DiscoverWhat's Contemporary Now?
What's Contemporary Now?

What's Contemporary Now?

Author: What's Contemporary

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Designed for curious minds, "What's Contemporary Now?" engages various thought leaders across cultural industries taking in their broad, compelling perspectives and unveiling their common threads.
Hosted by Christopher Michael
Produced by Shayan Asadi
34 Episodes
Editor-in-chief of Interview magazine, Mel Ottenberg, wants to maintain a sense of fun in an atmosphere rife with fear. Previously creative director at 032c, he’s collaborated with an impressive roster of stars, high-profile clients, and photographers. In this episode, he shares his take on where we are in this cultural moment and how fashion, beauty, and style can be powerful vehicles for communication and social transformation. He highlights some of the influences that have shaped his aesthetic—MTV, The Cock, the downtown scene, and Vogue—and the icons who fueled him as an aspiring creative in the 90s, such as Madonna and Arianne Phillips. Teeming with energy and ideas, he found ways to connect his work in the indie and pop celebrity spaces, and with Interview, he found the perfect platform for his diverse experiences and an outlet for cheeky, unfiltered output. What’s contemporary now? “Fear and loathing is truly the most contemporary thing now. It’s totally gross. It’s totally real, and I think confidence and an open spirit of change is the only way past that.” 
Quil Lemons is a photographer and artist renowned for his innovative contributions to commercial and fine arts spaces. As a Black queer creative force, he defies labels and uses his work to authentically represent the multifaceted aspects of his identity. The youngest photographer to capture Vanity Fair’s cover (featuring Billie Eilish), Lemons is featured in The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion, as well as in many other publications, including Garage, i-D, and W. Recently, he debuted his first solo show, Quiladelphia, in the Hannah Traore Gallery. Lemons’s work extends beyond capturing images; it is a form of activism and storytelling that pushes boundaries and challenges societal norms. He is reshaping narratives around authenticity and sexuality, and fostering open dialogues within the LGBTQ+ community. In this conversation, Lemons shines light on how he’s breaking barriers in the industry, celebrating Black queer masculinity, and blazing a trail for Black artists. He shares his secret sauce for creating one’s reality and changing one’s industry. What’s Contemporary Now? A utopia. A vision of a world with no pain.
Vanessa Friedman has been the fashion director and chief fashion critic at The New York Times since 2014. Her lauded insight as a critic balances both the courage to speak to reality and a responsibility to inform her readers. Working at the intersection of culture and news journalism, Friedman has seen the landscape of the fashion industry change dramatically in the last decade. In this episode, she gives an honest and authoritative account of the state of fashion, speaking to hurdles that must be addressed in sustainability, production, and creativity in an age of short attention spans and ever-shortening fashion cycles. She discusses the new role of sports in the world of luxury branding, bringing a historical perspective to conversations around elitism and accessibility. Advising emerging journalists to find a unique voice, Friedman herself is always on the lookout for what’s truly new, bringing to fashion journalism a willingness to be surprised. She hopes what’s contemporary now is the kind of open-ended dialogue she conveys in her approach to fashion criticism.
London-born photographer and SHOWstudio founder Nick Knight has remained at the forefront of what’s contemporary since his emergence into the fashion photography scene in the 1970s. Over the course of an illustrious career, Knight has worked closely with the likes of Alexander McQueen, Lady Gaga, Bjork and John Galliano, as well as with fashion houses such as Christian Dior, Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton, and Yves Saint Laurent, among many others. Bringing an outsider’s insight into the fashion and art worlds, he began pushing boundaries in the ’80s in collaborations with i-D magazine and revolutionary designer Yohji Yamamoto. He has directed the trailblazing fashion film platform SHOWstudio for over two decades, pioneering new modes of artistic expression and audience connection. In a thoughtful conversation with Christopher Michael, Knight reflects on how he maintains a sense of artistic integrity and urgency—with or without the validation of commercial success. His hunger to continue to learn has driven not only a varied career spanning music, art, and fashion through the lens of the camera, but also kept him at the forefront of technological innovation, whether with SHOWstudio or a riveting perspective on AI—comparing it to the birth of photography and the internet—and how we will evolve.
Season 3 Trailer

Season 3 Trailer


When we first asked the question, “What is contemporary now?” we thought it made sense to explore the makings of culture by tapping into the varied perspectives of creatives whose work has helped shape the contemporary landscape. This season sees that dream continue, having the chance to speak to a master on the intersection of technology and image making and a brilliant young artist on the recontextualization of queer black culture. We explore how creatives lead successful luxury brands and even tap into the important role of the critic as a lighthouse amidst oceans of information.  Subscribe now for new episodes starting Monday, November 13 with Quil Lemons, Vanessa Friedman, Mel Ottenberg, Ruba Abu-Nimah, Brendon Babenzien, Willy Vanderperre, Amanda Harlech, Gordon von Steiner, Robin Galiegue, Thom Bettridge, Nick Knight, and many more.
British makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench has been challenging our perceptions of beauty and creativity for the past decade. She attributes her unconventional approach to beauty, one that escapes commonality and mainstream aesthetics and paves the way for bold innovation, to her family’s background in engineering and problem-solving. Spurred by a face painting side hustle, her nontraditional rise in the industry saw her take on pivotal creative roles—such as brand ambassador, creative director, and global beauty director—for luxury brands, such as Tom Ford, YSL, Christian Louboutin, Burberry Beauty, Byredo, and today, beauty curator for Off White. In 2022, she launched her makeup brand, ISAMAYA, an evolving line of progressive beauty products entrenched in the zeitgeist. In this episode, Isamaya shares with Christopher Michael her perspectives on cultivating creative audacity and innovation in beauty. Some may consider her work subversive, yet she sees it as contextual and impulse-driven—LIPS, the brand’s penis-shaped lipstick, was influenced by conversations around gender and sexuality. What’s contemporary now? Isamaya believes it’s time for people to acknowledge and accept that having a different opinion, preference, or approach is okay. “Just leave people alone and let them get on with their lives.” Episode Highlights: Creative audacity: Isamaya attributes her creative edge and audacity to her upbringing—having grown up in a family of engineers and creatives. Penis-shaped lipstick: Isamaya is often driven by impulse; she’s very receptive to what’s happening around her, so it’s no surprise the discussions around gender, nudity, and sexuality have indirectly influenced her work. However, more than anything, LIPS was a logical decision. Global beauty director: Is it challenging working for brands? “It’s about having different experiences,” Isamaya says. Although she values the creative freedom of having her own brand, she enjoys the collaborative aspect and various parameters of working with other brands. Side hustle: She worked her way up from face painting to semiprofessional body painting to makeup artistry. Product design: Isamaya describes her love/hate relationship with product design and how it is a part of her path to success. Favorite clients? Junya Watanabe and Tom Brown—to name a few. Isamaya looks for a strong sense of self and a willingness to push creative boundaries when partnering with designers or brands; to find new territory while maintaining a concise brand aesthetic and philosophy. Advice: “If you’re passionate about something and you want to do it, do it. You only live once!” What’s next? Collaborations, new makeup collections, and a documentary about global beauty aesthetics and ideals. What’s contemporary now? “Just leave people alone and let them get on with their lives.” 
Fashion journalist, writer, and broadcaster Tim Blanks has had a front-row seat to many defining, pivotal moments in the fashion industry since 1985. Throughout his prolific career, he has witnessed countless transformational trends, with his byline appearing in international magazines and newspapers, including Vogue, GQ, Financial Times, Fantastic Man, and Interview. Previously, host of the globally syndicated television show Fashion File for a 20-year stint, he was as well editor-at-large at Today, he is editor-at-large of Business of Fashion and a celebrated author and contributor to various monographs and volumes on fashion royalty, such as Anna Sui, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, and Michael Roberts. In this lively conversation with Christopher Michael, he contextualizes trends related to everything from branding and sustainability to creative talents and human needs, which attract people to the art of fashion. Tim's insights reflect a unique perspective on the industry's evolution and a deep, intuitive understanding of the vulnerabilities and desire for validation that drive even the most successful industry icons. Although Tim celebrates the fault lines he sees redefining today's fashion landscape with new inclusive language and geographic diversity, he also spotlights global issues such as social and environmental justice, prompting a reckoning of sorts within the fashion industry—and the world at large. Ultimately, it's all about keeping creatives relevant in an era of turbocharged change and adaptation. Episode Highlights: Starting out: Starting university at age 15 helped him evade bullying and launched his experience of making “all those mistakes that change your life.” Connecting with fashion: Tim’s limited exposure to fashion while coming into adulthood in New Zealand when he realized images had the power to shock or amaze. First rung: A detour into filmmaking in Canada eventually morphed into freelance writing and, ultimately, a full-time gig at a fashion magazine and a high-visibility role hosting the global TV show Fashion File. Staying fresh: Keeping something of an outsider’s perspective has helped blunt any cynicism about the fashion industry. Inside-outsider: The curiosity—and an eye inspired by filmmaking—has defined Tim’s unique approach to fashion’s personalities and untold stories. Reflecting and projecting: Fashion has a dual role as a mirror of culture and a harbinger of social trends on the horizon. Community of misfits: Tim believes fashion has historically drawn outsiders, agitators, and visionaries into a tribe bound by creative energy. A circus. A roving family! Human longing: The “hole in our soul” Tim believes we are constantly trying to fill or offset with validation from our peers—an impulse at odds with how social media actually makes us feel. Stand-out moments: Witnessing an interview in which LouLou de la Falaise was the translator for a reluctant Yves St. Laurent; 90s runway shows that were cultural high points, including spectacular shows featuring Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Christian Lacroix; and getting the opportunity to talk to Helmut Lang for the first time. Assessing AI: Tim believes that ChatGPT and other machine learning could create informational bridges and—with good intent—positive, beneficial results. At odds: The challenge to reconcile environmentally wasteful “gigantism” and corporate sustainability in the billion-dollar corporate branding and production world. What’s contemporary now? Simmering rage, confusion, chaos, fear, an urge to fight, and a puzzlingly benign (rather than punk) attitude in fashion in contrast to the climate crisis, political unrest, and pandemic fallout. What should be contemporary now? A revolutionary spirit to fuel change, even at great lengths. It’s time for idealism coupled with pragmatism, expressing itself in action—with fashion playing a part.
Bestselling author and podcast host Gabby Bernstein believes unresolved trauma negatively impacts our lives and deprives us of the ability to connect. Gabby, one of the "soulful thinkers" featured on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday, explores the importance of doing the work to be present to each other—and foremost ourselves—amidst the noise and alienation found everywhere in today's world. In this episode, she explains to Christopher Michael wounding left untended is at the root of toxic emotions like alienation, anger, and judgment. She shares her own experiences with traumatic dissociation and drug addiction and her practices and path to wholeness. Highlighting ways to combat hypervigilance, diffuse "impostor syndrome," and lean into reconnection with our bodies, she stresses that even the most mindful among us will always be a work in progress. What's contemporary now? "A trend toward well-being and a concerted effort to get out of our bubbles, seeking stability through connection." Episode Highlights: Friendly vs. hostile: Gabby believes that the problems in the world arise from poor choices made from a place of unresolved childhood trauma. Common ground: Shared core beliefs founded in love and compassion enable us to work and live with people with different views. Objective reality: Unresolved childhood wounding often appears in projection forms that invite our curiosity and self-compassion (along with boundaries). See it, be it: Manifestation is about clearing beliefs, fears, or insecurities that hold us back from assuming the energy of what we truly desire. Analysis paralysis: A closer look at Gabby's journey to transparency, vulnerability, and authentic truth as a vehicle for connection.  Gabby's path: She turned away from a life as a nightlife publicist, numbed her painful trauma with drugs and alcohol, and went on to embrace sobriety and honesty. Walking the talk: Holding space for and witnessing the transformation of others—particularly women she has sponsored— has been healing for Gabby.  Doing the work: Gabby uses therapy and other tools to combat impostor syndrome or feelings of emptiness that crop up—no matter how successful we are. The control trap: Living in safety is the best way to heal hypervigilant nervous systems, including through modalities. Being present: Gabby finally feels fully alive and attuned to her body and is no longer shut off to mental and physical connection. Creating connection: For those who have experienced complex trauma, creating connection is a long, slow process of gently thawing dissociative reflexes without triggering panic. (recommended reading: "Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace.") ; For those struggling with everyday life's stresses, grounding practices, movement practices, and meditation to center, calm, and help visualize healing and well-being. Words of wisdom: "When we learn how to explore and change our minds about the world we see, then our experience (and our experience of our experience) of the world changes accordingly. And that mental shift is miraculous!"
New York–based photographer Ethan James Green is renowned for his distinct eye and the intimacy and openness portrayed in his work. An early career in modeling and exposure to some of the great photography visionaries of the times paved the path to a whirlwind career in fashion. Today his work, which has appeared in prominent publications and campaigns—including Dazed, i-D, M le Monde, Perfect, Vogue Italia, Vogue, and W, as well as Alexander McQueen, Dior, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton—spotlights elemental themes, such as contemporary identity, sexuality, and style. A published author, his books reflect on and display the scope of queer identity of the past decade, feminine performance, erotic costume, and beauty. Hailing from Michigan and raised in a religious household, he chats about his spiritual journey, as well as discovering and integrating with the queer community. In this episode, he relays to Christopher Michael how he shifts between his two worlds, of fashion as a photographer and art as a gallerist, highlighting the need to create bridges among generational aesthetics and perspectives. What's Contemporary Now? Being authentic, breaking rules, and moving forward even when it’s uncomfortable. Episode Highlights: Point of entry: New York (via Tokyo) was the initial inspiration for the 17-year-old model. Working with the greats: Ethan learned a lot while modeling for some of the preeminent fashion photographers of the time, such as Steven Meisel (how to communicate a commanding, confident voice without aggression), Mikael Jansson, and David Sims (how to streamline the process of capturing iconic images and the tricks that facilitate success). Out of Michigan: Ethan staked his claim as a model—and ultimately a photographer—by leveraging determination and a homegrown portfolio that attracted notice. Turning point: Ethan's mentor is the artist and photographer behind the 2011 book "David Armstrong: 615 Jefferson Avenue"—he embodied and modeled integrity. Moving beyond: Ethan's fundamentalist upbringing proved a beautiful challenge, allowing a personal spiritual journey that led him to understand what was true for him. Doing the work: Integrating with the queer community opened Ethan to an entirely new community that replaced his childhood church community. Trans awareness: Understanding his struggle as a gay man in a broader context. Making it: The moment Ethan knew he'd made it: covers for Vanity Fair, Vogue, and an Alexander McQueen campaign. Then Rihanna! That was a moment. A perfect superstorm: Ethan became sober just before the pandemic and found himself subsequently challenged in his ability to connect as an artist and individual. Gravitating towards art: Ethan embraced an artistic ethic that opened up a transgenerational conversation across artists, galleries, and social media. Bridging spaces: To span modeling, photography, and now gallery art seamlessly, Ethan had to find brilliant collaborators; pursue other work before focusing on fashion photography; assist where he could; find a mentor; and break some rules! What's Contemporary Now? What's authentic to the moment, but also what's synthetic to the moment? It is mixing collaboration and multiple perspectives to advance the conversation, taking the next step, even if uncomfortable, and breaking the rules to move forward.
Fashion stylist, editor, and entrepreneur Clare Richardson is a champion of environmentally conscious fashion. Previously the Fashion Director at Holiday Magazine, Clare is a contributing fashion editor at British Vogue, and her work has been featured in M le Monde, Vogue Paris, Vogue Italia, and many more. In 2020, she launched a highly curated resale platform Reluxe Fashion, which promotes fashion sustainability and circularity. In this episode, Clare chats with Christopher Michael about her journey: from a shy young teen and Central Saint Martins College to fashion editorials, working with legacy brands—such as Hermes, Balenciaga, and Calvin Klein, and advocating for slow fashion practices. She highlights her concerns about fashion greenwashing and how it affects modern consumers' choices. With Reluxe, she's aiming to create the antithesis of fast fashion, build an informed community around sustainable fashion, and underscore that all small steps matter in making a difference. What's contemporary now? "Expressing yourself truthfully." Episode Highlights: Escapism and inspiration: Clare grew up as a shy and nerdy girl, but once she discovered fashion magazines, she found a sense of escapism, inspiration, and a whole new world where she could express herself.  Central Saint Martins College: Total freedom can be overwhelming, so you have to throw yourself into it and manage your time correctly, and In the end, it makes you stronger. Follow your gut: decide which avenue to go down in your fashion career. A passion for styling: Clare discovered her love for styling through trial and error; it came naturally to her. She felt inspired by the teams she worked with and loved the research. Married to fashion: Clare is married to a fashion photographer, so she needs to set boundaries and prioritize getaways to find a balance between the fashion world and her world. Sustainability and fashion: Clare constantly educates herself on climate change, how the fashion industry contributes to it, and how her values align—or do not align—with what the industry is doing. Reluxe Fashion: Clare's daughter influenced her decision to start and develop the brand. She details Reluxe Fashion's impact on the world and how she wants to shift how people think about fashion. Resale vs. circular fashion: What is the difference between resale and circular fashion, and why is greenwashing affecting consumer choices? Boosting fashion sustainability: Money talks! As a consumer, ask yourself, "Where do you spend your money? Do you need it? Does it need to be new? What brands are you supporting? What are their values?" Collaborations: They play a significant role in fashion because they inspire, engage, and excite customers. They create a broader reach for brands and products. Roles: Clare spotlights the differences between her role as a fashion stylist and her role as a curator for Reluxe. Clare's advice: Environmentally conscious fashion stylists and editors should be true to themselves. "If you believe in it and it matters to you, make it part of your job. Find a tribe of people that inspires you."
Jesse Israel believes that the time to promote cultural change is now. His journey toward meditation maven is singular: from founder of a record label at 23, with multi-platinum bands, to founder of The Big Quiet, a global meditation movement that brings together massive groups for moments of transformational silence. Today, everyone, from Oprah and Deepak Chopra to many Fortune 100 CEOs, embraces the visionary practitioner's transformational work. In this episode, Jesse shares why he believes authenticity, connectedness, and joyful self-acceptance are what's contemporary now. To him, the power of mindfulness can push back against the noise, stress, and compulsive need for external validation that presses in on so many—particularly those in creative or entrepreneurial sectors. His heart-centered coaching approach is about unleashing wholeness and sending out global ripples of sustained, positive cultural energy, helping individuals tap into their power and potential, and highlighting the importance of finding inner joy and fulfillment in one's life and work. What's contemporary now? "What's contemporary now is people … [discovering] what makes them feel most alive. It's so critical that we live in a place of aliveness because the world really needs it right now." Episode Highlights: Starting: From launching a successful record label out of a dorm room at NYU to inner turmoil, then meditation as a source of relief. We are not alone: Backstage meditation circles Jesse started at concerts gave him a profound understanding of our shared human fragility. The Big Quiet: Jesse applied lessons learned in developing popular cultural events to create community—a space for people "to slow down and talk about real stuff." Gathering momentum: Iterating in small gatherings, Jesse began to shape his growing community in response to people's needs and wants. The Big Quiet grew and took off organically from there. Group v. individual: Larger group meditations deepen the practice, creating a richer sense of togetherness within the silence. Just the facts: In areas where mass meditations occur, decreases in levels of crime have been reported, along with a generally positive ripple effect. The Musical Element: Crystal bowls and other sound vibrations give practitioners a container for a deeper state of consciousness. Notable performances in the quiet, captive moments after a mass meditation infuse the community with a sense of heart-centered connectedness. The changing landscape: There are tectonic shifts that humans are experiencing in the information, digital age. We use mindfulness to strengthen our nervous systems and reconnect with a primal, tribal sense of well-being. In the corporate world: Meditation can open up new channels of creativity, increase response times for problem-solving, foster intuitive team-building, cultivate more personal joy and discovery, and enable enlightened leadership. Step-by-step leadership: Step 1: Meditate to reduce stress and emotional blocks. Step 2: In the quiet, get clear about how to tap into full power and potential. Step 3: Turn outward, leveraging personal gifts and positive impact. The butterfly effect: Leaders who practice self-love and recognize joyful purpose become vessels that inspire change and transformation in the workplace and beyond. Grounded in abundance: Anything is possible when we lean into intention, our unique gifts, and our lived experience.  Easing the grip: Meditation and self-compassion shift us from a place of scarcity and fear towards being okay with the fact that there are things we can't control. Unlearning the messages: It's essential to unhitch our gaze (and sense of self-worth) from a high-stress, low-value cultural focus on empty external validation. 
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the dynamic design duo behind New York–based womenswear brand Proenza Schouler, share their thoughts on the evolving fashion marketplace with Christopher Michael and how they’ve seen their work mature and scale with it. Their illustrious journey started 20 years ago at Parsons School of Design when they completed a joint senior thesis collection, which grabbed the attention of retail heavyweight Barneys New York. In their triumphant rise to a successful, prominent luxury label, they navigated social media noise and kept up with the breakneck pace of a never-ending, fast-paced global production cycle. Working in tandem has been vital to them, extending the emotional, creative, and practical support that buttressed Proenza Schouler’s growth and longevity.  What's Contemporary Now? A celebration of individuality, keeping the work authentic to the brand's core values, and a broad embrace of all kinds of perspectives while also sticking to your vision and not just being a follower. Episode Highlights: Getting the name right: Pronounced Pro'ensa Skool'er, the name represents the combination of the designers' mothers' maiden names.  Origin stories: Born and raised in Miami, Lazaro fell in love with magazines and design early, ultimately abandoning pre-med to attend Parsons School of Design. Jack spent his early childhood in Japan before relocating to New Jersey as a teen, a "culture shock" that preceded his move to Parsons School of Design. Aha moments: The early influences that shaped Lazaro's interest in the fashion industry and Jack's focus shifting away from the visual arts in college. Becoming a brand: Pulling all-night design sessions as college students cemented the bond between Jack and Lazaro, in terms of style and approach to work.  Turning point: What ensued after the fashion duo was introduced to Julie Gilhart, who was running Barneys New York and became a champion of their first collection—conceived and designed as an award-winning joint thesis project. Early days bootstrapping: The team figured out all the design, manufacturing, pricing, marketing, and other functions that came to be known as Proenza Schouler. (A name they came up with within two days.) What has changed: Jack reflects on today's increased "noise" level in the fashion marketplace, the "endless list" of would-be designers online, and the need to differentiate. Lazaro contrasts today's hardcore business and branding orientation to the more artistic, playful environment that prevailed when they started. Big money, fast timelines: The accelerating breakneck pace of marketing, pre-collections, social media management, and merchandising strategy. Staying creative: Jack and Lazaro evolved a balance between their business and design functions, merging them without letting one take over the other. Then and now: The evolution of Proenza Schouler's editorial/design focus on surprise and innovation toward a sense of continuity and investment in telling the same story but in fresh, new ways. The sweet spot: Curiosity and clear-eyed self-criticism have driven Jack and Lazaro past stumbles from better to best, season to season.  Love-hate: The beautiful opportunity fashion offers to reinvent and extend constantly versus the stress of that never-ending grind of performing. Duo dynamics: Working as a pair has conferred emotional support, creative challenge, and the ability to scale, multitask, and adapt to today's fashion industry. Identity shift: A look at how Proenza Schouler has continued providing "urban clothes for intelligent women" as their customers' lives have morphed and matured.  Celebrating practicality, individuality, and diversity: New York's fast pace and changeability are woven into the Proenza Schouler brand's voice and identity.
As the youngest and first black fashion director in Vogue’s history, Julia Sarr-Jamois is a powerful driving force for change within the fashion industry. She started her illustrious career by modeling at 17 and then interning at i-D magazine. Her love of textiles and fashion accessories since childhood fueled her prolific rise to consultant, stylist, and fashion director of British Vogue. Today, her eclectic style and elegance make her one of the most photographed fashion directors—ruling best-dressed lists. Julia’s exceptional, lauded talent is highlighted through her dynamic editorials, social media presence, and consulting work with brands worldwide. In this episode, she shares with Christopher Michael how fashion markets have broadened, making it difficult for brands to focus on a single thing. As well, she reflects on how establishing her studio has allowed her more autonomy over her career choices and how magazines have played an iconic and influential role in both her fashion career and the fashion industry at large. What’s contemporary now? It’s an attitude. People are more open to different types of people, kinder to each other, and more inclusive. Episode Highlights: What started as a two-week internship at i-D magazine became a year-long internship, catapulting Julia into the fashion industry. She has always been much more interested in what was happening behind the camera than being a model in front of it, leading her to a career in styling and editing. The modern-day fashion editor's role has changed. How? Historically, there's been a line between talent and editor. Now, you see a more integrated partnership. Julia describes how fashion and style, particularly Celine's, permeate and influence her entire life, including her living space. Magazines, primarily, have shaped Julia's interest in fashion. She highlights Edward Enniful's changes to British Vogue—compared to other magazines. What role does a magazine cover play in our culture today? Julia believes that since social media has become prominent, magazines play a lesser role. Celebrities don't need magazine covers as much as they once did. However, a British Vogue cover is always iconic and impactful—everyone wants one.  A style consultant working with brands, Julia shares her approach to strategizing content and marketing. How significant of a contribution does relatability make when building an image for a magazine, advertiser, etc.? Is it easier now for people to break into the fashion industry? Thankfully, it's different than it used to be; working for free doesn't exist anymore. Julia recommends working with Mentoring Matters for free mentoring in the fashion industry. Artist representation is starting to look different. Julia reveals how she's structured her in-house business as a stylist and consultant.
With an impressive amount of experience in luxury lifestyle branding, Youssef Marquis has been one of the key players in shaping the image and narrative of some of the most iconic fashion houses, such as Givenchy and Louis Vuitton. His Paris-based agency Marquis, with a content-centric, digitally savvy vision, offers innovative services that bridge traditional branding strategies into the brave new world of social media. With a distinct strategic vision, creative flair, and strong relationships with media and influencers, Youssef is a trusted partner and a visionary leader helping his clients to navigate the ever-changing and challenging landscape to achieve their goals and elevate their image in the competitive and dynamic market. Today, designers are no longer defined by outside, third-party media; rather, they are empowered—and expected—to communicate by broadcasting directly and thoughtfully to their target audiences. Marquis crafts and determines its clients’ brand messaging: honest, targeting the right audience, and with visual and verbal identities that uphold their core values. In this episode, Youssef shares his thoughts with Christopher Michael on the fashion sector's stance on sustainability, ethical practices, and technological and social challenges. To him, brands are responsible for the messages they put out in the world. What’s contemporary now? “Shaping brand messages that leave no one behind." Episode Highlights: Pop culture monster: Youssef’s obsession with image-making and creating awareness drew him to fashion communication. Getting specific: A general approach to communication and image can fall short in capturing what designers bring to the table in a particular era at a particular house. Bottling the magic: The importance of communicating the core values, identity, and messages that define the interplay between a house and a designer. Stepping beyond: Youssef launched his agency to broaden his perspectives and develop his rhythm beyond corporate frameworks. A voice emerges: Youssef’s signature style organically evolved, and he sought expression beyond any single brand or designer—project diversity. The LVMH relationship: A 15-year journey has sparked magical campaigns, and Youssef’s commitment to the brand now shapes his daily workflow. Radical clarity: For young designers pulled in multiple directions, Youssef offers a roadmap to establish that all-important identity and fearless differentiation. Critical components: Visuals. Community. 360º Comms Strategy. Creating a young designer’s messaging means figuring out “Who am I, and why am I different?” Changing landscape: Youssef straddles, remembers, and leverages his experience with both the traditional media space and today’s fluid social media and digital platforms. Where to focus: Given the range of options, Youssef encourages clients to commit to community and social networking platforms as a contemporary driver for messaging. Playing the channels: Young and established brands must be deliberate about who they are speaking to, in what voice, and with what emphasis. The golden ticket: A cohesive brand voice creates connections and consistency, advancing visibility and identification. Not optional: Youssef’s commitment (one he sees increasingly mirrored in the fashion sector) to sustainability, ethical practices, and core values of respect, inclusivity, diversity, and kindness. Racing toward the new: Technology can be a double-edged sword, with the allure of immediacy and the “wow” factor often followed by disappointing results. Pro advice: When it comes to highly sensitive decision-making around elements like technology, Youssef knows what he knows—and when to seek outside expertise. Looking ahead: Youssef proposes innovative, partnership-based services focused primarily on raising brand awareness through community-building strategies.
Carlos Nazario, stylist, consultant and global fashion director of i-D Magazine, opens up about his work ethic, upbringing, and the importance of vulnerability in the fashion industry. Growing up in a Puerto Rican household in Queens, he credits his ambition, sense of responsibility, and ability to multitask—while maintaining an even temperament—to being enveloped by the hustle and bustle of a city where only the movers and shakers make it. Despite his considerable success, he describes himself as a relatable figure who openly shares experiences with anxiety, depression, body image issues, and imposter syndrome on social media to inspire others and help them aspire to more. In this episode, he shares his deep passion for people and their stories and his fascination with the transformative power of fashion and the persuasive language of clothes. What Is Contemporary Now? Carlos believes that in a multifaceted world, portraying its diversity without being held to a single viewpoint is the true essence of what is contemporary. Episode Highlights: New levels, new devils: "When you're just starting, many people behind you, happy to see you succeed and support you. But as you climb the ranks and become part of the establishment, you may not feel the same support. People may assume that you don't need that encouragement anymore, or they may misunderstand the intentions behind your work." Avoiding burnout: There is a lot of pressure to perform at a high level, which becomes more significant with success. It's often challenging to keep things fresh and find new ways to say what needs to be said and stand out while avoiding burnout. Despite these challenges, Carlos feels fortunate to work with his clients and have a partner supporting him. Still, ultimately, he recognizes that it's his job to establish boundaries and balance his workload. The human struggle: Carlos shares his struggles with anxiety, depression, body image, and imposter syndrome on social media, inspiring others who face similar challenges. He wants to be honest about his struggles because he knows that almost everyone struggles with similar issues, even some of the world's most successful, powerful, and famous people. The power of fashion: Carlos loves the power of clothes, one that creates the performance of existence. He is passionate about telling stories and finds glamour and fantasy captivating. The earliest pictures he fell in love with were Bruce Weber's, as they portrayed familiar people or ones in a fantasy world. Social chemistry: Putting together the right teams creates extraordinary results. Carlos is sensitive to vibes and carefully chooses who he works with. He prefers to work with his family of people who see and inspire each other and possibly have differing viewpoints. He has formed close relationships with models and sees their stories as necessary. Advice for the next generation: Invest your time, energy, and money into building something sustainable, a foundation, without focusing only on the result or its facade. Before starting out on his own, Carlos worked as an intern at W Magazine under Alex White and Camilla Nickerson, at Love under Katie Grand, and for Joe McKenna for six years. These experiences taught him to perform at a high level, manage clients, and think two or three steps ahead.
In coming home to himself, dancer turned photographer Luis Alberto Rodriguez fully claimed the confident perspective that makes him one of the most sought-after talents in fashion and art today. For the gay son of Dominican immigrants, the performance art world offered refuge and exceptional opportunities—such as exploring the globe as a member of European dance companies. A background in dance and a quest to understand intimacy informed his unique photographer’s eye and helped hone the skills that eventually defined his work in the fashion industry today. Self-taught, the Berlin-based photographer shares his personal journey—how he evolved his craft with the help of a camera he won on eBay, various mentors, inspiring photo books, and YouTube tutorials—that led to work in notable publications, such as i-D Magazine, Document Journal, and Vogue. His success story is ingrained with a deep understanding of movement and a reverence for human connections; the shy school kid alone on the New York City subway became a visionary whose eye for integrity and authenticity defines What’s Contemporary Now. “Being proud of where you come from is the key to any kind of success,” says Luis. Episode Highlights: The Roots of Love: Luis's peripatetic experience pursuing his passion for dance from his native New York's "Fame" (LaGuardia) public high school and a BFA at Julliard to his creative odyssey as a performer throughout Europe. Nothing to Fall Back On: Coming from challenging socio-economic circumstances drove Luis's immigrant survival story—as well as his imagination and independence. Mentors: An incredible group of teachers and mentors took Luis under their wing, giving him the guidance his—supportive but uneducated—immigrant parents could not. Dance as a Refuge: What it looked like navigating the world as a young gay boy who was extremely shy, repressed, and culturally unprepared for the swirl around him. The Jump into Photography: A fascination with portfolios and studying models—and the lack of diversity; the works of William Forsythe —and the way he illuminated the body; starting to mentally compose and click photos while traveling the world; studying portraits in photo books, like Richard Avedon's "In the American West." Acquiring Technique: Luis learned his métier one small job at a time, using a camera he won on eBay and tools like YouTube to study shutter speed and aperture. On Being Self-Taught: Whatever the technique or level of technical expertise, what Luis sees most in his work is the expression of his identity and personal history. Creating the Magic: Luis uses a particular alchemy, built in part on his deep history and dance knowledge, to unlock his subjects' bodies and energies. The Role of Dance: His deep understanding of movement and choreography has given Luis tools and a uniquely confident point of view. Imposter Syndrome is Real: Luis still has a pinch-me experience, even as his career has taken off and his random sense of the fashion world has become focused. Word to the Wise: Find those trusted partners who both offer space and provide support for the work.  On Intimacy: Luis shares the fascination with and gravitation towards human connection that roots much of his work in "a reflection of inner desire." His debut book of photography: "People of the Mud" is the outgrowth of a two-month residency in Ireland in which he had transcultural access to a homogenous sports community  Different Rules: The skepticism and suspicion attached to street photographers of color. The Intuitive Path: Transitioning from dance to photography was not seamless, but Luis trusted where his instinct was taking him and invested in an energizing and life-giving obsession. What Is Contemporary Now? Owning your history. Really digging deep, pulling from it, and being proud of where you come from—intentionally pausing and being still.
Charles Levai and Kevin Tekinel, creative directors and cofounders of the Paris-based creative agency Maybe, chat with Christopher Michael about their inspiring journey to success. Before launching their sought-after agency, they honed their skills separately in various creative fields. Their complementary expertise in graphic design, fashion imagery, and film and video editing allowed them to work collaboratively on brilliant concepts and projects, building a prestigious clientele roster, which includes top fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci, Hermès, Coperni and The Row. In this episode, the duo highlights the importance of technology in the fashion industry and the exciting new ways it's been incorporated—such as the impressive Coperni spray dress—especially during the pandemic. With the demand to produce more content higher than ever, they weigh in on the role of Instagram and various social media platforms in today's content creation, underscoring the significant shift toward video content to engage audiences better. To Charles and Kevin, their thriving creative path comprises essential building blocks: collaboration, positivity, and a willingness to explore possibilities. What is contemporary now? Creating something relevant and in context with the present moment. Episode Highlights: On the name Maybe: Maybe was born out of the duo's love for fashion and the creative fields and cemented by a long-lasting friendship. "Maybe," a reply often uttered by both, represents their boundless optimism and the belief that nothing is impossible or a definitive "no." On their differing backgrounds: Charles, a master of graphic design, has a deep passion for fashion and imagery, while Kevin honed his skills in film before transitioning to the fashion world. Together they make a dynamic duo, working collaboratively on all aspects of their projects. Charles and Kevin find that being a team of two helps facilitate the creative process, and they value each other's input even when they don't initially agree. On constraints sparking creativity: Maybe achieved quick success after its founding, defying the odds despite the pandemic—though challenging, spurred innovation in the fashion industry and creative problem-solving. The founders credit this success to their tireless efforts and a dash of good fortune. Repurposing existing images and creating new works without photo shoots became necessary, leading to groundbreaking new techniques in fashion photography and graphic design. On technology: While technology has not advanced significantly in the fashion industry over the past decade, it definitely plays a crucial role in some of Maybe's projects. On their approach: When working with a fashion house, Maybe likes to play with its codes and look at the world through its eyes, creating something unique and special. The duo prefers to do as much of the work—rather than working with large teams—to stay true to their artistic vision and creative independence.  On art versus commerce: While they balance their projects' commercial and artistic aspects harmoniously and profitably, they acknowledge that everything they do has a commercial start and end—with some projects being more commercial or image-driven than others. On change: The fashion industry can be slow to embrace change, but brands have become more open to working with a newer generation. The agency believes its success is due to being at the right place at the right time, a newer generation of designers, and Paris reclaiming its rightful place as the epicenter of fashion and acting as a hub for creative people.
Visionary founder of @stylenotcom, Beka Gvishiani, grew up in the former Soviet republic of Georgia with little-to-no access to pop culture—or even basic electricity. In this episode, Beka shares his seemingly overnight success story in the fashion industry with Christopher Michael. However, his digital platform and unique voice are rooted in years of hands-on experience promoting up-and-coming international brands. With its distinctive blue and white all-caps format and its wittiness and substance, @stylenotcom instantly caught the eye of industry heavyweights; its posts reflect not only what's contemporary now but also the historical trends that have shaped fashion and culture. He still finds his stratospheric rise hard to believe, including the success of his creative agency, Ariel Bold, counting Colette co-founder Sarah Andelman and fashion editor Katie Grand among his champions, and co-creating his first Vogue covers featuring the Ukrainian flag. "I still sometimes feel it's a big dream that has happened to me." Episode Highlights: Turning Technicolor: Beka’s life was turned upside down when his interest in pop culture and music collided with the revolution in his native Tbilisi, Georgia, and the “gold, shiny light” that went on the first time he saw a Vogue magazine cover. Beka built a platform for his passion first by becoming a regular on forums like The Fashion Spot and then launching the Glossy Newsstand blog on Tumblr in 2010. Faster than Light: The splash Beka made—and the attention he got—using social media tags to highlight insider information about magazine covers and content ahead of the pack. Beka’s longtime collaboration with the celebrated magazine editor Katie Grand. Like a Dream: Beka’s love of headlines scintillated and evolved into his distinctive, eye-catching @stylenotcom all caps, words-only title format in 2021—rapidly building a viral following, especially among industry insiders.  The Power of Formal Education: Beka doesn’t attribute his success to the BA he earned in Finance and Business Administration so much as the early hands-on skills he acquired working with international brands in his native Georgia.   Arial Bold: The creative consulting agency Beka co-created based on his experience with every aspect of fashion design promotion, shoot production, and branding for up-and-coming labels. Hero Moments: Getting a hug from Tim Blanks at the Bottega Veneta show last year. One of only 200 invited to Saint Laurent’s menswear show in the Marrakech Desert; being featured in a Business of Fashion article; doing his first Vogue cover; meeting many personal heroes and fashion icons.  Looking Ahead: No merchandise planned … yet! Additional content featured on extensions that build upon the Style Not Com brand and format. What Endures: Despite his digital fluency, Beka is a huge proponent of the traditional runway, media, and publications. (Hint: The physical feel, smell, and textures will never go out of style and are a snapshot in time.) Embracing the Romance: The past is a powerful inspiration for Beka, who believes without nostalgia—understanding the past—there is no future. The Fashion Icons Beka Still Dreams of Meeting: Karl Lagerfeld (unfortunately no longer a possibility), Anna Wintour, Carine Roitfeld, Kate Moss, and Miuccia Prada. What’s Contemporary Now? Whatever comes authentically from the heart and mind currently but at the same time draws on and respects fashion’s rich archival past.
Irish stylist Alastair McKimm joins Christopher Michael to discuss his trailblazing path to becoming i-D Magazine's global editor-in-chief. Growing up in Belfast in the '80s and '90s, Alastair was captivated by the distinct street style and elements of skateboarding, hip hop, and punk cultures. He encountered the fashion world through the pages of i-D Magazine, which introduced him to renowned designers like Raf Simons, Ann Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela, and Helmut Lang. Working with iconic designers and photographers has helped mold his career, alongside his perseverance and exuberant passion for the work. At i-D, he has built a solid team, injecting the publication with a reenergized vision, always keeping open to new ideas and perspectives, and keen on fostering collaborative exchange. So, what is contemporary now? To Alastair, it is honesty, authenticity, and a community of people who bring out the best in others. Episode Highlights: Elements of education: Early exposure to street fashion in Alastair's native Belfast and studying fashion design at Nottingham Art School. Early influences: skateboarding, surfing, hip-hop, and punk; Raf Simons, Ann Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela, and Helmut Lang; i-D Magazine and Self Service, and their "advertising that wasn't even selling clothes, but a brand."  In the '90s, the internet was in its infancy, and magazine images were the outsized primary influence. Designs, casting, styling, and photography: Alastair landed his first job in London by showing up with his portfolio and networking his way into an assistant's job with Edward Enninful, then the fashion director at i-D Magazine.  Living the dream: Alastair relished every aspect of his introduction to fashion styling, though it was a steep learning curve—intense, terrifying, and exhilarating. Playing to strength: As administrative work was not his strong suit, Alastair focused on researching and scanning images from fashion archives, vintage, costume, and antique shops. Full circle: As i-D Magazine’s global editor-in-chief, Alastair has the institutional memory to reflect on the evolution of covers, collaborators, and the industry's interplay. Do the work: Alastair underscores the importance of working every rung of the fashion ladder to gain fluency, perspective, and core-level competencies. Building out the team: Camaraderie and collaboration, which Alastair believes are the most contemporary (and work-life enhancing) of all things. Church and state: The false divisions between art and commerce, and why growth and financial engagement are essential to building brands. Making old school more commercial: social media mastery; video content; and digitization. Post-pandemic workplace creative processes and communication: finding the balance between in-person and virtual; deploying platforms, such as Facetime, Zoom, WhatsApp, sms, and email. Capturing the moment: How do Alastair and his team look at covers, themed issues, and other editorial decisions shaping the look and priorities at i-D Magazine. Content versus collections: The curation processes differ. Editor versus stylist: open-mindedness and growth invariably evolve out of collaboration essential to publishing effective, compelling magazine content. How New York has become home—with touchstone influences like Gap, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Tiffany's, and many more. The World is Flat: About the globalization (and overlap) in today's fashion landscape. Saying No to the Fashion Vacuum: Alastair shares thoughts on how his longstanding affinity for street culture (and an open mind) keep ideas fresh and inspiration expansive in an often insular, self-referential industry. On having it all: How a blend of gratitude and a distinct personality have helped Alastair maintain a healthy work-life balance. Checking imposter syndrome: Giving back and being of service helps Alastair stay grounded.
Season 2 Trailer

Season 2 Trailer


We are back with new thought-provoking exchanges with your favorite editors, photographers, creative directors, stylists, media mavens, and even NYT bestselling authors and masters of meditation and manifesting. We'll talk about sustaining creativity in a competitive world, mastermind marketing, the new new media, and also explore the ubiquitous and intriguing imposter syndrome.  Our upcoming guests include Carlos Nazario, Luis Alberto Rodriguez, Kevin Tekinel and Charles Levai, Julia Sarr-Jamois, Alastair McKimm, Beka Gvishiani, Gabby Bernstein, Youssef Marquis, Clare Richardson, Jesse Israel, and many more! Tune in to our first new episode on Monday, March 27.
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