Friday, August 29, 2008

BlackBook’s 2008 Style Gallery

BlackBook's 2008 style gallery includes burlesque queen Dita Von Teese, artists Terrence Koh and Rita Ackermann. It highlights a further blurring of lines between fashion and art, showcasing what's truly important these days- the cult of personality.

DITA VON TEESE, actress, model, burlesque queen, photographed at The Way We Wore vintage store in Los Angeles. (See our extended interview with Dita.)
Dita Von Teese speaks with a blue-collar lilt, which does little to suggest the curvy, reigning empress of burlesque who controls gaggles of fans while splashing around in Brobdingnagian champagne glasses, sponge in hand. But then she says, revealing her circean charm, “I’m sitting here, having just rolled out of bed, wearing a vintage slip. I don’t have any makeup on, my hair is probably a disaster, but that doesn’t mean I’ll put on a tracksuit simply because no one’s looking. I don’t know why everyone wants me to wear jeans so badly.” Born Heather Renée Sweet in Rochester, Michigan, Teese trained to become a professional ballet dancer before landing her first strip-club gig. “Ten years ago,” she says, “you could have paid $20 for me to sit on your lap any night of the week. So it would be rude of me to say, I’m not a stripper, I’m a burlesque queen.” Today, however, the self-styled, 35-year-old star is more likely to be found working the red carpet than a greasy pole. “I never wanted to be a little girl, ever,” says Teese, of her Old Hollywood look. “A lot of my friends were into the whole schoolgirl fantasy—ponytails and the whole thing. I wouldn’t be caught dead! I’m a grown woman. I know who I am and I’ve known for a long time.”

TERENCE KOH, artist, photographed at his studio in Chinatown, New York City.

Manhattan galleries brim with characters, none of whom come close to capturing the eccentric magic (and sartorial insanity) of Canadian artist Terence Koh. Formerly known as “asianpunkboy,” Koh has exhibited his work—everyday objects covered in his bodily fluids; a neon rooster titled “Big White Cock”—throughout the world’s most hallowed art halls. And while his controversial creations have won praise from critics, it’s his inimitable personal style—improbable costumes made from human hair, Cossack fur hats and iMac cable cord scarves—that sets him apart from the black smock set. When asked about the relationship between high art and high fashion, he says, “The sun lights the moon as the moon lights the sun.” Okay, but how does the 28-year-old provocateur express himself through the clothes he wears? “I repeat, when you clap your hands, they make an impact.”

RITA ACKERMANN, artist, photographed at her studio in Chinatown, New York City.

“I’m an exquisite walking corpse drawing,” says Rita Ackermann. The Hungarian-born, New York-based artist, who was featured at this year’s Whitney Biennal, has created buzz for her idiosyncratic renderings of pubescent girls, her audacious ensembles and, of course, the red ballpoint pen she’s applied to runway models’ faces (“I’m still surprised that I don’t see more people wearing ballpoint pen makeup,” she shrugs). Known for her singular, rococo brand of style, she says, “There are no clothes that I consider outrageous. My favorite page in tabloids is ‘When Bad Clothes Happen to Good People.’ I have a funny bikini that I wear all summer with popsicles on it saying ‘Lick Me.’ Is that outrageous?” Her most prized possession is a custom-made, pink couture suit she bought for $30. The two-piece costume once belonged, appropriately, to Ilona Staller (stage name Cicciolina), a Hungarian porn star turned democratic politician who was once married to artist Jeff Koons. Ackermann says, “She had put it up for auction to bail out her pop singer girlfriend from jail.”

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