hopefully, illegally – just at the right time and place. 

 You also take a very freehand approach to tattooing, doing it by hand: it seems there is a really strong marriage between this arm of your art and the pin prick works you are increasingly becoming known for.

Yes, absolutely – it's pretty much the same technique, hammering holes in one by one. Both require the same fastidiousness and precision, so both are unforgiving if you make a mistake. It's just a question of wearing one with you wherever you go, as opposed to having it housed in a museum or home. 

To me, both mediums are very much a reference to what is historically understood as 'women's work' – things like embroidery or lacemaking. Like the pinhole works, they are technically difficult and physically demanding mediums that work to produce something quite subtle and beautiful. I think as skills that they are pretty undervalued.

Tattooing to me has always been a really similar idea: in most cultures with ritual tattoo it is most often women tattooing other women within the community. To me, it plays so much with the tension between physical pain, technical demand, and decoration and beauty. 

The Nicholas building is such an iconic space in the city's arts scene - what is it like for you to have a studio in that space as an artist? How does it fuel your inspiration?

I really, really love the Nicholas – it feels like a beehive, and you never know who you will bump into in here. It's a pretty special place, and it's got some really amazing, weird tenants. I'm pretty versatile, and can work anywhere – so I'm not sure if it fuels any inspiration directly – but it's definitely good to bump into the friends I have in this building and visit each others' studios, swap tools and talk shop. 

 Tell us about the relationships you have with some of the past and present artists in the building - you mentioned that your studio once belonged to Vali Myers?

Yes, my studio once belonged to Vali. I never knew her, but I'm a huge, huge fan. It sort of ended up mine by accident. But it's so wonderful and I get the best visitors – Vali's friends coming up and just hanging out and telling me stories. Funny, smart, totally free people: the best company. It's the greatest thing to inherit with a studio. I feel pretty lucky. 

Where do you spend your downtime in Melbourne - which parts of the city do you most relate to?

Fitzroy! To be honest, I barely get any downtime, so when I do it happens in my own neighbourhood. I've lived here for a really long time, and it's hard to imagine ever moving. Usually it's drinks and chess at my friend Andre's studio, or at The Napier pub; it's a real gem, and I hope it never changes.

Men's Street Style from the Melbourne Fashion Festival

While VAMFF (the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival) runway series may have had a heavy focus on the ladies, there were still a number of male attendees at the Docklands Central Pier shows. Forget the dime a dozen navy suits - here are a few boys who, through sheer originality, stood out from the typical fashion pack. 

Will wearing Vintage jacket, ACNE tee, Uniglo trousers & French Connection hat

Will wearing Vintage jacket, ACNE tee, Uniglo trousers & French Connection hat

Model/DJ Xander Pratt wearing all Eduardo Xavier. Steampunk accessories

Model/DJ Xander Pratt wearing all Eduardo Xavier. Steampunk accessories

RMIT fashion designer teacher Dr Peter Allan in Japanese demin label 'Big John overalls & Levis jacket.

RMIT fashion designer teacher Dr Peter Allan in Japanese demin label 'Big John overalls & Levis jacket.

Photographer Sam Wong in his mother's jacket & $2 tee

Photographer Sam Wong in his mother's jacket & $2 tee

Taylor in Topshop top, Thai sarong, New Balance sneakers, Alexander McQueen clutch.

Taylor in Topshop top, Thai sarong, New Balance sneakers, Alexander McQueen clutch.

Event: VAMFF Offsite Runway - Nixi Killick


A stand out of the 2013 Melbourne Fashion Festival graduate’s parade, self proclaimed “future imaginer” Nixi Killick (with a little help from a successful Pozzible campaign) kicked off the 2014 Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival with an offsite runway show at  warehouse-cum-art gallery, Toot Fanute, last Sunday.

Half fashion parade, half art installation, a handful of models worked their way around the crowded event space, posing on foil covered boxes as a keen, fashion-forward audience scrambled to look on. 

The full house was entertained pre-show with a short set by singer Nai Palm from Grammy nominated band Hiatus Kaiyote. Show over, attendees were given the opportunity to purchase some of the more wearable parts of the Nixi Killick "bio psychedelic streetwear" collection -  a selection of t-shirts, hats and drawings available to purchase from a makeshift merch stand.

The young Footcray-based designer's business savvy in using her collection launch to sell a range of accessories was admirable: certainly most of the unisex streetwear modelled during the parade was more couture than prêt-a-porter. 

- Janey Umback

Designer Nixi Killick (second from right) & her event team

Designer Nixi Killick (second from right) & her event team

Q & A: The Frowning Clouds

It's not entirely surprising that music with a sly hint of the sixties surf would come out of Geelong. Nor does it confound that a little motor city mayhem should infuse the sounds of that particular city. Melbourne's little sister, resplendent with sand and sea and home of the Ford factory, has given us a bevy of amazing music over her time and The Frowning Clouds continue that sterling tradition. 

Forming when they were still in their teens, The Frowning Clouds have just released their second LP ‘Whereabouts’ and we were lucky enough to spend last Thursday evening in the company of lead singer Zak, who took us through the joys of Tasmanian camping, his love of sixties garage rock and the band’s burgeoning friendship with Rhys and Josh from the Horrors.  

Hey Zak, thanks for the chat. By the looks of things you guys just got back from Tasmania, you were part of the Panama Music Festival over there?

Yeah we were and all of us had a really good time. We love Tasmania and were expecting it to be good but we were all totally inspired. It was a small festival, the line-up was really good and it’s just nice to go to a festival where it was less about getting wasted and more about the music and food. I’d rate it 10 out of 10.

Wow, that’s good to hear. It looks like there was a bit of a cross over with some of the acts for Golden Plains as well, since that was on the same weekend.

There was actually, it was a bit worried that we’d feel like we were missing out on something not being at Golden Plains, but I didn’t feel like that at all. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

How has The Frowning Clouds style evolved?

Obviously I was only fifteen when we started and was so strictly into the idea of the Rolling Stones pretty much (laughs). So now I think things have broadened, I think things don’t sound ‘60s at all to us, I guess we are starting to hear all sorts of influences in our music. Most people would still hear a big ‘60s influence, I guess, but we’re just trying to make things sound cool.

But when you first started that’s what you were trying to make things sound retro?

Well that was all that we listened to. We had no tolerance for anything outside of 1964-1967. If it wasn’t recorded during that period then we didn’t want to know about it. It sounds dumb but back in high school I felt like I had a secret or knew more than anyone else because I was listening to nothing but this small period of music history.

What happened between those three years that made it so special?

I guess it was just the sound more than the songs. I remember when I first started getting into underground garage, the real American stuff; I just couldn’t believe it. All of those kids were the same age as me, 15 and 16, and I thought it was the coolest shit. I still love it and listen to it amongst other things. There was something about the naivety of it, those kids had no idea what they were doing and just thought that they were the best. Kind of what we were like at that age. 

I read a really old interview where you were talking about getting signed to a Spanish record label because you were talking to someone online. What’s that story about?

We were talking on MySpace. I must have been around 15 or 16 and I was so into ‘60s music and found a lot of it on the Internet. Then you start talking to people with similar tastes and this young guy from Spain who was into the same stuff told me that his friend was starting a label and we had some songs and things just worked out.

And you’re still working with them?

Yeah, we’ve pretty much done everything with them. We’ve actually just received a new six-inch in the mail that was released by an Italian label but they were ok with it and gave their approval. It’s nice to put out releases on different labels, I think, and we got to record it here in Australia.

I guess it helps you spread your wings a little bit, doesn’t it?

Yeah, and there’s so many people around that have little labels. People with shitty jobs who run a label on the side, they’re always the best kind of labels and the best kind of people.

Can you please explain to me why on Youtube you’ve released all of your songs played together at the same time? It hurts my ears.

 (Laughs) Well, I don’t know. It was a funny idea. It’s three minutes of really annoying noise and then at the end one of the songs goes for a minute longer than all of the rest. So you get a nice fade in at the end.

How did you get Rhys and Josh from the Horrors to remix the ‘Beetle Bird’ single?

We were playing a few shows in London and Rhys was there doing some DJing. We realised that we had the same taste in music and started hanging out and spent a weekend listening to records and talking about nerdy ‘60s music: the kind of conversation that nobody else would want to have. We started talking about some of the remixes that had been done of Horrors songs and I told him that he should remix one of ours. It was pretty cool.

Have you kept in touch?

Yeah, well we had to keep in touch to do the remix; we were sending ideas and whatnot.

The other thing that I wanted to ask you about was your album artwork, the band has been working with a guy named Jason Gallea?

He’s a cool guy from Werribee. I was playing in another band with some friends of mine and we got him to do a front cover for us, it was maybe around three years ago now and things just sort of went from there. He does heaps of artwork for lots of bands now

It looks like he’s been doing work with King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard.

Yeah, he works with them and he’s done some art for Saskwatch. He does whatever is good and it’s nice that he’s really busy.

His stuff is awesome.

Yeah, he’s really great. When we asked him to do the album cover he just said, “I’ll listen to the album and whatever inspires me I’ll draw a picture to it”, and then he sent us a rough copy which he said that he didn’t like at all and we were just like, “that’s it.”

 And he’s been doing your posters as well?

He did this thing where he designed a poster and left blank space at the bottom so that we could reuse it. There are five different versions of posters and we can just choose which one we use, when - I’ve seen so many gig posters that are terrible.

Have you heard of the poster thing that Pearl Jam do where they get a local artist in each city they tour to design a poster and then sell it at their gigs?

Really? If you had those types of connections that’d be cool.

- Janey Umback


Interview: George Glasgow Cleverley Jr

“We are the shoemakers’ shoemaker.”

                                        -       George Glasgow Cleverley Jr

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It may be a cliché, but in this case it is a hard one to avoid: certainly whatever the heir apparent to G.J Cleverley, George Glasgow Cleverley Jr, does not know about bespoke shoemaking is – inarguably – hardly worth knowing.

He arrives in Melbourne hot off the back of Los Angeles’ Oscars week, having fitted a host of big name entertainers for the event, as is attested by his attendance at the legendary Vanity Fair Oscars party in the week before our chat. Yet George Jr is far from starry eyed – being part of a family company that once shod Winston Churchill, working with the likes of LA luminaries must be par for the course.

As the company’s chief executive and creative director, the near 30-year-old (“I’m 30 next month”) carries both the legacy and the knowledge of more than a half-century of English craftsmanship in his head. Makers of Melbourne chat to him during a 48-hour fly-in visit to fit his bespoke Melbourne clients out of Fitzroy’s Double Monk, the representative of a family business in an industry that has few left to speak of.

George: “We are one of the last family run shoe businesses out there: Church’s is now owned by Prada, Berluti is run by the LVMH group. It’s just my father and I. Our shoes are made the same way as they were 100 years ago. We do the process by hand, drawing around the feet of our customer and taking 15 or 20 measurements. The shoes take six months to reach the fitting stage and it’s really like a drug – once they’ve ordered a pair they always come back for more.”

Needless to say the hefty price tag (bespoke shoes run upward of AUS$5000) means the company’s relationship with the rich and famous is much in evidence.

Alexander McQueen wore a pair of Cleverley boots when he was knighted by the Queen of England and the more loyal clients each have their own style named for them: among them the Chow (a streamlined monk named for American restaurateur Michael Chow), and the Churchill (no explanation needed).

George flips David Beckham’s wooden block in his hands as we talk – the mould around which the soccer star’s shoes are formed.

George: “I’ve been in this business by default forever. My Dad is 63 and he’s been in shoes since he was 15. I was 17 or 18 when I got my first pair. They were Chelsea boots in black calf. I still have them, which is not unusual for a Cleverley shoe – in New York we had a guy who came in wearing a pair that was made in 1968.”

He is justifiably proud of the heritage, citing theirs as the shoe brand of choice for designers the world over, from Ralph Lauren to the CEO of Bulgari.

George: “My Dad always used to say to me that you should always spend the most amount of money on your shoes and on your bed, because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other.”

GJ Cleverley




Makers Of Melbourne Fashion Panel - VAMFF Cultural Event

Makers of Melbourne kicked off its annual series of men’s style discussions with a bang on Tuesday night, hosting tailoring, literature, design and arts luminaries from London, New York, Melbourne and Sydney – each with a unique take on the historical, social and cultural context of men’s fashion.

Journalist Sarina Lewis from Makers Of Melbourne moderated the style panel discussion, 'Fashion Maketh The Man', hosted by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), as part of the 2014 Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival cultural program.

Panelists included Roger Leong, curator fashion and textiles from the National Gallery of Victoria; Sydney-based bespoke tailor John Cutler; fashion and denim designer Roy Christou; celebrity stylist Philip Boon; plus online via Skype, author of 'The Coat Route' Meg Lukens Noonan (USA), and from Grenson shoes, Tim Little (UK).

A few curious facts we took away from the 90-minute panel discussion:

1.     Man’s current obsession with body sculpting finds an echo in the original Dandies who padded the breast and shoulders of their suits to provide the classic ‘V’ shape, a look to denote masculinity.

2.     The term ‘bespoke’ originates from the traditional idea that a fabric has been spoken for by a client – be+spoke. It is much more than the idea of made-to-measure, pointing to a relationship and exchange between tailor and client.

3.     Buttons changed, not only approaches to tailoring, but the very fabric of society: the importance of children in the modern family is said to have occurred as a direct result of reduced baby mortality rates courtesy of clothing and blankets that could be buttoned for extra warmth. Apparently we only grew attached when we knew we could keep ‘em alive!

Keep abreast as Makers of Melbourne continues throughout the year to profile the cultural cogs in the Melbourne landscape – personalities that influence how we dress, and how we think of ourselves and our city.

 

 

Event: Future Music Festival 2014

­Not even temperatures ­­of over 30 degrees could keep the dance music fans away from Melbourne’s leg of the Future Music Festival, held on Sunday the 8th of March. Setting up temporary camp at Flemington racecourse, Future punters were treated to scorching afternoon sets by Pharrell Williams, last year’s Triple J Hottest 100 winners Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Tinie Tempah and Melbourne’s own Cut Copy.

As the sun started to set, London based outfit Rudimental got the hot and bothered crowd moving and inspired a mass sing-along to their hit ‘Feel the Love’. They were followed up by headliners Phoenix, who had everyone dancing as they played their way through a setlist of songs including hits from 2009’s ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ and last years release ‘Bankrupt’.

Pharrell

Pharrell

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Cut Copy

Cut Copy

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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

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Rudimental

Rudimental

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Tinie Tempah

Tinie Tempah

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Phoenix

Phoenix

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