Tuesday, December 2, 2014

[preview] d i s i t e r a t e spring 2015

d i s i t e r a t e spring 2015

...when the challenges individuals face as designers, artists, thinkers, seers & doers –– are found everywhere –– the success of each aim, plan, pursuit, goal, desire, wish & dream can only be measured in the currency of ones values. In the context of our communities, self-worth is the stamina and endurance of this voice. 

d i s i t e r a t e –– the term, to my knowledge, first imagined by ethan showshan, a young radically-hip self-proclaimed urban social ecologist, as an etymological, albeit aesthetic, deconstruction –– lends itself to White River Junction's first "one of" spring fashion show to be hosted by the phenomena, which is the Main Street Museum. Stay-tuned for up-coming details!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Anything that comes and goes, rises and sets, is not what I love – Rumi

Khulekani Msweli is a designer and entrepreneur visiting the Upper Valley from the Kingdom of Swaziland on a fellowship to Dartmouth College. He was selected to participate in the 2014 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and will be visiting Washington DC later this year to be adressed in a private ceremony by President Obama. I asked Mr. Msweli, after meeting him at Revolution last week, to share some thoughts on fashion, design, and community...


A design community, to me, means being surrounded by like minded people within the design industry, who are not only there as designers doing their own thing, but are collaborative, incubators of innovation, and are there to grow with me, hold my back if I'm falling and celebrate our victories. I'm one of those people that did not grow up dreaming of becoming a designer, I was more into fine art and I had taken that as a subject, in school. The tipping point came during my last years of high school when I had to start thinking about my career choice, naturally I had thought Fine Art is my direction, which then posed many questions to my parents as they asked me to research more in to it and see if it offers much in terms of a sustainable living. That halted me in my career steps but then led me into  fashion, as I had been accustomed to my family habits of custom made tailored clothes, thus fascinated by it all. I then thought I can combine my art skills with the business of fashion. With more research, I actually realized that I can study fashion design and later on become self employed, running my own company, and that was very appealing to me. My parents were very supportive of the career choice and have continued to be my greatest fans, so great in fact my father is a share holder in the company that I eventually started.

That then led me to studying Fashion Design with Technology at Manchester Metropolitan University in England. My time in England, especially interning at the Marios Schwab studio, in London, taught me a lot about the industry, sharpened my focus and positioned me to be able to take my acquired skills back to my home country, the Kingdom of Swaziland, and start my own business. The journey has not been easy but being awarded with various accolades has helped in soothing some of the pain and taking a deep breathe towards the following day. I'm currently the founder and co-director of JEREMPAUL, which was established in 2010 as a fashion brand but has evolved into a lifestyle brand, as we are now not only producing and selling clothing but also home ware, food and art. My role is to create the annual collections across the divisions of fashion and home ware, creatively direct the vision of the company and make sure that innovation and high quality remain intact. Due to the nature of how all JEREMPAUL products are designed and produced, following ethical principles, having them locally handmade, and utilizing the best possible materials, has made our products to fall within the premium category.

Doing all that would not be possible without an amazing team and our patrons. At JEREMPAUL I pride myself in having a really mind boggling team, that goes from young to really old. All the people that I work with are very special because they have specialist skills in old age skills of fabric dying, beading, embroidery, weaving, tailoring, knitting and wood carving. We have become a family that is bound by excellence in what we do, pushing the limits of creativity, yet doing what we all really enjoy. It is trying at times, as I constantly have to seek markets that would be buying into our products, which can be very challenging, yet I push myself to the brink because a lot of families depend on JEREMPAUL remaining in business. So it's never about me but about us and how we can continue to make JEREMPAUL to be amongst the world's most sought after design brands with ethical principles. We believe that we create products that are not fast and disposable but ones that are cherished and passed onto the next generation. 

We, the designers, hold the keys to the creation of a better future, we are the people that start trends, bring ideas to life...

We cannot create another Earth, therefore we have to be very responsible about how we conduct our lives, having checks and balances on whether we are having a positive or negative impact on the planet. That might sound like the old record playing over an over again but unfortunately it has not played long enough because if it had there would have been drastic changes by now. The design industry, especially fashion, has a huge role to play in designing products that are not as disposable as the fast fashion industry has become. Yes, we all have to make a good profit, but when does it become enough and we actually satisfy the needs of customers who are ill informed about the cost of finding a 'bargain' and being able to choose new collections every second month? The future is very frightening from that point of view because the customer and the fashion conglomerates have become more greedy and unsatisfied. On the positive side, the future will be having green shoots of resilience through the design companies that are bringing back the focus to quality over quantity, ethical business and sustainability for all. It is the toughest route to take but I believe it's one that requires all of us designers, throughout the various spectrum of design, to be innovative about how we make these principles mainstream. We, the designers, hold the keys to the creation of a better future, we are the people that start trends, bring ideas to life, so lets not make excuse and point fingers but just create a better future.

JEREMPAUL is a high end fashion and design brand directed by a Swazi father and son, Paul Msweli & Khulekani Msweli, since its establishment in 2010. It is focused on innovative high quality craftsmanship and driven by the love of contemporary art, resulting in avant-garde fashion and furniture. Designer Khulekani Msweli designs objects that revive artisan's skills at the same time that they are challenged, to entice young generations to take part and pride in the value and meaning of craftwork. A JEREMPAUL piece is passed on from one generation to another, telling our story and preserving our heritage.  


Friday, June 13, 2014

Currently seeking designers, fashionistas, and those simple concerned with style and good taste who are interested in contributing to F A S H I O N T H R O P E – a new blog highlighting everything Fashion, Style, and Culture in Vermont or other adjacent locations. If you think you have something to contribute – whether it be a photo story about your own process or creations, an article about another designer or design you find inspiriting, or even an event that has – or you expect will change your life – please contact me here for more info on how to contribute:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

the meta dialog of project runway

Shortly before its December 2004 premier I distinctly remember seeing an advert and thinking to myself , "...you'd have to tie me to a chair and put tooth-pics in my eyelids before I could ever watch this sh**." Further I went on to speculated that "A reality show about fashion would be the ultimate epitome of a culture gone very, very astray.." Now, Fast Forward >> to the morning of September 25, 2013 where I've been waiting in line for the past 12 hrs with an impressive array of designers from all corners of the globe, all vying for a spot on Season 13, of yes, you guessed it... Project Runway.

To understand the 'meta-dialog' I speak one must first look at the 'nature' of competition, itself. As far as I can remember, I have always loathed everything/anything to do with 'competitive' sports. This distaste, I have come to realize, is less about the traumatizing cliche of my 'always being picked last on whatever team I was playing', and more about a cognitive distain of an exclusive 'win' or 'loose' senario being permanently affixed to the core 'idea' of what competition is all about. There are actually three distinct narratives, which, as best I can tell describes the nature of competition.. these are the 'win''win' – the 'win''loose' – and the 'lose''lose' scenarios. What I can't imagine is why the hell we are not all vying to be on the 'win''win' team?

First in line: Defne Husrevoglo and Mark Ezra
NYC Open Casting – September 25, 2013 

As a young artist, I was deeply concerned with my 'idea' of artistic purity. The artist, as far as I could tell, was the most responsible for the preservation of the highest ideals of all man/ womankind, the priestess-king, poet-warrior, and purveyor of truth and beauty. In my mind, the artist was the only antidotal response to our worlds failed instituions. Likewise, I believed nothing embodied their enslaving principles and false ideals better than the fashion industry. Fashion, to me, represented everything that 'art' wasn't. Those who created it were suspect, their motivation no doubt nothing less than egotistical glamorization of greed. Nothing good could come of it, this I was certain. Yet, unlike the enduring distaste of professional sports, there were time to time, in my mind, exceptions to this rule.

The first 'fashion designer' that I ever made any kind of cerebral connection with was Jean Paul Gaultier.  Leigh Bowery, a figure I assume we will never fully grasp, yet what I saw of his work accomplished everything I believed was good and healthy about the artist's own meme and yet did everything right in my eyes concerning all things fashion. Striking a simular and particular peculiar cord in my heart, Little Edith Beale completed my unholy trinity of fashion icons [ could I be the visionary I suspect; see Galliano 2008]. Yet, the more I ponder my development in these years, the more I sense fashion's influence seeping out into my inspiration. Case in point, the 2004 painting series, Woman Standing in Garden, attempts my abstract realization of the life and work of Isabella Stewart Gardner. Isabella, one could say, was the Heidi Klum of her time. She, herself could have coined the phrase "Fashion Forward" in the 19th century by defying conventions and ushering in her own infectious sense of style. Whether we care to acknowledge fashions impact, or not, the industry, its history, and its designers reach everywhere and touch everything. This insight, despite my personally held prejudices, would appear to be, sometime later, as plain as the nose on my face.

Woman Standing in Garden - oil on canvas - 2004

After my staunch boycott of its first two seasons, I was hooked. Two years later designer and friend, Sigrid Lium (whom I relentlessly cajoled to apply to the show), strongly encouraged me to examine this growing obsession, and dared me to ask the question – was there a latent designer somewhere deep inside of me? It would be another two years before I answered that call and put my lingering suspicions to the test. On April 23, 2010 I turned the sewing machine on for the first time and created what is still fondly referred to by my dearest of friends as "Krazy Kimono". Fast Forward >> present day and I've spent the past four years honing my design skills, creating customized and one of a kind pieces, and educating myself on the key players and practices that does a successful designer make. Without hesitation, if there is any one person that I can accredit to the impetus behind this transformation, undoubtedly that person would be, Tim Gunn. A read through his "Guide to Style" or "Golden Rules" offers a refreshingly enlightened antidotes to the fashion world's persona non grata. At the heart of my fascination lies an unbridled enthusiasm for what this man does, and how he does it! Make it work, that is.

When opportunity knocks, and if intuition listens, inspiration may open a door. I've always hoped that with age, comes wisdom. Now, somewhere in my late 40's if there's a lesson to be found I would say it's this – hedge your bets wisely – determine your strategy quickly and stick with it. There are times, yes – when risking everything in order to go all in and shoot for pie in the sky seems the only real choice to make. Yet, how many times can one afford to loose everything? Like every good obsession, insight wears down until it starts to continuously grind against introspection. And it's after you've listened long and hard enough to this noise,
that a possibility of catharsis appears. At this moment the calculated risk now appears to be the soundest of all bets. The connections I choose to foster therefore lie within my immediate environment, as everything I could ever want is here already. The metaphor at work is plainly obvious: problem solve your little heart out; and then seek every opportunity to fix your mistakes. And this just the tip of what begins the upheaval of an assumed point of view. 

When the idea of competition becomes an internal measure, one of stamina, creativity, and resourcefulness – the conflict with the other as the antagonist who determines ultimate failure or success – is resolved. Folks are often surprised and even resistant to following a logic that suggests Project Runway in fact presents a 'win''win' brand of competition. If I imagine a litmus test of this senario, it might look like this: The 'win''win' acknowledges compromise, degrees of flexibility, and the inherent unevenness of the playing field on which we all compete. It compensates for this unevenness by allowing as many variables as possible to achieve success while imposing set standards and parameters aplicable to all. Subjectivity is necessary to define meaning, assess outcomes or their relevance. This is no a three strikes and you're out ballgame –  there's nothing to lose, really, but everything to be gained. It's about how far you can make it, who goes with you, and why you might want to bring them along. A dialog that presents the 'win''win' as a viable competitive scenario, even when that model is fueled by the agenda of popular media, may garner enough momentum to finally pushback against outmoded paradigms which demand compliance to a dysfunctional status quo. Yet the world around us changes relentlessly. What once was an idea of artistic purity I now understand as an imperative to nurture the most instructive and constructive opportunities already about us. And when we finally embrace lasting and enduring change, wholeheartedly – it is because this change is good. And I can't think of anything to be more excited about.    

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Passing of an Archetype

On May 12, 2014 Hans Rudi Giger passed from this world due to complications of injurys sustained from a fall down a flight of stairs. He was 74. Giger was a definitive archetype of style, and personally, for me, he was the first artist to open otherworldly doorways for my pre-pubescent mind. Giger's designs will never cease to inspire fascination and wonder. They will continue to remind of us of the fragil yet ever-present connection of the wo/man-machine. Like so many visionaries before, Giger birthed a new concept into the dialog of western discourse, that of the biomechanoid. Rest in peace Hans Rudi - for it is you, who are my real father.

Polish Fashion Designer Malgorzata Dudek brough Giger's inspiration to her ideas of style beginning in spring 2012:

Please see more of her work here:

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The idea of 'now' is loosely abstract yet tightly woven around the fabric of our lives. By choosing to penetrate its mystery, we choose also to confront this 'idea' of self. Yet we cannot abandon the 'self' anymore than we can abandon the 'now' – we simply must pass through it. 
From the halls of antiquity to the most post-modern sensibility, the great 'seers' and 'doers' will concede that the rarest of all gifts – are those expressed by an individual voice within a collective identity – one which predisposes the very idea of art, science, and, yes, even religion. Eventually, every 'idea' merges back into one seamless whole. 
How can we escape artifice without first enabling this 'higher' knowledge? As it is here we will discover the fascination of ART and the fashion of STYLE!

F A S H I O N T H R O P E is dedicated to the voice of transformation spoken through the experiences of Vermont designers. For more information on how to contribute contact:

m a r k e z r a m e r r i l l @ g m a i l . c o m