Ansgar_Schmidt

 
Photography: BERT SPANGEMACHER
Interview: ANN FORD
Glasses: MAKELLOS ME 9004

Ansgar Schmidt was born in Borken, Germany in 1971. He acquired a diploma in architecture in Cologne and he has been running a successful design shop, “s1 Architecture “ in Berlin, for the past 15 years together with his partner Henning Ziepke. His firm’s focus is on retail development and their works include the “14 oz.” stores in Berlin. They have won the Trade Association Germany’s “Store of the Year” HDE Award three times. 4SEE asked Ansgar about what makes good eyewear frames and store designs and his view on trends.

Let’s get started with an obvious question. What do you prefer, glasses or contact lenses?

Glasses.

Why?

With glasses you can shape your face. Glasses used to be considered like medicine, but nowadays they are more like a fashion statement to express own personality. Some people prefer wearing contact lenses because they are convenient, but there should be one perfect pair of glasses for each face, assuming they have a good consulting service. In the past few years, eyewear has become more and more important in the fashion world. For example, there is a new eyewear concept store in Berlin that offers only vintage eyewear. When buying furniture, it is important to find out the year it was made, and its origin and designer. Some people like to own an original piece. The same thing applies to glasses.

What do you think makes good eyewear design?

That is a difficult question! There is no such thing as one good eyewear design. There is only a good design that fits best to each individual. But whether glasses are a perfect match depends on what the market offers. That’s why it is important for customers to find a store where she or he can actually find something and try, or just browse.

Do customers still shop in store?

Competition with online stores is constantly growing, but the market protects itself. Glasses must first be tried on your own face. Buying glasses is still something very personal. Again, it is also a matter of what the market offers. If selections are reasonable and have enough appeal to customers, they will come into a store and come back again.

How should a store create an inviting and customer friendly atmosphere?

Clients and their well-being must come at the forefront – corresponding to their respectable environment, or it has to be hip. Optical stores used to look like doctors’ office, so it is relatively easy to find something that makes customers feel good.

But in what setting a client could feel pleasant and comfortable?
There are different types of people. Some feel comfortable in an industrial loft, while others prefer a cozy, warm atmosphere. It depends on the products I present and also on customers I’d like to reach – they could be anyone from young to old people or could be very specific and targeted customers.

Does it make any difference between big and small cities?

Small towns like Bocholt or Münster, or rural areas in Bavaria – they would require three completely different approaches. What is important is to analyze each optical store independently, who their customers are and what they are selling. I don’t want to apply a one-size fit all type of approach. People from rural communities might need more consulting while customers in Berlin have already a clear vision of what they want. In other words, opticians have to adjust a design concept depending on what customers want.

That’s why each optician requires different expertise.

Exactly. Some clients want to know more about products. Some of them are also interested in finding out the heritage of specific frames, who the designers are, or whose design they were influenced by. Or some clients want to buy iconic styles. Confident consumers have a totally different approach to fashion. These types of customers are found in rural areas as well as in cities.

And to what degree can architecture support what customers want?

We can offer optical storeowners a platform that helps them sell their spectacles.

How does that platform look like?

It has to correspond to that person. There is no use in designing a hip store if a storeowner doesn’t feel comfortable in it. For us the priority is to build a good surrounding for him or her in which they can present themselves well, but also show them new possibilities which might not have been clear before.

But how do you create such conditions?

First, our work is always to listen. Then we develop proposals reflecting the wishes of our client, the storeowner. The choice of floor, color and material manifests itself from there.

And that’s how a good store design emerges?

Yes, depending on the owner, their clientele and location. In some occasions, it could be useful to showcase certain glasses at the storefront. In back there could be space for fitting – preferably in a pleasant atmosphere. Knowledge about the design and the heritage of spectacles is also part of it. In another location I might need a straightforward design that addresses confident and informed consumers. But most importantly, a blueprint for stores does not exist. The focal point is always service.

According to you, what is trend?

A long-term trend: the store needs its own personality. Customers should feel right when they enter the store. Another trend is the usage of materials; the authenticity and the feel of the materials. This is totally the in thing right now: conscious usage of material and style, tradition in craftsmanship. And if it’s vintage, it has to be real, it can’t be fake vintage.

How about 10 years from now? Do you think retail stores will continue to exist?

I am firmly convinced that they will, because by now online platforms are already looking for physical stores to sell their products. This way dotcom companies can go local. In the long run there is going to be a mix of both. If I have to wear my glasses on a daily bases – for work and pleasure, then I need more than just a cheap pair of glasses I can find on the Internet. So then I need to go into a store and because of this, the concept of partnership has a future.

Photography Justin Carter
Interview Atsushi
Creative Director Keith S. Washington
All eyewear by Max Pittion

Famed for his ongoing monthly mixes “Magic Tape” consisting of under the radar, unreleased dance tunes, not to mention his former unit Aeroplane, Stephen Fasano aka “The Magician” based in Brussels continues evolving his musical influence through his own music label “Potion,” started in 2014. The Magician just released a brand new single “Shy” featuring Brayton Bowman on May 2nd from Potion and we caught him backstage right before his gig for the Kitsuné Club Night Parisian Tour in Tokyo.

 

Musical background – Instruments or DJing?

DJing background. Long time ago. Late 80’s — at the beginning of House music I guess. My uncle was a DJ, nothing commercial but a collector of obscure disco records. He gave me his turntables and a mixer, and a collection of obscure disco records.

You got lucky. 

Yeah in a way…, but I hated so many of those records! The late 70’s were, as they say, “the end of Disco” times and we were starving for Acid House coming from the US. Disco records don’t have BPM synchronized so that was the kind of time I practiced the beat match technique, mixing those with new House music. Then, after that, I slowly got into Techno, Drum ’n’ bass, Trip Hop — I have a big collection of DJ Krush from Mo Wax records, DJ Food, Ninja Tunes and those kinds of things. Those were the times I used to travel to the UK a lot and go record-digging.

From Brussels? 

Yes, I went to the UK once a month. Now it’s only 2 hours on a train but it was 4 hours on a boat to cross the canal and another 2 hours on the road back then, but that is nothing when you are a teenager — the absolute freedom! 

And went into production in those ages?

Yes, as I slowly started getting myself a sampling machine like AKAI or Roland, or the drum machines like TB303, I got those for around 100 bucks or something. Now it costs 3,000 US dollars or more and you know how crazy it is. 

The Magician, Stephen Fasane, Kitsune Tokyo. DJ, Magici Tape, SoundCloud , Potion label, the end of disco

Do you still use those set ups?

No, I rarely use them as those are equipped in the software nowadays. For working on demos, I just get into my computer and for the final production we bring vocals and instruments at the studio for live recording, which I really enjoy.

How did you get to know Kitsuné?

I was forming Aeroplane at that time around in 2008, we got approached by Kitsuné for a remix, and that was the first time I met Gildas (one of Kitsuneé’s founders). Then they booked us for tons of parties in London and Paris. After that, we signed for a single “I Don’t Know What You Do.”

How do you balance out Production and DJing? 

I would say 50/50 and I like it that way. I am inspired by the music that I play, the music that is around me if you know what I mean. I am rather a DJ in origin than a producer.  My music can evolve through playing and it’s a bit like a fashion. So for example when compared with 5 years ago I would say I was more Disco. Not in the melody line, but the base line or the compression of the sound, my sound is more Housey now. BPM between 120-122 is the best tempo ever, not too fast yet groovy. 

Memorable gigs?

Actually, Ageha in 2012, Japan was amazing. The speakers… the sound was totally amazing. 

Large audience or handful of people?

I actually do both and I played for only 200 yesterday in Seoul, played in front of an only 150-person audience the other day in Hong Kong and, to be honest, I like it much better than big festivals. You see the faces and the groove is more intense.

You are a vinyl collector but which format do you use when DJing?

I don’t play vinyl except at home and took a while to get used to it, but I use USB memory sticks. I still have 10,000 or more records at home — maybe its time to pull them out again and get inspired.

So, how come “The Magician”?

Well, it was my wife who named it. When I split from Aeroplane in 2010, my wife (then girlfriend) said at the time, “Now we have to think of a new name…, lets say “The Magician.” And I didn’t like it at all! (laughs). She says I have the “Magical” powers, but it sounds a bit arrogant you know. But slowly, having her designing these jackets, I understood the meaning of it that aligns with my concept to entertain the audience. And of course the branding side of it too. And after all, I own 10 other jackets of this kind.

Why are you wearing that one today?

This is the one I am wearing this year and will be recognized with. The material is actually a cellophane. Last year it was more baggy style, but not like in the MC Hammer style though, Moroccan-Jewish style from the 1920s with the 3 buttons jackets and all. So for next year, it should be different. To me, DJing is entertainment and the core is to entertain the audience. And for that reason, I like to be dressed. 

The Magician, Stephen Fasane, Kitsune Tokyo. DJ, Magici Tape, SoundCloud ,

Any ritual before gigs?

Very simple. Text my wife that I am starting. And have one shot of vodka or two. 

It seems like there is a very strong bond there. Any kids? 

I have one little one, she is two and a half years old now. Now we are starting to have a lot of interactions and it is great fun.

Why are you based in Brussels?

Because I did not have the balls to move out (laughs). Well, it was just not the right time to move, my studio is in London and the business is there. And its only 2 hours on train. 

If you were to pick one city to move to?

Business-wise it would be London, but if I pick the best, I would say LA. The weather, and the food!

Favorite food?

I would say Italian and Japanese. And you can find both good ones in LA (laughs).

So, half and hour to go live, what are you playing today for a 2am slot?

I am selecting more straight House music, more energy than the last visit in 2012. A lot of people expect music that they know, but I will be playing things that are really new. Because I expect people to get surprised.

The Magician is the alias of talented DJ/Producer, Stephen Fasano. 

The Magician on Soundcloud + Homepage

4SEE Interview with Nicola Bonaventura, Creative Director at SAFILO, photographed by Bert Spangemacher

INTERVIEW WITH NICOLA BONAVENTURA, CREATIVE DIRECTOR AT SAFILO

When you think of designer eyewear, great fashion houses such as Fendi and Dior as well as industry leaders such as Carrera quickly come to mind. Although Safilo may not be the same kind of household name, the company is actually responsible for many of the most iconic frames produced under licensing agreements with these illustrious brands as well as many others such as Polaroid, Swatch, Celine, and most recently for Elie Saab.

Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Interview JUSTIN ROSS

After attending a press event at Soho House in Berlin for Safilo to showcase their latest multibrand offerings for men this upcoming Fall/Winter season, we caught up with their creative director Nicola Bonaventura. The event demonstrated how eyewear stays relevant and in-step with current lifestyle trends with categories such as athleisure and future tech, which we know and love from developments in the fashion industry. It was abundantly clear that Nicola and his team are really in tune with such trends and developments. But it made us curious to learn more from an industry insider exactly how these trends are interpreted for each brand and to take a deeper look into the whole creative design process.

Interview: 08/2016 with Nicola Bonaventura

4SEE Interview with SAFILO, Creative Director Nicola Bonaventura, photographed by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Interview with Nicola Bonaventura, Creative Director at SAFILO

How did you start working as an eyewear designer?

I’ve been in this business for a long time. Now more than fifteen years. I graduated from design school in Italy and then I started out as an independent graphic designer for the fashion industry. And soon I merged my two passions–art and product or graphic design–and I found the eyewear business to be a good mix of the two things. You always face a lot of artistic inspirations and consider fashion, but in the end, you need to shape a product, which is made in hard materials so it is a process of industrial design.

So it is a mix between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ matter and that is what I’ve liked since the beginning. Since then I’ve been involved in different big groups and I’ve had the chance to work with important global brands like Giorgio Armani and Hugo Boss. At the beginning, I was also working for Dolce & Gabbana, always in the licensing sector. My strength was being able to translate the DNA of the brand into the business of this sector.

4SEE Interview with SAFILO, Creative Director Nicola Bonaventura, photographed by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Interview with Nicola Bonaventura, Creative Director at SAFILO

Tell me a bit about Safilo, what makes it unique, and what kind of projects we can look forward to in the future?

Besides talent, you have to offer something in terms of designing the product, but you also have to have a good relationship with the different creative departments of the brands. We have more than twenty-five departments, most of them are under licenses, and we also have four of our own brands. So, we have a huge variety of different relationships. And this is crucial to the result of the work. I’m personally working closely at this moment with Fendi and Celine. We just started an important project with the watchmaker Swatch. And I’m also working on the atelier segment, which is launching Elie Saab, which is our first brand in this category that comes from haute couture. It is another adventure working on this project translating the higher standards of these brands in this category.

How do you negotiate the relationship with brands that have an existing identity and how do you develop compatible designs within that?

Our goal is to protect and interpret in the best way, the value of each individual brand. The goal is to connect and marry with each singular brand and enter into the DNA of the design and the design language of each singular department and work with the creative department of the brand. Our goal is about relationships so that we can build faith chains and attractive partnerships and then the design comes. There is definitely a risk of failure, it is possible to make mistakes, but if the relationship is strong you can move forward. I think Safilo is quite unique in the way it works this way in the system of large brands working under license agreements. At least in terms of product development and we are recognized for this quality and way of working.

It was interesting to see how Safilo chose to present their latest eyewear designs by grouping them across brand segments and relating them to larger trends in the larger fashion and consumer retail industry. For example, Athleisure, you had interpreted that. Can you talk about some trends you are keeping an eye on?

There is a natural inspiration that comes from our designers and myself as well. We are traveling, we surf the internet, we all have antennas to research what is going on. At the same time, we also have a consumer trend analysis team. They connect with us and confirm with designers what the trends really are for the consumer two years in the future. Most of the time, we start with the aesthetic, of course, but this team starts with the consumer behavior. Many times, this doesn’t mean that it is a different aesthetic but it means that it connects more with the people and the way they live and they way they purchase products they love. We match our instinctive impulses and attraction to trends with the research and the result is what you saw last night.

We figure out the main groups of tendencies in the next years and then we design and divide it into three main areas. Of course Athleisure, and everything to do with technical gear, with functional elements, and with performance materials is a trend. First of all, it is a trend from a consumer perspective because people love to focus on wellbeing and in the meantime, the industry is following these ideas which are coming from these areas—from sports into the fashion sector. So that’s why many times you might be surprised to see brands like Givenchy and Dior doing a lot of stuff mixing materials which come from different environments.

Carrera is also one of the brands, which we own and it has sixty years of history in sports. Carrera started in 1956 for sports like golf and skiing and then for bikers and then, of course sunglasses as well. So, we’ve had the chance to revamp this brand and connect it with the trend of sports and lifestyle and urban athletic attitude. I think the match there is perfect. We can provide products that belong to fashion but also products that belong to lifestyle or in the mass target group like Polaroid, within the same spirit of treating the aesthetic, different price positions and technologies, but each of them are provide a touch of this attitude on lifestyle.

4SEE Interview with SAFILO, Creative Director Nicola Bonaventura, photographed by Bert Spangemacher

What is your opinion on the differences between men’s and women’s eyewear?

Today it’s really interesting because of these genderless attitudes, which is a megatrend overall, it’s really bringing a bit of a mix, where at the very end when you go to the front shape, or the color, or the material, in many brands they can fit for everyone. I would also say that last night, many of the sunglasses you say or optical were equally wearable for her as well. And then you have some brands, such as Fendi or MaxMara, which have been designed for women since the beginning and there is no doubt that their product is dedicated to ladies. But if I take ten years ago as a benchmark, even in this amount of time there is an incredible proposal on the agenda.

Until five or six years ago, there was a distinction between the two and few products had this interchangeability approach. Now, it is much more common and for many brands it is even a priority. It reflects the society and the way of living. Many countries are treating women equally and humanity is evolving and the sense of the family. It is really a human transformation and it is reflected in small things like products as well.

Thanks to Nicola’s look inside the eyewear design world from his experience at Safilo, what we learned is that it is not an easy task—it might seem simple enough to garner attention with bold colors and fad technologies and materials, but taking a well-known brand image and subtly adjusting and updating it is a much more complicated process, one that Safilo and its creative director Nicola Bonaventura are the undisputed experts at.

4SEE Interview with Aerosyn Lex Mestrovic

Interview – Aerosyn Lex Mestrovic

Aerosyn Lex Mestrovic has made a name for himself creating mesmerizing calligraphic works on canvas that reinterpret multiple cultural influences, providing insights into his own diverse background and the globalized world we all live in. Since developing his signature approach, Aerosyn Lex has transformed his practice into an all-encompassing multimedia concept that deftly translates between fine art, video, fashion, and products.

For his high-concept ability to synthesize poignant topics into impressive pieces of art and design, his work has been recognized by the New York MOMA, the White House, and the SCOPE Art Award in 2014, as well as through collaborations with noted contemporary fashion designers such as Kenzo, Givenchy, and Public School. We sat down to discuss his work in both art and fashion and the underlying symbolic concepts that drive each of his recent projects.

This versatile artist has much in store in 2016 as he adds even more to his arsenal with projects in the pipeline including risqué perfumes from Sixth Sense and deeply researched chocolates with Park Hyatt in one of our favorite places, Tokyo, Japan.

Photographer JORGEN AXELVALL
Styling KEITH S. WASHINGTON
Interview JUSTIN ROSS

Interview from May 2016.

4SEE Interview with Aerosyn Lex MestrovicEYEWEAR BY MAX PITTION
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WHITE OXFORD SHIRT BY DIOR
DARK NAVY TIE BY KITSUNE

Tell me a little bit about the two-dimensional, calligraphic works that you make.

The basis of the work is language and communication, that is what is interesting to me. Also weaving through everything is this concept of multiculturalism. My background plays a role—I’m from Argentina, born there, but I grew up in Miami in the US. I’ve been in New York now for fourteen or fifteen years and went to school here. I’ve lived in Japan and I’ve traveled a lot. My father’s background is from Croatia in Eastern Europe. My own experiences are very global and through the tapestry of this multiculturalism what is interesting to me is how technology is compressing the idea of cultural identity and then at the core of that is this aspect of communication. I’ve studied calligraphy since I was a kid. This notion of calligraphy being the visual representation of our words as humans—of how we tell stories, of how we communicate, and how record or have recorded knowledge in the past—the fact that there are very key visual elements of each culture be it Arabic or Sanskrit, or something more Western, or with the brush strokes, perhaps more Asian. It’s interesting to throw all those things together and still tell a coherent story.

It’s a really brave thing that you are doing because calligraphy is a very precise art. It looks instinctive but there are a lot of rules within it. But you are taking these techniques, and through a multicultural approach you are redefining these rules and using them in a more aesthetic sense.

You are totally right. Especially that Eastern style of Japanese calligraphy, you can’t fake it. You have to be present in the moment and it demand a certain amount of focus, confidence, and presence of mind. There is an honesty to that that you can’t fake. As a kid I was always really drawn to it. This kind of abstract, gestural, very emotional powerful type of work, I always really loved it.

Is that how you work today? What does the process look like when you set about making a painting?

As it happens, it is in the moment, but there is always a plan and there are always countless iterations before the actual final version happens. There is a very deliberate aspect to it. Some of the recent works I had on exhibition in Tokyo, for example, they have to work on two scales. There is the view from ten feet away, but from ten inches, there is a whole different aspect with the pigments and paints themselves, of the intermingling of the different pigments. I make a lot of my pigments by hand to get a certain type of saturation and chemical reaction on the page. It might not be evident at first glance but it is something that you can continue to look at it and find new and interesting little bits and pieces inside of my work.

4SEE Interview with Aerosyn Lex Mestrovic
4SEE Interview with Aerosyn Lex Mestrovic

Is that one of the reasons why you went on to create the live video versions of your paintings? To capture that interaction between pigments?

Definitely. That came about when I was commissioned by the BBC and Channel 4 in the UK a couple of years ago to direct a short film based on my calligraphy. I had never done anything in film before but I had the opportunity to do it and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. It took a year to make about six minutes of film. I really wanted to capture the painting but I’d never done it on film so we came up with this whole system and process where I built a whole lighting setup with a mounted table and using a very high-end 5K high-def RED camera system to capture the work in really exquisite detail. That experience really opened things up for me and led to an exhibition of my work at the MOMA a couple of years ago.

You have an underlying conceptual approach which ties your work together, no matter what medium it is in. How does that influence you when you cross from fine art into fashion?

There has been a sort of taboo around art in fashion, and I think that’s true, but in fashion, there has always been a precedent for these types of experiments. You had Schiaparelli using Dali for scarves, you had Yves Saint Laurent working with Piet Mondrian years ago, and now you even have Jeff Koons doing H&M. There have always been artists collaborating with fashion. I think that now it has become normalized. Since Takeshi Murakami or Stephen Sprouse for Louis Vuitton, for example. For me, I really love fashion, I’m invested in it; I’m interested in it from a passionate standpoint. Whenever I get the opportunity to work on something, whether it’s a collection, or a sculpture, or a painting, I approach it with the same level of creativity and focus and meaning and intent that I would do a fine art piece. They are all equally as challenging and gratifying.

Could you imagine your work in collaboration with an eyewear brand for example?

I would love to do that, I haven’t done so before. Working with 4SEE on this shoot was the first time I got in contact with eyewear in such a close way and it was a really interesting process. Let’s make it happen!

How does eyewear fit into your personal style?

It is something that I’m just coming into now. I’m realizing that eyewear can be something that is an accessory as much as it is utilitarian. For me, eyewear was always of utility. If you need to wear glasses you would, but otherwise not. But now, seeing that I really enjoyed the Max Pittion, I really enjoyed the pieces and the whole history of the brand.

4SEE Interview with Aerosyn Lex Mestrovic


EYEWEAR BY MAX PITTON LIVINGSTON SIZE 47 IN BLACK INK
SHIRT BY DIOR
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DARK NAVY TIE BY KITSUNE

Tell me about some of your upcoming projects.

I’m working now via the White House with a new program called the United States Japan Leadership Program which is a fellowship program which is going on for the next two years. It’s very interesting, its’ people from the military, doctors, scientists, and then somehow I’m the one visual artist in there. There are delegates and we work across a couple of different conferences to establish a greater connection between the two nations. That is definitely fun and interesting.

The main thing right now is that I’m launching a range of fragrances, a range of ‘parfums’. As part of a brand that has been around for seven or eight years and is called Sixth Sense. Sixth Sense had a few different collections, and each collection they would collaborate with up and coming fashion designers. Back when Alexander Wang was just starting they did his fragrance, also Gareth Pugh, Domir Doma, Boris Bidjan, and Juun J from Korea.This is their first concept collection which is called ‘les potions fatales.’ It’s nine fragrances all based on poisonous fauna such as Hemlock, which Socrates drank to commit suicide, digitalis which is used for assassination, and poppy, obviously connected with Opium. I did all of the packaging, the bottle, the artwork which is included, it is all interwoven with the concept of the fragrances which we based of aposematism, a scientific term for the coloration of poisonous animals. Oftentimes, poisonous tree frogs and snakes, they are the most vibrantly colored animals. We took this concept to the very brightly colored artwork and wove it into the whole ethos of the packaging concept for this fragrance range. It is set to come out in just about a month and it will be distributed worldwide.

In Japan, what I’m working on now is a collaboration with the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku. It is famous for the film ‘Lost in Translation.’ When I celebrated New Years there at the Park Hyatt this year I met the general manager and was introduced to Frederico, their executive chef who is from Argentina, where I’m also from. We hit it off and had an idea to put together an art installation and create a product at the same time. So we are planning to create a range of chocolates for the Park Hyatt and this would be a collaboration. We are looking at the pre-Colombian origins of Cacao, where for the Inca, the Olmec, for the Aztecs, for the Maya, chocolate was the drink of the gods. It wasn’t chocolate bars, it was a very bitter drink, and they would put spices into it and use it for sacrifices. We are looking to create something that bridges these two cultures, Japanese and Latin American cultures. Along with a busy exhibition schedule, these are the two major projects on the horizon for me this year.

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