A CFDA Shakedown

Up-and-Coming New York Designers Battle it Out Ahead of American Fashion’s Biggest Night

Ahead of tonight’s annual Council of Fashion Designers of America awards—presented by the Pope of Trash himself, John Waters, and where Rihanna will walk away with the Fashion Icon Award—the fantastical vignette Shakedown celebrates this year's Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent. The first time a film has been commissioned exclusively by CFDA, NOWNESS enlisted filmmaker and frequent contributor Clara Cullen, whose visual grammar blends contemporary art with an irreverent approach to fashion. Cullen cast half a dozen new-wave ballers in handcrafted animal masks to go head to head in a playful dance-off clad in the nominees’ show-stopping designs, from the streetwear cult of Shayne Oliver’s Hood by Air to red-carpet regular Rosie Assoulin and menswear wunderkind Tim Coppens. “Each routine corresponds to the identity that I had in mind for the designers and the personality of the animal,” explains the Argentine director, who brought to life NOWNESS' interactive voguing experience. Taking cues from French literary classic Les Fables de La Fontaine, Cullen collaborated with set and costume designer Andy Byers of Isabella Rossellini’s trailblazing Green Porno series. “I’m always attracted to things that don’t correspond to the right box,” she says. “I wanted to contrast high fashion with a dorky, somewhat naïve idea.”

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    Beauty Is a Form of Genius

    Clara Cullen Crystallizes the Allure of Enhancement in Part Two of #DefineBeauty

    “Everyone wants something they don’t have. It’s the principle of desire,” says Clara Cullen, the Buenos Aires-born director of Beauty Is a Form of Genius, the second film in the weekly NOWNESS series #DefineBeauty. “I’m fascinated by the idea of changing your face and body. We like to please with our looks and I don't find that immoral or shallow.” An early encounter with 'carnal' French artist Orlan, who uses her face as a surgical canvas, left an imprint on the filmmaker. “I realized plastic surgery is a performing art and while Orlan subverts it—she had two horns popping out of her head—it’s still using the same tools,” she says, also citing Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray as inspiration. Scripted in collaboration with novelist Maxine Swann, Cullen herself provides the evocative monologue, intertwining four stories that take in the universal human conditions of self-esteem, vanity, insecurity and temptation. Long blonde hair, a chiseled bone structure and surgically enhanced breasts and lips depict an Argentinian beauty prototype. “Plastic surgery is in my culture,” says Cullen, who returned to her home city to interview the cast, which included Charlotte Caniggia, daughter of Argentina’s celebrated World Cup hero, the former footballer Claudio Caniggia. “Mario Testino has a joke about us: Why do Argentinians go outside during an electric storm? Because they think God is taking photos of them.”

    The next in the #DefineBeauty
    series A Maximum Illusion: Creme Caramel premieres Tuesday May 20.

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    The Future Catwalk

    Mirte Maas Walks an Infinite Runway in Barnaby Roper's New Interactive Story

    Your keystrokes guide Mirte Maas’ epic strides through a series of psychedelic landscapes in Barnaby Roper’s user-controlled fashion experience. As the Dutch model marches, new digital sound, image and effects create 26 distinct and immersive environments, from a high-definition forest and a space-age desert landscape to kaleidoscopic moving collages. Each one corresponds to its own letter on your laptop or desktop keyboard, while mobile device users can enjoy the journey in a specially tailored short film. The innovative piece marks a new level of complexity for the New Yorkbased director, whose previous experiment on NOWNESS saw model Iris Strubegger multiply on screen as visitors’ commands combined to form a dark visual symphony. To create the mesmerizingly addictive Mirte, Future Catwalk, Roper collaborated with Tristan Bechet to compose a hypnotic, driving score that morphs to keep time to Maas’ motion. The model kept a steady pace on a treadmill for the better part of two shooting days, wearing boots by Rick Owens paired with pieces from Givenchy and Christopher Kane by stylist Tony Irvine. “I like the playfulness and the air of discovery; I like that the viewer has the choice and that I am not dictating to them how they should view it,” says Roper. “Most of all, I like the possibilities of where interactivity could and will go in the future.”


    Time spent shooting: 

    2 days.

    Time spent on treadmill: 

    10 hours.


    Number of outfit changes: 



    Time spent in post-production: 

    2 months.

    Number of programmers: 


    Lines of code: 



    Keyboard letter with fewest steps: 

    N (1.8).

    Keyboard letter with most steps: 

    S (hundreds).

    Total steps visible (excluding “S”): 


    Credits: 1. Leather dress by Givenchy, skirt by Ann Demeulemeester, top and boots by Rick Owens, cape by Araks; 2. Coat, dress and boots by Rick Owens; 3. Leather dress by Givenchy, hooded top by Ann Demeulemeester; 4. Hat and mask by Rick Owens; 5. Top, dress and boots by Rick Owens; 6. Dress and boots by Rick Owens
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