Monday, October 16, 2017

Meet Chris Young... the triple threat



What do you get when you cross Bruce Lee with Jackie Chan and the boy next door? Well , you are going to get a man named Chris Young who combines martial arts with dance with modeling and then to ice the cake ... acting!
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The discipline of martial arts is apparent in this man’s demeanor and yet he is totally at ease and very well spoken on all subjects concerned. To say he is a rarity within the business of fashion would be an understatement or possibly an anomaly and yet he fits right in with the flock. He is the essence of athleticism meets esthetics.
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Chris is one of many who fights against the stereotypes and ill-conceived notions of what makes a model. He is dedicated to all his crafts and skills and as he duly pointed out to me that they are not always inextricably linked; one is learned and one is honed. That is a rather astute and a telling observation for a man whose intelligence belies his professional choices or maybe not!
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So in his own words and with some prodding on my part    in his own words please allow me to introduce you to Chris Young.
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Jeffrey Felner: What is your most prized possession and why?

Chris Young: I would say my health and physicality. I know that isn't exactly a possession in the way, say, my favorite sword or an heirloom is, but I derive a lot of my peace and happiness through movement. To me, it is as much spiritual as it is physical. So my health and physicality is central to my happiness and the way I live my life.
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JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why

CY: I have to admit I’m a little torn, so I am going to cheat and give two scenarios.

First is very simple: it would be fascinating to me to have my teachers and mentors together at dinner. That would actually be six people but I’ve never been good at math. I believe that despite the obvious differences, there is an underlying type of thinking and discipline that is in common with all these arts in which I engage.

Then there is a more fantastical ideal of having historical heroes of mine at dinner. For that,  I am inclined to choose Liu DeKuan, who was a great martial artist and who is part of my martial lineage,  Mestre Pastinha who is often considered the father of Capoeira Angola, Richard Bolislavski the actor, director and teacher who to my mind really first made acting technique understandable to the actor with all due credit to Stanislavsky, Herb Ritts, the photographer,  and Rumi the founder of Sufism which is a joyous spiritual tradition so profound you need not be a Sufi to benefit from it.
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JF: You are a triple threat ... actor, model and martial arts professional; would you tell us how this all came about to bring you to this point?

CY: It was all very unplanned since I was actually on track for a career in artificial intelligence (AI) research and development. I had been engaged in martial arts and gymnastics most of my life. While I was pursuing this career in AI, I started a Chinese lion dance team, which is based upon kung fu skills. Eventually the guys on the team wanted to learn to fight so I started teaching these guys a martial arts, specifically a style called Eagle Claw. Then my Sifu (teacher) suggested I start teaching an additional style, known as White Ape Connected Back. While all that was happening, I was scouted by an agency in Pittsburgh which  I actually thought was a scam, but eventually signed with them; it never amounted to anything but another agency found me and signed me  and started sending me out. It was a lot more fun than I expected and As I started to explore modeling, I discovered that taking it to a higher level required a lot more skill and understanding than I had expected. On the advice of a friend, I started taking acting lessons to enhance my performance as a model. I was fortunate enough to have an acting teacher from Carnegie Mellon who helped me develop a love for acting as well as modeling. During all this expansion of martial arts, modeling and acting, I found the tech industry was not a good fit for me, whereas martial arts was a much better fit. I continued to increase my martial arts skills and established a school and eventually became a master. Serious martial arts, in addition to skill development, requires and benefits from solid physical conditioning in almost the same way as modeling. I was already attracted and fascinated with movies involving plenty of action so physical conditioning was essential for those types of roles as an actor. Additionally acting requires good physical coordination with one’s body, as obviously does martial arts. So they all have overlapping components.  I really love all three of the crafts and skills. When I was a kid I watched Kung Fu movies with my grandfather and loved them but I also remember seeing models in magazines thinking “man, that’s pretty cool”. I never seriously considered the possibility I could do it … But…. here I am where life has lead me.
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JF: If you could choose any collaboration at all … what or who would it be and why?

CY: Man this is tough. I think for modeling I’d love to shoot a campaign including video and print with an athletic bent, maybe some martial arts even, with Rick Day for an underwear brand like Jack Adams or CN-2, maybe GNC or a sport brand if he was into that. That guy produces some of the coolest video campaigns I can remember… I think I recall some for CN-2…. And of course his still photography is amazing.

For a movie, my ideal is to bring together really good writing, acting and martial arts worked into a single movie directed by Ang Lee. I actually have a story idea but I’m still working on it so I don’t want to give it away right now, but I think Ang Lee would be the ideal director to pull together a project like this.
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JF: If there is any part of your history that you would rewrite”… what would it be and why?

CY: There are some specific things I would do differently… for instance, I had a chance to go to China with my grandfather and see where he grew up but I didn’t because of a new job, and never got another chance… but overall, I don’t think I would really rewrite any part of my history. I have made plenty of mistakes and have lived through some quite difficult and miserable periods, but I feel I am in a pretty good place in my life right now and headed in a good direction.  I think lessons learned from the difficulties as well as the fortunate, happy times all helped to bring me to this place. 
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JF: Where would you like to see Chris Young in 5 years ... what’s the end game for you ?

CY: I would like to be booking regular work in film, print and television and also seeing my martial arts students advance in their skills. In addition hope that I will be continuously honing in my own skills as an actor, model and martial artist.


Photographers: Rey Romero, Alahn Brezan, John Falocco, Rodney Logan,  Jason Paluck,  Alejandro Jesus and Thiek Smith.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

on the home front.. meet Norman Ambrose

www.looks.love/us 

OR

At some point around 5 years ago I was invited to the show of a designer I had never heard of. As luck would have it, the designer was Norman Ambrose and it was at that point that my infatuation and coverage began. I was awed by a young man who understood and possessed the skillset of master dressmakers, designers and great couturiers. The clothes reflected an astounding comprehension of why women would buy his clothes as well what would make a woman exquisitely dressed. Some might say he is an old soul or born too late but as Diana Vreeland said “...Don’t think you were born too late. Everyone has that illusion. But you aren’t. The only problem is if you think too late?” 
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To my utter delight Norman carried the torch for clothes that befit the women that can afford them and wish to look a certain way. Yes, times have changed,  but to me the one thing that remains constant is that a woman still  wants to be beautiful, feel beautiful and be admired and complimented when she enters a room. Norman offers women these opportunities.

His career has evolved from where he started but the young man has adapted and forged his new path by adhering to his brand’s DNA and with a skillset and taste level that has propelled him to his present situation. So … with all this praise and laudatory talk, it’s now Norman’s turn to speak of his brand and the state of fashion as he sees it …. In his own words ….
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Jeffrey Felner:  Can you tell us briefly how you arrived at your present professional station?
Norman Ambrose: Many years of dedication and hard work!  My life’s mission is to honor the women I love and share that love with all women, this credo drives me daily. I have a passion for making beautiful clothes and love the creation process. I’ve been in business nearly 10 years now and it feels like the blink of the eye.
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JF: Do you have any mentors or style icons who influence your work and why them?
NA: I think of my clothes as timeless and tend to draw from women who embody this ideal. For example, I have always been captivated by Jacqueline Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill. They embody a timeless, cultured beauty where refinement and an effortless spirit are in complete 
harmony. 
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JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
NA: Assuming this would be one of many dinners I am to host; here are 5 that come to mind in the immediate. (For seating purposes, I’ve selected two couples and then a single that would sit at my side.)
Guests 1 & 2- Gloria Swanson & Rudolph Valentino- I have a fascination with old Hollywood beginning with the silent film era. Both Gloria and Rudolph would have many fascinating stories to re-tell of their zenith days in films, and to listen would be magic.
Guests 3 & 4- Princess Diana & Dodi Al Fayed- Lovers who’s lives ended far too young and in such tragic circumstances, it would be wonderful to hear firsthand what it is they loved about one another and what life was like at the time of their untimely deaths.
Guest 5- Lastly but certainly not least would be the god-mother of fashion herself, Diana Vreeland. Her witty sense of humor and natural gift of story-telling would make her a charming dinner companion to hold court with. 
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JF: There is no doubt that the fashion system is broken; if there is anything or a few things that you would or could change what would they be and why?
NA: The fashion industry is undergoing a paradigm shift. I don’t view the fashion industry as necessarily broken but rather as an opportunity. For the past decade the industry has experimented with discounting, fast fashion, social media, more is better and on-line selling. Trying to navigate all these waters, it is my belief that many brands lost focus and forgot who they are as a brand or made missteps with their customers that cost them dearly. We are in the digital age and navigating the waters to determine where the next best thing in fashion will fall.
As a young brand and designer, I face many of these challenges. In speaking with friends in other industries, they also face some of the same challenges the fashion industry does, fast pace, lack of innovation, funding, mentoring, and a platform. So I view it as everyone is trying to figure out the digital age. For me and the brand, it comes down to product and the experience that you provide your customer. I just stay true to myself and design beautiful product that can be worn by my customers, to make them feel enchanted, carefree, and confident. The brand developed a strategic direction and we navigate the waters like everyone else but keep asking the question of ourselves “is this our core, is this who we are?” Being centered allows the brand and I to guide the company at a time when the waters are uncertain around us.  
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JF: Let’s speak of internet sales vs. brick and mortar; how do you view those points of sale and why?
NA: We are witnessing a cyclical cause and effect with relation to internet sales and brick & mortar. For example, let’s take the traditional department store. The department stores as we know them are trying to compete and maintain their bottom line as a large number of their customers switch to online purchasing for a majority of their consumer needs. Unfortunately, the in-store experience is being greatly affected. We’ve seen the loss of customer service, a lack of associate knowledge, a limited assortment & sizing, lack of differentiation between the stores, and the dilution of brand messaging affecting how the customer connects with the products. This downgrade and lack of differentiation has discouraged consumers from purchasing in store and justified the ease at which they enjoy purchasing the same products online.
The type of company you are determines the strategy of how you sell to your customer. Being a luxury brand, it is important to differentiate and create a mystery behind the product. It is key to understand the type of product that can sell online vs. in store, controlling your points of distribution. When selling luxury, your customer wants to feel good about themselves and what they are purchasing by having a personal experience. Whether selling in store or online, it is paramount that you provide cohesion in that experience.
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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Thom Browne PFW spring 2018



 Imagine if Walter Van Beirendonck, Issey Miyake, Junya Watanabe, Sarah Burton, Rei Kawakubo, John Galliano, Martin Margiella and Alexander McQueen gave birth to a baby boy this season and his name is Thom Browne. 

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Do not think that he has copied any of them but he has somehow captured the essence of all of them within one collection.

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There are no words to truly describe but I can say it is a wonder of technique, an unending stretch of one’s imagination and a celebration of the art of art and craft of fashion.
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This is a connoisseur’s collection, a museum collection . .. It has nothing to do with marketability or wearability but it has everything to do with how we view fashion .. it is pure unadulterated spectacle and theater. 
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It is 1000% pure Thom Browne

Chanel PFW spring 2018



Pulling out all the stops once again, Karl just piles it on and keeps it coming. I am reminded of Mrs. Vreeland and her “give them what they never knew they wanted” and in this case there is a treasure trove of stuff that will even attract a new audience as well as bring back the dyed in the wool clientele for more. It’s a Chanel souk!
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Accessories by the boatload, bags, jewelry and, scarves of course the “rainwear” clear vinyl accessories whether boots, shoes, capelets, gloves, handbags, hats and god knows what else, the only item I did not see was the rain bonnet (tied under the chin)  that used to fold up into a flat  pack.
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Every base is covered and some you never knew existed … silhouettes range from boxy and thick to slinky, from long to short and everything in between. It’s a staggering display of what makes Chanel the gold standard for ready to wear at this price point. Tweeds, fringe, skirts, dresses, pants of every length, jackets aplenty, for the first time in my memory some spectacular coats and from stellar and pure Chanel to his now famous clunkers. 
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The tie dyes are somewhat out of place and yet in the world of Chanel that Karl has created, there is nothing that can really be misplaced... It is all fair game and Karl just gets it right. 
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Take note where so many designers would throw in 1 or 2 pieces but Karl offers a small grouping so as not to appear as an afterthought or some silly whim… it is one of the jillion statements of the collection.
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You just can’t help but marvel at the fabrications and the sheer breadth of it all and sadly I am reminded these days that when Karl goes off to wreak havoc on another plane ... the fashion business will be far less without him but his imprimatur and reputation will hopefully and justifiably live on into generations to come .