Archive for August, 2010

Monocle & Lifo vs Wallpaper* & (symbol)

August 22, 2010

The current issue of Monocle

Having been the editor a small magazine for the employees of the company I was working for, I can attest it is no easy feat. I constantly juggled with looming deadlines, unresponsive editors, self-centred creative directors and sometimes unexpected disasters. There are some editors, however, who not only have mastered this process of creating and editing magazines, but have the ability to produce some hidden gems: magazines that can be imaginative and inspiring. This post is about two of them, Tyler Brûlé and Stathis Tsagarousianos.

Before I continue, let me say that I have never met them, and besides very few e-mail exchanges with Tyler, I never had any further communication with them. I can only speak judging the finished product, the magazines that they produce.

Lifo magazine

I got to know Tyler as an editor when I bought an issue of Wallpaper*. At that time, Wallpaper* was frequently raised by most of the media, including some of the Greek magazines. Wallpaper* was different in its content from any other magazine I knew. Instead of focusing on people, Wallpaper* was focusing on design. Its editors were carefully touring the world to unearth the latest trends and identify emerging talents. It wasn’t a simple catalogue of fancy gadgets, furniture and rugs but a bible of trendsetting design.

I got to know Stathis as an editor when I bought up a copy of (symbol), a magazine published by the Saturday newspaper called “The investor” (Ependitis). I had seen an advertisement on TV that the issue was featuring an interesting article and decided to buy the newspaper. Soon I found myself buying the next issue that included an interview of a famous person. Those two issues were enough to get me hooked; every Saturday I would rush to the newspaper kiosk to buy the newspaper just to read Stathis’ inspiring editorials, Malvina’s weekly column, Marina The lady Marks’ stories and so many others. (symbol) was a magazine unlike any other at that time; it was centred around columns. Stathis had collected a bunch of talented people who always had something interesting to say. Complemented with an editorial team that was exhaustively unearthing the latest styles, trends and activities in the Athenian capital, it was not long before (symbol) gained wide acceptance and received the title of the “Best magazine of the Year” (which prompted Stathis to write one of he best editorials I have ever read in a magazine).

Wallpaper* issue 49, the last issue that Tyler edited

But Tyler’s success soon ended; Walpaper* 49 (June 2002) was the last issue he edited. In the contributors section, as a farewell gesture, Tyler praised his colleagues responsible for the magazine’s success and bid farewell by saying “As for me gentle readers, little more to say than thanks you and adieu.” It was the final straw between Tyler and Wallpaper*’s new owners, “Time Warner”, the company he sold the magazine he created in 2002. The success of (symbol) was also short-lived; with the collapse of the Greek stock market, interest for the newspaper gradually waned and the publishing house faced financial problems. Stathis’ departure from the magazine was announced abruptly in one of the summer issues. Without any explanation the readers were told that “Stathis was leaving for vacations.”

The issue of (symbol) that announces the 'Magazine of the Year' award

Since then both Tyler and Stathis were busy with different projects. For Tyler is was the creation of a branding agency and for Stathis a publishing house. But it was clear that Tyler and Stathis could not stay for long out of magazine publishing. Very few people have managed to find what they are good at, and for Tyler and Stathis I believe this to be their ability to create inspiring magazine. That’s why I was not at all surprised (well, OK maybe a little) when I heard about their new endeavours: Monocle for Tyler and Lifo for Stathis; both of them fresh, but with an aura of Wallpaper* and (symbol).

And if their success is also short-lived, I do not worry much. In time, I expect them to come back.


[images © LambdaPhage]


[Bang And Olufsen A8 Earphones]*

August 17, 2010

The first time I saw an audiovisual system from Bang & Olufsen, I immediately fell in love. Unsuspected, I caught a glimpse of it at a window display and the unconventional positioning of the CD player took me by surprise. While all the CD player manufacturers at that time were positioning the CD players horizontally, B&O had positioned the CD vertically and most of it hanging in mid-air. I then learned that B&O products do not only stand out for their design but for the user-friendliness of their controls. Since then, I dreamt that one day I will manage to get a B&O system on my own. Not an easy feat considering that the B&O products are also known for their high prices. But among the audio systems, the intricately designed televisions and the speakerphones, I found certain items that are not very expensive: telephones and earphones.

Back in 2000, I was about to purchase a pair of Form 2 headsets. But when I went to the store, I found out that B&O had launched another product, the A8 earphones.

They were designed by Anders Hermansen, and unlike existing earphones on the market, they would adjust to the contours and curves of the individual ear and fit snuggly, ensuring a firm fit, regardless of whether I was walking, jogging or engaging in other activities. At the same time, they would provide me with unparalleled sound quality, the one I would normally expect from a B&O product. With the A8 earphones, I did not have to compromise between sound quality and comfort; I just had both.

The delicate design of the earphones won me over, and it was not long before I got home clutching a pair, even though they cost much more than normal headphones. Admittedly, I have had some problems figuring out how to wear them but I eventually figured it out. To ensure the best fit I should start with the earphone branch fully extended (outward position), and using my thumb I place the earphone in my ear canal. Then, still holding the earphone with your thumb, I use my other fingers to snap the outer branch in place over my ear, ensuring a comfortable, but not very tight fit. The optimal position allows for some movement, but does not allow for the headphones to leave my ear canal. If I need to wear sunglasses, I put them on after I have put the headphones and slightly adjust their position.

Since the launch of the product 10 years ago, there have been made imitators. Many companies launched headphones based on the over-the-ear design principle of the A8, but no company has managed to do it better than B&O. The products are either made of plastic and are of inferior quality than B&O, or they are not as adjustable as the A8.

To me, the B&O A8 earphones are a design classic and will probably be cherished for many years to come.


P.S: You can read a short story of how Anders Hermansen evolved his design of the A8 Earphones here.

[image © Anders Hermansen]


August 15, 2010

Many films have toyed with the idea of dreams vs reality and the acceptance of reality, but no film has done it better than Inception. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo diCaprio in the role of Dominic Cobb, the film is a deep, masterful look into the subconscious. (warning – plot spoiler ahead.)

Cobb and his team specialises in a method called extraction; a method with which he can get sensitive information through the people’s subconscious while they are sleeping. To achieve this, all need to be connected to a special machine, resembling a dialysis, that administers a sedative and allows the connected people to share a dream world, built according to their mental projections. Cobb is a master of this world and uses it to make a living by stealing information from his victims for his client. However, Cobb is challenged by a Japanese business man, not wanting to steal information but to do the inverse: to plant an idea into another person’s mind.

Cobb is initially not persuaded to take the job. He is later convinced to try the feat in exchange for the businessman’s help to allow Cobb to enter the US again. Cobb had been extradited from the United States, as he is a suspect for the murder of his wife. As we delve deeper into Inception, not only do we find projections of the world of his victim, but projections of Cobb’ mind, and the secret about his wife he has hidden for so long in his subconscious.

The film is a brilliantly directed movie with noteworthy performances from the cast. There are many action scenes and a superbly executed gravitation-less fighting choreography in the hallway of a hotel. If you have seen Nolan’s previous movies – Memento, Batman Begins, The Dark Night-, you will unmistakably recognise his familiar style of building up mystery and suspense. It is the idea of Nolan playing with the hero’s subconscious and of what is real and what is not, that will leave you wanting for more. 2,5 hours passed and not a single time time did we question the movie; instead we watched with eager anticipation to untangle the complexity of the plot and our hero’s mind.

A phenomenal movie that allows for many interpretations, bearing testament to the exceptional work from Nolan on direction and scripting and the mesmerising performances of the actors.


[image © respective owner]


August 9, 2010

H&M is the first, I believe, to have collaborated with a well known fashion designer, when it launched a collection designed by Karl Lagerfeld in 2004. Since then, H&M has been regularly collaborating with known designers to create a limited collection of clothes and accessories that is affordable and sold exclusively from its stores. The latest collaboration was with Jimmy Choo for a line of shoes, accessories and clothes. It was an instant hit, with most of the stores running out of stock in the first few hours. The example of H&M was followed by many other highstreet stores. But one of the most successful collaborations I have seen was the Jil Sander collaboration for Uniqlo, creating a line of clothes for men and women.

Jil Sander was known to the fashion world as a contemporary fashion designer, with a particular trend towards minimalism. With her departure from her own house in 2004, after an ongoing feud with the CEO of the Prada Group, that owned the major stake in the company, Jil Sander was largely withdrawn from the fashion world until 2009, when she created her own fashion consultancy. She was then approached by Fast Retailing from Japan, to design a special line for Uniqlo, named +J.

The line became a hit in the UK, and one of my particularly obsessions. . At the time that the spring-summer line was launched, I was in between jobs and needed to buy additional clothes. Needless to say that most of the clothes I bought was from the +J line. Among the items, the slim fit jeans she designed were excellent – like the ones she designed for her own fashion house, that were known for their best fit, her winter coat was exquisitely made and her range of shirts suited most of my needs. Luckily, Uniqlo introduced a policy with which each individual could only buy one item from each style, avoiding running out of stock from the first day.

I just hope that this collaboration continues for a long time.


[image © LambdaPhage]

[My obsessions]*

August 7, 2010

It is about time this blog gained some character. In the past 1,5 years I have been writing it, I have mainly posted my reviews and my observations. When writing most articles, I have struggled with the style and the tone, but most importantly with the person: should I write in the first person, the third or the plural? Mind you, some of those blog entries were used as contributions to a small magazine, so I opted to use “we” more than I used “I”.

This is about to change. If the blog is about myself, and if I need to retain my mystery identity, then I ‘d better reveal some things about my character. And what better way to do this than writing more entries in the first person. From now on, I will be trying to use a lot of “I”.

To celebrate this change in style, I will also start a new regular type of posts called “my obsessions”. These will not be any different from the review posts I have written thus far, but they are going to be about things I like, I admire or I get obsessed with. It will be about items, shops, ideas etc that form my little world.

Many of my friends and colleagues, especially those who have just met me, believe I have a liking to branded – and sometimes expensive – items. They might be right. To me, however, it is not about the brand but about design. If all of our everyday things have been created by designers, from the tissues we used to the cars we drive, then I admire those designers that go the extra mile. The designers who will think carefully the item they want to make, that will study its properties, it function and its utility and will then go on to design things that speak for themselves: either for being extraordinary or for becoming more utilitarian.

And so the column starts with my obsessions. Item I already possess, items I am about to have or items I would like to get. And it can be everything….

You will be able to distinguish those posts from the regular ones, as there will always be a star following the title.


Toy Story 3

August 5, 2010

They say that a sequel is an opportunity for a movie studio to make additional money. Since the film and its characters is already know to people, the studio does need not pay much money for the marketing and the promotion of the sequel. However, with only few exceptions, sequels never live up to the name of the original movie. “Oh, please! By definition alone, sequels are inferior movies“, says Randy Meeks in Wes Craven’s “Scream 2“.

But for Pixar’s Toy Story franchise seems to be different. According to Rotten Tomatoes, Toy Story 2 was as successful as the first installment; both movies have achieved 100% score in the Tomatometer. It was, therefore, interesting to see if Toy Story 3 would live up to the challenge set by its predecessors.

And it appears that Pixar’s latest movie is nothing short of a masterpiece. Not only for an interesting and engaging story, but for evoking sentiments on children and grown-ups. Several newspapers, among them the “Evening Standard”, reported that while children were coming out the cinemas laughing, adults – especially men- came out crying (probably with a pinch of journalistic exaggeration).

The movie’s story starts with a familiar place, Andy’s room, where seemingly nothing has changed. In actual fact, something has changed. Andy is turning 17 and is leaving for college this week. Before doing so, Andy is reminded by his mother that he needs to tidy up his room for the last time and decide on the things he wants to keep and to throw away. Disappointed that Andy does not play with them any more, or even notice them, the toys devise a plot to make Andy put them in a box in the attic, where they will spend the rest of their lives together. Only, due to a mistaken belief that Andy intended to throw them away, the toys end up donated to the local children daycare centre. Lotso, a seemingly friendly teddy bear welcomes the toys to their new environment and explains that here all the toys get the attention they deserve from the children, who play with them all the time; just what Andy’s toys are really missing. It is not long before they realise, however, that the paradise they have been offered is actually a living hell, where the children are too young to play with toys properly. And they decide to break out from the dictatorship of Lotso and his company at the daycare centre.

The movie contains most of the characters that were introduced in the previous installments and were loved. Mr and Mrs Potato Head are still making jokes about their relationship and their moving parts, Buzz Lightyear has a Spanish alter-ego, which is discovered by Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl, Barbie experiences love at first sight when she meets her significant other, metrosexual Ken, and even Woody stills keeps his cool when his pullstring is pulled and says “There is a snake in my boots”.

But Toy Story 3 is not just jokes and custard pies. It is about evoking emotions. Not necessarily about children parting from their toys; after all this was the theme for Toy Story 2. It is about something most adults have experienced in the past: the dreadful day when they will realise their children have grown-up and are ready to live the house for other adventures. It is about parting of people.

Probably one of the best movies of this year.


[image © LambdaPhage]