ELLIPHANT @ Glasslands BROOKLYN, NY April 10th,2014
Photo by : Karin Bar
Zak Downtown is #alwaysdown for anything. Established in Downtown, New York City Zak is making hip hop fun again with his new single “Don’t Blow My High”. The record is making waves at NYC clubs and the video is bursting with energy. We caught up with Zak to find out where exactly is “downtown”, talk about his new video, and what is to come in the future for this chill rapper.
Inspiration and NY
I was born and raised in lower Manhattan, hence the name Zak Downtown. I'm inspired by ambition and generally anything dope. I appreciate people who have an eye for things that are aesthetically unique and I really just draw inspiration from the experiences I’ve had growing up in NYC and being in love with hip-hop music.
The birth of “Don’t Blow my High”
“Don't Blow My High” is a remix of TNGHT's “Higher Ground.” They’re a super dope production duo and when my engineer and I heard the record we knew I had to remix it. I sent it over to my homie [Murda] Mook and he immediately came through to put a verse on it. After that, I was lucky to have DJ Sinatra start playing it at clubs in NYC followed by a ton of other DJs. Every time I hear this record it gets everyone in the room hyped no matter what, so I linked up with Ben Guzman to shoot the music video and bring the record to life.
I’ll be releasing a mix tape come June followed by an EP in the summer/fall. I’m about to connect with new management so there should be a lot of things going down. I want to push boundaries as far as the music and creative content goes; I’m always experimenting with new sounds and ideas. That's just how it is when you grow up surrounded by so many different types of people and see so much crazy shit in your life.
With nearly 74 million views on YouTube, formerly anonymous fashion brand Wren has made history, partly by carefully doing their homework, but mostly thanks to being devoted to creativity and to their eagerness to find the spot and hit it well. We spoke to designer of Wren and creator of the video, the lovely and sincere Melissa Coker.
Connecting (to) People
We’ve taken the time to study sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy, looking at what has been driving their growth in relation to content. People now use online content to connect to one another, for example, when work get boring; people send links to friends, etc. We’ve found that the major points over which people connect is either humor or emotions. Starting with that premise, we recruited friends of ours, whom we felt could tell our story, and put it all in an emotional context but in a fashion space. It’s phenomenal how this experiment really did work.
Now we’re continuing to grow the brand, and certainly the success of this video has brought us a lot of attention, whether through sales or growing brand awareness. I’m very interested in doing things in a creative way and to really connect with consumers. I think this experience shows that if you’re creative and committed to making authentic quality content, you don’t really need to have a huge marketing budget.
Make Them Cry
Before sharing it with the world, I noticed the select few who watched it were having very strong reactions to it. People were tearing up, getting goosebumps and smiling. That’s when I knew we’ve accomplished our intention, but I had no idea we were about to have the most viral video of all time. Essentially, the first day that it was posted on YouTube was Friday, March 10th, and by the time I woke up in the morning, on the 11th, there were 1.7 Million views, it was featured on the front page of YouTube, and by some ironic twist, on Buzzfeed.
This trend isn’t new. It wasn’t invented by us. That being said, in the past, fashion videos were always released in a specific style and fashion context, so the consumer was savvy towards that idea and concept and very well educated on what this was. What’s interesting is being taken out of that context and releasing the film into the world via YouTube, and a lot of people weren’t familiar with the context and didn’t know what the connection was. We were communicating with the more educated consumer, and the debate about whether this was art or marketing is interesting. One example that I’ve been giving was Ellen Degeneres’ Oscars selfie, which wasn’t just a fun moment out of the blue. It was orchestrated by Samsung, but it was done in a way that was fun and enjoyable. So I think this is all good news, that people are doing things in a more creative way, a way that generates interest, care and engagement.
The Ones To Be
I always think of Wren as a brand that’s all about authenticity, simplicity, and having an element of cool, and I think this video really captured that. When thinking about clothes we think about how will others see us, what we will look like wearing this. But looking at this film and what we’re trying to communicate about the brand is more of “who these clothes make me be.” You watch this and you get this feeling along with a wide range of emotions, but mostly connecting to that vibe. The same goes for the participants. It was about who they all were.
A Tale of 40 Lips
No one of the twenty participants even knew the other person’s name, so they couldn’t google it or anything. Some of them asked me, “am I going to kiss an eighty year old?” which was part of the overall mystery. Some of the people in the video actually worked for me, our production manager worked in our store and one of them was a stylist, so it was basically friends of mine, throughout my life in L.A., and some of were “friends of the brand,” but generally people who I found dynamic and interesting.
In terms of difficulties, one person was an hour late, one couple had a lot of distance between them and just lightly pecked (we were really worried about that), but all in all, these differences the shier people and the people who were really went for it highlighted the special loveliness between the two opposites, and I think it came across on video.
Everyone who participated generously volunteered. It was amazing to see the wonderful things that have come to some of the participants through their generosity. A great example of that is of Soko, who was one of the performers (her song also accompanies the video), and she was debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 for the first time in her career, on top of that she reached the top 10, so this success was so unintended and it really fills my heart to the brim.
Also, I did wonder about whether the connections have been taken further, outside of set, and I’ve discovered some friendships have blossomed, but no wedding invitations were sent as of yet.
From rugby player to music player, British artist Dan Croll couldn’t be more grateful for the adventurous life that he now lives. When his sports aspirations came crumbling down after a rough injury, he recruited his competitive sports background and drive and invested them in his natural musical inclination. Little did he know, that he would soon be touring the world with his best friends, all the while having a blast. THE UNLIMITED had a blast hearing all about it.
How did you make the transition from athlete to musician?
When I couldn’t play sports anymore I was driven to succeed in something, and music has always been a big thing for me and it has given me a lot of purpose. I’ve always been musical, though I was focused on rugby and sports. I’ve taught myself how to play piano, guitar, drums and a bit of trumpet, but I didn’t realize I would have a career in that. That only occurred to me later in life. When I ended my career in sports, I glanced over at all the musicians I was listening and thought, “They have these amazing lives. This is their job. They’re paid to play music and tour the world and connect with fans.” It was at that point that I thought, “oh. I’ll give it a go.”
How would you describe your musical style?
It’s a tough one. It’s one big melting pot. I’ve had a very folky upbringing, and over the passed five years or so I’ve been exposed to so much music from all over the world. But if I had to simplify, I would say folk-pop, which is kind of acoustic at times but also layered with synth over the top of it. But I suppose there’s also an African twist in there as well, which I think that all started when my mom played me Paul Simon’s Graceland, and introduced me to different African choirs, at a young age. Later on I started listening to to Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti and the likes, which were all great influences on me.
You don’t seem to take yourself too seriously, but your lyrics are exceptionally sincere and intimate. Do you write anything other than lyrics?
No, I don’t write. I come from a family of great storytellers, really animated characters, and we love having family gatherings where we all catch up. My Nan on my mom’s side is amazing. She’s eighty-six and she’ll jump about to demonstrate and bring her stories into life. She also happens to have the funniest stories. The funniest things happen to her. I feel like that was passed onto me. I like to talk a lot, tell stories, and listen to other people’s stories. Lyrics are just spoken words, so I have to bring the animation into the lyrics, which is what makes them playful and sincere, I suppose.
Your music also has a sort of wink to it. Would you say you were a funny dude?
I’m alone right now so I should say I am, because no one is here to disagree with me.
Maybe I am. I tour with nine people who I’ve known for six or seven years and we’re the best of mates. I’m constantly around fun things and funny people and I suppose that some of it rubs off on me. My family is funny as well. I’m obviously serious about making music, but it’s not worth anything if it’s not fun. It’s very important for me, with everything I do, to have a good time. Some things come out of being in a bad place, but for me, it’s mostly about having fun.
What do you currently listen to?
I try to listen to music that isn’t close to the music I make. I listen to a lot of a lot of hip-hop and R&B. I really love Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, and old stuff like Madlib. On the other side of the spectrum, I listen to a lot of metal, I really love this Swedish band named Meshuggah, they’re really fantastic, and another one named Kvelertak. My guilty pleasure is definitely metal. It weirdly relaxes me.
Tell us about performing.
I’ve had a clear idea of the kind of performer I wanted to become ever since I started making music, and what I wanted people to take away from it. When I went to watch performances as a teenager, I always found myself slightly frustrated when a band played the song identically to the recording. It was almost robotic. I set myself out to add a little special something during performances. I spent a lot of time working on that. Ultimately, that’s what makes people want to come out and see live shows, because they don’t really know what to expect.
Interview by Elian Zach
Protect your back, protect you neck!
Here are THE UNLIMITED Top 10 BackPacks for Festival season.
Work/Out/Workout - Convertible Activewear
For an upcoming series of interviews, we found three young designers who took it upon themselves to turn the schleppy transition between work, yoga class and dinner/drinks (not necessarily in that order) into a doable task, simply by designing activewear that is actually activity-wear; professional enough for work, elastic enough for a workout, sexy and fashionable enough for a night on the town.
Interview #1: Designer Brianna DeRose, creator of Well Kept
Does New York City impact your designs?
Yes. The energy, the pulse, the unceasing streets, the endless creative possibilities,
and the characters that fill this city all have a huge impact in my design work.
Your line gives off a very laid back feel. Is it meant to just be for casual outings or nights out as well?
Well Kept is meant for layering, and the key is versatility and functionality. It is bridging the gap between day and night.
What type of woman are you trying to embody through your designs?
There is a sense of confidence I want women to portray when wearing Well Kept—luxury matters most on the inside. Well Kept is a lifestyle that I want to be brought out when wearing our clothes.
Stay tuned for interview #2 of The Executive Yogi Series: Designer Allie Schulz, creator of EzerLife – coming soon
Art author and expert, Etan Jonathan Ilfeld, introduces Sedition; a unique digital auction house.
As Walter Benjamin has pointed out, art that is mechanically reproducible is perceived differently than traditional art such as painting. Not surprisingly, it took a while until photography was considered high art, and began selling for considerable prices at auction houses (e.g. Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #96, 1981, sold in 2011 for $3.89 million). Video-art has faced similar challenges, but thanks to digital technology, video-art is becoming democratized and affordable. Putting a price on a film has always been complex. Although cinemas have commodified the feature film such that the same ticket price will apply to a $200M blockbuster as it will to a low-budget independent film, the pricing of video-art remains elusive and transient.
Traditionally, video-art followed in the footsteps of photography and featured a limited edition series, where the price of each piece increased with the sale of each additional piece so that the last piece in an edition is the most expensive. However, it was a lot easier to collect, preserve, and display photography than it was video-art, which requires electricity and maintaining a technology that can quickly fall out of date (e.g. VCR Cassettes).
Erin Dana liberates ladies of all shapes and sizes from the dreadful task of purse-holding, and gives dance a chance. A Q&A with the designer about her courageous contribution to the comeback of the fanny pack.
Your bags are very interesting. What was the inspiration behind the belt/bag design?
I'm a festival gal. I love live music and dancing. Every time I would go to a show or out with my girlfriends, I would get so annoyed holding a bag, not to mention growing up in a city where at least one of my girlfriends would lose or leave their bag somewhere. I started doing some research on the fanny pack, and talking to my mom and other age groups. After hearing how open they were to bringing that style back, I said to myself, “that's it, I'm making it! If all else fails, I’ll wear them all!” Luckily, all else hasn't failed; in fact, responses have been great!
How would you define your style?
My style is tough to define as I can go from dressy to super casual or from bohemian to trendy. I think those that know me will say I lean closer to the bohemian side though. I love mixing and matching and taking risks, but one thing I always look for is quality—I don't like to purchase pieces that don't last long.
Your line gives off a very laid back feel, is it meant to just be for casual outings or nights out as well?
To me being laid back is a state of mind. It is being happy, content, positive and free, which is exactly what our line is about. We have women wearing our bags to the beach and then to formal events. It is meant to go from day to night, from casual to dressy.
What type of women are you trying to embody through your designs?
When I design I try not to focus on one particular type of woman but instead to think about every unique woman. I really embrace my femininity and I love the female body. I believe that every woman can be sexy and look great no matter how they are built, which is why I decided to go with a woven leather chain rather than a regular leather belt when I designed the Evan Belt bag. I find that the chain will hug a woman's hips or waist in a much more flattering, form fitting way. And it doesn’t discriminate! This bag looks sexy on my mom, my girlfriends, my 16-year-old cousin, and even my grandmother takes walks around Forest Hills with it! It's a very versatile bag. We’ve also included an extended bracelet in order to make the chain longer or wear the small pouch on your upper arm.
Is there a particular process you go through when choosing fabric for pieces in the line?
The process I go through is grueling! I spend a ton of time sampling and sourcing leathers with the right durability, quality, and look. Sometimes it takes me months to find the right leather, hardware and lining. And if it ends up not looking right in production… I am known to be a sort of stickler about it. I believe in bringing my shoppers a product that is luxurious without cutting any corners to get to the price point we sell at. We take the concept of affordable luxury very seriously.
Go visit her site : http://erindana.com
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Whimsical electro-pop artist, NeoCamp, makes music that is self-proclaimed amateur, queer, and for now. The musician, who refers to himself in his crafty manifesto in the royal third person, claims that he doesn't have guilty pleasures, and that "NeoCamp is totally for serious, babes," so watch and listen carefully, babes.