Curated by Highsnobiety and presented during the time period formerly known as Paris Men’s Fashion Week, “Not In Paris 2” is our second in a series of bi-annual digital exhibitions celebrating creativity in the age of remote interactions. Head here for the full series and cop our new merch via our online store.
In today’s fashion grand prix, being bigger, faster, and louder is best. Brands are increasingly judged by their financial performances and short-term wins over creativity, storytelling, and (most of all) their value. The industry has stopped asking itself why it does the things it does, and it’s resulted in brands both big and small forgetting that the audience they cater to comprises actual people.
Not mannequins, but real people — people who want to connect with a brand and buy clothing to signal their alignment with a brand’s aesthetic and point of view, and to show others they’re in the know. They dress for practicality, to stand out, to feel good, and sometimes to blend in. They dress for others, and most of all for themselves. Fashion without a wearer simply becomes stuff, matter without meaning.
So, for “Not In Paris,” Highsnobiety and Dunhill decided it was time to invite friends — both new and old collaborators — of the luxury British menswear brand and hear their stories of personal growth, their evolving approach to dressing, and how they’re shaping youth culture today.
“I want to put the person at the centre and Dunhill as the enabler. And so we invited an eclectic group of creative individuals, inspiring in their own achievements and approach to their work,” says Mark Weston, Dunhill’s Creative Director. “I’m really into connecting with like-minded people who want to be part of a new conversation. Integrating a Dunhill piece into their own wardrobe as they felt most comfortable and desirable. I want to be open and portray something real. Not the ‘idea of.’ Not forced. A true sense of style.”
The cultural pioneers were asked to style themselves in new and past Dunhill collections, combined with their own pieces. “I want to open up a genuine engagement. I’m taking it as a blueprint for connections going forward,” adds Weston. Here are their insights:
James Lavelle - Musician and record label owner, London
On Getting Into Music
"I grew up in Oxford [but] I started coming to London to study kung fu when I was a kid. I then gravitated from martial arts to buying hip-hop and electronic records. Gravitating to Soho when I was 13 years old was amazing. I [later] started working in record stores. You'd have a hundred people on a Saturday come in to get records. It was an amazing environment to be in, because it was basically like the daytime social club. And in the evening it would become a nightclub. At that time, especially with vinyl being the main tool of DJ culture, selling records was kind of a next level religious experience to certain people. It was where we all got together. Being in London in that environment, the cultural mix, the energy, the language and the noise, it was a big moment. It was my education."
On What Makes the Perfect Record
"Records which transcend time and don't sound dated... only certain records managed to do that, and that tends to be about production, and songs, and emotion, and how those things come together. It doesn't matter how time or technology changes. Records like Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On' or Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' sound as good today as they did when they came out."
On the High of Performing
"It's ecstasy. A higher power. Something unexplainable. It [brings you into] an otherworldly place, because it's a combination of ecstasy and fear. And that can be dangerous, but it can also be a great concoction. It's important to be nervous, [because] what you're doing is important. The moment you think everything's easy, it's over. It's about pushing yourself, and it's about a certain sort of power and respect for being put in a place where you're able to communicate with people in a certain way. It's about being conscious and wanting to do something really special."
Toni-Blaze Ibekwe - Editor-in-Chief, London
On Connecting With Fashion Early On
"There's energy in South East London that you just can't find anywhere else. You have this special kind of connection to it. My mum loves fashion and my grandma owned a tailoring company in Nigeria, and I think coming from an African culture as well, the idea of dressing up is so woven into our culture in general. Even if you're just going to a party, you're wearing your best."
On Advice for the Next Generation
"Everything in our industry is so subjective. What I learned is to have tough skin and to never take anything too personally. Any feedback and criticism helps you grow. Be patient with it. We're in a culture where everything has to be fast. We set all these goals for ourselves, being like, ‘Oh, by the time I'm this age, I'm going to be doing X, Y, and Z.’ You have to have an understanding that good things take time. Self belief is [equally] super important. You need to have that in you."
On Being Authentic
"My work has always been naturally diverse because I'm a woman of color. So it’s always in the back of my mind to be authentically diverse without it being an afterthought. I remember being the only Black student in a class of 20 people at Central Saint Martins. Hopefully it’s changed now, but little moments like that stick out to me because even when I'm hiring interns, I'm thinking about having a really great diverse pool, as sometimes you don't really see that. And diversity isn't just about color, it's about [showing] the [full] spectrum of the human race."
Samuel Trotman - Cultural Curator, London
On His Popular Instagram Page
"My IG account @samutaro is basically about pop culture, fashion culture, and art. It looks at the past, present, and future, and ties it all together, looking where trends come from and why they're relevant now — all the details and history behind [something]. Having worked in trend forecasting for the past 10 years and seeing how it's evolved, I’m able to educate a bit on where stuff comes from, in a fun way, without forcing it down people's throats. [It’s about] leveling with them a bit. There's so much going on in social media at the moment, so it’s about breaking through the noise."
On His Changing Relationship With Clothes
"I'm always seeing things a season or two ahead. Sometimes, by the time the fashion comes out, I'm [already] bored with it. During lockdown, I've definitely tried to reduce the amount of what I've got in my wardrobe. I guess I’m changing my values and philosophy around what I look for in garments. I don't want to have pieces that just sit in my wardrobe. I [like] brands that share the same values as me."
On Today’s Luxury Landscape
"This is an era where a lot of young people are looking towards these luxury brands and they want something that represents their vision, as well as pays homage to the traditional codes of the house. The kids are graduating out of streetwear. A lot of people are aspiring to have a more elevated wardrobe. Even though we’re in a time of lockdown where people want more comfort, there’s also this desire to have something that’s more dressed up and makes you feel a bit better."
Kenta Cobayashi - Digital Artist, Tokyo
On His Early Career in Publishing
"In 2014 I created a self published zine called Friends Forever which allowed me to debut as a photographic artist. I took these unseen works to a book fair in Amsterdam and it was bought by many people including art collectors and curators. From that I used selected works to create my first solo photo exhibition at GP Gallery in Ebisu. After that came five books and I was booked for various international projects including book fairs and exhibitions."
On Finding His Creative Aesthetic
"I started playing with drawing software the computer of my parents at a very early age, before I even remember what the software was. As the generation that grew up in a digitalized world it was very important for me to include this playfulness that I remember from the early days into my series of work. I often think what the actual meaning of photography is. The process to create images is always shooting the images and editing it. And I would like to find [new] ways of showing these processes in a different way."
On Working with Dunhill
"It started when I had my first show with GB Gallery at Photo London Art fair. Mark Weston saw my work there and even though I didn't have a big name at the time, Mark noticed my work. About two or three years later I received an email from him asking me if I wanted to collaborate with Dunhill. The images that we used in the process of creating this collection are a mix of archival images from Dunhill blended in with images I took of Dunhill shops in places like Ginza and Osaka."
James Massiah - Poet, London
On His Introduction to Poetry
"Everyone does poetry in school. I just never stopped. I was used to getting up in the pulpit and reading verses for the congregation, and separate from that, I was writing my own songs. I don't think I've ever been shy, but it comes from being encouraged and nurtured by my family. I wasn’t really committing to my studies, whereas with poetry, I'd write a poem, read it in a Soho comedy club or put it on Facebook, and immediately people would respond. I'm like, ‘Yeah, that's it. That feels like home.’"
On Becoming the Poet of the Party
"I think about poetry a lot. I think about its function, its utility, and I guess in its kind of early iterations, it was the best way to communicate an idea. Technology has changed [many things but] poetry will never die. So I am very, very clear now on my mission as a poet, which is to be the poet laureate of the party. Someone has to document the party. The doors of my perception have been opened by the people that I've met in those late night situations and the things they've told me. ‘Put this in your notes, listen to this track.’ More than writing about a friend's conversations, drink, drugs, or whatever, it's about the way your mind opens for those conversations. In those moments, the clarity that you feel when a tune really hits and you're dancing, really in your body, you have this moment. I love to go and put my thoughts down in those moments."
Darius Trabalza - Skateboarder, London
On Venturing Into Skateboarding
"I've skated on the South Bank since I was 14 years old, and I've always wanted to live as close as I could to it. And now, finally, in the middle of a pandemic, I've moved to Waterloo. And then it shut… But later this year, I'll be living my dream. It’s a place where I can just turn up and have a good time. I started skating where I grew up, in [London borough] Bromley. There wasn't a skate park there when I first started, so we would skate around the streets. Bromley has a good scene, and they hooked me up with Slam [City Skates] and got me on the Slam team."
On His Dress Sense
"I always come out in a big jacket and layers; hoodie if it's winter time. I wear really big baggy jeans when I'm skating. Sometimes I wear slimmer trousers so I don't have to tuck my jeans into my socks. There's something about a colored jacket which is very appealing to me, especially when it's so cold outside. And I love these cozy sweaters, and that they have that very old British look."
On Elvis Presley
"I had my Spotify yearly roundup recently, and my top artist was Elvis. In the middle of the year I watched Lilo & Stitch, and there's a bunch of Elvis songs in there. I never thought I'd get into Elvis. Christmas a few years ago, I went to Atlanta to see my grandparents, and my dad, my brothers, and I drove down to Graceland. I didn’t want to go as it was, like, a nine-hour drive. But it was really cool."
On His Style Today
"I'll tell you what, it's almost a poetic analogy. If I can keep some things linear, it allows for [everything else] to spiral around it. So everything in my wardrobe is black. I wear the same jeans every day, the same shoes every day, and mostly the same jacket. I like the idea of having a uniform, one that's versatile enough. I also still want to feel comfortable, so it has to have this sporty aspect of my youth."
Petter Lundgren - Brand Director, Stockholm
On Changing His Career Trajectory
"When I was a kid, I skateboarded and got into freestyle skiing, [so] it was always important to have the right clothes. Only when I grew up, I found out you could actually wear something other than Burton hoodies or Thrasher tees. So I really started getting into fashion. I didn’t want to be a designer, and I loved color and shape, so I thought I could be a stylist. [At the time] I worked in construction. I told my boss I was quitting and took the bus 14 hours down to Stockholm and started to hustle my way into the business."
On Stockholm as a Cultural Capital
"If you go around Sweden and look at people, they tend to dress pretty well. A lot of good things come from Sweden, especially from Stockholm. We have a lot of great contemporary artists and our music scene is really big and progressive. And it keeps evolving, like with Yung Lean who came up six or seven years ago. People didn’t know if they loved or hated it but it evolved into something where today it’s a new genre of rap. I love that we have this kind of environment where people actually dare to do new things which allow people to be themselves. It might be something in the water, or that with our strong seasons we try to forget about the darkness by trying to put some light in life."
On What Actually Creates Style
"It's like when you're cooking at home — if you have good ingredients, it will taste better. I think it's the same with fashion. I mean, fabrics, tactility, and cuts are the foundation of clothing. A good fabric doesn't need to be expensive either. To be honest, the most important thing for me is that clothes are worn, because it gives them character, it gives them soul, it gives a person a style. I love wearing raw jeans and leather, but if I'm going out to do something really physical like running around the city the whole day, I will wear a pair of loose cotton trousers and a T-shirt, maybe a knitted sweater. Your clothes will evolve with you depending on how you live your life.