TRANSMISSIONS Year End Edition (1/3): From Couture to Qatar
Introducing TRANSMISSIONS: a communicable and speculative sociological research column by JORDAN RICHMAN. Traversing the globe and immersing himself into perceived moments of relevance, Jordan mines the fields of fashion and culture – extracting with you his thoughts, encounters, and societal foreshadowing. Conclude 2021 with us via reports from festivities in Doha, Los Angeles, Paris, Miami, New York, and the metaverse (kind of).
WHO IS UNDER WHOSE THUMB? In a politicized (and hyper socialized) luxury industry circuit, it’s anyone’s guess – especially with the persistent shadow of Covid-19, global logistical apocalypse, and sudden and epic loss compounding the usual collective end of year existential crisis. Transmissions’ JORDAN RICHMAN attempts to make sense of the chaos from within its core – writing in the Notes app, plus the occasional pic on an iPhone 7.
Lastly I wrote for 032c in July from the couture collections in Paris about reuniting “post pandemic” with friends from “NY, Paris, Zurich, and Berlin and returning to our synched and sponsored lifestyles, traveling faster than ever from couture to Qatar… .” And just like that, three months later I find myself invited by her excellency Sheikah Al Mayasa (and her highness Lucien Pages) to Qatar. Am I psychic, or just adept at trend forecasting?
In my suite aboard Qatar Airways, I put on Mean Girls before falling sound asleep for the entire 13-hour flight. Upon arrival, someone official whisks me through the airport. From the corner of my eye I spy Urs Fisher’s giant sculpture of a yellow teddy bear that appears to be getting electrocuted.
The first morning in Doha I join my fellow journalist Jessica Roy at the souk. Jessica is digital director of Elle, but more interestingly is working on a book about two American sisters torn apart when one follows her husband to Syria and joins ISIS. I turn up in a black t-shirt, Adidas shorts, a baseball cap embroidered with “NYC,” and white terry cloth Four Season’s slippers. Of all the shops, my favorite is the falconry market, where I get to hold one of the majestic birds. After, I pose for photos next to the artist César’s famous giant gold thumb. I couldn’t help but wonder: who, particularly on luxury junkets such as this, is under whose thumb?
Before the first gala of what is a very itinerant week, I join Christopher and Tammy Kane in their hotel room for a G&T. I have learned the hard way from the night before at the Valentino Haute Couture presentation that the trick to surviving a dry reception is having a hotel pre-party cocktail. In their room, I’m also having a fashion dilemma. I was advised to wear my Burberry by Riccardo [Tisci] tuxedo – sans shirt, for a sexy Gulf bear take on Saint Laurent’s classique le smoking. I run down to my suite for an old black Rammstein t-shirt. The Kanes encourage me to go for what feels the most comfortable. Tammy gives me some Chanel Baume Essentiel Vaseline-style stick contouring and we’re out the door.
Due to Covid-19 safety protocols, all the galas take place outside – in 90 degree Fahrenheit heat. The dress code is formal and modest. The security confiscate my Vogue cigarettes at the entrance to the Jean Nouvel-designed museum where the Fashion Trust Arabia gala is taking place. Thankfully Juergen Teller, who is at the next table, has smuggled in a pack. I bum one and ask how it was shooting Slavoj Zizek’s portrait to accompany an interview I did with the philosopher. Earlier we had been talking with [Juergen’s girlfriend] Doville about the 17-hour flight to LA we would have to endure, begrudgingly, at the end of the week. Mere months ago, weren’t we dreaming of being able to travel again? It’s dumbfounding how quickly the inconvenience of the pandemic’s distanced and remote shoots are forgotten.
By the time we arrive to the after party at the St Regis’ B Lounge, it’s getting raucous. Everyone immediately beelines for the hotel bar. I find my friend Casey [Cadwaller] from Mugler on the dance floor with Ib Kamara, Kenneth Ize, and Naomi Cambell. Alongside them is AbdelGader El Tayeb Al Sadig, who earlier had been honored with the top prize in the Debut category, presented by Naomi, whose dancing I am embarrassingly open-mouth staring at. The uncomfortable and uncoordinated way she is moving her arms up and down is matched only in the moves of Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes.
The next night is the opening of Virgil Abloh’s retrospective at the Firehouse, where I initially mistake the gift shop for the exhibition. Olivia Singer is there buying merch, and invites us to go Land Rover racing through the sand dunes the next day. The actual exhibition is very nice and filled with the Abloh-isms we know and love. After the dinner Virgil throws one of parties that even the most jaded remember forever. On the roof of Nobu – which Alex Israel is calling “Guggenheim Nobu,” due to its formal resemblance to the rotund museum – we are surrounded by yachts on one side, and the Doha skyline on the other. Virgil plays banger after banger. Hundreds of spotlights are shining in every direction, synched to the beat. The dance floor is glorious. Sans royal family, Virgil is sovereign, joyous and glowing in the desert moonlight. Several weeks later, when we would learn of his passing, the very recent memory of this presence would make the news ever the more shocking and saddening. In Doha I listen, with awe, to Virgil say: “Look at all of us, from all over the world, from different backgrounds, from different passions – but one thing in common is bringing beauty to the world.”
After a week in Qatar, I swap deserts and head to LA to attend an Hermès fashion show I’ve been consulting on. The 17 hour flight is not that bad. I down a bottle of Bordeaux along with the most delicious shakshuka I’ve ever tasted, then pass out for the remaining 15 hours. As in Qatar, the LA event comes with its own unique dress code: formal, with the added request that guests wear black and red. I go through my Los Angeles closets and find black Adidas track pants with red stripes and a red baseball cap embroidered with the words “Planned Parenthood.” When I arrive to Frank Sinatra’s former home for the show I’m reminded of how political a sartorial symbol a red hat is. The vice president of Hermès greets me in the grand modernist entryway saying how much he loves the accessory. He is also relieved that he won’t awkwardly have to kick me out of the event for what he first thought was a “Make America Great Again” cap. As I continue making my way through the estate, I’m overcome with anxiety at everyone’s initial gaze of disgust until they are close enough to read “Planned Parenthood” and finally smile or give a thumbs up. This happens the entire night. Derek Blasberg and Jen Brill tell me my outfit is brilliant, but not everyone is amused. I have the opposite effect on several Santa Barbara looking blondes with crocodile Hermès bags who give me knowing nods until their expression turns to disgust when they realize I’m championing reproductive rights.
At the bar I run into Alex Israel and Armand Limnander from W. Alex and I talk about the Qatar Airways experience and he also mentions the delicious shakshuka. I spot Nathalie Love and, both wanting to avoid the seated dinner for as long as possible, we hang out by the caviar bar with our friend Courtney Trope, who is dressed in plunging black suede Hermès from the Margiela years. Out of blinis, we scoop spoon after spoon of caviar onto oysters and feast.
The next night we all meet up at a friend’s birthday party. Having to attend Kanye’s Sunday Service in the morning we leave by 2am. Still painfully hungover, I roll out of bed at 10am. I turn my beloved black Rammstein t-shirt from the night before inside out as Kanye has a strict black dress code for the renewed Sunday Services now taking place in a warehouse downtown. Nathalie and I somehow find each other in the completely blacked out space and she tells me about this strawberry drink I need to get from the bar. I drink one while I chat with Nathalie and her mother Lisa. I scan the room and spot several other friends from the night before, all equally hungover. The children’s choir comes out and the service begins. The music is pleasant enough, but I realize there is coffee in the strawberry drink. Extremely sensitive to stimulants, I feel nervous. The cultish atmosphere makes me mega paranoid. Skylights in the ceiling open, and beams of light shine into the dark warehouse. I’m transported back to my many nights at Berghain, when the shutters briefly open and close so you can glimpse the time of day before getting lost again.
While in Los Angeles I make certain to visit the studio of post-internet meme clothing brand Praying and meet one of it’s founders Skylar Newman. He shows me prototypes of an upcoming collaboration with Adidas and tells me of another with Gucci. Out of all the streetwear startups and Instagram DTC brands, Praying, I think, has actual potential. Similar to how Vetements captured the cultural Zeitgeist nearly a decade ago, Praying is accomplishing that already with several viral hits like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit bikini, the Twilight bag, and “God’s favorite t-shirt.” Fashion heavyweights besides Gucci and Adidas are taking notice. Skylar tells me Martina [the chief creative officer at Balenciaga] recently purchased most of the collection. I say that when I hung out with Marni creative director Francesco [Risso], he took numerous photos of my own Twilight bag, plastered with Bella and Edward, to post on Instagram. Before jumping into my Uber, Skylar gives me a trash bag and tells me to take whatever I want. Embarrassingly (but not actually), I stuff the bag with one of a kind samples, sweatshirts, t-shirts, a speedo, and a lavender purse that reads “They don’t build statues of critics.”
In the car on the way to a dinner being thrown for me, my friend from NY texts screenshots of a group chat. There I read all about a Chinatown gallery opening from the week before where 21 people tested positive afterwards. Along with this intel she writes, “Aren’t you happy to be in LA?” I write back, “Bitch, I’m flying to NY tomorrow.” The dinner is incredibly charming. A mix of LA friends, artists, and fashion folk finally allowed to enter the States from Europe. I sit in the middle of the table along with Jon Rafman and Polina Dubik. They ask me if I’ve seen the latest Curb Your Enthusiasm, which features a dinner party where the wrong guests are placed in the center of the table, where they can’t keep up with the responsibility for directing the conversation. Lotta Volkova and her boyfriend arrive just off a flight from Moscow that day. Suddenly everyone around me is speaking Russian. The Curb theme song plays in my head.
TRANSMISSIONS is a communicable and speculative sociological research column wherein JORDAN RICHMAN traverses the globe, immersing himself into perceived moments of relevance to mine the fields of fashion and culture – extracting thoughts, encounters, and foreshadowings.